Dec 6, 2018

Scientologist sues Altru Health, claims hospital discriminated against his religion

April Baumgarten
Forum News Service
December 2, 2018

GRAND FORKS — A former Altru Health System doctor is suing the Grand Forks hospital, claiming it discriminated against him because he practices Scientology.

Dr. Ralph Highshaw, a urologist in Florida, filed the complaint Nov. 20 in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota. Highshaw, who worked for Altru as a urologist from 2013 to 2016, said the hospital “engaged in unlawful employment practices,” violated his civil rights, created a hostile work environment, retaliated against him and forced him to resign because of his religion, according to the lawsuit.

“As a direct and proximate result of the defendant’s conduct, plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and suffering, loss of wages and benefits, and other serious damages,” the lawsuit claims.

The federal lawsuit comes after the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights ruled in late August it could not find evidence Altru discriminated against Highshaw or created a hostile work environment based on his religion, according to department documents. Highshaw filed the claim in January 2017.

Altru denied any discrimination against Highshaw based on religion, according to the Labor Department’s report. Aside from one doctor, Altru said the administration didn’t know Highshaw was a Scientologist until after he resigned, the report said.

“The concern that Altru Health System had with Dr. Highshaw was with his performance and not with his religious beliefs,” Altru said in its response to the allegations in the Labor Department report.

Highshaw’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

‘You’re a Scientologist?!?’

When Highshaw began working for Altru, doctors and staff welcomed and praised him for his work, according to court documents.

In the summer of 2014, Dr. Eric Leichter, who oversaw Highshaw’s schedule, asked during surgery where he was going on vacation. Highshaw responded Clearwater, Fla., for a spiritual retreat.

Clearwater is the headquarters for the Church of Scientology.

Leichter “immediately stopped operating and screamed, ‘Clearwater? ... You’re a Scientologist?!?’ He then grew red in the face, gritted his teeth, and began pacing,” according to court documents.

In August 2014, Highshaw was put on a five-month review in part because of complications for surgeries, according to the lawsuit and the Labor Department’s findings. The complaint called the review “out of the blue,” with Highshaw saying complications “did not consistently rise to peer reviews at Altru,” the complaint said.

Altru told the Labor Department Highshaw had “poor organizational skills,” showed up late for surgery, had difficulty working with others, had patient complaints, made medical errors and “use of nonstandard and sometimes questionable surgery techniques.”

Highshaw later experienced additional scrutiny of his skills beginning in July 2015, the complaint said. The number of patients he would see in a day was cut in early 2016, and he was put on administrative leave later that year.

Highsaw was told he would need to participate in a behavioral health program for “workplace consulting services,” the complaint said. Altru threatened to terminate Highshaw’s employment if he did not attend, but he determined going through the program would violate his religious beliefs, the complaint said.

Highshaw resigned shortly after.

Highshaw also claimed in the complaint Altru refused this year to provide needed forms when he applied for a medical license in Texas but instead sent responses with “slanderous statements without context.” Altru told the Labor Department it completed the information needed in Texas.

As of Thursday, Altru had not filed a response to Highshaw’s complaint in federal court.

https://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/scientologist-sues-altru-health-claims-hospital-discriminated-against-his-religion/article_fbe03a68-8395-5078-b01d-e9f8b77003e2.html

Dec 4, 2018

Polygamist's retrial date set for trafficking his 15-year-old daughter

James Oler, who is accused of practising polygamy in a fundamentalist religious community. Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS
DAPHNE BRAMHAMThe Province
December 3, 2018

James Oler's new trial begins in April with an amicus or friend of the court appointed once again to assist since the former FLDS bishop refuses legal counsel.

Convicted polygamist James Oler will be back in B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook on April 1, 2019 for the start of his retrial on the charge of taking his under-aged daughter to the United States for sexual purposes.

Justice Martha Devlin will hear the case. On Friday, she appointed Joseph Doyle as amicus (or friend of the court) to assist her.

Oler, a former bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, had no legal counsel in his two previous trials in B.C. Supreme Court and none for an appeal.

In August, the appellate court overturned Oler’s February acquittal. It determined that the trial judge erred in two ways in his decision on a law that had not been used before. The unlawful removal of a child for illegal purposes section in the Criminal Code was a precursor to the child trafficking law that was passed after Oler’s offence is alleged to have occurred.

The three justices said the law doesn’t require proof of where Oler formed the intent to take his 15-year-old daughter from Bountiful, B.C. in 2004 to be forced into a religious marriage to a much older man in the United States.

The appeal court justices also said that the judge failed to reach a conclusion on “the essential question of the location of the child at the time of the offence.”

Oler, 54, is currently serving a sentence after his conviction of one count of polygamy. Having been found guilty of having five wives, including two under the age of 18, Oler was sentenced in July to three months of house arrest, a year’s probation, and 75 hours of community service. 

https://theprovince.com/news/local-news/polygamists-retrial-date-set-for-trafficking-his-15-year-old-daughter/wcm/683bde01-92cf-43c2-835c-9b96b253f62d


Soma, It’s Effects and How It’s Produced

Soma, It’s Effects and How It’s Produced
At MIU with Keith Wallace in the mid 70s, he played for his biology students every tape he had of Maharishi talking about Soma - the finest product of digestion.  
Here is a transcript of one of those tapes:
Maharishi: It’s very easy to understand about soma, hmm? A sickly nervous system does not produce that material from what we eat or drink, which will maintain the body for long time. An ineffective nervous system, inefficient, sick nervous system, the digestive ability is very much less, and therefore, whatever the system digests, is not good enough to make the body strong.
When the health is more normal, then the digestive system produces more agreeable product from what we eat. If the nervous system is very normal, very, very normal, then the digestive system will be able to digest the whole value of what we eat. Whole food will be completely digested. That means, the finest of the relative particle will be so modified in the process of digesting that the product of digesting will be most healthy for the nervous system.
A crude nervous system, crudely functioning machine, does not, does not produce such valuable product, which will be favorable for best health. But most normally functioning nervous system, produces that product, which is most healthy. The blood that comes out of the food that we eat, and all kinds of things that come out of it. They are normal for health, if the system is functioning normally.
[Questioner] : I understand. Now one would have to be more selective than one’s parents….
Maharishi: One – No, no, no, no, no, no, no. [laughs] Cow eats grass. And her nervous system produces milk. It’s a kind of machine. Grass has to be of some specific quality, this or that. But any grass, doesn’t matter, milk will come out of it. Food has to be good quality. But no matter what kind of rice, or what kind of potato, what kind of peas, but the most effective health producing quality will come out of it, if the nervous system is functioning normally. [audience and Maharishi laugh.]
So, there are two things, hmm? One is the ability to digest. The other is, what we are digesting. Who is digesting, and what is being digested.  Two things. We must be able to select. Make use of our eyes, and make use of our hands, to select, fine. But, we should do something so that the nervous system functions normally. There are no stresses, no strain, the machine is flexible enough to crush down everything that goes in. This is what digestion means. Everything should be properly crushed. And the strong relation, the chemicals, they are in proper proportion, good. 
Such a normally functioning nervous system, free from stress and strain, and any abnormality, produces a chemical called soma. It is the product of human normal nervous system. Soma.
Synthetic also is prepared. Synthetic soma prepared from outside. Any chemical can be reproduced. This starts to be produced by the time the nervous system’s functioning normally. And that is gauged from the level of awareness. Level of awareness. If there are no restrictions, no inhibitions. Awareness is unbounded. And when this awareness unbounded is maintained spontaneously at all times, then the nervous system is functioning normally. That’s normally functioning nervous system. Now, the best product of such a normally functioning nervous system is soma.
Now what happens? Who enjoys soma? That aspect of intelligence which is at the basis of all functioning in the system. That aspect which makes the eyes see, makes the ears hear, makes the tongue taste. That is the most delicate aspect of intelligence within this nervous system.
Intelligence is there functioning everywhere. Animals, like that, like that… But that aspect of intelligence which makes the finger feel the coarseness of the mike. There is something, there is something…
That finest aspect the intelligence, and when we have different fields of intelligence, different qualities of intelligence, then that intelligence has its identity. The intelligence that enables the fingers to touch, has its own specific value. Another value of intelligence, that which makes the ear hear. Another value of intelligence makes the eyes see. Another intelligence makes the mind think, intellect decide, ego experience.
Different, different qualities of intelligence. These, these basic faculties of intelligence, which uphold different functioning, different abilities in the nervous system, and also which coordinate different functioning and different abilities, and produce the whole man, produce the whole individual. And makes that individual either not lose the universal value of life, or not have it. That specific value of intelligence. These values are nourished by that most refined product of digestion. Soma.
So Soma is to strengthen the most delicate impulses of intelligence. And it is from there that the individual becomes powerful. The value of soma is that to water the root, in order that the individual enjoys the fruit. Watering the root at the very basis of the composition of individuality is the nourishing influence of soma.
Rig Veda says, “Soma for devas.” Deva is the word. That which upholds intelligence in its various specific range. In its various specific qualities, qualifications. These devas. “Devas drink soma.” This is the expression. “Devas drink soma.” The specific impulses of intelligence are nourished by that most valuable product which the normally functioning nervous system produces from the process of digestion. So soma is that which helps all the fundamentals of individual life to develop themselves, so that the totality of individual consciousness may raise above boundaries -may have unbounded status. This is one thing.
Another thing is, that in that unbounded self awareness, the perception is most rich. Richest. The perception is richest. Soma enriching the fine impulses of intelligence functioning in various forms, in various phases of individual life, make all those individual areas most powerful. And when the eyesight is most powerful, the greatest value of the sense of perception will result. Celestial perception will result. The celestial perception of God Consciousness is the blessing of soma. The infinite perception in Unity Consciousness is the blessing of soma. And soma, for its most refined value, starts to be produced from Cosmic Consciousness, when the nervous system is completely free from stress and strain. When the digestive system is functioning most normally.
Questioner: I’d like to extend this question somewhat in a more personal vein. Of course, that was my purpose of asking.
Maharishi: Something more, I’ll go one more step ahead.
Questioner: Yes
Maharishi: Soma, being the finest product of normal human digestive system, it is influenced to rise to its highest value by the delicate impulses of Sama Veda. Sama. Soma. Sama hymns. Hymns of Sama Veda. When they strike the system. We hear them. The system receives those impacts of those… Then the more… You know, it’s like the fruit, maybe what, a guava. An avocado.
[laughter]. You warm it up, in some steam, little bit warming up, makes it ripe. More ripe. Warming up makes ripe. Just like that. The Sama vibrations, vibrations of Sama hymns warm up, and ripen, so to say, the value of soma being produced in the system. When the system is functioning normally and Sama hymns enrich the quality, as if ripen, make it more palatable, more agreeable, tasteful, useful, enriching to the whole nervous system. Enriching to the whole quality of taste, perception, hmmm? Ability of experience becomes higher and higher.
And the value of Sama in the process of, as if, ripening the soma, is great. Mechanically being produced by the nervous system. And with these sensations, with these impulses of Sama hymns, it gets as if warmed up. More agreeable. And it is this quality of very ripe state of soma – we can call that in this term – this quality of warming up soma by Sama hymns that produces spontaneous celestial vision of God Consciousness. Very simple, natural, nothing to worry about.
But Sama, I mean soma, we see as a chemical produced from the most normally functioning nervous system. And this, in our language we say, in the state of Cosmic Consciousness, when the nervous system has no stress left anymore. Whole thing is such a beautiful thing. And then, what the Veda says, the Sama hymns, nourish the region of gods. Same thing apply the – to all the specific impulses of intelligence. The impulses of Sama hymns enrich them, as if the soma is fed to keep alive and strengthen the devas, and produce that total God Consciousness.
And it doesn’t end there. Because the process of evolution of consciousness continues till it has reached the climax. And it continues till the ability to perceive everything in the light of the Self. That means, in terms of infinite value is gained. The ability to spontaneously perceive everything in the infinite value develops as the quality of soma is more enriched.
It’s always the quality of soma. Always. Hmm? Anything can be found in its varying qualities. Some very good, A grade, second, third, fourth, like that, like that… Soma also has all those qualities, depending upon what nervous system is producing it. How much free the nervous system is from stress and strain, and over and above freedom from stress and strain, how much glorified the system is. It’s one thing to have the nervous system free from stress and strain. It’s another thing to have the nervous system more glorified than mere freedom from stress and strain. Hmm? It’s two things, different.
It’s good thing to have a beautiful home, built. But it is another thing to have it served with all antiques. It’s one thing to have the stresses and strains freed completely. The nervous system is free from stress and strain. And over and above that, more glorious, more powerful, more sublime, more delicate nervous system. So, by the time one gains C.C., the stresses and strains are gone. And then, as one continues to live C.C., the system becomes more glorified. More glorified, more glorified.
And as the system becomes more and glorified, the soma that it produces is more glorified soma. And that is how the stages of development of consciousness from C.C. to G.C. proceed on, till they end up in U.C. All the stages of development spontaneously, and this is by the quality of the nervous system becoming better and better, by virtue of the digestive system functioning more and more powerfully, more and more gracefully.
So the whole thing comes down to how one digests. And therefore, in our thinking, we lay more emphasis on how we go about it, rather than how the potato and tomato go about it. [laughter]. We lay emphasis on ourselves, rather than vegetable. What kind of peas will produce best soma? We don’t think in terms of this. We say, what kind of meditated nervous system will produce soma. Because peas are not in our hand.
They come from the field, doesn’t matter what. Maybe some winter, the sun was beautiful, and the peas are very healthy. In some winter maybe, the sun was not there, and they are shrunk. Doesn’t matter what peas. But who is digesting it? That is why, we take responsibility of either producing or not producing soma on ourselves, rather than undermining that shopkeeper who sold frozen peas.[Maharishi laughs]. Frozen, by frozen, I meant, the shrunken heart. [Maharishi laughs more]. Hmm?
Now we can go ahead with your question, yes. See the whole thing is so
 [audience laughs, Maharishi laughs] Alright…
Maharishi on SOMAMajorca, 1971
MAHARISHI:  SOMA, yesterday we described as a very precious product, most precious product of digestion. We eat something, we produce...SOMA is like nectar.
That phrase 'you slip and taste' (you slip into the transcendence and then taste SOMA) it meant... See the taste of SOMA is the taste of energizing chemical, energizing substance. It enlivens the whole thing. Most precious product of digestion nourishes the system in the best possible way. Greatest nourishment of richest value is provided by SOMA.
And SOMA is the product of the nervous system functioning normally. When does the nervous system function normally? Normally functioning nervous system has pure awareness, pure consciousness. When pure consciousness is there then the nervous system is functioning normally.

'Slipping', transcending, is a procedure which sets the nervous system normally and produces that pure awareness, pure consciousness. It was in this sense that it was said  'slip and taste SOMA'...

Dec 3, 2018

Exit Australia

Exit Australia
Exit Australia preventing violent extremism and coercive control

EXIT Australia was founded in 2015 and has since been helping communities, not for profit organisations and schools with prevention methodologies.

EXIT Australia now strives collectively with other organisations to support those who wish to leave groups that are of high demand often using coercive control against their members and we remain committed to those seeking a safe exit from violent extremism.

How do we accomplish a safe Exit, we listen to you, what is needed, Our team made of persons with lived experience and psychologists then assess, finding the safest options to best support you through the transition, whether its crisis intervention, mental health support, community or legal, we're here to help.

https://www.exit.org.au/

Longueuil man involved in police chase that injured woman is denied bail

Sébastien Théodore is charged with dangerous driving, criminal negligence and dangerous driving during a police chase.
Sébastien Théodore, 40, had posted videos online saying he doesn't respect any municipal or provincial police force.

JESSE FEITH
MONTREAL GAZETTE
November 27, 2018

In early July 2018, Sébastien Théodore took to his Facebook page to post a video to his friends and followers.

In rambling sentences, Théodore explained how, to him, all provincial and municipal authority figures are “de-facto” and operating illegally.

This applies to police officers, prosecutors and judges, he said. He called them pieces of garbage and “dirty cockroaches.”

Then he issued a warning: if police officers tried to pull him over for driving with a suspended licence, he had no intention of stopping.

“If something happens, they will have been warned,” he said. “And if there’s a joker who starts shooting, it won’t end well. If you want to stop me, you’ll have to kill me.”

The video, Quebec Court Judge Pierre Labelle ruled on Tuesday, was a preview to the “immense tragedy that was Nov. 17, 2018.”

On that day, two weekends ago, a Sûreté du Québec cruiser driving on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge toward Montreal was alerted about a man driving with a suspended driver’s licence and licence plate.

The details of the police chase that followed, and Théodore’s history of anti-authority posts on social media, were explained during his bail hearing last week at the Montreal courthouse. Labelle denied his release on Tuesday.

According to Crown prosecutor Simon Boulianne, the SQ cruiser pulled up next to Théodore at a red light on De Lorimier Ave. and asked him about his licence. Théodore pulled over down the road, but then took off before the officer could reach his car. The SQ cruiser gave chase and asked the Montreal police for backup.

Driving around 40 km/h, it’s alleged Théodore drove through red lights and down streets in the opposite direction.

Near the intersection of De Bordeaux St. and Sherbrooke St. E., he drove past two SPVM cop cars trying to block him. Officers standing outside their cars smashed his windows with their batons. He drove over one officer’s foot.

Driving on Sherbrooke St. E., Boulianne said, witnesses told police Théodore reached speeds of 100 km/h. The chase ended when he collided with an SPVM car, lost control, and crashed. He crawled out of his window and was tackled by officers.

In the aftermath, police noticed a woman on the ground. Nancy Carrier, 42, had been shovelling snow in front of her home. She was unconscious, bleeding from the head and missing her boots — because of the impact, they were found about 10 metres away. Several surgeries later, she remains hospitalized.

Quebec’s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, which acts as the province’s police watchdog, is still investigating the police chase. According to the BEI, it’s an SPVM car that hit Carrier after being struck by Théodore’s car. In court, it was noted that an SPVM sergeant had attempted to call off the chase to avoid any injuries, but the calls went ignored.

Théodore, 40, has been detained ever since.

The path that led him to what took place two weeks ago appears to stem from a ticket he received from the city of Longueuil for tinted car windows. He has been in conflict with the city ever since, claiming a conspiracy against him and insisting in social media posts that he would not “obey” to provincial or municipal laws.

In November, the city of Longueuil asked for an injunction to have Théodore remove some of his defamatory Facebook posts. After it was granted, Théodore posted another vulgar tirade to Facebook, saying he couldn’t care less about the decision from a “corrupt judge.”

In other Facebook posts and videos shown in court, Théodore said he was ready to arm himself if needed to “protect” himself from authorities and urged others to do the same. The only police force he would respect is the RCMP, he said, as the rest are “operating illegally.”

Though he denied being associated with the group in court, his beliefs appear to be in line with the Freeman-on-the-land movement, a group that considers themselves independent from the government and laws. People who came to support Théodore in court swore he wasn’t part of the group and insisted his beliefs are valid.

During his bail hearing last Thursday, Théodore expressed remorse for Carrier’s family. He said it’s deeply affecting him and he isn’t taking it lightly.

He promised to respect any conditions that would be imposed if he was released on bail.

“You have my word, Mr. Judge,” he said. “I am a person who is just and who is real. There are things I said, yes, but if I give you my word that I’ll respect conditions, then I’ll respect them.”

Labelle, who had just listened to Théodore’s rants against authority figures and the justice system, asked why Théodore would all of sudden be ready to respect a court order.

“The context is different,” Théodore answered.

“Yes,” Labelle replied, “You weren’t detained then, and now you are.”

On Tuesday, Théodore sat quietly, handcuffed and wearing a black coat, as Labelle explained why he was denying his release on bail.

His promise to respect conditions, Labelle wrote in a 14-page decision he read aloud, “is in complete contradiction to all of his previous statements.”

“This statement alone does not reassure the court that the defendant has indeed changed his mind about the “freeman” philosophy he’s adopted for so long,” Labelle said.

Labelle wrote that Théodore believed himself to be “untouchable” because of a “distorted interpretation of the law.”

He got in his car that day despite knowing his driver’s licence and licence plate were suspended, the judge ruled, because he considered himself to be above the law.

“This leads directly to the injuries sustained by Nancy Carrier,” Labelle said. “There is nothing else to add.”

Théodore is charged with dangerous driving, criminal negligence and dangerous driving during a police chase. All three charges carry the extra weight of having caused bodily harm. If found guilty, he could face up to 14 years in prison.

The case returns to court in early December.

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/longueuil-man-involved-in-police-chase-that-injured-woman-is-denied-bail

Head of secretive North Carolina sect named in fraud scam

Word of Faith Fellowship church leader Jane Whaley talk to members of the media as husband Sam listens during a news conference in Spindale, N.C., Thursday, March 2, 1995. World of Faith Fellowship Inc., a church a judge recently described as trying to ``exercise complete control'' over its members has built a network of local businesses and started to become a player in politics. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
MITCH WEISS and HOLBROOK MOHRFOX Carolina
November 26, 2018

The leader of a secretive church in North Carolina has been named in federal court records as someone who “promoted” an unemployment fraud scheme involving businesses owned by members of her congregation.

Jane Whaley, leader of the Word of Faith Fellowship, was named in a document filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Asheville that describes a fraud conspiracy charge faced by one of her trusted advisers, Kent Covington.

In a 2017 investigation into claims of physical and emotional abuse at the church in Spindale, The Associated Press reported that authorities were looking into the unemployment claims of congregants and their businesses.

Since then, four people have been charged in the case, including two who have pleaded guilty.

Whaley was named in a document that describes the fraud conspiracy charge faced by Covington, a church minister. His lawyer, Stephen Cash, said his client was expected to plead guilty in the case next week.

But, he added, Covington’s pleading is not an “admission that Jane Whaley instructed him to act or that Kent’s actions were designed to afford some benefit to Mrs. Whaley or Word of Faith Fellowship as an organization. This is not the case, and Kent would dispute any such assertion or characterization.”

Covington and Diane Mary McKinny, both of Rutherfordton, North Carolina, were indicted in June on one charge each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Prosecutors say Covington and McKinny decided to lay off employees at one of Covington’s businesses so they could collect unemployment benefits in 2008 when the company was struggling financially. But the employees continued to work at the company, Diverse Corporate Technologies. They later put the scheme into place at Covington’s other business, Integrity Marble & Granite. Covington then implemented a variation of the scheme at Sky Catcher Communications Inc., a company he managed, prosecutors say.

After starting the scheme at Diverse Corporate Technologies, Covington, McKinny, Whaley and others “promoted variations of the scheme to other businesses,” the court filing said.

“These conspirators promoted the scheme as a way for (the church) community businesses to weather the financial downturn,” the document said.

Cash said his client made “false statements” to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, which oversees unemployment benefits.

“He accepts responsibility for his actions and continues to cooperate fully with the government,” Cash said.

Whaley’s attorney, Noell Tin, said Whaley was not involved in the case.

“Ms. Whaley strongly denies any insinuation that she was somehow involved in Mr. Covington’s offense, as does Mr. Covington,” he said.

The scheme resulted in more than $250,000 in fraudulent claims between November 2008 and March 2013, according to court records. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Most employees were members of the Word of Faith Fellowship. Prosecutors had previously said Covington used his leadership position in the church to force them to comply.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Benjamin Cooper, an attorney and former Word of Faith Fellowship member who has been pushing federal authorities to investigate the church’s activities. “But there’s still more that needs to be done. We hope they continue. Too many people are being hurt.”

Covington spent eight months in a North Carolina prison in 1974 for breaking and entering, as well as larceny, and later joined the church.

His wife, Brooke Covington, is one of Whaley’s most trusted confidants.

Brooke Covington is facing unrelated state charges that she and other members of the church assaulted a congregant in an effort to expel his “homosexual demons.”

Two other ministers, Jerry Gross and his son, Jason Lee Gross, pleaded guilty on May 25 to wire fraud related to unemployment benefits at a podiatry clinic in Forest City, North Carolina.

Former members said Whaley promoted the scheme as “God’s plan” to help the businesses survive the economic downturn and keep money coming into the church.

The unemployment allegations were uncovered as part of the AP’s ongoing investigation into Word of Faith, which had about 750 congregants in rural North Carolina and a total of nearly 2,000 members in its branches in Brazil and Ghana and its affiliations in other countries.

In February 2017, the AP cited 43 former members who said congregants were regularly punched and choked in an effort to beat out devils. The AP also revealed how, over the course of two decades, followers were ordered by church leaders to lie to authorities investigating reports of abuse.

AP later outlined how the church created a pipeline of young laborers from its two Brazilian congregations who say they were brought to the U.S. and forced to work for little or no pay at businesses owned by church leaders.

Those stories led to investigations in the U.S. and Brazil. In March, Brazilian labor prosecutors filed suit to close one of the churches and its school in Sao Paulo, saying its leaders “reduced people to a condition analogous to slavery.”

https://www.foxcarolina.com/news/head-of-secretive-north-carolina-sect-named-in-fraud-scam/article_b8e17bb2-f192-11e8-a308-63f0db4ecc9f.html

Jonestown, Forty Years On

University of California Press
November 18, 2018

November 18 marks the 40th anniversary of the deaths at the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. What more can be said about the Peoples Temple and Jonestown after four decades? A special issue of Nova Religio shifts the focus of the conversation and argues there is a great deal more to learn about this unparalleled religious movement.

Over the years a number of assessments and reassessments have appeared. Analyses of the tragedy near Waco, Texas, involving the Branch Davidians, which occurred twenty-five years ago, created the opportunity to embark upon comparative studies of instances of violence and new religions. All of these evaluations have greatly enlarged our understanding of new religions in general, and the Peoples Temple in particular. But, traditional framing of “Jonestown”—as a place, an event, and a concept—has tended to exclude consideration of the Peoples Temple. This is unfortunate, since as a new religious movement the Temple may be able to teach us something today.

Early narratives framed Jonestown as a morality play pitting evil against good, and a tract on the dangers of religious fanaticism, concentrating on the maniacal and all-controlling cult leader and his brainwashed followers. A new cohort of researchers, however, has created entirely new narratives reframing the story of the Peoples Temple and Jonestown. The articles in this special issue challenge traditional narratives about Jonestown by enlarging the frame to include the the Peoples Temple. Thus, the group is not defined entirely by its death, but by its life as well. By focusing on the Temple, rather than on Jonestown, these researchers have opened new vistas upon this particular group, and upon other new religions.

We invite you to read the special issue for free for a limited time.


This post is published as part of our blog series related to the American Academy of Religion annual meeting November 17-20 in Denver, CO. #sblaar18

https://www.ucpress.edu/blog/39913/jonestown-forty-years-on/

Transcendental Meditation technique

enacademic

This article is about the technique. For the movement, see Transcendental Meditation movement.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is a specific form of mantra meditation often referred to as Transcendental Meditation. It was introduced in India in 1955 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1914–2008). The meditation practice involves the use of a sound or mantra and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day, while sitting comfortably with closed eyes.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught his meditation technique in a series of world tours beginning in 1957. From the late 1960s through the mid 1970s, both the Maharishi and TM received significant public attention in the USA, especially among the student population. During this period, a million people learned the technique, including well-known public figures. Worldwide, as many as six to ten million people are reported to be practitioners of the TM technique.

Transcendental Meditation is part of the Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health The theoretical basis developed to underpin the Transcendental Meditation technique is the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI), which describes the Maharishi's view of Natural Law. Skeptics question whether SCI is actually scientific. According to proponents, practicing the TM technique can lead to higher levels of consciousness and supernormal powers, including the Maharishi Effect.

TM has been reported to be one of the most widely practiced, and among the most widely researched meditation techniques. Independently done systematic reviews have not found health benefits for TM beyond relaxation or health education. It is difficult to determine definitive effects of "meditation practices in healthcare" as the quality of research has design limitations and a lack of methodological rigor, due in part to the fact that many studies on TM appear to have been conducted by authors connected to the TM organization and on subjects predisposed positively towards TM.

The TM technique is made available worldwide by certified teachers affiliated with the Transcendental Meditation movement, a name given to a collection of organizations introduced and developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The movement actively markets TM as a scientifically proven technique but not a religion while there are sociologists and governmental bodies that have categorized it as part of a new religious movement. TM is taught in a standardized, seven-step course over a four day period by certified teachers. The fees vary from country to country. In the United States the adult fee is $1,500, while prices in the United Kingdom (UK) are based on income. Transcendental Meditation is a registered trademark of the Maharishi Foundation.

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http://enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/11678143

The satanic sex cult in a quiet Welsh village which shocked and horrified a nation

A depraved sex cult used their quiet seaside homes for the most unspeakable acts towards children over decades. This is the full story of what happened
Caitlin O'Sullivan
WalesOnline
November 25, 2018

Clos yr Onnen, with its well-kept homes and neatly manicured gardens, is like thousands of unassuming suburban streets throughout Wales.

Just a stone’s throw from the medieval castle in the charming seaside town of Kidwelly, the quiet and overlooked cul-de-sac is outwardly unremarkable.

Children’s bikes and scooters lean against lamposts as cars trundle back and forth on school runs, journeys to work, and trips to the shops.

This Carmarthenshire estate is, on the face of it, certainly not the most likely setting for a satanic paedophile ring.

Yet it was here that former Tesco security guard Colin Batley established his depraved cult which saw children and young adults intimidated into having sex in the most horrific circumstances.

As ordinary, law-abiding families went about their daily lives in the dozens of homes in Clos yr Onnen Batley and three of his neighbours established an occult-inspired sex ring which stole the childhoods of its victims.

The full, shocking scale of the abuse perpetrated by the cult came finally came to light when they were jailed for a total of 36 years in 2011 – with “quasi-religious” sect leader Batley warned he may never be freed.

But the roots of what happened in Kidwelly began some two decades before when Londoner Batley moved to Carmarthenshire.

Having relocated in the 1990s he established a homemade cult of which he was the self-styled high priest.

After Batley and his wife Elaine, who were married 28 years before they split ahead of their trial, had moved to Wales they were followed by Jacqueline Marling and Shelly Millar, who each moved into the same street and were part of the cult.

Inspired by the works of arch-satanist Aleister Crowley, who died in 1947, female members of the sect referred to Batley as “My Lord”.

Women in the cult, which they called “The Church”, filled their homes with ancient Egyptian idolatry and wore Eye of Horus protection symbol tattoos on their arms celebrating Crowley’s worship of the Egyptian hawk god Horus.

Cult members would dress in hooded robes during occult rituals which usually took place before group sex.

A number of houses in the same cul-de-sac were used for the regular cult sex sessions as part of their swinging lifestyle.

Scruffy and jobless Batley, who had several missing teeth, would read from the occult bible, The Book of The Law, written more than a century ago by Crowley as well as his other works Equinox of the Gods and The Book of Magick.

He would also order cult members to have sex together and ensure that other members were present to film it.

The recorded material, though, is all believed to have been destroyed before Batley’s arrest.

He was apparently tipped off by friends in London about the impending raid on his home two days before it happened.

Batley, who was 48 when he stood trial over five weeks at Swansea Crown Court in the early part of 2011, was said to have used the cult as a form of brainwashing to justify abuse to his victims.

One schoolboy, by that time an adult, told the trial Batley had repeatedly abused him as a child.

A schoolgirl, also by then an adult, said she was forced into joining the cult through fear for her life.

Batley told her a cult assassin would kill her if she did not take part in an elaborate initiation ceremony.

It started with a 10-minute lecture on the occult by him but concluded with sex.

The schoolgirl said she was later ordered to Batley’s home on regular occasions when she would have to have sex with him.

She was also taken to satanic sex parties where she would be passed round to have sex with strangers.

At one an altar was set out with a goblet of red wine, an incense burner, and salted bread and sect members later disrobed – or, in their words, “became skyclad” – and had sex.

Giving evidence against Batley via videolink during the trial one victim claimed all he had to do was “click his fingers” to make a woman strip.

And she claimed that soon after she met Batley, when she was just 11, he told her to have sex with him or she would “go to the abyss”.

“I did not want him to do what he was doing but I did not have a choice because what Colin said was what happened. What Colin said went.”

Batley was also accused of stepping in to try to prevent a young woman from aborting a baby he believed he may have fathered so it could be “a child of the occult”.

During the trial prosecutor Peter Murphy QC told the jury: “The offences were committed against a background of persistent psychological coercion and fear using the vehicle of the occult. The victims were brainwashed, frightened – they felt they had no choice.”

The perverted events described in court took place over several decades in both Kidwelly and addresses in London.
Cult leader's son died 'during sex act'

Colin and Elaine Batley's home was also the scene of the death of their son Damian during a sex act gone wrong.

On February 1, 2008, the former Asda cashier filmed himself on his mobile phone as he accidentally hanged himself.

A family member found Mr Batley naked and hanged, an inquest heard.

The police were called and when they arrived at the scene they found video footage on his mobile phone.

Deputy coroner Pauline Mainwaring recorded a verdict of accidental death from hanging.

She added: “There is no evidence to suggest suicide.”

She confirmed that there were no suspicious circumstances and no-one else was involved.

Following the convictions of the cult members one neighbour in Clos yr Onnen recalled of Colin Batley: “The day of his son’s funeral he was sitting outside his house laughing and joking like he didn’t have a care in the world.

"It was the sort of behaviour that no normal person could comprehend.”

Batley – who smirked as the horrific allegations against him were laid bare in court – repeatedly denied the accusations against him as he spoke out in his own defence.

He denied he ran a cult or was in any way a leader. He did admit having an “open” sexual relationship with his wife and enjoying threesomes with co-defendant and “second in command” Jackie Marling, with whom he had a long-standing affair without the knowledge of his wife.

The cult was smashed by police in the summer of 2010 when two courageous victims, a man and a woman, went to them with their stories of abuse at the hands of Batley and the other defendants.

Five complainants, whose identity is protected by law, came to the subsequent trial to describe how they were taken or lured to the homes at Clos yr Onnen and subjected to sex attacks.

Several broke down and sobbed as they recalled what they had been through.

They also said others, who had not come forward, were also made to perform unspeakable acts.

Batley also forced victims into prostitution, with prosecutor Mr Murphy saying the “controlling” and manipulative sect principal took a 25% cut of any cash other members earned.

Millar, then 35, was said to have got through 3,000 clients in a two-year period while acting as a prostitute in massage parlours in Swansea and Bristol.

The trial heard how Batley purchased a £21,000 luxury caravan in February 2010 using a £3,210 cash deposit despite having no obvious income.

Batley, who dismissed his role as a feared high priest of his own religion as “a load of rubbish”, claimed he made £10,000 a year breeding pedigree rottweilers for sale and said he also bred Siamese cats.

And he claimed some of his money came from “gambling on the dogs and horses”.

During the trial it emerged that following their arrests the preceding summer the Batleys had separated.

While giving evidence she accused her husband of laughing at her from the dock as she stood in the witness box.

She said: “I feel embarrassed to be married to him.”

And she added: “I’ve changed, you won’t get the better of me now.”

She told the court that while she and Marling had been involved in “threesomes” and had had a fling together she only found out later that her husband and Marling had been having a long-term affair.

The discovery was made when Marling sent him a birthday card with the words “To my husband” on it.

Of her marriage, Elaine Batley said on one occasion he sent a photo of her to the Readers’ Wives section of a pornographic magazine and this led to them meeting “other couples for group activities”.

As the defendants were led down the steps to court cells after being remanded in custody following the guilty verdicts against them Elaine Batley could be heard screaming “I ******* hate you” at her husband. Crying and sobbing was audible from the cell steps.

Barely containing his contempt for the defendants as he jailed them for total of 47 charges, Judge Paul Thomas QC told them: “You besmirched the unsuspecting community of Kidwelly by setting up a community within a community which involved rape, child sex abuse and prostitution.”

The trial was so harrowing that jurors were offered counselling.
The defendants and their sentences

The self-styled 'high priest' of the cult grew up in Shoreditch, London, and once worked for Tesco as a night security guard.

He also ran a fruit and vegetable stall. He spent 28 years married to wife and co-defendant Elaine.

Batley claimed his late lorry driver father sexually abused him as a child.

Asked in court about his fascination for Egypt the 48-year-old just said: “Egypt? I don’t mind Egypt.”

He was convicted of 35 offences including 11 rapes and numerous child sex crimes.

Sentencing him to an indeterminate prison term on public protection grounds and ordering him to serve at least 11 years before being eligible for parole, Judge Paul Thomas QC told him: “When this case was opened to the jury you Colin Batley were described as evil.

“That in my view is an accurate statement of your character. You set yourself up as the ruler of a sick little kingdom surrounded by three women who danced as your willing attendants regarding you as their master.

“It’s clear you dedicated your life since the age of 12 or 13 to satisfying your sexual urges by any means at your disposal.

“You left your victims psychologically scarred and treated them as sexual playthings.”

She grew up in East London and had tattoos including the Eye of Horus on her arm, a pentagram above Egyptian script on her leg, Tutankhamun on her back plus another Egyptian script on her back which she claimed she did not understand.

When asked if she had ever been to Egypt during her trial the then 47-year-old said she would like to have gone but had not visited “because of the heat”.

She also told the court she liked the ancient Egyptians because “they were good to their slaves”.

She admitted to an affair with Jackie Marling and “a fumble” with Shelly Millar and told the court she was interested in Aleister Crowley and read his work.

According to one of the victims in the case Batley’s wife was treated “like a slave” but the judge said she became a willing participant in her husband’s “wickedness”.

The jury heard how a young boy was tricked into having sex with her

She was jailed for eight years after being convicted of indecency with children.

She grew up in Poplar, East London, and was 42 at the time she stood trial.

Marling initially denied to police officers that she was a prostitute but her car was spotted making regular trips to brothels in the centre of Swansea and Bristol.

She sported an Eye of Horus tattoo on her arm and had a figurine of a cat goddess in her home plus a drawing of the Mask of Tutankhamun and one of the hawk-headed Egyptian god Horus.

She had affairs with Colin Batley and Elaine Batley.

Described as ringleader Colin Batley's "second in command", she was jailed for 12 years for aiding and abetting rape and child sex offences.

Jailing Marling, the judge told her: “After Colin Batley you are the most culpable in this horrific scenario. Your relationship with him brought together two kindred evil spirits.

“You were clearly besotted with him and The Book Of The Law and I view you effectively as his second in command in all this.

“You may or may not take this as a compliment but you have fully lived up to the ideals of your mentor Aleister Crowley.”

He added: “Throughout the trial you have not displayed a flicker of emotion. The tears in your eyes now I take to be tears of self-pity.”

The 35-year-old sobbed as she was found guilty of two counts of indecency with children, one of which involved having sex with a 12-year-old boy.

Having grown up in Kent, Millar had an Eye of Horus tattoo on her arm and admitted to having around 3,000 clients as a prostitute during a two-year period working in Swansea and Bristol.

She was jailed for five years.

In the aftermath of the court case neighbours in Clos yr Onnen described Batley as an “evil bully”.

His rundown home had a torn and ragged England flag pinned outside while two rottweiler dogs – named Sekhet after the Egyptian lion goddess and Toots, short for Tutankhamun – could often be heard leaping at the door.

People nearby described how Batley – who also had a cat called Rameses – used to walk around the estate with his two dogs as if to intimidate people.

“Colin Batley is the most disgusting and vile man you could meet,” one neighbour said at the time.

One woman said: “Batley and one of his friends used to have a van calling regularly, with a consignment of contraband tobacco and, we think, pornography. They used to head off to France on fortnightly trips and sometimes were gone for as long as six weeks. It makes you wonder if part of their cult activity was going on there too.”

Seven years later street resident John Wheatland still remembers being able to hear one of the victims crying at night.

He didn’t know why and says he had “no idea whatsoever” of the awful reality of what was going on.

“She would cry every night, sobbing,” he said.

“I didn’t know why and I never raised suspicions but I should have known something wasn’t right.”

Mr Wheatland also described an extraordinary incident as he worked in the garden of his home and saw a teenage girl “done up to look like a film star” nearby.

He estimated her to be aged 14 or 15.

“She looked at me and said: ‘Do you want sex then?’ I was shocked. I don’t know what I said but I went inside.

“I’d never heard anything like that before.”

The woman who had dressed her, her said, “used to dress up in very short skirts and high heels and walk to Batley’s house”.

Recalling the day the cult members were arrested in the summer of 2010 he said he had been leaving his house at around 8.30am when he saw police cars in the street.

“When I came back they were gone,” he said. “I had no idea what it was about.

“This is a quiet neighbourhood. When all those Londoners came down it was very strange.

“Batley was very arrogant. Apart from that there was nothing suspicious about him. We didn’t speak.”

Speaking in 2014 one of the victims of the cult – who published a book under the pseudonym Annabelle detailing what she had been through over 11 harrowing years of abuse – described how her own mother, Jackie Marling, abused her under Batley’s orders.

“Nothing can hurt me as much as my mum and that man,” she said.

“My mother was an evil woman and I’ll never forgive her.”

By then a mother herself and living happily in another part of the UK, she told how she was just seven years old when first forced to watch her mother perform a sex act on Batley.

At the age of 11 she was raped by him in her own home and three years later she was made to take part in group sex with her mother.

“I went to the sentencing in court because I wanted to see her one last time,” she said. “I wanted her to reach out to me, to say it was all his fault and she was under his spell.

“But she didn’t. She just made a face and asked what I was doing there.

“She went to prison unrepentant and I suppose that made me realise it wasn’t just him. She was evil too. As a mother myself I can hardly believe how she treated me. It was unnatural and cruel.

“But there is no point getting depressed about it, you have to live for the future. But I never want to see her again. Nothing can hurt me as much as they did but that is what makes me stronger.”

She described how the children abused by the cult were cut off from their peers and forced to take part in long church services and obey Batley’s every whim.

“We weren’t even allowed to look in his eyes,” said Annabelle.

“He ruled our little community with an iron will and we were made to do what he ordered for fear of angering the Gods.”

In Batley’s ‘Church’, children were led to believe they were proving themselves to the Gods by passing tests, which usually involved sex with either him or other cult members.

Annabelle recalled the first time he raped her when she was just 11 years old.

“The worst thing about it was the fact that he made me think I was doing it out of choice,” she said.

“It was awful. The most painful and shocking thing that had ever happened – but it was my path, that’s what he told me, and if I didn’t do it I would go to the Abyss, which was our version of hell.

“Colin knew how to manipulate you, to make you believe anything he said.”

But Annabelle’s most horrific experience was when her own mother assaulted her at the age of 14.

“Afterwards, Colin asked me if I enjoyed it and I knew what I had to say – I had to say yes. But inside I felt like dying.”

The tests did not end there – at 14 she was forced into a relationship with another cult member five years her senior and by then she was having regular group sex with Batley and her mother.

“I was a schoolgirl by day and a sex slave at night,” she said. “It got so bad that at one point I tried to take my own life.”

Aged 18, three months after having Batley’s child, she was forced into prostitution.

It was the love of her daughter that saved her and gave her a reason to live – she bravely escaped in the dead of night when her baby was one year old.

By the time of her escape she had slept with over 1,800 men – the proceeds of which had all gone towards ‘the Church’.

After the case another victim descrived how Batley forced her to put on a satanic symbol and raped her as a teenager.

The woman described how he ruled the cult by fear.

“[Colin] was the boss. He barked orders at everybody including me.

“People just did what they were told. He had Rottweilers that were scared of him but vicious to everyone else.

“At 15 I had to have sex with Colin. He said it was an initiation into the occult.

“He said he did not want to do it but it had to be done. He said if I did not follow orders I would be killed. People ‘higher up’ in the cult would do it, he said.”

Reflecting on his jail term she added: “A hundred years would not be enough for Colin Batley.

“But at least now myself and the other victims can start to rebuild our lives outside of the shadow of that contemptible man.”

She was originally from London but was brought to Wales by Batley where she was abused and “passed round” to other cult members who had sex with her.

She said: “He said the occult was strong in Wales.”

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/satanic-sex-cult-quiet-welsh-15445204

Dec 2, 2018

Mom battles school board, saying yoga is against her family's religion

Gina Clarke says yoga can be a “very grey area,” which is why she wanted the religious accommodation for her kids.  (DREAMSTIME / TNS)
ISABEL TEOTONIO Education Reporter
Toronto Star
November 28, 2018

Gina Clarke was furious when her 8-year-old daughter came home from school in tears after doing a wellness day activity in her Grade 3 class.

“(My daughter) was very upset,” recalls the Vaughan mother. “She knew she did something she wasn’t supposed to.”

That something was yoga.

The Clarke family is Roman Catholic and doesn’t do yoga because it’s rooted in Hinduism. Whether or not Catholics should do yoga is debatable. Some believe physical aspects, such as poses, are acceptable, but spiritual elements, such as mantras and meditations, are not. And some, like the Clarkes, prefer to avoid yoga altogether.

So when her daughter came home that day in May 2017, Clarke was upset because she says she had asked the principal for a religious accommodation that excused her from the activity. She says the accommodation was granted, so she was stunned when her daughter said she had done yoga.

That set Clarke on a quest for answers up the ranks of the York Region District School Board, including speaking with the teacher, principal, superintendent, trustee and director of education. She also contacted Ontario’s education minister.

“My paper trail is a mile long,” says Clarke, a cancer scientist who keeps detailed notes and records. “The system has been completely unaccountable to us.”

The matter is expected to come up at the board’s Director of Education Performance Review Committee, which will meet in private on Wednesday. Recommendations made by the committee will be voted on by the board Dec. 11. Citing privacy reasons, board staff said they could not discuss specifics of this case.

Clarke is hoping, in part, for a full apology, greater accountability, and more transparency when it comes to investigations that she would like to see include more parent voice throughout.

According to documents Clarke gave the board, and in interviews with the Star, she says she requested a religious accommodation for her children in March 2017 at Mackenzie Glen Public School. It was triggered when her son came home and said his senior kindergarten class was doing Cosmic Kids Yoga. Clarke met with Principal Lorellie Munson.

“I said, ‘We don’t do this in our religion,’” recalls Clarke, who followed up with an email suggesting yoga be replaced in her son’s class with “alternative exercises which do not have religious origins so that (he) might not feel singled out.”

Her verbal request for an accommodation was granted by the principal, and her son never again participated in yoga. Clarke says she never filled out an official request form, which she later learned is board policy.

About two months later, she says her daughter came home crying, saying her class had participated in an activity and followed along to a video. At the end of the video, which credited The School Yoga Project, the girl realized she had unknowingly done yoga. Clarke later saw a photo on the teacher’s Twitter account that showed her daughter doing what appears to be the tree pose and a meditation practice, and reviewed the video. She spoke with the teacher, and the vice-principal to explain why yoga was incompatible with her faith.

“I really felt like I was viewed as having nine heads, regarding our beliefs,” says Clarke, who took her concerns to the superintendent. She also requested an immediate transfer of her children to another school.

A personnel investigation by Superintendent Paul Valle found there was no record of a request for religious accommodation on file.

“There was no intent to offend you in the matter of religious belief,” explained Valle to Clarke in a June 2017 email she shared with the Star. “In my communication and interviews with the school and staff, it was confirmed that the activities were focused on breathing, stretching and physical exercises and that the content presented had no spiritual or religious context.”

Clarke says she was upset because she felt like she was being told what is an acceptable belief for her and says faith accommodations don’t require a spiritual or religious context. She also felt shut out from the investigation process and couldn’t get answers on what steps were taken and what was asked during those interviews. The whole process was not transparent, she says.

Cecil Roach, Co-ordinating Superintendent of Education, Indigenous Education and Equity for the board, says his recollection is that Clarke’s wishes were accommodated and that the principal thought students had participated in a mindfulness activity and not yoga.

“Many schools in the province are doing mindfulness,” he told the Star. “This particular parent interpreted that as yoga.”

He says it’s hard to see how yoga would qualify as a faith accommodation, but says it was granted nonetheless to Clarke’s children.

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, schools must consider accommodation requests for religious beliefs or practices that are sincerely held, and must accommodate them, unless there are reasons of undue hardship (health, safety, cost), or it significantly interferes with education. In some cases, for example, children are accommodated and exempt from physical education, music and dance classes.

Clarke says yoga can be a “very grey area,” which is why she wanted the accommodation for her kids, so they wouldn’t have to make difficult judgments. Some schools in the United States have even banned yoga because of the religious element.

At the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, it’s not uncommon to receive inquiries about whether yoga is endorsed by the Catholic Church.

“It’s more than a simple yes or no response,” says Neil MacCarthy, spokesperson for Archdiocese of Toronto. “Exercise and physical activity, including stretching, is healthy and encouraged. However, the original proponents of yoga, and many who enjoy yoga today, view the activity as a spiritual practice. While no one tends to think of swimming or jogging as spiritual activities, yoga is different in that perspective. The stretching elements involved in yoga are not at issue but using the practice as part of a holistic approach to one’s spirituality would be of concern for many Catholics because of an incompatibility in what the two spiritualities aim to achieve.”

Clarke’s concerns made it all the way up to the school board’s new director, Louise Sirisko, who took over the role in January. She conducted her own review and in the summer shared her draft findings with Clarke, concluding that appropriate steps had been followed. Clarke provided extensive feedback, believing the board had failed to acknowledge mistakes, make anyone accountable and be transparent. In late October, she received a final response from Sirisko, who said the board responded to complaints in a “thorough and fulsome manner” and stuck with her original finding.

Clarke now hopes the committee will make recommendations so other families don’t go through what she did. She says if someone had apologized at the outset for a mistake or a misunderstanding, this matter would not have escalated.

“This started in the school and could easily have ended and been resolved in the school,” she said. “The whole system has failed us.”

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/28/mom-battles-school-board-saying-yoga-against-her-religion.html

New Charity Inquiry: Rigpa Fellowship

Charity Commission For England and Wales
Press release

New Charity Inquiry: Rigpa Fellowship


Charity Commission investigates Rigpa Fellowship.

Published 29 November 2018

From: The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, is today announcing that it has opened a statutory inquiry into Rigpa Fellowship (279315). The inquiry was opened on 8 November 2018.

The charity, which is based in London, has objects to advance the Buddhist religion, and provides religious education, training and activities.

The Commission has been engaging with the charity since August 2017 over serious concerns about adult safeguarding. The regulator’s concerns have escalated in the course of this engagement, prompting the opening of a statutory inquiry.

The inquiry will examine the charity’s governance, policies and practices with regard to adult safeguarding, particularly in relation to:

  • its response, general handling and disclosure to the Commission and other agencies in relation to serious adult safeguarding incidents
  • its responsibility to provide a safe environment for its beneficiaries, staff and other charity workers in the delivery of its programmes

More generally the inquiry will examine the charity’s:

  • recruitment and supervision of its employees, volunteers and other charity workers
  • financial controls and their application
  • responsibility to maintain its reputation as a charity which can be entrusted with public support and the confidence of its beneficiaries, staff and volunteers

It is the Commission’s policy, after an inquiry has concluded, to publish a report detailing what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were.

Reports of previous inquiries by the Commission are available on GOV.UK.

Ends

Notes to editors

  1. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. To find out more about our work see the about us page on GOV.UK.
  2. Search for charities on our check charity tool.
  3. Section 46 of the Charities Act 2011 gives the Commission the power to institute inquiries. The opening of an inquiry gives the commission access to a range of investigative, protective and remedial legal powers.
Press office

Email pressenquiries@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk
Press enquiries - office hours0300 065 2123
Press enquiries - out of hours07785 748787

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-charity-inquiry-rigpa-fellowship

Dec 1, 2018

Backstory: Australia's foremost religion journalist Rachael Kohn on why faith still matters


YOUTUBE: The Spirit of Things: Rachael Kohn interviews the Dalai Lama during a visit to Chenrezig in Queensland in 2011.


Rachael Kohn
ABC News`
December 1, 2018

It was 1993 and I was in Chicago to cover the Parliament of the World's Religions, where 8,000 people from every imaginable religion and country pledged to live in harmony.

It was exactly 100 years since the original Parliament was held at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair when swamis, gurus and spiritual leaders came to America for the first time.

It was my first overseas assignment and I was alone.

The BBC team outnumbered me by three, but I had an advantage.

Being an academic in religious studies, I knew the works and reputations of many of the speakers, and with unbridled confidence I invited a litany of them to my hotel suite for interviews.

From Hans Kung, who drafted the Parliament's key document, to Richard Rubinstein, the "death of God" theologian who had controversially defended Sun Myung Moon — convicted leader of South Korea's controversial Unification Church (known as the 'Moonies') — I interviewed over 20 participants with my bulky cassette recorder.

But not everyone was welcome at the world's largest religion jamboree.

Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the black nationalist group Nation of Islam, who was known for his racist and anti-Semitic statements, gate-crashed the event.

He held his own media conference at the Palmer House Hotel, where the conference was based.

Farrakhan's bouncers tried to keep me out, perhaps because my name clearly identified me as Jewish.

But I persisted and when I asked him about his targeting of Jews, he exploded.

The other journalists were stunned to see his charming demeanour abruptly turn to ferocious attack.

But the message of Hans Kung, that "there will be no peace among nations until there is peace among religions", won the day.

At the closing event, the Dalai Lama's address on the importance of demonstrating personal compassion drew upwards of 20,000 attendees.

I returned to Australia with a profound understanding of what I needed to do.
Dangerous cults and disgraced sheiks

My programs on religion would provide an unparalleled opportunity to hear the best and the brightest people articulate their religious traditions in a way that might foster the peace that Kung and others dreamt of.

But the 1990s were anything but peaceful.

Terrorism fuelled by Islamist extremism had already taken a toll at the World Trade Centre in 1993, resulting in over 1,000 injuries and six deaths.

It would continue around the world.

The 9/11 disaster killed almost 3,000 American civilians, and the Bali bombing, in 2002, killed 202 people — 88 of them Australians.

A rising fear of the Muslim community needed to be addressed, and the programs that I created — such as Religion Today (1994-1997), with producer Stephen Godley, and The Spirit of Things, with producer Geoff Wood (1997-present) — regularly addressed interfaith relations with a specific focus on Islam.

But who was to speak on behalf of the ethnically and religiously divided Muslim community?

The Egyptian-born, Lakemba-based Grand Mufti Sheik Taj el-Din Al-Hilaly was a go-to authority.

That was until he aroused controversy in 1998 with a speech, in Arabic, at a public function at the University of Sydney.

In it, he accused Jews of using sex and deviancy to control the world.

Sheik Al-Hilaly's standing worsened in 2006, when he responded to the conviction of rape by Muslim men of non-Muslim women by comparing the victims to "uncovered meat".

I was relieved that in the week of the rape story, an urbane visiting Imam from Brighton, UK, talked to me about his extensive interfaith work.

He revealed his "bible" was To Heal a Fractured World, by Chief Rabbi of the UK, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

In fact, interfaith initiatives in Australia between the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities gathered pace.

But no-one was addressing the trouble makers, like the self-appointed sheik, Man Haron Monis.

He claimed to be a refugee from Iran, and was becoming radicalised.

He had sent me, and others in the media, a DVD with a woman dressed in a burka recruiting fighters for jihad.

It prompted me to write an article for The Drum in 2009 in which I warned that if the renegade sheik was not reigned in, then he would be a danger to both the wider community and the Muslim community.

Then, on December 15, 2014, Man Haron Monis walked into the Lindt Cafe armed with an assault rifle and took hostages.

Two of the detainees were killed during the 17-hour ordeal.

The desire to preserve the peace should never mean turning a blind eye to the dark side of religion.

That lesson was forever etched in my mind 40 years ago when Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, led his largely African-American flock to the jungles of Guyana.

More than 900 followers, including 304 children, died in a mass murder-suicide pact.

It was the worst cult disaster in modern American history.

Having specialised in cults as an academic, I was familiar with their destructive practices, which hit an all-time high in the 1990s.

The Solar Temple, in Switzerland and Quebec, Heaven's Gate in California, and the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas, collectively left 200 dead and many seriously injured.

Meanwhile, the Buddhist doomsday cult, Aum Shin Rikyo, killed 13 and injured thousands in poisonous sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo Metro of Japan.

The leader, Shoko Asahara, and his minions, were executed in July this year.
 

Survivors and stories of rebirth


In 26 years at the ABC, I have interviewed many survivors and leaders of cults (sometimes termed "new religious movements").

They range from the second-in-command at Waco, Marc Breault, to the jailed Australian exile and follower of Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh, Jane Stork, who was part of a plot to murder a doctor and a judge (you may know her from the Netflix series, Wild, Wild Country).

Then there was the high-level member of Peoples Temple, Deborah Layton, who described herself as a true believer and a victim of Jim Jones; and Nan Sook Hong, the daughter-in-law of Sun Myung Moon (from the aforementioned "Moonies") who told me how she escaped the high-security compound in New York State.

There were plenty of home-grown cults that made the news, too, including William Kamm, known as "The Little Pebble", in Nowra, New South Wales.

He acquired underage wives, called Queens and Princesses, in order to produce a master race.

In a similar cult fantasy, Anne Hamilton-Byrne claimed to be the reborn Christ.

Her Victorian group, known as "The Family", adopted babies from unsuspecting mothers and turned them into drug-induced identical children with the help of peroxide and bowl haircuts.

That story is soon to be an ABC documentary.

Dire stories make good copy and even better drama, but the immensely positive role that religion plays in the lives of individuals, in communities, and in society has been the mainstay of The Spirit of Things.

It is more than the social welfare ethos that religious communities consistently demonstrate and the spiritual practices, like yoga and meditation, that benefit one's body and mind.

It is the profoundly transformative effect of faith in people's lives that is deeply impressive.

These stories of lives redeemed, like the former drug dealer and gang leader, Tony Hoang, who turned his life around and now encourages high school students to do the same, is the real business of religion.

In fact, when people ask me who are the most impressive people I've interviewed in my career as a religion journalist, it is rarely the highly esteemed religious leaders.

On the contrary, it is the ordinary people whose lives were headed for ruin and were turned around by their faith.

It is this record of religion as a positive force for good that journalists also need to cover if a fair and accurate understanding is to be had.

Toward that end, in 2009, I was invited, along with 100 journalists from around the world, to establish the (non-profit) International Association of Religion Journalists.

It is a global network of journalists promoting "accurate, balanced and ethical religion coverage", which is what I've strived for above all in my work at the ABC.

Achieving that has also meant that I have enabled discussions, rather than dominated them with my own opinions.

But I just might get a chance to air a few of them on my last Spirit of Things episode on December 23, when religion journalist for The Age, Barney Zwartz, will turn the tables and interview me.

Listen to The Spirit of Things on RN on Sundays at 6pm or via the ABC Listen app.



https://www.abc.net.au/news/about/backstory/radio/2018-12-01/backstory-rachael-kohn-reflection/10568468

Nov 29, 2018

Woman sentenced to 6.5 years for transfer of stolen millions to Church of Scientology


RAPSI
November 29, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG  – The Oktyabrsky District Court of St. Petersburg on Thursday sentenced Ekaterina Zaborskikh, who had been earlier convicted of embezzling millions of rubles from real estate investors and transferring the money to the Church of Scientology Moscow, to 5.5 years in prison for a similar crime, the United press service of St. Petersburg courts told RAPSI. 

For this once, Zaborskikh was found guilty of stealing over 33 million rubles (about $500,000) for the religious organization. Thus, she received accumulative sentences for a term of 8.5 years.

In October 2017, the woman was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for embezzling over 130 million rubles (about $2 million) from real estate investors for the benefit the Church of Scientology Moscow. The Oktyabrsky District Court of St. Petersburg also granted lawsuits filed by victims demanding 133 million rubles in total from the defendant.  The woman was also ordered to pay 600,000 rubles ($9,000) of court costs.

According to investigators, Zaborskikh was a chairman of several consumer committees and housing cooperatives. Allegedly she was responsible for deceiving people into paying her money under the guise of selling apartments, houses and land plots around St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region while she had no ability to provide such real estate. Allegedly she stole over 130 million rubles from her clients between 2012 and 2014.
Zaborskikh allegedly used the money on her own volition by, among other things, transferring it to the religious organization called “The Church of Scientology Moscow”. According to investigators, she gave away money to the organization both in cash and through cashless transfer.

Dianetics and Scientology are a set of religious and philosophical ideas and practices that were put forth by L. Ron Hubbard in the US in the early 1950s.

The scientific community never recognized it as science.
A resolution passed in 1996 by the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, classified the Church of Scientology as a destructive religious organization.

The Moscow Regional Court ruled in 2012 that some of Hubbard’s books be included on the Federal List of Extremist Literature and prohibited from distribution in Russia. 

http://rapsinews.com/judicial_news/20181129/291825666.html