Former "Moonies" can sue the Unification Church for alleged deception and brainwashing because freedom of religion does not protect fraudulent recruiting, the state Supreme Court said in reinstating two suits.

A lawyer for the National Council of Churches called Monday's 6-1 ruling "a real blow" to freedom of religion."The challenge here is not to the church's teachings or to the validity of a religious conversion," said Justice Stanley Mosk in the decision.

"The challenge is to the church's practice of misrepresenting or concealing its identity in order to bring unsuspecting outsiders into its highly structured environment. That practice is not itself belief - it is conduct subject to regulation for the protection of society."

Reversing two lower court rulings, the high court decided that two former church members who brought their cases could seek to convince a jury that they had been brainwashed and were unable to exercise independent judgment when they joined the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's church after being told of its identity.