Nov 22, 2014

Ticket to Heaven (A film exposing the Moonies)

Published on Nov 22, 2014

Ticket to Heaven (A film exposing the Moonie cult, which is also known as the Unification Church)

Nov 20, 2014

Kenya 'miracle healer' scandal hits deep faith in churches

An expose has raised a furor over a self-styled prophet's exploitation of poor people. While such cases are not new, this latest has prompted a sharp reaction.

Christian Science Monitor
By Ariel Zirulnick, Correspondent
NOVEMBER 20, 2014

 He is a self-styled modern-day prophet, a "miracle healer" who has attracted thousands to his Nairobi "church" with claims of being able to cure everything from childlessness to HIV/AIDS.

But last month, the investigative news program "Inside Story" here exposed Victor Kanyari, who ran the Salvation Healing Ministry, as a charlatan. The program revealed elaborate playacting by Mr. Kanyari and a group of devoted followers who helped perpetuate his claims by making false testimonies and staging "healings" in front of the congregation.

Such cases are not new – but the blowback this time is significant. Many Kenyans are outraged that Kanyari easily exploited widespread trust in church institutions and targeted the poor, many of whom are desperate and willing to pay small fees to get the aid Kanyari promised. The case has spurred a bid for new regulation, with the attorney general announcing last week an indefinite ban on registering any new churches. And for mainstream Christians, it raises concerns that faith in the honesty of most religious outlets will decline.

“A person like me is not going” to someone like Kanyari, says John Masinde, a Pentecostal pastor in Nairobi – rather, he says, it’s someone living in a slum who is struggling to get by.

“In an economy like this one, you’ll find there are millions of people who live on a meal a day who cannot afford good medical care, who have gone to school but don’t have a job," he says. "Those scenarios are fertile for people to come up and offer a miracle cure."

All religious institutions in Kenya are supposed to register with the government, but the process described by church leaders is lax. And while the mainstream Christian, evangelical, and Catholic churches each have umbrella organizations to represent their members, they count only a fraction of the churches in Kenya as members, and the leaders have no authority to enforce standards or stop malpractice. There has been little to stop the proliferation of the “miracle healers.”

In this case, Kanyari denied the allegations, saying soon after the piece aired, "Why are people believing so much in Mohamed Ali [the journalist] and not prophet Kanyari?... Mohamed Ali is against the church, how do you see?"

He hasn’t been legally charged, and seems to be practicing as usual, although police have said they will soon begin interviewing people who say they were conned by Kanyari. The TV expose revealed deep deception: In one of the most damning parts of the program, a former assistant contends that Kanyari used the chemical compound potassium permanganate, which turns red when it comes into contact with water, when washing the feet of congregants to convince people that his prayer was causing blood – and the illness carried in it – to leach out of their bodies. His assistants also hid needles in their hands, which they then dumped into the foot baths to add to the illusion.


Both tough circumstances and someone who appeared to have solutions attracted people to Kanyari, according to some observers.

“People are in poverty and they are looking for quick solutions,” says Oliver Kisaka Simiyu, the deputy general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the umbrella organization representing mainstream Christian churches.

“They don’t know that he has put needles in his hands, potassium [permagnamate] in his fingers. They just see needles coming out [of the foot baths where his assistants had been bathing their feet],” he explains. “What is a miracle? It’s an unusual occurrence!” And Kanyari, as seen in the documentary, was good at making the unusual happen.

It’s not just about desperation, though, says Rev. David Oginde, the vice chairman of the Kenyan Evangelical Alliance and the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries, a Pentecostal church in Nairobi. Kanyari gave people answers, or at least the sense that someone was in control, he says, in an increasingly hectic world with too many questions.

Leveraging the church

But for many Kenyans, despite the occasional incident of fraudulent behavior, churches remain in high esteem – unlike government, media, and unions.

“That high name becomes an asset, and it is this asset that crooks would use,” Mr. Kisaka says.

“If you wanted to get things across or you wanted to access certain things, if you came in the name of the church you attracted less questioning,” Kisaka says. “No one expects someone coming in the name of the church to do this.”

Kisaka argues that it is the government, not Kanyari, that is ultimately to blame. He calls him a product of the official culture, and says the corruption so prevalent in government leaves everyone looking for their opportunity to make money.

“Kanyari is an ordinary Kenyan, hungry, looking for food, wanting status and power. If the fellow with whom he was in class has become a member of parliament and can pass by him driving a four-wheel, he wonders, ‘What is in my power to drive that same car?’ ” Kisaka says. “Talking about Kanyari is minimizing the problem. The real problem is that there is a culture of misuse of opportunity and power in this country in almost every sector, and that culture is taking advantage of the powerless.”

This story was reported with support from the Ford Foundation.


Nov 17, 2014

Fashion model killed herself after joining cult

Ruslana Korshunova who leapt to death from Manhattan building in 2008 was member of Rose of the World Cult

David Millwar
November 17, 2014

A supermodel’s suicide in Manhattan is being linked to her membership of the Rose of the World cult.

Ruslana Korshunova committed suicide in 2008, cutting through the construction mesh protecting an office building. The Kazakhstan-born model was only 20.

Although the New York Police department believed that she had committed suicide, Miss Korshunova’s family and friends could not believe she killed herself.

An investigation into her death by Peter Pomarentsev has now revealed that she was a member of a cult, called Rose of the World.

The daughter of wealthy businessman and former Red Army officer, Miss Korshunova’s blonde hair and piercing blue eyes made her a natural for the fashion scouts who scoured the former Soviet Union for talent.

Distraught at the end of a relationship to a wealthy tycoon, her personal and professional life unravelled.

In desperation she turned to the Moscow based cult, Rose of the World, reportedly paying $300 (£192) a day to take part in one of their courses.

She was not the only model to kill herself after becoming involved with the cult. Anastasia Drozdova leapt to her death in Ukraine in 2009.

Like Miss Korshunova, she had turned to the cult as her career began to wane.

As part of his investigation into the model’s death, Mr Pomarentsev spoke to former members of the cult and was told of the techniques it used.

The cult’s roots are with Lifespring, an American cult which went bankrupt in 1980 after being sued by a number of its former followers for mental damage as Participants were repeatedly harangued and demeaned by the coaches.

Asked about Miss Korshunova’s death, one coach said it was better to commit suicide than fail to change.

However, a member of the cult denied that either suicide was linked to Rose of the World.

He told Mr Pomerantsev: "Korshunova had what we call a 'rollback'. She felt a little strange. You'd find her wandering round town, unsure what she was doing there.

Maybe she'd cry at night. But she couldn't have killed herself. We cured her of any problems she might have.

“And Drozdova? She was messed up already. We tried to help her, we really tried. But she refused transformation.

“Blame modelling, maybe drugs, not us.”

Nov 15, 2014

The murky past of The Beatles Guru

Simon Edge
Sunday Express
February 7, 2008

He liked to tell people: “I am a monk, I have no pockets.” That may technically have been true – his trademark white robe never looked as if it had a hidey-hole for a wallet – but the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was not as uninterested in wealth as he claimed.

When he died this week at the approximate age of 91, the so-called “giggling guru” had plenty to laugh about in financial terms. His own spokesman admitted recently that his personal assets were worth between £300million and £600million.

The long-haired, bearded Maharishi (a Hindi word meaning “great seer”), who shot to world fame in 1967 when the Beatles went to hear him speak about the technique he called transcendental meditation, had built up a vast global corporation. Based in a former Franciscan monastery on the Dutch/German border, his business empire included the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, a bewildering variety of online “vedic” and open universities, a Maharishi Institute of Management in India, a 24-hour global satellite television channel and a network of New Age health centres and companies selling massage oils, books, CDs, courses and spiritual consultations.

He memorably added to the gaiety of politics when he set up the Natural Law Party of Great Britain. It fielded an astonishing 310 candidates at the 1992 general election, who preached the benefits of yogic flying – a technique they declined to demonstrate for voters, instead making do with a cross-legged, frog-like hopping.

The party reached its polling high when it attracted 400,000 votes across the EU in the European elections of 1999, as well as the symbolic boost of coming second to Labour, well ahead of the Conservatives, in a local council ward in Lancashire. He also set up a $1billion fund in the US which he said would enable 40,000 flying “vedic pandits” to create world peace.

The Maharishi was disheartened to discover that Americans were not very interested in his ideals. As he told the interviewer Larry King: “I lack only $1billion to make the world a better world… But I realised later that I was talking to this capitalist country. Unless they get something privately themselves, they’ll not indulge into it.”

Whether you see him as a well-meaning crackpot or a self-serving fraud, it’s hard to believe that such a figure could hold the world in thrall in the Sixties and Seventies.

After travelling on the “mystical express” with him from Paddington Station to Bangor in North Wales, the Beatles spent a month the following year at his ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas. George Harrison remained an admirer and a funder, as did singer Donovan and film-maker David Lynch, relationships that he was brilliant at exploiting. In 1975, Time magazine put him on its cover, surrounded by psychedelic flowers, under the slogan: “Meditation: The Answer To All Your Problems?”

Paul Mason, author of the biography The Maharishi, says the essence of his original teaching was not so daft. “He cobbled it from traditional sources and his own inspiration and basically it worked.

“I learned the technique in 1970. People in that era were looking for expanded happiness and they were doing it with all kinds of drugs. He was saying you could get high without drugs. It was a very attractive proposition.”

But the other side of that legacy, he says, is the bizarre, quasi-religious organisation the Maharishi built up – and the way he financed it. Initially he taught his meditation technique – which involves two 20-minute sessions a day, focusing on one word or mantra – for free. But when he arrived in the US in the Sixties he started charging a fee. “He quickly changed from a wandering monk who didn’t charge anything to a salesman charging a week’s wages,” says Mason.

The steep fees were not the only complaint about the man who was born Mahesh Srivastava – although Mason says he later changed his name to Mahesh Prasad Varma, after an uncle he went to live with – around January, 1917. When the Fab Four stayed at his ashram overlooking the Ganges, they wrote songs including Revolution, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Blackbird. But they left after a row with the guru over his treatment of 19-year-old Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, who was also staying there.

How much money do you have, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? January 24, 1985, Washington, D.C.

How much money do you have, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? January 24, 1985, Washington, D.C.

Reporter: Maharishi, do you think that the press understands you? Do you think the public understands you? Are you sometimes confused as being associated with the Hari Krishna group?

That depends upon the press, how the press portrays me in public. I can be associated with any group because I have something of myself in every group. That portion which does good to the people, I am there in that group. [Laughing] With the Unified Field message I am absolutely associated with everything.

Reporter: Could you tell me a little bit about how much your movement's holdings are worth? And what is that money used for?

Maharishi: Wealth is not so limited as to be held within some small range. My holdings are ranging to infinity. The Unified Field's holding. Absolutely all the banks belong to this holding. I can draw any amount from any bank from any part of the world--that is my holding. And I'll give you the secret of that holding. Banks are there all over the world in order to give money; and by giving, they make money. If they give me money, they'll give me through a channel which will give them money. I have a the whole program of establishing these, what you call it, prevention centers. Healthy people want to be healthy and here is a program for them.

Jagadguru Kripalu Maharaj passes away

Gurgaon, Nov 15 (IANS): Jagadguru Kripalu Maharaj, who was flown in from Allahabad Nov 11, breathed his last Friday morning, a doctor said.

Kripalu Maharaj was admitted to Fortis Memorial Research Institute here.
"He was flown in from Allahabad Nov 11 at 8.04 p.m. in a critical condition on ventilator support. He breathed his last at 7.05 a.m. Friday (Nov 15)," a Fortis spokesperson said.

"An emergency surgery for an acute subdural hematoma, which he had developed after a fall in his ashram, was performed by Dr. Rana Patir and his team in the middle of the night," the spokesperson said.

"The spiritual guru had been on ventilator support ever since. He was being closely monitored by our team of specialists," said one of the doctors from the team treating him.

Nov 14, 2014

Health officers escorted to church for vaccination

November 9, 2012
Standard Digital
Antony Gitonga 
Joseph Muchiri 

Public health officers raided a church in Naivasha after sect members declined to have their children vaccinated against measles. 

The incident comes a day after three parents pleaded guilty, in an Embu court, to the crime of refusing to take their children for immunization due to their faith.

Yesterday, officers accompanied by armed Administration Police officers were left in shock after the faithful of the ‘Africa Kanisa Israel’ church decided to hide their minors.

Members of the sect in Kinamba village denied they had refused to have their minors vaccinated, but a search found four malnourished minors hidden in the bushes.

None of the children had been immunized since birth and the health officers moved in to administer the required vaccines. 


The over 100 sect members live in ‘Akorino village’ where they worship in a church whose floor is littered with hay. According to Naivasha District Public Health Officer Samuel King’ori, they raided the village after getting a tip-off from members of the public.

 “The church members were first adamant but have immunised all the children,” he said. King’ori noted it was the same village where a family declined to take their children for medication and one died as a result.

He said a family in Mai Mahiu area had declined to have their children immunised and police had been sent to arrest them.

Church leader Fredrick Mwangi defended the members saying they were free to seek medical attention or prayers. Mwangi said the Bible gave them the alternative of praying instead of going to hospital, but was quick to deny refusing to vaccinate the children. 

Meanwhile, three parents in Embu West District who barred medical personnel from accessing their home to immunise the children were remanded after they pleaded guilty to the crime.

Joseph Kamau, 42, his wife Wanjiru Kamau, 40, and their neighbour Nginda Nyaga, Kavonokia sect adherents, pleaded guilty to the crime before an Embu court. 

They told Chief Magistrate Margaret Wachira their Kanisa la Mungu church did not advocate use of conventional medicine. 

Ms Nyaga shocked the court when she said she had never taken her five children to hospital since 1989 when she became a member of the sect. Ms Wachira remanded the parents at the Embu GK Prison until November 26 when a probation report would be provided. 

She also ordered the children be taken for immunisation and placed in a children’s home.

Drama as Kavonokya Sect Members Resist Polio Vaccination

Jun 25, 2014

There was drama in Wikithuki village in Kitui County after health officials accompanied by police engaged in running battles with members of the Kavonokia sect who are strongly opposed to having their children vaccinated against polio. Police and health officials searched homes and even granaries to look for the hidden children to vaccinate them. According to sect members their religious beliefs do not allow them to use conventional medicine.

Kenya: Sect Hides Babies From Polio Jab in Tharaka Nithi

The Star
November 14, 2014
Dennis Dibondo

A religious sect that rejects modern medicine on Sunday hid their children so they would not receive polio vaccine .

After a stand-off lasting for hours, the area chief and Administration Police had to intervene to ensure the inoculation.

Mothers screamed and cried since they do not believe in conventional medicine, saying their children might die.

"We rely on God for protection. We do not need any medical intervention," one parent in the Kavonokia sect said.

The polio campaign targets 59,490 children under the age of five in Tharaka Nithi county.

Medical officer in charge Rose Micheni said medical workers left many homes in Kibunga and Kirocho villages after they found doors locked.

Upon return to one of the homes for confirmation, the workers heard the laughter of children playing inside the houses, she said.

"Parents of the sect had hidden their children in the farms and were monitoring the moves of the medical officers," Micheni said.

She said the sect members emerged after their attempt to prevent the kids from getting vaccinated was discovered.

They chased away the health workers and refused to unlock their houses, saying their children are healthy and do not need any medication, she said.
Micheni said she had to use police in the rest of the inoculation, as the group threatened to chase them away with dogs.

She urged community leaders to teach locals the importance of vaccinating their children at early age.

Micheni said the vaccination will not be derailed by religious beliefs.
"Diseases do not know what your religion is or your community's beliefs," she said. Micheni said the campaign is targeting 90 per cent of the child population.
"We'll ensure they all get the polio vaccine," she said.

Anti-abuse movement in the Orthodox community

Anti-abuse movement in the Orthodox community, publicizing stories of abuse and exposing those (often powerful and until then, untouchable) people, who enabled it and connecting survivors and advocates who went on to effect real change in the world.”

The Awareness Center, Inc.

The Awareness Center, Inc., is an international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault 'is dedicated to ending sexual violence in Jewish communities around the globe."
The Awareness Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 65273
Baltimore, MD 21209

The Internet, Religion, Transparency, and Battling Tyranny

November 12, 2014
Justia Verdict
Marci A Hamilton

Reporter Laurie Goodstein wrote a fascinating New York Times front-page story this week on the admissions by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS Church”) regarding their founder, Joseph Smith, and the fact he had approximately 40 wives, one of whom was age 14, and some others of whom were already married to other men. This came as a surprise to numerous LDS believers, who had been taught that Smith was a paradigm of virtue devoted to his first wife, Emma. The truth is that he was a rapacious polygamist, and his first wife was not a fan of his polygamy or his revelations on the topic. Some believers are having difficulty squaring these now-documented facts with what they had previously been told about the founder of their faith.

From my perspective, the most important element of this story is why the LDS Church found it necessary to post these damaging facts on its website, given that this is not the most flattering information. The apparent answer is the Internet: “Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of its senior leadership, said in an interview [with Goodstein], ‘There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.’” Janet Heimlich, author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Maltreatment and founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project, elaborates on this point:

Cover "Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Maltreatment"
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“The fact that the LDS church is posting these essays online—even though it is not making them easy to find—speaks volumes. I have been struck by how insular the Mormon community is, yet how former members needed only to do one or two Google searches to find information that contradicted what they had been told their whole lives, including how they were supposed to believe, feel, and act as children. From there, their belief system quickly unraveled. So the church is losing members and it’s scared. And it realizes that it would prefer to be the messenger of such information than other critical sites as a way to stop the hemorrhaging.”

In short, it is no longer as feasible to perpetuate historical misinformation by religious organizations as it was before the Internet. With blogs, a proliferation of media outlets, social media, and websites established to address specific problems in particular communities, the balance of power between the powerful and the vulnerable has been altered for the better and hopefully permanently.
Religious cultures control the beliefs and perceptions of their believers by limiting access to outside information and especially information that undermines their authority. The Internet is the first populist tool that creates nearly insurmountable challenges to such image-building and unless the group bans the use of computers and smartphones altogether (not just ownership of them), the information streaming on the Internet can send shockwaves into firm foundations carefully constructed by religious leaders.

The Internet also has been useful in uncovering the bad acts of religious organizations (and plenty of others), particularly where they resisted transparency. Thus, it can be an agent for justice and the truth. In large part due to the Internet and the World Wide Web, we know much more now about the dangers of polygamy and clergy sex abuse. This sword is double-edged, however, as ISIS and other jihadist organizations are using the Internet to recruit new members into terrorism. Yet, the answer to this is likely the Internet!

The Internet and Disclosing Polygamy’s Dangers

Until recently, most Americans knew little about the realities of polygamous cultures in the United States, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which traces its roots to Joseph Smith, and from which the LDS has plainly separated itself. They have been secretive groups that chose to live under the radar so as to avoid prosecution for polygamy, child abuse, statutory rape, and child abandonment.

Even groups dedicated to such secrecy, however, have had a difficult time maintaining a low profile when the Internet offers such easy access to stories, pictures, and news items as they happen. When Texas officials raided the FLDS’s Yearning for Zion Ranch and placed the children in foster care because of the evidence of child brides, the information was not limited to reports on the evening news, the media, or even blogs, but also could be shared among a vast network of citizens, scholars, lawyers, historians, child advocacy groups, and religious advocacy groups. With the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet coverage of their behavior, it became increasingly embarrassing for prosecutors not only in Texas but also Arizona to ignore the abuses going on in the community. They were marrying off adolescents, who were having babies soon thereafter, and abandoning boys. This culture of information led to prophet Warren Jeffs being placed on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List after arranging thousands of polygamous marriages between adolescent girls and much older men, arrested, and tried for his crimes. He is now in jail where he belongs.

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Author of God’s Brothel, Andrea Moore-Emmett, says, “The Internet has proven to be a beacon of light on the dark corners of religion’s secrets—both new secrets and old. The proverbial ‘Shush, don’t tell’ has perpetuated abuse while lies of omission have given collective amnesia to multitudes of unwitting followers. The polygamy story in the United States is a perfect example of how these secrets have been used and how they have been exposed by the Internet’s searing beacon of light.”

The Internet and Uncovering Sex Abuse and the Cover-ups

The Internet had one of its most fortuitous impacts on crime in its capacity to bring survivors of abuse in religious organizations together, and to unveil the orchestrated cover-ups that have become one of the marks of religious organizations (and many others) in this era. The impact has been felt from the largest religious organization in the world, the Roman Catholic Church, to the small and insular, like the FLDS and the ultra-Orthodox Jews. In each of these religious organizations, among many others across the faith spectrum, higher-ups hid knowledge about child sex abuse for a variety of motives, including the protection of image, the preservation of power, and the fear of legal and financial liability.

Book Cover "Unchosen: the Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels"
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The Internet has flushed out even the most insular. As Hella Winston, award-winning journalist and author of Unchosen: the Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, explains, “For people living in a community where speaking out publicly about abuse can be socially, emotionally and even physically perilous, the Internet played a critical role not only in exposing the problem of abuse but allowing survivors to connect safely with one another and with others—both within and outside their communities.” These survivors have been able to find comfort and power through the Internet. “Blogs like UOJ and Failed Messiah, along with the Awareness Center, were instrumental in fostering the anti-abuse movement in the Orthodox community, publicizing stories of abuse and exposing those (often powerful and until then, untouchable) people, who enabled it and connecting survivors and advocates who went on to effect real change in the world.”

The Internet also empowers survivors to learn the facts about their perpetrators, the religious organizations that employ or have employed them, and other fellow survivors: “Now, a struggling man who has been told for years by church officials: ‘We’ll make sure Rev. Bob won’t ever be around kids’ can often—with a few clicks of a mouse—find out that he’s been deceived yet again and that Rev. Bob still pastors a church,” says David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

Given the size and global scope of the Catholic Church, it is inconceivable that, without the Internet, connections could have been made between survivors across countries as they have, with strong coalitions between Irish, Australian, and American survivors, and the emergence of a pattern of behavior by the hierarchy that is echoed in one country after another. Such a global comparison of experiences and the ability to see such patterns were enhanced dramatically by the Internet. In turn, the global character of the scandal earned the attention of the United Nations, which held hearings and issued damning reports on the failures of the Catholic Church to protect children, despite being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Internet is also the home for the remarkable database of facts, documents, and news stories about the ongoing revelations of clergy abuse at, which was founded by Terry McKiernan and Anne Barrett Doyle, who now devote the vast majority of their time to building and securing this cache of information.

The Internet as a Tool of Tyranny by Islamic Terrorists

As the vast web of child pornography proves, the Internet is not solely a tool for good. Today, it is being deployed by ISIS and other radical Islamic organizations to recruit young followers.

At the same time, it has been able to use images on the Internet to remotely indoctrinate converts, leading one man to kill a police officer in Ottawa, Canada. These developments are disturbing, to be sure, but they may not be as menacing as they appear at first glance. The cure for such propaganda is more information on the Internet, e.g., human rights and child protection groups and western countries countering the propaganda with facts. As the recruited young women learn what ISIS is truly like, and perhaps some escape, we will learn, via the Internet, the truth. And future recruits may well be deterred.

Internet Sunshine and the Path to Accountability

The Internet by itself cannot guarantee the safety or protection of the vulnerable. There is also a need for neutral law and human rights that are respected and enforced by the vast majority. The one thing that is for certain is that increasing “religious liberty” on the international front is not the pathway to such accountability, but rather a message to believers to overcome neutral laws and basic human rights. Professor Elizabeth Shakman Hurd has rightly criticized the international extreme religious liberty movement as a step in the wrong direction for these very reasons.

The sunlight that the Internet has been able to shed in the areas discussed already has disinfected a great deal, but there are still many pockets of darkness for the vulnerable, including unfolding sex abuse scandals, the medical neglect of children, and the covert political lobbying by religious organizations for exemptions and favors that put the vulnerable at risk or that undermine civil rights, as the Mississippi state RFRA does, and the Arizona RFRA would have. No doubt, the Internet will be critical in bringing these practices to light as well.

Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, and the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two active websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,, and Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations Reform,

Bishop Accountability

"Dedicated to the victims and their families and loved ones by documenting the abuse Crisis in the Roman Catholic Church."
President, Terry McKiernan (508) 479-9304
Board, Anne Barrett Doyle (781) 439-5208

Statutes of Limitations (SOL) Reform

Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations Reform
Professor Marci Hamilton
Cardozo Law School students

"This dedicated to providing the most comprehensive information about Statutes of Limitations (SOL) for child sex abuse for the public, the media, scholars, and survivors.   This is an educational project related to Professor Hamilton’s scholarship and public advocacy for victims of child sex abuse."

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Professor Marci A. Hamilton
"This site is intended to educate the public about the truth behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) culture war. RFRAs do not protect “First Amendment” freedoms.  They go much farther.   It is time for RFRA supporters to tell the truth to legislators and the people.   They want more than the Constitution actually guarantees and that more comes packaged with rights to harm others."

Nov 13, 2014

What different religions say about aliens - A brief guide

October 26, 2014
Boston Globe

Religions have surprisingly diverse approaches to the issue of possible extraterrestrial life, David Weintraub found. Below, a quick survey adapted from his book “Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It?” and interviews with the author.

Roman Catholicism

Rifts have emerged among Roman Catholic theologians in trying to understand whether all sentient beings in the universe suffer Original Sin, whether all require redemption, and how God will offer it to those in need. Depending on how these issues are resolved, Catholicism might make sense but also might make no sense on a Klingon world.


Judaism offers a set of rules for humans on or from Earth that encourages them to develop a relationship with the God of the entire universe. Judaism is not for the Klingons, unless the Klingons wish to live on Earth, though Judaism could continue to make sense as a religion for descendants of humans living on other planets.


In multiple places, the Koran asserts that other rational, intelligent beings exist on other worlds. Furthermore, those creatures worship and are accountable to Allah. The religion practiced by followers of Mohammed is only for humans on Earth. Other worlds would have their own prophets and their own prophetically revealed religions.


Hindus would embrace and not be at all surprised by the discovery of extraterrestrial life. The only concerns for Hindus would be where those creatures fit into the hierarchy of living beings, which extends from plants to animals to humans to gods. Hindus could practice their religion anywhere in the universe, and any sentient being anywhere in the universe could practice Hinduism.


Buddhism imagines a universe that is unimaginably large and complex and beautiful. Life forms beyond the Earth must exist in such a universe, whether we are able to find and identify them or not, and Buddhism works everywhere in the universe.

Evangelical Christianity

For evangelicals, the discovery of advanced extraterrestrial life has the potential to be devastating. Humans, in the view of most evangelicals, are the singular focus of God's creative attention and Christianity is the universal religion. Therefore, other advanced intelligences cannot exist.

Unitarian Universalism

Members of the UU Church embrace no single set of beliefs or sacred scriptures. The discovery of extraterrestrial life would trigger no issues.


Mormon scripture leaves no doubt that other worlds exist and are inhabited by sentient beings who are "begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

Christian Science

The Church of Christ, Scientist, appears to have nothing to say one way or another about extraterrestrial life.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Earth is here is to provide a home to those faithful to Jehovah. Extraterrestrial life, whether in advanced or primitive form, does not exist.

Chris Wright is a writer and editor living in London.

Ruth: Public relations schism: Mormons and Scientologists

Tampa Bay Times
Daniel Ruth
November 12, 2014

Until a few years ago, about the only thing most Americans knew about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was that they had one darn fine Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Other than that, there was the mystery underwear thing. And yes, the long-ago legacy of polygamy.

But as Mitt Romney emerged to capture the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, interest increased about Mormonism. And a lot of it wasn't pretty, including not too subtle grumbling during the campaign that the former Massachusetts governor somehow wasn't truly conservative enough to lead his party, which was really little more than a trumped-up euphemism that he wasn't Christian enough.

The church hardly helped itself in rebutting misconceptions about what it means to be a Mormon, maintaining a shroud of secrecy about its most closely held scriptures, its inner workings, its opaque councils — and its muddled history.
But more recently that hesitancy to be more forthcoming has slowly begun to melt, aided by Romney's national prominence. So too, did the arrival of the HBO series Big Love, about a mainstream businessman who secretly still practiced polygamy, having grown up in a Morman sect that did so. And most certainly the Broadway blockbuster The Book of Mormon, a hilariously funny, profane skewering of the faith, brought the LDS front and center into the nation's consciousness.

Now comes an effort by the church to open up about its past with a series of essays on the LDS website frankly discussing some of the more checkered aspects of its history. The latest entry formally acknowledged for the first time that the church's founder and revered prophet Joseph Smith may have taken as many as 40 wives (imagine remembering all those anniversary dates), including some who may have already been married, as well as one bride who was only 14 years old.

Why the harsh self-examination now? "It's a recognition of maturity," Richard Bushman of Columbia University told the New York Times. "There are lots of church leaders who say: 'We can take anything, just let us know what really happened. We're a church that is secure.' " How … refreshing.
Here in Tampa Bay we have our own religious group that has been so tight-lipped over the decades it makes the LDS look more accessible than a Costco membership.

The Church of Scientology has been operating in Clearwater for decades, rarely explaining itself and going after its detractors with an unrelenting vengeance.
Two controversial religious organizations. One has used the tools of public relations to rebrand its image in a positive, candid manner. The other, also burdened with a reputation for strangeness, continues to rely on propaganda fueled by secrecy and intimidation. Who is likelier to draw more converts? Or at least a better understanding?

What Scientology and Mormonism do share is a looming presence in their respective centers of operation — Clearwater and Salt Lake City. Both organizations have been the subject of intense scrutiny and yes, criticism. Yet in an effort to become better understood and accepted, the Mormons have made the savvy decision to directly address questions about the church, even if it exposes some of the darker episodes of LDS history.

There's a lesson there in accountability if anyone in Clearwater would bother to listen.

Scientology remains entrenched as an unresponsive, arrogant, obstructionist bully into the civic affairs of Clearwater, its aloof leader David Miscavige hidden away behind a phalanx of apparatchiks, apologists and lawyers, always lawyers.
Or consider this theoretical scenario. When The Book of Mormon began its run on Broadway and eventually became a hot ticket around the country, the LDS leadership could have gone on the offensive attacking the play for being a crude and blasphemous rendering of a faith practiced by more than 15 million people around the world.

Mormons could have picketed theaters and boycotted supporters of the production. But none of that happened. Instead, friendly Mormons showed up at theaters handing out literature that said: "If you're going to see the musical, you should also read the book." This was a religion with a sense of humor.
Now imagine a production of The Book of Scientology, which would more than likely result in the sect's private detectives building dossiers on the cast and crew, a dark propaganda campaign against the producers and threats of lawsuits.

And that's a pity. After all, don't you suspect The Book of Scientology would be even funnier?

Russia's Supreme court rules Jehovah's Witnesses from Samara extremist organization

ITAR-TASSRussiaNovember 13, 2014

The appeal of the organization on the decision of the regional court was rejected

SAMARA, November 13. /TASS/. Russia’s Supreme court has sustained the ruling of Samara's regional court on declaring the Jehovah's Witnesses from Samara an extremist organization.

On May 29, 2014, the regional court of Russia’s Samara ruled in favor of the prosecutor in the case against the Jehovah's Witnesses. The reason for its submission was the discovery of extremist materials that the organization had kept for mass distribution.

The literature included in the Federal list of extremist materials was seized from the premises of the community. As it was noted in the regional prosecutor’s office, last year the prosecutor warned members of the organization on prohibition of extremist activity.

The Prosecutor's office of Russia’s Tver region wants the organization’s website shut down

On August 7, 2013, the Central district court of Tver ruled in favor of the prosecution calling the website of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization extremist. The ground for the ruling was that the information on the website diminishes the rights of believers who are not members of the organization, and stirs up enmity between people on religious grounds.
January 22 the regional court of Tver has cancelled the decision of the court of first instance, that recognized it as extremist, and on May 7 the court didn’t satisfy the cassational appeal of the regional prosecutor’s office concerning the court’s decision to open the Jehovah Witnesses’ international site.

Jehovah's Witnesses' booklets declared extremist in Russia's Kurgan
On January 12 the Kurgan municipal court declared the Jehovah Witnesses’ booklets extremist literature. The booklets entitled «How to achieve happiness in life», «What is the people’s hope? », «How to develop close relations with God? », «What should we know about God and its sense? » were prohibited, the court's press-service said. TASS reported that this decision of court would also be appealed.

I Escaped a Cult

Patrick J. Kiger
Inside NGC on
April 10, 2012

Survivors of a polygamist breakaway Mormon sect and a fundamentalist Christian community discuss their experiences under the control of cult leaders.

Brent Jeffs, one of the subjects of I Escaped a Cult, was born in 1983 behind the walls of a concrete compound in Salt Lake Valley that was an outpost of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The group, also known as FLDS, is a breakaway Mormon sect which still clings to the practice of polygamy, a practice that the mainstream Mormon church abandoned back in 1890.

Brent has an elite bloodline by FLDS standards. His grandfather Rulon and his uncle Warren both rose to leadership in the sect, and were regarded as prophets whose word was not to be disobeyed.

Lost Boy
Buy now
But as Brent describes in his 2009 memoir, Lost Boy: The True Story of One Man’s Exile from a Polygamist Cult and his Brave Journey to Reclaim his Life, his lineage didn’t protect him from becoming a victim of what he and others describe as the cult’s cruel sexual exploitation of children. Starting at age 5, he says that he was sexually abused by his uncle Warren. Memories of his ordeal continued to torment him into adulthood. In the book, he describes awakening, screaming, from nightmares in which Warren plucked him from a kindergarten classroom and led him down the hallway to a bathroom where the rapes took place. “All I remember feeling was overwhelming panic, pain, and helplessness,” he writes. “Something terrible was going to happen to me, something horrendous and unstoppable.”

But Brent, sadly, wasn’t the only young victim of a twisted subculture in which a few leaders had supreme power to take whatever they wanted. Adolescent girls were compelled to become the brides of older men and begin breeding as soon as they were able to produce more members of the flock. But because the most powerful men had multiple wives, that led to shortage of females. To reduce the competition, adolescent boys continually were excommunicated and cast out of the community to fend for themselves.

Sex-abuse inquiry investigates NSW ashram

National News
November 12, 2014

One of Australia’s largest yoga retreats on the NSW Central Coast  will be the focus of a national hearing into child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse says its 21st public hearing will inquire into the response of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain to allegations of child sexual abuse by a former spiritual leader in the 1970s and 1980s.

Akhandananda Saraswati was charged, convicted and jailed in the late 1980s for sexually abusing teenage girls living at the Ashram.

The Swami spent 14 months in prison and the convictions were overturned by the High Court appeal in 1991. He died in 1997.

The commission at a hearing in Sydney on December 2 will examine the response of the ashram to allegations and reports of child sexual abuse made against Swami Saraswati.

It will also look at the systems, policies and procedures for responding to claims or concerns of abuse that have been in place at the Ashram since 1974.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, solicitor for the ashram, Aaron Kernaghan, said the retreat would ensure it did every thing it could to assist the commission in its case study.

‘My clients are leaving no stone unturned in this process and will examine their own conduct and operations over a considerable period of time.’

He pointed out that Swami Saraswati did not return to the Ashram after he was released from jail.

Pharmacovigilance of Ayurveda: Questioning its Efficacy

Dr Dinesh Kumar Jain, Dr Rajkumar Arya
World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research (WJPR), Vol 3, Issue 6, 2014


Ayurveda is based on balance of vata, pitta and kapha in the body. Increase of these humours creates diseases. Removing or calming these humours is the main objective of the treatment in Ayurveda. In Ayurveda, plants, metals, climates, seasons, physical activities are divided in to two groups. They increase or decrease imaginary humours and used accordingly to maintain balance. Astrology, incantations, hymns, mantra-tantra, worship, prayers, emesis, enema, catharsis, cranial catharsis, blood letting are used in treatment. These concepts of Ayurveda are irrational, illogical, unscientific and not supported by knowledge of medical science. Ignorance and silence of medical personnel regarding this crucial concept indicate their dishonesty towards society and science. Pharmacovigilance also includes study of efficacy of drugs. If evidence of ineffectiveness of Ayurveda put in front of Central Government, then Government is ready to prohibit use and manufacture of the Ayurvedic drugs. It is the duty of pharmacologists and medicine specialists to protect the society from the ineffective and useless therapeutic systems.

What is Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an irrational, unscientific therapeutic system and illogical, superstitious life style; represents Indian psyche and Indian culture including use of herbs, metals, diet, panchkarma, astrology, incantations, hymns, religion, rituals, amulets (totaka), mantra-tantra; concepts of supernatural force, spirits and rebirth to improve health and cure diseases by maintaining concentration of vata, pitta and kapha in the body. According to section (3) of Drugs and Cosmetics act1, 1940, Ayurvedic drugs include all medicines intended for internal or external use for or in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of [disease or disorder in human beings or animals and manufactured] exclusively in accordance with the formulae described in the authoritative books of Ayurveda, specified in the first schedule. These books are 57 in numbers. Important books are : Ayurveda Prakasha, Ayurveda Samgraha, Bhaishajya Ratnavali, Bharat Bhaishajay Ratnakara, Bhava Prakasha, Brihat Nighantu Ratnakara, Charaka Samhita, Chakra Datta, Nighantu Ratnakara, Rasa RajaSundara, Rasaratna Samuchaya, Rasa Tarangini, Sharangadhara Samhita, Siddha Yoga Samgraha, Sushruta Samhita, Basava Rajeeyam, Ayurvedic Formulary of India, Ayurveda Sara Sangraha, Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India. Whatever mentioned in these Ayurvedic books can be manufactured, marketed and used therapeutically without any scientific evaluation in India.

Use Caution With Ayurvedic Products

FDA's Consumer Updates
October 16, 2008

Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional system of healing arts that originated in India. It involves using products such as spices, herbs, vitamins, proteins, minerals, and metals (e.g., mercury, lead, iron, zinc). Some preparations combine herbs with minerals and metals. These products are commonly sold on the Internet or in stores and are represented as "Indian" or "South Asian."

"Consumers should know that Ayurvedic products are generally not reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," says Mike Levy, Director of the Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance in the Office of Compliance, part of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).

Most Ayurvedic products are marketed either for drug uses not approved by FDA or as dietary supplements. As such, consumers should understand that these products have not been approved by FDA before marketing.

"The bottom line," Levy says, "is that consumers need to be on guard when purchasing any product using the Internet, especially medical products." This is an area that is challenging to regulate.

Concerns About Heavy Metals

The presence of metals in some Ayurvedic products makes them potentially harmful. A study published in the August 27, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), demonstrated that one-fifth of U.S.-manufactured and Indian-manufactured Ayurvedic products bought on the Internet contained detectable lead, mercury, or arsenic.

Researchers found 25 Web sites selling Ayurvedic products. After identifying 673 products, they randomly selected 230 for purchase. Of those, they received and analyzed 193 products. Nearly 21 percent were found to contain detectable levels of lead, mercury, or arsenic.

All metal-containing products exceeded one or more standards for acceptable daily metal intake. The researchers concluded that several Indian-manufactured products could result in lead and/or mercury ingestions 100 to 100,000 times greater than acceptable limits.

This study followed a previous study published in JAMA on December 15, 2004, which found that one out of five Ayurvedic "herbal medicine products" produced in South Asia and available in South Asian grocery stores in Boston contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic.

A Priority for FDA

"This issue has been and will continue to be a priority for FDA," Levy says. The agency has had an import alert on certain Ayurvedic products in place since 2007. This import alert allows FDA personnel to prevent these products from entering the United States.

"Through this import alert, the agency is able to stop commercial import shipments of these products," Levy says, "but individual Internet purchases are harder to monitor."

In light of recent reports, FDA is re-evaluating its existing import alert and considering possible enforcement actions related to Ayurvedic products manufactured in the United States.

Advice for Consumers

Be aware that Ayurvedic products do not undergo FDA review. In accordance with current law, FDA does not evaluate these products before they are marketed. This means their safety, quality, and effectiveness cannot be assured by FDA. Certain populations, including children, are particularly at risk for the toxic effects of heavy metals.

Use caution when buying medical products on the Internet. FDA urges consumers to beware of unregulated Internet drug sellers. Many of their products could pose direct or serious indirect health issues, or could contain toxic substances.

Tell your health care professional about all alternative products. Some herbs, minerals, and metals can interact with each other and with conventional medications.

Medical Cults of World – Part 2 (Ayurveda)

Medical Cults of World – Part 2 (Ayurveda)
Posted about 5 years ago | 60 comments
for part -1 of this series, please visit at Medical Cults of World – Part 1 (Homeopathy)

Proponents state that ayurvedic medicine originated in ancient time, but much of it was lost until reconstituted in the early 1980s by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Its origin is traced to four Sanskrit books called the Vedas-the oldest and most important scriptures of India, shaped sometime before 200 B.C.E. These books attributed most disease and bad luck to demons, devils, and the influence of stars and planets. Ayurveda’s basic theory states that the body’s functions are regulated by three “irreducible physiological principles” called doshas, whose Sanskrit names are vata, pitta, and kapha. Like astrologic “signs,” these terms are used to designate body types as well as the traits that typify them.

Like astrologic writings, ayurvedic writings contain long lists of supposed physical and mental characteristics of each constitutional type. Vata, for example, is said to “govern all bodily functions concerning movement” and to accumulate during cold, dry, windy weather. According to Chopra’s Time/Life Video guidebook: vata individuals are “usually lightly built with excellent agility” and “love excitement and change”; balanced vata produces mental clarity and alertness; and unbalanced vata can produce anxiety, weight loss, constipation, high blood pressure, arthritis, weakness and restlessness.

Ayurvedic proponents have claimed that the symptoms of disease are always related to the balance of the doshas, which can be determined by feeling the patient’s wrist pulse or completing a questionnaire. Some proponents claim (incorrectly) that the pulse can be used to detect diabetes, cancer, musculoskeletal disease, asthma, and “imbalances at early stages when there may be no other clinical signs and when mild forms of intervention may suffice.” Balance is supposedly achieved through “pacifying” diets and a long list of procedures and products, many of which are said to be formulated for specific body types. Through various combinations of vata, pitta, and kapha, ten body types are possible. Somehow, however, one’s doshas (and therefore one’s body type) can vary from hour to hour, season to season, and questionnaire to questionnaire.

This ridiculous beliefs of Ayurveda such as their fundamental notion that everyone has three “doshas”, and imbalances in these doshas cause basically all disease. Imbalances in the first dosha – can make a person susceptible to “skin, neurological, and mental diseases” or with a second dosha, to heart disease and arthritis, and the third causes diabetes, ulcers, and asthma. All the doshas can be upset by eating certain types of food.
Finally we come to what should be point number 1: “Does Ayurveda work?” The answer is, simply, “No.” Actually this cult was slowly developed to suck money from illiterate people who NEVER read those sanskrit scriptures in their life time, nothing else. e.g. In current days, the person who is making tall claims of aurvedic medicine for cancer & aids is unable to cure his own eyes but able to purchase an island to live alone (with all his young followers – no CD please) and do “research” on plants (or implants)

The fact remains that only very few rigorous, controlled scientific studies have been carried out on Ayurvedic practices. In India, the government began systematic research in 1969, and the work continues till date. So they are trying to suggest that this needs more study – a common ploy of pseudoscience practitioners.

A quick primer: in Ayurveda, all of the body’s functions, including health, sickness, and so on, are regulated by three “doshas”, which are really quite meaningless from a scientific point of view. For example, the dosha called vata “governs all bodily functions concerning movement” and accumulates during cold, dry, windy weather. Is there any basis for this? No. What’s worse is that Ayurveda “medicines” (I have to put that word in quotes here) contain well-known toxins such as mercury, arsenic, and lead. In fact, a scientific study in the Journal of the America Medical Association (Saper et al., JAMA (2004)292:2868-2873) found:

One of 5 Ayurvedic HMPs [herbal medicine products] produced in South Asia and available in Boston South Asian grocery stores contains potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic. Users of Ayurvedic medicine may be at risk for heavy metal toxicity, and testing of Ayurvedic HMPs for toxic heavy metals should be mandatory.

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