Jul 31, 2014


July 28, 2014
Caro Meldrum-Hanna and Janine Cohen

He is a self-styled evangelist who told his followers he was The Anointed One, chosen by God to convert the world to his beliefs.

Anyone who didn't follow his word was told they would burn in hell, that he held the key to their salvation on judgement day.

In reality, Scott Williams was a cult leader who used his own brand of religion to warp biblical scripture in the pursuit of sex, money and power.

Scott Williams left Australia 38 years ago, converting hundreds of young people throughout Europe. On the outside, life appeared happy. But now, former cult members reveal to Four Corners a lifetime of secretive abuse, misplaced worship and horrifying punishments carried out under the guise of obedience to 'The Overseer', Scott Williams. Their stories are so shocking, their brainwashing so profound, it is almost unbelievable. As one former member explained:

"It's not simple to walk out. No. I wish I could. I tried. I tried a few times. It's a curious web and it was like he's the spider and he's got you there and you can't get out of the bloody spider web."

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Secrets, lies and sex abuse as ex-sect leader chooses life on the inside

July 28, 2014
Chris Johnston
The Age

Guilt can be a heavy burden - and this seems to be the case with the latest chapter in the disturbing story of a senior Victorian sect leader now in jail on child sex charges.

Ten days ago Chris Chandler, 56, drove to Melbourne from his property on French Island, in Western Port. Then he went to the Melbourne Magistrates Court to hand himself in.

Chandler was a leader of the secretive Bible sect known as Friends and Workers, or the Two by Twos, who have 2000 Victorian members. He had already admitted his guilt in eight charges in a Gippsland court including unlawful indecent assaults, indecent assaults and gross indecency on three young female victims.

But Chandler baulked at his sentence of a year's jail with a non-parole period of three months, telling his lawyers that while he was guilty, he wasn't guilty to that extent.

But then something changed. He decided he wanted to go to jail. When he turned up at Melbourne's central magistrates court to surrender - not the Morwell court his hearings had been held in, and not the one closest to his home - he hadn't told the policeman who made the charges stick what he was about to do.

Sergeant Darren Eldridge of Moe police was surprised to hear Chandler had given up his fight. He had been working on the case for two years. ''We were assisted in different ways by a number of congregation members,'' he said.

The sect is a strange offshoot of the Cooneyites; it adheres strongly to Bible sections of Matthew 10 to do with Jesus sending out disciples to cleanse ''impure spirits''.

The trap: Cult thinking and conflict in the Middle East

July 29, 2014
The Nation
John Bell

In mid-June, I wrote an article about the attachment to identity in the Middle East and its deadliness in our times. Since then, a caliphate was announced from Aleppo to Tikrit, the situation in Israel and Palestine slid into war, and conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are inflamed. The article argued that, due to an excessive attachment to identity, pluralism and allegiance to the state receive short shrift in the region.

The Second Arab Awakening and The Battle for Pluralism graphicMarwan Muasher, former foreign minister of Jordan, today Vice President for Studies at Carnegie International Endowment for Peace, recently published a book called The Second Arab Awakening and The Battle for Pluralism, where he puts forward strong suggestions to meet this challenge. Muasher argues that strengthening citizenship in the Arab world and encouraging tolerance, among other steps, are critical in moving towards pluralistic societies, and away from today’s churning chaos.

His proposals are on the right track, and their effect will be in the long run - if there is a long run. However, an additional step may also be needed in this pursuit: recognition of a trap that trumps tolerance every time, unless it is recognised.

In 2003, Dr Arthur Deikman, an American psychiatrist, wrote Them and Us: Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat in which he describes ‘cult behaviour’, a way of being that creates group cohesion but at a heavy price. The nature of cult thinking is as follows: compliance with a group; dependence on a leader; avoiding dissent; and devaluing the outsider.

Jul 24, 2014

Ramtha Riled

Southern Poverty Law Center
Intelligence Report, Summer 2014, Issue Number: 154

By Susy Buchanan

YELM, Wash. — It’s March 2011 at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (RSE) in this rapidly growing town just outside of Olympia. Hundreds of truth seekers pack into a converted horse arena to hear a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior speak the wisdom of the ages. The crowd is yearning for super-consciousness and enlightenment; what they get is drunken ramblings peppered with curse words. There’s no Kool-Aid served, just red wine, bottles and bottles of it. Wine ceremonies, which have been going on at RSE since 1996, are significant because students believe wine grapes were brought to Earth by extraterrestrials 450,000 years ago.

The blonde on stage is J.Z. (for Judith Zebra) Knight, a 65-year-old former rodeo queen and cable TV saleswoman. The words coming from her mouth aren’t hers, the assembled crowd believes, but rather those of the ethereal being she channels, Ramtha the Enlightened One. Knight goes back and forth between herself and the supposedly channeled Ramtha.

During the 16 or so hours the students spend in a spiritual drinking game (students must drink every time Ramtha/Knight does), Knight will disparage Catholics, gay people, Mexicans, organic farmers, and Jews.

“Fuck God’s chosen people! I think they have earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now,” she says as members of the audience snicker. There are also titters when she declares Mexicans “breed like rabbits” and are “poison,” that all gay men were once Catholic priests, and that organic farmers have questionable hygiene.

These are not the kind of cosmic revelations that have drawn students to Knight for 38 years. For the most part, RSE students are thoughtful and well-educated, not apt to embrace a bigoted guru. For decades, the message had been more about finding the god within than disparaging minorities, and the blend of science and New Age Gnosticism made J.Z. Knight millions well before the drunken homophobic, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic racist rants began to make their way into her preachings.

What happened at RSE would have stayed at RSE had it not been for the Internet. In 2012, livestreamed videos of Ramtha’s hate speech were posted to the Web, first by ex-students Virginia Coverdale and David McCarthy, then by a libertarian-leaning think tank called the Freedom Foundation that is based in Olympia. The excerpts from that wine ceremony left Thurston County residents shocked and wondering if there was a more sinister side to their kooky neighborhood cult.

Was there a hate group lurking in “The Pride of the Prairie,” as Yelm calls itself? Knight blamed Coverdale, who had slept with Knight’s boyfriend, as a spurned lover, and the libertarian-leaning think tank, the Freedom Foundation, as politically motivated.

But the scandal caused by the videos embarrassed Democratic candidates who had taken a total of $70,000 in campaign donations from Knight. “I am appalled by Ms. Knight’s outrageous anti-Mexican, anti-Catholic raging,” said Thurston County (Wash.) Commissioner Sandra Romero. “These vile, racist, and divisive comments against responsible and caring people have no place in Thurston County, or anywhere else.” Romero ended up giving Knight’s donation to nonprofits benefitting Latinos.

Through it all, Knight has ignored requests for a retraction and maintained that the videos were maliciously edited and taken out of context.

Melissa and Steve Genson, farmers and restaurateurs who also operate an online newspaper, were equally outraged, and Melissa, a CPA and fraud investigator by training, began an intense investigation into activities at RSE. “JZ Knight shrieks abuse and ridicule at her followers, and hate speech against Catholics, Jews, gays, and others — all welcomed with audience cheers,” Melissa wrote in one of a series of critical articles on RSE for the South Thurston Journal.

Jul 19, 2014

Cults: "People underestimate how powerful they are"

The Voice of Russia
July 9, 2014

Academics estimate that there are tens of thousands of new religious movements - often referred to as cults - worldwide. The majority are said to be in Africa and Asia. Here in Britain, it's thought there are between 500 and 1,000 new religious movements, or cults - though some say that figure is a conservative estimate. VoR’s Juliet Spare is joined by three guests - two of them former cult members - for this in-depth discussion.

Juliet is joined by:
Ian Haworth, founder and current general secretary of the Cult Information Centre, a non-sectarian educational charity based in London, England. He has worked full-time as a specialist in cults since 1979 and is a former cult member.
Lynne Wallis, who has written extensively for newspapers on cults and families affected by new religious movements – cults – including an article for the Times Educational Supplement in 2008 called 'Cult Watch' detailing the danger cults pose to young people.
Natacha Tormey, author of ‘Born into the Children of God: My Life in a Religious Sex Cult’ and ‘Cults: The Bloodstained History of Organised Religion’. Natacha Tormey was born and raised within The Children of God, a religious cult that became infamous for its bizarre sexual practices and religious doctrines. Natacha escaped at 18.

The Return Of A Cult Classic—Hare Krishnas Are Back

Bart Blasengame

May 1, 2014

The much-maligned Hindu sect has shed its freak-show status and, behind its yuppie-friendly pillars of yoga, meditation, and clean living, is transforming America into a postmodern ashram. Robes not required.

The past and present of Hare Krishna suns himself in the high-resolution glow of code as it scrolls down his computer screen. He is 31 and married to a doctor and, after five years as an architect, is making the transition into tech—working at the largest data-protection company in the world to study its market strategies, which he hopes to apply to the start-up he's planning to launch. He is just like you: career-minded and ambitious. He has a slim build, short-cropped hair, a vegetarian diet, and a dedicated yoga regimen. It's only if you happen to catch a glimpse of the string of tulasi-wood beads—a sign of devotion to Lord Krishna—tucked discreetly inside his collared shirt that you might become aware that Palaka Das is existing on a different plane.

Jewish Parents Once Panicked About Teens Joining Cults

How Did Communal Freak-Out Fade Away So Completely?

Lenore Skenazy
May 27, 2014, issue of May 30, 2014.
Jewish Daily Forward

In 1981, the New York Times wrote about a source of parental anguish that had been growing for about a decade. “From across the United States… American Jews face a special problem: a disproportionate number of their young are defecting to a proliferation of cults.”

The Moonies, Hare Krishnas, gurus, yogis — all of these loomed large and menacing back then.

I was in college in ’81, and while I didn’t have any friends who started shaking tambourines on street corners (well, the son of a family friend was, but that was it), cults were simply a part of the landscape. Walk through any airport and you were likely to be offered a flower by a blissed out Hare Krishna who just might’ve been your Camp Ramah counselor a few years earlier — or so it seemed.

A rabbi in the Times article said that while Jews represented 2.7% of the population, in some cults they made up 25-30% of the members. B’nai B’rith opened a cult awareness program in 1979. No wonder nice, middle-class parents were so scared!

Hare Krishna Gets Evangelical

The fringe Hindu faith is rebranding itself in America — with evangelical techniques.

Rosalie Murphy
June 16, 2014

Howard Resnick lives in a second-floor apartment on a quiet Santa Monica side street. Images of Krishna, the supreme god of the Hare Krishna movement, adorn the walls, and an electric keyboard waits in a corner to play Kirtan chants. He helped lead Hare Krishna in its heyday in the United States. Forty years after his conversion, he still wants to share his faith with Americans.

But today’s Hare Krishna temples host mostly Indian congregations and sing mostly Indian music. Resnick thinks that drives Americans from other cultures away before they even start thinking about philosophy. He hopes to reverse that trend.

“We were trying to do something which could not be done, and that is trying to Indianize the world in the name of Krishna,” Resnick said. “When you want to give people not merely the pure, unadulterated spiritual science, but they need to accept all the [ethnic] trappings — it doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t work.”

Romanian priest jailed for killing young nun who was CRUCIFIED during botched exorcism ritual

Dan Bloom
July 15, 2014

  • Father Daniel Corogeanu was jailed for seven years after ritual killed nun, 23
  • She was strapped to a cross and left without food or water for five days
  • He promised to build a monastery in her memory when he was released
  • But he was hounded out of its proposed base in Zapodeni, eastern Romania
  • He is now hidden in remote wooden hut and refuses to leave, an official said
  • The disturbing story inspired Cannes prize-winning film Beyond the Hills

A priest who was jailed for killing a 23-year-old nun in a botched exorcism has been chased out of his village and forced to live in a remote forest hut.

Father Daniel Corogeanu, 33, left Sister Irina Cornici bound, gagged, strapped to a cross and without food or water for five days at an isolated monastery in Romania.

Corogeanu, whose crime inspired a Cannes prize-winning film, was jailed for seven years in 2005 and vowed to build a monastery in her memory when he was released.

Orange Co. couple facing fraud charges gets attention of Homeland Security

July 16. 2014

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Orange County couple facing fraud charges got the attention of Homeland Security.

According to reports, the couple claims to be part of a religious group called Sovereign Citizens.

It took investigators seven months to piece together the investigation against Dexter Martin and his wife, Lelawatie Sookhoo.

The investigation started when Martin got in a car accident and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper found Martin was going by the name Mushon Martin-Bey, and claimed to be part of the Moorish Religious Society.

The group’s parishioners often claim sovereign citizenship, and change their names without filing legal documents, as investigators discovered in this case.

They said Martin-Bey visited a car dealership on Orange Blossom Trail and got a fraudulent title for a car using his new name.

They also found Sookhoo used a modified version of her name to get eight different IDs from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Reports said the couple racked up liens on three homes under their fake names, totaling nearly $25,000.
Leaders with the Moorish Science Temple of America said in a statement that radical fringe groups are giving their religion a bad name with these types of crimes.

A spokesperson said the group “is in no form or fashion a Sovereign Citizen Movement” and “all members must obey the laws of the government.”

One of the homes the couple owned is being foreclosed on.

WFTV contacted Homeland Security after investigators mentioned their assistance in the arrest reports for the couple, but officials have not commented.


Scientology head can’t be forced to testify, Texas court rules

By Chuck Lindell
American-Statesman Staff
July 17, 2014

David Miscavige, head of the Church of Scientology, cannot be forced to testify in a harassment lawsuit filed by the wife of a prominent church critic who lives in Comal County, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that Monique Rathbun, who alleged that Scientologists conducted a three-year harassment campaign when her husband, Marty Rathbun, began speaking out against church activities, did not prove that Miscavige had “unique or superior knowledge” to offer in a deposition.

However, the court did not rule out the possibility that “additional, less intrusive means of discovery” could establish Rathbun’s right to force Miscavige to answer questions, under oath, in a future deposition.

Marty Rathbun is a former high-ranking member who left the Church of Scientology in 2004 and later accused Miscavige of physically and psychologically abusing other church members, court records show.

Custody, immigration issues continue for Lev Tahor families

CTV Windsor 
July 17, 2014

Custody proceedings involving the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor continued in Chatham Thursday, but the group also continues to battle immigration issues.

According to immigration lawyer Guidy Mamman, most of the sect’s members have now left Chatham.

"There are half a dozen families here in Canada who are on temporary status. The CAS is seeking a supervision order of presumably an indefinite nature. We don't know for how long, so we have an immediate conflict."
Mamann says either the Children's Aid Society has to overturn their orders or Canadian immigration officials and the Canada Border Services Agency have to give the parents more time to stay in the country.

If neither can happen, the Lev Tahor families will be unfairly forced to leave without their children, something he says they will never do.

Ephren Taylor Accused of $11 Million Christian Ponzi Scheme by SEC

May 8, 2012
Steve Osunsami and Katie Hinman

Ephren Taylor stepped into the pulpit with the ease of preacher's son, taking the microphone at the New Birth Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the powerful pastor Eddie Long was introducing him to the Sunday morning crowd.

"Everything he says is based on the word of God," Long pledged to the members of his megachurch. But Taylor wasn't a visiting minister. He was a financial adviser, one who claimed to have made his first million before he turned 18. And he promised he could do the same for his fellow Christians.

"We're going to show you how to get wealth and use it for the building of his kingdom," Taylor shouted to the congregation one morning in 2009. It was all part of what he called his "Building Wealth Tour," which crisscrossed the country touting his investments and financial advice.

On the Hunt for Alleged Church Ponzi Schemer

June 18, 2014

Part 2: After alleged victims say Ephren Taylor disappeared, ABC News tracked him down in Kansas.

Transcript for On the Hunt for Alleged Church Ponzi Schemer

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We're back with a special edition of "Nightline. " Ephron Taylor was the son of a preacher who told believers he could revolutionize their finances, but then it all went very wrong, so what would he say when "Nightline" caught up with him and his wife? Here's ABC's -- again.

Reporter: There was this Ephren Taylor. The man in the music video celebrating the high life starring his wife. 

I do what I want ?   I move like a billionaire ?

And then there was this Ephren Taylor. I tell you, are you broke? You can't make no money.

Reporter: Who preached faith-based investing to churches across the country. You want to get paid this morning? Somebody raise their hand and give god the praise if you want to get paid this morning.

Alleged Church Ponzi Schemer Arrested on Federal Fraud Charges

June 17, 2014

Ephren Taylor, once a financial adviser to congregants from some of the most prominent mega-churches in the country, was arrested today on federal fraud charges.

The Department of Justice announced in a news release that Taylor, 31, was arrested on a federal indictment charging him and his business partner with “defrauding investors across the country of more than $5 million.”
The charges allege that Taylor, the former CEO of City Capital Corporation, and the company’s former COO Wendy Connor “participated in a conspiracy to defraud investors” between April 2009 and October 2010, and allegedly managed to defraud “hundreds” of people nationwide, according to the DOJ.

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Taylor surrendered to the U.S. Secret Service in Kansas City, Mo., this morning following an arrangement with the agents handling the case. A court date has yet to be announced.

Business Booms for Brazilian Child Healers, Self-Anointed Miracle Workers

July 01, 2014

Faith is sometimes so intoxicating that it can even fill the sick and suffering with the improbable hope that a 10-year-old will heal them with a simple touch.

Such child healers in Brazil are only part of the growing chorus of self-anointed miracle workers. The explosive spiritual movement is 44 million followers strong.

"Anyone can become a pastor," Professor Eduardo Refkalefsky, who studies the business of churches in Brazil, told ABC News' "Nightline." "[Anyone] can open a church."

Evangelical Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Brazil, and some say it's threatening the Catholic Church's historical dominance in the country.

But with millions of souls and millions of donations at stake, critics say that many bogus merchants of faith are turning huge profits with false promises.

Enterprising evangelical pastors benefit from a total lack of regulations, Refkalefsky said. Many pastors lure new worshipers with visions of prosperity and health, he added.

To those in his church, Brazilian evangelical Pastor Arodo offers not only to exorcise inner demons or to counsel couples, but to provide chiropractic care and promises of wealth.

When asked whether the Catholic Church can compete with his brand of Christianity, Arodo told "Nightline," "Absolutely not, because... what I have is a gift from God. It's not mine. It's a gift from God."

At Arodo's church, believers line up to offer donations, and in return he splashes them with his own special holy oil.

"Don't skimp on an act of God," Arodo told his worshipers. "Stand up and come here with your money in hand."

"It's a very informal business, because the money just [goes] directly from the wallet of the member to the wallet of the pastor of the church," professor Refkalefsky said. "There's no control of the money."

That has made salvation a booming business. "The number of churches [is] rising more than the number of the members," Refkalefsky said.

Nowhere is the growth more apparent than in Sao Goncalo, Brazil, which, by some estimates, has more churches per square mile than anywhere else in Latin America.

Sao Goncalo's most popular child healer is 10-year-old Alani Santos, who has been drawing believers to her father Adauto Santos' church since she was 3.

Alani has become a local celebrity, appearing on talk shows with her dad and even hosting an Internet radio show with listeners from around the globe.

"I don't feel any pressure from my family," Alani told "Nightline." "If I don't feel like doing it, they let me. And I like doing it, so I'm never going to stop."

Croatian Daniel Nesak, who said he was shot in the head during a war, leaving the left side of his body partially paralyzed, underwent years of painful operations and therapy. Desperate for a miracle, he traveled halfway across the world to Alani's church.

After experiencing her healing touch, Nesak attempted to grip a microphone stand with his paralyzed hand to test the miracle, but he was unable to do so."It didn't change physically much, maybe next time," Nesak told "Nightline" immediately after the exchange.

Although many are cured instantly, Pastor Santos said, others experience gradual results.

"People that don't know this, people who've never seen this ... they don't know it, so it's easier to criticize," Santos told "Nightline." "It's easier for the person to believe a lie than the truth, you know?"

Nesak is still holding out hope for a full recovery.


U.S. evangelical Christians are chilly toward atheists – and the feeling is mutual

Michael Lipka
July 16, 2014

The feelings that members of America’s religious groups have about one another run from warm to neutral to cold, but some of the chilliest attitudes found in a new Pew Research Center survey were between evangelicals and atheists.

We asked Americans to rate eight religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, with higher numbers indicating warmer, more positive feelings and lower numbers indicating colder, more negative feelings. On average, Catholics give atheists a rating of 38, and Protestants give them a frosty 32 – lower than either group’s ratings for Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Mormons or Muslims. White evangelical Protestants express particularly cold feelings toward atheists, with an average thermometer reading of 25.

For their part, atheists are similarly chilly toward evangelical Christians, who receive an average rating of 28 from atheists. (Respondents were asked to rate “evangelical Christians” on the feeling thermometer. White evangelical Protestants analyzed here are a subset of this group.) Overall, atheists express somewhat more positive feelings toward Catholics (47). Atheists give Hindus a relatively warm rating of 58, Jews a 61 and Buddhists a toasty 69. Granted, these groups are, like atheists, small minorities in the United States, and atheists may feel especially close to Buddhism because it often is viewed as a nontheistic religion that does not require belief in a divine creator. Some mutual warmth between atheists and Jews also is apparent: While atheists give Jews a 61, Jews give atheists a 55 – the warmest rating that atheists get from any group other than agnostics, those who claim no particular religion and atheists themselves.

While a number of religious groups harbored cool feelings toward atheists, Muslims are the only religious group that received uniformly negative ratings of 50 degrees or fewer from all the groups large enough to analyze. (The survey’s nationwide sample of 3,217 adults does not include enough Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or Mormons to be able to tell how members of those faiths feel toward U.S. religious groups.)

When Americans consider religious groups other than their own, Jews receive the warmest overall ratings – an average of 63 – followed by a 58 rating of Catholics by all non-Catholics. One-in-ten Americans (10%) rate Jews coldly (33 or below), which is lower than the percentage who give similarly cold ratings to all of the other groups. Among all the religious groups in the survey, white evangelical Protestants express some of the most positive feelings toward Jews, an average rating of 69. The feeling, however, is not mutual. Jews give evangelical Christians a 34 – among the lowest they give any group.

Evangelicals’ positive feelings toward Jews may not be surprising, given the role of Judaism in the history of Christianity and the place of Jews in the Bible. Born-again or evangelical Christians tend to express a strong belief in the Bible as the word of God, and in a survey we conducted last year, a substantial majority of white evangelicals (82%) said that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people.

The reasons for Jews’ relatively cold feelings toward evangelicals are not as clear. Possible explanations could include differences over proselytism (evangelicals often seek converts, while Jews traditionally do not), separation of church and state, and politics in general (evangelicals tend to be conservative, while U.S. Jews are mostly liberal).


For gay newlyweds in some states, ‘limbo’ may last another year

David Masci
July 7, 2014

It has happened in four states so far, and may well happen in others – a kind of marital limbo where licenses have been granted and vows exchanged, but the marriages themselves have not been officially recognized.

The most recent instance occurred June 25 in Indiana, where hundreds of same-sex couples married during a brief two-day window created after a federal district court struck down the Hoosier State’s gay marriage ban, and before an appeals court put that ruling on hold. The Indiana newlyweds now join thousands of other similarly situated same-sex couples from Michigan, Utah and Wisconsin.

Supporters argue that marriages conducted while same-sex marriage was legal – even if only for a few days – are valid and should be recognized. But so far, most state officials have refused to recognize the marriages, citing ongoing court proceedings. In Indiana, for instance, the attorney general’s office stated that the status of same-sex marriage licenses issued during the two-day window is currently “undetermined.”

How many people of different faiths do you know?

July 17, 2014
Michael Lipka

Given the wide variety of faith groups in the United States, it would seem natural that most Americans know someone of a religion different from their own. With that in mind, we recently asked members of the Pew Research Center’s new American Trends Panel whether they personally know members of other religious groups.

We found that a big majority of Americans (87%) say they know someone who is Catholic – perhaps not surprising, given that as of 2012, 22% of U.S. adults were Catholic.  Somewhat fewer Americans (70%) say they know an evangelical Christian, even though nearly a third of U.S. adults (32%) describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.

The percentage of Americans who know members of smaller religious groups varies widely, with little apparent relation to the actual size of the group. For example, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus each comprise about 1% or less of the U.S. population, but many more Americans say they know a Muslim (38%) than a Buddhist (23%) or a Hindu (22%).

Atheists, Jews and Mormons each make up roughly 2% of the U.S. population, but a majority of Americans say they know someone who is Jewish (61%) or atheist (59%), while significantly fewer know a Mormon (44%).

One possible explanation may be that the geographic distribution of a group matters as much as its size. A higher percentage of the population in the West – where Mormons and Buddhists are heavily concentrated – know a Mormon (68%) or a Buddhist (36%). Fully 70% of people in the Northeast know someone who is Jewish; not coincidentally, 43% of U.S. Jews live in the Northeast.

All together, the average American personally knows members of at least four of the eight religious groups included in the survey. In general, whites tend to know people in more groups (four) than do blacks (three). And there is a gap between people with a college degree – who know, on average, members of five different religious groups – and those with only a high school diploma or less education, who know someone in an average of three groups. There is virtually no difference, however, between Republicans and Democrats on this measure (four groups each).

We asked the same panel to rate each religious group on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, with a higher number indicating a warmer, more positive feeling toward that group. While it’s the first time we’ve asked such a question in that way, others – including professors David Campbell and Robert Putnam in their book “American Grace” – have conducted similar studies (with broadly similar results).

In our panel’s answers, we noticed a pattern that holds across all religious groups: Americans who know a member of a group tend to rate that group more positively. For example, among those who know an atheist, the average rating of atheists is 50; among those who don’t know an atheist, it’s 29. And among those who know a Buddhist, the average rating of Buddhists is 70. The comparable rating by those who don’t know a Buddhist is 48.

Overall, Americans express the warmest feelings toward Jews (average rating of 63), Catholics (62) and evangelical Christians (61). They are coolest toward atheists (41) and Muslims (40). Buddhists (53), Hindus (50) and Mormons (48) are in the middle.


New Pew Research Survey Explores How Americans Feel About Religious Groups

Jews, Catholics & Evangelicals Rated Warmly, Atheists and Muslims More Coldly

Washington, July 16, 2014 — Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are all viewed warmly by the American public, according to a new national Pew Research Center survey. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).

Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons each receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer scale (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part of the scale.

These are among the key findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted May 30-June 30, 2014, among a national sample of 3,217 adults who are part of the center’s American Trends Panel, a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. The new report provides detailed breakdowns – by key demographics, religious affiliation and political leanings – of how Americans view specific religious groups.

Jul 11, 2014

Bhau Kalchuri - obituary

The Telegraph
January 22, 2014

Bhau Kalchuri, who has died aged 86, was an Indian writer and poet, and the biographer and close disciple of Meher Baba (1894-1969), an Indian guru famous for, among other things, not uttering a word during the last 44 years of his life.

Meher Baba, also known as “The Compassionate One”, claimed to be the Avatar — the most recent incarnation of God, following in the footsteps of such figures as Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed.

Attaching no importance to “creed, dogma, caste systems or religious ceremonies and rites”, he boiled down his teaching into a list of “realities” that included love of God, self-sacrifice, respect for others, self-discipline and calm in adversity. He taught that true self-realisation comes about over millions of reincarnations — a process he called “involution”. For the last silent 44 years of his life, he communicated with an alphabet board and eventually only with hand gestures.

Baba’s teachings caught on in the West, where he became something of a celebrity. In the 1930s he travelled to America and hobnobbed with Hollywood stars such as Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton, Tallulah Bankhead, Boris Karloff, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks junior He also travelled to Britain on the same ship as Mahatma Gandhi. The pair were reported to have had several meetings at which (according to his followers) Baba advised Gandhi to abandon politics, provoking a sharp response from an aide to the Mahatma: “You may say emphatically that Gandhi never asked Meher Baba for help or for spiritual or other advice.”

Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating

Dean Nelson
May 28, 2014
The Telegraph

The family and followers of one of India's wealthiest Hindu spiritual leaders are fighting a legal battle over whether he is dead or simply in a deep state of meditation.

His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, the founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious order with a property estate worth an estimated £100 million, died in January, according to his wife and son.

However, his disciples at his Ashram have refused to let the family take his body for cremation because they claim he is still alive.

According to his followers, based in the Punjab city of Jalandhar, he simply went into a deep Samadhi or meditation and they have frozen his body to preserve it for when he wakes from it.

His body is currently contained in a commercial freezer at their Ashram.

The late – or living – guru, who was in his seventies, established his sect in 1983 to promote "self-awakening to global peace" and to create a world "wherein every individual becomes an embodiment of truth, fraternity and justice through the eternal science of self-realisation".

Hasidic Williamsburg, as Seen by One Who Left Sect

Julie Turkewitz
July 10, 2014
NY Times

On a recent sunny Monday, a bespectacled young woman stood at Broadway and Marcy Avenue, a Brooklyn crossing where hipsters, Hispanics and Hasidim mingle in a way that defines Williamsburg in 2014: a chic coffee shop near a Caribbean restaurant near a group of bearded men wearing black hats.

“We’re going into a really, really different part of New York City,” said the woman, Frieda Vizel, a microphone strapped to her head, “and I want us to be able to put that in a larger context.”

Ms. Vizel, 29, operates a tour business called Visit Hasidim and was about to lead her latest group of curiosity seekers on an educational perambulation through a section of Williamsburg roughly bounded by Broadway, Division Avenue, Heyward Street and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and populated largely by ultrareligious Jews.

While legions of tour guides have long shepherded the inquisitive through the city’s neighborhoods, Ms. Vizel said she offers something special: an insider’s look at a community that is famously difficult to penetrate, mostly because among those seeking to recreate the shtetl of yore, insularity is a core value.

Ms. Vizel is herself a former Hasid, born and raised in Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic village in Orange County, N.Y. At a time when the Hasidim’s reclusive nature increasingly butts up against the modern world, she claims unique insight into not just the community’s past, but also its present tensions. “My goal,” she said, “is to bring the culture down from this exotic place to a human level.”

Fearing criticism from local Hasidim who might view her tours as disrespectful, Ms. Vizel has not publicized her work widely. But after some consideration, she permitted a reporter to join a recent trip. “As we walk through the streets,” she told the roughly two dozen men and women with her, “I want you to try to see it through my eyes.” One of those on hand, 21-year-old Grace Idle, said she was “quite nervous about how the people in the community will see us.”

Jul 10, 2014

Stichting Maharishi Foundation International - Netherlands

Maharishi related foundations, business, organization:

Stichting Maharishi Foundation International - Netherlands
Commercial register: 41030211
Source: moneyhouse.com

Maharishi and the Global Country of World Peace Efforts to obtain sovereignty

Excerpt from "Global Country of World Peace"

From MicroWiki, the micronational encyclopædia

The Maharishi and the Global Country of World Peace have approached small, impoverished nations about purchasing or leasing land to create a sovereign nation. In 2001, it was reported that the Transcendental Meditation Movement had been trying unsuccessfully for years to make such arrangements in Africa, Asia, and South America.[1]

Starting in November 2000, the GCWP began making overtures to the President of Suriname regarding the lease of rural land to create a sovereign nation. It offered $1.3 billion over three years for a 200-year lease, plus 1 percent of the country's money annually, and the creation of 10,000 jobs.[1][2]

The UNHCR reported that, in July 2001, the island nation of Tuvalu rejected, after serious consideration, a proposal from the movement to create a "Vatican like sovereign city-state" near the international airport in exchange for a payment of $2 million a year.[3]

In 2002, the TM organization made an offer to the tiny Pacific island of Rota. 

The island, north of Guam, is part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a protectorate of the United States. The people of Rota were offered the construction of great gardens, a peace university, and as much as a billion dollars worth of investments, if they agreed to grant Raja Nader Raam sovereignty over a portion of the island, which would have required Rota to secede from the Commonwealth. Preferring to stay in the U.S.-affiliated Commonwealth, the islanders turned down the offer.[7][4]

An attempt in Costa Rica resulted in the expulsion of Emmanuel Schiffgens and other officials of the GCWP offered $250 a month to each family in the Talamanca reservation, 140 miles (230 km) south of the capital, San José, for the right to appoint a king. On June 23, 2002, a ceremony was held on the Talamanca reservation to appoint a TM-chosen Indian as the reservation's first king.[5] 

The community balked and asked the Costa Rican government to step in. The government ordered the TM representatives to leave the country. "It was obvious that they were promoting an independent state within Costa Rica, and we can't tolerate that", said Costa Rica's security minister Rogelio Ramos.[6]

FBI Documents: The Leo Ryan Murder/Jonestown Investigation (RYMUR) - 662 pages added

On November 18, 1978, while investigating human rights abuses by a large cult led by James Warren “Jim” Jones (1931-1978), Congressman Leo Ryan (1925-1978) and several companions were murdered by Jones’ followers.

Ryan had traveled to “Jonestown,” the cult’s compound in the South American country of Guyana, at the behest of his constituents, some of whom had family members in the cult. Following Ryan’s murder, Jones ordered his followers to commit mass suicide; more than 900 bodies were later found, most having died by taking poison.

The FBI, charged with investigating violence against public officials, opened a probe into the murder of Ryan (hence the case name RYMUR) and provided other support and investigative assistance in relation to the mass casualties.

This release consists of material released previously and ranges from 1978 To 1979.

Added: 662 pages on 7/10/14

Vol. 03 BUFILE 89-4286 144 pgs
Vol. 04 BUFILE 89-4286 133 pgs
Vol. 05 BUFILE 89-4286 182 pgs
Vol. 06 BUFILE 89-4286 203 pgs