Nov 15, 2017

Jehovah's Witness knew she could die when she refused blood transfusions: Quebec coroner

Éloïse Dupuis required a blood transfusion during the birth and died of a hemorrhage. Facebook
Éloïse Dupuis
Dupuis told doctors she did not want a transfusion, even as her condition deteriorated after she gave birth by caesarean section

Graeme Hamilton

National Post
November 14, 2017

MONTREAL — The day before she went into labour with her first child, an excited Éloïse Dupuis had spoken to her aunt. “She said, ‘Do you realize, Auntie, that in a few days I will be holding my life’s dream in my arms?’ ” Manon Boyer recounted Tuesday.

After hemorrhaging following a caesarian birth, Dupuis, 27, a Jehovah’s Witness, repeatedly refused the blood transfusions that could have saved her life. Her baby was healthy, but Dupuis’ vital organs failed, and she was dead within a week.

News of her Oct. 12, 2016, death sparked intense debate in a province grappling with limits on religious freedom. Critics said her life had been sacrificed for twisted religious beliefs, and there were suggestions she had been pressured to forego treatment. But in a report made public Tuesday, Quebec coroner Luc Malouin concluded that Dupuis chose freely to refuse transfusions with full understanding of the consequences.

“I have no doubt that the medical staff tried everything to get Ms. Dupuis and her family to change their minds about the need to use blood products to save her life,” the coroner wrote. He noted the family members were all Jehovah’s Witnesses. “In accordance with their religious principles, they refused the only medical treatment available to prevent death.”

Malouin wrote that early in her pregnancy, Dupuis advised staff at the birthing centre in Lévis, Que., that she would not accept transfused blood, which Jehovah’s Witnesses believe is forbidden by the Bible.

After complications during her labour, Dupuis was transferred on Oct. 6 from the birthing centre to Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Lévis, where a C-section was performed and her baby was delivered in good health.

But soon afterwards she began hemorrhaging and was transferred to intensive care. She was diagnosed with anemia — a shortage of red blood cells — and doctors performed a hysterectomy.

In studying her medical records, Malouin found five occasions when Dupuis told doctors she did not want a transfusion, even as her condition deteriorated. “Refusal of transfusion even if death is the result,” one note said the evening after she gave birth.

After she was sedated and no longer able to express her wishes, her husband and parents maintained the refusal to provide Dupuis with blood. She died Oct. 12 of multiple organ failure caused by severe loss of blood.

The coroner noted that her death struck a chord in Quebec, where the once prevalent practice of Catholicism has been largely abandoned and strongly held religious beliefs are often viewed with suspicion.

“At a time when a majority of Quebecers do not actively practise any religion, this notion of respecting religious rules seems to come from a different era,” Malouin wrote. “There was a time in Quebec when such rules were very present and governed the lives of all. It is no longer the situation today, but the choice to adhere or not to religious rules must be respected.”

In a second case from last year studied by Malouin, doctors in a Montreal hospital had to wait six hours before providing transfusions to Mirlande Cadet, also a Jehovah’s Witness.

She had indicated at admission that she did not want transfusions, and when her condition deteriorated after a caesarian birth, her husband maintained the refusal. He relented after the woman’s parents intervened, but Cadet died on Oct. 3. Malouin said it was impossible for him to determine whether the delay in transfusing played an important role in her death from a pulmonary infection.

In his report on Dupuis’ death, Malouin said the law is clear that adults of sound mind are free to refuse medical treatment. The same is not true of minors. Last September, the Quebec Superior Court authorized the McGill University Health Centre to give blood transfusions to a 14-year-old cancer patient, who had refused the treatment because of her beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness.

Boyer described her niece as an outgoing woman who occasionally skirted the edicts of her religion. “Her favourite movie was Twilight. She watched it in secret at her friends,” she said. “She listened to disco music in secret in her car because they are not supposed to.”

Dupuis’ husband, Paul-André Roy, sent a message to media Tuesday saying his wife’s refusal of transfusion “was out of respect for her convictions, to which she attached a great price.”

But Boyer believes the price was too high. “I agree with freedom of religion, but not at any cost,” she said. “Her son Liam had the right to have a mother. He had the right to feel secure. He had the right to be breastfed. He got nothing.”

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Involving children in sects should result in revocation of parental rights – Supreme Court

November 14, 2017

MOSCOW, November 14 (RAPSI) – The Supreme Court has ruled that parental rights should be revoked if parents make their children members of sects prohibited in Russia, the court’s plenum has stated.

According to the court, involvement of children in religious or public organizations, which were liquidated or prohibited by Russian courts definitely constitutes abuse of parental rights.

Similar measures should be taken when parents induce children to participate in gambling, vagrancy, begging and other similar activities. At the same time, the court notes that poor financial condition of a family is not a reason for breaking it apart.

The Supreme Court reminds that taking a child away from a family is a measure of last response and may be enforced only when there is a clear danger to a child’s life or health. Evaluation of such danger is to be made case by case.

Revocation of parental rights is also a drastic measure and is to be taken only if there are no other ways to protect rights or interests of a child, the court stated.

The court notes that opinion of a child holds a great value when his or her rights are considered. A child may participate in court hearings after reaching an age of 10 and even younger children may be brought to proceedings if a judge believes that a child may formulate his or her own opinion on the matter. Restoration of parental rights for a child above age of 10 may be completed only if a child agrees. In cases involving multiple children courts must hear opinions of all of them.

It was also noted that courts should not ignore cases when social services failed to take timely measures to protect rights of children.

Nov 13, 2017

Offices of Aum successor Adelph raided over recruiting practices

Police officers stand guard during a search of a facility believed to be used by the Aum Shinrikyo successor group Aleph in Sapporo on Monday. | KYODO
Police officers stand guard during a search of a facility.
Japan times
November 13, 2017

SAPPORO – Police on Monday searched five offices and facilities of the main successor group to the Aum Shinrikyo cult that was responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attack.

The raids came after the group, now known as Aleph, allegedly recruited and collected tens of thousands of yen in membership fees from a woman in February without having her fill out the legally required paperwork.

The Hokkaido Prefectural Police raided a four-story building in Shiroishi Ward, Sapporo. The building is thought to be Aleph’s largest facility.

Of the five locations police said they searched, two were in Sapporo and one was in Fukuoka. It wasn’t immediately known where the other two were.

Members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000 in the sarin attack on March 20, 1995. It renamed itself Aleph in 2000.

The police believe Aleph has been luring young followers without disclosing that it is a religious group and without informing them of its links to Aum and its criminal history.

According to the police, there were about 1,500 Aleph followers across the country last year.

The number of followers is on the increase, and many of the younger people who join its ranks are apparently unaware of Aum’s criminal background.

Aleph has organized a number of yoga classes as a means of encouraging potential followers to join, according to the police.

Nov 12, 2017

Jehovah's Witnesses double down on Scripture used to ignore abuse

Jehovah’s Witnesses
Trey Bundy

November 9, 2017

What should Jehovah’s Witnesses do if they think someone they know has sexually abused a child, but no one was there to see it?


So say leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who instruct elders not to take action against a member of the religion accused of child sexual abuse without a confession or at least two witnesses to the crime.

That policy is based on Scripture, according to the religion’s top officials.

The vast majority of sexual predators abuse their victims in secret, with no witnesses present. And even though Jehovah’s Witnesses are under pressure worldwide for covering up child sexual abuse, a senior official says scrapping the policy isn’t up for discussion.

“We will never change our Scriptural position on that subject,” said Gary Breaux, a senior official at the religion’s global headquarters in New York, known as the Watchtower.

Breaux made the statement this month on JW Broadcasting – the religion’s official internet video channel.

“Our good reasoning is pretty solid on this,” he said.

He then looked down at a Bible and read from Deuteronomy 19:15: “No single witness can convict another for any error or any sin that he may commit. On the testimony of two witnesses, or on the testimony of three witnesses, the matter should be established.”

When a Jehovah’s Witness commits a serious sin, such as child abuse, local leaders can form a judicial committee to determine whether the offender should be kicked out of the congregation. But without a confession or the testimony of two witnesses to corroborate the allegations, the elders are instructed to leave the matter to God’s judgment.

The lack of eyewitnesses in most child sexual abuse cases can also be vexing to prosecutors charged with convincing juries that a crime occurred based mostly on a minor’s allegations. Still, such cases are filed every day in courts across the country, and often result in guilty pleas or convictions. In Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations, the burden of proof is so high that some allegations are dismissed even when local leaders suspect that they’re true.

Breaux’s defense of the two-witness rule comes as legal scrutiny of Jehovah’s Witnesses child abuse policies is ramping up around the world. An investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that Watchtower policies dating back to at least 1989 direct elders to keep child abuse secret from law enforcement and members of their congregations.

In September, current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada filed two class-action lawsuits against the Watchtower claiming the organization protects sexual predators in its congregations.

Attorneys in the U.S. have filed dozens of lawsuits against the Watchtower on behalf of alleged victims of sexual abuse. The commission that regulates charities in England is currently investigating whether the Watchtower’s child abuse policies violate charity laws. In 2015, a government commission in Australia reviewed internal Watchtower documents indicating that officials there had knowledge of 1,006 alleged child sexual abusers in that country. None had been reported to law enforcement.

Reveal’s investigation focused on former Jehovah’s Witnesses who claimed to have been sexually abused as children by a leader in their rural Oklahoma congregation. According to documents, other leaders there had suspected Ronald Lawrence of sexual misconduct “over a period of years in the past.”

In a letter to headquarters in New York, the leaders explained that because no one had witnessed the abuse, and because Lawrence had not confessed, that no action would be taken.

“The matter,” they wrote, “would be left in Jehovah’s hand.”

Trey Bundy can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @TreyBundy.

Murder of three teens in Mexico led police to a fugitive US polygamist and his dark world

Rancho el Negro in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc
Rancho el Negro in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc
Orson Black was arrested after the bodies of three Americans were found near his Mexican ranch – then police and neighbors learned the truth about his life.
Luis Chaparro in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc
The Guardian
November 11, 2017

Rancho El Negro is a five-hectare property amid rolling fields of corn and cotton at the foothills of a lonely mountain outside the town of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc in the north Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Neighbours – mostly members of the region’s German-speaking Mennonite community – referred to the farm as “The Company” and had little to do with its owner.

They knew he was called Black, and lived with several women and young children in a rough concrete house and a handful of RVs. There were stories that he was an American businessman who kept a menagerie of animals including horses, and at least one bear.

“We almost never saw him or his people. He was not a Mennonite and he didn’t go to church on weekends,” said Juanito Peters, Black’s closest neighbor, before adding: “He had a very untidy way of living.”

Then in September, the bodies of three American males, aged 15, 19 and 23, were found shot dead nearby – and neighbours started to fear that the truth about Rancho El Negro was much darker than they had suspected.

Last weekend, more than a hundred law enforcement officials descended on the ranch and four other properties and arrested the owner, whom they identified as Orson William Black Jr, 56 – the fugitive leader of a polygamist sect.

He had been on the run for around 15 years after facing five felony counts of sexual misconduct involving two minors in Arizona.

Along with Black, officials detained three of his wives, a woman described as “a concubine”, and 22 other Americans living in Mexico illegally. Another woman escaped during the raid, according to Mexican prosecutors.

The raids also turned up a bizarre collection of exotic animal parts and stuffed animals, including elephant feet, a lion skin, stuffed birds and buffalo heads.

This week, Black was charged with illegal possession of wildlife and human smuggling – and then quickly extradited to the US.

Named after his father, another polygamist, Black was a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which split from the main Mormon church when it disavowed polygamy in 1890.

FLDS leaders teach that men must have at least three wives to reach the highest level of salvation. The group’s former spiritual leader Warren Jeffs is now serving a life sentence for sex crimes against two girls aged 12 and 14.

Around 1990, Black proclaimed himself a prophet and founded his own splinter group in Colorado City, Arizona.

It was around that time that he met the Petersons – a large polygamist family whose patriarch had more than 40 children.

He took two of the Peterson daughters – Roberta and Beth – as his four and fifth “wives” when they were minors, according to their sister Pennie Peterson, who still lives in Arizona.

“My sister almost died when she had Orson’s son. She was only 12 when she delivered. So in 1997 I had to do something – and filed charges against him for having sex with an underage girl,” she said in a telephone interview.

Black fled to Mexico in the early 2000s with four of his wives and about 20 other followers, including children.

Peterson had no news from her sisters until two months ago, when she received a call from an officer with the US Marshals.

“He asked me to sit because he had some bad news to share, and I though he was gonna tell me my sister Beth was dead. But instead, he told me my two nephews were shot dead in Mexico,” she said.

Robert,15, and Michael, 23 – sons of Beth and Roberta respectively – were murdered on September 10 alongside a third American called Jesse Barlow, 23. Reports in the Mexican media say that all three were shot just outside one of the trailer homes.

Mexican officials initially said that they were investigating Black’s role in the deaths, but he has now been ruled out, and security sources on both sides of the border suggested that the murder may have been carried out by members of a drug cartel.

At Rancho Negro, there is no sign of the bear that Black was reputed to have kept. The gate hangs open, and more than 20 horses wander loose in a scrubby pasture.

Further inside the property are three enormous cages, hung with scraps of animal skin – and beyond them, a huge pile of burnt animal bones.

The house and the five RVs where the family lived are still in chaos, littered with liquor bottles – empty and full – and piles of dirty clothes. The smell is unbearable.

In one room is a pile of scrapbooks, containing hundreds of drawings of Black’s face.

On a kitchen wall there are pictures of his sect: seven men dressed in black, and a separate line of 11 women dressed in flowing pioneer-era dresses and long plaits; none of them is smiling.

Mexican officials say they are still investigating Black’s activities in Chihuahua.

His former neighbours are left with nothing but questions.

“We never knew who he really was,” said Peters. “But now that the news is spreading we keep asking ourselves: what was really going on inside those walls?”

Nov 11, 2017

Jehovah's Witnesses' withheld info will cost them

Complaints of molestations to leaders of Jehovah’s Kingdom Hall in Linda Vista accomplished nothing, according to court documents.
Appellate court lets stand prior ruling that penalizes at rate of $4000 daily

Dorian Hargrove
San Diego Reader
November 10, 2017

The clock is ticking for Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters to turn over documents detailing sexual abuse of children by kingdom elders. For each day they do not, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organizational body, will be forced to pay $4000.

On November 9th, a state appellate ruled that the daily sanctions that a trial court imposed on the church stands.

In 2012, former parishioners José Lopez and Osbaldo Padron sued the Watchtower over abuse they had suffered while members of the Linda Vista congregation at the hands of former elder Gonzalo Campos.

Just months prior to their lawsuit, the kingdom had settled with five other victims whom Campos abused from 1982 to 1999 while serving at the Linda Vista and La Jolla congregations.

Despite the earlier settlement, the Watchtower decided to litigate Padron’s and Lopez’s lawsuits. In 2013, a judge awarded Lopez $13.5 million after the church was accused of withholding documents that potentially showed that Watchtower headquarters was aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

Watchtower attorneys successfully appealed that decision, claiming that the judge had failed to impose daily sanctions first.

Then, in 2015, a trial judge in the Osbaldo case also determined the church was withholding documents. However, instead of issuing terminating sanctions, the judge followed the appellate court's advice and imposed daily sanctions of $4000.

Last year, attorneys for the Watchtower filed an appeal, stating that the court did not have authority to do the exact thing they had wanted to be done in the Lopez case.

As reported by the Reader, on October 11 the appellate court judges expressed their frustration with Watchtower attorneys for trying to play both sides.

That frustration showed in the appellate court's formal ruling as well.

"...[W]e are troubled that Watchtower has taken two inconsistent positions before us," reads the November 9 ruling.

"Here, after the superior court imposed a daily monetary sanction for noncompliance, Watchtower now argues such a sanction is not authorized. We cannot rectify these diametrically opposed positions…. Watchtower has obstinately refused to comply with the order, consistently attempting to reargue the very discovery issues the court already decided."

Padron's attorney, Irwin Zalkin, says it is his firm's position that sanctions should have begun in June when judge Richard Strauss first imposed them.

As for his opinion on the court's ruling, "We are now one step closer to exposing the depth and breadth of the scourge of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witness Organization that has been covered up for decades. It's time for them to come clean and seriously address the problem and make good on their public relations refrain that they 'abhor child abuse.'"

Nov 10, 2017

Trump, Scientology and the IRS: Yes, let the tax stripping begin

Cheryl K. Chumley
The Washington Times
November 10, 2017


According to a longtime family aide, President Donald Trump agrees the Church of Scientology ought to have its tax exemption stripped.


At the risk of coming under the aggressive angry eyes of Scientology bulldogs — the kind and type showcased in actress Leah Remini’s “Scientology and the Aftermath” A&E series — fact of the matter is, this brand of religion is little more than a cult. A massive, money-making, real-estate buying, pocket-enriching, nothing-to-do-with-God cult.

And cults in America just aren’t entitled to receive a tax exemption.

From the Huffington Post: “The history of the Church of Scientology and its tax-exempt status is complicated and has long been under a cloud of controversy. The church first obtained its tax-exempt status in 1957, but the IRS revoked the status in 1967. At the time, the agency said the church’s activities were commercial in nature and to the benefit of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, which would disqualify the church from exemption.”

Following, Hubbard and his colleagues spent 26 years fighting to win back the exemption. Then David Miscavige took over the organization when Hubbard died in 1986, and ratcheted the fight even further.

Specifically, church members filed lawsuit after lawsuit against the IRS and against individual IRS workers.

As the Huffington Post noted: “The church launched a sophisticated operation to infiltrate federal government agencies, the New York Times reported: Members filed scores of lawsuits … private investigators probed IRS agents’ personal affairs; and two private investigators set up a phony news bureau and posed as reporters to try to gather information about Scientology critics within the IRS.”

Mafia, move over.

The IRS ultimately gave back the church its tax exemption.

Miscavige declared to his members “the war is over” — meaning, the millions upon millions of dollars members must pay in order to move up in the church’s ranks is largely padding for the Friends of Miscavige’s top brass pockets.

More from the Huffington Post: “The [IRS] decision did indeed provide the cloak of legitimacy that Hubbard had wished for. … The exemption has also given the church an effective attack line when dealing with critics. Responding to allegations of slave labor and church-ordered punishment, members and staff cite religious freedom as the reason those allegations should not be further explored. The church and its staff members will often call reporters and critics ‘bigots’ when they question the church’s policies or actions.”

And into this, enters the Trump White House.

Lynne Patton, who’s worked for the Trump family for years and who now serves the administration in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told Remini in a Twitter direct message that she was going to press for revocation of the church’s IRS exemption.

However, it’s not clear if Patton did indeed take the next step on this. It’s not exactly lawful for White House officials to try and sway the IRS on such decisions.

Still, the Huffington Post had copies of the Twitter messages, and they seem to suggest, at the very least, that Trump’s not a big fan of Scientology.

Here’s one message, from Patton to Remini: “From the moment I saw your series I told President Trump & his family we needed to revoke their tax exempt status. They couldn’t agree more, but please don’t publicize that yet. I want to do more due diligence on what the IRS has attempted in the past (or maybe you can enlighten me), then I’ll identify who we need to connect with again.”

And in another message, Patton wrote to Remini, according to the Huffington Post: “This is going to get done in the next 4 years or I’ll die trying. Knock on wood!”

What happens from here is an unknown. Really, the White House can’t order the IRS to revoke any group’s tax-exemption status — or grant one, for that matter. The IRS website states that the agency “may begin a church tax inquiry only if an appropriate high-level Treasury official reasonably believes, on the basis of facts and circumstances recorded in writing, that an organization claiming to be a church or convention or association of churches may not qualify for exemption,” as The Hill noted.

But it’s high time to put the pressure on the Church of Scientology — to hold its cultish feet to the IRS fire. What’s leaked over the years about this organization isn’t just an offense to real religion. It’s an outrage and an affront to humanity. If even half of what Remini and other whistleblowers say of Scientology is true, America’s IRS, bluntly put, is simply being used to shelter and pad funding for a near-criminal organization.

Nov 9, 2017

"What Faith Allows?" Classroom in a Cult

Angie Pavlovsky 
November 8, 2017


New York - Eyewitness News investigates the Word of Life Christian Church in our week long series. "What Faith Allows?"

The Word of Life Christian Church had many elements inside the walls of its Chadwicks location, including the congregation itself, a dog breeding business and even a classroom. The Agape Christian Academy was a school inside of a cult.

"Like Jerry, like me, we didn't want our kids to go through public school," former member Gregory Ames said. "In light of that, he found a way that we could start a school and have his kids educated through that, so he wouldn't have to send them to public school. The school was started for Jerry and his kids. He used us because we were members and brought us in on it."

Nathan Ames and his brothers attended the academy every Monday through Thursday, returning Sunday for church service. While Jerry Irwin preached from the pulpit, his daughter's role was sculpting young minds.

"When I was in fifth grade, Tiffanie Irwin was my teacher," Nathan Ames said. "She was only two years older than me. I don't know what grade she was. I think she had moved up two or three grades more than she should have been, because she stayed home and did a bunch of homework. It was all self-taught, so it was home schooling, but done at a private school building.

"We sat in these desks, and what we would have to do is look forward at the wall, and we would just have to do our homework and raise our flags," Ames continued. "When they came to answer the flag, either you were doing a check-up on the pace or you were getting ready for a test or you had questions."

However, requests for help weren't always answered.

"Tiffanie, she was very controlling. She would look down at everyone like she was better than everybody. She wouldn't answer any questions," Nathan Ames added. "I remember one time, just sitting there waiting, and I looked up onto my computer screen, and there was a body standing behind me. It was Tiffanie with a note pad, looking at me with my flag up, and she's just writing stuff down about me. I was just waiting on her to answer my flag, and this happened a lot."

Pastor Jerry Irwin held students to strict standards. Those with a grade mark below 90 were considered failing.

"Jerry would tell us our kids are doing this wrong; our kids are doing that wrong," Gregory Ames said. "Years later, we find out those stories weren't true. We believed Jerry more than we believed our kids. I'm believing everything he is saying because I believe that his word is the word."

Vancouver woman says scars from ritual 'branding' fuel her fight against 'cultish' group

'We were weeping. It was like something out of a horror movie,' says Sarah Edmondson

Yvette Brend
CBC News
October 27, 2017

Vancouver actress Sarah Edmondson is warning people about what she describes as a "secretive" organization that she once embraced and now fears.

Edmondson, 40, said she regrets if she inadvertently helped deliver Vancouver recruits to the group, which she said eventually led her to travel to Albany, New York, last spring, where she underwent a harrowing flesh branding on her abdomen.

The event prompted her to cut ties with Executive Success Programs (ESP), a self-help organization she first joined in 2005, drawn by its positive messages of female empowerment.

At one point, Edmondson spearheaded a Vancouver chapter for the group, opening an office on Georgia Street in 2009.

But her role in the group took a dark turn last January when an ESP mentor and friend flew to Vancouver and urged her to join a secret splinter group.

The two arranged to fly to Albany in March for an initiation.

There, Edmondson joined four other women at a private condo where they took turns holding each other still while a brand was burned into their lower abdomens.
Stench of burnt flesh

"We were looking at each other, at the beginning, and we had surgical masks on because the smell of burnt flesh was so strong," she said.

She left the group two-and-a-half months later.

Back in March, Edmondson said she believed that the ritual would help her become more empowered.

But now she believes her consent was fuelled by what she calls anti-female indoctrination.

"It's not OK to carve another person's initials into someone's flesh," she said.

The branding ritual was never mentioned when her friend, a long-time ESP leader first invited her to join the secret group of women in January 2017.
Secretive group

After leaving the group in June, Edmondson says she was shunned and faced police questions.

She believes another highly-placed ESP leader told police she committed fraud and theft.

Vancouver police confirm its financial crime unit is investigating, but can't confirm who is under investigation.

Police say that investigation connects to NXIVM (pronounced Nex-ee-um), the parent company to ESP, which markets personal development classes.

NXIVM was founded in 1998 by Keith Raniere, an enigmatic leader from Clifton Park, New York, who calls himself "Vanguard" and is linked to actresses and heiresses but does few interviews.
NXIVM says it is not involved in alleged 'branding'

NXIVM leaders did not respond to CBC's requests for an interview.

But following similar allegations reported in other media, an official statement from the company said it had nothing to do with the "social" group allegedly engaged in human branding.

The statement adds that the company condemns violence and has provided educational tools to 16,000 people in 30 countries aimed at human empowerment.
The 'stripe path'

Edmondson said she decided to share her experiences to warn other active members, despite promising to keep them secret.

She said ESP members routinely sign confidentiality agreements to protect course content, which introduces ideas about collateral and penance at higher course levels.

In the past few years, she said more women were assigning themselves voluntary penance, in the form of low-calorie diets or handing over collateral, such as cash paid to the organization, if they failed to hit recruitment goals.

She said the group has changed since she first joined in 2005, when she was searching for personal fulfillment and the classes helped her overcome fears and barriers in her acting.

But there were inklings that something was wrong.

Edmondson read news stories that made it sound "cultish," but says coaches persuaded her that the negative stories were not true.

"I felt like they were family," she said.

CBC News spoke to six former ESP members who described following the so-called stripe path, a merit system that involved earning neck sashes and different coloured fabric stripes as they progressed.

Edmondson earned a green-hued sash after reaching a level of teacher or "proctor."
Hands over nude photo

She says she recruited hundreds of people who paid $300 to $10,000 for workshops and seminars, held all over the Lower Mainland, in New York and Washington States.

In late summer every year the group holds a retreat near Albany to honour Raniere.

The events that led Edmondson to the branding ceremony began last January, when she says a long-time ESP friend — and mentor — came to visit and stayed at her home.

The friend invited Edmondson to join a "bad-assed" secret sisterhood.

She told Edmondson if she wanted to be part of something called "DOS," there were extra hurdles.

DOS was described to her as a secret group of women who would work to change the world.

She said she was asked to provide collateral to ensure the group remained secret.

That collateral included submitting self-incriminating material such as a nude photos and written confessions of past misdeeds, even handing over a condo deed.

She handed over a nude photo of herself and written confessions.

She said she learned she would receive a "dime-sized tattoo." And she would be compelled to refer to her sponsor as "master," and eventually wear a necklace to symbolize a slave collar.

Edmondson said she was reluctant, but her friend eventually persuaded her.

By the time she headed to New York, Edmondson said she had already experienced years of ESP "indoctrination," which introduced ideas about women being emotional, weak, lacking character, and at the same time reinforcing obedience.

She said that DOS, which she was told stood for dominant over submissive, translated from Latin, was a safe place where women could become stronger by learning to "humiliate" each other.

"If a man does it he's seen as an abuser," said Edmondson, who said she now cringes at her former beliefs.
'She was squealing'

In Albany she said five women from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico were blindfolded and taken to a condo.

There they kneeled, naked, and recited a script that began: "Master please brand me. It would be an honour."

Then they took turns holding each other down on massage table while a female doctor burned lines into their lower abdomens with a small cauterizing iron, as they writhed and screamed in agony.

"We were weeping. It was like something out of a horror movie. We were shaking. The woman on the table was squealing like a pig. She was squealing like an animal being branded."

Medical face masks helped with the stench of burning flesh, she said.

Three weeks later, she said she discovered that the third-degree burns etched on her lower abdomen were not a symbol of the four elements, as she believed.

She said her mentor told her that the crude marks are letters forming the initials KR for Keith Raniere.

Edmondson said she felt horrified and misled.

"Branding means you are owned by another person," she said.

By June 2017, she closed her chapter of ESP in Vancouver.

In July, she filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Health against the doctor involved in the branding. Officials there told her to go to police because the issues did not represent "medical misconduct."

Edmondson said she then went to Albany police but her complaint went nowhere because she had consented to the entire exercise.

Police did not respond to queries, but a spokesperson for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CBC that his office is looking into the "disturbing allegations."

Edmondson insists she broke no laws, and just wants to warn others who may get lured in.

"I hope they wake up," said Edmondson.

But she says in an odd way the work she did in the personal development program did make her stronger.

"Crazily enough, they taught us to stand up for our principles. I had to leave ESP to figure out what those principles are," she said.

What Doomsday Cults Can Teach Us About ISIS Today

New York Times
November 5, 2017

How ISIS Resembles the Doomsday Cults of the 1970s

Can the lessons we learned from extremist cults decades ago be used to fight ISIS recruitment today?

A disturbing 1981 film from Canada could serve as an enduring learner’s manual for any family worried about a son or daughter succumbing to the lure of a religious cult. The movie, “Ticket to Heaven,” describes how a young man, adrift and vulnerable, falls prey to a sect closely resembling the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Deprogramming — rescuing him from the zombielike state into which he has fallen — proves a challenge for his friends and relatives.

More than three decades later, a ticket to heaven is what Abdirizak Warsame thought he had bought when he and other young Minneapolis men of Somali origin came under the spell of recruitment videos posted online by the Islamic State. The power of that propaganda to inspire acts of terror was evident again last week in New York, where the authorities said such videos impelled Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant, to drive a truck along a bicycle path at high speed, killing eight people and injuring 11 others.

In Minneapolis, the aspiring jihadists were like the fellow in the 1981 film: nowhere men. They felt distant from both family traditions and the conventions of their adopted country. In 2015, they set out to join Islamic State fighters in Syria, only to be arrested by federal agents who had them under surveillance.

“My son was brainwashed because he was watching this propaganda video,” Mr. Warsame’s mother, Deqa Hussen, said to Retro Report. “He thought that if he go to Syria, he’s going to go to heaven and all my family is going to go to heaven.”

Retro Report, a series of documentary videos that mine past news events for their continuing relevance, explores the behavioral threads that run through the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and apocalyptic cults from years ago. “When you’re in a vulnerable situation,” Leslie Wagner-Wilson said, “by gaining your trust, slowly, you become indoctrinated into the ideology of the organization.”

That description fit Ms. Wagner-Wilson and her family 40 years ago. They were mesmerized by Jim Jones, a charismatic figure who declared himself God incarnate. He founded the Peoples Temple, a cult that promised a future utopia where poverty, racism, injustice and war were banished. Based first in Indiana and then Northern California, Mr. Jones drew thousands to his side. But he became ever more paranoid, and his behavior ever more erratic and menacing.

In the mid-1970s he moved his flock to a jungle base in Guyana called Jonestown. On Nov. 18, 1978, feeling threatened by deepening scrutiny from American officials and the news media, Mr. Jones organized one of history’s most devastating acts of mass suicide and murder. He compelled his followers to drink a fruit punch laced with cyanide.

Ms. Wagner-Wilson managed to escape in time with her young son. Others in her family were not so fortunate. They died, along with more than 900 others, including at least 270 children, their bodies strewn across the jungle floor. The horror shocked the world (and gave rise to a lasting expression for blind adherence to a perilous idea: drinking the Kool-Aid).

Jonestown was not the last cult twisted by visions of apocalypse. Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, the Branch Davidians in Texas, Heaven’s Gate in California, the nonreligious Manson Family — all had faithful disciples. All embraced death.

Now, groups like the brutal Islamic State and the Shabab in East Africa are magnets for several thousand readily duped Westerners, including scores of Americans. Many of them feel isolated from family and community, and long for something to believe in. They’re typically young men like the Minneapolis Somalis. “ISIS tries to instill that there is something greater that you can be doing,” Mr. Warsame said in an interview last year with the CBS show “60 Minutes,” after his arrest and before a federal judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison. “It kind of takes control of you,” he said.

Social media and online videos are powerful recruiting tools that the Islamic State has exploited skillfully and aimed at young people like him and his friends. “If they’re living in a context where they feel alienated, they feel like they’re not getting a fair deal, they can be open to indoctrination,” Charles B. Strozier told Retro Report. Mr. Strozier, a psychoanalyst who is the founding director of the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, added, “They’re susceptible to thinking of these larger messages which come flooding at them through the internet.”

They are not necessarily beyond salvation, though. Almost as if “Ticket to Heaven” were a training film, the federal court in Minneapolis has turned to a version of deprogramming as a possible solution. Only the word used in connection with jihadists is deradicalization. The court invited in Daniel Koehler, founder of the German Institute on Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies in Berlin. Mr. Koehler has concluded that extremists of all stripes share a sense that what is wrong with the world and what is wrong in their own lives are intertwined.

Many high school or college students feel woebegone: Parents are annoying or teachers are oppressive. Most young people figure out that there are various ways to cope. But for someone who has been radicalized — say, a teenager led to believe that his religion is being persecuted — the perspective can narrow and obvious solutions fade (except maybe violence). Mr. Koehler calls it “depluralization.” What he attempts, he told Retro Report, is to “repluralize the worldview, make it broader again, make them understand that there are no easy answers for single problems.”

That means, in part, reintegrating them back into the larger society and inculcating skills other than how to fire an AK-47 or strap on a suicide vest. He thinks that progress has been made with some of the young Somali men, but not all. The judge in Mr. Warsame’s case, Michael J. Davis, said he remained unpersuaded that the defendant had abandoned jihadist aspirations.

While the Islamic State in recent months has lost much of its territory in Syria and Iraq to United States-backed coalition forces, experts say it is not defeated. Thousands of militants remain in those two countries and presumably are still able to tempt gullible Western recruits, who are within reach via laptops and smartphones. And there’s always a chance that new death-hugging cults will arise. If the past is a guide, some young people are bound to be seduced into picking up a gun, convinced it’s their ticket to heaven.

The video with this article is part of a documentary series presented by The New York Times. The video project was started with a grant from Christopher Buck. Retro Report, led by Kyra Darnton, is a nonprofit video news organization that aims to provide a thoughtful counterweight to today’s 24/7 news cycle. Previous episodes are at To suggest ideas for future reports, email

Daphne Bramham: Court to hear polygamist Winston Blackmore's constitutional challenge

Vancouver Sun
November 5, 2017

In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that Canada’s anti-polygamy law was valid and “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

But Canada’s best-known polygamist Winston Blackmore — a man with at least 24 wives and 149 children — disagrees. And he is challenging that law starting Tuesday in a Cranbrook courtroom in the hope that his conviction on one count of polygamy will be stayed, the trial declared an abuse of process, or an order is granted to stop any further prosecutions against him based on evidence prior to 2011.

In July, Blackmore was found guilty of having married 24 women between 1990 and 2004, but that verdict has yet to be registered pending the outcome of the constitutional challenge. If it is upheld, the former Canadian bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

The 60-year-old Blackmore, who leads a splinter group of several hundred in the community known as Bountiful in southwestern B.C., contends that the law breaches his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

In addition to claiming a constitutional right to practice polygamy, Blackmore will argue that his right to a fair and speedy trial has been denied because, for years, the provincial Crown refused to approve polygamy charges due to concerns about the law’s validity. Blackmore has been investigated off and on for nearly 30 years.

Also in July, James Oler was found guilty of polygamy and of having married five women in religious ceremonies. Oler, Blackmore’s former brother-in-law and another past FLDS bishop, refused legal counsel for the trial. Whether Oler is joining Blackmore in the appeal is only expected to become clear when the hearing begins on Tuesday.

What will be up for debate is whether or when Parliament can limit constitutionally guaranteed rights. The measuring stick used by Robert Bauman, who is now B.C.’s chief justice, was whether the harm caused by the exercise of those freedoms justifies limiting them.

His decision was overwhelmingly yes and included a catalogue of harms to women, including: Higher rates of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse; elevated rates of depression and other mental health disorders, including lower self-esteem; competition for material and emotional access to a shared spouse; higher risk of death during childbirth because they tend to marry younger and have more children; less autonomy; and higher poverty rates because of inequitable division of familial wealth or simply lack of sufficient income for the larger-than-average families.

He provided an equally long list of harms to children. Infant mortality rates are higher even when controlled for economic status. Children in polygamous families have more emotional, behavioural and physical problems and lower educational achievement than those in monogamous families.

There is also polygamy’s cruel arithmetic that results in boys and young men being forced out of their communities or choosing to leave because there are simply not enough young women to meet the skewed demand for wives.

Both during and since the reference case, legal scholars criticized parts of Bauman’s analysis, especially his contention that the polygamy ban is essential to protect the institution of monogamous marriage.

One of polygamy’s greatest harms, he wrote, is that it “directly threaten(s) the benefits felt to be associated with the institution of monogamous marriage.”

“The prevailing view through the millennia in the West has been that exclusive and enduring monogamous marriage is the best way to ensure paternal certainty and joint parental investment in children,” he wrote. “It best ensures that men and women are treated with equal dignity and respect and that husbands and wives (or same-sex couple), and parents and children, provide each other with mutual support, protection and edification through their lifetimes.”

Although inequality, domestic assault and child abuse clearly exist within monogamous families, Bauman said that wasn’t relevant to his analysis.

During the reference hearing, some — including from the FLDS lawyer — urged him to adopt the broadest possible reading of the law so that it would only apply to relationships where there was exploitation or undue influence. Bauman refused.

Blackmore’s lawyer Blair Suffredine has provided few clues about how intends to deal with these complex issues. His rambling, 12-page draft application was almost entirely focused on the improper appointment of special prosecutors that eventually led to the constitutional reference case being called in 2009, rather than any analysis of the reference decision or legal arguments.

As for Blackmore? “Anybody can explain the Constitution,” he said outside the courtroom in July.

“Twenty-seven years ago, adultery was a criminal act. Twenty-seven years ago, when they started with us, same-sex marriage was criminal.”

After nearly 30 years of waiting for his day in court, Blackmore is banking on his application having the same result for polygamy.

Twitter: @daphnebramham

Courts have no business reviewing religious decisions

Barry W. Bussey: Last week, the Supreme Court was asked to do something courts never do: review the solely religious decision of a church

Special to National Post
November 9, 2017

On November 2, the Supreme Court of Canada was asked to do something Canadian courts never do: review the solely religious decision of a church community. Until now, the courts have recoiled from getting involved in religious disputes—and for good reason.

The case involves Randy Wall, who was dismissed from a Jehovah’s Witness church for failing to repent of his religious offences: getting drunk on two occasions and verbally abusing his wife. Wall’s appeal to another church entity was unsuccessful. He then appealed to a court of law by means of “judicial review,” on the grounds that the church had denied him a proper hearing.

In Canadian law, in a process known as “judicial review,” a person can ask a court to “review” (i.e. hear) whether the decision of a “public actor” (such as a government licensing agency) was unfairly decided. Courts rarely review decisions of “private actors” (such as a church); they generally do so only if a private actor’s decision engages property or civil rights. In Wall’s case, the court had to determine whether the Jehovah’s Witness church’s decision involved property or contractual rights, which would then enable the court to review the church’s decision.

The church argued it was a private religious body, not a public body, and that its decision did not affect Wall’s property or contractual rights. It also argued that its disciplinary procedure was a religious process involving prayer and scripture reading aimed at reconciling the relationship between Wall and the church. The lower courts both held that religious decisions can be reviewed by courts to determine whether a church gave a fair hearing, even if no property or contractual rights were engaged. However, both courts were also of the view that property rights were an issue in the case. The Supreme Court of Canada must now decide whether those courts were right. The Supreme Court reserved judgment after last week’s hearing; we can expect its decision early in the new year.

Courts like to “fix things.” They naturally want to find resolutions to disputes; this is what they exist to do. However, courts have historically avoided getting involved in religious cases, recognizing that they lack the expertise and authority to settle religious disagreements. They handle legal cases, such as contractual disputes, but not religious cases that raise metaphysical truths, such as the definition of God.

Wall argued his case did involve a “property right,” because his dismissal from his church meant the church members were no longer willing to do business with him. As a real estate agent, 50 per cent of his clientele were Jehovah’s Witnesses. His business folded from the loss of their support. He says there is a direct line of causation between his loss of church membership and business loss. It’s likely the case that one caused the other, but that doesn’t mean Wall’s claim is a legally enforceable property right.

The reality is, Wall chose to limit his business to Jehovah’s Witnesses and took a personal risk in doing so. The church did not tell him to do so, and certainly there is no known legal principle that says a church is responsible for the economic losses that might flow from a loss of membership. A church member is not required to patronize the business of a former member. In the same way, we would not expect a former husband to maintain business with his ex-wife’s family.

At last week’s hearing, Wall’s legal counsel tried to persuade the court that, if there are no grounds under Canadian law for the court to interfere in purely religious matters, the court should then consider adopting U.K. law, which does allow this type of review. “Good luck!” Justice Rosalie Abella quipped, prompting everyone to burst into laughter.

That exchange suggested the court was not persuaded that it is time to change the law to allow courts to get tangled up in reviewing decisions of religious bodies. That would be a good thing, as courts don’t have the moral or legal authority or doctrinal expertise to decide such matters.

This hearing occurred around the time of the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. If we have learned anything since then, it’s that the law does not need to apply to every nook and cranny of our lives – especially our religious affairs.

Barry W. Bussey is Director Legal Affairs at the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. He blogs at

Nov 8, 2017

Quebec sweating death: three co-accused lose appeal of their conviction

The Canadian Press
November 8, 2017

MONTREAL — Three Quebecers have lost an appeal of their conviction in connection with the extreme-sweating death of a woman who was wrapped in mud and cellophane at a spa.

The Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision means Gabrielle Frechette, Ginette Duclos and Gerald Fontaine will head to prison for the death of Chantal Lavigne.

Lavigne, 35, died in July 2011 after a sweating session organized by the accused.

Participants were plastered with mud, wrapped in a plastic sheet and a blanket and had their heads covered with cardboard boxes for nine hours.

A coroner described the process as the equivalent of being cooked alive.

The accused were found guilty in December 2014 of criminal negligence causing death and were sentenced in January 2016.

Frechette, who was considered a spiritual guide and organized the personal-growth seminar in Durham-Sud, was sentenced to three years, while her two assistants were handed two-year prison terms.

Jerusalem protests look to preserve ultra-Orthodox lifestyle

In this Wednesday, March 15, 2017 file photo, an ultra-Orthodox Jew gets hit by a police water canon during a protest against Israeli army conscription in Jerusalem. (AP/Oded Balilty)
As numbers grow, many in impoverished community realize their way of life is unsustainable, but protests expose open resistance from within community
Times of Israel
November 8, 2017

AP — A string of protests by ultra-Orthodox activists against Israel’s compulsory military service has paralyzed Jerusalem in recent weeks in what their leaders had hoped would be a show of strength by the traditionally insular society.

Instead, the demonstrations reflect a desperate attempt by members of a vocal minority trying to preserve a lifestyle that is rapidly changing around them.

Widely seen as a drag on the country’s economy, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox world is being forced to adapt — with growing numbers embracing technology, pursuing higher education, entering the work force and even serving in the army.

Experts say tomorrow’s ultra-Orthodox will look much different from the community that mainstream Israel fears today.

“If you are expecting everything to change tomorrow morning — that is not going to happen. But if this is done quietly and it is not forced upon us, it will happen on its own,” said Gidon Katz, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who runs an advertising and public relations agency in Jerusalem.

For decades, the ultra-Orthodox have leveraged their significant political power into maintaining a segregated lifestyle. They run a separate network of schools, enjoy sweeping military draft exemptions and raise large families on taxpayer-funded handouts.

The system has fed a visceral culture war between the largely cloistered ultra-Orthodox and the secular majority resentful of what it considers preferential treatment.

As their numbers have grown, many in the impoverished community realize their way of life is unsustainable. In a previously unseen phenomenon, the recent protests have exposed open resistance from within the community.

“Judaism never said there was anything wrong with working,” said Katz, noting that it is no longer uncommon to see ultra-Orthodox lawyers, accountants and high-tech executives. “The study of scripture is the highest calling. That’s the ideal but it’s not for everyone.”

The ultra-Orthodox, known in Hebrew as “Haredim,” or “those who fear God,” are the fastest growing sector in Israel. Due to their high birth rate, they now number more than 1 million people, or about 12 percent of Israel’s 8.7 million citizens. The majority live beneath the poverty line, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think tank.

Their numbers are expected to rise to 14 percent in 2024, 19 percent in 2039 and 27 percent in 2059, the think tank predicted — figures that have sparked fear of Israel’s developed economy being saddled with a workforce that’s not prepared for the modern world.

Gilad Malach, an institute researcher who specializes in the community, said such fears are exaggerated. He believes the modernizing effect will make the Haredi community far more educated and employable, much the way ultra-Orthodox communities in the United States and Europe have adapted.

“The apocalyptic vision will not come to fruition because they will be different,” he said. “For those trying to cling to the old ways, the war is lost.”

Malach estimates about 10 percent of the ultra-Orthodox belong to a modern camp that has embraced technology and modern society, while an equal-sized hard-line group shuns any engagement with the establishment. He believes the remaining 80 percent are open to change, to varying degrees.

The percentage of Haredim entering Israeli universities has more than doubled since 2009, Malach said, though they still only make up 4 percent of the student body.

But Dan Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University economist and president of the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research, said these figures are misleading.

Most Haredi university students drop out, in large part because of their poor elementary and secondary schooling, he said, adding that working-age Haredim who complete an academic degree has been relatively stable for the past decade.

In contrast, American ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are required to complete a core school curriculum, have more than twice as high a rate of academic degrees.

“There are no shortcuts in life,” said Ben-David. “Wanting to participate in a modern economy without the necessary tools is a recipe for disaster.”

To keep up in a knowledge-based marketplace, Ben-David said Haredi children must receive a basic education that would give them the skills to “pull their weight” in the future.

For decades, secular-led Israeli governments have maintained the status quo, either because of their dependence on ultra-Orthodox political kingmakers or fearing an angry backlash.

The most contentious issue has been induction in the military. Draft exemptions go back to Israel’s establishment in 1948, when the government allowed several hundred gifted students to pursue religious studies to help rebuild great schools of Jewish learning destroyed in the Holocaust. Over the years, the numbers have ballooned, creating widespread resentment.

Repeated efforts to find compromise have failed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government recently rolled back previous legislation that had aimed to increase conscription — only to be struck down by the Supreme Court. The court has demanded new legislation within a year.

In the meantime, most Haredi men have the option of receiving repeated deferrals, as long as they register with the military — a loophole embraced by the Haredi leadership.

But Shmuel Auerbach, a prominent Jerusalem rabbi with some 25,000 followers, rejects even this model. When some of his followers were jailed for refusing to register, thousands took to the streets of Jerusalem, halting the city’s light rail system and snarling traffic at major intersections.

But in a dramatic shift, some Haredi counter-protesters showed up and cursed the demonstrators.

The Israeli military says the number of Haredi soldiers has surged thanks to its efforts to cater to their needs, such as providing strictly kosher food, limiting contact with female soldiers and a schedule synchronized with prayer times.

The military said 2,850 Haredi soldiers enlisted last year, a 30 percent increase from 2014. In all, there are currently 7,000 Haredim in uniform.

The Hebrew University’s Amiram Gonen, director of the center for the study of ultra-Orthodox society at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, said Auerbach’s followers are shrinking in a world that realizes it needs to adapt.

“There is no earthquake, but there is a dynamic of new norms creeping into the society,” he said.

Church congregation asks top court to keep hands off membership decisions

Beatrice Britneff
November 2, 2017

The judicial committee of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses asked the Supreme Court of Canada today to rule that Canadian courts do not have the authority to review the expulsion of one of their members — arguing that judicial review by the courts should not extend to decisions by private and voluntary associations that have no effect on the public at large.

The Highwood Congregation, located in northwest Calgary, brought its appeal to Ottawa after Randy Wall took the congregation to court for expelling him from the church. The congregation’s judicial committee “disfellowshipped” Wall in the spring of 2014 after his family reported to the group’s elders that he had been drunk on two occasions and was verbally and emotionally abusing them — and after determining he was not “not sufficiently repentant” for those actions.

After three internal and unsuccessful appeals, Wall applied for judicial review of the congregation’s decision-making process, insisting it was flawed and that the congregation’s judicial committee had “breached the principles of natural justice and the duty to be fair.” Both the Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal in Alberta declared that it is within the jurisdiction of the superior court to review Wall’s case.

The congregation’s appeal of those two rulings, heard by the Supreme Court Thursday morning, has attracted a lot of attention from legal experts and religious communities across the country. Echoing the congregation’s plea today in the packed Ottawa courtroom were 12 religious, political and civil liberties groups — all of them unanimous in arguing the top court should not interfere in the membership decisions of religious bodies.

The consequences of such interference, they said, would be detrimental to the self-determination of religious groups.

“It (would) fundamentally alter our nation and not for the better,” counsel for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in court.

“The wish or desire of one person to associate with an unwilling person (or an unwilling group) is not a legal right of any kind,” the group wrote in its written submission to the Supreme Court. “For a court, or the government, to support such a ‘right’ violates the right of self-determination of the unwilling parties.”

This question of jurisdiction is one that has been explored and decided on by the courts — including the Supreme Court of Canada — in the past. Case law shows the top court has recognized the the autonomous ability of religious and private voluntary associations to govern their own affairs and dictate who can and cannot be a member of a congregation.

The courts have determined, however, there is room to intervene in specific cases when a membership decision turns on property or civil rights — or is of “sufficient importance to deserve the intervention of the court.”

Wall — who does not dispute the allegations against him that formed the basis of the congregation’s decision to kick him out — argues his case meets those requirements because his “disfellowship” caused him to lose business clients, suffer “significant economic harm” and experience fraught family relations.

In return, the congregation argues that neither Wall’s property rights, nor his civil rights, were affected by their decision. Justice Russell Brown also remarked during the hearing that “one does not have a justiciable right to earn a living.”

The congregation also argued that it did not ask or force its members to boycott Wall’s business — but people choose to do so in line with their religious convictions. Counsel for the congregation also said that “the door is not closed” to Wall and he can be reinstated in the congregation in the future.

More generally, the congregation argued that it would be inappropriate for the courts to review the internal decision-making processes of religious groups because those processes are ecclesiastical.

In a news release, the Association for Reformed Political Action — one of the 12 intervening groups — said the case before the Supreme Court has “profound implications for the separation of church and state” and it believes the court should maintain a hands-off approach to membership decision-making by religious groups.

“Secular judges have no authority and no expertise to review a church membership decision,” the association’s director of law and policy, André Schutten, wrote in the statement. “Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere.”

The Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association took a slightly more nuanced position, arguing in its factum that “there will inevitably be cases where judicial intervention in the decisions of religious groups is ‘warranted'” but courts “should intervene … only in the rare case where required by a prevailing public interest.”

Thursday’s hearing was heard by all nine justices on the Supreme Court bench. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said the court will reserve its decision after today’s hearing.

Overflow seating was set up in the front hall of the Supreme Court to accommodate all the people who came to see the hearing live.

Nov 7, 2017

Inside New Memoir of Life in the Manson Family

Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside the Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties
After years of silence, Dianne Lake – the youngest member of the infamous cult – finally tells her story in captivating, harrowing new book

Elizabeth Yuko
Rolling Stone
November 2, 2017

When Dianne Lake joined the Charles Manson's "Family," she was just 14 – the youngest recruit. A slight, comely girl with a cherubic face framed by shoulder-length ginger hair, Lake had recently started embracing the hippie attire and lifestyle proliferating in California by 1967, when she first met the clan. She spent two years with them, but since she didn't participate in the murders – and even testified against Manson et al during their capital trial in 1970 – Lake largely become a footnote to their history. But now, 50 years after she first stepped into Charles Manson's blacked-out bus, Lake is telling her story.

Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside the Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties
Part memoir, part compelling true-crime narrative, Lake's new book, Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside the Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties, is a painfully relevant account of manipulation, abuse and masculinity so toxic it ended in murder. And though it doesn't add much new information to the canon, Lake offers a detailed, heartfelt and strangely relatable telling of how a teenage girl fell in love with one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century, and how she ultimately fought her way out.

Lake takes her time setting up her story. The first third of Member of the Family takes place before she even meets Manson, walking readers through her unorthodox upbringing from Minnesota to California. "It's been really good for me to unburden the secret and the shame and untether myself from that association by accepting it and realizing that I was a victim," Lake tells Rolling Stone. "It has helped me understand a lot about myself."

With an eccentric, overbearing artist father and a mother who did everything she could to temper his emotions, Lake spent her formative years moving between temporary homes, which included a large home in a middle-class suburb of Minneapolis, a trailer her father traded that house for, an apartment in the city's housing projects, a California beach bungalow and a retrofitted bread truck.

"As misguided as this seems today, they believed in what they were doing, giving up their own security to pursue what they hoped would be a better life for us and for the world," Lake writes.

Consequently, long before Lake joined the Family, she was forced to grow up fast. Her first exposure to sex came at the age of nine, when her grandfather molested her in a bathtub. In addition to a father who appeared to be more interested in dropping out of society than raising a family, Lake also contended with parents who not only took drugs like marijuana and LSD, but also shared them with her when she was as young as 13.

In the summer of 1967, Lake was living with her parents and two younger siblings at a well-known commune called Hog Farm, but was asked to leave because she was "jail bait" – 14 and sexually active. When Lake left Hog Farm to move in with a couple, her parents gave her a note, essentially emancipating her. After the couple introduced her to Manson, that note became the stuff of legend – it would go down in Family lore as a letter handing her directly over to Charles Manson.

Like many of the other women in the Family, Lake's recruitment into the group involved being made to feel as though she truly belonged and was wanted, as well as a sexual encounter with Manson, who she describes as being "magnetic."

"He took his time to explore my body," Lake writes of their first time together. "He avoided the places that made me purr until I could barely stand it. After a few minutes, he put himself inside me while staring into my eyes. He was tender as he held me up to meet his deep thrusts. When he finished, he sighed; I exhaled and realized I was hooked." But it was more than sex: Lake makes it clear that she was in love with him, too.

The beginning of her time with Manson and his girls was marked by group acid trips and orgies, sermons and sing-alongs, as well as dumpster dives for food. The Family led a largely transient life, moving between various houses in Topanga Canyon before landing at Spahn Ranch. But alongside the free love and shunning of worldly possessions in favor of a simpler life, there was also sexual and psychological manipulation and abuse.

From the beginning, Manson did little to hide his true colors. He could change his demeanor and entire face at will, immediately morphing between being impish and playful to acting demonic. After years of watching her mother read her father's temperament and acting accordingly, Lake put those skills to use with Manson. She learned early on to anticipate his needs, taking cues from his erratic behavior.

Lake writes about happier times as well, including life as one of the most famous house guests of the 1960s, when she, Manson and other Family members moved in with Beach Boys' drummer Dennis Wilson in the summer of 1968. She tells Rolling Stone how she "just fell in love with that house and the grounds," including the sprawling estate, complete with a pool, a swing, and "a really fancy log cabin" – a far cry from a remote, crumbling movie set.

"It was really just a handful of us and Charlie that lived there," she says, noting that unlike some accounts, the entire Family didn't move in with Wilson; half went to Mendocino, another hippie enclave in northern. Lake enjoyed the dynamic of living with a smaller group of people; on top of that, she says that Manson was happy there – something important when your quality of life is largely dependent on one person's mood.

It was also exciting. Bands came through frequently; Lake says Manson and Wilson had what appeared to be a genuine friendship and camaraderie – that is, until Wilson and others in the music industry tried to turn Manson into a marketable rock star.

Used to getting his own way, Manson did not react well to getting feedback and direction on his not-yet-existent music career in the studio. Lake doesn't know what happened after she left the room, but notes that, according to other accounts, he may have pulled a buck knife on the rest of the Beach Boys. No matter what occurred, that was the beginning of the end for the Manson Family.

But it wasn't until the following year that things really came to a head. Lake recalls the night when she saw Leslie Van Houton frantically burning items in the fireplace, later piecing together that it occurred on the night that Van Houton, along with other Family members, murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home. Lake never participated in any of the murders, but says that when the other women told her about their involvement crimes – which left a total of seven people, including actress Sharon Tate, dead – she was disturbed by their casual attitude about the crimes. "They were almost gleeful," she tells Rolling Stone. "It just shows how far gone they had descended into this madness.

In October 1969, Barker Ranch was raided by police and the Family members present – including Lake – were arrested. Because she was 16 years old, Lake was taken to a mental institution instead of remaining in jail with the rest of the girls. Upon her release, a police officer and his family took her in as a foster child, where she was living when it came time to face Manson and the three girls who committed the murders in court.

Attorneys warned her not to testify against Mason in court on account that she potentially could have been charged with perjury after she misrepresented events during her initial statement following the Family's arrest. In spite of that, Lake decided to testify.

Before her day in court, Lake says her biggest fear was not being charged with perjury, but seeing Manson in person again. Specifically, she notes, "that he'd have a hold on me – maybe from the good memories – or that he'd have this psychological control or input on me."

In fact, the opposite happened. On the witness stand, when asked if she was still in love with Mason, Lake said, "I guess so," at which point Manson shouted at her "You loved everybody. Don't put it all on Mr. Manson." The entire courtroom erupted in laughter, and in an instant, Lake says she felt as though God had lifted a veil from her eyes.

"Suddenly my eyes were open and I had him for the con that he probably always had been," she tells Rolling Stone. "Seeing his antics in the courtroom made me realize that that connection was gone."

Since she testified against Manson in court, Lake has only had contact with one other former member of the Family – Barbara Hoyt, who she visited Barker Ranch with 10 or 15 years ago. Lake visited Barker Ranch again recently during the process of writing the book, as well as going back to Spahn Ranch for the first time since the Family's arrest, which she says was "really an eye opener." It was much smaller than she remembered, and she had trouble getting oriented at a place she once tried to make her home.

Though Lake has been able to revisit some of the Family's former locations, other former members remain behind bars. When asked if she thinks Van Houton should receive parole for the murders of the LaBiancas, Lake says that that's "between the governor and God," adding that she's "not afraid if she gets out."

Lake says that if she could ask Manson one question today it would be whether he truly believed he was Jesus Christ. "I know he's not, but did he? Or does he still believe it?" she adds. "But no matter what I would ask him, I doubt very much I'd get an honest answer. He would be playing to the audience."

Lake hopes that the book helps people be aware the people they encounter. She finds it amazing that her story is becoming public at the same time as so many allegations are made against powerful men in the entertainment industry, following years of women remaining silent because they were ashamed.

"There are men out there who have no qualms about using you for their own purpose," she says. "It's a powerful position to be in for them, and it's so easy for lonely, disenfranchised kids, young adults to be drawn in. Be wary because people take advantage of people."

Bulgaria extradites alleged sect founder to Russia

Kaula Dharma sect Sergey Kiriyenko
November 2, 2017

MOSCOW, November 2 (RAPSI) – Alleged founder of Kaula Dharma sect Sergey Kiriyenko, who stands charged with sexual assault and tortures, has been extradited from Bulgaria, Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office reports via its Telegram channel on Thursday.

According to prosecutors, his accomplice Tatiana Severtseva has been extradited earlier on the same charges.

Investigators claim that in 2015 Kiriyenko organized a group bringing followers of the east techniques together. Adherents were to honor and implicitly obey the sect leader. Kiriyenko beat, emotionally and sexually abused the group members including children, the statement reads.

FaithLeaks is a non profit media organization founded on the belief that increased transparency within the religious organizations results in fewer untruths, less corruption, and less abuse. The organization provides sources and whistleblowers the technical ability to anonymously submit sensitive documents for use by professional and citizen journalists for starting and expanding news reporting, public commentary, and criticism related to religion.

FaithLeaks is a project by the Truth and Transparency Foundation, a non profit founded by Ryan McKnight and Ethan Dodge in November 2017.