May 25, 2014

The Fall of the House of Moon

New Republic

Born in 1920, he had grown up in a thatched straw hut in northwest Korea during the brutal Japanese occupation. When he was ten, his family converted to Christianity. Moon eventually joined a fringe Christian sect that engaged in sexual “purification” rituals. After Allied forces liberated Korea in 1945, he moved to Pyongyang, which was then under Soviet control, and started his own church. But other ministers complained about his teachings, and, in 1948, Moon was arrested and reportedly charged with “polygamy.” According to his memoir, he was beaten until he vomited blood and sentenced to five years in a communist prison camp.

Mrs. Moon was not deeply involved in their upbringing—according to former church members, she spent much of her time shopping. Tim Porter, an ex-member who grew up near the family compound, calls her the Korean “Imelda Marcos.”

That summer, according to court documents and people close to both sides of the negotiations, they approached Park, who was still in treatment, and cut a new deal: Instead of $21 million in cash, they would fork over an $8 million note. Hunter Biden and his lawyer, Marc LoPresti, maintain that the deal was fair, given the state of the company. But people close to Park say he was emotionally fragile and felt indebted to the Bidens, which put him in a vulnerable position.

Mariah Blake

Sex rituals, foreign spies, Biden offspring, and the Unification Church's war-torn first family

November 12, 2013

One Sunday morning in February 2010, Bob Exler, a fiftysomething engineer, arrived at the faded ranch house in northwest Houston where he regularly worshipped the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Most people know Moon for his mass weddings and his ultra-conservative newspaper, The Washington Times. But Exler, who joined Moon’s Unification Church in 1972, had been inspired by Moon’s mission to rebuild the traditional family. As he told me, “I didn’t want to be part of this McDonald’s Drive-Thru society, where you go from one partner to another.”

For many years, the Sunday service had followed an unchanging routine. Exler and his wife, Susan—who were matched by Moon and married in a mass ceremony at Madison Square Garden—would join fellow disciples in pledging their loyalty to a portrait of Moon, or, as they called him, “True Father.” They would then sing hymns in Korean and English, and listen to sermons by a rotating cast of elders.

But on this particular Sunday, Exler and his fellow congregants arrived to find that the portrait of their leader, in his traditional Korean robe, had vanished. In its place was a wide-screen television with simulcast footage of the Reverend Moon’s 45-year-old daughter, In Jin, speaking from a podium at the Manhattan Center, the concert venue where “America’s Got Talent” was filmed. With her thick makeup and sculpted red hair, In Jin bore a striking resemblance to a game-show host. After welcoming the “one-hundred six churches all across the country” that were tuning in, she pointed out the church’s new “Liberace piano,” a rhinestone-encrusted Baldwin grand. Her love of Liberace, she explained, dated back to a show she’d seen in Las Vegas as a child. “I must say that he was fabulous,” she recalled, in an affected British accent. “He used to fly through the air, hoisted on a cable. He wore glorious capes—some were rhinestone, some were velvet, and they had all different textures.” At first Exler was intrigued, but after months of watching In Jin’s broadcasts, which had replaced the church’s normal services, his fascination turned to dismay. “We just turned on the TV, sat there for ninety minutes, then everyone went home,” says Exler. “The sense of community was destroyed.”

In Jin had assumed control of the U.S. church at a precarious moment for Moon’s religious empire. Her father had come to the United States from Korea nearly 40 years earlier, aiming to “subjugate” America as the first phase in a plan to establish a new world order. Moon had gone on to amass extraordinary political influence, building a vast network of powerful right-wing organizations and forging alliances with every Republican presidential administration since Ronald Reagan’s. In 2004, he and his wife even staged an elaborate coronation ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, which at least a dozen lawmakers attended.1 Republican Roscoe Bartlett bowed down before the couple, and Democrat Danny Davis carried in one of two golden crowns that were placed on their heads. Moon then informed the audience that “kings and presidents” had declared him “humanity’s savior” and that Jesus, Buddha, Hitler, and Stalin had been “reborn as new persons” through his teachings.

But in recent years, Moon’s plans to remake America and salvage humanity had run into trouble. Followers had drifted away; his political influence had ebbed. With his ninetieth birthday approaching, he increasingly looked to his children to preserve his life’s work.

In Jin, Moon and his wife’s fourth child, seemed suited for the task. She had a modern American upbringing and a master’s degree from Harvard. In 2009, she took over the Unification Church of America and introduced a bold modernization program. Her aim, she said, was to transform the church into one that people—especially young people—were “dying to join.” She renamed the church Lovin’ Life Ministries, shelved the old hymn books, and launched a rock band, an offshoot of which played New York clubs under the moniker Sonic Cult. She also discarded the old Korean-inspired traditions: bows and chanting gave way to “Guitar Hero” parties, open mics, concerts, and ping-pong tournaments. What’s more, In Jin broke some long-standing taboos. Rather than adhering to the church line on arranged marriage, for example, she encouraged young people to play a role in choosing their own spouses.

Her reforms were met with heated resistance. Across the country, Moon’s disciples took to the Internet to denounce In Jin’s “bling-bling” style and her “ridiculous accent.” One online critic dubbed her ministry the “mushroom church,” because “all you do is sit passively in the dark and are fed bovine excrement.” Within two years, nationwide monthly attendance plunged from roughly 26,000 to less than 7,500, according to internal church documents.

Yet In Jin persisted, confident that, with time, she could win over the doubters and bring her father’s church into the modern era. In early 2012, she gave an upbeat sermon about music, motherhood, and true love. “This is an incredible year and I feel so many wonderful things are going to unfold,” she said. “This is about you and me. This is about America. This is about our future.”

But after the service was over, In Jin disappeared from public view. She stopped delivering the weekly broadcasts, and even quit showing up at the church’s Manhattan headquarters. After several months passed with no sign of her, some parishioners began pressing for information on her whereabouts. They were blocked at every turn. Even the highest circles of church leadership couldn’t—or wouldn’t—say what had happened to In Jin Moon.

Before long, it became clear that the House of Moon was crumbling and In Jin had become caught up in its downfall. But her disappearance was only one part of a much more complicated saga—one that involved illegitimate children, secret sex rituals, foreign spy agencies, and the family of Vice President Joseph Biden. Even by Moon’s famously eccentric standards, the collapse of his American project would turn out to be spectacular and deeply strange.

Just before dawn on February 12, 1965, Sun Myung Moon shuffled off a plane at San Francisco International Airport, carrying a suitcase of Korean soil. His disciples later drove him to the hills overlooking the city. As a strong wind blew, the wiry 44-year-old buried a clump of the soil, and declared the spot holy ground—“a place where you can come to pray and not be bothered by Satan.” He spent the next month touring the continental United States in a blue Plymouth Fury station wagon. All told, he and his followers staked out 55 plots of holy ground, including one on the Ellipse in front of the White House.
This brief U.S. visit was a vital step toward realizing Moon’s messianic vision. 

When the Korean War broke out, Moon escaped across the border to the South Korean city of Pusan. From his one-room mud hut, he could look down into the harbor where the United States and United Nations unloaded troops and supplies. It was at this point that he began writing down his theological ideas—a mix of Christianity, Confucianism, shamanism, and anti-communist bile—sometimes on the walls and ceiling of his hovel.

The central pillar of Moon’s theology held that Eve had a dalliance with Satan in the Garden of Eden and then slept with Adam, which is how human beings were burdened with original sin. Moon also believed that people, movements, and even entire countries embodied these biblical figures. He himself was the “perfect Adam,” and his mission was to help humankind reclaim its original goodness by forging a new world order led by Korea, the “Adam nation.” America, the “archangel” nation, would play a key role in this mission by helping Korea to rout communism, after which it would bow down to the Korean-led regime, with Moon as its king and messiah.

The nationalist overtones of Moon’s teachings appealed to some influential Koreans, including several English-speaking South Korean Army officers. Among them was a savvy young colonel named Bo Hi Pak, whom Moon tapped as his deputy. In 1961, the military ousted South Korea’s democratic government, and several Moon acolytes were catapulted into key posts, including inside the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, or KCIA. Bo Hi Pak was dispatched to Washington, D.C., where he served as a liaison between the KCIA and U.S. intelligence agencies and built political inroads for Moon’s organization.
While Moon’s theology had geopolitical ambitions, he saw his family as the means for realizing his vision. At the age of 40, he married his cook’s daughter, a delicate 17-year-old beauty named Hak Ja Han. Moon claimed that their union marked the beginning of the “completed testament” era, in which Moon would reverse the fall of man by making his wife pay penance for Eve’s sins. For three years, he stashed Hak Ja Han in a rented room, kept her in bitter poverty, and forbid her from seeing her family. The goal was to rid her of Eve-like defiance and cultivate “absolute obedience” so that she could bear children free of original sin. By the winter of 1960, the first of these perfect children had arrived.

Moon told his followers that they could join his sin-free bloodline by marrying a spouse of his choosing and engaging in a series of rituals. First, the newlyweds would beat each other with a bat, and then they would perform a three-day sex ceremony involving prescribed positions in front of Moon’s portrait. After the final sexual interlude—in missionary position—the bride would bow down to the groom, a confirmation that they had restored the “lost ideal of goodness.”

Moon returned to the United States in 1971, and two years later brought over the key to humanity’s salvation—his rapidly growing family. By now, he and Hak Ja Han had seven children, including eleven-year-old Steve, eight-year-old In Jin (or Tatiana), four-year-old Preston, and three-year-old Justin. (All the Moon kids were given both Korean and American names.) Moon settled the family on a wooded 18-acre estate in the Hudson River Valley, which he christened East Garden.

He also began aggressively recruiting new followers, who were expected to live in monk-like purity. Alcohol and drugs were off-limits, and sex outside marriage was the worst possible sin, punishable by eternal hellfire. His religion appealed to young people who liked the communal ethos of the counterculture, but not the drugs and free love. His growing army of heavenly soldiers raised money by hawking flowers and candles in airports and on street corners. Funds also poured in from Japan (the “Eve nation”), where young devotees persuaded elderly Japanese widows to liberate their ancestors from hell by purchasing grossly overpriced trinkets. By 1974, the U.S. church was raking in $8 million a year.

Moon plowed this money into U.S. businesses, including a shipbuilding firm, a recording studio, a cable TV network, the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, and a 50-state seafood operation. He also began spending generously on political causes. At the height of the Watergate scandal, Moon and his followers organized “God Loves Richard Nixon” rallies on Capitol Hill and bought full-page pro-Nixon newspaper ads all over the country. Moon also assigned pretty young devotees to cozy up to lawmakers, with the goal of planting three in every senator’s office. The women managed to insinuate themselves into several offices—including then–Speaker of the House Carl Albert’s—where they lobbied and collected information.

These heavy-handed tactics led many to view Moon as a dangerous cult leader. Writing in the Daily Mail, the father of one former devotee described Moon’s followers as “mindless” fund-raising “robots” who had no ideals except “the half-baked ravings of Moon, who lived in splendor while his followers lived in forced penury.” In 1976, Congress began looking into a massive covert KCIA operation designed to sway U.S. policy toward South Korea. The investigation found that the Moon organization was likely a “political tool” of the Korean spy agency and had “systematically violated U.S. tax, immigration, banking, currency and Foreign Agents Registration Act laws.” In retaliation, the church filed a $30 million lawsuit against Representative Donald M. Fraser, who chaired the subcommittee behind the investigation, and launched a brutal—and ultimately successful—campaign to scuttle Fraser’s 1978 Senate bid. But despite their efforts, Moon was charged with tax evasion. A late ’70s Gallup Poll found that Moon “elicited one of the most overwhelmingly negative responses ever reported by a major poll,” his only rivals being Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro.

Meanwhile, an even greater threat to his American project was brewing, this time in his very own home.

The task of caring for the messiah’s children fell to his followers, who didn’t dare discipline them. “The Moon kids were like gods—completely and utterly exempt from the rules,” says Donna Orme-Collins, a onetime Unificationist whose father directed the British church. Moon’s eldest son, Steve, a plain, slender boy, was particularly brazen. In the late ’70s, he wasexpelled from an elite middle school for shooting students with a BB gun. Moon sent him to live with Bo Hi Pak, but Steve’s behavior only deteriorated. He started doing drugs and picking fights, and Pak was unable to rein him in. At one point, according to members of the Moon and Pak families, Pak even resorted to spanking his own son—a sweet, studious boy who went by the American name James Park—when Steve got out of line.

Moon eventually shipped Steve off to South Korea. There, according to a speech Steve later gave, he joined a rock band and started chugging a bottle of whiskey a day. According to several sources close to the family, including Trenor Rapkins, a former church member who grew up near East Garden, when Steve returned home in the early ’80s, he was more volatile than ever. “He would start yelling, and mucus and spit would start flying out of his face,” Rapkins recalls. “Sometimes he would start throwing punches or waving his gun around.”

Steve’s behavior made a deep impression on In Jin, who had a taste for American culture and chafed at the notion that women should be pure and deferential. According to sources close to the family, by the time she was 16, In Jin was accompanying Steve on all-night drinking jaunts. “She basically worshipped him,” says one member of her inner circle. “She was really into partying and rock and roll, because he played it.”

Afraid that American culture was corrupting his children, Moon turned to his religion’s catch-all solution: marriage. In 1982, he arranged for Steve to wed a naïve 15-year-old Korean girl named Nansook Hong. Hong would later recall Mrs. Moon telling her that she had been brought to America to reform Steve and that, should she fail, she would be “failing God.”

The following year, Moon’s 17-year-old son Heung Jin smashed his Jeep on an icy freeway and died. This created a theological quandary for Moon, since according to his teachings, only married couples could enter God’s kingdom. He solved his dilemma by arranging to have his dead son marry Bo Hi Pak’s second-eldest daughter, Julia. At the same time, In Jin, who was 18, was to wed Pak’s teenage son, James, who had taken the spanking for Steve.

In Jin was mortified, according to family members. She had no interest in James, who was nerdy and quiet, and she was taken instead with his rowdy, handsome younger brother, Sam. But Moon insisted, and his wife stood by him, despite everything she had endured in her own arranged marriage. She even agreed to co-officiate the macabre ceremony. First, In Jin and James traded vows, then Julia trudged down the aisle holding a photo of the dead Heung Jin, after which James gave a groveling speech. “In a million years, I would never deserve to become the husband of In Jin,” he said. “My mission is to work to deserve it for the rest of my life.” The whole ordeal left In Jin traumatized. “She felt like it was institutional rape,” says one member of her inner circle.

Yet whatever resentments In Jin harbored, she remained loyal to her father. Later that year, Moon was sentenced to 18 months in prison on the tax-evasion charges. The church launched a $30 million campaign to overturn his conviction, with In Jin as its public face. According to The Washington Post, in July 1984, thousands of evangelical pastors were invited on an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Although billed as a pageant for religious freedom, the event quickly devolved into a pro-Moon rally, with hundreds of devotees waving placards that read, “REV. MOON INNOCENT VICTIM OF BIGOTRY." The emotional crescendo was a speech by In Jin, who wept as she recalled the “tears and sweat” her father had shed for America.

The campaign, which cast Moon as an innocent man who had been prosecuted for his unconventional faith, struck a nerve. A motley coalition, including the American Civil Liberties Union, then–Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, and religious conservative leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Tim LaHaye, eventually rallied behind him. This helped transform Moon from a pariah to a martyr.
By the summer of 1985, when Moon was released from prison, the Reagan Revolution was in full swing and Moon was perfectly positioned to benefit. The Washington Times, which he had launched three years earlier, had become a must-read among conservatives—Reagan himself read it every morning. Moon also won points with the New Right by wading into anti-communist proxy wars in Latin America. In 1985, after Congress cut off aid to the Contras, the Washington Times Foundation launched a pro-Contra slush fund. According to Bad Moon Rising, an investigative history by John Gorenfeld, a Moon front group called CAUSA (Confederation of the Associations for the Unification of the Societies of the Americas) also distributed money and supplies to Contra rebels. In another case, Moon’s organization reportedly helped finance a coup—orchestrated by right-wing paramilitaries, cocaine cartels, and fugitive Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie—that toppled Bolivia’s democratically elected government. Bo Hi Pak later visited the mountainous Bolivian city, La Paz, and declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”
Moon’s think tanks and front groups also advanced his agenda on the home front. CAUSA spent millions of dollars hosting expenses-paid “Godism” workshops, which promoted Moon’s theology as an antidote to communism and were attended by a number of Senate staffers. Moon also launched the American Family Coalition, which soon surpassed the waning Moral Majority as one of America’s leading religious conservative organizations. And he worked with conservative Christian leaders on a grassroots campaign to push the Republican Party to the right. As his network expanded in Washington, Moon’s dream of remaking America seemed within reach.

By this point, In Jin and James had settled into something resembling Moon’s ideal of married life. James, who held a PhD in finance from Columbia and a law degree from Harvard, launched an investment firm, called Paradigm Global Partners, and began carving out a reputation as a hedge-fund guru. In Jin, who had studied philosophy and political science at Columbia, raised and home-schooled their children.

But Steve, who now ran a church-owned music venue, the Manhattan Center, couldn’t manage to put his wild youth behind him. Like other Moon ventures, the Manhattan Center was lavishly funded by Japanese “donations,” which Steve treated as his private ATM. According to people close to the family, he once marched into the office with $600,000 in a Bloomingdale’s bag and skimmed off $400,000. It was gone in less than a year.

The cash fed Steve’s drug addiction. According to sworn statements from Steve’s wife, Nansook Hong, and people close to the family, by the early ’90s, he was spending days holed up in his room gorging on cocaine. And he pressured others to join in, including James Park. Hong claimed that, when she was seven months pregnant with her fifth child, she found Steve doing cocaine at East Garden and tried to flush it down the toilet. Steve “smashed his fist into my face, bloodying my nose,” Hong later recalled. “He wiped my blood on his hand, then licked it off. ‘Tastes good,’ he said. ‘This is fun.’ ”
Early one morning in 1995, Hong hustled her five children into the back of a cargo van and fled East Garden. She later filed for divorce and published a devastating exposé of life inside the compound, In the Shadow of the Moons. In 1998, she and a Moon daughter, Un Jin—who claimed her husband had abused her, too—went on “60 Minutes” and unleashed a flurry of allegations about sex, drugs, and violence inside Moon’s ideal family. Moon was still reeling from this bombshell when, the following year, his second-youngest son, Phillip, who was also trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage, hurled himself from the seventeenth floor of a Harrah’s casino in Nevada and died.

The family turmoil made a mockery of Moon’s teachings. Moon had already lost some of his political leverage during the early ’90s, as communism crumbled and Democrats seized control of Congress and the White House. Now, many disillusioned followers began turning their backs on the church. Moon, who believed that America’s culture of “moral degradation” had caused his children’s downfall, grew bitter toward his adopted country, which he branded “Satan’s harvest.”

But he didn’t give up on the United States entirely.Instead, he began courting new groups, such as socially conservative black churches and Democratic politicians. The church also launched the Women’s Federation for World Peace, which packaged his theology as a tool for the “liberation of women.” 
(Liberation in this case meant reviving traditional families by being “unusually obedient.”) Mrs. Moon, whose role in the church had been mostly ceremonial up until this point, was named president. She began traveling the world proclaiming herself a co-messiah and urging women to devote themselves to their families. “We must spread, to the whole world, a model movement . . . in which we embrace our husbands and raise our children properly,” she told a crowd in Seoul. On several occasions, former President George H. W. Bush, a major beneficiary of Moon family donations, appeared alongside her, as did his wife, Barbara. In a major departure, Moon formally declared Mrs. Moon to be his equal and promised she would “inherit everything from Father.”

Moon also tried to persuade world leaders and outside clergy to accept him as their king. In the spring of 2000, he invited 120 American ministers to South Korea, and gave them diamond-studded gold watches. Just after the 9/11 attacks, Moon convened a summit in New York City of religious and political leaders—including Falwell, Dan Quayle, Richard Holbrooke, and the Nation of Islam’s president, Louis Farrakhan, whose Million Family March Moon had underwritten the previous year. The goal was to find “solutions to global violence.” But the mood was fractious, especially after Farrakhan suggested that Osama bin Laden had been wrongly scapegoated. Instead of uniting behind Moon, as he had predicted, the post-cold-war world was only growing more divided.
With every setback, Moon’s plans only grew more grandiose. Later that year, he made an announcement: By February 2013, all humanity would join hands under the banner of a global “nation of cosmic peace and unity,” called Cheon Il Guk. Moon and his followers began preparations in Korea—launching a police force, commissioning an anthem, and adopting a flag. They also built Moon an elaborate castle, shaped like the U.S. Capitol building. If Moon couldn’t actually conquer America, at least he would do so in symbolic form.

Around this time, In Jin was living in Boston and pursuing a doctorate in divinity at Harvard. Her father, who was splitting his time between New York and his kingdom in Korea, no longer kept close tabs on her. Over time, she shed her sense of familial obligation. She started writing and recording romantic pop songs. (“You see how I burn beneath your steady gaze / You see how I yearn to be a meadow where you graze.”) And around 2004, according to a half-dozen sources close to the family, she started an affair with a keyboard player and longtime Unificationist named Alistair Farrant. Soon, Farrant abandoned his wife and children and began camping out at In Jin’s place.
James Park was crushed. “He felt really displaced,” says one member of his inner circle. “He felt like he had lost his family and everything that gave him meaning.” Park started binging on cocaine and Paradigm, his company, suffered. According to people with inside knowledge, one of Park’s business partners began angling for control of the company, and Park began hunting for a buyer friendly to his interests. As luck would have it, he found one in an unlikely quarter: then-Senator Joseph Biden’s family.

At the time, Biden was mulling a 2008 presidential bid. According to sworn statements from people involved in the deal, he worried that his son Hunter’s lobbying career could hurt his campaign and asked his brother James to find Hunter a new line of work. (Hunter Biden disputed this account in an interview with The New Republic.) James Biden approached a business associate named Anthony Lotito, who connected him with James Park’s camp, and the three men began negotiating to buy Paradigm.

On its face, the deal looked solid. Paradigm’s marketing materials boasted $1.5 billion under management and generous returns, and Lotito believed they could quickly expand into union pension funds, which tend to have close ties to democratic politicians. So Lotito and the Bidens pushed ahead. In the spring of 2006, they signed an agreement that gave them a controlling stake in the company, in return for $21 million in cash, to be paid in six months. Hunter Biden—who had no financial industry experience—was named CEO, with a salary of $1.2 million. But it was clear that they needed James Park’s hedge-fund expertise, which meant confronting him about his cocaine habit. According to three sources close to the negotiations, James Biden visited James Park and persuaded him to seek treatment at a center in Florida.2

The Bidens soon realized that Paradigm wasn’t as solid as they thought. Instead of $1.5 billion under management, it had just $200 to $300 million, and its holding companies were buried in debt. Worse, the Bidens’ main financier backed out.3 But the Bidens found a way around the lack of capital. 

Finally, in 2008, the economy collapsed, after which it emerged that Allen Stanford, whose firm was soliciting investors for one of Paradigm’s funds, was running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. While the fund itself was solid, investors were spooked. In 2010, Paradigm filed for voluntary liquidation. “It was a thicket,” Hunter Biden told me. “Every time you thought you saw a way out, there would be another road block.”

James Park was never able to collect on the $8 million note and found himself facing a mountain of debt. But James and In Jin were able to fall back on their Moon family ties. According to three sources close to the family, In Jin’s younger brother Preston—a Harvard graduate and former Olympic equestrian who controlled most of the family’s American enterprises—agreed to bail the couple out with several million dollars. It was a decision that Preston would come to regret.

By now, Moon was in his late eighties and contemplatinghis legacy. Despite his promises that Mrs. Moon would “inherit everything,” he had begun divvying up his global empire among his sons, including Preston, Steve, Justin, and Sean. But once again tragedy struck the family. In 2008, Steve died of a heart attack at 45. This left an opening for In Jin who maneuvered her way to the helm of the Manhattan Center—the only one of Moon’s daughters to assume a leadership role. She immediately gave her lover, Alistair Farrant, a top position and fired half the staff, many of them long-standing church members. She also began courting new talent, including a thirtysomething rock musician named Ben Lorentzen.
That summer, Reverend and Mrs. Moon were injured when a helicopter they were traveling on crashed into a South Korean mountainside. While they recovered, their children began squabbling over the only major piece of Moon’s empire that remained up for grabs: the Unification Church of America, which oversees the movement’s U.S. congregations, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Preston saw himself as the natural heir. But In Jin also spotted an opportunity. Her family hadn’t fully recovered from the Paradigm debacle, and, according to people close to her, she was hungry for additional income. When Justin approached her about staging a takeover, she agreed.

While Preston was out of the country, Sean, who headed the international church, issued a memo saying that In Jin was to be “chairperson of the Unification Movement in America.” The American church then convened a board meeting, led by In Jin. Most of the existing board members were pressured to resign and were replaced with In Jin’s allies, after which In Jin was formally elected chair. A bitter family feud ensued. Preston later staged his own boardroom coup at Unification Church International, the holding company for the Moon family’s U.S. business, giving him unfettered control over billions of dollars in assets. He used the proceeds to fund an offshoot movement that drew on his father’s teachings without deifying the Moon clan.

In Jin, meanwhile, assumed the role of chief pastor of the American church and began using it as a vehicle for her own passions. She launched the band Sonic Cult, with Lorentzen as the lead singer. She also pushed back against the traditions that had confined her in an unhappy marriage—openly condoning divorce and encouraging younger members to marry for love.

In Jin had her own reasons for loosening the church’s mores, as Lorentzen’s on-again, off-again wife, Patricia, discovered. In late 2009, Patricia traveled to New York with their two young sons to visit Lorentzen for Christmas. While they were staying at the New Yorker Hotel, Patricia borrowed Ben’s laptop and found his e-mail box brimming with sexually explicit messages from In Jin. “I was so shocked,” Patricia told me. “I went back to my room and sat there trying to digest it.” She confronted In Jin over e-mail, after which she says Lorentzen and another man turned up at her room and delivered an ultimatum: She and the children had to be out of the hotel by the next morning, or they would be tossed out by security. (In Jin and Ben Lorentzen declined to be interviewed.)

Patricia later tried to alertthe church’s liaison for family matters, Phillip Schanker, to the affair, but James Park assured Schanker there was no cause for concern. As Schanker explained in a letter to one parishioner, “In Jin’s husband came to me, thanking me for being honest and trying to protect True Family and our movement, assuring me that this was a misunderstanding, that he trusted his wife, and that the wives of the men she works with easily became jealous and created false rumors.”

Meanwhile, the family feud erupted into open view, as the siblings sparred over billions of dollars in assets in court. And one of In Jin’s deputies traveled the country delivering a PowerPoint presentation that cast Preston as a “fallen” Adam who was “being controlled by Satan.” This was the state of play in early 2012, when In Jin disappeared.

On September 2 of that year, the movement was dealt an even bigger blow, when Moon died of pneumonia at age 92. Two weeks later, some 15,000 people packed into a Moon-owned stadium outside Seoul for the memorial. Mrs. Moon vowed to continue her husband’s quest to build “a world where all people live as one great family under God.” After the service, she and her children knelt above his burial vault, clasped hands, and prayed. Through all of this, In Jin remained conspicuously absent.

It was around this time that a birth certificate for a four-month-old boy began circulating on the Internet. To the astonishment of Moon’s followers, the child’s parents were none other than In Jin Moon and Ben Lorentzen. The baby probably would have come to light sooner had James Park not worked to cover up his existence; according to people close to the family, James helped In Jin rent a house in Cape Cod where she and Ben could lay low during her pregnancy.
Now, on top of mourning their messiah, Moon’s American disciples had to digest the news that his supposedly sinless daughter was trampling his most sacred teachings. “The core of our faith is purity before marriage and fidelity between husband and wife,” longtime church member Mary Anglin told me. “We’ve devoted our lives to this vision. Then In Jin turned around and slapped us all in the face.”

As it turns out, Moon didn’t always live up to his virtuous teachings, either. In April, I spoke by videophone with Annie Choi, a soft-spoken, 77-year-old Korean woman with ruddy cheeks and thick silver hair. Choi, who joined Moon’s church along with her mother and sister in the 1950s, alleges that she engaged in numerous sexual rituals—some involving as many as six women—beginning when she was 17 years old. Her story, which is consistent with the accounts of several early followers, supports the claim that Moon’s church started out as a sex cult, with Moon “purifying” female devotees through erotic rites.

By 1960, when he married Hak Ja Han, Moon was touting marital fidelity as his religion’s foundational ideal. But Choi maintains she stayed on as Moon’s mistress until 1964, when she moved to the United States. The following year, Moon made his inaugural visit to America. By the time he left, Choi says, she was carrying his child.

News like this could have sunk the fledgling American project. But Bo Hi Pak made sure that didn’t happen. According to Choi, who has never before spoken publicly about the experience, Pak’s wife stuffed her mid-section with cloth diapers and pretended that she was pregnant. When it came time to give birth, Choi says that Pak accompanied her to the hospital and passed her off as his wife. The following day, he dropped her off at her empty apartment and took the baby back to his home. Later, Mrs. Pak brought Choi some seaweed soup, but Choi told me that she couldn’t eat it. “I just sat there crying, with my tears falling in the pot.”

Choi stayed in the United States to be near her son, Sam Park—the same young man In Jin had fallen for during her teenage years. (By all accounts, she was unaware that Sam was her half brother.) Then, at age 13, it dawned on Sam that the kindly “aunt” who visited periodically was actually his mother. “Suddenly my life made a lot more sense,” Sam told me in April, when we met in Phoenix, where he and Choi live.

Bo Hi Pak later approached Sam and his mother with a contract. As a sign of their “mutual love, affection and respect,” it read, Sam, Choi, and Pak would release one another—and the Moon family—from “any and all past, present or future actions,” including those arising from inheritance claims. In return, Sam and Choi would each receive $100.

Alleging that they were victims of “theology-based” racketeering, Sam and Choi are now suing the Paks and Moons for $20 million. Neither the Unification Church nor the lawyers for the Moon and Pak families responded to requests for comment.
Sam Park’s existence was an indignity that Mrs. Moon had to endure. But by the time In Jin’s love child came to light, Mrs. Moon’s husband and master was dead and she was free to handle the situation as she saw fit. She demanded that In Jin resign. In Jin later issued an apology to members of the church. “It was never our intention to hurt anyone,” she wrote. “All we wanted was to love and to be loved.”

Next, Mrs. Moon moved to claim the inheritance her husband had promised. She wrested control of the international church from Sean and issued a memo saying, “[E]verything that is carried out in Korea from this day onward will be centered on True Mother.” She later ousted Justin, who controlled most of Moon’s Korean enterprises. After five decades spent in Moon’s shadow, the kingdom was in her hands.

And despite Moon’s views on wifely subservience, it soon became clear that Mrs. Moon did not share all of her husband’s opinions. She began speaking out in surprisingly critical terms about Moon’s preoccupation with America. During a trip to New York late last year, she complained that he had squandered 40 years in the United States for “such little” return. Many members suspect that she will soon turn her back on his beleaguered American project entirely. “Reverend Moon really cared about America,” says Richard Barlow, a former Unificationist missionary, who maintains contact with elements of the church leadership. “But his wife doesn’t feel that strong connection, and she’s ousted her children who do.”

In late February, the matriarch celebrated the arrival of Cheon Il Guk—Moon’s global kingdom of peace and unity—before some 15,000 devotees who packed into the Moon-owned stadium in Korea, wearing identical wedding garb. The crowd sang the Cheon Il Guk national anthem, and then Mrs. Moon, the former cook’s daughter, swept into the stadium wearing a jeweled crown and a purple robe festooned with gold embroidery. She marched slowly up a long stairway to a giant replica of the Moon family palace and took a seat on a white throne. Next to her was an identical throne, reserved for her dead husband. An attendant handed her a “heavenly scepter,” and she climbed to her feet: “I proclaim the first year of Cheon Il Guk.” Trumpets blared, and the stadium filled with mist.

Afterward, several of Moon’s old friends gave congratulatory speeches, including former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who lauded the festivities as an “affirmation of marriage and family.” “We often take the family for granted,” Hastert said. “However, when the family system begins to break down, all manner of personal and social problems emerge.” It was a fitting epitaph to Moon’s American project and his diminished political empire. 

Letting Go and Staying Connected

Coping with being out of contact with a cult-involved child

By Dana Wehle, LMSW

Issues related to separation and loss for parents who are dealing with a cult-involved adult child (to be referred to as "parents") are unique and at the same time similar to some other intense losses, for instance, people lost as a result of 9/11, wartime MIA's and abducted children. Dealing with any of these very difficult situations involves a range of experiences, emotions, and coping styles.

Some of these ideas emerged out of the Cult Hotline and Clinic Family Support Group, which is primarily comprised of parents. For most, the theme of lost dreams and expectations has been central; for some it has been the actual loss of contact with a family member. A main focus of the group has been on identifying, expressing and exploring feelings related to the members' experience of loss on all levels.

Topics addressed here are wellness; the grieving process; and coping strategies. An underlying assumption is that this kind of loss means different things to different people, and not all of the following general principles will fit each person. Hopefully, seeing these ideas will help parents think and talk about their own unique experience. The purpose of offering groups at our clinic, as well as of presenting information on a website, is to help those struggling with this issue realize that they are not alone.

Meditation, Delusion and Deception

David J. Bardin

He's really not so transcendental 

A true master of mental manipulation has targeted Washington, D.C. He calls himself Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His devotees adore him, simply, as "Maharishi." He sells Transcendental Meditation, with a Capital "M."  It differs from many kinds of small "m" meditation. So better examine it carefully before you buy. 

His trademarked product, TMTM, has reputedly made him a billionaire.  He lives reclusively on a luxury estate in Holland, far from the tax collectors of his former headquarters, in India, Switzerland and the U.S.A.  But Maharishi's agents are again in Washington, D.C., hunting for government funds to propagate TM and donations from unwary individuals. 

Public funding by the District of Columbia, the federal government or a state would be unlawful because TM is a religion — not the science it pretends to be.  Donations would be unwise because TM can harm people in the large doses Maharishi promotes though it carries no warning labels. 

Yet Another Look At The Transcendental Meditation Paper


Larry Husten
November 25, 2012

Editor’s note: Below are two responses to Robert Schneider’s defense of his Transcendental Meditation paper, which Schneider wrote in response to my earlier article about the publication of his paper.  In the first part I respond to some of the general issues raised by Schneider. The second part, from Sanjay Kaul, addresses the statistical issues discussed by Schneider.

I’m grateful for Kaul’s highly technical analysis of the statistical issues raised by Schneider, but I don’t think this case really requires a terribly high level of technical expertise. Common sense actually works pretty well in this case. A trial with barely 200 patients cannot be expected to provide broad answers about the health benefits of a novel intervention. As Kaul and others have stated on many other occasions, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and it is quite clear that the evidence in this trial is not extraordinary, at least in any positive sense.

Questions About Trial Reliability And Data– In his response Schneider tries to skate away from the inevitable questions raised about this paper when Archives of Internal Medicine chose to withdraw the paper only 12 minutes before its scheduled publication time. Schneider can pretend that this incident never occurred, but outsider readers can not help but wonder what sparked this extraordinary incident, and will not be satisfied  until the details are fully explained.

There are additional red flags about the trial. Schneider told WebMD that since the Archives incident “the data was re-analyzed. Also, new data was added and the study underwent an independent review.” Said Schneider:

“This is the new and improved version.”

Subscribe to Cult News 101, Intervention 101

May 24, 2014

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal - Delhi "Maharishi Solar Technology Pvt. ... vs Department Of Income Tax"

Maharishi Solar Technology Pvt. ... vs Department Of Income Tax on 3 May, 2012

ITA No. 4561/Del/2009
Assessment Year: 2002-03

Income-tax Officer, Vs. Maharishi Solar Technology Ward 6(1), Pvt. Ltd., A-14, Mohan Co- New Delhi. Operative Industrial Estates, Mathura Road, New Delhi

(Appellant) (Respondent) ITA No. 4393/Del/2009
Assessment Year: 2002-03

Maharishi Solar Technology Vs. Income-tax Officer, Pvt. Ltd., A-14, Mohan Co- Ward 6(1), Operative Industrial Estates, New Delhi Mathura Road, New Delhi (PAN: AACCM0458M)

(Appellant) (Respondent) Department by: Shri R.S. Negi, Sr. DR Assessee by: Shri Sanjay Kumar, CA


The revenue and the assessee are in cross-appeal against the order of Learned CIT(Appeals) dated 25.09.2009 passed for assessment year 2002-03

Bikram Feels the Heat

Vanity Fair
Benjamin Wallace
January 1, 2014

Since 1994, thousands of fans of Bikram Choudhury—whose eponymous brand of heated yoga gained devotees including George Clooney, Lady Gaga, and Jeff Bridges—have flocked to his teacher-training program. Some women in his orbit now say that Choudhury sexually harassed and even sexually assaulted them, and five are suing him. Benjamin Wallace explores the guru’s journey from healer to alleged predator.

Before she broke up with her boyfriend, quit her job, attempted suicide, and began using drugs and alcohol, before the nightmares in which Bikram Choudhury takes her and some other women into a room and sets them on fire, the woman sitting across the table from me in a lawyer’s office in Oakland, California—I’ll call her Jane—says she had a carefree, sunny disposition. 

In 2004, then 21 years old, she was just another young American woman who fell under the spell of Bikram yoga, the original celebrity-favored form of “hot yoga”—a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises performed in a precise sequence for 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees. She had been working as a manicurist when she took her first class at a Bikram studio, and she’d fallen hard for it. “I loved it,” she told me. “It became part of my daily routine. It gave me energy; it was healing, it was spiritual, it was a workout, it was everything combined into one spot.” 

As her commitment to the yoga discipline deepened, her businessman boyfriend surprised her with a gift that deeply touched her: he wanted to pay $10,900 for her to attend one of founder Bikram Choudhury’s twice-yearly teacher trainings so that she could share with others what had been so meaningful to her. And so, in September 2010—joining some 380 other mostly female Bikramites, from 33 countries—she went to San Diego, where that fall’s training was being held at the Town and Country Resort hotel.

In the Israeli city of Dimona, some 20 miles from the Dead Sea and two hours south of Jerusalem, the Village of Peace

Molly Petrilla
In the city of the Israeli city of Dimona, some 20 miles from the Dead Sea and two hours south of Jerusalem, the Village of Peace doesn’t just hum with activity, it sings, chants, shouts, prays, sprints, and dances. 

One day there may be a flurry of preparation for the community’s New World Passover—a two-day festival with concerts, feasts, plays, and volleyball showdowns. Next a group of African dignitaries may be welcomed, or a holy day celebrated, or maybe a celebrity will arrive, as Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and Erykah Badu have all done in the past. As one frequent visitor put it: “There’s always this frenetic energy there, either in gearing up for a big event or as a result of one they’ve just survived.” 

But for the newcomer, the Village of Peace can also be an enigmatic place, governed by unfamiliar—and, at times, seemingly contradictory—rules and beliefs. It’s not unusual, for instance, to hear Hebrew words and prayers or see residents debating specifics of the Old Testament, yet those same people say they’re not Jewish, or even religious at all. Members of the community believe they know the secrets to eternal life, and they aren’t shy about encouraging others to hop on their strict path to immortality, which includes eating only vegan fare; avoiding alcohol, drugs, and tobacco; and regular exercise. They’re also the largest organized group of African-American expatriates in the world: about 3,500 strong, with new arrivals all the time.

That community, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, was the reason John L. Jackson Jr., now the Richard Perry University Professor of Communication, Africana Studies and Anthropology, found himself on a plane to Israel in 2005.

He’d been studying the group on and off for several years by that point, amassing extensive information but never doing much with it. When he’d heard that one of his graduate students was heading to Israel for her dissertation research, he’d asked her to swing by Dimona and visit the AHIJ Village of Peace for him.

Brahmachari Girish Chandra Varma Criminal Case

Case DetailMISC. CRIMINAL CASE (MCRC) 5702/2014
Registration Date16-04-2014
Last Hearing Date12-05-2014
StatusPending, Not Reached
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973-12102
Pet. Advocate(s)
Resp. Advocate(s)
BenchSingle Bench
Current StageMotion Hearing - [FRESH (FOR ADMISSION) - CRIMINAL CASES]
Previous StageMotion Hearing - [FRESH (FOR ADMISSION) - CRIMINAL CASES]

Is there a secret group inside the secretive FLDS Church?

May 9, 2014
Ben Winslow

SALT LAKE CITY — A court filing obtained by FOX 13 News reveals the U.S. Justice Department is investigating a “new, exclusive FLDS group” within the polygamous church.

The Justice Department made reference to the “FLDS Church’s new ‘United Order’” in a motion asking a federal judge to compel Hildale and Colorado City town employees to answer questions in depositions. The federal government is suing the Utah-Arizona border towns, accusing them of discriminating against people who are not members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

“Defendants’ employees also refused to answer relevant questions regarding the FLDS Church’s new ‘United Order.’ Based on information and belief, the ‘United Order’ is a new exclusive FLDS group whose membership is determined by FLDS leadership,” the filing states.

“FLDS members not approved into the United Order are asked to leave their families and repent in hope that FLDS leadership will eventually choose them for the United Order; United Order members are expected to consecrate all their property over to the FLDS Church. Membership status therefore is relevant to show, among other things, motives of government officials to appease FLDS leadership.”

Read the Justice Department’s filing here

Public university forbids criticizing religious group as a cult

May 22, 2014
Eugene Volokh

Daniel Harper, a Cameron University (Oklahoma) student, was handing out fliers criticizing the World Mission Society as a supposed cult. (Naturally, I express no opinion on whether or not the World Mission Society is a “cult,” whatever exactly that term might mean.) The university forbade him from doing this, stating:

  • Having reviewed policy 10.6 DISCRIMINATION (FOR OTHER THAN SEXUAL OR RACIAL/ETHNIC HARASSMENT) and having followed the procedures outlined at 10.7 EQUAL OPPORTUNITY GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE in the Employee Handbook the finding in this matter is as follows:

The basic values of religious freedom are provided to every citizen of our country. The determination in this case was that the distribution of a flyer that was specifically created to denounce another person’s religious beliefs by [publicly] displaying and distributing the flyer resulted in discrimination based on religion.

Well, yes, every citizen has religious freedom — but that means freedom from government suppression (and, one might argue, freedom from private discriminatory exclusion prohibited by certain statutes), not freedom from criticism. Indeed, freedom of religion and of speech itself protects the right to denounce religions. Religious beliefs and religious groups, no less than political beliefs and groups other beliefs and groups, are eminently proper subjects of criticism. A public university is forbidden by the First Amendment from trying to squelch such criticism, whether it’s of conservative Christianity, Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Judaism or the World Mission Society.

Harper is suing (represented by Alliance Defending Freedom), claiming the action and the underlying university policies violate the First Amendment; I expect him to win handily. For more on the cases striking down such university speech restrictions, see this post by Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

Convicted paedophile allowed to grill his victims at Jehovah's Witness meeting

May 21, 2014
Chris Osuh
Manchester Evening News

Women who complained that former Jehovah’s Witness elder Jonathan Rose, 40, had molested them as children relived their nightmares in front of him after he was released from jail

A convicted paedophile grilled his traumatised victims about their ordeals in a series of meetings organised by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Women who complained that former Jehovah’s Witness elder Jonathan Rose, 40, had molested them as children relived their nightmares in front of him after he was released from jail.

In October, the MEN reported how Rose was jailed for nine months for abusing two little girls, one aged five, another aged 10, at the Jehovah’s Witness congregation he belonged to.

The two victims came forward after a third woman, who Rose had previously been acquitted of molesting as a teenager, branded him a ‘paedo’ on Facebook.

Rose, of New Moston, was released early from jail in March.

The three complainants were told if they wanted him barred from the church they would have to recount their ordeal before elders.

Rose was even allowed to ask the women about the abuse he was jailed for - as eight elders looked on.

Jehovah's Witnesses to hand over top secret manual

May 16. 2014

On Friday Finland's Jehovah's Witnesses will give their religious rule book to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the Interior so that it can be inspected to ensure that it's in line with Finnish rule of law.

Until now, only senior members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Committee have had access to the congregation's secret book of rules.

The disciplinary activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses Committee have been criticised for violating human rights.

According to Anna-Maja Henriksson, Finland's Minister of Justice, the purpose of the handover is to examine the book and determine whether its rules and regulations run counter to Finnish law.

Henriksson and Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen met on Thursday with the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Helsinki. The book will be handed over on Friday for inspection.

According to representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses, committee practices have been changed recently and the committee no longer addresses or interferes in the matters of its members that are considered to go against church guidelines.

South Korean sect ends stand-off over Sewol ferry disaster

May 21, 2014
Financial Times
Simon Mundy and Song Jung-a in Anseong

A nine-day stand-off between South Korean law authorities and members of a religious cult ended peacefully on Wednesday, concluding one of the most bizarre episodes in the aftermath of April’s Sewol ferry disaster.

Hundreds of members of the Salvation Sect had been blocking the entrance to their vast compound in Anseong, 60km south of Seoul, to prevent prosecutors from seizing Yoo Byeong-eon, a senior figure in the religious group.

Prosecutors suspect Mr Yoo wielded effective control over Chonghaejin Marine, operator of the Sewol, through holding companies controlled by his sons. Mr Yoo denies this, saying that for the past decade he has concentrated on nothing but photographic art and has had no involvement with the ferry company.

The siege was broken on Wednesday after prosecutors won permission from a court to enter the complex by force if necessary. As 25 buses filled with riot police rolled up to the compound, Lee Tae-jong, a senior member of the cult, told members carrying anti-government slogans to stand aside and allow the prosecutors to pass through. But they found no sign of Mr Yoo, whom they believe to be hiding at the home of a cult member in Seoul.

Narconon faces federal lawsuit

May 22, 2014
By Jeanne LeFlore
McAlester News-Capital

McALESTER — A federal lawsuit against Narconon and the Church of Scientology seeks an immediate injunction to prevent the unauthorized use of counseling certifications, trademarks and logos along with compensatory, statutory and punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees.

Narconon’s flagship center Narconon Arrowhead is a non-profit drug and alcohol rehab in Canadian affiliated with the Church of Scientology.

The facility has been under investigation following the deaths of three Narconon clients all found dead at the facility within a nine-month-span. A fourth died while at a local hospital. The deaths spurred legislation that was signed into law into 2013.

Since then, several wrongful death lawsuits along with a number of other lawsuits alleging Narconon’s counselors traded drug for sex and other allegations have been filed in Pittsburg County District Court.

Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the District 18 District Attorneys continue to investigate the four deaths, according to Sheriff Joel Kerns.

In July 2012 Stacy Murphy, 20, was found dead at the facility, Hillary Holten, 21, was found dead in her bed April 2012, and Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead in his bed at the facility in October of 201.

Also under investigation is the 2009 death of Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28.

The rise and spectacular fall of an Indian guru

A dream to build a vast spiritual commune ended in a blizzard of charges including attempted murder

Sven Davisson for Ashe Journal
May 20, 2013

The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known simply as Osho) was born Chandra Mohan in the village of Kuchwada in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on 11 December 1931.  Due to the grace with which the young boy carried himself, his family began calling him “raja” or “king.”  By his own account, he attained the state enlightenment on 21 March 1953, though he kept it a secret for many years after.  He taught briefly at a Sanskrit university and began traveling the country teaching.  By the early 60’s he was conducting large meditation camps at locations such as Mt. Abu in 1964.  In 1970, Rajneesh settled in Bombay where he began to give regular discourses to a growing number.  It was in Bombay that Rajneesh initiated his first disciples giving his twist on the ancient India tradition of sannyas.

In 1974, the movement, under the management of Ma Laxmi bought land in the Indian town of Pune, north of Mumbai (Bombay).  Laxmi was the first in a line of powerful female “personal secretaries” that would hold despotic control over the management of the business of running the religious movement.  Rajneesh and his group of early disciples moved to Pune compound, located in the Koregon park neighborhood, and established the Acharya Rajneesh Ashram.

At the ashram, Rajneesh gave daily morning discourses (alternating Hindi and English) and held evening meetings, darshans, where he initiated new disciples and answered personal questions.  Throughout the 70’s, the ashram attracted increasing numbers of international visitors and became one of the focal points of the spiritual tourism that flourished throughout the decade.

Indian guru's frozen body now in legal limbo

Ritu Sharma, Delhi
May 23, 2014

Man who claims to be his son fights for his $250 million estate

The body of an Indian guru, sitting in a freezer since January, is entangled in a new controversy after a man claiming to be his son appeared this week alleging murder and seeking to cremate the body.

Close associates of Ashutosh Maharaj, 72, a religious leader based in Nur Mahal in India's Punjab state, have kept their guru's body in a freezer, despite doctors declaring him clinically dead on January 29. They claim the guru is only meditating and will come back to life.

"It is all part of a conspiracy," Dalip Jha, who says he is Maharaj's son, told on Thursday. Jah claims that Maharaj's close associates, who lived with him in his ashram are attempting to take over his estate.

"This is all being done for the property of my father. He is dead," Jha said.

The guru's followers are disrespecting him "by not [giving] him a respectable funeral,” he said.