Parade Ban on Falun Gong OK, Judge Says

San Francisco, USA - Followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement did not suffer discrimination when it was barred from marching in a Chinese New Year Parade funded by the city, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce excluded Falun Gong from last year's parade and this year's on March 3 because Falun Gong previously violated a ban on political activity.

Superior Court Judge Patrick Mahoney agreed with the Human Rights Commission's conclusion that the business organization was within its rights to keep Falun Gong out of the parade.

The spiritual movement challenged the city's funding of the event. The city contributes $77,000 of the parade's $800,000 budget, plus police protection.

Attorneys for Falun Gong had argued that once a private group accepts government money for an event, it loses its right to choose who can participate. Falun Gong plans an appeal.

Attorneys for San Francisco said that cultural events are by nature exclusive to the culture they represent, and that city law allows organizers to select participants.

Falun Gong practitioners allege that local Chinese businessmen are bowing to pressure from the Chinese government, which considers Falun Gong a dangerous cult and has banned the group.

Falun Gong mixes elements of Buddhism, Taoism and traditional Chinese thought with meditation and simple exercises.