Rajneeshpuram UP071

Rajneeshpuram was a religious intentional community in Wasco County, Oregon, incorporated as a city between 1981 and 1988. Its population consisted entirely of Rajneeshees, followers of the spiritual teacher Rajneesh, later known as Osho. Its citizens and leaders were responsible for launching the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attacks, the single largest bioterrorist attack in the United States, as well as the planned 1985 Rajneeshee assassination plot, in which they conspired to assassinate Charles Turner, the then-United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Tensions with the public and threatened punitive action by Indian authorities originally motivated the founders and leaders of the Rajneeshee movement, Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh and Ma Anand Sheela, to leave India and begin a new religious settlement in the United States. Discussions of this new settlement began as early as 1980, but Rajneesh did not agree to relocate until May 1981, when he travelled to the United States on a tourist visa, ostensibly for medical purposes. Rajneeshpuram was planned from the beginning as a home for Rajneesh's followers in the United States, most of whom were told to sell all of their belongings before moving there. The decision to register as a town was made primarily so that Rajneesh could govern over his followers without attracting attention from authorities.

Rajneeshpuram was on the site of a 64,229-acre (25,993 ha) Central Oregon property known as the Big Muddy Ranch, near Antelope, Oregon, which was purchased by Sheela's husband, John Shelfer, in 1981 for $5.75 million. Within a year of arriving, the commune's leaders had become embroiled in a series of legal battles with their neighbors, primarily over land use. They had initially stated that they were planning to create a small agricultural community, their land being zoned for agricultural use, but it soon became apparent that they wanted to establish the kind of infrastructure and services normally associated with a town.

Within three years, the neo-sannyasins (Rajneesh's followers, also termed Rajneeshees in contemporaneous press reports) developed a community, turning the ranch from an empty rural property into a city of up to 7,000 people, complete with typical urban infrastructures such as a fire department, police, restaurants, malls, townhouses, a 4,200-foot (1,300 m) airstrip, a public transport system using buses, a sewage reclamation plant, a reservoir, and a post office with the ZIP code 97741. It is thought that the actual population during this time was potentially much higher than they claimed, and the neo-sannyasins may have gone as far as to hide beds and citizens during investigations. Various legal conflicts, primarily over land use, escalated to bitter hostility between the commune and local residents, and the commune was subject to sustained and coordinated pressures from various coalitions of Oregon residents over the length of its existence.