Jun 8, 2023

Priests in Bolivia 'saints by day, demons by night': alleged victim

June 8, 2023

La Paz (AFP) – A Bolivian former seminarian who says he was the victim of a vast sex abuse network in the Catholic Church has told AFP of decades of "hell" meted out to children by men of the cloth.

Pedro Lima said not only minors but also adults like himself who were training to become priests were subject to abuse in the South American country, often by clergymen who arrived from Spain.

The 54-year-old, who has lived in Paraguay since 2011 where he works as a blacksmith, returned home last month to give evidence in a vast investigation into child predation at schools countrywide, including a boarding school for poor, rural kids in Cochabamba.

"The children lived through hell," he recounted of things he said he saw. "These abusive priests were saints by day, demons by night."

At the center of the latest scandal is a Spanish priest by the name of Alfonso Pedrajas, who died in 2009 after decades of service as a Church teacher in Bolivia starting in 1971.

In his journal, recently discovered and published by a newspaper, Pedrajas confessed to having harmed dozens of people, possibly as many as 85. He also noted that senior clergy had known about his crimes and kept quiet.

Lima, who said he had encountered Pedrajas personally, claims he was expelled from the Jesuit order in 2001, while studying to become a priest, for reporting abuse.

Since then, he has compiled a list of alleged wrongdoers, most of them now dead.

"It wasn't only one priest, there is a structure of priests who helped and supported each other so this (abuse) could continue to happen," he told AFP.

Priests heard young victims' complaints, then rebuked them and expelled them from school, Lima alleged.

He said he, too, was a victim, but declined to go into detail given the "pain" it causes him.

"Those types of acts that have been committed against other people have been also perpetrated against me," Lima said.

Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu, a top sex crimes investigator for Pope Francis, has been investigating the claims in Bolivia, a country of 12 million people who are mostly Catholic.

According to Lima, the aggressors "brainwashed" vulnerable children who were made to believe they were "the bad guys and worthless."

The Bolivian Episcopal Conference, which last month admitted having been "deaf" to the suffering of victims of pedophile priests, declined to comment on Lima's specific allegations.

Since the revelations in the diary, Bolivian prosecutors have opened cases against priests including Pedrajas and three others from Spain: Luis Maria Roma, Alejandro Mestre and Antonio Gausset.

All four are deceased, but there are other accused still alive.

Several alleged victims have come forward in recent weeks in the capital La Paz, in Cochabamba, Tarija in the south and Santa Cruz in the east.

A recent investigation by Bolivian newspaper Pagina Siete finding at least 170 alleged victims.

Bolivian President Luis Arce has written to Pope Francis to ask for any files on sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests in the South American country.

Lima, for his part, is seeking "full reparation" from the Church.

Several children at the Juan XXIII school in Cochabamba allegedly fell victim to sexual abuse
Several children at the Juan XXIII school in Cochabamba allegedly fell victim to sexual abuse © PABLO RIVERA / AFP
There are "broken people, totally, whose lives were destroyed by the aggression, people who have ended up needing psychiatric (treatment)," Lima said, though he himself came through it OK.

"The damage is great."

Thousands of reports of pedophilia within the Catholic Church have surfaced around the world in recent years.

Pope Francis has pledged an "all-out battle" against clerical abuse, holding an unprecedented summit on the issue in 2019 and enacting reforms that include new obligations to report clerical child abuse and cover-ups.


More than 100 people come forward to accuse Christian 'cult' leader of abuse


Allegations concern physical, emotional and spiritual abuse and some victims claim they do not trust the internal Church investigation


The Telegraph



More than 100 people have come forward to accuse the Christian “cult” leader Mike Pilavachi of abuse, the Telegraph can reveal.

Rev Canon Mike Pilavachi, 65, founded the Soul Survivor Watford church and its namesake youth festivals which ran from 1993 to 2019 and attracted tens of thousands of teenagers from around the world.

The vicar was first unmasked by this newspaper in April after being accused of giving “inappropriate massages” to young adults. Just weeks later, the Telegraph published interviews with victims and former staff members who spoke out for the first time detailing how he ran “a cult” in which a “conveyor belt” of attractive young men – usually around aged 18 to 21 – were encouraged to receive full-body oil massages on his bed, engage in vigorous wrestling matches and endure psychological torment and spiritual abuse.

Rev Canon Pilavachi is currently suspended from Soul Survivor Watford while the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) and the Diocese of St Albans carry out an investigation into the allegations.


However, the scale of his alleged abuse can be revealed for the first time as it is understood that more than 100 people have come forward with information regarding the vicar and that the allegations are believed to concern physical, emotional and spiritual abuse.

Sources have also said that the complaints range from the 1980s to the present day.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one victim, who has reported to the investigation, said: “The number of responses speaks poignantly of the depth and breadth of Mike’s influence. It also goes to show the extent of the hurt caused by his actions and the negligence of those around him.

“Mike’s ministry, which took him all over the world for decades, targeted young people during some of their most vulnerable and formative years. In doing so, he had a real impact on the short, medium and long term trajectory of their lives - no doubt felt today by many, including myself.

“It would be sad, but no surprise, if the numbers were far greater. There are people across the world who will most likely have no idea this investigation is happening - I hope they will become aware and feel able to share their stories, too.”

The Soul Survivor movement spawned offshoots in South Africa, Holland, Canada, New Zealand and the US. Paul Martin, who founded Soul Survivor USA in 2000, has said that its leaders in the UK were aware of “allegations of some sort about Mike’s relationship with young interns” as early as 2002.


Some victims have also spoken out claiming that they do not trust the internal Church investigation into Rev Canon Pilavachi led by the NST and the Diocese of St Albans. As a result, they released a statement through Richard Scorer, head of abuse law and public inquiries at the law firm Slater and Gordon, calling for a separate, independent investigation and warning: “The days when churches could plausibly investigate themselves and mark their own homework are long gone.”


A Church of England spokesman said: “We can confirm that the National Safeguarding Team/St Albans diocese investigation into Mike Pilavachi continues to receive reports, some with third hand information and others with direct experience.

“We are aware of the courage it takes to come forward and everyone involved continues to be offered support.”

A spokesman for Soul Survivor Watford added: “We are continuing to cooperate fully with the investigation. We are assured that anyone affected will continue to be given the opportunity to contribute to the investigation and given the support they need. We are also committed to reviewing the culture of Soul Survivor Watford and are determined that lessons are learned to ensure a strong, healthy and supportive environment for anyone who calls this church their home.

“We recognise that there are currently many people who are feeling hurt and confused. It takes a lot of courage to speak up and we would encourage anyone who has concerns related to the investigation to report those to the NST or the Diocesan Safeguarding Team.”




Jun 7, 2023

Kenya to convert cult massacre forest into memorial site

Nairobi (AFP) – Kenya will convert a vast coastal forest where the bodies of more than 250 people linked to a doomsday cult have been exhumed into a national memorial site, a minister has said.

France 24



The discovery of mass graves in Shakahola forest, a 325-hectare (800-acre) bushland that lies inland from the Indian Ocean town of Malindi, has shocked Kenyans.

Cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie is facing various charges in the grisly case, accused of driving his followers to death by preaching that starvation was the only path to God.

The forest "where grave crimes have been committed will not remain as it was," Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said on Tuesday.

"The government will convert it into a national memorial, a place of remembrance so that Kenyans and the world do not forget what happened here," he said in a statement.

Investigators began a third phase of exhumation on Tuesday, unearthing nine more bodies to take the death toll to 251.

Kindiki said the cult's activities extended beyond Shakahola forest and that "comprehensive, methodical, and scientific" investigations had extended to a ranch in the area stretching over more than 14,980 hectares (37,000 acres).

"Once the ongoing exercise is concluded, a congregation of believers from all faiths and the national leadership shall convene for a commemoration service," Kindiki said.

While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims -- including children -- were strangled, beaten or suffocated, according to autopsies carried by the government.

Regulating religion

Mackenzie -- a taxi driver-turned-preacher -- has not yet been required to enter a plea, with the prosecution seeking for more days to detain him pending further investigations.

The 50-year-old founder of the Good News International Church turned himself in on April 14 after police acting on a tip-off first entered Shakahola forest.

Police say at least 35 people have been arrested.

Some 95 people have been rescued from the forest while the number of those reported missing was 613, according to police records.

Questions have been raised about how Mackenzie, a father of seven, managed to evade law enforcement despite a history of extremism and previous legal cases.

The horrific saga led President William Ruto to set up a commission of inquiry into the deaths and a task force to review regulations governing religious bodies.

Efforts to regulate religion in the majority-Christian country have been fiercely opposed in the past as attempts to undermine constitutional guarantees for the division of church and state.



OneTaste Founder and Former Head of Sales Indicted for Forced Labor Conspiracy

Eastern District of New York

OneTaste Founder and Former Head of Sales Indicted for Forced Labor Conspiracy

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Daedone And Cherwitz Allegedly Obtained Labor of OneTaste Members by Coercing Them and Grooming Them to Engage In Sexual Acts with Current and Prospective Investors, Clients, Employees, and Beneficiaries
An indictment was unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn charging Nicole Daedone, founder and former Chief Executive Officer, and Rachel Cherwitz, former Head of Sales, of OneTaste, Inc. (OneTaste), a wellness education company founded in San Francisco, California.  Daedone and Cherwitz are both charged with forced labor conspiracy in connection with a years-long scheme to obtain the labor and services of a group of OneTaste members—including volunteers, contractors, and employees of OneTaste—by subjecting them to economic, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, surveillance, indoctrination, and intimidation.

Cherwitz was arrested this morning and is expected to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California this afternoon.  Cherwitz will be arraigned in the Eastern District of New York at a later date.  Daedone remains at large.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.

“Under the guise of empowerment and wellness, the defendants are alleged to have sought complete control over their employees’ lives, including by driving them into debt and directing them to perform sexual acts while also withholding wages,” said U.S. Attorney Peace. “This prosecution should serve as a reminder to both employer and employee that no matter the marketing mantra, this conduct is never acceptable.”

“The defendants advertised their company as being able to help individuals recover from past trauma.  In reality, they allegedly targeted their victims in order to manipulate them not only into debt but to limit their independence and create a reliance on OneTaste for basic needs.  The FBI will continue to ensure that anyone willing to engage in a forced labor schemes are held accountable in the criminal justice system,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.


As alleged in the indictment and court documents, OneTaste branded itself as a sexuality-focused wellness education company founded by Nicole Daedone in 2004.    From approximately 2004 through 2018, OneTaste generated revenue by providing courses, coaching and events related to so-called wellness practices, in exchange for a fee.  Many OneTaste members lived in residential warehouses where they participated in courses and experimented sexually.

At various points in time, OneTaste maintained operations in, among other locations, New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Las Vegas, Boulder, Los Angeles, Austin and London.  In New York City, OneTaste leased residences and hosted events in several different locations, including in Brooklyn, Harlem, Hells Kitchen, Soho and West Village neighborhoods. 

Daedone served as the Chief Executive Officer and a leader of OneTaste from the company’s founding until approximately 2017.  Rachel Cherwitz served as OneTaste’s Head of Sales from approximately 2009 through 2018.

The Scheme

As alleged in the indictment, between approximately 2004 and 2018, Daedone and Cherwitz deployed a series of abusive and manipulative tactics in order to obtain the labor and services of a group of OneTaste members who were volunteers, contractors, and employees of OneTaste.  Daedone and Cherwitz intentionally targeted for recruitment to OneTaste individuals who had suffered prior trauma and advertised that OneTaste’s courses and teachings could heal past sexual trauma and dysfunction.  If the members could not afford OneTaste’s courses—which ranged from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars each—Daedone and Cherwitz induced the OneTaste members to incur debt, and at times directly assisted the OneTaste members in opening new credit cards, to pay for them. 

Daedone and Cherwitz also undertook tactics designed to render the OneTaste members dependent on OneTaste for their shelter and basic necessities, and to limit the OneTaste members’ independence and control.  Among other things, they subjected the OneTaste members to constant surveillance in communal homes and collected deeply sensitive and personal information about them which the defendants then used to render the OneTaste members emotionally, socially and psychologically dependent on OneTaste.  They isolated the OneTaste members from their support networks by breaking up established relationships and assigning them to move to new locations on short notice.  While employing such tactics, Daedone and Cherwitz demanded absolute commitment to Daedone, including by exalting Daedone’s teachings and ideology.  As part of this ideology, Daedone and Cherwitz instructed the OneTaste members to engage in sexual acts—including acts the members found uncomfortable or repulsive— as a requirement to supposedly obtain freedom and enlightenment and demonstrate their commitment to OneTaste and Daedone.

Upon securing the allegiance of the OneTaste members through these tactics, Daedone and Cherwitz engaged in abusive employment practices.  For example, Daedone, Cherwitz and other OneTaste leaders promised to pay the OneTaste members wages and commissions for work performed on behalf of OneTaste and subsequently failed to pay the OneTaste members the amounts owed, or changed the OneTaste members’ employment statuses or locations without advance notice.  Daedone and Cherwitz also recruited and groomed OneTaste members to engage in sexual acts with OneTaste’s current and prospective investors, clients, employees and beneficiaries, for the financial benefit of OneTaste and, in turn, themselves. 

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, Daedone and Cherwitz each face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.   

If you believe you are or may be a victim in this case, please call the FBI New York’s main line at 212-384-4677. 

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Lauren H. Elbert, Gillian Kassner, Devon Lash and Jonathan Siegel are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Anna November.

The Defendants:

Age:  56
San Diego, California

Age:  43
Philo, California

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 23-CR-146 (DG)

John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass                            
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Heads of ‘orgasmic meditation’ group, OneTaste, charged with forced labor and sex abuse of followers

Lukas I. Alpert
June 6, 2023

The group’s founder, Nicole Daedone, promised enlightenment through orgasms, but prosecutors say she ran a cult-like operation.

Prosecutors allege that the popular wellness group was really a sex cult that exploited the labor of its followers by not paying them. 

The heads of the once-popular wellness group, OneTaste, which promised enlightenment through orgasms, have been charged with running it like a cult in which followers were groomed to engage in unwanted sex acts and forced to work for free.

Nicole Daedone, who founded OneTaste in 2004 and drew wide attention through her promotion of “orgasmic meditation,” in which trauma would be washed away through partnered masturbation, is accused of draining her mostly women followers’ bank accounts and not paying them for their labor.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say Daedone, 56, and OneTaste’s former-head of sales, Rachel Cherwitz, 43, ran a years-long scheme to obtain free labor from followers by subjecting them to economic, sexual and psychological abuse using surveillance, indoctrination, and intimidation.

Prosecutors say the pair drew recruits through chapters all over the country and then worked to isolate them from their friends and family, coercing them into taking out debt to pay for wellness courses. 

“Under the guise of empowerment and wellness, the defendants are alleged to have sought complete control over their employees’ lives, including by driving them into debt and directing them to perform sexual acts while also withholding wages,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York. “No matter the marketing mantra, this conduct is never acceptable.”

Cherwitz was arrested Tuesday morning in California and charged with forced labor conspiracy. Prosecutors say Daedone remains at large and is believed to be living overseas. Neither woman could immediately be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear if they had retained attorneys. 

The company, which came under scrutiny following a 2018 expose by Bloomberg, has always denied engaging in any wrongdoing.

The program gained in popularity after being featured in a 2009 article that ran on the front of the New York Times’ style section. Two years later, Daedone wrote a successful book called “Slow Sex: the Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm,” that further drove OneTaste’s popularity.

“I do think we have a pleasure deficit disorder in this country… I do think that there is a cure and the cure is orgasm,” Daedone said in a TED Talks speech that year.

Behind the scenes, prosecutors say Daedone and Cherwitz were driving followers into communal living arrangements where they were constantly monitored and their private traumas were used to manipulate them.

Prosecutors say followers were encouraged to perform sex acts they found repulsive or uncomfortable purportedly as part of the therapy. Many followers were promised money in exchange for working for the group, but were often never paid, according to the criminal complaint.   

Anyone who questioned Daedone was often subjected to retribution and emotional abuse, prosecutors said. Some followers were even groomed into engaging in sex acts with Oneaste’s investors and clients, prosecutors said.

OneTaste’s dark underbelly began to surface publicly after the 2018 Bloomberg expose, which shined a light on the group’s practices and triggered an FBI probe. After that, OneTaste began dialing back its operations and attempting to rebrand as the Institute of OM. 

In 2021, the group was the subject of a critical Netflix documentary titled “Orgasm Inc.”


Survey: 70% of religious groups welcome new law on donations


June 6, 2023

About 70 percent of religious corporations said legal changes to prevent them from conducting dubious donation collections were appropriate or somewhat appropriate, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey.

Even the Unification Church, formally called the Federation for World Peace and Unification, whose actions led to the legal revisions, said the changes were appropriate.

The penal provisions that went into effect from April ban the collection of donations from followers and others who are in a “state of confusion.”

The health ministry in December also approved guidelines on what constitutes abuse by parents who force their religious practices on their children.

The Asahi Shimbun sent out questionnaires to 63 religious corporations and received responses from 33.

Twenty-four, including the Unification Church, said the new ban on questionable donations was appropriate or somewhat appropriate.

Twenty-two religious corporations, including the Unification Church, said the health ministry guidelines were appropriate or somewhat appropriate.

One religious corporation said that children should decide--based on their free will--whether to base their actions on a religious belief. Words and deeds that are threatening or stimulate worries and could affect such decisions should be restrained, the group said.

Another religious corporation said the donation ban was appropriate because of the need to eliminate scams hidden behind the guise of religion. Another said all victims of such large donations should be provided help.

But some religious corporations said the definition in the new law about using spiritual sales and other practices to confuse believers was too vague and could be used by government authorities to arbitrarily target certain religious groups.

Three corporations said the legal changes were somewhat inappropriate, citing the difficulty of finding evidence to determine illegal donation practices and the lack of clear definitions of what actions are meant to confuse believers.

Happy Science was the only religious corporation to say the change was inappropriate because it violated the constitutional principle of separation of politics and religion.

The group said it was a “bad law” that placed religions under state control.

Two religious corporations said the health ministry guidelines about parental abuse were inappropriate, and one called them somewhat inappropriate.

The Chisan School of Shingon Buddhism said the guidelines were inappropriate because the offensive acts applied to all actions by parents regarding their children and should not have been limited to religious practices.

Jehovah’s Witness, which has been accused of abuse by second-generation believers and their lawyers, did not respond to the question about the health ministry guidelines, but said it did not condone child abuse.

(This article was written by Amane Shimazaki, Taishi Sasayama and Ryujiro Komatsu.)


They Promised 'Orgasm Meditation.' They Delivered a Sex Cult, Feds Say.

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Jun 6, 2023

Scientology spotlight: Danny Masterson, Tom Cruise and Leah Remini illuminate Hollywood church drama

Remini has denounced Scientology practices after leaving the religion

Tracy Wright

Fox News

June 6, 2023


Danny Masterson’s recent rape trial and convictions shined a new light on Scientology, the somewhat secretive religion favored by a few of the biggest and brightest stars in Tinseltown. 

Developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the ultimate goal of Scientology is "true spiritual enlightenment and freedom for the individual" through the realization of spiritual salvation and brotherhood with the universe, per the organization.

Masterson and his actress wife, Bijou Phillips, belong to the church, in addition to his actor brother, Christopher Masterson and half-siblings, Alanna Masterson and Jordan Masterson.

Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Jenna Elfman and the late Kirstie Alley have been staunch allies of the controversial religion through the years. 

No other church members aside from Danny Masterson were implicated or charged with criminal conduct in connection with the victims' rape allegations.



The church of Scientology was highlighted in the rape retrial of Danny Masterson, and that inclusion was slammed by the organization after the actor was found guilty Wednesday.

Masterson, 47, was found guilty on two counts of forcible rape. The jury was hung on a third charge. A jury of seven men and five women deliberated for eight days before reaching the verdicts.

The former "That 70s Show" star was accused of drugging the victims' drinks in order to rape them. 

The accusers claimed they were hesitant to file charges due to the church's alleged strict protocols against public involvement with member issues; all three women were members at the time. 




"The church taught his victims, ‘Rape isn’t rape, you caused this, and above all, you are never allowed to go to law enforcement,’" Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson told the jury during the trial. "In Scientology, the defendant is a celebrity, and he is untouchable."


However, the Church of Scientology criticized the involvement of the organization in the trial by the prosecution, saying testimony and descriptions regarding the church's "beliefs" and "practices" were false.

"The prosecution's introduction of religion into this trial was an unprecedented violation of the First Amendment and affects the due process rights of every American," the Church of Scientology told Fox News Digital in a statement. "The Church was not a party to this case and religion did not belong in this proceeding as Supreme Court precedent has maintained for centuries."

"The District Attorney unconscionably centered his prosecution on the defendant's religion and fabrications about the Church to introduce prejudice and inflame bigotry," the statement continued. "The DA elicited testimony and descriptions of Scientology beliefs and practices which were uniformly FALSE."

The church denied discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct to law enforcement, saying, "Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land. All allegations to the contrary are totally FALSE. There is not a scintilla of evidence supporting the scandalous allegations that the Church harassed the accusers. Every single instance of supposed harassment by the Church is FALSE, and has been debunked."

Leah Remini, a former Scientologist and the organization's most outspoken defector, called the women who survived Masterson's alleged attacks "heroes."

Remini has often discussed Cruise as the top of the Scientology chain. The "Top Gun" actor became a member of the church in 1986 through his first wife, Mimi Rogers. In 1992, he publicly disclosed his affiliation with the religion.

Cruise married his second wife, Nicole Kidman, in 1990 just months after meeting on set of "Days of Thunder." She reportedly took Scientology classes while they were together, but has never spoken about her relationship with the church or Cruise.

The couple adopted two children, Isabelle and Connor, while they were married. When they divorced in 2001, the kids chose to continue practicing the religion. In a 2018 interview with Australia's WHO magazine, Kidman, who was raised Catholic, said she loves her kids "unconditionally."


"They are adults. They are able to make their own decisions. They have made choices to be Scientologists and, as a mother, it’s my job to love them," she explained. "And I am an example of that tolerance and that’s what I believe — that no matter what your child does, the child has love and the child has to know there is available love, and I’m open here." 

"I think that’s so important because if that is taken away from a child, to sever that in any child, in any relationship, in any family — I believe it’s wrong. So that’s our job as a parent, to always offer unconditional love."



Kidman's exit paved the way for Cruise's next wife to enter stage right: Katie Holmes. The former "Dawson's Creek" actress married Cruise in 2006 after welcoming a daughter together named Suri.

Six years later, Holmes filed for divorce from Cruise, and also sought sole custody of their little girl.

A joint statement released at the time alluded to conflict between their belief systems. "We are committed to working together as parents to accomplish what is in our daughter Suri’s best interests. We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each others' commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other’s roles as parents," the statement said.

Remini claimed that the religion played a part in the demise of their relationship.

"Scientology considers Katie a suppressive person which is an enemy," she told the New York Post in 2020. "I knew Katie when she was in [Scientology] and she seemed very indoctrinated into Tom’s world, but as time went on, I understood why she did what she did to protect her daughter."

Remini, who left the church in 2013, has since hosted a documentary series about Scientology, which earned her two Emmy Awards for outstanding nonfiction series or special. 



She penned a memoir about her time within the church and discusses the religion on her podcast with fellow church whistleblower, Mike Rinder, titled, "Scientology: Fair Game."

The organization has consistently denied Remini's claims, and in a statement posted on their site, said she "knows the truth she conveniently rewrites in her revisionist history."

The group added, "She needs to move on with her life instead of pathetically exploiting her former religion, her former friends and other celebrities for money and attention to appear relevant again."

Alley flourished in the lifestyle Scientology provided her after she joined the group in the '70s.

The "Cheers" actress, who died on Dec. 8 at the age of 71 after a short battle with colon cancer, remained a Scientologist throughout her life and was dedicated to her religion, which she credited with helping her overcome a cocaine addiction.




"Kirstie Alley was a beloved member of our Church, a champion for drug rehabilitation and a passionate advocate for human rights," the church said in a statement to Fox News Digital. 

"Kirstie was known the world over for her generosity, charisma and irresistible sense of humor. She will be deeply missed and long remembered by the countless many whose lives she changed. Our hearts are with her family."

Alley credited the church with helping her stay clean and wrote about her battle with addiction in her 2012 memoir, "The Art of Men."

"Now on to demonstrating how L. Ron Hubbard influenced my life directly," she wrote. "He taught me that I could change. He taught me that other people could change. He taught me humanity and responsibility."

She continued, "When I began doing Scientology, I was a drugged-out mess. I understood hell—depression, anxiety, addiction, failure, and loss. Well, at least, I understood that I'd experienced a fair quantity of each. Through the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard I gained a different point of view of these age-old problems. Depression, anxiety, loss, addiction, sadness, hate, self-loathing are not new subjects."

The "Drop Dead Gorgeous" star was also reportedly ranked at one of the highest levels in the organization, according to an interview she gave to the church publication "Freewinds" in 2018. 

Elfman, who has practiced Scientology teachings for decades, once said debates over the religion were simply lacking any substance.

"The controversy is boring," the "Fear the Walking Dead" actress told Us Weekly in 2020. 

"It's nothing to me. I know what I know, and how much it helps me."

The "Dharma & Greg" star credited Scientology as the secret behind her 28-year marriage with actor Bodhi Elfman.

She told People magazine in 2018, "Well, I’ve been a Scientologist for 28 years and that’s a huge part of what helps us keep our communication going and our relationship." 

"We’ve never cheated on each other, we’ve never broken up. We hang in there."  

Elfman added of the religious practice, "I use it every single day of my life and it keeps me energized and vivacious and happy."

Fox News Digital's Lauryn Overhultz contributed to this report.





Why Rastafari smoke marijuana for sacramental reasons and the faith's other beliefs

The Associated Press

June 2, 2023


Members of the Rastafari religion and political movement have for decades been persecuted and imprisoned for their ritualistic use of marijuana. But the tiny islands of Antigua and Barbuda recently became one of the first Caribbean nations to grant Rastafari official sacramental authorization to grow and smoke the herb that they deem sacred.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press in an interview that his government took this step to try to end the persecution and bring respect to the Rastafari faith.

Rastafari elsewhere are pushing for similar religious protections. Experts and stakeholders think the Antigua and Barbuda law could give a boost to these efforts worldwide at a time when public opinion and policy are continuing to shift in favor of medical and recreational marijuana use.

Here is a quick look at the faith’s beliefs and history:


The Rastafari faith is rooted in 1930s Jamaica, growing as a response by Black people to white colonial oppression. The beliefs are a melding of Old Testament teachings and a desire to return to Africa. Its message was spread across the world in the 1970s by Jamaican music icons Bob Marley and Peter Tosh — two of the faith’s most famous exponents.

A Rastafari’s personal relationship with “Jah,” or God, is considered central to the faith.


Rastafari followers believe the use of marijuana is directed in biblical passages and that the “holy herb” induces a meditative state and brings them closer to the divine. The faithful smoke it as a sacrament in chalice pipes or cigarettes called “spliffs,” add it to plant-based organic stews and place it in fires as a burnt offering.

But adherents, many of them Black, have endured both racial and religious profiling due to their ritualistic use of cannabis.


“Ganja,” as marijuana is known in the Caribbean, has a long history in Jamaica, and its arrival predates the Rastafari faith. Indentured servants from India brought the cannabis plant to the island in the 19th century, and it gained popularity as a medicinal herb.


Most of its many sects worship the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. This is rooted in Jamaican Black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey’s 1920s prediction that a “Black king shall be crowned” in Africa, ushering in a “day of deliverance.” When an Ethiopian prince named Ras Tafari, who took the name Haile Selassie I, became emperor in 1930, the descendants of slaves in Jamaica took it as proof that Garvey’s prophecy was being fulfilled. When Haile Selassie visited Jamaica in 1966, he was greeted by adoring crowds, and some Rastafari insisted miracles and other mystical occurrences took place during his visit to the island.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.





Jun 5, 2023

Mia Farrow Takes an Unflinching Look at Her Past in the Wake of the #MeToo Movement

The movement her son helped launch has led her to rethink aspects of her own life.

OCT 10, 2018

In 1968, Mia Farrow traveled to the foothills of the Himalayas with her sister Prudence to meditate with the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. She was trying to evade the tabloid superstorm that had erupted around her marriage, at 21, to Frank Sinatra, then 50, and continued through their breakup, almost two years later—Farrow received the divorce papers, with no advance notice, on the set of the movie she was filming at the time, Rosemary’s Baby. “I loved him truly,” she writes about Sinatra in her elegant 1997 memoir, What Falls Away. “But this is also true: it was a bit like an adoption that I had somehow messed up and it was awful when I was returned to the void.” Spirituality had also long been a focusing principle in her life, and she hoped that the Maharishi’s practice of Transcendental Meditation might help her find some peace. “I was not a pediatrician in Southeast Asia, or a Carmelite nun in England,” she writes, mentioning two early aspirations. “I was a lightweight—a Hollywood starlet on the verge of divorce.”

In the decades since, Rosemary’s Baby has become a horror classic, and Farrow has acted in 40-plus more films, including almost every one that Woody Allen made in the ’80s, when they were a couple. Nominated for nine Golden Globes, she’s won twice. She’s had 14 children, four biological and 10 adopted, a fact some consider admirable and others hold up as evidence of an irresponsible savior complex. She has lived through one of the most acrimonious celebrity breakups in the history of celebrity. And in 2000, she was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador—she’s made 15 trips to Darfur and Chad to advocate for refugees. People have called her many things, in other words, but at this point, “lightweight” is unlikely to be one of them.

Farrow’s most recent performance was in the 2014 Broadway production of Love Letters (the New York Times described her as “utterly extraordinary”). Now 73, she acts infrequently. “I don’t want to be sitting out in the street wrapped in my Eddie Bauer coat waiting to do a shot at two in the morning wishing I was home,” she says at her ELLE photo shoot this past August, exuding the same blend of magnetism and wide-open sensitivity she projects onscreen, whatever the character, a breeziness undergirded by steel. “I mean, I did that,” she says. “All my life, I worked.”

Farrow landed her first role at 18, in a stage production of The Importance of Being Earnest. The third of seven children, she was born to Hollywood royalty. Her mother was actress Maureen O’Sullivan, who played Jane in the 1930s Tarzan films, and her father was John Farrow, an Academy Award–winning director and screenwriter and also, Farrow writes, a “womanizer of legendary proportions.” When Farrow was young, she and local friends put on street-side shows for the tourist buses that would trawl their Beverly Hills neighborhood. Her memories from that time have a halcyon quality—a pond with darting goldfish, sprinklers she’d run through barefoot. But at age nine, she was diagnosed with polio and spent three weeks in an isolation ward, an experience that left her understanding something of “the unutterable pain of being here on this earth.” Ever since, tragedy has trailed her like a scent. Her oldest brother was killed at 19 in a plane crash, shattering her parents’ unsteady relationship. Not long after, she recalls her father, in a drunken rage, chasing her mother around with a knife. When she was 17, Farrow, in New York with her mother, spent a night avoiding his calls because she didn’t want to tell him that her mother was out with another man. The next morning, she learned he’d died of a heart attack.

Fame, the overwhelming, life-altering kind, came with her second role, in the television series Peyton Place. “I didn’t take to it well,” she says. “You can call it pretty. Call it whatever you want, but in fact it was grotesque. When I see a very young person dealing with sudden fame now, I say a prayer for them that they don’t get lost.”

But none of her early experiences with notoriety could prepare her for the frenzy that greeted her breakup with Allen, which occurred after Farrow discovered explicit Polaroids he had taken of her then college-sophomore daughter, Soon-Yi (Allen and Soon-Yi subsequently married). A few months later, Farrow and Allen were still trying to co-parent the three kids they shared when their seven-year-old daughter, Dylan, accused him of sexual abuse (which Allen denies). A brutal custody battle followed, during which Allen’s camp portrayed Farrow as a vindictive woman and a bad mother.

When I see a very young person dealing with sudden fame now, I say a prayer for them that they don’t get lost.
Her memoir is structured around the losses she’s experienced—“it was through the tragedies that I rebuilt myself each time,” she says—and to read it is to understand how Farrow became a person so keenly aware of the way pain and joy can coexist, of “humanity in its hideousness and its brief quivering beauty,” as she writes. It is to wonder at the way a person’s life—nuanced, imperfect, ever-changing—gets distilled down to a single interlude in the public eye. But it’s also to realize Farrow has intersected with an almost improbable number of notable figures, in pop culture and beyond. Her childhood dog was the grandson of the original Lassie. She was the first person to trim the hair of Liza Minnelli, a childhood friend, into a pixie cut. She had love affairs with both Václav Havel and Philip Roth. She once watched Salvador Dalí throw fistfuls of bills out his hotel window, and Sharon Tate was one of her closest friends. And now this rarefied group also includes her son Ronan, a Pulitzer Prize–winning New Yorker writer whose 2017 reporting on Harvey Weinstein played a pivotal role in prompting the tidal wave of revelations that has top-pled many people in the entertainment industry.

Ronan, who at the photo shoot is self-contained, watchful, and luminous, is careful to separate his family background from his journalism. Though he acknowledges later, by email, “[My mother’s] absolutely one of the many women who were the subject of an old-fashioned smearing and blacklisting campaign. None of it would hold up to one iota of scrutiny today. ‘She’s nuts, she’s jealous’ is an old and thin deflection tactic in child abuse cases. But she was in the crosshairs of that at a time when a certain echelon of a powerful man in Hollywood with the right team of publicists really held all the cards. In retrospect I see the parallels to some of the systems that I’ve reported on.”

“The first really awful grope was a famous studio head. I was 17. I was too embarrassed to even tell my mother.
The #MeToo movement has also led Farrow to reconsider aspects of her past. “Oh, Lordy, I wish there were tapes,” she says. “The first really awful grope was a very famous head of a studio. I was 17. I was too embarrassed to even tell my mother.” When it comes to her time with Allen, though, “it’s not all white or black,” she says. “Otherwise you’d ask yourself what on earth you’re doing with that person for 10 minutes, let alone for 10 years.” She can rarely mentally file experiences in just one place, she explains. If given the chance, would she work again with Rosemary’s Baby director Roman Polanski, considering he’s guilty of sexual assault? “It’s not in the cards,” she says. “But I don’t think I would.” Yet a few minutes later, when asked to name the film project she found the most creatively engaging, she tells me it was Rosemary’s Baby: “I will say, it’s wonderful working with Roman Polanski.”

At the Maharishi’s compound in Rishikesh, India, by the way, Farrow did find that his practices helped her regain a foothold in the world. But soon the calm of his ashram was shattered by the arrival of the Beatles—photographers scrambled into trees trying to get a shot. In the days that followed, the Beatles wrote “Dear Prudence” for Farrow’s sister. Then, after a private meditation session, the Maharishi made an unwelcome advance on Farrow. “Suddenly I became aware of two surprisingly male, hairy arms going around me,” she writes. She immediately left the ashram. And in keeping with the ways Farrow’s life has twisted through a trivia night’s worth of events, this encounter also set in motion the Beatles’ break with the guru. Their song “Sexy Sadie,” about a woman who made a fool of everyone, was originally titled “Maharishi.”

Farrow now lives in a farmhouse in Connecticut with a pond, chickens, and a garden full of flowers. This is where she settled after the madness with Allen, raising her younger children amid what sounds like (slightly) organized chaos. Ronan, for example, once hatched 27 chicks in his bedroom. “Only when the maggots began to fall from the ceiling did I understand they had to be moved downstairs,” she says. Then raccoons got into the house and massacred them. “Raccoons, you may not know, wash their hands in the toilet.” (The chickens she now has live in a coop outside.)

Ronan, she says, began to speak in full sentences at seven months. “I’d bring him to the market in one of those front pouches, and he would select things—‘No, don’t get the Cheerios with sugar.’ ” He graduated from Bard at 15, with Farrow driving him the three hours round-trip nearly every day. “There was obviously a great deal of pain and turmoil in my childhood, but I also got to see a working single mom spend incredibly long hours being there for each of us,” Ronan writes. “Many of my siblings had complex physical and mental health issues to navigate, and the way she threw herself into years of dealing with that, while still making things fun and imaginative, still kind of bowls me over.”

In recent years, Farrow has experienced more losses. Three of her children have died, and she is estranged from Soon-Yi and a son, Moses, who has accused her of physical abuse (which she denies). She has achieved a measure of anonymity, but this was punctured in 2014 when Dylan published an open letter in the New York Times restating her sexual assault accusations. Ronan followed it with a Hollywood Reporter column stating, “I believe my sister.” “Both of them wrote their pieces without telling me,” Farrow says. “Because for me, it’s the sleeping dog that you don’t want to rouse. But I also understand and deeply respect when my daughter decided she needed to do this.”

Hair, Hairstyle, Jheri curl, Formal wear, Suit, Human, Afro, Black hair, Fun, Photography, 
ELLE Women in Hollywood 2018
In September, after New York magazine published a lengthy and fairly scathing article offering Soon-Yi’s side of the story, Farrow declined to comment. (Dylan and Ronan put out statements condemning the piece, and Dylan also posted a statement from seven of her siblings that read, “None of us ever witnessed anything other than compassionate treatment in our home…. We reject any effort to deflect from Dylan’s allegation by trying to vilify our mom.”) What Farrow had previously told me about Allen is that she had become indifferent: “I reached a place many years ago where I just don’t care about him.”

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Instead, she pursues her humanitarian work. She tweets frequently, and while her posts are often horrified missives about politics, in August she tweeted a New York Post story about a drunk man arrested for urinating on a passenger during a flight with the caption, “Did I date this guy?” This sly sense of humor is also what’s on display when I ask about her much-discussed suggestion, in a 2013 Vanity Fair article, that Ronan’s father may have been not Allen but Sinatra. “Will it still fly if I say he was an immaculate conception?” she asks. “It worked for Mary.”

I really appreciate all the mundane and beautiful things...It's fun for me to just live a normal life.
She attends an Episcopal church. She visits with friends. She takes pride in her kids, two of whom live on her property with their families. “I really appreciate all the mundane and beautiful things,” she says. “ ‘Oops, we’re out of Pampers, I’ll go get more.’ It’s fun for me to just live a normal life.”

One thing she was told as a child has proved apt. She was walking with a friend’s father, the actor Charles Boyer, when they discovered a baby bird on the sidewalk. After Boyer gently placed it back into its nest, something about Farrow’s hushed silence, her uncomfortable but awed reverence for the moment they’d shared, prompted him to place his hands on her shoulders. “Your life will be a wonderful one,” he said, “but difficult, I think.”