Nov 24, 2020

Choir Practice Discussion on Cults and How They Recruit Members

Profiling Evil
November 23, 2020

Discussion on Cults and How They Recruit Members 

Meet our guests

-A couple I have known them for many years and they actually were recruited by the Zion Society leadership, narrowly avoiding joining... 

Deceived: An Investigative Memoir into the Zion Society Cult
Deceived: An Investigative Memoir into the Zion Society Cult

“Deceived” is a memoir of Detective Mike King’s 1991 investigation and the ultimate take-down of a deviant polygamous cult called the Zion Society. For over a decade, gossip swirled around northern Utah that a secretive group of religious zealots were buying up homes to take over a developing neighborhood in an Ogden community. The homes were known far and wide for their immaculately landscaped yards. Rumors spread that a well-known landscaper in the city had proclaimed himself to be a prophet of God and was being commanded to start his own secret religion that promoted polygamy. It was also believed the group was stockpiling weapons as part of their doomsday beliefs. In reality, the leader was directing some of the most repugnant crimes against women and children ever seen in the state. The hidden atrocities of the cult may never have been discovered if not for the courage of one of its members. Thirty years later, victims reconnected with each other and with the lead investigator to address the shortcomings of the criminal justice system regarding child victims.

Nov 23, 2020

Obituary: Cathleen Mann, PhD

On November 21st, 2020, Cathleen Mann​ passed away.

"Cathleen Mann, PhD, had consulted in about a hundred cases involving cults, undue influence, psychological influence, and related areas. She ha​d​ been qualified by a court of law as an expert in 15 states, testifying in 40 cases. She ha​d​ an independent practice in Lakewood, Colorado, where she also d​id​ counseling, evaluations, investigations, supervision, and consulting. Dr. Mann ha​d​ extensive experience with the qualification process required to be allowed to testify as an expert. Dr. Mann has a PhD in psychology and has held a counseling license in Colorado since 1994."

ICSA Annual Conference, Philadelphia, 2008
The Role of the Expert in Civil Litigation Against Cults: A Winning Case Against the Gentle Wind Project from Maine
Cathleen A. Mann, Ph.D.

Conversion Therapy Survivors: A community of conversion therapy survivors and their supporters

CT SURVIVORS is comprised of conversion therapy survivors who have joined together for healing and fellowship. Our mission is to promote safe spaces for all conversion therapy survivors by providing forums for open and vulnerable sharing. We have seen that by joining together and connecting, we are able to recover from some of the traumatic effects of conversion therapy, while also forming deep and meaningful friendships with each other.

As a community, CT SURVIVORS’ first responsibility is to our healing. With our continued growth, we look forward to ending conversion therapy through advocacy and retelling of our stories. As individual survivors, we have limited power in supporting a cause, but as a community of survivors our ability to create change is exponentially larger.

To contact someone from CT SURVIVORS, you may email us at

Florida bans on conversion therapy for children voided by U.S. appeals court

Jonathan Stempel
November 20, 2020

A divided federal appeals court on Friday declared unconstitutional two south Florida laws that banned therapists from offering conversion therapy to children struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a 2-1 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with two therapists who said the laws in the city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County violated their free speech rights.

Circuit Judge Britt Grant said that while enjoining the laws “allows speech that many find concerning--even dangerous,” the First Amendment “does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender.”

Conversion therapy aims to change people’s sexual orientations or gender identities.

The therapists, Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, said their clients typically had “sincerely held religious beliefs conflicting with homosexuality,” and sought counseling to conform their identities and behaviors with those beliefs.

Republican President Donald Trump appointed both judges in Friday’s majority.

Circuit Judge Barbara Martin, appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama, dissented, citing a compelling interest in protecting children from a “harmful therapeutic practice.”

In separate statements, Boca Raton’s lawyer Jamie Cole and Palm Beach County’s lawyer Helene Hvizd called the dissent “well-reasoned,” and said both were weighing their legal options.

Mat Staver, a lawyer for the therapists, called the decision the first of its kind by a federal appeals court, and “a huge victory” enabling people to choose counseling free of government censorship.

A June study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law said 20 states and Washington, D.C. ban licensed healthcare professionals from conducting conversion therapy on children.

Critics say the practice stigmatizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and is linked to depression, anxiety and suicide.

The American Psychiatric Association also opposes conversion therapy, saying the practice often assumes that homosexuality is a mental disorder.

Some supporters of the practice have offered religious justifications or said it is unethical not to offer clients that option.

The case is Otto et al v City of Boca Raton, Florida et al, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 19-10604.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown

Porn star and three Marines, all white supremacists, charged in federal gun conspiracy

November 21, 2020
Four white supremacists have been charged in a conspiracy to build, transport and sell illegal guns, the Justice Department announced Friday in a press release.

Paul Kryscuk, a 35-year-old reported porn star, sold multiple manufactured weapons to 21-year-old then-Marine Liam Collins, the feds said. Kryscuk allegedly mailed the illegal DIY weapons from his homes in New York and Idaho to Collins in North Carolina.

Kryscuk and Collins were regulars on the online neo-Nazi forum Iron March back in 2017 before the site was shut down, according to the feds. During that time, they recruited Jordan Duncan, a 26-year-old ex-Marine and military contractor, and Justin Hermanson, a 21-year-old current U.S. Marine.

Duncan, who left the Corps in 2018, and Hermanson then joined the interstate gun conspiracy, the feds said.

Kryscuk, Collins and Duncan were charged last month with the federal gun crimes, but the Justice Department waited until Friday to drop the juicy white supremacist details.

According to the feds, the crew filmed a "training montage" of themselves shooting guns near Kryscuk's home in Boise, Idaho. The video ends with all four giving the "Heil Hitler" salute under a black sun flag, a Nazi symbol. The phrase "Come home white man" then appears on screen to conclude the video.

Kryscuk's vehicle was also spotted at two different Black Lives Matter rallies in Boise, Idaho, over the summer, according to the indictment. Kryscuk and Duncan later discussed shooting the protesters, with Kryscuk calling their group a "death squad," the feds said.

Collins, who was enlisted until September, and Duncan had moved to Boise to work closer to Kryscuk before they were all arrested in late October, according to the Justice Department.

All four neo-Nazis are formally charged with conspiracy to manufacture firearms and ship them interstate. Kryscuk, Collins and Hermanson are charged with interstate transportation of firearms without a license. Kryscuk and Collins were also hit with a third charge, interstate transportation of a firearm not registered as required.

The Iron March message board where they all met reportedly inspired almost 100 hate crime murders worldwide.

Nov 22, 2020

A Brazilian Writer Saw a Tweet as Tame Satire. Then Came the Lawsuits

J.P. Cuenca, a Brazillian novelist and journalist, is among the latest targets of a type of legal crusade that pastors and politicians in Brazil are increasingly waging against journalists and critics.

Ernesto Londoño
NY Times 
November 22, 2020

RIO DE JANEIRO — The acerbic tweet came naturally to the Brazilian novelist and journalist J.P. Cuenca, who was several months into a quarantine doom-scrolling routine.

One June afternoon, he read an article about the millions of dollars President Jair Bolsonaro’s government had spent advertising on radio and television stations owned by its evangelical Christian allies, particularly the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Protestant denomination that has helped propel Brazil’s political shift rightward.

“Brazilians will only be free when the last Bolsonaro is strangled with the entrails of the last pastor from the Universal Church,” Mr. Cuenca wrote on Twitter, riffing on an oft-cited 18th century quote about the fates that should befall kings and priests.

He put his phone down, made coffee and carried on with his day, oblivious that the missive would soon cost him his job with a German news outlet, prompt death threats and spark a cascade of litigation. At least 130 Universal Church pastors, claiming “moral injury,” have sued him in remote courthouses around the vast country.

Mr. Cuenca is among the latest targets of a type of legal crusade that pastors and politicians in Brazil are increasingly waging against journalists and critics in a bitterly polarized nation. Defendants or their lawyers must then show up in person for each suit, leading them in a mad rush around the country.

“Their strategy is to sue me in different parts of the country so I have to defend myself in all these corners of Brazil, a continent-size nation,” he said. “They want to instill fear in future critical voices and to drive me to ruin or madness. It’s Kafka in the tropics.”

Press freedom advocates say the sheer number of suits against Mr. Cuenca is unusual, but the type of campaign he faces no longer is.

Leticia Kleim, a legal expert at the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists, said, “We’re seeing the justice system become a means to censure and impede the work of journalists.”

She said the number of lawsuits against journalists and news organizations seeking the removal of content or damages for critical coverage has increased notably during the presidency of Mr. Bolsonaro, who often berates and insults journalists.

“The stigmatizing rhetoric has incentivized this practice,” she said. “Politicians portray journalists as the enemy and their base of supporters act the same way.”

Mr. Cuenca said he didn’t deem his tweet particularly offensive given the state of political discourse in Brazil.

After all, the country is governed by a president who supports torture, once told a female lawmaker she was too ugly to rape, said he would rather his son die in an accident than be gay, and in 2018 was criminally charged with inciting hatred against Black people, women and Indigenous people.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bolsonaro lashed out at two reporters who asked about a corruption case against one of his sons. He told one he had a “terribly homosexual face” and said to another that he was tempted to smash his face in.

Mr. Cuenca saw his criticism as comparatively high-minded. He said he disdains the Universal Church, which has grown into a transnational behemoth since its founding in the 1970s, because he believes it fueled Mr. Bolsonaro’s rise to the presidency, enabling ecological destruction, reckless handling of the coronavirus pandemic and institutional chaos.

“I was totally bored, distracted, procrastinating and angry over politics,” Mr. Cuenca said. “What I wrote was satire.”

The first sign of trouble was the wave of attacks that poured in on his social media accounts. Then came a one-line email from his editor at the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, where he wrote a regular column. “Cuenca, did you really tweet that?” she asked.

He offered to write a column explaining the history of the quote — versions of which have been attributed to the French priest Jean Meslier and later to Diderot and Voltaire — and offering examples of modern-day intellectuals using variations on the line to comment on Brazilian problems.

But the editor called the tweet “abominable” and told Mr. Cuenca his column was being canceled. Deutsche Welle issued a statement about its decision, saying it repudiates “any type of hate speech or incitement to violence.”

Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal lawmaker and one of the president’s sons, celebrated Deutsche Welle’s decision in a message on Twitter and said he intended to sue Mr. Cuenca.

In August, Mr. Cuenca was startled to learn the tweet had led to a referral for criminal prosecution. But Frederico de Carvalho Paiva, the prosecutor who handled the referral, declined to charge Mr. Cuenca, writing in a decision that the journalist had a constitutional right to criticize the president, even in “rude and offensive” terms.

“That’s freedom of expression, which can’t be throttled by ignorant people who are unable to grasp hyperbole,” the prosecutor wrote.

Mr. Cuenca searched his name in a database of legal cases and found the first of dozens of strikingly similar lawsuits by pastors from the Universal Church, seeking monetary damages for the distress they said the tweet had caused them. They were filed under a legal mechanism that requires the defendant or a legal representative to appear in person to mount a defense.

Some pastors have found receptive judges, including one who ordered that Mr. Cuenca delete his entire Twitter account as a form of reparations. But another judge found the action meritless and called it in a ruling “almost an abuse of the legal process.”

In a statement, the Universal Church said it had played no role in the torrent of litigation. “Brazil’s Constitution guarantees everyone — including evangelical pastors — the right to seek justice,” the church said. “Whoever feels they have been offended or disrespected can seek reparations before the courts, which get to decide who is right.”

The statement said that the right to freedom of speech in Brazil is “not absolute,” and that satire is not a defense for religious prejudice. “It must be remembered that the assertion by the writer João Paulo Cuenca provoked repudiation among many Christians on social media.”

Taís Gasparian, a lawyer in São Paulo who has defended several people who faced similar bursts of almost-identical, simultaneous lawsuits, said plaintiffs like the Universal Church abuse a legal mechanism that was created in the 1990s to make the justice system accessible and affordable to ordinary people.

The type of action filed against Mr. Cuenca doesn’t require that a plaintiff hire a lawyer, but defendants who don’t show up in person or send a lawyer often lose by default. Universal Church pastors began a similar wave of suits against the journalist Elvira Lobato after she published an article in December 2007 documenting links between the church and companies based in tax havens.

The timing and the striking similarities among the lawsuits filed against Ms. Lobato and Mr. Cuenca make it clear they were copy-paste jobs, Ms. Gasparian said.

“It’s enormously cruel,” she said. “It’s an intimidation tactic in a country where the traditional media is facing big challenges.”

Paulo José Avelino da Silva, one of the pastors who sued Mr. Cuenca, said he took the action on his own initiative because the tweet offended him.

“As a Brazilian it made me feel like I was being excluded from my own country,” said the pastor, who lives in Maragogi, a beach town in the northeastern state of Alagoas. “If he had retracted what he wrote, I would not have sued.”

Mr. Cuenca said he hoped the ordeal would lead to changes in the justice system that prevent similar legal barrages. And perhaps the whole thing will become the subject of his next creative project.

“I’m thinking of making a film,” he said. He envisions traveling to remote towns to meet the pastors who sued him and see what happens if they just sit face to face and exchange views in good faith. “I’d like to talk to them and find what we have in common.”

Nov 21, 2020

Alleged Sarah Lawrence sex-cult leader Lawrence Ray seeking victims’ psychiatric records

Rebecca Rosenberg
NY Post
November 20, 2020

Prosecutors don’t want alleged sex-cult leader Lawrence Ray to get his hands on his victims’ highly sensitive psychiatric records — including documentation about attempted suicides, it was revealed Friday at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.

Assistant US Attorney Danielle Sassoon said that Ray had exploited the vulnerabilities of his victims and several had “attempted suicide during the course of their relationship with Mr. Ray.”

She added that Ray had allegedly interfered with their care while they were hospitalized, directing them to cut out their parents and authorize their doctors to speak directly to him.

Sassoon argued that the records are confidential, and the government hasn’t decided yet whether to call these witnesses at trial.

Ray is charged with creating a a Nxivm-like sex cult to prey on his daughter’s classmates at Sarah Lawrence — using psychological torture and physical violence to extort them — and, in the case of one woman, force her into prostitution.

Ray’s defense lawyer issued subpoenas for the mental records of two victims authorized by US District Judge Lewis Liman, without the knowledge of prosecutors or the patients.

Now prosecutors and lawyers for the two victims want the subpoenas quashed, arguing that the records contain privileged medical information and that the defense is simply trying to get impeachment material to use against the women.

Ray’s lawyer, Marne Lenox, countered that prosecutors have argued that the victims sought treatment as a result of the defendant’s abuse and that this psychological harm led to the extortion and sex trafficking,  but she say the records contradict this.

In light of the government’s argument, the victims’ mental health is fundamental to the case, and the defense is entitled to the records to “assert an affirmative defense on Mr. Ray’s behalf.”

The judge has yet to rule on the subpoenas. Ray, who was the best man at disgraced former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik’s wedding, allegedly used sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation and compromising videos to keep his victims in line, according to court filings.

He’s pleaded not guilty and is slated to go to trial July 8.

Nov 17, 2020

Former false prophets lift lid on how cult churches operate in SA

Chulumanco Mahamba
November 17, 2020

Johannesburg - Former false prophets have lifted the lid on how allegedly cult churches operate in South Africa, including allegations of hoax miracles to mentally captured and financially abused congregants.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) hosted hearing investigations in Braamfontein on Monday.

During the hearing, former prophets and apostles from alleged cult churches gave insight into how congregants were mentally captured and financially abused, where former false prophet Jay Israel told the commission most miracles performed on television by prophets were stage managed. Israel was the pastor of Spirit Life Mega Church in East London.

Israel, who said he was close to Alleluia Ministries International (AMI) pastor Alph Lukau, alleged that the wheelchair “miracles” performed in the chair and his church were performed by people who were allegedly paid to act sick.

“Everything that happens is done to make sure that people believe that these people are men of God and when you believe that they are men of God, whatever they tell you to do they will do it,” he said.

“I can find all the scriptures to support that fact every month, that you must give me money and I would use these scriptures to make sure that if you don’t give me money, you would feel like you are going to hell,” he said.

Nov 16, 2020

Bushiri, wife flee South Africa for Malawi after R100 million fraud charges

'At this stage, we can confirm that he did not report at the police station as requested' - SA police

November 14, 2020

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Controversial prosperity gospel preacher Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary have fled South Africa just days following their release on bail after being charged with multiple counts of fraud.

South African police said Bushiri and his wife failed to report to a police station on Saturday as part of their bail conditions, hours after the self-styled prophet posted a statement on Facebook stating that he was now in his native Malawi.

The Enlightened Christian Gathering founder and his wife face multiple counts of fraud and money laundering involving over R100 million.

The Malawian claims he is being persecuted.

“I would like to inform the general public that my wife, Mary, and I are temporarily in our home country, Malawi, because of safety and security issues since 2015. These matters have gotten worse after we just got both our bails,” Bushiri said in the statement.

As part of his bail conditions, Bushiri and his wife were made to surrender their passports. Investigators have been left dumbfounded over how he was able to leave South Africa. By road, he would have to pass through at least one other country – Mozambique, Zimbabwe or Zambia.

In a statement, South African Police Service said: “There are unconfirmed reports that Prophet Bushiri and his wife have absconded from South Africa which is in contravention of their bail conditions as set in the Pretoria Magistrate Court.

“At this stage, we can confirm that he did not report at the police station as requested and agreed upon which is also an act of contravention of a court order. Investigators together with prosecutors have been working tirelessly since it came to light that he did not report at the police station.

“The current posts purporting to be issued by Bushiri who is said to be in Malawi are being authenticated and verified. An investigation around failure to comply with the court order is underway.”

Bushiri, in his lengthy statement, claimed there had been “clear and evident attempts to have myself, my wife and my family killed.”

“Despite our several attempts to report to authorities, there has never been State protection. Our coming to Malawi, hence, is a tactical withdrawal from the Republic of South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives,” Bushiri said.

Maintaining that he was not afraid to face the charges levelled against him, he said he had come to a “painful conclusion that what my wife and I have faced in the Republic of South Africa, since 2015, is purely persecution not prosecution.”

He said he would only return to South Africa after guarantees of his safety; an undertaking that his bail will not be revoked; that the police officers investigating him and his family stand down and official complaints he made about some of the officers trying to extort him are investigated fully.

“Finally, I want the South African state to appoint independent and professional investigators and prosecutors who should make independent decisions on the cases we are accused of. In this regard, I am requesting the Malawi government to liaise with the South African government to ensure that the above issues are met,” Bushiri added.

The couple and co-accused Landiwe Ntlokwana are charged with fraud and money laundering related to an investment scheme valued at R102 million. They are charged alongside Zethu and Willie Mudolo.

Bushiri leads one of the biggest churches in South Africa. Thousands attend his church services in Pretoria every weekend.

Utah high court weighs case of woman who says church made her listen to audio of her rape

The Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Spenser Heaps,
Lower courts say First Amendment prevents juries from considering case

Annie Knox
Deseret News
November 9, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case alleging male leaders of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Roy forced a 15-year-old girl to listen to a recording of a man raping her in 2008.

Lower courts found the church is not liable for the incident under protections of the First Amendment.

The state’s high court has not yet made any ruling, but one justice made his views on the alleged conduct clear.

“The allegation here is a mental and emotional equivalent of waterboarding,” Justice Deno Himonas said. “I’ve been a judge for a long time and a lawyer for a long time. I’ve never seen, in court, anything like this that’s alleged.”

The justice was responding to an attorney for the church who referenced the torture in defending her clients. Lawyer Kara Porter said she would draw a line at such physical harm. But she emphasized the woman in the case alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Attorneys for the woman now in her late 20s argue that lower courts got it wrong when they ruled that the First Amendment shields the church from liability.

They say that Utah’s highest court will set a dangerous precedent if it decides to grant such protection, effectively permitting other harmful conduct by religious organizations like sharing a person’s medical records or repeatedly striking a child in the face.

Porter emphasized that the tribunal was trying to determine whether the girl had sinned, a process the government isn’t permitted to meddle in.

The woman sued the four elders, the Roy church and the religion’s national organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, in Oden’s 2nd District Court in 2016. She alleges she cried, shook visibly and pleaded for them to stop as they played the recording intermittently over the course of at least four hours in 2008. Their goal was to extract a confession that she had voluntarily engaged in sex outside of marriage, her attorneys contend.

She alleges she was 14 years old when the man, a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, 18, bullied her increasingly and began sexually assaulting her in December 2007. She alleges he raped her several times and provided her congregation’s leaders a recording of one instance.

She sought out counseling and medical treatment as she dealt with anxiety, nightmares and poor performance in school, her attorneys say. They note that before she appealed, the 2nd District Court ruled it would have “no hesitation” in sending the case to a jury if it pertained to a secular setting.

“It’s an important and difficult case,” Chief Justice Matthew Durrant said at the conclusion of the hearing that lasted about an hour and a half.

The justices on Monday peppered lawyers on both sides with questions about where a legal line should be drawn in civil claims tied to religious matters. Both parties agreed that the allegations do not fit any criminal offense.

Justice Paige Petersen said the answer may be a matter of degrees.

Simply convening the church tribunal process could distress a person in the faith who knows the conduct is viewed as a sin, Petersen noted. On the other end of the spectrum, she said, a group may believe it must do anything necessary to find out what happened, even if the process includes torture.

“How do we draw lines there?” Petersen said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a government action violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishing religion if it fosters an “excessive entanglement with religion.”

The Utah Court of Appeals ruled last year that adjudicating the woman’s legal claim would amount to excessive entanglement because it “requires an inquiry into the appropriateness of the church’s conduct in applying a religious practice and therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Her attorneys disagree.

Lawyer Robert Friedman said he doesn’t dispute there were religious reasons at play, “but the motive cannot justify the conduct.”

Moreover, the case doesn’t require a court to interpret religious teachings or determine whether someone’s religious beliefs are true or false, the sorts of moves the First Amendment prohibits.

In addition to the free-speech argument, attorneys for the elders and church have argued the lawsuit lacked facts to support the claim. They have also previously said the men had a duty in their faith to investigate allegations of sin and the teenager could have walked out of the meeting with her parents.

Justice Thomas Lee raised the question of whether religious discrimination factors in due to Utah’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He noted a jury could mainly consist of members of that faith.

“Don’t you think that there’s a serious concern that that body and that group is going to be making a judgement based on their beliefs of what religious orthodoxy and reasonableness is?” Lee asked.

Friedman countered he believes those issues could be ferreted out by a judge, including in the jury selection process and in instructions given to jurors before they deliberate.

Carol Giambalvo's Cult Information and Recovery

Carol Giambalvo's Cult Information and Recovery
Carol Giambalvo's Cult Information and Recovery

"I hope the following will give you a better understanding of thought reform and my approach to helping individuals make a fully informed choice in a way that is consistent with the ethical standards that myself and my colleagues who have worked so diligently to develop.

In addition to my commitment to these ethical standards, I also have a deep commitment to the recovery of individuals who have been part of a thought reform program, a group that was psychologically or spiritually abusive or an abusive relationship. To those of you who fit into that category, I want you to know that you're not alone. The key to our recovery is education -- educate yourself about thought reform, about cults, about how such influence can and does effect individuals. And be patient with yourself in the recovery process."

Shincheonji leader granted bail after three months in detention

Ko Jun-tae
Korea Herald
November 12, 2020

A local court granted bail to Lee Man-hee, the leader of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus which was at the center of South Korea’s early coronavirus outbreak in late February through March.

The Suwon District Court on Thursday accepted the bail request of Lee, 89, citing his old age, deteriorating health and low risks of him destroying evidence.

His bail bond is set at 100 million won, and Lee will be required to wear an electric device for his whereabouts to be tracked real-time. The court ordered Lee to not leave his residence.

The religious sect leader has been in detention since Aug. 1. Lee is accused of ordering church officials to withhold information on its congregants, their gatherings and the locations of those gatherings in February.

Lee is also suspected of destroying evidence in preparation of a probe and misusing around 5.6 billion won of Shincheonji assets. He requested bail on Sept. 18.

Shincheonji has claimed that it has closely cooperated with authorities and was honest in providing all requested data to officials. It added that the religious sect never ordered its followers to lie to authorities.

The church is to date the country’s single largest cluster of COVID-19 infections. Around 4,000 of its followers, most of them at its branch in Daegu, were infected with the coronavirus. Dozens of clusters were also linked to its members.

The Daegu city government has been suing Shincheonji for damages since June, demanding financial compensation of 100 billion won.

The city found in its March investigation that the church held worship events, despite the municipality’s administrative order against mass gatherings.

By Ko Jun-tae (

Reform or suppression: Troubled lay movements need outside oversight

Maria Voce, leader of the Focolare Movement, is pictured in a file photo. Voce has accepted the resignations of the lay movement's top leaders in France and announced the group will ask an independent committee to investigate how allegations of the sexual abuse of minors have been handled. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.)
Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service
November 5, 2020

ROME — For decades, lay movements and communities have given countless Catholics a chance to rediscover and deepen their faith.

Yet, while many bring people closer to God, questions have been raised about the influence some lay groups exercise over their members and about how the church should determine whether the movement should be reformed or dissolved when there is abuse or corruption.

In his 1998 message for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, St. John Paul II recognized their importance and said lay movements were “one of the most significant fruits of that springtime in the church which was foretold by the Second Vatican Council.”

But not all the fruit was good. And several movements and communities have faced Vatican-imposed reforms and even dissolution.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a professor of psychology and president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, told Catholic News Service Nov. 4 that before deciding to dissolve a movement or community, certain criteria should be met to indicate reform is possible.

“One condition would be how much that community or that movement is really willing to revise its statutes and its way of proceeding under the guidance of someone external,” such as a commissioner, Zollner told CNS.

A key issue, he said, is a willingness to have a clear separation of “spiritual guidance and external power” when it comes to decision-making.

“A spiritual director should never have the power to direct the movement or a decision for a person,” he said. “There needs to be a separation between who decides the mission aspect (‘forum externum’) and who knows about the spiritual side (‘forum internum’). This is a very important point which some of those movements and some of those religious congregations have not been taking seriously, against the tradition and the law of the church.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the Catholic Church has a limited number of options for intervening when it comes to lay movements and communities. While a pope can remove cardinals, priests and bishops, laypeople can be punished only by excommunication.

Another condition, Zollner said, is that there must be a set period of time — preferably between three and five years — for changes to be implemented and that a person not affiliated with the movement must determine whether the conditions of the reform have been met.

The movement itself “can’t be the one to testify that they have changed because then you blow your own trumpet and people will question that,” he said, “and rightfully so.”

The situation of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement founded by Luis Fernando Figari in Peru in 1971, provides one example of the difficulty of deciding whether to push for reform or move toward suppression.

In 2015, Peruvian journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro co-authored a book titled, Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados (“Half Monks, Half Soldiers”), which detailed the alleged psychological and sexual abuse, as well as corporal punishment and extreme exercises, that young members of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae were forced to endure.

A 2017 internal investigation found that Figari and three other high-ranking former members abused 19 minors and 10 adults.

Although Pope Francis has named U.S. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, as delegate and Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londono of Jerico as “apostolic commissary” to oversee the movement and its reforms, Ugaz and Salinas continue to face a steady stream of legal troubles from current and former members of Sodalitium.

Both were sued in 2019 by Peruvian Archbishop Jose Eguren Anselmi of Piura, a professed member of Sodalitium since 1981. The prelate later dropped the lawsuits after facing considerable backlash from the public and the Peruvian bishops’ conference.

The strongest denunciation against Sodalitium, however, came from Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, who said that Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and any other religious movement mired in sexual abuse should be dissolved.

“Personally, I think that when a religious organization has committed a crime, because it has to be said that way — from the point of view of sexual abuse and the economic side where there are also problems — it has to be dissolved,” he said in an interview with Peruvian radio station Radio Santa Rosa in early March.

“The fundamental problem is that the founder — and I say this with much pain and sorrow and I have said it on another occasion — is a perverted person, and such a person cannot transmit the holiness of life that Pope Francis himself has expressed in one his apostolic exhortations,” he said.

Ugaz told CNS Nov. 3 that personal attacks against her and Salinas have worsened, that there are five lawsuits currently against her, and that she received an anonymous threat that read, “You are going to die all (covered in) red if the Peruvian Charlie Hebdo comes; we will smoke you out with lead,” referencing the 2015 terrorist attack in France, when gunmen stormed the offices of the controversial satirical newspaper and killed 12 people.

Still, Ugaz said she has felt encouraged by support from the Peruvian bishops’ conference and by Peruvian Archbishop Carlos Castillo of Lima.

No matter what actions the church should or will take when it comes to Sodalitium, Ugaz said the Catholic Church must always place the well-being and the psychological and spiritual care of survivors first.

On Holy Thursday 2019, she recalled, Castillo washed the feet of Jose Rey de Castro, “one of the victims who suffered the most at the at the hands of Figari.”

Holding back tears, Ugaz said that during his time in Sodalitium, Rey de Castro was forced to not show any emotions or facial expressions. Yet, after the archbishop washed his feet, she saw him smile for the first time.

“This is important, and what Archbishop Castillo did is important,” she said. “Symbolically, it was important.”

Daphne Bramham: A daughter's view of life from inside Canada's most infamous polygamous family

Mary-Jane Blackmore is the daughter of Bountiful’s once-powerful bishop, Winston Blackmore. She is the fifth of the polygamous leader's 150 children. STARLA ROUNDY / PNG
Jane Blackmore has remained a reluctant, but powerful voice for change in the polygamous community, always insisting that education is key

Daphne Bramham
The Kingston Whig-Standard
November 15, 2020

Jane Blackmore was gaunt with the hollow eyes of a refugee sitting huddled in a restaurant booth when we first met in 2004.

The ex-wife of Bountiful’s once-powerful bishop, Winston Blackmore, Jane still looked the part of a fundamentalist Mormon wife in a pioneer-styled dress with her hair swooped up from her face and braided in the back.

A registered nurse and midwife, she’d fled the community with her youngest daughter. She wanted to protect her from being placed in a religious marriage before her 18th birthday, as had already happened to Jane’s other two daughters.

Over the years, Jane has remained a reluctant, but powerful voice for change in the polygamous community, always insisting that education is key.

So, it was with interest and some dismay that I read Mary Jayne Blackmore’s recently released book, Balancing Bountiful: What I Learned About Feminism from My Polygamist Grandmothers.

Mary Jayne has a unique perspective on Bountiful. She’s one of the daughters Jane was forced to leave behind.

Now 37, she’s disavowed fundamentalist Mormonism even though she is principal of Mormon Hills School — an independent school overseen by her father with just over 100 students that last year received $602,023 in government grants.

She also ran for mayor of Creston in 2018, not 2019 as the book’s biography says, finishing a distance third to the incumbent.

As the fifth of the polygamous leader’s 150 children, Blackmore writes that she grew up “in the glory days of Bountiful.”

Her golden-hued memories of ponies, pet lambs and a loving, tight-knit community are only briefly derailed with mentions of darker events — a cousin jailed for sexually abusing his sister and the rapidly increasing number of her father’s wives startlingly close to her in age.

As 2000 neared, fundamentalist Mormons were among the apocalyptic cults preparing for the world to end and its leaders began performing dozens of marriages of under-aged girls.

Despite being the bishop’s daughter and having told her father the name of the boy she wanted to marry, the 17-year-old was given in marriage to the boy’s best friend, a young American man she’d never met.

Two years later, the community suffered its own apocalypse. Her father was ex-communicated. Bountiful’s 1,200 residents split between following Blackmore or sticking with Rulon Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (and later to his son, Warren).

Mary Jayne’s husband chose the FLDS. Pregnant with their second child, Mary Jayne was bundled into a car and moved to Colorado City, Ariz. where her father-in-law was the brutally efficient police chief and head of the religious police.

Eventually, she returned to Canada, graduated from university, divorced her husband and helped her father establish Mormon Hills School.

Despite its title, the book is as much an apologia for her father as an homage to grandmothers who sacrificed their hopes, dreams and aspirations to be good wives and mothers of Zion or to mothers like hers who risked losing everything in order to fulfil them.

And while her personal quest to define feminism — a curious mix of motherhood and free love — will be of interest to some, it’s her unique perspective on how much Bountiful has changed in the past two decades that’s the bigger draw.

And while Blackmore is entitled to her opinion of how those changes came about, the self-described “debater and an academic” is not entitled to her own facts.

She writes, for example, that Winston Blackmore’s first charges were dropped because “no judge is willing to hear the case.” The second charges proceed, she claims, only after “the Crown has found a judge who is willing to hear Dad’s case.”

Trial judges don’t decide the merits of a case before they hear it, nor do they choose their cases. Surely, even schoolchildren — at least at most accredited schools — would learn this.

She mischaracterizes the purpose of the 2011 constitutional reference case heard in B.C. Supreme Court, a provincial trial court. It could not and did not rewrite the federal Criminal Code’s polygamy section as Blackmore contends.

B.C. Attorney General Mike de Jong — not his predecessor Wally Oppal as Blackmore writes — launched the reference in order get a judge’s opinion on whether the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of expression and religious freedom extended to the practice of polygamy.

The judge and now Chief Justice Robert Bauman determined that they did not and that polygamy’s harms were a justifiable limit on those freedoms.

Blackmore also errs when she writes that two of her father’s wives were deported in 2005 despite meeting all of the requirements for immigration. They didn’t.

Immigration Canada said at the time that their applications were denied because they lacked special skills and didn’t qualify for student visas to go to college or university because they’d never finished high school.

They skirted the law for more than a decade by taking quick trips down to Utah every six months, restarting the clock on their visitor visas.

At a news conference held in Bountiful before their deportation, Winston Blackmore likened them to “snowbirds.” But unlike Canada retirees who spend winters in the American sun belt, his wives had given birth to at least 10 of his children between them.

The book’s publisher, Caitlin Press, did the first-time author no favours by failing to catch and correct Blackmore’s errors.

But an author’s mistakes are always her own and the work is diminished because of them.

CultNEWS101 Articles: 11/16/2020 (Singapore, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Lori Daybell, India, Tantric Sexual Abuse)

Singapore, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Lori Daybell, India, Tantric Sexual Abuse

"A former massage therapist here who claims God speaks to him directly and says gambling is permitted in order to help needy Muslims has several men blaming him for ending their marriages.

They say he took the women as his spiritual wives."

"Veteran financier Patricia Chadwick finds joy within the walls of a church — a familiarity that dates back to her childhood in Massachusetts, when her parents were members of a religious order, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

"It consisted of about 50, 55 people… banded together for one purpose," she told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Dana Jacobson. "Over a dogma of the Catholic Church, which said you had to be Catholic to get to Heaven."

The small community would warp into something darker — which Chadwick recounts in her new memoir, "Little Sister," about growing up in a cult led by an excommunicated priest and how she overcame being cut off from her family and the outside world."
"Phoenix police investigators say they will launch a new review into the death of "doomsday mom" Lori Vallow's third husband Joseph Ryan.

Ryan reportedly died of a heart attack in 2018, but police say a new tape has surfaced allegedly catching Vallow saying she wanted to kill him.

Ryan was Lori Daybell's third husband and father to Tylee Ryan. Tylee, 17, and her brother Joshua "JJ" Vallow, 7, were found dead and buried on the property of Lori's current husband Chad Daybell in early June.

Court documents obtained earlier by International Business Times and Daily Mail reveal Lori Vallow was previously sued by Joseph Ryan for hiding their daughter, Tylee."
"A tantrik allegedly raped a woman and her 17-year-old sister multiple times at his residence in Maharastra. Police arrested him on November 3, following a complaint by the woman."

" ... The tantrik asked the Navsari resident to leave his daughter at his residence in Maharashtra for some days for rituals. The man agreed and took his daughter to the tantrik's house. However, after some days, she expressed her unwillingness to stay there, following which he brought her back to Navsari.

After this, the tantrik asked the man to let his younger daughter live at his house. He was also asked to pay Rs 50,000. He paid the money and dropped his 17-year-old daughter at the tantrik's house in October. The teenager also called up her father and told him that she wants to come back home. After she returned home, the two sisters told their father that the tantric had sexually assaulted them, according to a report by The Indian Express."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources.




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

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Nov 14, 2020

When You Lose Family Or Friends To The World Mission Society Church Of God

Great Light Studios
November 12, 2020

The WMSCOG (the mother god cult) is a group that has a record of splitting up families and disrupting relationships. Jordan shares some encouragement for those of you who have experienced losing a friend or family member to this group and also some tips on how to talk with them.

My Sister Is Running A Cult With A Bunch Of Followers,’ Woman Claims; Sister Denies Accusation

Dr. Phil
September 14, 2020

Sisters Chelsea and Tara say that growing up, their sister Amy was a sweet girl who got good grades. Then, by her early 20s, she was married three times and had three children with different dads. Their mother, Linda, says that’s when Amy started to change.

“After her third child was born, Amy became very distant,” Linda says.

Tara says that in 2006, Amy started acting strange. “She started calling herself ‘Mother God,’ and she believed that she was God,” Tara says. “She claims that she is Jesus, Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra, and different people in the past.”

“My sister is running a cult with a bunch of followers in Hawaii,” Chelsea claims, of the group Amy says is called Love Has Won. “She believes that she has been sent to save the world. All of Amy’s followers refer to her as Mom or Mama. I believe that Amy is scamming all of her followers.”

Nxivm's Leader Is Guilty of Ugly Crimes. These Die-Hards Stand by Him.

Keith Raniere has been convicted on sex trafficking, fraud and other crimes, yet some ardent followers maintain his innocence.

Nicole Hong
New York Times
November 10, 2020

For years, Keith Raniere won glowing endorsements from the Hollywood actresses, millionaires and Ivy League graduates who studied his teachings during self-help classes offered by his company Nxivm.

Most of them have now distanced themselves from Mr. Raniere after he was convicted and sentenced to 120 years in prison for using Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um) to commit sex trafficking and other crimes.

Among other things, a jury found that women in Nxivm were recruited under false pretenses to join a secret sorority that Mr. Raniere formed, where they were branded with his initials near their pelvises, groomed to be his sexual partners and kept in line with blackmail.

Still, despite trial evidence that Mr. Raniere possessed child pornography, manipulated his followers by keeping them starved and sleep-deprived and committed a long list of federal crimes, a handful of these recruits insist that Mr. Raniere changed the world for good. And now, they are unleashing a public campaign to undermine his conviction.

Last month, eight of his female supporters — including a former actress, corporate lawyer and doctor — released videos online that pushed back against the group’s reputation as a “sex cult,” saying they consented to being branded and were never forced into sexual relationships with Mr. Raniere.

At a news conference on the day of Mr. Raniere’s sentencing, his supporters defended their time with Nxivm. Their comments came after they watched a former Nxivm member tell the court that Mr. Raniere sexually abused her starting when she was 15 and he was 45 — an allegation that Mr. Raniere’s lawyers have never disputed.

The effort to exonerate Mr. Raniere was in keeping with how Nxivm had long dealt with its critics; former members who challenged Mr. Raniere’s methods were shunned from the community and sometimes targeted with lawsuits that drove them into bankruptcy.

Nxivm lured recruits with its expensive “Executive Success Programs,” tapping into a desire for personal growth within elite circles. Around 18,000 people have taken its courses since 1998.

What made Nxivm an illegal enterprise, prosecutors said, was the fraud, extortion, immigration violations and sex crimes that took place over 15 years under Mr. Raniere’s direction. A jury convicted Mr. Raniere on all counts after a six-week trial last year. Five women in his inner circle have also pleaded guilty to felony charges.

And yet, Mr. Raniere maintains a small and loyal following among people with careers in law, medicine and business. In letters to the court last month, Mr. Raniere’s supporters touted their degrees from top universities.

“Cults like going after people who are bright because they will represent the cult very well,” said Rachel Bernstein, a therapist who specializes in treating former cult members. “Intelligence is not a predictor of cult involvement.”

Cult experts say it is not uncommon for followers to stand by a leader who has gone to prison or died. Clinging to the group may be more comforting than the prospect of leaving, which may require finding a job or reconciling with family and long-lost friends.

“They’re what we call true believers,” said Janja Lalich, a psychologist and cult expert who has worked with Nxivm defectors. “It shows the depth of their indoctrination and the extent to which they have internalized his rhetoric.”

During the pandemic, Mr. Raniere’s supporters regularly danced outside the Brooklyn jail where he was housed. They released a jailhouse phone call with Mr. Raniere as a podcast.

One vocal supporter of Mr. Raniere is Nicki Clyne, the former television actress from “Battlestar Galactica” who now describes herself as an advocate for criminal justice reform.

Ms. Clyne has said she was part of the secret women’s group inside Nxivm called DOS, an acronym for a Latin phrase meaning “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions.”

Trial witnesses testified that the group had a pyramid structure where lower-ranking women were referred to as “slaves” and overseen by female “masters” who reported to Mr. Raniere.

To honor their vow to the group, the women were regularly required to hand over what was known as “collateral,” including nude photographs or the rights to their financial assets, according to trial testimony.

Prosecutors said it was extortion and fraud. Former DOS members testified at trial that they obeyed Mr. Raniere’s sexual orders under the fear that their collateral would be released.

Ms. Clyne was not charged, but prosecutors said in a court filing last month that she had directed some women inside DOS to delete the collateral from their computers and transfer it to hard drives stored with her lawyer. Ms. Clyne denied the allegation in an emailed statement.

Ms. Clyne is married to Allison Mack, the former television actress who is awaiting sentencing after she pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from her role as a top DOS recruiter. Prosecutors have called it a “sham” marriage to allow Ms. Clyne, a Canadian native, to stay in the United States.

Ms. Clyne said in her statement that the marriage was “born from genuine love.”

With regards to Mr. Raniere, she said: “If I discover that predatory, underage sex took place, I will denounce it wholeheartedly and reconsider my views.”

She and other followers of Mr. Raniere were now reviewing the trial evidence and “keeping an open mind,” she said.

In the videos released last month, Ms. Clyne and seven other former DOS members said they voluntarily participated in the “master-slave” relationship.

“Everyone’s going like, if you say anything different than what’s been said, then you’re an idiot, you’ve been brainwashed, you’ve been abused,” Sahajo Haertel, who describes herself on LinkedIn as a humanitarian and entrepreneur, said in one video.

But Mr. Raniere’s supporters have gone further than just sharing their experiences: they have sought to publicly undermine confidence in the legal system by attacking the prosecutors, the victims and the judge who oversaw Mr. Raniere’s trial.

Several showed up to the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office in September with a video camera to ask prosecutors to sign an “affidavit” swearing that they followed due process. And last month, they filed a letter with the court that accused the government of tampering with evidence on Mr. Raniere’s computer.

Mr. Raniere’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said during his client’s sentencing that he did not believe the claim was valid and refused to file it himself, even after Mr. Raniere and his supporters asked him “many, many times.”

“These publicity campaigns are distinct from the legal work in the case that has to be done,” Mr. Agnifilo said in a statement.

Prosecutors have said Nxivm was financed largely by Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, who was sentenced to over six years in prison for her crimes on behalf of Nxivm.

Ronald Sullivan, a lawyer for Ms. Bronfman, said she was not funding the recent publicity effort.

None of Mr. Raniere’s supporters testified at trial, which would have required them to answer questions under oath during cross-examination by prosecutors.

Ms. Clyne and another woman, Michele Hatchette, wrote in affidavits to the court last month that they chose not to testify because of threats from prosecutors. The judge dismissed the claim, saying there was “scant and highly questionable evidence” of any intimidation.

Ms. Hatchette appeared in a September television interview to defend Nxivm, saying, “I think there is a difference between being branded and getting a brand.”

But during the criminal investigation, Ms. Hatchette told prosecutors in interviews that she wanted to leave DOS after she was assigned to seduce Mr. Raniere, according to a court filing last month.

She only stayed, she told prosecutors, because of the material she had handed over as collateral, including letters addressed to the police that accused her siblings of abusing their children, the filing said.

In an emailed statement, Ms. Hatchette said: “As a result of my experiences in DOS, I am a stronger, more confident woman than I ever thought I could be, and I have an unwavering trust in myself.”

Mr. Raniere’s relentless publicity campaign backfired with one longtime follower.

Ivy Nevares, 43, who dated Mr. Raniere, said in an interview that she decided to denounce him publicly after seeing the recent efforts to promote him. She said the attacks on his victims were “abhorrent.”

At Mr. Raniere’s sentencing, Ms. Nevares told the court that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after Mr. Raniere subjected her to “indentured servitude” during her nearly 17 years in Nxivm.

Pulled in by Mr. Raniere’s teachings, Ms. Nevares moved from New York City to Nxivm’s headquarters near Albany, N.Y., where the group controlled her rent, her income and her work visa as a Mexican immigrant.

Mr. Raniere demanded she weigh 95 pounds and claimed his spiritual energy would kill him unless he had sex constantly, she told the court.

In early 2018, the government subpoenaed her to testify before a grand jury. On the advice of a lawyer provided by Ms. Bronfman, however, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, she said in the interview.

She left the group a few months later. It took her almost a year to stop viewing Mr. Raniere as a “Jesus-type figure,” she said. “I was in the bubble of Nxivm for so long that I didn’t know how I could navigate the world,” she said.

Ms. Nevares said she wanted to warn the public about what she sees as efforts to rebuild Nxivm and Mr. Raniere’s reputation.

“If you want to go on believing he’s God on Earth, that’s fine,” she said. “But don’t go around enrolling people into this very dangerous criminal organization.”