Dec 30, 2016

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/30/2016

cult news
Scientology, La Santa Muerte, Exclusive Brethren, ​Johane Masowe​ ​Yechishanu Apostolic Sect, Toxic behaviors, Buddhist, Scams, Polygamy, FLDS, Thailand 

In their painstaking research of the Scientology Sea Org, WikiLeaks have obtained a copy of a 1990 training manual. It is quite obvious why members are forced to sign a billion-year contract, as evidenced by this manual. Sea Org officials believe that if you don’t have workers, the organization will simply vanish.
Leah Remini has dared the Church of Scientology to sue her instead of just labelling her a liar.

"What makes Scientology a cult instead of just an extreme religion? The two latest episodes explained the difference better than any of the previous episodes."
"Known as the patron saint of violent drug cartels for her relative tolerance, Our Lady of Holy Death is perhaps the fastest growing religion in the Americas."
Exclusive Brethren
In my Exclusive Brethren house, Christmas was not allowed.

As a child growing up I missed the Christmas tree and the beautiful lights. I wondered what it was like to wake up Christmas morning with the anticipation of gifts waiting to be opened. Our relatives who were not Brethren kindly sent us Christmas cards. We were instructed by our parents to lie them flat - standing up was too flashy.
Two of the four Chikomba suspects who were implicated in the death of six children who
drowned during baptism in Muriwo Village under Headman Mutengwa in June this year have
been slapped with five years sentence each.
Maud Dzvuke (31) a self ­styled prophet of the 
Johane Masowe
​ ​
Yechishanu Apostolic Sect was
sentenced to five years by Regional Magistrate Fadzai Mtombeni after she pleaded guilty to the
charge of culpable homicide.

One of the 11 defendants charged in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud case has been released from jail after striking a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Initially charged with one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the nutrition assistance program and one count of conspiracy to launder money, John Clifton Wayman, 57, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a lesser count of using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits contrary to the law.
"I offer up a list of five toxic behaviors everyone should recognize and no one should tolerate. It doesn’t matter who’s behaving in this way and the rule is no tolerance, whether it’s a spouse, a lover, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a co-worker."
Buddhist temple
"Thai police call off a raid to arrest a prominent Buddhist monk wanted for suspected money laundering after devotees barricaded entrances to his sprawling temple complex in a Bangkok suburb."

"Older Americans are swindled out of at least $3 billion a year. That's just an estimate and it's probably on the low end since most elder financial abuse goes unreported."
Seth Jeffs has a change of plea hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning in Salt Lake City. He runs the group's South Dakota compound near Custer and is a brother of the sect's imprisoned leader, Warren Jeffs.

News, Intervention, Recovery resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics. to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources.
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How an Accused Child Rapist Allegedly Brainwashed an Entire Family as His Cult

DECEMBER 28, 2016

To his neighbors, Lee Kaplan was quiet and aloof. His three-bedroom Pennsylvania home was hidden behind overgrown shrubbery and at times almost seemed empty. However, behind closed doors, authorities allege Kaplan was living with 12 young girls who considered him a prophet of God as he repeatedly sexually abused them.

To Kaplan, six of the girls were not only his followers but also his “wives,” Bucks County authorities allege.

“Kaplan had constructed his own sick family unit in which he was the [girls’] father, prophet and God,” Rick Ross, founder and director of the Cult Education Institute, tells PEOPLE, describing law enforcement allegations against the Pennsylvania man. “And these girls were his followers.”

In June the girls were rescued by Lower Southampton police, and in November Kaplan pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges including rape of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

He allegedly not only fathered two children with the eldest girl but also sexually abused five of her younger sisters over the course of years, with the consent of their parents, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said.

“This guy set up a virtual feeding ground of victims,” Weintraub told PEOPLE in a previous interview, calling the situation “cult-like.”

“He preyed upon [the girls] one by one,” he said.

Ryan Hyde, Kaplan’s attorney, denounces claims that Kaplan led a cult.

“I believe Mr. Kaplan befriended this family and really thought this was a family and friend relationship,” Hyde tells PEOPLE. “He’s really hurt by the allegations.”

Ross, who has worked with authorities and victims in cult cases for more than 30 years, says Kaplan isn’t the first person accused of successfully running a cult in plain sight. The 51-year-old allegedly took advantage of the girls’ parents, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, Ross tells PEOPLE. They were vulnerable in both finances and faith, which is common, he says.

The couple are themselves facing child endangerment charges but will not face any additional charges, Weintraub said in November. They have pleaded not guilty.
Exploiting the Family’s Values

Authorities say Kaplan went unnoticed for years because the girls’ parents also believed Kaplan was a prophet.

The children were raised Amish, born with no birth certificates and home schooled together, officials say, but the Stoltzfus family left the Amish community after they met Kaplan, a former business partner of Daniel’s.

The newly independent family was vulnerable and preconditioned to relying on faith for answers, Ross says.

“[Cult leaders] can be functional and charming, but they don’t have empathy or sympathy,” he says of the men and women who establish cults.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Craig Penglase, Savilla’s attorney, says he believes Kaplan always planned on taking advantage of the “simple-minded” family.

“I think he knew from the beginning — he met Daniel and he presented himself immediately as this God figure,” Penglase tells PEOPLE.

During police questioning following their children’s rescue, Daniel and Savilla told authorities that in exchange for financial support, their eldest daughter, who was 14 at the time, was “gifted” to Kaplan.

In a previous interview, Penglase defended his client’s agreement as a “difference in culture.”

“Everything [Savilla] did was for her family, and what she did in this case was what she thought was right,” Penglase said. “It may have been misguided, it may have been weird to you and me, but that was her belief.”

Penglase says Kaplan later allegedly convinced Daniel to give him his wife, who then had a sexual relationship with her daughters’ alleged abuser as part of his preaching.

“It’s very sad. She’s very sad,” Penglase says. “She was traded [by Daniel] just like the children were.”

Penglase reveals Savilla, David and their daughters still believe Kaplan is a prophet of God: “This man destroyed an entire family.”

Daniel’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
A ‘Controlled Environment’

Before the eldest girl moved into Kaplan’s home more than four years ago, the girl told authorities she and Kaplan shared a bedroom at her parents’ Lancaster County home in Pennsylvania.

But that wasn’t enough for Kaplan, authorities allege. So the girl moved to his home and Savilla and her other daughters followed shortly after. (Savilla only learned about her daughter’s alleged sexual abuse by Kaplan when she learned about the teen’s first pregnancy, Penglase has said.)

Ross says it essential for cult leaders to keep their followers close and in a “controlled environment.”

“These children … had no conception of what was right and what was wrong other than what Kaplan told them,” the Cults Inside and Out author explains. “He was able to completely control everything that went into their minds. They had no alternate frame of reference, it was simply what Kaplan said and that was it.”.

Ross alleges that moving the girls into his home was Kaplan’s final step in creating his “family cult.”

“The human mind really is fragile, and if you place a person in such an environment … is you can begin to manipulate the mind itself,” Ross says, describing the process as a form of brainwashing.

“These [girls] accepted it because they knew no other life,” he says.
A New Life

Since their rescue, the girls been taken into the custody of the state, Bucks County officials say, and they are receiving treatment. Penglase says all of the children are preparing to testify in court.

Through his experience of working with children of cults, Ross says the girls could one day live normal lives — but it will be hard.

“Hopefully these girls can be helped and they can make a journey where they begin to realize, gradually, step by step, what happened to them and unwind it,” Ross says.

In November, Kaplan waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

He remains behind bars in the Bucks County Jail awaiting trial in 2017, court officials tell PEOPLE.

Parole panel delays decision on whether to release Charles Manson follower

Fox News
December 30, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A two-member parole panel delayed making a decision Thursday on whether to release an accomplice of cult killer Charles Manson who is the longest-serving female inmate in California.

After a daylong hearing, the panel from the Board of Parole Hearings postponed a decision on whether to recommend freeing Patricia Krenwinkel "because they felt information discussed at the hearing was cause for an investigation," spokeswoman Vicky Waters said in an email.

The hearing will be continued once the investigation is concluded, she said

Sharon Tate's sister, Debra Tate, said the parole officials told her the hearing was likely to be postponed about six months while they research to see if Krenwinkel meets the criteria for having battered women's syndrome.

Krenwinkel's attorney, Keith Wattley, confirmed that account but did not comment on the postponement.

"She totally minimized her actions and blamed everything on other people the whole hearing," Tate said.

Tate said she didn't buy the concept that Krenwinkel was a victim because she was free to leave at any time and participated in murders two nights in a row.

"We all have to be accountable for our actions. I don't buy any of this stuff. She was there because she wanted to be there. Nobody held a gun to her head," Tate said.

Anthony DiMaria, the nephew of victim Thomas Jay Sebring, said a Los Angeles County prosecutor who attended the hearing told him that the parole officials want to research whether Krenwinkel was a victim of intimate partner battery.

"For this investigation to be initiated at this point is mindboggling," said DiMaria, who attended the hearing but left before a decision was postponed. "I don't understand where we go from a murder, the killing of eight people (including Tate's unborn child) to an intimate partner battery victim. It's absurd .... It seems like the world is turned upside down. How do you kill eight people and now you're the victim?"

Jean Guccione, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, said prosecutors would not comment until the parole panel makes its recommendation after the investigation.

The decision to delay by the panel came after the 69-year-old Krenwinkel was previously denied parole 13 times, most recently in 2011.

Krenwinkel acknowledged during her trial that she chased down and repeatedly stabbed Abigail Ann Folger, the 26-year-old heiress of a coffee fortune, at Tate's home and helped kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, the following night.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say Krenwinkel carved the word "war" into Leno LaBianca's stomach then wrote "Helter Skelter" in blood on the couple's refrigerator.

Wattley successfully petitioned the state to hold the parole hearing a year early at the California Institution for Women, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, where Krenwinkel is imprisoned.

Krenwinkel contended at her previous parole hearing in 2011 that she is a changed woman. She has a clean disciplinary record, earned a bachelor's degree behind bars, taught illiterate inmates to read and trained service dogs for disabled people.

Krenwinkel was a 19-year-old secretary when she met Manson at a party. She testified at her previous hearing that she left everything behind three days later to pursue what she believed was a budding romance with him.

She wept and apologized, saying she became a "monster" after she met Manson.

"I committed myself fully to him. I committed myself to the act of murder," she said then. "I was willing to sacrifice others' lives for my own."

Prosecutors say the slayings were an attempt to ignite a race war after which Manson and his followers would rise from the rubble to rule the world.

Krenwinkel was initially sentenced to death, but the California Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty in 1972.

Gov. Jerry Brown has the power to block the release of inmates if parole is granted. He previously stopped the parole of Manson followers Leslie Van Houten, 67, and Bruce Davis, 74.

Krenwinkel became the state's longest-serving female inmate when fellow Manson follower Susan Atkins died of cancer in prison in 2009.

A look at the Jehovah's Witnesses' recent N.Y.C. land deals (including those with Trump's son-in-law)

Anthony Noto Reporter New York Business Journal
New York Business Journal
Dec 30, 2016

Jehovah's Witnesses, over the years, have owned some 4.5 million square feet of New York City space, including 30 buildings. Since 2004, the religious group has been selling off its assets, with several money-making deals inked this year.

One of the organization's buyers was none other than Jared Kushner, the upstart real estate developer who happens to be the son-in-law of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

Kushner, who bought a Jehovah's Witness portfolio made up of 1.2 million square feet of commercial space in 2013, was a buyer this year as well. Here's a rundown of transactions that were made this year:
In August, a consortium made up of Kushner Companies, CIM Group and LIVWRK bought 739,000-square-feet of space making up the group's flagship Watchtower building. The $340 million deal included interconnected buildings at 25-30-50 and 58 Columbia Heights and 55 Furman St.
Kushner returned for the most recent sale — a property in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn — which closed a few days before Christmas. A parking lot at 85 Jay St. in DUMBO with nearly 1 million square feet of development rights was sold to Kushner and its investment partners for $345 million.
In November, the Jehovah's Witnesses sold their property at 69 Adams St. The 157,410-square-foot development site, situated alongside the Manhattan Bridge, was previously occupied by a four-story recreational facility with a tennis court on its roof and a parking garage with 84 spaces.
Still Up For Sale
Offers were due for 74 Adams St., a vehicle-maintenance facility, on Nov. 17.
An 11-story residential structure at 97 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn was placed on the market back in October. The building occupies the site of the former Hotel Margaret that was destroyed by a fire in 1980.

The string of deals are part of a larger move for the group, which seeks to switch its headquarters to Warwick, New York.

Anthony Noto is a multimedia journalist focused on venture capital and Silicon Alley startups. Based in New York for the Business Journals, he previously was a reporter at SourceMedia and The Deal LLC. He is a graduate of Rutgers University.

Dec 29, 2016

No, the IRS may not deny tax exemptions on the grounds that a group is a supposed 'hate group'

By Eugene Volokh
Washington Post
December 29, 2016

The Chronicle of Philanthropy writes:

The federal government has granted tax-exempt status to more than 60 controversial nonprofits branded by critics as “hate groups,” including anti-immigrant and anti-gay-rights organizations, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy analysis.

The issue is a thorny one for the Internal Revenue Service, which must balance First Amendment rights against concerns that it is essentially granting government subsidies to groups holding views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent….

Though tax exemption is intended to be available to groups espousing a wide range of views, [Prof. Frances] Hill worries that the concept of a nonprofit organization has become too malleable. “The idea of tax-exempt organizations devoted to hate speech is just corrosive of everything that the tax-exempt sector says it stands for.”

Yet the IRS is in an impossible position, she said. Still shaken by the revelation that agency leaders had singled out conservative advocacy groups’ applications for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, the IRS has little incentive to investigate organizations based on the content of their messages.

Salon likewise writes:

Samuel Brunson, a tax law professor at Loyola University in Chicago, noted the nonprofit status gives these groups a veneer of legitimacy and respectability.

“It should make people uncomfortable that the government is subsidizing groups that espouse values that are incompatible with most Americans,” he said.

But the IRS can’t deny tax exemptions on the grounds that a group “hold[s] views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent” — or “espouse[s] values that are incompatible with most Americans” — whether those views are socialist, Islamist, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, pro-illegal-immigrant, anti-immigrant, pro-gay-rights, anti-gay-rights, white nationalist, black nationalist or anti-nationalist. It can’t deny exemptions to groups that engage in “hate speech” against blacks, gays, evangelical Christians or Donald Trump supporters, while allowing exemptions to groups that praise blacks, gays, evangelical Christians or Donald Trump supporters.

Indeed, the Supreme Court has made this clear: The government may not discriminate against groups based on the viewpoint of their speech. See Rosenberger v. Rector (1994) (discussing Regan v. Taxation With Representation (1983)). As the D.C. Circuit put it in Z Street v. Koskinen (2015) (itself a 501(c)(3) tax exemption case), “in administering the tax code, the IRS may not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint.”

There may be some confusion about this among some observers, because the government may limit certain tax exemptions based on the subject matter of groups’ speech; for instance, it may deny 501(c)(3) status, which allows tax-deductible contributions to various educational groups but not ones that support or oppose candidates for office, or engage in a substantial amount of advocacy for or against legislation. Likewise, groups can be denied benefits, including tax exemptions, because of their conduct (such as discrimination against members, students and the like), precisely because this discrimination is based on what the groups actually do, rather than based on what the groups advocate. See Bob Jones Univ. v. United States (1983); Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010) (upholding university’s denial of certain benefits to student groups that discriminate in certain ways, though reaffirming groups’ rights to communicate whatever viewpoints they want).

The D.C. Circuit, in National Alliance v. United States (1983), also upheld IRS guidelines that deny the educational tax exemption to groups that simply present “strong emotional feelings,” without an attempt to support their viewpoints with “a relevant factual basis”; I’m troubled by such a standard, which can easily be applied in biased ways. But even that decision defended the factual-support requirement on the grounds that it was a “criteri[on] neutral with regard to viewpoint.” And the decision noted that the requirement avoided a judgment on whether the factual argument was indeed accurate:

One of the concerns in this area, because of First Amendment considerations, is that the government must shun being the arbiter of “truth.” Material supporting a particular point of view may well be “educational” although a particular public officer may strongly disagree with the proposition advocated. Accordingly IRS has attempted to test the method by which the advocate proceeds from the premises he furnishes to the conclusion he advocates rather than the truth or accuracy or general acceptance of the conclusion.

So viewpoint discrimination in tax exemptions is unconstitutional, even if viewpoint-neutral subject matter or methodology restrictions — applied equally to “hate” groups as to love groups — are permissible.

Nor has the court been persuaded by the argument that tax exemptions, being economically similar to subsidies, can be denied to disfavored speakers. Indeed, in Rosenberger, the court made clear that even outright subsidies (there the payment of printing costs for student newspapers) can’t be denied based on viewpoint, so long as they are offered to a broad range of speakers based on generally applicable criteria. Does that mean that taxpayer money goes to speakers that many taxpayers disapprove of, whether those speakers are far left, left, center, right, far right, or something else? Yes — but the alternative is to give the government immense power to skew public debate. And even those who might in the abstract like the skewing of such debate against “hate speech,” whatever that might mean, ought to see that a government that can deny exemptions for “hate speech” groups can deny exemptions to any other unpopular groups.

Finally, Prof. Philip Hackney (The Surly Subgroup, a blog that deals with tax law) points to Principle Voices of Polygamy, a 2013 IRS decision that denied a tax exemption to a pro-polygamy group, partly on the grounds that,

[Y]ou provide conferences for attorneys and others in the legal community seeking to represent those performing polygamous acts. Your website, rallies, and publications try to change general opinion about polygamy. Similar to Bob Jones University, whose activities created an environment to perpetuate discrimination, see Bob Jones, 461 U.S. 574, your training courses as well as your website and rallies all seek to create an environment where people are free to contravene state law and federal policy. Not only do you seek to create a permissible environment, but you also suggest to people that they must perform illegal acts by stating, through your website, that polygamy is the only way to achieve “exaltation.”

You admit in your application and through your material the illegality of polygamy and you actively fight to alter the status of polygamy. You train individuals in proper techniques for advocacy and argumentation. These trainings are directed solely at the polygamous community. The trainings are intended for political advocacy as well as day-to-day advocacy of an illegal lifestyle. You hope to use the media to broadly disperse a positive view of an illegal activity. Furthermore, you provide specific training on how to lobby, which is also directed solely at the polygamous community. This training activity is supported by pro-polygamy rallies, visits to the state capital building, and printed material on your website espousing a singular pro-polygamy point of view.

But much of this analysis, which to my knowledge has not been approved by a court, is in large measure inconsistent with the court’s and the D.C. Circuit’s stress that tax exemptions can’t be denied on the basis of a group’s viewpoint. Trying to “change general opinion about polygamy” can’t be treated differently from trying to change general opinion about marijuana, or about illegal immigration — or for that matter for trying to reinforce general opinion about polygamy. Likewise, hoping “to use the media to broadly disperse a positive view of an illegal activity” can’t be treated differently from trying to use the media to disperse a negative view of an illegal activity, or for that matter from trying to use the media to disperse a positive view of illegal immigration, or of illegal homosexual conduct during an era (before 2003) when homosexuality was illegal in some places. A “pro-polygamy point of view” is just as protected against viewpoint discrimination as any other view.

It’s possible that the group could be properly denied 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status on the grounds that it predominantly supported lobbying to change the law (which is another argument the IRS gave). As I mentioned, the court has upheld such a broad subject matter restriction on 501(c)(3) status, precisely because that restriction was viewpoint-neutral. But to the extent that the IRS decision was based on the pro-polygamy group’s viewpoint, the decision violated the First Amendment, as cases such as Rosenberger and Z Street (cited above) make clear.

Thanks to Paul Caron (TaxProf Blog) for the pointer.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Follow @volokhc

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/29/2016

cult news
KKK, SGA, Scientology, China, Maharishi University of Management, Ahmedi, Pakistan

"Generation KKK documents activists working to expose and end hatred,"A&E; reiterated in a tweet that shared the new clip. "In the KKK, hatred is passed down as legacy. It must stop."
Jill Mytton

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to stimulate awareness and discussion of the impact on child development of being raised in a high-demand group.

Watch "On Being Born and Raised in a high-demand group" on YouTube

“What I’m not going to stand for is an organization with this kind of money to continue to do things like that, and to bully people, and to harass people, to defraud people out of their lives their money but more importantly their families, and I’m just not going to sit around and watch it happen.
Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, told The Christian Post in an interview that while he doesn't have systematic evidence that Christian prisoners are specifically being targeted in the organ-harvesting, the practice is very much a reality.
"Dr. Robert Schneider of Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, US, presented a paper on the subtle power of the mind and the use of consciousness that can give us the power to keep from aging. This power has practical value in healthcare."
"The biggest “crime” in Pakistan is to be what I call, “Non-Muslim” Muslims. Often such people are called “heretics”. So if you are an Ahmedi, Shiite, and even a believer in some Sufi Saint you will invariably be called Non-Muslim or “heretic” by some. However, this is not just a harmless thing as it has dire legal and more importantly even life threatening consequences."

Following its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in 2015, Altitude Film Distribution acquired the doc in March this year and released it in the UK on October 7 in 26 cinemas, before expanding. The innovative release strategy centred on a live Q&A with Theroux at London’s Royal Festival Hall, which sold out in 24 hours, made $56,000 (£44,000) and was beamed via satellite to cinemas around the country.

News, Intervention, Recovery resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics. to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources.
Cults101 Bookstore (500 books/videos)

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

Please forward articles that you think we should add to


Teaching the Tradition of Freedom to Israel's Ultra-Orthodox

By Peter Berkowitz
December 29, 2016

TEL AVIV—Last week, I taught an intensive two-day seminar in Jerusalem on the tradition of modern freedom to male haredi (“God fearing” in Hebrew) or ultra-Orthodox, Jews. The students were particularly drawn to the challenge of reconciling the claims of individual liberty and democratic self-government with their exacting form of traditional Jewish belief and practice.

The struggle to harmonize freedom and faith is hardly unique to the ultra-Orthodox -- or to Israel. But few groups within contemporary liberal democracies experience the conflict as a greater threat than do Israel’s ultra-Orthodox. And few of today’s liberal democracies have a more urgent interest in facilitating a rapprochement between a deeply pious minority and the essential requirements of a modern nation-state than does Israel.

The students’ presence in the seminar—offered by the Tikvah Fund, a New York City-based philanthropic foundation—was anything but routine. The ultra-Orthodox in Israel are largely products of a separate, gender-divided, state-funded educational system. It revolves around the study of Talmud and other sacred Jewish texts while excluding history, literature, political thought, economics, foreign languages, science, and other secular subjects. Because several students spoke little or no English, the class was conducted in Hebrew.

Along with their strictly yeshiva, or religious education, the austere dress and self-contained neighborhoods of the ultra-Orthodox are designed to maintain a wall of separation from the main currents of Israeli life. But times are changing and broader Israeli society exercises its gravitational pull. The seminar participants, for example, belong to the first generation of Israeli ultra-Orthodox who generally speak Hebrew rather than the Yiddish of their Eastern European forebears, whose communities were eradicated in the Holocaust.

The ultra-Orthodox have tended to look upon the rest of Israel with suspicion while their fellow citizens often view the ultra-Orthodox with rage. The ultra-Orthodox justify their exemption from mandatory military service (Arab citizens are also exempt) and the devotion of large numbers of their adult male population to Talmudic study instead of gainful employment on the grounds they are safeguarding God’s law and keeping alive a holy tradition. Meanwhile, Israel’s secular Jews and many of the country’s non-haredi religious Jews have come to regard the ultra-Orthodox as state-subsidized freeloaders.

The situation is not sustainable over the long term. According to a report issued earlier this year by the Israel Democracy Institute and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, the ultra-Orthodox constitute about 11 percent of the country’s 8.5 million citizens. And they are growing rapidly. Whereas the birth rate in the general population averages 3.1 children per woman, the haredi community average is 6.9. More than a quarter of all Israeli first-graders are ultra-Orthodox. If current trends continue, by 2059 the ultra-Orthodox will constitute 27 percent of Israel’s total population and 35 percent of its Jewish population.

It is therefore good news that “a quiet revolution” has been unfolding among the ultra-Orthodox. Majorities in the haredi sector affirm pride in Israel. Increasing numbers are volunteering for military service. More ultra-Orthodox men and women are enrolling in universities. The employment of ultra-Orthodox men in the economy’s technology sector is on the rise.

The students at last week’s Tikvah seminar—the youngest in their mid-twenties, the oldest in their mid-fifties—are part of this revolution. While all self-identified as ultra-Orthodox, their appearance and dress ranged from Hasidic-style long curling side locks, full beards, and knee-length black coats in the style of 18th century Polish nobility to neatly cropped hair and casual contemporary fashions. Each wore a black kippah (head covering) although one student, in the course of group introductions, announced mischievously that underneath his was a (metaphorical) colorful knitted kippah, which denotes in Israel a welcoming attitude toward modernity. Several of the participants study full time in yeshivas, some are employed in the private sector, and others work with the government to facilitate better relations with the ultra-Orthodox. A few are pursuing undergraduate degrees.

To launch the seminar we discussed a popular Israeli short story about a bus driver (once a mythic figure in Israel) who wanted to be God. The story dramatizes the harm of ideology—a simplifying framework that squeezes the complexities of politics to fit the requirements of some single, exclusive principle. Then we considered Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which draws on a multiplicity of principles springing from a variety of sources—not least the Jewish tradition but also prominently the tradition of freedom.

Having established that the responsible exercise of political judgment involves the blending of competing principles and that Israel is founded on the conviction that political freedom is an inseparable dimension of the Jewish state, we turned to our main topic. We explored the foundations of political freedom in John Locke’s “Second Treatise”; the constitutionalization of freedom in “The Federalist Papers”; the tensions that arise between democracy and freedom in Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”; and liberty of thought and discussion in Mill’s “On Liberty.”

The students were particularly intrigued by the limits on the exercise of individual rights that Locke grounded in God’s sovereignty, the priority that the U.S. Constitution gives to the protection of religious freedom, and Tocqueville’s insistence that religion makes a surpassing contribution to political stability in America by remaining separate from politics.

Passions flared when we turned to Mill. Students readily appreciated the importance of a public sphere—newspapers, broadcast media, and parliament—in which the condition of their freedom of speech was the freedom of speech of all others. After all, the ultra-Orthodox too have interests to advance through the political process. At the same time, they immediately grasped the danger to their way of life posed by the vigorous promotion within the private sphere, embracing their families and communities, of Mill’s core conviction—indeed the conviction at the core of all moral and political education worthy of the name—that “he who know only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Exposing their sons and daughters to Mill’s case for the sovereign individual, they justly feared, might weaken their children’s attachment to the stringent ultra-Orthodox interpretation of God’s commandments.

But how can you prepare for effectively exchanging opinions in public life, I asked, without cultivating at home and in civil society curiosity, empathy, and knowledge of history, literature, and moral and political ideas? Doesn’t the study of Talmud itself, I continued, provide support for freedom of thought by encouraging students to explore the other side—indeed the dizzying multiplicity of sides—to the endless puzzles that arise in the effort to live in accordance with Jewish law?

During one break a Hasid who’d hardly uttered a word during class approached me. “You’re saying,” he whispered, “that living well with—and within—the tradition of freedom is a question of balance?” I nodded and smiled.

Ultimately, both the ultra-Orthodox and broader Israeli society stand to profit from rapprochement. The ultra-Orthodox can acquaint themselves with the pleasures and the pride that stem from developing skills valued by the workplace, providing for one’s family, and contributing to the national defense. And Israel’s secular majority, who—like America’s—tenaciously seek fame and fortune, rigorously choreograph leisure, and restlessly chase after quiet time, can enliven their imagination and deepen their understanding of human diversity by acquainting themselves with those devoted to fulfilling God’s law.

The desired rapprochement repudiates the dogma frequently shared by both sides that freedom and religion are inevitable antagonists. It conceives of them instead as working partners and perhaps indispensable friends.

Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His writings are posted at and he can be followed on Twitter @BerkowitzPeter.