Feb 22, 2017

Catholic church dismisses cult-like abuser

Catholic church
Sky News
February 22, 2017

An Australian priest who set up a cult-like group based on the Peanuts comic strip to groom convent school girls has been dismissed from the clergy.

The Pope has agreed to Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge's petition to dismiss Francis Edward Derriman, nearly two decades after his conviction for indecently assaulting a teenage girl in the 1960s.

The child sex abuse royal commission has previously criticised the Catholic Church for doing nothing for years about Derriman, only starting the canonical process for his dismissal 15 years after the 1998 conviction.

Archbishop Coleridge has been pushing for the Holy See to dismiss Derriman, twice meeting with Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith personnel in Rome in an attempt to expedite the 2014 petition.

Archbishop Coleridge said his concerns about the delays in the Vatican processes increased when five of his petitions to dismiss priests convicted of child sex abuse were refused.

He was informed in October last year that the Pope had decided to dismiss Derriman from the clerical state, the archbishop revealed in a statement to the royal commission released on Tuesday.

Derriman's victim Joan Isaacs told the commission in 2013 that Derriman created a cult-like group that included herself and three other children, using the Peanuts comic as a platform and referring to himself and the children with the 'Brown' surname.

Derriman, who was the chaplain of Brisbane's Sacred Heart Convent at the time of the abuse, was not able to function as a priest after being excommunicated in 1970 when he married. He then moved to Victoria.

But he remained an ordained Catholic priest until Pope Francis agreed to his dismissal, the most severe disciplinary measure in canon law that can be sought by a Catholic Church authority.

Archbishop Coleridge has made eight petitions to the Holy See to dismiss priests convicted of child sex abuse or possessing child exploitation material.

One of those priests has since died.

Archbishop Coleridge said the CDF refused his petitions in five cases.

One application remains pending.

Archbishop Coleridge will again appear before the royal commission on Thursday, joining Australia's four other metropolitan archbishops on a panel as part of inquiry's final hearing into the Catholic Church.



White supremacist Cobb is co-owner of former Nome, ND church

Craig Cobb
Craig Cobb
Jim Monk
February 21, 2017

VALLEY CITY, ND (KFGO) - Craig Cobb, the white supremacist convicted of terrorizing residents in Leith, ND, is now the co-owner of an abandoned church in Barnes County.

The Barnes County Recorder's office says a deed was filed Tuesday that lists Cobb as one of two people who own the former Nome Zion Evangelical Free Church.  The Barnes County Treasurer's office also confirms that Cobb submitted a check for his share of the property tax bill.

City leaders in Nome have expressed concern about what Cobb plans to do with the church. In 2013, Cobb tried to establish an all-white community in Leith, ND.

Cobb is now living in Sherwood, ND. He’s serving four years of probation for terrorizing and menacing Leith residents.


Thousands attend Vrindavan temple's anniversary celebrations

February 23, 2017

Vrindavan: The anniversary celebrations of one of the largest temples here -- the land of Lord Krishna -- saw thousands of devotees performing aarti on Wednesday.

The Prem Mandir, established by the fifth Jagadguru, Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj, is part of a sprawling 54-acre complex on the outskirts of this holy town and is run by the philanthropic Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP).

The fifth anniversary celebration, attended by JKP President Vishakha Tripathi, was marked by a grand "abhishek", singing of devotional songs and a bhoj for devotees.

JKP Secretary Raam Puri said the temple, whose foundation stone was laid in January 2001, took about 12 years to complete and employed over 1,000 artisans.

The uniquely designed two-storey temple, which stands 125 feet tall, used both traditional chisels and hammers for intricate carvings, as well as computerised robotic machines that gave shape to its structure, made entirely of Italian marble.

How Ravi Shankar broke with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and became Sri Sri

How Ravi Shankar broke with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and became Sri Sri
Bhavdeep Kang
March 21, 2016

An excerpt from a forthcoming book profiling India’s ‘godmen’.

Ravi Shankar’s first major tryst with organised spirituality was a lecture by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who took an immediate shine to him. The next thing he knew, he was whisked off to Switzerland and found himself travelling the world with his guru.

Sri Sri recalled his days with Mahesh Yogi as follows: “I was into studying the Vedas and he used to conduct these Vedic Science conferences around the country. So many scientists and scholars would come and I attended one of the meetings. He just picked me up from one of these and said, ‘You come with me.’ He asked me to come to Switzerland for a month or so and then he kept extending. That one month became almost a year. But I was still interested in doing my formal degree. So that is how it started. I was organising various things: yagya, conferences on Vedic Science, Ayurveda.”

MN Chakravarti, a former teacher of Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation, who knew Ravi well those years, had a different story to tell. According to him, in 1975, when Sri Sri was around twenty years old, he had attended a TM class in Melkote (in district Mandya, Karnataka) of which he was the coordinator. He initiated the young man into Maharishi’s programme after which the two got to know each other well. “We would go to his home in Jayanagar (in Bengaluru; now the Sri Sri Media Centre) and his mother would feed us,” recalled Chakravarti.

However, MN Chakravarti found Ravi’s father, RSV Ratnam extremely ambitious, “sort of like a star mom”. He didn’t think Sri Sri was either ambitious or interested in money. “He was a nice boy, very eager, decent and smart. His sister, too, was very nice.”

Later, Ravi did a stint in Rishikesh, where Maharishi’s ashram (famously inhabited by the Beatles for a space) was located. “We went there for the advanced course. You know, each round of meditation involves 40 minutes and we as teachers are expected to do three rounds. He used to tease me and say that as a senior, I should do more.”

He was “sweet-looking”, said M N Chakravarti, the kind of boy whose cheeks people have an irresistible urge to pinch. Despite the flowing hair and beard, he has more than a touch of the effeminate, which leads one to ask whether spiritual leaders have a strong feminine side.

“You are just the way you are naturally. It is for others to perceive the masculine or feminine. Because you can’t say I want to be this way or I have to be this way and I should not be this way. No, be absolutely free and be natural.”

Unlike some great sages in Indian mythology who crossed over from pleasure to asceticism, Ravi had none of the vices associated with callow youth. He neither smoked nor drank. He loved cinema though and in Rishikesh, “He used to take the boatman along with him, to cross the Ganga to town and see a film… otherwise, there would be no boat on the way back. He would tap on the window of our hostel and I would let him in,” said Chakravarti.

So far, the lad showed no sign of extraordinary powers, until one day when he arrived in Kalady, Adi Shankara’s birthplace in Kerala. According to Chakravarti,” Here, I was given an advanced technique by Maharishi. Ravi was not, although he was there. Maharishi was to leave from a small airstrip 20 kms away. Then Ravi made a prediction. He said Maharishi’s plane would stop, the door would open and an emissary would come and ask for me.”

Ravi Shankar was right, but only partly. The Maharishi’s plane did stop and his secretary did come out. But the chosen one was Ravi, not MN Chakravarti.

The stories converge after that. Ravi was given charge of Maharishi’s Institute of Vedic & Management Sciences, in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). He shadowed his guru day and night, flew with him to every destination and was soon regarded his successor. Then suddenly one day, Ravi left – according to him, out of his own volition. Yet another story which did the rounds was that Ravi had, albeit inadvertently, leaked sensitive information to a foreigner who turned out to be an intelligence operative and was then sent out of the institute on some trumped up charge involving voucher payments.

So, what was the real story? Sri Sri spoke in euphemisms, as is his wont.

“It (relationship with Maharishi) was very good, nice, loving and cordial. I am sure they had a lot of expectations from me, but then I went into silence and I started teaching Sudarshan Kriya (SKY). He knew I could not stay. It was like a golden cage for me. I needed to connect to grassroots level people. At that time (with Maharishi), I met Mrs (Indira) Gandhi, Jagjivan Ram, all the top people of the country but suddenly, I took leave from all that and changed to village-level persons. I travelled to small and remote villages. My heart was more with them. The sewa (service) aspect was not part of that (the TM) movement. That movement was more intellectual, based on meditation. I was more interested in sewa.”

By the time Sri Sri joined Maharishi, his most spectacular disciples, the Beatles, had already broken up. But more than a decade later, he would be introduced to them by a former TM practitioner, Michael Fischman. Now head of AoL in North America, Fischman played the Beatles for Sri Sri, after he spotted a picture of the band with Maharishi on his coffee table.

Sri Sri was delighted with the lyrics of Across the Universe, particularly the chant, “Jai Guru Deva”. He then sat through all the numbers inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and later commented that the song Within You Without You was based on a traditional Indian raga.

In Guru of Joy, Francois Gautier writes that very little is known about Guruji’s time with Maharishi, largely because Sri Sri himself appears reluctant to dwell on it in any detail. What seems clear is that he was a favourite with Maharishi who saw him as a trusted aide and a possible heir. But one particularly unfortunate event appeared to have started his fall from grace.

In 1980, a massive yagya, featuring 6,000 pandits, was to be organised at Maharishi Nagar, a vast ashram in NOIDA, in UP. In Sri Sri’s words:

“Maharishi had his own style of celebrating and did everything with a lot of pomp and show. For this particular ceremony, he wanted everything to be in yellow as far as the eye could see, as this was the colour of goddess Laxmi. So all the sweets were to be yellow, decorations in yellow and gold coins from different countries were brought for this yagya.”

Despite all the preparation, the yagya degenerated into chaos, with the pandits running riot and protesting against Ravi Shankar.

The disastrous event is described succinctly by Michael Fischman in his book, Stumbling Into Infinity. To begin with, many amongst the huge contingent of pandits recruited for the yagya were carpet-baggers who had been signed up by unscrupulous elements on the promise of rewards and a permanent place in Maharishi Nagar. A rumour that they would be packed off without the promised largesse sent them into a frenzy. Eventually, despite the opposition, Ravi Shankar stepped in and calmed the pandits down with the assurance that no one would be evicted.

Although he regained many of the brownie points that he’d lost when the yagya flopped, his deft handling of the fallout created jealousy.

His less favoured colleagues began to poison Maharishi against the young pandit, suggesting that he was trying to usurp his guru’s place.

Finally, the tipping point came when Maharishi, with the objective of starting Vedic schools all over India, sent Ravi Shankar to establish the Ved Vigyan Vidya Peeth in Bengaluru, in 1985. Not only was a trust set up with Sri Sri, the late Justice V R Krishna Iyer, Lakshman Rao (then Mayor of Bengaluru) and Justice P N Bhagawati, sixty acres of land had been allotted by the Karnataka government in the outskirts of the city on a thirty-year lease, with a plan to admit 200 children to the school.

A little later, Maharishi took a random decision to not only shut down the schools but transfer all the kids to Delhi. Ravi rebelled and insisted he would continue to care for the children in Bengaluru. The battlelines were now clearly drawn between the guru and his favourite shishya.

How difficult was it to part with his guru? I asked Sri Sri. “It was very tough. On the one hand, I had a vision. There were so many people waiting for me. On the other hand, I felt I could not leave because there was no reason. I had all my comforts, I had everything. At that age, I had seen almost everything in the world. It was tough to take an adventurous step of starting something from the very beginning and following my own vision, my passion of really connecting with grassroots people. From that platform, I could not do it. I have heard that they were not very happy that I embarked on something different.”

Excerpted with permission from the forthcoming Gurus: Stories of India’s Leading Babas, Bhavdeep Kang, Westland Books.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Ravi Shankar Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Sri Sri


Feb 21, 2017

Former White Supremacists Help Others Leave Hate Groups

Shannon Martinez giving a Nazi salute while she was part of a racist skinhead organization as a teen decades ago. Martinez, now affiliated with Life After Hate, a nonprofit that works to get people out of extremist groups, talks to people in an online forum sponsored by the organization. (Christian Picciolini via AP)
Activists are combatting what many see as a surge in white nationalism across the United States.

This undated photo provided by Christian Picciolini shows Shannon Martinez giving a Nazi salute while she was part of a racist skinhead organization as a teen decades ago. Martinez, now affiliated with Life After Hate, a nonprofit that works to get people out of extremist groups, talks to people in an online forum sponsored by the organization. (Christian Picciolini via AP)

Associated Press
February 21, 2017

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — The Celtic cross tattoo on Shannon Martinez's leg gives away her past.

A victim of sexual assault at age 14 and never quite able to meet her parents' expectations, Martinez sought out other angry teens. By 16, she was a skinhead spouting white supremacist rhetoric, giving stiff-armed Nazi salutes and tagging public property with swastikas. She favored racist fashion statements — like the symbol on her right calf.

Fortified by the love of an adopted family, Martinez left the skinheads behind. Today she's helping others do the same as part of an emerging U.S. movement that helps people quit hate organizations.

Modeled loosely upon organizations that formed in Europe years ago to combat extremism, groups and individuals are offering counseling, education and understanding to extremists seeking a way out.

Now a 42-year-old mom who homeschools her kids at their house in Georgia, Martinez volunteers with Life After Hate, a leading organization dedicated to helping people leave white supremacy. On Facebook, she shares her story with others who've left or are looking to leave extremism.

"We act as a group of people who understand each other," said former skinhead Christian Picciolini, an old friend of Martinez who founded the Chicago-based Life After Hate. "We understand the motivations of where we came from and why we joined. We understand what keeps people in. And we help each other detach and disengage from that ideology and provide a support system for them as they go through that transformation."

Founded in 2009, Life After Hate was awarded a $400,000 Justice Department grant in the closing days of the Obama administration — funding that could be endangered if the Trump administration decides to refocus a federal program combatting violent extremism solely on Islamic radicals, as is being considered.

While several other grant recipients are dedicated to countering radical Muslim ideology, Life After Hate concentrates specifically on showing white extremists there's another way.

The group operates a website where people who want to explore leaving white extremism can submit contact information. It also conducts educational and counseling programs including the Facebook group where members sometimes chat with extremists trying to change their lives, Picciolini said.

"I started the organization ... because it was so difficult to leave that movement," he said. "Even though I'd abandoned the ideology, I wasn't ready to give up my community and my power and my identity, and I knew how hard it would be for other people to leave this type of ideology or this type of movement."

Another group, One People's Project, was started by Daryle Lamont Jenkins of Philadelphia. Aside from monitoring racist groups, Jenkins — who is black — confronts white nationalists at public gatherings and talks one-on-one with willing white supremacists as he can, trying to show them there is a way other than hate. Some have never met a black person, he said.

Jenkins' work is similar to that of Daryl Davis, a black musician from Maryland who has gained notice for trying to talk people out of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, said it's hard to determine exact numbers, but around 100,000 people might be members in hate groups and several hundred thousand could be linked informally.

Potok said exit organizations began in Europe in the 1980s to counter the rise right-wing militants there.

"I do think that this is a particularly important moment for this kind of exit work to be happening because we have seen in the last year, year and a half, a real legitimization of these views," he said.

President Donald Trump's election with the support of neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan has lent a new sense of urgency to opponents of white supremacy.

"The Trump election has absolutely lit a fire under the butts of the white nationalists," Martinez said. "It is like, 'Our time is coming.'"

Martinez said she grew up in metro Atlanta in a relatively normal family but rebelled after being sexually assaulted at a party. She got involved in the punk scene, which led to the skinhead movement.

Martinez said she was on a path to prison or an early death when she moved in with the family of her skinhead boyfriend, who was away for Army training. His mother showed unconditional love that pulled her out of the abyss, Martinez said.

Today, she looks at photos of herself from her skinhead days and fights back tears.

"I was filled with rage and anger and the skinheads were the angriest people that I knew and I was kind of like, 'Those are my people.' And the ideology was a means of taking something that was ethereal, something that was unnamable, an anger and a rage that I felt, and giving it a focal point," she said.

Shane Johnson was born into extremism. His father and many of his father's relatives were part of the Klan, he said, so there was only one real way for him to go as a youth in northern Indiana.

"We were known as the Klan family," he said. "I got my first Klan robe when I was 14."

Johnson eventually joined a skinhead group in addition to the KKK but finally decided to quit after getting arrested, stopping drinking and meeting the woman who is now his wife. Leaving was a real fight, though, as even relatives jumped him at a gas station one night after learning he wanted to quit.

"When I dropped out they beat the holy hell out of me," he said.

Since then, Johnson has tried to cover some of his racist tattoos with new ones and wears long sleeves to hide remnants of the past he regrets. Life After Hate is helping him numerous ways, Johnson said, including showing him how to read the Bible without seeing it as a treatise on racial separation, as he had been taught.

Johnson, now 25 and living in rural Indiana, isn't ready to begin counseling others about leaving extremism; he still sometimes longs for his racist buddies and their ways. But he said his own story is proof that hate doesn't have to be permanent.

"You can get out," he said.



FLDS to freedom: DSU student finds new life after escape from polygamous cult

Jessica Chatwin
Jessica Chatwin
Spencer Ricks
Dixie Sun News
February 17, 2017

Jessica Chatwin keeps a plain, button-up dress in her closet as a reminder of what can happen when people follow a cult leader.

“I want to show [the dress] to my children someday so they know how much we were brainwashed,” said Chatwin, a freshman media studies major from Hildale.

The dress in Chatwin’s closet is a souvenir of the life she used to live in Hildale, a small town that sits about an hour east of St. George on the border of Arizona. The population of Hildale and its sister city, Colorado City, Arizona, is dominated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a church known for polygamy. Not to be confused with the mainstream Mormon sect, the FLDS church is “a community cult,” Chatwin said.

Living the cult life

Up until Chatwin was 16, she lived the lifestyle and adhered to all the restrictions required of a devout member of the FLDS religion. As a baptized member of the “united order” or “higher law” of the FLDS church, she was expected to give all she had to the church and was subject to even stricter standards. Although FLDS church officials didn't tell her the reason Chatwin was accepted into the “united order,” she said she realized later it was just because she was a young girl.

“[The 'united order'] was basically communism,” Chatwin said.

She couldn’t indulge in movies, TV shows or popular music. She couldn’t talk to or even make eye contact with boys her age. She couldn’t wear red. She couldn’t celebrate birthdays or holidays. She couldn’t recreate or go to the park. And the list of foods she was banned from eating included milk, pepper, chocolate, white sugar, white flour, corn and beans, except “in times of famine.”

She was cut off from all access to the news, the media or any other information from the outside world.

“I didn’t know anything about world history — I had only known about what the church taught, which was mainly church history,” Chatwin said. “I didn’t know what was happening in the world. I didn’t know anything about science. I didn’t know anything about celebrities and music and culture.”

Chatwin would attend meetings of the elite “united order,” and she couldn’t talk to anyone outside of the meetings about what she was being taught, even though she said being part of the order just meant she lead a stricter lifestyle. She couldn’t even talk to her parents about it because although they were FLDS members, they weren’t part of the “united order.”

“I would go to these meetings, and then I would come home and my mom would ask me about my day, but I would just go straight to my room because I couldn’t talk to her about [‘the united order’],” Chatwin said. “I basically lost all connection with my family.”

After being part of “the united order” for a year, the separation between her and her parents grew so large, Chatwin had to leave her family and live with her aunt and uncle.

However, it wasn’t long after she went to live with her aunt and uncle when her life drastically changed.

 Jessica Chatwin, a media studies major from Hildale, grew up a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamous sect. Chatwin left the church when she was 16. Photo courtesy of Chatwin.

Jessica Chatwin, a media studies major from Hildale, grew up a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamous sect. Chatwin left the church when she was 16. Photo courtesy of Chatwin.

Leaving the cult life

One morning, Chatwin’s parents told her uncle that they needed to take her to an appointment in Salt Lake City. Her uncle then tried to call the bishop’s office to make sure Chatwin was allowed to go to Salt Lake City with her parents. But the bishop wouldn’t answer his phone, so Chatwin’s uncle just said it was OK for her to go.

At the time, Chatwin didn’t know it’d be her last time leaving Hildale as a member of the FLDS faith.

“I was so stressed,” Chatwin said. “I wouldn’t smile. I knew my parents were questioning the teachings of the church.”

Chatwin said she realized her parents had left the church for good when they stopped praying for the prophet’s well being. Members of the FLDS church are instructed to pray every hour for Warren Jeffs, the prophet and leader of the church, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for the sexual assault of children he married. Chatwin said she was taught by the church Jeffs was in prison for religious persecution.

Chatwin said she didn’t want to leave the FLDS church and Hildale at first. All her friends were in Hildale, and she had been taught from birth that the FLDS religion was the only true faith.

“When we stopped at a hotel for the night, I about ran away from my parents,” Chatwin said. “I thought I could just take off. But it was pretty dark out there and it was a scary world, so I just stayed with my parents.”

Chatwin came to the realization leaving the church was the best thing to do when her parents pointed out inconsistencies between the newer teachings of the church and the older teachings found in the “Book of Mormon” and “Doctrine and Covenants.”

After Jeffs was sent to prison, Chatwin said no more marriages, plural or otherwise, were being performed in Hildale. In addition, if a couple was married, their marriage was no longer official in the church, Chatwin said. This was the main reason that set off Chatwin’s parents from the church enough to leave.

“Once I left, I had to totally give up everything that I knew before,” Chatwin said.

After spending a week in North Dakota, Chatwin and her parents returned to their home in Hildale. Chatwin gathered her belongings from her aunt and uncle’s home and went to live with her parents again. It only took a few months before all of Chatwin’s aunts, uncles and cousins stopped talking to her. FLDS members are banned from having any contact with an “apostate,” who is someone who has left the church, Chatwin said.

Chatwin and her parents went back to North Dakota for five months for work reasons after initially going back to Hildale. After that, she returned to Hildale again, where she continues to live today on the weekends. Even though she lives in the same town as all her FLDS friends and family members, she doesn't have any contact with them.

“It’s really, really sad,” Chatwin said. “But all you can do is carry on because they’re blind. They don’t see anything because they're told not to look.”

Chatwin said she sometimes leaves a gift on the doorsteps of some of her FLDS relatives even though they probably throw it away. Her relatives don’t even respond to a friendly wave or a smile in the street from her anymore.

“I would love to be able to talk to [my relatives] and see them on holidays,” Chatwin said. “But they don’t have any holidays. They don’t have any joy. I would love to share my happiness with them; if any of them came to me, I’d accept them at once.”

Looking past the cult life

For Chatwin, transitioning to normal life took a long time. It took a full year after leaving the religion before she started attending the public high school in Hildale. She stopped wearing her dress the day she started high school.

“I remember the first day I wore pants,” Chatwin said. “It was really weird.”

After starting high school, Chatwin said she couldn’t get enough of learning and wanted to attend college. When she started at Dixie State University in the fall, she was the first person from her family to attend college.

At DSU, meeting people from diverse backgrounds opened her eyes to a new perspective on the world. She said the change to university life wasn't too difficult because she had always been curious about the outside world and had wanted to meet new friends outside of Hildale.

“It made me more accepting because of how closed-minded I was before,” Chatwin said.

Chatwin isn’t the only ex-FLDS member attending DSU. Milton Williams, a junior human communication major from Orderville, left Hildale and the FLDS church with his mother when he was seven. Williams said people who leave the FLDS church often have no social skills, and college is not on their horizon because of how little they have when they leave Hildale.

Williams said he doesn’t have many memories of growing up in Hildale, but his connections to the town have allowed him to have more understanding of people with an FLDS background. A 17-year-old young man who left Hildale is currently living with Williams in his apartment in St. George, he said.

“Polygamists kind of get a bad rap because people don’t understand why they are the way they are,” Williams said. “They come from a culture that is so strict and it’s part of their beliefs that they’re the only righteous ones…If people understood that it is a very sheltered environment that they come from, they’d have more patience with them.”

Stephen Armstrong, an associate professor of English, said he’s had a few students in his classes who used to be FLDS members from Hildale. He said although anyone that attends college is intellectually gifted, it is often hard for these students to adjust to the social pressures of college.

“The experiences that come out of discussion (with ex-FLDS students) sometimes indicate that there has been some kind of trauma, violation or sense of displacement,” Armstrong said. “This was sometimes addressed in their writing. This sounds kind of philosophical, but they assert mastery over their past.”

By remembering her previous life in Hildale and keeping the dress in her closet, Chatwin said she is not ashamed of her past.

“[Hildale] is part of who I am,” Chatwin said. “I’m not willing to have a sister wife or anything, but I still accept the families that do because it’s where I’m from.”


Former Justice Jones: Repeal faith-healing exemption

Betsy Z. Russell
February 21, 2017

Retired Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones has sent out a guest opinion today calling for repeal of Idaho’s faith-healing exemption, which protects parents from prosecution if they deny their child medical care and the child dies or becomes seriously ill. The piece is entitled, “Does the right to life end at birth for some kids?” Jones writes, “Adults can decide for themselves on healthcare matters. If they decide to forego medical intervention for themselves for religious reasons, that is their prerogative. The state has an interest in safeguarding the health and safety of minors who cannot speak for themselves.

It’s the latest in a series of opinion pieces Jones has written on current issues in Idaho. “After 12 years of judicially-imposed silence, it feels good to speak out,” he said.

Does the Right to Life End at Birth for Some Kids?

By Jim Jones

It is time for the Legislature to repeal the faith-healing exemption to Idaho’s statute prohibiting the injury of children. Section 18-1501 of the Idaho Code penalizes conduct by “any person” that is likely to endanger the person or health of a child. This applies to parents but the statute has qualifying language that limits violations to rather egregious conduct. It was carefully crafted to limit governmental intrusion into the family setting.

However, the statute includes an exemption that has allowed some parents to refuse to provide readily available health care to their children, resulting in needless suffering and death. The exemption says that the “practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child.” This language should be eliminated in order to protect some our most helpless and vulnerable citizens.

Adults can decide for themselves on healthcare matters. If they decide to forego
medical intervention for themselves for religious reasons, that is their prerogative. The state has an interest in safeguarding the health and safety of minors who cannot speak for themselves. Our laws have numerous protections for children without religious exemptions--marital age, child labor, ability to contract, and the like. In my estimation, the right to have basic life-saving healthcare trumps those protections.

A courageous young woman, Linda Martin, recently spoke out in a Statesman ad to urge the repeal of the faith-healing exemption. As a former member of a group that denies basic medical care to its youngest members, she spoke with eloquence and authority about the injury inflicted on sick children in the group. She closed with this statement: “This is not a freedom of religion issue: this is a right to live issue.” Amen.

Since at least the 1980s, when I served as Idaho Attorney General, the Legislature has passed numerous laws intended to support the right to life by using the power of the government to require women to carry a fetus to term. To my knowledge, none of those measures contained a religious exemption. The question arises as to whether the right to life of some children in our great state ceases upon birth. It is time for the Legislature to stand up for our children and to require that faith-healing parents provide basic healthcare to their children.


Concern Over White Supremacist Fliers Found on Berwick Lawns

Jayne Ann Bugda
PA Home Page
February 21, 2017

BERWICK, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) A white supremacy group is trying once again  to recruit people to their Klan from our area.  They’re doing it through a well known technique – dropping leaflets on people’s lawns. One of the people who got a leaflet wants to send their own message – “You’re not welcome here.

Eyewitness News Reporter Cody Butler has the latest.

Nearly half a dozen of bags were thrown on lawns in the area of arbor street in berwick this past weekend. Inside? - rice and a Ku Klux Klan mission statement.

"What is this? I thought it was from another organization until I found out what it was."  Said Bette Grey, Berwick.

On Sunday, Bette Grey and her neighbors, who did not want appear on camera,  found the flyers, which are now in the possession of the Berwick police. But grey says they were identical to this  statement - found on the website of the “East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire”, an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan.

The group is based in Maryland, but a hotline number rings in Harrisburg.

"When I see this kind of nonsense, it's really kind of sad and frightening."  Grey says there were several versions of the group’s message – this one asks “Where’s White History Month”?

 "i actually found this one Friday afternoon folded nice and neatly in this side yard over here."

 Grey raised her concern’s at Monday’s borough meeting and was told city officials  are taking it serious as this is the first time it the flyers have been found here.

 "The whole community as a whole needs to take a stand and we need to say that we are not going to tolerate this in our community." Added Grey

The Berwick Police Department says this is under investigation - but at the same time this falls under the group’s first amendment “free speech” protections.


Mystery property buyer in downtown Clearwater brings questions about Scientology's involvement

The Atrium, the largest office tower in Clearwater has sold for $13 million, but the buyer is a total mystery. Even the property manager has no idea who she works for now. .JIM DAMASKE | Times
Tracey McManus
Tampa Bay Times
February 21, 2017

The Atrium, the largest office tower in Clearwater has sold for $13 million, but the buyer is a total mystery. Even the property manager has no idea who she works for now.

CLEARWATER — An Ybor City real estate broker has been buying up downtown property on behalf of a buyer working very hard to remain secret.

This month, a newly formed LLC called 601 Cleveland registered to Fred Edmister paid $13 million for the city's largest office tower, the nine-story, all-glass Atrium building, in the center of downtown.

On Jan. 13, a business called 715 Laura LLC also registered to Edmister bought an auto garage at that street address, less than a block from the Atrium, for $1.7 million, according to property records.

And on Nov. 18, Edmister registered a business with the state called 700 Cleveland Street LLC, although the Clearwater Mortgage building at that address, directly behind the auto garage, has not been sold, according to public records.

It's not an uncommon arrangement for real estate investors to buy property through a broker to keep their name out of public records. But with the anonymity of the owner, and the potential acquisition of three properties within a block of each other, speculation has turned again to the default assumption whenever downtown property changes hands — that the Church of Scientology is somehow involved.

"I've heard that people associated with the church have bought the (Atrium) property, but I do not know for sure," Mayor George Cretekos said.

Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to requests for comment this week. But he told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month the church "has no further plans to expand our campus downtown."

That statement hasn't prevented downtown watchers from speculating that the church is secretly working to expand its real estate footprint in the city.

"Everybody was saying it was Scientology," said Tom O'Brien, who has rented space in the Atrium for his Tiger Real Estate Opportunity Fund for 12 years but does not know who now owns his building.

Since first arriving in Clearwater in 1975, the Church of Scientology has accumulated more than $260 million in real estate, occupying whole blocks of downtown and building its worldwide spiritual headquarters steps from City Hall.

The church is also pursuing the 1.4 acre lot adjacent to City Hall and offered the owner, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, $4.25 million for it in 2014.

Edmister did not respond to repeated calls for comment or a letter hand-delivered to his National Realty Commercial's office.

But he has a history of representing confidential buyers in large transactions. In 2006 he bought five properties for $28,165, put them in two land trusts whose beneficiaries were secret and then flipped them to the Hillsborough County School district for a 340 percent markup.

On Tuesday, Clearwater Mortgage owner Scott Chinchar told a Times reporter to leave when asked about the sale of his building. A man who identified himself as the owner of All Around Repairs, which sold on Jan. 13 to Edmister's LLC, also told a Times reporter to leave when asked if the Church of Scientology was the true buyer of his building.

Wendy Eckert, who spent the past eight years working for the Atrium's previous owner, Maurice Wilder, said she was hired by the new property management company, Avison Young, after the Feb. 1 sale to continue managing the building. She said leases of the tenants are being renewed.

But even Eckert doesn't know who she is really working for.

"None of us have been given his name," Eckert said. "He obviously wants to be kept confidential."

Seth Taylor, director of the Community Redevelopment Agency, a special downtown taxing district that includes the Atrium property, said he had no idea who now really owns the high rise.

Atrium tenants were told at the end of January to begin sending their rent payments to Avison Young's Fort Lauderdale office.

Antje Victore said the lease for her Cars2Go auto rental business office on the fifth floor is up in March and has not been notified she would not be able to renew.

Victore moved into the Atrium in 2005 after her former office at 41 N Fort Harrison was bought by Scientology and turned into the Church's Foundation for a Drug Free World.

"I'm wondering now, should I be concerned?" she said.

With its all-glass walls and prominence in downtown, the Atrium has been a longtime landmark anchored by Suntrust Bank and filled with more than 30 other businesses like Morgan Stanley, World Financial Group and Merrill Lynch.

The city bought the 158,000 square-foot high rise in the 1993 with intentions to turn it into a new City Hall but sold it months later when the makeup of the City Council, and opinions, changed.

The city is currently implementing a 10-year, potentially $55 million revitalization plan to stimulate the downtown core and waterfront, and Bill Sturtevant, former chair of the nonprofit Clearwater Downtown Partnership, said maintaining high end office space and businesses that are open to the public is essential to economic development.

With the buyer, and fate, of these properties unknown, Sturtevant said he hopes the uses stay in the public interest.

"Office space is critical to the redevelopment of downtown," Sturtevant said. "The most important thing for us to grow is there needs to be available space for the public."


Polygamy to incur up to five years in jail

Ashok Dahal
My Republica
February 21, 2017

KATHMANDU, Feb 21: If a draft of the Criminal Code revised by a parliamentary panel is endorsed by the full House, a polygamous man or a polyandrous woman could get a jail term of up to five years and a fine of Rs 50,000.

Removing the existing six grounds for a man to get married for a second time, the revised bill has proposed criminalizing polygamy or polyandry except in the case when one of the couple is already separated and has received his or her share of the ancestral property.

Section 175 of the bill has also proposed punishment for a woman if she is found to have married a man knowing that he is already married.

Earlier, in the original draft of the bill, the government had proposed allowing a spouse for a second marriage if his/her couple is suffering from an incurable sexual disease. But the parliament’s legislative committee removed this provision. The committee has on its part endorsed the bill and is all set to forward it to the full House for final approval.

The Criminal Code bill is one of the five bills, which will replace the 160-year-old Civil Code (Muluki Ain), enacted by the then Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana. The civil code had provided various excuses for a husband to get married for a second time such as when his wife is suffering from incurable sexual diseases, is mad, is incapable of giving birth or is unable to walk or is blind.

“The existing act has accepted polygamy on various grounds but the revised draft has barred polygamy and polyandry under any pretext,” said lawmaker Krishna Bhakta Pokharel, the coordinator of the sub-committee under the Legislative Committee tasked to revise the bill. He says once the bill is endorsed, any spouse can’t get married for a second time unless he or she is already divorced.

The bill has also proposed significant changes to other existing laws including provisions related to rape, life time sentence, cyber crimes and treason.

Adding a new clause to the bill, the parliamentary committee has proposed penalty for taking pictures of any individual without prior consent and distorting and tampering those pictures. This section was added to the bill following concerns of lawmakers over increasing trend of distorting pictures of leaders in the social media.

Likewise, making significant changes in the legal definition of the crime of rape, the bill has defined ‘any act of penetration into the vagina, anus or mouth of a woman with a part of a man’s body or any other object or sex toys without conscious consent of the woman as rape.’ The existing law defines rape only as penetration of male organ into the vagina of a woman without conscious consent of the woman.

Likewise the bill has criminalized the act of match fixing in any sports.

Louis Theroux attempts to infiltrate the world of Scientology in his new film

Louis Theroux's latest documentary film, My Scientology Movie, is a deep dive into the strange world of Scientology. (KinoSmith)
CBC Radio
February 21, 2017

Louis Theroux's latest documentary film, My Scientology Movie, is a deep dive into the strange world of Scientology.

Hamilton Leithauser strikes up a 'lucky' collaboration with Rostam
Louis Theroux attempts to infiltrate the world of Scientology in his new film.

When documentary maker Louis Theroux reached out to the Church of Scientology, to try to create a film about this controversial religion, they swiftly rebuffed his requests. But that didn't stop Theroux.

Theroux's latest film, My Scientology Movie, finds ways around its topic including re-enactments of accounts from the former senior executive of Scientology, Marty Rathbun. Also, the film follows Theroux's (sometimes hilarious) attempts at infiltrating the church.

"I was trying to understand Scientology almost from the perspective of a Scientologist," he explains. "And it's quite a funny religion. We're not talking about ISIS [...] We're not talking about beheadings or hostage-taking, so I think comedy is an appropriate genre for the movie to take place in."

My Scientology Movie is out now in Toronto, and will be available in other cities in Canada soon.

Opposing sides in Mormon rift unite for survey seeking deeper understanding of gays

Mormon Temple, center, set to open near Logan Square in Center City in Philadelphia
Mormon Temple, center, set to open near
Logan Square in Center City in Philadelphia
The Salt Lake Tribune
February 19, 2017

Lee Beckstead believes orthodox Mormons in the gay community hate him.

After all, the Salt Lake City clinical psychologist and former Latter-day Saint testified in a nationally recognized court case against so-called "reparative therapy" as a treatment for gays, angering some of the same-sex-attracted faithful trying to remain celibate or to alter their orientation.

Beckstead has written extensively about the dangers of such "change efforts," has pushed the American Psychological Association to condemn them, and has been associated with the out-and-proud approach as the healthiest way to be gay.

At his core, though, Beckstead is an open-minded researcher, so a few years ago he made a reach-across-the-chasm gesture, inviting faith-based therapists to join him in crafting a new survey for LDS and other religion-bred gays.

"I needed their buy-in so I could understand their perspective ... and feedback on bias," he says. "And I didn't want them to criticize it."

The result is his "4 Options Survey," which aims to find respondents along the spectrum of attraction, behavior and belief.

The four options include, it says, "those who experience (or have experienced) same-sex attractions and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB), heterosexual, or with another sexual identity or reject a label."

The questions target those who are:

• Single and celibate.

• Single and not celibate.

• In a heterosexual/mixed-orientation relationship.

• In a same-sex relationship.

"Those in other types of relationship and single statuses are also invited to participate," the survey adds, "to expand our understanding of possible options."

The team hopes participants will share how they see themselves, where they fall on the sexual-orientation scale of attraction/aversion, how their faith intersects with — or influences — their attractions, what therapies have helped and which have harmed them.

The survey, which is underway and has been approved by Idaho State University, is not a scientific study using a random sample. Instead, it will employ what is known as "snowball sampling," in which one person participates and then recommends it to other people who meet the inclusion criteria. That means the results, though helpful and fascinating, cannot be seen as definitive or as reflective of the entire gay population.

Still, the study does have the "potential to significantly change how we address these issues," Beckstead says, "clinically, in research, personally, within families and communities."

It also might eliminate "the harms and polarization from past research and litigation," he explains. "If you join with your adversaries, you get to see more pieces of the puzzle ... to heal our divided community."

The two sides "are not enemies, we are friends," Beckstead says. "For too long, we have been talking at, about or past each other."

Staking out sides

The impetus for the survey came from Marybeth Raynes, a Salt Lake City-based marriage and family therapist who has worked for decades on gay Mormon issues.

Some 25 years ago, Raynes worked with Idaho State professor Ron Schow on one of the first books published on the topic, "Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation." The pair was striving for a balanced approach that would reach an LDS audience, while describing real pain for Mormons with same-sex attraction.

Before long, two major "camps" within Mormonism emerged around this issue, Schow says. Ty Mansfield, co-founder and past president of North Star, a church-affirming organization, is the best-known individual on the side that supports celibacy or man-woman marriage for gays. Years ago, Mansfield wrote of his same-sex attractions and declared he would remain single for life. He eventually married a woman and now has four children with her.

The other side has been associated with Affirmation, an LDS group which takes a "big-tent approach," the Idaho teacher says, and celebrates options that include noncelibacy and same-sex relationships.

In the past four years, Beckstead and Raynes carved a middle-ground alternative known as the Reconciliation and Growth Project, made up of four LGBT-affirming and four church-affirming therapists. Mansfield is now a member of that group as well, which huddles every two weeks to hammer out statements on which both sides can agree.

Raynes has in her practice a large number of devout Mormons and thought it might be helpful to provide them with information about how others have dealt with mixed-orientation marriages, gay relationships or celibacy.

Were they satisfied with their choice? What made it work or not?

"We wanted to be able to say to clients, 'Here's what we know about this group or that,' " she recalls. "But we didn't have enough data."

Beckstead and Schow took it from there, while Raynes became a kind of unofficial adviser.

Her reaction to the first batch of replies?

Not enough women in the pool of participants — and too many liberals.

Expanding the view

Before now, the best research on the experience of LGBT Mormons was done as a dissertation by John Dehlin, with the help of Utah State University's Renee Galliher. William Bradshaw, Brigham Young University emeritus biology professor and head of the pro-gay Family Fellowship, was a partner on the project.

More than 1,600 respondents filled out the 149-question study, also done by snowballing.

"I am unaware of any sample ever assembled in the entire LGBT scientific literature (Mormon or not) that is as large as ours, and where the researchers went to such effort to minimize sample bias," says Dehlin, who runs a popular podcast called "Mormon Stories" and was excommunicated two years ago by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for what amounted to apostasy.

The scholars, Dehlin said, made "explicit, additional efforts to recruit from the groups that reflected the opposite 'biases' of the investigators."

"We made special and extra invitations (including private phone calls and private meetings) to and with believing LDS support groups ... [that] explicitly supported reparative therapy at the time," he said. "In the end, a full one-third of our sample reported to still be active and believing LDS, which is a very large sample."

Dehlin said he welcomes any new data, but noted that his study has been published in seven peer-reviewed academic journals, giving it additional credibility.

Still, critics, including Mansfield, say that some of the questions' wording — using the term "gay" or "lesbian," for instance, rather than the LDS Church's preferred "same-sex attracted" — may have prompted more conservative participants to withdraw.

Dehlin says his survey used both terms, which he concedes was "off-putting" to both sides.

Sample size was not the issue for Jacob Hess, a believing Mormon mental-health professional in Utah, it was the investigators' "one-sided bias."

"Despite intentions otherwise, both Dehlin's conclusions and the way he has framed them publicly have heightened the tension in an already constrained, pressurized public conversation about otherwise sensitive, important questions," Hess writes in an online critique. "In particular, certain aspects of Dehlin's presentation potentially increase pressure on gay/SSA-identifying individuals to step decisively away from faith communities, marriages and personal commitments they had once cherished."

For example, when asking about "change efforts," Hess says in an interview, "how people define change affects the outcome."

Hess sees nothing onerous in Dehlin's choice of research partners, but leaving out faith-based scholars increased the likelihood of blind spots.

"We can't see what we can't see," he says. "That requires collaborating with people who don't share our views."

Involved but wary

Working with Beckstead, says Mansfield, a Provo family therapist, "is the first time I have taken a survey where I felt like my experience was represented. That is really important when you are trying to understand the diversity of experiences."

Christopher Rosik, a California psychologist and former president of the conservative NARTH, National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, also celebrates the partnership.

"It's pretty rare," says Rosik, who brings a religious perspective but is the only team member without a Mormon connection. "I am not aware of any studies where there's this kind of diversity."

In his state, change efforts for minors have been banned, he says. "I was involved on the losing side."

Rosik doesn't use "conversion therapy," which has been "demonized beyond recognition," he says. "But I am interested in giving an individual a choice in how to explore their sexual attractions. If you're in a mixed-orientation marriage and you want to increase your attractions to your wife, that may be possible."

Some conservative colleagues are "a little skeptical about his participation" with Beckstead, telling him, "you'll be burned eventually."

But Rosik says he's "operating under good faith," noting that the danger with any researchers, is that they can "project their own biography into the study."

Like Beckstead, he believes that won't happen this time.

pstack@sltrib.com Twitter: @religiongal


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Birth Centenary Year celebrated with grandeur in city

Brahmachari Girish, Chancellor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic University and Chairman, Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools Group
Brahmachari Girish, Chancellor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic University
 and Chairman, Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools Group
The Hitavada
February 21, 2017

Staff Reporter,

On the pious occasion of Birth Centenary Year Celebration of Mahahrishi Mahesh Yogi, his devoted disciple Brahmachari Girish, Chancellor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic University and Chairman, Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools Group highlighted the significance of the occasion at Ravindra Bhawan.

They said that, “100 such celebrations will be organised across the country throughout year. Further he emphasised on regular practice of TM and Siddhi programme through which one can attain success, peace and fulfillment in life. He added that, following the path shown by Maharishi, enlightenment and perfection in every aspect of life can be achieved’’. He was addressing a large number of guests, staff, students and their parents at a grand and ecstatic celebration organised at Ravindra Bhawan, Bhopal.

Speaking on the occasion, chief guest Alok Sanjar, Member of Parliament said that today is the great occasion as we are celebrating Birth Centenary Year of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Nana Deshmukh. Maharishi was a great saint who contributed immensely to strengthen the culture and education of our country.

Other prominent dignitaries who graced the occasion were Dr Mohan Lal Chheepa, VC, Atal Bihari Bajpai Hindi University, Dr Tariq Zafar, VC, Bhoj Open University, Dr Yageshwar Sashtri, VC, Sanchi Bouddha Indic Study, University and Professor Bhuvnesh Sharma, VC, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic University.

To enrich the programme with cultural essence, several enthralling cultural programmes based on patriotic and spiritual themes were also presented by students of various branches of Maharishi Vidya Mandir. Programme was compered by staff Pramita Parmar. Expressing the gratitude towards all eminent guests, staff, students and parents, vote of thanks was proposed by B S Guleria, Principal, MVM Ratanpur Bhopal.


Shame and Silence: Recognizing Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual Abuse
Mackenzi Kingdon, MA, LMHCA
February 1, 2017

Spiritual abuse, a type of abuse that results from a spiritual leader, system, or indoctrinated individual’s attempts to control and/or manipulate another individual, can be difficult to recognize, and many people are entirely unaware that this type of abuse even exists.

Those who are aware of spiritual abuse may understand this concept as the oppression or domination of individuals within a particular religious organization, leading these people to follow the leaders without dissent or question. While this is one manifestation, any abuse—committed intentionally or otherwise–that occurs in a religious context and negatively impacts a person’s spirituality, effectively diminishing or breaking their spirit, can be described as spiritual abuse.

Spiritual Abuse in Intimate Relationships

Spiritual abuse may occur in relationships, though some may not recognize they are experiencing abuse. A key feeling to look for, if you believe spiritual abuse may be present in your relationship, is shame. Shame, obvious at times but less apparent at others, can be experienced in many ways, all of which are likely to lead to hurt and pain.

Spiritual abuse can be recognized in many of the following situations but is not limited to these:

Do you feel ashamed when you and your partner have different thoughts about religion? If your partner adheres to a particular religion and you feel it is not safe to challenge their ideas about religion, spiritual abuse may be present.
Have you ever been silenced by your partner when challenging a common ideology in their religion? Have they called your thoughts and opinions silly, wrong, or stupid, leading you to feel ashamed of having the audacity to think differently?

Has your partner ever forced you to attend religious gatherings?

Find a Therapist

Have you ever been shamed or punished by a partner for not obeying a particular religious rule or set of rules?
Does your partner use scriptures, religious texts, or beliefs to justify harmful or abusive behaviors?

Does your partner insist children be raised according to a certain faith, even if you do not follow that faith?

Many churches teach that in a heterosexual relationship, the male has supremacy over the female: the man is the head; the woman is the help-meet. This was true in the church I attended in my late teen years. I, and other young women, were given multiple reasons why God had arranged it thus. “Ladies, you should be so lucky to find a man to help and support!” we were told. As much as I hoped at the time to fit into this box, I—strong, opinionated, and stubborn as I was, and still am—simply didn’t. I push back. I make decisions. I desire to be involved in all aspects of a relationship, as an equal member, not a lesser part.

My partner, another member of the church, did not support these aspects of my nature. On more than one occasion we had disagreements in which he told me, jokingly at first, to “submit,” persisting until I stopped talking. His “joke” response continued, silencing me again and again until I lost the energy and willpower to defend myself further. To avoid that word, “submit,” I forfeited my voice and my opinions.

In this way, messages from religious organizations trickle down, affecting relationships, shattering the spirits of many, often leading to religious trauma syndrome or another lasting negative impact on mental health and well-being.

Spiritual Abuse in Parent-Child Relationships

Parent-child spiritual abuse, while common, may be tricky to recognize, as the line between abuse and influence can at times be blurry one. When does the attempt to influence and shape a child’s moral outlook through religious upbringing cross the line into abuse?

I imagine many individuals, when considering the topic of spiritual abuse, think of the movie Carrie. In this film, Carrie suffers extreme physical and spiritual abuse at the hands of her mother, all in the name of God.

Spiritual abuse perpetuated by parents, not always obvious or blatant, can be seen when parents:

Encourage single-minded thinking. When parents discourage questions or shut a child down for challenging what they learn, they are teaching the child that critical thinking is not valuable.

Use exclusive language or “us vs. them” mentality when referring to those who do not adhere to the same religious group. This language serves to give children a pointed message about the organization of social relationships and can encourage both an elitist mentality or a savior complex.

Stifle a child’s interest in learning about other religious practices. This often furthers exclusive language by sending the message that others might be dangerous, evil, etc.

Force a child to participate in certain rituals such as prayer, worship, communion, bowing, group participation, repentance, public displays of adherence, etc. A child who does not wish to participate likely has a reason, and parents who ignore the child’s choices send the message that children do not have the freedom to make their own choices.

Force a child to remain in an environment where a traumatic event occurred. Children who have an extreme reaction to a religious environment typically do so for a reason. Parents may be unaware a traumatic event has taken place, but to ignore the child’s reaction instead of attempting to discover the reason for it is likely to teach the child they cannot expect to be protected from harm, even by their parents.

The parent-child dynamic of spiritual abuse should not be equated with a parent’s attempt to raise a child in a religious household. Parents who follow a particular faith may read their child stories from a religious text, explain why certain morals are important or why they hold certain beliefs, and bring their child to church events. These are not examples of abuse when they are not forced on a child.

Further, parents who encourage their child to ask questions and provide the child with explanations instead of simply saying, “Because God says so,” can help their child learn, grow, and think critically. It is often worth it for a parent to take the time to explain to a child why they chose to follow a particular faith, as this serves to introduce the child to that unique and important aspect of the parent’s life.

Abuse in Small Cults

Society as a whole has become more aware of cult practices in recent years. Cults might exist as small branches of major religions or are large organizations in their own right, and they may be difficult to recognize or define. People who have left them, however, often report abusive practices, though many share that they did not recognize these tactics as abuse until they had a chance to step away from them.

Some of the following may be questions to consider:

Am I in danger? Physical danger? Danger of a destroyed reputation?
Am I being forced to pay money in order to become spiritually enlightened?
Have I been shamed for thinking differently?
Have I been equipped with the tools to research my beliefs on my own, or are there only a chosen few individuals who are authorized to give me information?
Is there a ranking system? Am I being taught that I am somehow lesser than other individuals?
Is my individuality unappreciated or unwelcomed?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may wish to carefully consider the religious group to which you belong. It may be a good idea to seek the support of a trusted friend or family member along with professional help from a counselor, particularly one trained to provide help with spiritual and religious issues. A person should not have to worry that sharing their worries or opinions will lead to judgment or recrimination.

Abuse in Large Organizations

Spiritual abuse typically becomes more insidious as the size of the organization grows. In large organizations, however, the most common forms of abuse may be more difficult to identify.

One way of identifying whether you have been, or currently are, in a spiritually abusive relationship is to look at the leadership in your organization.

Do the leaders hold all authority?
Do they discourage free thinking or opinions about their messages?
Do they inform followers they are less valuable because of things they cannot change (gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, and so on)?
Do they demonize other religions and belief systems?
Do they catch you in the “loop”?
Spiritual abuse is sneaky. It hides in the fact that it is not commonly discussed and thus is often overlooked. But know that if you have experienced spiritual abuse or oppression, you are not alone, and compassionate help and support can help you overcome its effects.

The “loop” is an idea I have been developing as I continue my own spiritual exploration. Recently, the pastor giving a Christian church service I attended shared information I disagreed with. As I picked apart the message in my head, I experienced doubt about my own religious beliefs. As if the pastor had read my thoughts, he exclaimed, “And if you have doubt, that is because you are ensnared by sin.”

“Oh, that explains it,” I thought. “Now I need to do whatever he says I should to wipe out my sin, and that will ease my doubt. Wait. What?!”

This thought ran through my head as I processed what he told me. I was so quick to believe I was being manipulated by evil that my ability to think critically about his message was compromised by a loop he had created. He stated a “truth,” pinpointed doubt and critical thinking, and then he blamed it on outside forces like sin. My ability to deconstruct his message was inherently sinful, I interpreted.

Now, this was not a direct situation of spiritual abuse. That pastor was not intending to abuse his congregation. However, I can tell you that I did feel oppressed. My spirit felt crushed.

If you have felt similar oppression from this type of preaching, teaching, or reading, you may have felt abused. You may have experienced guilt, shame, or fear. Your emotional well-being may have been affected.

So what to do? How can you find an organization that affirms you and allows your spiritual self to thrive?

Look for organizations with leadership that is horizontal, not vertical. True leaders pool the voices of those they represent. They do not stifle the voices of their congregation to remain in the role of “truth holder.”
Find a community that celebrates your differences. It is oppressive to be told that because you are female, you cannot lead; because you are LGBTQ+, you cannot participate; because you are black, you belong in a black congregation. Avoid homogeneous congregations and find one that celebrates you and all aspects of your identity.
Surround yourself with people who encourage you to form and process your own opinions about spirituality and your beliefs. Avoid communities, friends, and partners who confine you to one way of thinking and silence your opinions.
Find a safe person/people to talk to and process, if necessary. This could be a counselor/therapist, friend, family member, or a support group.
Spiritual abuse is sneaky. It hides in the fact that it is not commonly discussed and thus is often overlooked. But know that if you have experienced spiritual abuse or oppression, you are not alone, and compassionate help and support can help you overcome its effects.


Kinsley, M. (2013, January 17). Eyes wide shut: ‘Going Clear,’ Lawrence Wright’s book on Scientology. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/books/review/going-clear-lawrence-wrights-book-on-scientology.html
Tamm, J. (2011, April 14). What is a cult? Recognizing and avoiding unhealthy groups. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayanti-tamm/the-c-word_2_b_848340.html

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mackenzi Kingdon, MA, LMHCA, therapist in Seattle, Washington


Feb 20, 2017

20 Years After the Heaven's Gate Mass Suicide, Ex-Member Gives Chilling Insight into Leader's Mind

Inside Edition
February 20, 2017


A former Heaven's Gate member is looking back on the time he spent with the cult 20 years after dozens of its members committed suicide together.

The man, who goes by the name Sawyer, told Inside Edition that he spent 18 years with the cult, reaching the rank of "overseer" before leaving in 1994.

He recalled his conversations with the leader of the cult, Marshall Applewhite, who was known by his fellow followers as "Do."

“He said that there wasn't a day that went by that he didn't think of himself as insane,” Sawyer said.

Applewhite founded the group in 1974. In March 1997, he and 38 other members were found dead in their beds in a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego in California. The 18 men and 21 women were all dressed in identical black clothing and sneakers and were covered with purple sheets.

It emerged that Applewhite was somehow able to talk his followers into consuming a toxic mix of vodka and chocolate pudding or apple sauce that was laced with barbiturates. Some also had plastic bags pulled over their heads.

Applewhite told them the comet Hale-Bopp was being trailed by an alien spacecraft and, if they died, they could board it. He said that after their deaths, they would be transported to a new level of existence.

Reporters were stunned when they gained access to the mansion following the mass suicide. They found blood stains and splatters across some of the rooms.

The bunks and shrouds discovered at the mansion are now on display at the Museum Of Death in Hollywood, California. Mannequins wear the actual clothes taken from some of the bodies.

The website for the cult is also still working and looks just like it did decades ago.

Professor David Taylor, who has studied the cult, told Inside Edition: “Everybody's wearing exactly the same kind of uniform."

"They wore drab loose clothing to minimize men being attracted to women and vice versa," he added.

He pointed out one of two different patches that they designed for the suicide event. "It says 'earth exit,' which indicates their intention," he said.

Nine of the men inside the cult castrated themselves “by their own volition," he added.


Editorial: Clearwater should buy downtown land for redevelopment

Clearwater council members should agree to buy a prime piece of land adjacent to City Hall with an eye toward future redevelopment that could fit nicely with the latest revitalization plan.
A Times Editorial
Tampa Bay Times
February 20, 2017

The Clearwater City Council will have a pivotal discussion this afternoon that could help determine the future of a downtown that has been waiting decades for a revival. Council members should agree to buy a prime piece of land adjacent to City Hall with an eye toward future redevelopment that could fit nicely with the latest revitalization plan. Or they can take a pass, let the Church of Scientology buy the land and allow the church to tighten its choke hold on the city.

It's important to take the long view. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium bought the 1.4-acre lot in 2012 as part of an ambitious plan to build a new home along the downtown bluff that would have been the long-sought signature attraction for a rejuvenated downtown. Voters demonstrated their faith by approving a referendum in 2013 to allow a long-term lease of the adjacent City Hall site to the aquarium. But the aquarium could not raise the millions it needed, abandoned the idea in 2015 and is ready to sell the vacant lot it no longer needs.

The aquarium, which is renovating its facilities on Island Estates, has done its part. It has given the city time to complete a new blueprint for downtown. For more than a year, it has held off the Church of Scientology, which has offered the aquarium more than $4 million for the property. Mayor George Cretekos said Monday he is inclined to have the city buy the property, and the other council members also should step up.

This piece of property, combined with the City Hall property across the street, is just as important to the future of Clearwater's downtown as it was when it was expected to be the included in the footprint for the aquarium's new home. The new downtown master plan envisions lots of green space, walking and biking trails, a public plaza and a reinvigorated Coachman's Park along the waterfront. That makes this vacant lot and the City Hall property even more attractive as a site for the new development Clearwater has craved for decades.

Skeptics of the purchase point out that the city's consultants did not propose a specific use for the property and made no mention of the impact of Scientology's long shadow over downtown. Of course they didn't. No consultant wants to poke the giant, particularly one that pokes back. An earlier downtown analysis by the Urban Land Institute recommended the city work with the Church of Scientology, but there is nothing to suggest the church has the city's best interests at heart. In fact, it worked behind the scenes to undermine the aquarium project. If the church wanted to be a genuine collaborator, they would be more open about their long-range plans and less confrontational.

This vacant parcel cannot be viewed in isolation. It is in Clearwater's long-term interest to move City Hall somewhere else and maximize the use of that property, which also includes a parking lot. It would be even more attractive to developers if the land could be packaged with the aquarium-owned lot that is at issue today. If the Church of Scientology buys the lot, the City Hall property will be a bit less enticing to other buyers who could help transform downtown. And guess what neighboring property owner would want to buy it when the city finally decides to sell.

The Church of Scientology is already the largest taxpayer in downtown Clearwater and owns property in the city worth more than $500 million. It says it wants the aquarium's vacant parcel to build more accommodations for its members, but that is not the best use of this land for the long-term vision of downtown Clearwater. The City Council should agree to buy the property and be prepared to resell it separately or package it with the City Hall property for redevelopment.


Maharishi Ayurved Trust

Maharishi Ayurved Trust
Based in UK

Grants to Indian NGOs:
96-97 Rs.32.09 crores,
97-98 31.42crores,
98-9951.82 crores,
99-0060.06 crore

Annual growth in India disbursement: 23.24%


Maharishi Ayurved Trust is part of a global group of institutions associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The group focuses on applying Vedic Technologies in the field of education, health,management, architecture, agriculture and construction in projects around the world.Indian counterpart – Maharishi Ved Vigyan Vishwa Vidyapeetham is registered in Andhra Pradesh

Falling Down the TM Rabbit Hole, How Transcendental Meditation Really Works, a Critical Opinion

Falling Down the TM Rabbit Hole, How Transcendental Meditation Really Works, a Critical Opinion.   Joe Kellett

Falling Down the TM Rabbit Hole, How Transcendental Meditation Really Works, a Critical Opinion.

Joe Kellett