Aug 30, 2014

Minersville girl made legal history

Peter E. BortnerAugust 30, 2014Republican & Herald

In 1935, Lillian Gobitas refused to salute the U.S. flag in her classroom in Minersville.

By doing so, the Jehovah's Witness got herself expelled from school, made her and her family the targets of community hostility and started a trail that ultimately changed American legal history.
Lillian Gobitas Klose, who died Aug. 22 at age 90 at her home in Fayetteville, Georgia, did not set out to make history, but she did so by acting in accordance with her lifelong faith.
The path she chose created controversy from the outset.

Officials from the Minersville School District — it did not become Minersville Area until more than two decades later — expelled her and her brother, William, for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, forcing them to go to private school. Their father, Walter, who operated a store in town, sued the district to compel it to readmit his children.

He won in U.S. District Court and then before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
However, the district appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1940, in an 8-1 decision written by Justice Felix Frankfurter, the nation's highest court overturned the lower court rulings, sided with the district and upheld Lillian's and William's expulsions. Justice Harlan Fiske Stone dissented.
What occurred next completely surprised many people across the country.

Jehovah's Witnesses became targets of violence across the country. At least one Kingdom Hall, the name the denomination gives to all of its churches, was burned, and many of the church's members were imprisoned or assaulted.

The violence shocked many Americans and resulted in a reversal that was virtually unprecedented in the history of the Supreme Court.

Only three years after it had ruled against the Gobitas family, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn that decision in a case involving a family of Jehovah's Witnesses from West Virginia.
After the Gobitas decision, West Virginia had enacted a law requiring that courses in civics be taught in its schools. State education regulators made the Pledge of Allegiance a required part of such courses.

The Barnette family challenged that regulation, and the Supreme Court agreed it violated the children's free speech rights.

Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote that the state could not make people recite the Pledge of Allegiance and that one of the purposes of the Bill of Rights was to put certain liberties beyond the reach of even democratically elected legislatures.

The decision marked a milestone in the history of the Supreme Court, which proceeded to take a wider role in upholding constitutional liberties, especially ones protected by the First Amendment.
Jackson's decision also vindicated Lillian Gobitas, who never wavered in her faith, even though it had cost her the class presidency and subjected her to ridicule from other students.

Regardless of what one might think of Jehovah's Witnesses, Lillian Gobitas is an example of a person whose willingness to fight for her beliefs has expanded everyone's personal freedoms.
(Bortner, a staff writer, is a 1982 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.)

Aug 28, 2014

Man accused of abusing FLDS boys in Pocatello sentenced - Idaho State Journal

Chris Detrick
The Salt Lake Tribune
Aug 28, 2014

UPDATE:  Nathan C. Jessop appeared in Bannock County Court for an arraignment today and pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor child abuse. A judge sentenced Jessop to 10 days in jail and two years probation.

Representing Jessop is Ron Tyler Bird and Ashley Graham is the prosecuting attorney.

Salt Lake Tribune story:

POCATELLO — If the boy didn’t wake at 6 a.m., he wouldn’t be allowed to eat breakfast.

When a Bannock County sheriff’s detective asked what was usually served in the mornings, the boy didn’t know. He hadn’t been up that early in a while.

The breakfast policy was just one of the rules the boy — apparently in his early teens — had to follow after running afoul of leaders of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Last month, police and child welfare agents removed the boy and eight others from a home off Pocatello Creek Road where they had been living with caretaker Nathan C. Jessop, now charged with three misdemeanor counts of child abuse.

As discipline, Jessop struck boys with a board or broom or sent them outside into cold weather without coats, the children told investigators. One boy was confined to a furnace room for up to two days, where he was provided meals but could leave only to use the bathroom, a Bannock County sheriff’s report said.

The boys, whose ages appear to range between 12 and 17, also described being given limited access to food and isolated from their parents as they raised money by building and selling furniture, mowing neighbors’ lawns and doing other odd jobs.

Jessop and the boys are all former or current members of the FLDS and had been sent on “repentance missions” by church leader Warren Jeffs or his brother Lyle, according to the sheriff’s report, provided by Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog.

The names of the children, who were taken into state custody, were redacted from the 70-page report, which offers rare insight into the lives of people loyal to Warren Jeffs and how they deal with children they consider wayward.

Before an Aug. 11 custody hearing in Pocatello, a Salt Lake Tribune reporter in the courthouse lobby heard lawyers tell the mothers of four boys that their cases were being dismissed and their sons would be able to go home with them.

When 6th District Magistrate Judge Bryan Murray learned the journalist had also attended the hearing, Murray ordered him not to report on what was said or on the rulings in the cases. An attorney for The Salt Lake Tribune has asked Murray to reconsider the ban, pointing out there were no signs limiting who could enter, other people who were not parties in the case also were in the courtroom, and no one spoke when the judge asked whether there were objections to anyone present.

Citing state policy, an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman declined to say whether the boys remain in state custody.

Court Overturns Convictions in Amish Hair Attacks

Amanda Lee Myers
August 27, 2014

 CINCINNATI (AP) — Personal conflict, not religion, was the driving motive behind beard- and hair-cutting attacks targetings, an appeals court panel ruled Wednesday in overturning the hate-crime convictions of 16 men and women.

A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel sided with arguments brought by attorneys for the Amish defendants, who were convicted two years ago in five attacks in 2011. The attacks were in apparent retaliation against Amish who had defied or denounced the authoritarian style of Sam Mullet Sr., leader of the Bergholz community in eastern Ohio.

In a deeply divided decision, two of the three judges on the panel concluded that the jury received incorrect instructions about how to weigh the role of religion in the attacks. They also said prosecutors should have had to prove that the assaults wouldn't have happened but for religious motives.

"When all is said and done, considerable evidence supported the defendants' theory that interpersonal and intra-family disagreements, not the victims' religious beliefs, sparked the attacks," the judges wrote.

They said it was unfair to conclude that "because faith permeates most, if not all, aspects of life in the Amish community, it necessarily permeates the motives for the assaults in this case."

Church leaders, "whether Samuel Mullet or Henry VIII, may do things, including committing crimes or even creating a new religion, for irreligious reasons," they wrote.

Mullet has served nearly three years of his 15-year sentence, while seven other men in the community are serving between five and seven years in prison. The other eight Amish convicted in the attacks either already served one year in prison and have returned to their communities or are about to be released from two-year sentences.

Defense attorney Wendi Overmyer, who represents the Amish, said she likely would be seeking the release of Mullet and the seven other men as the government considers its appeal options.

"Sam and the rest of the defendants pose no danger to the community, they don't pose a flight risk," she said. "They're needed at their homes."

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said prosecutors are "reviewing the opinion and considering our options."

"We respectfully disagree with the two judges who reversed the defendants' hate crime convictions based on a jury instruction," he said. "We remain in awe of the courage of the victims in this case, who were subject to violent attacks by the defendants."

Amish, who live in rural communities organized around bishops, dress and live simply and shun many aspects of the modern age such as electricity, refrigeration and computers. They don't drive and often get around in horse-drawn buggies or by paying drivers to shuttle them places.

They believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards once they marry. Cutting it is considered shameful and doing so forcibly is considered offensive.

In a strong dissenting opinion of the 6th Circuit's Wednesday ruling, Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. wrote that religion was a clear motive for the 2011 attacks and that the hate-crime convictions were appropriate, especially against Mullet.

Sargus quoted several statements made by Mullet acknowledging his religious motivations, including in an interview with The Associated Press in which he said that the goal of the hair-cutting was to send a message to the Amish community and that he should be allowed to punish people who break church laws.

The convictions of members of the Bergholz community marked the first involving religion under a federal hate crime statute enacted in 2009 in response to the murders of Matthew Shepard because he was gay and James Byrd Jr. because he was black.

Attorneys for the Amish defendants have argued that the statute was meant for egregious offenses motivated by race, sexual orientation and religion, not for what their clients did.

"The impetus behind the hate-crime statute, the Matthew Shepard tragedy and James Bird — those are heinous, egregious, tragic crimes, and I think in responding to those crimes, (the statute) is a little overbroad, and I think it can have an effect that perhaps Congress didn't intend," Overmyer said. "This is a really good case that exemplifies where that line can be drawn of what is a hate crime and what is not a hate crime."

The ruling will make it more difficult for federal prosecutors to obtain hate-crime convictions, because the court made it clear evidence must show the crime was based solely on religious hatred, said Ric Simmons, an Ohio State University law professor.

"It's always hard to prove state of mind or motive of a defendant," Simmons said. "Now it's going to be even harder because you have to prove not only was this a reason why they did it, you have to prove this is essentially the only reason, or the motivating reason."

At sentencing, Judge Dan Aaron Polster said it was clear to him and the jury that the attacks were motivated by religion and that "anyone who says this is just a hair- and beard-cutting case wasn't paying any attention."

"These victims were terrorized and traumatized," he said. "(The attacks) were calculated to inflict the maximum emotional trauma and distress on the victims, and that's what they did."

US Muslims ask John Kerry for protection on Mecca pilgrimage

August 27, 2014
Lauren Markoe
Religion News Service

Concerned for the safety of U.S. citizens soon headed to Mecca, 27 Muslim-American groups are asking the State Department to better protect them from violence that has plagued those who have made the pilgrimage in the past.

A letter from the group sent Tuesday (Aug. 26) to Secretary of State John Kerry was prompted in part by a 2013 incident in which a group of Sunni Muslims from Australia threatened to kill and rape a group of Shiites from Michigan.

The letter reads:

“We urge you to take immediate action to protect American citizens who travel overseas to perform one of the five mandatory acts of their faith and ensure that Saudi Arabia addresses this urgent security matter in preparation for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage.”

The pilgrimage to Islam’s most sacred place is required of all Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the journey to Mecca. The hajj takes place during the 12th month of the Islamic year and typically attracts 2 million or more faithful annually. This year it falls during the first week of October.

Last year, when the Michigan Muslims were attacked, neither Saudi nor U.S. authorities were responsive to their plight, said Mohamed Sabur of the Oakland-based Muslim Advocates, one of the groups that signed on to the letter.

U.S. Muslims on the hajj “need to know that the State Department has their backs,” Sabur said.

A State Department representative said in an email that the U.S. is committed to the protection of its citizens traveling or living abroad.

“We take seriously all reports of attacks or threats against U.S. citizens, including the reported attack on U.S. citizens during last year’s Hajj.”

The email statement continued: “While the U.S. does not have law enforcement personnel at the Hajj, our Embassy and Consulate General in Saudi Arabia are in close contact with their Saudi government counterparts. We urge all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register their location and contact information at”

For most, the hajj is safe. But the huge gathering holds inherent risks, despite high-tech Saudi crowd control and anti-terrorism efforts, which include thousands of closed-circuit television cameras. The main danger in past years has been from stampedes: Between 1990 and 2004, more than 2,000 people were trampled to death on the hajj.

After last year’s attack, the Americans reported that Saudi authorities at first seemed ready to help, but then destroyed a video of the incident and otherwise made it clear that they would not follow up on the matter.

The Americans identified their attackers as Salafis — Sunnis who embrace a strict form of Islam that is widely practiced in Saudi Arabia.

The Americans also reported that the response from the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia was slow and disappointing.

“When they relied on the U.S. State Department, they didn’t come through, either,” said Sabur.

Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, said the Muslim-Americans’ request is “entirely fair.”

It’s “a central responsibility of the U.S. government to defend the rights of its citizens abroad, especially their right to religious freedom,” he said.

Aug 27, 2014

An Open Letter to Kripalu Maharaj, Leader of Kripalu Maharaj Parishat and Self-Proclaimed Jagadguru of the World

Can You Hear The Sound of Our Voices?

August 10, 2012, Texas USA — Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat is heralding the commencement of a “historic” event this evening, according to the organization. The organization’s leader is giving a lecture from Vrindaban that will be broadcast around India on several television stations. Likely millions will hear him and be impressed. Many of these people will know nothing of the real Kripalu Maharaj, a man who has raped, molested, robbed, and pillaged millions in his 60-year career as a “guru” and self-proclaimed “jagadguru.”

Kripalu Maharaj, whose real name is Ram Tripathi, comes from northeast India near Manghar in U.P. But he found his fortune as a “guru” starting in Vrindaban, when he opened his first ashram. His organization has gone through several name changes, the latest of which is the eponymously named Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP). Now he owns the largest and likely most expensive temple in that holy city, from which he will speak tonight.

For decades, concerned Hindus and Westerners in India and the U.S.A. have made significant efforts to warn people about this man, and his unscrupulous and criminal behavior, which includes his most despicable crimes: raping underage girls. But his immense gang of preachers and ardent (some say brainwashed) devotees work tirelessly to bury the bad news and exalt their leader.

While they have the money to put into massive marketing and image campaigns around the world, the people who have been hurt are left without a voice. This document combines many of the voices of the people who have tried to warn others about Kripalu over the years. Their message is important because it can help people learn the truth and save themselves from the clutches of Kripalu’s dangerous cult. These voices deserve to be heard.

1. On August 31, 1990, someone, who was too fearful of JKP to use his or her real name wrote the following letter to Mr. B.P. Singh, Prime Minister of India in New Delhi.

Dr. Mr. Singh,

I had been thing to write you for a long time but could not do so. Today I have decided to write you with the hope that something will be done to stop the corruption and abuse played by so called Sadhus of India. When you came to power there was and is a hope that corruption will be wiped out.

In U.S.A. there is a lady who calls herself the DiDi Parkari but her real name is KumKum G. Sharma. Her Guru is Kirpalu Maharaj and he has an Ashram in Mangarh near Allahabad up. Kirpalu calls himself a Jagatguru. This DiDi has collected huge sums of money from here and is envolved in Gold smuggling.

We Indians will appreciate it very much if an inquiry is made against this DiDi and Jagat Guru Kirpalu Maharaj. There has been threats on the lives of people by this sect. That is why nobody is coming forward to write directly.

We are enclosing all the documents we have here, and hope something would be done to curb the moves of this sect.

With Regards

Yours sincerely,

Indian People

2. Enclosed in the packet of information sent by the author of this letter were several articles published in India newspapers after Kripalu’s arrest for rape in 1991 with headlines like: “The Hedonistic Sadhu,” “The Cunning Kripalu Maharaj,” and “The Hypocritical Kripalu Maharaj.” The articles have been copied and shared so many times that they are difficult to read. But here are excerpts from one of them published on September 27, 1991, after Kripalu was arrested for raping two underage. He had been running from the law for months when he was finally apprehended by law enforcement.

“It was morning at Nagpur airport. Ten (10) police from Delhi went to the airport at 11:00. Inspector Takhur went to the airport for Tripathi. When the plane landed they were looking for one passenger whose name is Ram Tripathi. The police identified him as soon as he came out from the airport. He was apprehended and taken to the police station. People were saying that he was an ‘all-rounder’ saint, meaning the one who says he ‘knows everything.’ Yet Tripathi (aka, Kripalu) he didn’t know that police were waiting for him.

“After arresting him at the police station, he was taken to the Nagpur court before First Grade Magistrate, Kureshi. They stated his crimes and said they had been looking for him for the past five months. He was being accused of raping and abducting two underage girls named Meera and Hema, and keeping them in his ashram. He is not a saint; he is a shame on humanity. An investigation had found that he was arrogant, fake, and a womanizer. He had touched many ladies and many young girls. Many people in and out of the courthouse were shouting that this Kripalu was fake and arrogant. They said: Give him the death penalty. 

“In his life, he had access to a lot of young devotee ladies. He gained their faith and trust, so they will do anything he asks. So whenever he wanted to indulge in his desire for sex, he found a way. He could get his sexual desire satisfied at any time. An organization gave him the title of jagadguru. One time he gave a lecture sitting on a silver throne. He announced himself that he is the descension of Bhagwan Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He said: ‘Whoever is present here I am your guru. I am already above everything. You accept guru as a higher position; sometimes more than even God. I am every man’s father and every woman’s husband. Whatever I order, you have to accept. Otherwise it will be meaningless.’ Devotees accepted whatever he said.

“While giving this lecture he saw a beautiful girl in the lecture hall. And told his servant to take that girl to his bedroom. When she was in his room. Kripalu closed the door. He ordered the girl to take off all her clothes. She got scared and asked why. Kripalu said I am giving you prem dhan.’ (This means ‘gift of love,’ and is used here as a euphemism for sex.) All your disease, misery, and pain will be gone. She said: no I will not do that. Kripalu said: If you don’t do it, something bad will happen to you. Think about it. Whatever I’m ordering, you do it. Then she got scared and took off all of her clothes. He raped her. This was in 1970.

“In this way, Kripalu gave prem dhan to many young girls. Educated young girls were also getting caught in the trap to get the prem dhan. There was a line to get the prem dhan. He made Mangarh the main center for prem dhan. At the time of his arrest 84 girls were gathered over there to get the prem dhan. Also, in Vrindavan where he built an ashram, other girls were waiting for his prem dhan. The manager of his Vrindavan ashram was his elder daughter. He was not able to give all the prem dhan to all the women who wanted it. So he got some of the devotees to do some of the prem dhan. He gave them the opportunity to do, such as Priya Sharan.

“In July of 1984, in a small village near Phat Poor, there was a young man name Priya Sharan, who became his devotee. Kripalu selected him to help do the prem dhan, and he did it four years. He then left Kripalu, went to his own village, Sarovari, and opened his own ashram. 

“Kripalu has many devotees in many cities. But very important ones in Bombay included: Jai Shankar Maphur, Kantibai Patel, Bhagwan Shaw, and Videsh Jain. They were in the clothing and diamond businesses. He had devotees who gave lots of money. Some devotees were actresses and politicians. Kripalu’s fame was going to the ditch by February 1991 when he went to Nagpur where one of his devotee’s requested him to give a lecture on 16th February 1991. While giving the lecture, he noticed two very beautiful girls, Meera and Hema. They came with their father to listen to the lecture. Once he saw them, one of his devotees escorted them to his bedroom and Kripalu convinced them both to give him prem dhan. But one devotee created trouble.

“One young man named Niteen Pandey was a trusted devotee servant and very faithful. He thought of Kripalu as God. Kripalu changed his name to Swami Nityanand. One of his duties was talking care of a cooler outside one corner of Kripalu’s bedroom. Nityanand didn’t know about prem dhan. After the two girls had passed many hours alone with Kripalu, Nityanand thought, let me see what this prem dhan is and why it takes so long. He climbed on the cooler and from the window crack he saw things that shocked him. Kripalu and the two girls were all naked. He saw Hema and Kripalu naked on the bed and Meera naked on floor. He ran away from that place. He later found out that Kripalu went to Mangarh and at the same time the two girls disappeared. Then when he found that the girls were in Mangarh with Kripalu. He went and told the father the whole thing. Once he found out exactly what kind of person Kripalu really was, he got very very angry.”

3. One of the articles also speaks to his legal troubles: “With the help of a politician he got out on bond after his arrest for rape.” Presumably, he paid off even more officials, because eventually the case just went away. Here is a description of his rape of these girls, from official documents in India:

On 10th May, 1994, Shri Purushottam Wasudeo Deshpande lodged report with the Police Station, Dhantoli, Nagpur, alleging that his two young daughters, namely Hema and Meera were kidnapped by the applicant No. 1 Priya Sharan Maharaj in connivance with one Sharvaridevi and Suhasini Narkhede. He further stated that his two daughters were attached for the last two years with the movements of Sanatan Dharma Shri Krishna Bhakti, under the auspicious of the applicant No. 1 i.e. Kripaluji Maharaj of Sadhna Bhawan Trust at village Managarh, District Pratapagarh (U.P.). On the basis of the report lodged by Shri Purushottam Deshpande, P.S.O., P.S. Dhantoli, Nagpur, registered an offence on 11-5-1991, punishable under Sections 363 and 366 of the Indian Penal Code, against the applicant No. 1 Shri Priya Sharan Maharaj, vide Crime No. 149/91.

During the investigation, the statements of Hema and Meera came to be recorded. From the statements of these two girls, it is revealed that the applicant No. 2 Kripaluji Maharaj is highly immoral man so also greedy of money. Those who attended the discourses, used to be persuaded and prompted to bring their wives and daughters to attend the discourse of Kripaluji Maharaj. The applicant No. 2 has two female disciples or agents viz. Neelu Chourasia and Sarasvati Yadao, who used to entice the women and girls to attend the discourses as well as pursuing the women and girls to appear in a lonely place before the applicant No. 2. These two agents used to impress on the girls that the Maharaj is the incarnation of God. 

In the lonely place, according to Hema and Meera, Maharaj was most immoral and vulgar person who perforce (by physical coersion) used to commit sexual intercourse with the women and girls. Maharaj committed intercourse with them perforce. It was also impressed on their mind that it is nothing but a ‘Prasad’ of God and they have been blessed accordingly. In spite of this, the girls continued to stay in the vicinity of the Ashram and thereby they had no other go than to succumb to the desire of the applicant No. 2. Therefore, according to these two girls named above, the applicant No. 2 Kripaluji Maharaj exploited the religious sentiments of the innocent girls in the name of God. 

4. Sometime after his arrest, someone sent the following warning notice on a flyer out in India. 

Alert. Alert. Alert. 

Here is information about the human demon — Kaliyug Chaitanya Mahaprabhu — the fake Jagadguru — Kripalu’s deceptive conduct. This notice is for all of the religious person in this area to inform them that a man calling himself a “Jagadguru” is living here and there in these places (Raigurth, Vilaspur, Mugali, Raipur, Rajnundgav, and Bhatchara). This Alert is to inform good people about him. A pundit from Kashi was contacted to confirm this information. 

Kripalu does kirtan and has a little knowledge of Sanskrit. So people go to hear him. It is known that during one kirtan in Kanpur he claimed to make a girl feel like a gopi and himself to feel like Krishna. Then he kissed her and engaged in immoral behavior with her (had sex). When this happened many people got angry. So someone threw acid in his face during a ras leela. The skin around his eyes was damaged, but he got treatment. However, there is still one small spot from the acid below his left eye. That is the mark that identifies him as the one who performed these immoral activities (with underage girls). He tried to pretend that that mark is some disease. 

He has used the title of “Jagadguru,” which he had never received, but with which he’s trying to cheat the people. According to the Kashi Vidwat Parishat (who he claims gave him the title), he was never given the designation of Jagadguru. He made it up. He artificially awarded this upadhi (title) to himself. Related to his man, on the 28th of February, a journal article (page 853) was published to inform the world (about him). The title of the article was: “God Save Us From this Extremely Demonic Mahatma.” A journalist received a letter that was written by one devotee and it’s described here. 

The person who wrote the letter one time saw this mahatma doing kirtan, during which he became unconscious, fell on ground, and had tears coming out of his eyes. So the man became impressed and accepted him as his guru, and he (Kripalu) accepted him as his devotee. But later he saw on he man’s true character and behavior and was shocked. Then he started thinking all kinds of thoughts about him in his mind; then he got scared. He felt that if he told anyone he would be committing “guru aparadh” (a transgression against a guru). 

At that time, Kripalu was staying at many rich people’s homes and giving a lot of eloquent lectures, and he was impressing the people. But he was playing with the people’s emotions and stating that he himself was the avatar of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. 

When that devotee (who wrote the letter) was staying with him day and night very close to him, he realized his character and manner of dressing, which was exactly like family man. But his lustful behavior was at a peak level. During the day, he was eating 100 pan with nicotine. And he was raping beautiful pious young girls and taking their virginity. All these things he saw with his own eyes and quit his association and went away from him. 

After three months this devotee wrote the letter. At that time, the guru was staying at a lawyer’s home. The devotee wrote to Kriplau: He stated that his behavior is not that of a real mahaprabhu and he gave the example of a true mahaprabhu from Gosai Chalissa (Ram charan punkaj anurag …). 

Because of his eloquent lectures, people were becoming impressed and inviting him to stay in their homes. But at that time he was taking advantage of the innocent beautiful young girls and destroying their virginity after telling them: “I will destroy your material desire and I will reveal God to you.” Innocent girls did not understand, and under his influence were having sex with him. Wherever he was staying, his sexual behavior with the girls was getting worse and worse. Those innocent people were not recognizing his behavior and were thinking about guru aparadh and so did not expose his behavior.

You can check out this particular article and whatever is described here in the “Kalyan Journal.” It was published in Gita Press. After noticing this article, it was made public. Now we are sharing this information to alert people about this bad demonic person. If you go for kirtan, be aware of the true nature of this “religion.” Do not let your mothers and sisters anywhere near this deceptive person, who has obsessive sexual desires. 

You can identify him by the mark below his left eyes. 

5. Someone posted the following message on a blog about fake gurus following the arrest and conviction of Kripalu’s “foremost devotee,” Prakashanand Saraswati, who fled into Mexico following his conviction for child molestation. It addresses Kripalu’s claim that Kashi Vidwat Parishad gave him the title “jagadguru.” 

It is nothing new to hear sex, rape, harassment and sexual abuse scandals of the so-called “Jagadguru Kripalu Maharaj” he is an all-time sex and fraud Guru. I remember reading a leaflet about him released by “Kashi Vidwat Parishad” printed in 1940s, the text was (translated):

“To let everybody in India know that so called “Jagadguru” Kripalu is misusing the title “Jagadguru" pretending that we, the “Kashi Vidwat Parishad” have given it to him. This however is wrong and a lie. We did not give any title to this fraudulent man and he should not be using this title at all on the name of “Kashi Vidwat Parishad” as “Kashi Vidwat Parishad” do not know him and have nothing to do with him. With this misuse of the title and our name he cheats the innocent public of India on the name of “Kashi Vidwat Parishad”.

Signed, Kashi Vidwat Parishad

6. Since I launched a Facebook page called The Truth Project for Barsana Dham and JKP, many people have written to me and detailed their abuse by this organization. Further, since the launch of my book, Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus, this year, I have heard from many more. People write to me with shocking and heart-breaking stories of sexual molestation, pressure to give vast sums of money, and the intentional and unrepentant tearing apart of families. Here are a few of their voices:

Dear Karen,

I was a JKP devotee from Turkey since 5 years, never visited Barsana Dham but went to India 3 times. Since my first moment I entered the ashram in Mangarh, I sensed something very wrong, something very contradictory with spirituality was happening there. As the boyfriend of a 10 years devotee, trusting her spiritual senses, I tried hard to understand the spirituality behind what my eyes were seeing. Each time I failed, all I could see there was a crazy effort to make us give whatever we have and the guru's hedonism. I even witnessed kripalu replacing a young girl's hand on his privates during charan seva as they started to allow men to this seva to prove it was OK. One day a didi asked me (we told them that we were married in order to stay in a room together) if my wife would like to make a very special seva with maharajji. I think my look told her the big NO WAY, she told me to ask her and think about it. Now I know what it would be. 

Best Regards, Arman

Hi Karen, 

My wifeis currently involved with Barsana Dham and has been affiliated with them for the past 15 years or so.  The contents of your book resonates with what is going on with her and I really appreciate you writing about your experiences.  Hopefully I can get some insight on how to pull her out of this mess after reading the details of your book.  She currently is in India to attend the ceremonies for the new temple there. She’s been under the influence of these people and they've basically brainwashed her to the point of extorting money which I've been saving for the past 30 years for our retirement.  


Hi Karen,

I read your book & the story is eerily similar to what I have gone through for 17 years of my life. Unfortunately my parents ignored me when I told them about the story when Maharaji was in US in 2005. I was called one morning to go to his room for the “private time” & was molested by him. I also saw many other girls from the Bay area & also girls who were visiting from other parts of the country including Canada go in & come out crying & devastated. This all happened without the knowledge or any parents. I could not believe myself.

Last year my brother took his new wife to see Maharaji for which I had warned him in advance to not let her see him in private. He knows what goes on too because his ex girlfriend actually slept with Maharaji. The devastating part is that he STILL believes in this person & his organization. 

I just hope that I am able to get my family & extended family out of this. It is uphill battle trust me. There is just way too many lives destroyed. There are kids who were involved in this organization with their parents have end up drinking heavily, doing drugs or getting involved in gangs. This HAS to stop. This is a battle for me with my parents & brother mostly because I have gone through this & don’t want to quit.

Thank you for listening. 

Millions of people tonight across India will hear Kripalu’s voice. Can you help them also hear the voices of the people he has abused? 

Thank you from those who have regained their voice and stood up to tell the world the truth about Kripalu Maharaj, and from those who are still too afraid of JKP to speak out.

Manpower South Africa announces new partnership

August 27, 2014
The Skills Portal

Workforce solutions provider Manpower South Africa is proud to announce it has welcomed a new broad-based BEE partner on board. 

“In April of this year we began engaging with a non-profit organisation and trust, namely the Imvula Education Empowerment Fund,” explains Manpower South Africa Managing Director, Lyndy van den Barselaar. “I am both proud and excited to announce that the Imvula Empowerment Fund is now Manpower South Africa’s new BEE partner, as of July 27 2014.”

The trust oversees a group of organisations – namely the Maharishi Institute, The Impact Sourcing Academy and Invincible Outsourcing – which have all been established with the aim of assisting black students from disadvantaged backgrounds in obtaining a qualification and work experience, particularly in the call centre sector. 

Van den Barselaar explains that two individuals who have been successfully involved in this field for many years head the trust – CEO Dr Taddy Blecher and Chairman Dr Richard Peycke, and that both are truly driven to succeed in their cause, with a target to educate and place into employment 100,000 future leaders for South Africa.

When asked what the partnership means for Manpower South Africa and the Imvula Education Empowerment Fund, van den Barselaar explains, “The partnership means that the 25% of Manpower’s profits to which Imvula Empowerment Education Fund is entitled as a result of their shareholding in the company, will vest in these students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, to support their education and placement into employment, which is in line with Manpower’s core business and philosophy.”

“Essentially, the more profit created by Manpower, the more funds will be contributed to the education and economic upliftment of South African youth. We have been given a spectacular opportunity that allows us to invest in the future of the country’s youth and this is what BEE should be about – enriching the lives of others and giving them the opportunity to obtain to become economically self sufficient, through education and employment”.

The partnership has also meant that Manpower South Africa has been upgraded to a Level 2 BEE Contributor, from its previous Level 4.

“I am so proud to be associated with something so meaningful. Having the chance to directly impact the lives of so many individuals is truly amazing,” concludes van den Barselaar. 

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Rs.60,000 crore fortune faces battle between two groups of followers

Shantanu Guha Ray
June 23, 2012

Transcendental Meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's vast fortune in India, mostly land, estimated to be worth Rs.60,000 crore, has sparked a bitter conflict between his heirs and followers. There are allegations of illegal land deals and formation of fake trusts to take over the properties.

The godman, famous for introducing the legendary Beatles to India, died in February 2008, leaving behind more than 12,000 acres of land across India. This includes prime locations in Delhi, Noida, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Goa, all vested with the Spiritual Regeneration Movement (SRM) Foundation, set up by the guru in 1959. The guru established several societies with the SRM Foundation and Maharishi Global University based in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh at the top of the list. The other four educational institutions are Maharishi Shiksha Sansthan, Maharishi Ved Vigyan Vidyapeeth, Maharishi Gandharva Ved Vidyapeeth and Mahila Dhyan Vidyapeeth that run 148 schools in 16 states across India.

Immediately after the Maharishi's death in Vlodrop, Netherlands, tensions started between members of the societies and followers for control of the assets.

Two groups, each claiming to be his real inheritors, accuse each other of 'impersonation' to gain control of the land-rich societies. On one side are the guru's nephews Anand Prakash Srivastava, 51, chairman of SRM Foundation India and Ajay Prakash Srivastava, 43, secretary, SRM Foundation India, and Brahmachari Girish Chandra Verma, 55, chairman of the educational trusts. They are pitted against G. Ram Chandramohan, 61, a member of the 12-member SRM Foundation. He is supported by Vijay Dhavale, 51, a Chhattisgarh-based real estate agent and disciple of the guru as well as Opender Kalsi, 55, who heads International Human Rights Organisation, a Jalandhar-based NGO.

The maharishi

The maharishi's global headquarters in Vlodrop, Netherlands.In January, the Srivastava brothers petitioned the Delhi High Court to win a stay on sales of land owned by various societies formed by the Maharishi Group. They accused Chandramohan and his associates of trying to illegally acquire society land through forged documents. Chandramohan claims instead that the Srivastavas were selling the guru's land without the sanction of all SRM Foundation board members.

In a complaint to the it Department in March, Chandramohan blamed Ajay Srivastava of taking into his possession books for accounts and details of all land from the offices of the srm Foundation for "personal gains". Chandramohan submitted what he claimed was proof of some land deals executed by the Srivastava brothers without informing the srm Foundation board. He said it was illegal because land owned by the foundation was meant only for religious, educational and philanthropy purposes.

Chandramohan submitted as evidence to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the it Department in March that Ambati Krishnamurthy, president of Ajay Bharat Trust, a wing of the srm Foundation, and Ajay Srivastava had formed a fake srm Foundation of India in Hyderabad. The duo opened an account (09540100014312) with Bank of Baroda in Hyderabad in 2010 to encash two demand drafts for Rs.22 lakh from the sale of foundation land in Chhattisgarh. Once the cash was withdrawn, the account was closed in July 2011. Ajay insists it was Chandramohan who forged papers to acquire land. "They got 30 acres of the 175-acre plot in Chhattisgarh by forging papers. We filed a counter in December 2011 in court and got a stay.� india today has a copy of the fir Ajay filed on December 16 at Bilaspur police station, which he later submitted to court, accusing Chandramohan of forging documents for the sale.

In his counter in March 2012, Chandramohan has offered it officials evidence of other "illegal" land deals by the Srivastavas:

  • A residential property in Golf Links, Delhi, was sold by Ajay without a valid resolution passed by SRM board members, some of whom then lodged a criminal complaint against Ajay with the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police, alleging the Rs.50-crore sale was at one-third of the market price for 2,000 sq ft. "We had an agreement-vetted by the court-signed more than 11 years ago to sell it for less than the current amount. I got the best deal possible," says Ajay.
  • Chandramohan claims 50 acres close to the Greater Noida Expressway was sold by Ajay three months ago for an undisclosed amount without authorisation by the SRM Managing Committee. Ajay claims he has the power of attorney to sell the land.
  • Chandramohan says Ajay sold four acres of land in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh in 2011. The sale was cancelled after it was proved that board members of SRM Foundation were not consulted. Ajay says the charges are false. He claims Chandramohan and his men sold without permission of srm board 56 acres of land in Takhatpur tehsil of Bilaspur district for over Rs.25 crore. "A case is pending in the district court of Takhatpur against the sale deed," says Ajay.

In April, it Department and the Ministry of Home Affairs initiated investigations into such "illegal" sale of land and also into the functioning of the SRM Foundation following complaints from Harshvardhan, MP from Maharajgunj, Uttar Pradesh. A Maharishi devotee, he wants the Government to seize control of assets owned by all Maharishi societies pending the investigations into "illegal" sale of land and donations to the societies. The MP claims he has evidence that the Maharishi Vidya Mandirs are in a mess; barely 20 per cent of the schools have students and lack even basic amenities. "Someone needs to take notice," says Harshvardhan. "Just four years after his death, the group is in total disarray," he told India Today.

Harshvardhan has shared with it officials details of the SRM Foundation's financial transactions for the last two years that he claims show almost 90 per cent of society revenues from donations were used to acquire properties. The MP said the Maharishi Nagar Colony in Sector 39 of Noida, which the guru's followers built in the late 1970s, is in a state of neglect. "Those who live there lack basic civic amenities. On inquiry, those working there told us they are being underpaid for years,"  said Harshvardhan. Ajay says a religious trust cannot give "corporate salaries"  to its people. He says the group only has an annual turnover of Rs.25-30 crore. "We have huge tracts of land but do not have loads of cash," he said.

The colony, spread over more than 900 acres, currently houses four buildings, each with more than 800 rooms. Most rooms lie in total neglect. A helipad once used by the guru is now dedicated to grazing cattle. Local real estate agents peg the worth of the land at Rs.15,000 crore. "The global university no longer operates from here. The Transcendental Meditation yoga classes are rare because there are very few students," says Ashok, a resident. He says 500-odd devotees of the guru stay in the colony, doing odd jobs to run the ashram. Ajay argues that if portions of the building are in a dilapidated condition, there is little he can do because "you need huge donations for the upkeep of the complex".

Large donations have dried up, so have the hordes of people who once filled the compound to hear the "giggling guru". A mere four years after his death, the Maharishi's legacy in India is in tatters.

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The preacher who claimed he was Jesus and the power of a cult

August 26, 2014
Kim Allegrezza
Christianity Examiner

José Luis de Jesús Miranda called himself the second coming of Jesus Christ, and almost a million people around the world believed him. Reality came crashing down upon them when he died from cirrhosis of the liver in August 2013. It was then they discovered their messiah was nothing more than a cult leader.

Mr. Miranda claimed that in 1973 the resurrected Jesus came to him and integrated himself inside his body. He said entity he called Jesus lived in him forever afterwards. In 1988 Jose formed the Ministerio Creciendo en Gracia or Growing in Grace Ministry

His ministry was very successful worldwide and expanded in over 20 countries. There were 30 of his teaching centers in the United States. His ministry also owned and operated a 24 hour cable channel, net casts, and radio programs to spread his beliefs. His followers joyously embraced his unique interpretation of Holy Scripture.

Mr. Miranda did not believe in sin. He said God already saw us as perfect spirits. He also said Satan was not real, just a figment of Hollywood’s imagination. He called prayer a waste of your time and declared all other religious leaders to be liars. Only he preached the real truth he said. He accused Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical Christians as having it all wrong and proclaimed their churches were corrupted with falsehoods. His followers believed he was the only one preaching the true Gospel.

Miranda did pass the collection plate, most churches do. Tithing is an acceptable practice in the Bible and it is how most houses of worship attain funds for their operating expenses. Numbers 18:21, "And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation." The children of Levi were the official priestly family of the Israelites. The tithe was given for them to focus their attention on God's work rather than worry about earning wages from a job.

Miranda's followers gave everything. They gave him their companies, estates and cars. Unlike Jesus’ biblical teachings, Miranda did not have a problem with people accumulating material wealth and said, “Everybody should be rich.”

His believers followed him at great personal cost as well. Many severed ties with their families if Miranda’s motives were questioned. The families of his church members believed his followers were being brain-washed. His version of so-called Christianity was very destructive.

Anytime a person stands up and says I am God, you must follow me and do what I say their followers can become radicalized and dangerous. Miranda’s followers aggressively harassed Catholics in the Miami area. Growing in Grace even admitted it formed formal protest campaigns against other religions. His followers were very in-your-face and confrontational. People eventually began to worry that his church was actually a cult.

The primary criteria for a cult would be an organization with an absolute, authoritarian leader, who uses charismatic persuasion of thoughts and ideals to eventually exploit the members. In this old NBC Today Show report you can see the power this man held over his believers. You can hear Miranda himself describe the event of the spirit he called Jesus entering his body and his distorted biblical teachings. Something may have entered Miranda that fateful day in 1973, but as any Christian can tell you, it was not Jesus Christ.

The Bible speaks of unclean spirits and false Christ’s leading the faithful astray. We are warned not to be deceived. Jesus taught us to be humble and not to be materialistic, the opposite of Miranda. Jesus had interactions with Satan, a real entity, and Satan is actively causing the deception of Christians today. The Bible describes the evil forces out to steer us away from the path of salvation, yet still Miranda’s followers were fooled.

Often cult leaders can appear very nice at first. They target vulnerable people who are seeking answers. Lonely, normal people are fooled by these tactics because the leaders are very good at manipulation and can get people to believe anything. People often confidently feel they would never be taken in by such a person and don’t even realize it is happening to them. 

When you hear the term cult, Christianity might not be the first type of group to come to mind. Christians often think of cults as something foreign or newagey, but there are Christian cults as well. Be a believer in God, but be discerning when it comes to humans. Just because someone or something is labeled Christian it doesn't mean you can through caution aside and leap forward with absolute trust and abandon.

Cult leaders maintain their followers’ intense allegiance through social and psychological practices and conditioning techniques that constrict attention, devalue personal relationships, and lessen an individual’s reasoning. Cult leaders all seem to use destruction to gain control over their followers and brain-wash them towards the new way of thinking.

Katju Objects to Justice Dave's Statement on Gita

August 3, 2014

Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju today objected to a Supreme Court judge's statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be taught in schools, saying this is against India's secular feature and Constitution and it will do great harm.

Supreme Court judge Justice A R Dave had yesterday said Indians should revert to their ancient traditions and texts such as Mahabharat and Bhagavad Gita and they should be introduced to children at an early age.

"Somebody who is very secular... So called secular will not agree... Had I been the dictator of India, I would have introduced Gita and Mahabharata in class one. That is the way you learn how to live life. I am sorry if somebody says I am secular or I am not secular. But if there is something good, we have to get it from anywhere," he had said in Ahmedabad.

Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said, "I totally disagree with Justice Dave's statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be made compulsory in schools.

"In a country of such diversity as ours, nothing of this kind should be compelled or imposed, as that is against our nation's secular feature and Constitution," he said in a statement.

He said Muslims and Christians may not want their children to be taught these books and questioned if their children yet be forced to read them.

"Some people say that Gita only teaches morality and has nothing to do with religion. But Muslims may say that only the Quran teaches morality, Christians may say that only the Bible teaches morality, Sikhs may say that only the Guru Granth Saheb teaches morality, Parsis may say only the Zend Avesta teaches morality, etc," he said.

In his opinion, he said, such compulsion or imposition will do great harm to the unity of the country.

'Pretty Little Liars' actors star in a short film about cults

Ariana Bacle
Aug 20, 2014

Troian Bellisario and Shay Mitchell frequently escape death as teenagers targeted by a could-be murderer in Pretty Little Liars, but in short film Immediately Afterlife, they accept death… and then survive anyway.

In the film, Bellisario and Mitchell play two cult members who were supposed to partake in a group suicide but end up surviving. Bellisario’s Bennett is a religious fanatic who thinks she’s done something wrong, while Mitchell’s Marissa cracks jokes and has trouble understanding why Bennett isn’t happy to be alive. All the while, they’re wearing white sheets (similar to what the lady-cultists wear in The Black Keys’ latest video for “Weight of Love,” as cults in white are evidently the trend of the summer).

Toward the end, Bennett decides they should just chug the rest of the Kool-Aid leftovers until fellow Pretty Little Liars star Ian Harding shows up to (inadvertently) break up the party. And you thought Pretty Little Liars was crazy.

Did Noor Inayat Khan, super secret agent during World War 2, ever visit Delhi?

R.V. Smith
The Hindu
August 24, 2014

Perhaps we’ll never find out, but the story of her father, Inayat Khan, and his legacy in Delhi, is intriguing in its own way

In this time of World War anniversaries few are aware that Noor Inayat Khan, super secret agent, had a close link with a Delhi shrine. And thereby hangs a tale that goes back to Tipu Sultan, who died fighting the British at Seringapatnam during the Fourth Mysore War in 1799. Long after that, one of his descendants founded a Sufi order in Delhi. Hazrat Inayat Khan, great-grandson of Tipu, was a man of many tastes who went abroad in 1920 to give music concerts, having become a musician of note early in life. He was initiated into Sufism by Sheikh Abu Hashim Madani but, during a visit to the West, wed an American woman, Ora Ray Baker (renamed Ameena) who gave birth to four children. According to Sadia Dehlvi, Inayat Khan died in 1927 and was buried in Delhi, though he had settled down with his wife in Suresness, a Parisian suburb. His son, Pir Vilayat Khan succeeded him, whose successor was Pir Zia Khan, head of the Sufi Order International.

Inayat Khan’s daughter, Noor Inayat Khan (just as famous as Mata Hari) was a British Special Operations Agent (Madeline) during World War II. She became the first female radio operator to be sent by the Allies into occupied France to aid the French Resistance (under Gen Charles de Gaulle). Captured by the Germans, Noor was executed in Sept 1944 when she was 30 and was posthumously given the highest civilian award (George Cross) by the British Govt. in 1949. Recently a special postage stamp was issued and a statue installed in her memory in Britain.

Dr. A. Ali, who long ago organised lectures in Delhi by Pir Vilayat Khan on behalf of Hamdard, remembers him as a handsome man with European features, who had a mastery over written and spoken English and hardly looked like an Indian Sufi divine. Incidentally, his half-brother was an American Yogi. The message he preached (like his father) was that one doesn’t have to embrace Islam to become a Sufi. Hazrat Inayat Khan had defined Sufism as a religious philosophy of love, harmony and beauty for all. His dargah is not far from the one of Hazrat Nizamuddin. Situated in an “elegant modern structure”, it is quite unlike the usual conception of a dargah. Some call it the “white man’s dargah” as most of the visitors are foreigners, who stay in the rooms attached to it and attend cultural events hosted by Dr. Fareeda of the West Indies.

There are many in Delhi and elsewhere who do not subscribe to Inayat Khan’s philosophy but still visit the dargah on Fridays when qawwalis are held. This is a departure from tradition as qawwalis are generally held on Thursdays at sufi dargahs.

Hazrat Inayat Khan preceded Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Osho Rajneesh in popularising Eastern philosophy abroad (to which Pandit Ravi Shankar also made his contribution) and the Beatles and Mia Farrow were among the devotees who came to India. Somehow Inayat Khan did not attract much attention in Delhi, known as the “Threshold of the 22 Khwajas” or saints.

Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that the Sufi Pir’s daughter played a role in countering the Nazi dream of world domination, after trying her hand as a writer of children’s stories and a stint in Paris as an artist. Did Noor Inayat Khan visit Delhi? No one is sure as there is no record of it, but Khushwant Singh, while once commenting on her, thought it was quite likely she did.

For this he cited a member of the Nizami family of Pirs who escorted a pretty westernised young woman to the shrine of Inayat Khan on a cold, bleak, afternoon. Asked for her name she said it reflected the Noor of the saint and disappeared with a wave of her hand. If she was really Noor Inayat, then the incident could have taken place before the war broke though it is more likely that she came as a teenager during her father’s funeral. Those were the days when people came in ships via the Suez Canal, landed in Calcutta or Bombay and then made their way to Delhi by train.

But imagine Noor Inayat arriving at Old Delhi station all by herself later, which in itself was a courageous act.

It was of the likes of her that Jawaharlal Nehru said that such heroines gave the lie to the belief that Eastern women were not meant to lead but to be led. One thinks of this when one visits Inayat Khan’s dargah on a wet Friday evening.

Raelian group goes topless in Montreal

Toronto Sun
August 24, 2014
MONTREAL - A UFO-based religion called Raelianism, whose followers believe that life on Earth was created by an alien science experiment, was behind a rally on Sunday to protest the stigma of women going topless in public.
There were about two dozen women at the protest, along with several shirtless men showing support by wearing bras.
Onlookers taking cellphone pictures of the topless women outnumbered protesters.
Go Topless Day was founded in 2007 by Rael, the spiritual leader of the Raelians, and Sunday’s event was the second Go Topless rally in Montreal.
"As long as men are allowed to be topless in public,” Rael says on the website, “women should have the same constitutional right. Or else, men should have to wear something to hide their chests."
“It’s a question of discrimination,” said Sylvie Chabot, a Raelian priest who is the Canadian co-ordinator of the Go Topless movement. “Why do we ask about women and not men?”
According to Chabot, there is currently no official law on the books banning women from being topless.
“We want to have this taboo disappear,” Chabot said. “Women have been oppressed for decades.”

Putting Eternal Salvation in the Hands of 19-Year-Old Missionaries

Andrea Bennett and Kim Fuaug
August 20, 2014
The Atlantic

When young Mormons are sent around the world to attract new adherents to the Church, sometimes they end up questioning their own faith.

Seventeen-year-old Matthew Timion was smoking a cigarette out his bedroom window when he heard a knock at the door. He’d just moved across the country with his mother and stepfather, a militant atheist. The recent death of his alcoholic father had left him with many questions about life, death and faith. Without looking, he somehow knew the visitors at the door were Mormon missionaries. He later interpreted this as a sign from God.

“Mormonism came as a white horse,” Timion says. “They talked about families that can be together forever, life after death, the purpose of life. And there was an instant community. [For] someone like myself, who has father issues, this church run by men ready to give you a pat on the back filled every need I had.”

The missionaries Timion met that day guided him through the conversion process. Two years later, Timion embarked on a mission himself.

* * *

Non-Mormons are used to hiding from pairs of clean-cut young men in name tags and dark suits. But few of us understand what’s it’s like to be inside those suits, knocking on doors and approaching strangers in public to discuss their most deeply held beliefs.

Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in 1830, over one million Mormons have gone on missions. In March  2014 alone, there were 85,039 full-time missionaries serving at 405 missions around the world. Sixty-four percent of those missionaries were young men, 28 percent were young women, and 8 percent were seniors, who are defined in church literature to be worshippers who have left the workforce.

For young men growing up in Mormon communities, the pressure to go on a mission is enormous. Open any newspaper in Utah and you’ll find farewell and homecoming announcements. An advertisement in The Universe, Brigham Young University’s campus newspaper, offers a free pre-mission dental exam. One missionary we spoke to had his wisdom teeth removed as a farewell gift from his Mormon dentist.

Russell Beckstead*, is the ninth of ten siblings, six of whom had served before Russell was old enough to serve on a mission. In the small Idaho town where he grew up, 66 percent  of the county was Mormon, and time was marked by the comings and goings of missionaries.

“If you’re a man in the church and you didn’t serve a mission, that immediately raises eyebrows,” Beckstead explains. “Your prospects of getting a mate are linked directly to whether or not you served an honorable mission. A common joke is that the more people you preach the gospel to, the more attractive your future wife will be.”

Even more than mainstream Christianity, Mormonism emphasizes the importance of evangelism. One of Joseph Smith’s revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants, an LDS foundational document, reads, “Ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel [...], declaring my word like unto angels.”

During our interview, Beckstead pulls a laminated card from his pocket. “This is a priesthood line of authority. Jesus gave the priesthood to Peter, James, and John, who gave it to Joseph Smith, who gave it to these guys, and these guys gave it to these guys, all the way down to me. There’s a direct line of authority from Jesus Christ to me. And so I really believed, on my mission, that I was an official, legal representative of Jesus Christ.”

* * *

All missionaries report to one of 15 missionary training centers throughout the world at the start of their mission. The largest training center, in Provo, Utah, stretches several miles alongside BYU and accommodates up to 4,000 missionaries-in-training who are called “Elders” and “Sisters.” For up to 12 weeks, they receive classroom instruction in foreign languages, theology, and conversational strategies, guided by Preach My Gospel, while the Missionary Handbook outlines acceptable language, dress, conduct, tithing, and relationships. Several missionaries described the training center as “boot camp” for its spiritual and emotional “breakdowns” and highlighted its rigorous sixteen-hour schedule—the same hours missionaries keep throughout their time abroad.

“It was like a college dorm with a bunch of clean-cut men that all look the same,” says Timion, the missionary who converted at age 17. “A clone center. They let you know that everything you’ve done is a sin. All these 19-year-old boys and 21-year-old girls feel horrible about themselves, and confess and are forgiven. It was a very, very long, miserable experience that I wouldn’t want to relive.”

The missionary training center is also a missionary’s first experience of companionship—having an assigned companion by your side 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as you dress, bathe, study, eat, and sleep. If you want to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you have to wake your companion and have him stand guard outside the door. “Your missionary companion is there to keep you on the straight and narrow path, so you don’t let Satan win,” Timion says.

* * *

Russell Beckstead’s older siblings were called to exotic locations, including the Caribbean, northern Europe, and eastern Germany immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall. “And then I was called to Indiana!” Beckstead laughs.

“In Indiana, there was this line everybody would use. They would say, ‘There’s two things that I don’t talk to anybody about: politics and religion. Now get outta here.’ I heard that line I don’t know how many times.”

Missionaries provide progress numbers to their mission leaders, who in turn report up a hierarchical structure: How many people they talk to, how many copies of the Book of Mormon they distribute, how many baptisms they’ve performed, and so on. All of the missionaries we spoke to mentioned how rare baptisms were, and how much guilt they felt as a result. "You’re like, man, we only talked to four people this whole week. We must be horrible missionaries," Beckstead says. "And they—the assistants, and the zone leaders and the president—they try really hard to convince you that they don’t care about the numbers. They’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not about the numbers, elders. It’s not about the numbers … but what are the numbers?!'"

And those numbers were frequently dismal. “The most typical experience was just a door slammed in your face,” Beckstead says. “Somebody sees that you’ve got a nametag on, and you’re in a tie and a white shirt, and the door immediately closes.”

* * *

After the first few months of his mission in England, Adam Ballard*, 19, born and raised in Provo, Utah, began to question if he genuinely believed in the only system of faith he’d ever known. He realized one of his roommates had gone on a mission to escape his abusive father, and that others struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, and pornography addiction, which Ballard attributed to the church’s repressive stance on sexuality.

Ballard was seeing a mission-appointed counselor for anxiety. “My counselor said, ‘Elder Ballard, you can choose to be yourself and do what you believe in, or you can live a hollow life.’ I don’t think he realized what he was saying. A week later, I called my mission president and told him I was going home.”

Before he could be released, Ballard was ordered to speak to his father, his sister, and his stake president, who acts as the head of several local congregations, or "stakes." He described this as “one of the hardest things in my entire life.”

Ballard phoned his father first. “He’s like, ‘What about when Mom died? What about what you said before you left on your mission?’ And I remember telling him, ‘Dad, I lied, because I wanted to look good.’ I got off the phone and cried for two hours.”

A 2013 study at Utah Valley University found that nearly three quarters of missionaries who return home early experience a deep sense of failure. Ballard served for seven months, and received an honorable discharge for health reasons. Although he’s finding the transition difficult and his home congregation less than receptive, Ballard remains positive about the mission experience overall. “You can ‘life shop.’ You meet thousands of people who’ve lived their lives thousands of ways, people who are doctors, lawyers, janitors, who have children, who don’t have children, who are married, who aren’t married, who’ve never been married. And you can see, like, ‘Oh, that’s how I want to live my life. I want to live my life like that guy.’”

* * *

Scott Horton’s family has been Mormon for several generations. Like many missionaries, he had doubts about his faith, but he wanted to set a good example for his younger brothers, and the scriptures suggested that the mission itself was the best way to strengthen his testimony.

While an estimated 40 percent of returned missionaries become inactive sometime after completing their mission, only 2 percent become apostates, meaning that they request to have their names removed from church rolls, or are formally excommunicated. Scott Horton is among the 2 percent. Looking back, he recalls the moment when “all the lights starting firing” on his mission in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. “In my last area, I went on a regimen of studying the Book of Mormon like crazy, praying like crazy. I got to a point where I was fasting every week, wanting to get an answer. I did that for two or three months. And just nothing.”

Another turning point occurred when Horton stopped a man on the street who was an adherent to the Virgin of Guadalupe. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting. Why do you follow her?’ And he said, ‘Well, five or six years ago, I didn’t have a job and I was out of money. And I couldn’t stand to be at home and watch my daughters cry over hunger. I was walking down the road, praying, and I had no idea what to do. And I saw a light. I looked into the light and saw the Virgin. She told me that everything would be okay, and that she was looking out for me and would provide for me. And when I looked down, below the light, there was 20 pesos on the ground. I picked it up and bought bread and milk for my daughters. I’ll always remember that, and I will never move away from her.’

“I was dumbfounded. I thanked him for sharing that story with me and let him go on his way. I remember thinking, I have nothing that even compares to something that spiritual, that profound. Who was I to stand out here telling people what to do? You start to recognize how ridiculous it is to put people’s eternal salvation in the hands of 19-year-olds who are viewing it as a competition of who can baptize more people.”

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Russell Beckstead, now in his mid-thirties, remains an active member of the Church. He still accompanies missionaries every week as a model of non-missionary fellowship—what he refers to as “being a normal person.”

Young is uncomfortable with the missionary promise that conversion is a cure-all. “People will talk about how they lost their job, or they have this medical problem, or their wife left them, or their kid is in trouble at school, or their parents are suffering and old. And as a missionary, your mentality is, ‘Okay, pray and read the Book of Mormon. Done.’ And I want to be like, ‘Did you not hear all these other problems?’ I still believe that faith and Jesus Christ gives people power and comfort in their lives. But it’s not going to solve their problems!”

For Beckstead and others, like Ballard and Horton, the most memorable aspect of missionary work was the connections they developed with different kinds of people—and the theological tension these connections raised. “There’s a scripture in the Book of Mormon that says, ‘The natural man is an enemy to God.’ It gets drilled into you that everybody else is secretly miserable because they’re not in the church. As a missionary, it’s your job to share the secret to happiness. And I just found that that wasn’t true. There’s lots of happy people with great lives, just trying to do the best they can.

“Maybe my faith in the institution was shocked, but my faith in humanity was boosted.

* These names have been changed to protect privacy.