May 29, 2020

Reddit’s QAnon Casualties is a home for survivors of the conspiracy

The conspiracy can tear families apart.

Mike Rothschild
Daily Dot
Mat 25, 2020

The conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump is leading a secret (yet public) fight to take down the deep state and its hordes of pedophiles has had ups-and-downs in the last year, from losing its home on 8chan to a glut of mainstream coverage thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and several high-profile believers making the news.

Through it all, there have still been no mass arrests or great sweeping up of Satanic cabalists. Even so, QAnon believers have kept the faith—and in the process, many have destroyed their relationships with the “normie” loved ones who aren’t taken in by the movement.  

There are now so many people who have lost someone they care about to the Tom Clancy-meets-Dan Brown militia fantasy of QAnon that they’ve formed their own community on Reddit: r/QAnonCasualties. 

And their stories are heartbreaking tales of husbands and wives who no longer speak, destroyed friendships, siblings who chose QAnon over their family, parents who don’t speak to their children anymore. There’s is the misery of people who have had their loved ones taken in by a joyless, violent cult that promises “pain” to the enemies of freedom, but, in reality, only delivers it to the people who love those ones who believe in it. 

R/QAnonCasualties was created in July by Reddit user Squawkomodile, who introduced the sub with a long post about their relationship with their mother was decaying as she sank deeper and deeper into QAnon.

“My mom has been into QAnon since it got started,” the first post begins. “The ignorance, bigotry, and refusal to question “the plan” have only gotten worse over time. I’m always torn between stopping communication with her because it only seems to make me feel terrible, and feeling like it’s my responsibility to try to lead her back to reality. We barely talk anymore, but when we did, she used nearly every conversation as an ‘in’ to bring up Q.”

“Having a loved one involved in QAnon is an exhausting, sad, scary, demoralizing experience,” it continues. “Most people are happy to just point and laugh at QAnon followers because they aren’t directly affected by it. If you don’t have that luxury, this sub is for you.”

Martin Geddes
 · Jan 2, 2020
I think I'm going to join a support group for people who have escaped the #QAnon "think critically for yourself" cult. [Searches web…]

Oh, hang on a minute… There's aren't any such groups! Or people who seem to want to join one.

I wonder why? đŸ€”

Josh Joiner
r/qanoncasualties on Reddit. …

QAnonCasualties • r/QAnonCasualties
Do you have a loved one who's been taken in by the QAnon conspiracy theory? Look here for emotional support and a place to vent.
2:28 AM - Jan 4, 2020
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The sub has only a few thousand subscribers. But the vast majority of posts are by someone who says they are losing a person they care about to QAnon and don’t have anywhere in the “real world” to turn.

Other posts ask for advice on how to de-radicalize people from Q, how to debate it with a believer, and how to recover from cult membership in general.

Daily Dot reached out to posters on r/QAnonCasualties, as well as another anti-Q sub, r/QultHeadquarters, for more details about their experiences seeing loved ones become involved with QAnon.

Several responded, on condition of their names not being used for fear of their conspiracy-believing family members finding out. 

It should be noted that as per most of Reddit, the stories told by r/QAnonCasualties members are anonymous, and therefore difficult to be vetted. But in general, they line up with similar stories told to the Daily Dot and other media outlets. They reveal QAnon as a conspiracy theory that sucks in believers through fantastic promises of great change, secret knowledge of a hidden war between good and evil, suppressed cures for diseases and free energy, and a feeling of community between people who know that the order of things is forever almost going to be violently overturned.

One woman told the Daily Dot she didn’t have “a whole lot of hope” in regards to getting her brother-in-law “back” from QAnon after he demanded she watch a 10-part video series on the conspiracy theory.

Another Q casualty told Daily Dot that she’d been with her husband for 20 years and never had any severe problems in their relationship “until he found Q.”  

“He’s always been conspiracy minded,” the woman told Daily Dot. “[But] with Q though, he got sucked in and sucked deep and it has truly taken over his life. He spends hours every day on Twitter and watching YouTube channels, and it colors everything that he does. If he wasn’t still very successful with his business, I honestly would be concerned about a brain tumor, it’s that much of a change.”

And another told Daily Dot they have “extended family members who are convinced COVID-19 is simultaneously a hoax and a plot by Bill Gates and caused by 5G,” referring to multiple conspiracy theories about coronavirus that are extremely popular in QAnon circles.

Still, not every story told by a member of r/QAnonCasualties is a tragic one of a family member being lost.

Some people are actually able to pull themselves out of Q through logic and reasoning—a rare event that gives hope that one day the entire conspiracy theory might be left behind by those who believe it. One self-described liberal voter was drawn to Q by a sense that the Democratic Party had lost its way, and that the media wasn’t telling the whole truth about the misdeeds of the wealthy and powerful.

“When I found Q, I was initially very skeptical about the idea of Trump being a [good guy] but since no one else was even willing to acknowledge those issues, they had my attention,” they said.

As Q continued to spin their story of the “silent war” between good and evil, this person was more and more drawn in. “I could now envision a reality where [Trump] was given an opportunity to sell out his partners in crime and go down as a hero.” But eventually, this believer turned on the movement, telling the Daily Dot that they could see the cultish tactics Q uses to keep followers around, such as promising a great event to come, and shaming those who begin to ask questions about the conspiracy theory.

“I noticed Q’s narrative become very lazy [and started to] cater to the hateful crowd that was still holding on,” they said. “I became ashamed that I ever bought any of it at all.”

Travis View
There's a lot of doublethink involved in being a QAnon follower. They'll claim to value "researching for yourself." But big QAnon promoters will openly declare "Trump cannot be second-guessed or doubted." The "research" line is a fig leaf to cover up the cult like tendencies.

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“I know several Q followers, including my boyfriend and several members of his family, and I’ve seen how bizarre and destructive it is,” one of the other sub moderators told Daily Dot. “I wanted to maintain r/qanoncasualties as a safe space for people affected by Q followers to tell their stories and receive support.”

In that spirit, the sub is heavily moderated to remove conspiracy-promoting, trolling, or pro-Q posts, making it one of the rare truly safe spaces on Reddit to open up about conspiracy theories without relentless harassment.

Given the viral popularity of the recent QAnon-themed YouTube video “Out of Shadows,” and the continuing crush of QAnon-approved coronavirus conspiracy theories and quack cures, it’s likely that the conspiracy theory will continue to perpetuate.

As long as it does, it will continue to both suck people in, and repel the loved ones of those it grabs.

Reddit fora like r/QAnonCasualties might be small, but for those dealing with the influence of the conspiracy theory, it will continue to serve as one of the only places to vent to people going through the same thing.

May 27, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/27/2020

Ravi Zacharias, Sudan, Female Genital Mutilation, Jehovah's Witnesses, Faith Healing, Covid-19
CNN: Ravi Zacharias, Christian evangelist, dies at 74

"Ravi Zacharias, who spent his life defending Christianity through books and lectures, has died. He was 74.
Zacharias had been battling sarcoma and died at his home in Atlanta on Tuesday, Zacharias International Ministries said.
He was a leading figure among Christian Apologists -- a branch of Christian theology that defends Christian doctrines against objections.
Zacharias founded Zacharias International Ministries in 1984, and "launched a global team of nearly 100 Christian scholars and authors who continue to speak, resource, train and address the questions of millions around the world," a news release said."

NY Times: In a Victory for Women in Sudan, Female Genital Mutilation Is Outlawed
"Sudan's new government has outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation, a move hailed as a major victory by women's rights campaigners in a country where the often dangerous practice is widespread.

The United Nations estimates that nearly nine in 10 Sudanese women have been subjected to the most invasive form of the practice, which involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia and leads to health and sexual problems that can be fatal.

Now, anyone in Sudan who performs female genital mutilation faces a possible three-year prison term and a fine under an amendment to Sudan's criminal code approved last week by the country's transitional government, which came to power only last year following the ouster of longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

"This is a massive step for Sudan and its new government," said Nimco Ali of the Five Foundation, an organization that campaigns for an end to genital mutilation globally. "Africa cannot prosper unless it takes care of girls and women. They are showing this government has teeth."

Genital mutilation is practiced in at least 27 African countries, as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East. Other than Sudan and Egypt, it is most prevalent in Ethiopia, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Djibouti and Senegal, according to the United Nations Population Fund."

Advocates for Jehovah's Witness Reform on Blood: Treating Jehovah's Witness COVID-19 Patients with Convalescent Blood Products
"As scientists and clinicians search for therapeutics and a cure for COVID-19, there is one tried treatment that is consistently being cited for its potential: convalescent plasma. ( is a product rendered from blood. In medical settings, this is often called fresh frozen plasma (FFP). Individuals who have survived COVID-19 and whose blood has sufficient levels of antibodies for COVID-19 can donate blood. Medical providers can then render plasma from this donated blood to share these antibodies with current COVID-19 sufferers, helping them fight the disease. This plasma can be frozen and when needed, thawed for treating COVID-19 patients.Fresh frozen plasma (FFP) may be acceptable to some Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) who are willing to accept a blood product currently prohibited by their religion's leadership, in particular younger members. But it is likely that a majority of members would not accept FFP. However, all plasma "fractions" are permitted as shown in the following diagram from Watchtower (WT). This leaves physicians a potential alternative for JW patients."

Patheos: Pastor Who Claimed to Cure COVID By Laying On of Hands Dies of COVID

"A popular Cameroon "prophet" who claimed he could cure COVID-19 has died of the disease, Voice of America reports. Frankline Ndifor, a presidential candidate in the country's most recent elections, delayed getting medical treatment after developing symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.
Doctor Gaelle Nnanga said … that Ndifor died less than a week after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He says that some members of Ndifor's Kingship International Ministries Church called him to come to the pastor's aid when they found out Ndifor was in agony, and that when the medical team he leads arrived, Ndifor was having severe respiratory difficulties."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources. resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

Church of Scientology hands out 50,000 coronavirus pamphlets resembling New Zealand government advice

aland Ministry of Health guidelines, Newshub reported. The Church of Scientology booklets distributed in Auckland. Photo: Twitter The Church of Scientology booklets distributed in Auckland. Photo: Twitter
The 50,000 booklets bearing a yellow-and-white colour scheme contain a QR code that links the reader to Church of Scientology website

The pamphlets look like official advice circulated by New Zealand government but the church said any similarities were ‘pure coincidence’

South China Morning Post
Compiled by SCMP’s Asia desk
May 27, 2020

Shops in New Zealand’s largest city have scrambled to remove thousands of Scientology booklets that resemble the government’s coronavirus posters, as the country slowly reopens after one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

The “How to Keep Yourself & Others Well” booklets, which feature a striking yellow-and-white design not unlike the one used by New Zealand’s government in its Covid-19 messaging, were handed out to stores in central Auckland last week, local media reported.

The information published appeared to be based on coronavirus advice from the United States government, rather than official New Zealand Ministry of Health guidelines, Newshub reported.

As many as 50,000 booklets were distributed in Auckland as part of the organisation’s efforts to support the community during the pandemic, a representative from the Church of Scientology said on Monday.

Allison Axford, its community relations manager, told Newshub the design similarity to the government’s Covid-19 campaign was “pure coincidence”.

“Our volunteer ministers have for decades been well known for their distinctive yellow colour [attire] since long before the Covid-19 outbreak,” Axford said.

3 guys just turned up at the Auckland cafe I’m sitting at dressed like some kind of emergency response team. Frightened the life out of me. Turns out they are Scientology peeps, delivering pamphlets!

The booklets carry a QR code that leads to the Church of Scientology’s website. Upset shoppers who spotted the deception shared the discovery online.

“Was proud of my son for spotting the ruse before too many people had taken them from his workplace,” one Twitter user wrote.

Documentary maker David Farrier said on Twitter: “The booklet is basically a health guide, with the endgame of you landing on their cult’s website where you then access all their rot.”

One restaurant in Auckland said it removed the booklets from its premises after realising it had been deceived, The New Zealand Herald reported.

“We are taking them out just because we are not happy about promoting the Church of Scientology at all,” the general manager of the Mexican Cafe said.

The booklets have also reportedly been distributed to stores in Australia.

In Auckland, NZ the Scientologists are distributing covid19 info as a recruitment tool.

People who have been oblivious to QR codes will now be paying attention. This isn't the QR code you want to practice on.

The Church of Scientology in New Zealand was established in 1955, becoming the organisation’s first offshore branch.

Census data in 2013 indicated the organisation had about 300 followers, although the group claimed the real number was about 5,000.

The organisation in January 2017 unveiled a new NZ$16 million (US$10 million) building in Auckland at a ceremony led by Scientology leader David Miscavige.

In July 2017, Hollywood actor Tom Cruise paid the site a visit after a film shoot in New Zealand.

History of the '90s podcast: Doomsday cults

In this 1997 archival photo, investigators stand in front of a shed near a burned out house in St-Casimir, Que., where five people died. The five people are believed to be members of the Order of the Solar Temple.
May 27, 2020

On the next few episodes of History of the ’90s, host Kathy Kenzora looks at the doomsday cults and their rise to infamy in the years leading up to the new millennium.

During the 1990s, the world began to seem more dangerous, with war, environmental destruction and social breakdown becoming part of the everyday fabric of society.

As a way of coping, some people turned to new religions and cults for guidance and support. In some cases, that decision yielded deadly consequences.

In part one, we uncover the little-known story of The Order of the Solar Temple. The religious sect had branches in Canada, Switzerland and France and its members included politicians, journalists, executives and police officers. We’ll look at how members hoping to start a new life instead found horrific and tragic ends.

If you enjoy History of the ’90s, please take a minute to rate it, tell us what you think and share the show with your friends.


Twitter: @1990shistory
Facebook: @1990shistory
Instagram: @that90spodcast
Guest: Michael Kropveld, Executive Director of Info-Cult

Lev Tahor Cult School Principal Indicted In Jerusalem For Child Abuse

Yeshiva World News
May 26, 2020

On Tuesday, in the Jerusalem District Court, an indictment was filed against Elazar Rompler for child abuse. Rompler served as a school principal in Canada for the Lev Tahor cult and is charged with mentally and physically abusing at least two children, ages 8 and 9 respectively between the years of 2009-2011. Rompler, 46, held his position before the group fled from Canada to Guatemala in 2014.

The children in question, were children who belonged to the cult and were under his tutelage. In one case Rompler allegedly had a child stripped, tied up, and beaten with a stick for several hours over suspicions that the child stole money from a tzedaka box.

He is also accused of instructing other teachers to hold a child down and beat the child repeatedly for allegedly lying.

There are currently multiple Lev Tahor cult leaders in United States Federal prison awaiting trials. Among them are Nachman Helbrans, 36; Mayer Rosner, 42, and his son Jacob Rosner, 20; Aron Rosner, 45, of Brooklyn, Mayer Rosner’s brother. A fifth man, Lev Tahor member Matityau Malka, and Mordechai Yoel Malka.

They face various charges including kidnapping, identity theft, (use of fake passports) conspiracy to defraud the United States and international parental kidnapping. Four are being held without bond (due to flight risks). Aron Rosner was released on a $10 million bond to home confinement and electronic monitoring.

Former members of Lev Tahor (who either escaped or were otherwise expelled) do not recall learning Mishnayos or Gemara, nor any Mitzvos Bein Adam LeChaveiro. They spend the majority of the day in deep prayer and are only allowed to study certain sections of the Chumash, with Lev Tahor commentary.

Lev Tahor practices include women and girls wearing black head-to-toe coverings day and night, arranged marriages between teenagers, and a violent form of Malkos. Lev Tahor only permits certain fruits and vegetables to be eaten, as well as whole wheat flour made into bread with a stone press.

Reports indicate cult leaders have suggested death as better alternative than life outside the cult.

Lev Tahor was founded and led by Shlomo Helbrans, from the 1980s until his drowning death in Mexico in 2017. Since then, the leadership has moved into the hands of his son Nachman Helbrans, along with Mayer Rosner, Yankel and Yoel Weingarten, who are even more radical and aggressive than the late founder.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

May 24, 2020

'The Prophet And The Space Aliens': Thessaloniki Review

Screen International
May 21, 2020

Yoav Shamir delivers a thoughtful documentary about a guru who believes in UFOs


Dir/scr: Yoav Shamir. Israel/Austria/South Africa/Canada. 2020. 86mins.

A study of religion and true believers, The Prophet And The Space Aliens takes a thoughtful approach to what could potentially be a satiric premise, in which a documentary filmmaker spends time with a self-styled spiritual leader who insists that humanity was created by aliens. Israeli director Yoav Shamir introduces us to Rael, a kindly sexagenarian prophet with a fascinating backstory and some bizarre views. (He’ll happily tell you about his travels to another planet.) But rather than poke fun, the film ponders why so many people worship higher powers — and how faith can be a way for individuals to find meaning in an otherwise incomprehensible existence.

The filmmaker may be a nonbeliever, but you could say he approaches this material in good faith.

The Prophet, which recently premiered at CPH:DOX, screens digitally as part of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. This film about Rael and his followers, appropriately called Raelians, has a breezy, accessible tone, making it an appealing programming option. Modest commercial prospects seem possible as well.

Serving as our off-screen narrator, Shamir explains that he was invited to receive an award from the Raelians, which brought him into the orbit of Rael, a beatific Frenchman dressed all in white who preaches a gospel of love and tolerance. Intrigued, the filmmaker decides to profile him, traveling from Asia to West Africa to Canada to learn more about this belief system, which includes a desire to clone human beings. Along the way, Shamir will also uncover Rael’s pre-prophet life — before changing his name, Claude Vorilhon aspired to be a race car driver and spent some years as a musician — and begin to wonder if he isn’t actually an elaborate con artist.

Early on, Shamir (Defamation) makes it known that he’s not religious, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t curious about why people seek out spirituality. The Prophet includes occasional interludes from a separate interview Shamir conducted with a religious historian, Daniel Boyarin, who offers his perspective on society’s enduring belief in gods. This leads to engaging exchanges about the ways that faith is passed from one generation to the next — and why so many religions are built on seemingly outlandish scenarios and supernatural entities. Shamir enters this world with honourable intentions, and whether speaking to Rael or some in his inner circle, the documentarian resists the desire to mock, instead hoping to understand why Raelians (including some scientists) have embraced their beliefs so passionately.

At first, it’s easy to find much that’s laudable about a religion that advocates nonviolence, condemns homophobia and bigotry, and argues that blind devotion to an all-powerful deity has caused the majority of wars. (Better, Rael contends, to worship wise aliens, whom he calls the Elohim.) The Prophet is enlivened by Shamir’s warm rapport with the gentle, unassuming Rael, who seems relatively level-headed — except, of course, for his strange anecdotes about being picked up by extra-terrestrials, who explained to him how humanity’s evolution will involve our consciousness being downloaded into a new, identical body.

But soon, The Prophet takes a turn as we acquire additional information about this religion and Shamir shifts his attitude toward Rael, who starts to resemble a vain megalomaniac. (For instance, it eventually becomes apparent that the beautiful young women who surround Rael aren’t just there for decoration.) Meticulously, the filmmaker dissects the prophet’s early life, convinced that Rael doesn’t actually believe his own tall tale of alien abduction. But even here, the documentary subverts expectations, as Shamir talks to Boyarin in order to figure out why he’s so committed to getting Rael to confess to the scam. In some ways, nonbelievers are as devout in their worldview as believers.

Regrettably, Shamir can be too cutesy in his presentation, shooting for lighthearted, feel-good reactions rather than treating this subject matter with the seriousness it deserves. But his ingratiating style also has its rewards: Because he earns Rael and his followers’ trust, they open up in ways that allow them to be strikingly honest and vulnerable. Although The Prophet is clear that this religion is ludicrous, Shamir doesn’t violate his interviewees’ trust, letting their enthusiasm articulate the eternal mystery of divine devotion. He may be a nonbeliever, but you could say he approaches this material in good faith.

Production companies: Yoav Shamir Films, Big World Cinema
Sales contact: Yoav Shamir Films,
Producers: Tanya Aizikovich, Steven Markovitz, Yoav Shamir
Editing: Neta Dvorkis, Roland Stottinger
Cinematography: Tanya Aizikovich
Music: Manfred Plessl

Clare Bronfman, citing pandemic, asks for delay in NXIVM sentencing

Seagram's heiress hopes her family can attend court proceeding

Robert Gavin
Albany Times Union
May 21, 2020

NEW YORK — Seagrams’ heiress and longtime NXIVM executive Clare Bronfman has asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to adjourn her June 25 sentencing in Brooklyn in part because the COVID-19 pandemic will keep her family from attending.

Bronfman, 41, who provided longtime financial resources for NXIVM leader Keith Raniere and his cult-like, Colonie-based organization, faces 21 to 27 months in prison when she is sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis. Bronfman pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain, and fraudulent use of identification.

On Wednesday, Bronfman’s lawyer, Kathleen Cassidy, told the judge that her client will not consent to being sentenced via video or teleconference.

“She respectfully requests that the court adjourn her sentencing until such date as the sentencing can be conducted in person at the courthouse,” Cassidy stated.

The attorney noted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has extended the state’s “pause” and that reports indicate the New York City area is unlikely to be ready to meet the necessary criteria for the first phase of reopening until mid-June at the earliest.

“Pandemic-related travel bans, which prevent Ms. Bronfman’s family from traveling to the United States from Europe for her sentencing, appear likely to remain in place through July,” the lawyer stated.

Bronfman, who has homes in Manhattan and Clifton Park, has been on detention in her New York City residence on $100 million bond since she was arrested in July 2018.

Bronfman, the daughter of late Seagram's tycoon Edgar Bronfman, was the major financial backer of Raniere, a purported personal growth guru known as "Vanguard," who was convicted of all seven counts at his trial last June.

Raniere had been scheduled to be sentenced June 23 for his convictions on charges of sex trafficking, forced labor and racketeering charges with underlying acts of identity theft, obstruction of justice, wire and visa fraud, forced labor, human trafficking, sex trafficking, money laundering, child exploitation and possession of child pornography. He faces the possibility of life in prison.

Raniere's sentencing was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic earlier this month.

Prosecutors Raid Facilities Belonging to Shincheonji Sect in COVID-19 Probe

Prosecutors Raid Facilities Belonging to Shincheonji Sect in COVID-19 Probe
KBS WORLD Radio News
May 22, 2020

Prosecutors in South Korea raided facilities nationwide belonging to the Shincheonji religious sect, of which mass gatherings are suspected of having caused a COVID-19 outbreak in the southeastern city of Daegu and surrounding regions.

Some 100 prosecutors and investigators from the Suwon District Prosecutors' Office began the search and seizure at the sect's headquarters in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, as well as its branch offices in Busan, Gwangju and Daejeon, early Friday.

Residences and offices of sect leader Lee Man-hee and executives were also included in the raid.

An alliance of people claiming to be victims of the sect filed a complaint against Lee in February, accusing the sect leader of violating infectious disease prevention laws, embezzlement and dereliction of duty.

While there's speculation that the state investigative agency may soon summon Lee for questioning, an official from the agency said calling in the Shincheonji leader has yet to be discussed.

Self-styled ‘godman’ Daati Maharaj booked for holding religious event in south Delhi temple

Pictures allegedly from the gathering at a south Delhi temple held by Daati Maharaj, Delhi Police is probing the matter. ThePrint couldn't ascertain the veracity of the pictures being from the event.
The event was attended by over 30 people, most of whom were not even wearing masks. Daati Maharaj is also an accused in a case of rape and unnatural sex.

The Print
May 23, 2020

New Delhi: The Delhi Police Saturday registered a case against a self-styled godman, Daati Maharaj, and his accomplices for allegedly holding a religious gathering and violating government guidelines on Covid-19 lockdown.

The gathering held at Shani Dham temple in south Delhi’s Mehrauli area Friday was attended by over 30 people, most of whom were not wearing masks.

As pictures and videos of the gathering started circulating, some of which were posted on social media by the participants, Delhi Police took suo-motu cognisance and registered a case against Maharaj. He has not yet been arrested.

“Some photographs of a ceremony at Shani Dham mandir Asola were circulated on social media, wherein the social distancing norms were not being followed and a religious congregation was organised in contravention of the lockdown guidelines,” Atul Thakur, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Delhi, told ThePrint.

“The godman opened the temple and by doing that he has committed offences under sections of IPC, Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Diseases Act. A case has been registered and investigation initiated,” he added.

This is not Daati Maharaj’s first brush with the law. He is also an accused in a case of rape and unnatural sex.

In 2016, he was booked for allegedly raping a 25-year-old woman. A case in the matter was registered in 2018 and was then transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Along with two others, he was charge-sheeted in the case. Maharaj is currently out on bail.

In December 2019, the rape survivor had approached the Delhi High Court seeking intervention to expedite the case. She also asked the court to order CBI to file a status report in the case.

Daati Maharaj seen cutting a cake, posing for photos
In the photos of Friday’s gathering available with the police, Daati Maharaj is seen cutting a cake and posing for photographs.

A video also shows many people singing bhajans, and sitting in close proximity with each other, with most of them not even wearing any masks.

“We are verifying if all those photos are from the same event or not. We have taken all videos that were shot inside the temple while the event was on along with the photos clicked in the open where people are seen lighting mashals (torch) before the God’s idol,” said a second police officer who didn’t wish to be named.

“We have initiated an inquiry and are investigating the matter.”

May 23, 2020

Cult Mediation Specialist Patrick Ryan discusses how cults operate and how to intervene when someone needs help

Cult Mediation Specialist Patrick Ryan discusses how cults operate and how to intervene when someone needs help.
This Podcast Will Save The World: Episode 5: Cults

May 23, 2020

Interview with 1BR writer/director David Marmor

Cult Mediation Specialist Patrick Ryan discusses how cults operate and how to intervene when someone needs help.

May 22, 2020

For This Russian Messianic Cult, Coronavirus Isolation Is a 'Blessing'

Members of the Church of the Last Testament come together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their commune.
As the pandemic sows fear and uncertainty, some are looking to a Siberian mystic for answers.

Pjotr Sauer
The Moscow Times
May 21, 2020

In the depths of the Siberian taiga a group of around a hundred people in white robes stand around a statue of an angel topped with a cross inside a circle. They sing and clasp each other's hands, an unnerving scene in a world where millions are being forced to practice social distancing and self-isolation to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The worshippers are members of the Church of the Last Testament, a movement founded by Vissarion Christ the Teacher, whose thousands of followers believe he is the reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth. In these uncertain times his disciples say they are seeing a new wave of interest in their way of living from around the world.

“People are searching for something and have become attracted to our lifestyle. They are looking for a way out of isolation and loneliness. Requests to join us have tripled since the start of the virus,” said Vadim Redkin, who used to be the drummer for a popular Russian rock band and now acts as Vissarion's right-hand man and the group's spokesperson.

“We get emails from Europe, South America and North America,” he added.

Former policeman Vissarion has just celebrated the 25th anniversary of his commune, making him one of the mystics who emerged in the early 90s after the fall of the Soviet Union to fill an ideological vacuum to have stood the test of time.

About 4,000 so-called “Vissarionites” live in 20 rural settlements in southern Siberia, with the most devoted group of around 300 on top of a remote hill they call Abode of Dawn.

The cult’s physical isolation from the rest of Russia means they are perhaps some of the only human settlements in the country whose lives have not changed during the pandemic, as they closed off their commune to outsiders when lockdown began.

Vissariontes’ lives are governed by rituals, prayers and strict rules, demanding prolonged physical contact and personal interactions.

However, members of the Church of the Last Testament do not fear the kind of Covid-19 outbreak seen in other tight-knit religious communes — most notably South Korea where hundreds of members of the secretive sect Shincheonji Church fell ill and became infection vectors for the rest of the country.

“Local police know that it is basically impossible to get to us, so they let us do our thing,” said Redkin.
“Nature is healing”

While coronavirus-sparked existential crisis is playing a big role in attracting people to the commune, its members say talk about the pandemic being a way for nature to heal itself is also playing a part.

The Covid-19 outbreak has provoked debate about the impact of human activity on the planet. Over the past three months people, including celebrities, have shared fake images of animals returning to cities, under the caption “nature is healing,” arguing that there are some positives to the Covid-19 outbreak. Critics have warned against celebrating the environmental upsides of a pandemic that has already killed over 325,000 people.

“What people are saying now is something we all believed in 20 years ago when we moved here,” said Adrian Leon, a Cuban national who has been with the commune from its early days after he left a “pointless” existence as a teacher in Sweden.

“They are realizing that nature is sick and needs healing. Our lifestyle resonates with this,” Leon added.

The group's core belief is a desire to live in self-sufficient harmony with nature, while adhering to traditional gender norms. It rejects most modern technology, alcohol and predicts worldwide disaster in the near future.

Benjamin Kaufmann, an Austrian whose life in Europe has been “rocked” by the coronavirus first came across Vissarion in a Vice News documentary. He told The Moscow Times that the cult’s environmentally friendly and community-based message attracts him.

“First I thought ‘ah ... the next guy, who believes he's Jesus’ ... but I was curious and watched it. Then I was really surprised and thought ‘wow, that looks like the ideal style of living’,” Kaufmann said via Facebook.

Mariam, a 27-year-old accountant from New Jersey echoed this sentiment and said she is planning to move to Siberia “once the borders open.”

Phillips Stevens, a retired anthropology professor at the University of Buffalo who specializes in cults and alternative religions, expects the coronavirus to prompt a rise in fringe ideas and religions.

“Cults develop all the time, but far more frequently — and far more visibly — during times of general uncertainty and anxiety like the pandemic. In times of social stress people want certainty, hope, promise and some sense of control in a time of apparent unpredictability and personal loss,” he said.

"Skepticism declines and people are more willing to accept unusual claims without evidence,” he added.

The pandemic has already led to an increase in recruitment activity among cults and healers in Russia, said anti-cult activist and Professor at St. Tikhon's Orthodox University Aleksandr Dvorkin, with many offering protection and salvation from the coronavirus.

One example is the return of Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a self-styled psychic healer who enjoyed popularity in the late 80s and is back on YouTube offering guidance as the coronavirus spreads.

Dvorkin isn’t therefore surprised that Vissarions are reporting of gaining new steam.

“In times when confusion reigns people are vulnerable to manipulation, for some the idea of running away and hiding in the forest might seem like a reasonable option” Dvorkin said.
Left alone

Russia has seen a rise in crackdowns against non-Orthodox Christian denominations across the country, with over 300 Jehovah’s Witnesses charged or convicted since Russian officials branded the group as “extremist.”

Authorities have mostly ignored the homegrown and secluded Church of the Last Testament over the past decade. However, changed in February of this year, when police searched the Abode of Dawn, reportedly searching for evidence of corruption and sexual assault in the commune.

Lockdown, however, has put a temporary stop to these searches, Redkin said.

“Quarantine and isolation have been a blessing for us.”

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/22/2020

Covid-19, Hasidic, Russia, Religious Freedom, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, Synanon

"The buses arrived early Monday to drop off dozens of children at a Hasidic school in Brooklyn.

Neighbors watched with alarm as the children, few of them wearing masks, filed into the building, crowded into classrooms and played on the roof at recess in violation of public health orders that have kept schools across the state closed since March.

"It was definitely a regular day for them, like business as usual," said Joe Livingston, who lives across from the school building in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

"That's dangerous."

The police brought the school day to an abrupt end around noon, after a neighbor who had seen the children playing on the roof called 311, officials said. Officers found about 60 children at the school, and quickly sent them all home, Sgt. Mary Frances O'Donnell, a police spokeswoman, said.

The dispersal of students from the yeshiva was the latest of several episodes that have ignited tensions between the authorities and Hasidic Jews since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the virus has killed Hasidic Jews at a rate that public health data suggests may exceed the rates for other ethnic or religious groups, social-distancing rules have repeatedly been broken in areas where Hasidim dominate, especially at activities like weddings, funerals or religious education.

Friction between the community and the authorities boiled over last month after 2,500 mourners packed the streets in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn for a funeral that drew a sharp rebuke from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The mayor went to Brooklyn to personally oversee the dispersal of the funeral crowd, and he later vowed to enforce social-distancing rules more vigorously.

Two days later, the police issued five fire code violations and six summonses after officers found large groups of worshipers hiding in two Hasidic synagogues in Williamsburg, Congregation Yetev Lev D'Satmar and Congregation Darkei Tshivo of Dinov.

The doors at both synagogues were chained shut and black garbage bags covered the windows, the police said. There were more than 100 children spread between two rooms at one of the synagogues, a law enforcement official said."

"For 87 Jehovah's Witnesses on trial in 39 cases for "continuing the activities of a banned extremist organisation", court proceedings can be lengthy. As well as the strong possibility of conviction, bringing with it a criminal record and a heavy fine or prison sentence, prosecution and trial can have wider consequences, including blocking of bank accounts, dismissal from work and seizure of property.

Three years after Russia's Supreme Court ordered the liquidation as "extremist" of all Jehovah's Witness associations in April 2017, 87 Jehovah's Witnesses are on trial on charges of "continuing the activities of a banned extremist organisation" for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. They include two men in Khabarovsk who have already been convicted in a separate, overlapping trial, and six people in Penza who are on trial for a second time after an appeal court overturned their convictions.

Two more people died in April before hearings could begin of their cases which had already been lodged in court.

On 1 May 2020, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted Opinion No. 10/2020 in relation to eighteen Jehovah's Witnesses, most of whom are currently on trial but including Aleksandr Solovyov, the first to be sentenced after the nationwide ban. It found that their human rights had been violated, stressing that "none of them should have been arrested and held in pre-trial detention and no trial of any of them should take or should have taken place".

If convicted, the 87 defendants could be imprisoned for up to ten years or be fined up to twice the average yearly salary. Although the majority are at home under house arrest or various lesser restrictions, three men remain in detention, despite the widely acknowledged danger of coronavirus in the overcrowded Russian penitentiary system. The pandemic has led to the postponement of most court hearings, although defendants have continued to appear in person at hearings to decide restrictive measures."

"The new City Council on Monday conducted its first public discussion on an issue voters raised as a top concern in the recent election: The Church of Scientology's impact on downtown.

The topic, added to Monday's work session agenda by council member Mark Bunker, produced a candid and in-depth airing of views rarely spoken at City Hall over the course of Clearwater's strained history with the church.

But other than a general desire for a downtown rebirth, the council concluded its hour-long dialogue with no plan to seek answers on Scientology's involvement in significant amounts of property acquired over the past three years by companies tied to the church. Bunker received no support for his proposal that the city ask the FBI to investigate Scientology for alleged racketeering related to the real estate purchases.

Council members talked briefly about their shared reluctance to involve the FBI, dwelling more on their opposition to Bunker's secondary proposal: that the city hold hearings for the public to air concerns about alleged fraud and abuse in the church.

"I don't know why we couldn't reach to the FBI and say 'Look at what is happening here, look at these red flags," Bunker said.

"If there is wrongdoing that's uncovered on a scale like the RICO Act, then definitely the IRS should reconsider the tax exempt status and stripping Scientology of that would bring money back into the city and show that the city is willing to not just sit back and continue to be stabbed in the back."

In October, the Tampa Bay Times reported that over the previous three years, limited liability companies tied to Scientology bought about 100 properties around the center of downtown, the same depressed footprint where the city is trying to lure retail, restaurants and entertainment."

"Early one morning, the woman I'd been told to call "Mom" appeared in the dark to take my brother and me away. This is how I remember it:

It happens all at once, my brother and I sitting naked in the bath, playing with our toy boats, listening to the music and the sound of muffled voices from the next room. We are swaddled in red and green wool blankets and readied for sleep: story time, pajamas, the rubbing of tired eyes. Goodnight canyon. Goodnight mountain. Goodnight building. Goodnight stars. Crayons are put away, cubbies cleaned, teeth brushed. I drift to sleep and am rattled awake, surprised to see my mother's face with her shaved head, her hazel-green eyes, her round Dutch cheeks and crooked yellow coffee-stained teeth.

"Hi, Goo," she whispers. "Wake up. We have to leave. It's not safe here."

No one ever tells us we escaped from a cult. No one uses that word, except Grandma. Everyone else calls it Synanon or sometimes they say it was a "commune." And everyone says it was great—"before it went bad." That's how they put it, like milk that went sour.

Mom says Synanon was going to change the word. It would be the new way people lived, all together, being honest and free and not taking drugs. She says people needed a new way to live because the old way wasn't working anymore and she was proud to be part of it. It all sounds great when she tells it but did they have to make it so the kids were alone so much?

"Synanon was mild?" Grandma gets so mad when Mom says that. "They took your kids, Gerry, and put them in that, that place." She spits the word out like a piece of meat caught in her small teeth.

"Synanon had a good school." The School is where they put the kids when they took us from our parents. It's where we all lived from the time we were six months old. Since Chuck, the Old Man, said that Dope Fiends would just mess up their kids anyway, we were all put in a building together to become children of the universe.

The journey I took after my mother, brother and I fled the cult into which I'd been born was decades long. It was, at turns, terrible and wonderful and life-changing and tragic. We lived on the run. We experienced violence. We learned to hide. And in some ways it was as if the child invented the man I became in order to deal with these traumas. I invented a musician, a performer who presented a façade to the world. And eventually I realized that the search for love, for something called a "family" is the fiercest and most important journey of a lifetime, especially for those of us born so far from it.

My own son was born on a quiet February morning. He came into the world purple and screaming, his arms small, his fingers tiny, his face swollen. They wiped him down and warmed him up and handed him to my wife, where he nursed, rooted his head into her shoulder and fell asleep.

That night I cradled him in my arms thinking, "You've had the weirdest day, little man." The world seemed so impossibly dangerous, so many sharp corners and so many hard places, so many things I needed to protect him from. I put him down and lay awake listening to his breath, all the little gurgles and sneezes, the steady rhythm of his inhales and exhales. The sounds brought such a blinding joy to my chest. What was in those barren corners before you arrived? When we took him home, he filled the quiet hallways of our house with his cries. My eyes lingered on those fingers and counted his toes.

All those years before, all those times when I'd see a family at a park or a restaurant—their closeness, their physical proximity to each other, the comforting ease of it—I felt like a stranger looking in from a window. And I wondered if I would ever have these basic things that seem holy to me now as we lie on the bed and play music, he kicks his feet to "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads, and we laugh, our arms hanging over the side to scratch the ears of the black Labrador we rescued and named Bowie. It feels magical to me, this gift I never thought I would have: a family. To simply be a husband to a wife, a father to a son."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources. resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.