Feb 28, 2018

Couples clutching AR-15 rifles hold commitment ceremony at Pennsylvania church

Michael Ribinkam
Associated Press
February 28, 2018

Crown-wearing worshippers clutching AR-15 rifles drank holy wine and exchanged or renewed wedding vows in a commitment ceremony at a Pennsylvania church on Wednesday, prompting a nearby school to cancel classes.

With state police and a smattering of protesters standing watch outside the church, brides clad in white and grooms in dark suits brought dozens of unloaded AR-15s into World Peace and Unification Sanctuary for a religious event that doubled as an advertisement for the Second Amendment.

The church, which has a worldwide following, believes the AR-15 symbolizes the "rod of iron" in the book of Revelation, and encouraged couples to bring the weapons. An AR-15 was used in the Florida high school massacre on Feb. 14.

The Rev. Sean Moon, who leads the church, prayed for "a kingdom of peace police and peace militia where the citizens, through the right given to them by almighty God to keep and bear arms, will be able to protect one another and protect human flourishing."

Moon is the son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah who founded the Unification Church, which critics regard as a cult. The younger Moon's congregation is a breakaway faction of the Unification Church, which had distanced itself from Wednesday's event.

An attendant checked each weapon at the door to make sure it was unloaded and secured with a zip tie, and the elaborate commitment ceremony went off without a hitch.

Tim Elder, Unification Sanctuary's director of world missions, told worshippers the ceremony was meant to be a blessing of couples, not "inanimate objects," calling the AR-15 a "religious accoutrement." The church has held at least one other ceremony featuring assault-style rifles.

But Wednesday's event, coming on the heels of the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17, rubbed emotions raw.

"It's scaring people in the community," one protester told a church member. "Are you aware of that?"

The ceremony prompted Wallenpaupack Area School District to move students at an elementary school down the street to other campuses.

Lisa Desiena, from Scranton, protested outside the church with a sign that called the group an "armed religious cult."

She said she owns a gun, but "I don't need a freaking assault weapon to defend myself. Only thing they're good for is killing. Period. That's all that weapon is good for, mass killing. And you want to bless it? Shame on you."

But Sreymom Ouk, 41, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Sort Ouk, and came with their AR-15, said the weapon is useful for defending her family against "sickos and evil psychopaths."

"People have the right to bear arms, and in God's kingdom, you have to protect that," she said. "You have to protect against evil."

Walmart says it will no longer sell firearms, ammunition to people under 21White House Communications Director Hope Hicks to resign


Renowned Spiritual Leader Takes Readers From Unhappiness to Healing to Invincible Thinking and on to the Starting Point to Happiness

Ryuho Okawa PRNewswire
February 28, 2018

NEW YORK, Feb. 28, 2018/PRNewswire/ -- Ryuho Okawa recognizes the United States of America faces turbulent times domestically and internationally that impact the happiness and well-being of its citizens. Okawa lived in the United States in the 1980s and today after three decades, he continues to observe the day-to-day tumult and provide spiritual and practical guidance for his growing followers.


The Japanese renowned spiritual leader, best-selling author and founder of the global movement, Happy Science, authored seven new titles released in the United States in 2017. In 2018, Okawa plans to release at least 6 more titles which add to the over 100 million copies of books he has sold internationally. Okawa is compassionately committed to the spiritual growth of others. In addition to writing and publishing books, he continues to give lectures around the world with a simple goal: to help people find true happiness and create a better world.

Okawa recognizes we are facing troubled times. During this time of turmoil, individuals may feel disheartened and powerless to change the circumstances they are in. When people feel they have had enough, they can take a breather from all the troubles and problems around them by shifting their perspective and start looking within. If they want to change the world according to Okawa, the starting point is always with the individual; he or she needs to start where they are. So the first step to a happy world is to create one more happy person in the world---oneself.

How can this be done when we are bombarded daily with the negative? In Asia and the East, people seem to deal with problems differently from the people in the West. The Eastern cultures value harmony and peace, so Eastern philosophy can certainly help each one of us find "quiet happiness" which is a sense of fulfillment, tranquility, and contentment. So how about learning a bit of Eastern wisdom from Ryuho Okawa to face and deal with our problems and troubles? Perhaps, all of us can find a new avenue for solutions to the issues we are facing personally and globally now.

As one of the most renowned spiritual leaders from the East, Okawa has been offering myriad of spiritual lessons and wisdom to help people in the United States find peace and happiness. In one of his books (Okawabooks.com) released last April, The Unhappiness Syndrome: 28 Habits of Unhappy People (and how to change them), he writes about how we often unconsciously choose thoughts and actions that invite unhappiness into our lives. In this book, he shows that by shifting our perspective, we can begin to see the world around us differently and start attracting happiness. In another book released last June, Healing from Within: Life-Changing Keys To Calm, Spiritual, and Healthy Living, he talks about how we have inner strength to heal ourselves, and that all we have to do is to awaken to and trust this innate power to improve our lives. In Invincible Thinking: A Essential Guide for a Lifetime of Growth, Success, and Triumph released in October, Okawa talks about how we can cultivate a winning mindset that lets us keep moving forward and achieve lasting success no matter what obstacles we may face in life. Finally, In The Starting Point of Happiness: An Inspiring Guide to Positive Living With Faith, Love, And Courage released in November, Okawa illustrates how we can find purpose and meaning in life and attain lasting happiness that will infuse us with hope, strength, and fulfillment.

Together these titles and those set to be published in 2018, provide readers with a continuum for growth, self-development and long-lasting happiness. It's no wonder, these books and Okawa's annual "Laws " series have grown in sales at chain, independent and online bookselling outlets.

IRH Press USA is distributed by Continental Sales and NBN Canada. Since joining with Continental two years ago, distribution in the United Stateshas increased significantly. IRH Press USA is represented by Newman Communications for publicity, marketing and sales coordination.

About the Author

In 1986, after working on Wall Street, Okawa founded Happy Science as a spiritual movement dedicated to bringing greater happiness to humankind by uniting religions and cultures to live in harmony. Today he is the CEO of the Happy Science Group. Happy Science has grown rapidly from its beginnings in Japan to a worldwide organization with centers in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Canada and over 12 million followers. The spiritual workshops Happy Science offers are open to people of all faiths and walks of life and are rooted in the same simple principles of happiness that inspired Okawa's own spiritual awakening. Okawa is compassionately committed to the spiritual growth of others. In addition to writing and publishing books, he continues to give lectures around the world. In addition to promoting spiritual growth, Okawa has also dedicated himself to improving society and creating a better world. As affiliates of the Happy Science Group, he has founded various institutions including boarding schools, a higher education institution, a preschool education institution, as well as a publishing company, a political party, a talent agency, and a talent school. In 2017, Ryuho Okawa lectured to 50,000 people at the Tokyo Dome.

About Happy Science

Happy Science maintains United States Temples in New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Tampa, Los Angeles and San Francisco. For more information, visit http://happy-science.org.

Media Contact:

Robert Newman
Phone: 617-952-1470
Email: bob.newman@newmancom.com

SOURCE Ryuho Okawa

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Feb 27, 2018

Japan launches website on Aum cult in bid to raise public awareness of splinter groups

February  27, 2018

The Public Security Intelligence Agency has set up the government’s first website about the Aum Shinrikyo cult and the series of crimes it committed — including the deadly 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack — with the aim of broadening the public’s awareness of the group, which now has three offshoots still in operation.

The site hosts writings by victims and grieving families. The website — accessible at www.moj.go.jp/psia/aum-23nen.html — also provides court testimonies by former cult members as well as photos. The website is only provided in Japanese.

The sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 killed 13 people and left more than 6,200 others ill. An earlier June 1994 sarin attack occurred near judge housing in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, killing eight people.

Shizue Takahashi, 71, whose husband, a subway station officer who was killed in the 1995 attack, wrote on the website that her “heart has continued to be shaken to this day.” She provided copies of her husband’s medical treatment records following the attack and his post-mortem certificate. Writings by two others are also posted on the website.

In addition to the two attacks, the website provides details on about 15 criminal cases, including the 1989 murder of anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto as well as his wife and son.

Aum Shinrikyo has split into three groups: One called Aleph, an offshoot of Aleph, and Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light). The last group was launched by former Aum Shinrikyo spokesman Fumihiro Joyu, 55, according to the agency. The three groups are estimated to have 1,650 followers in total.

The agency said members of the first two groups have a more pronounced faith in the Aum founder and death row inmate Shoko Asahara, 62, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.


Nithyananda draws HC’s ire

The Hindu
FEBRUARY 27, 2018

‘Seeking relief from two fora not on’

The Madras High Court on Monday expressed displeasure over self-styled godman Nithyananda having filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, challenging an interim injunction restraining him from entering the Madurai Aadheenam by claiming to be its junior pontiff, despite having filed a vacate injunction application before the High Court.

Justice R. Mahadevan questioned Senior Counsel A. Raghunathan as to how the godman could approach two different fora for seeking similar relief. Stating that he would take up the main writ petition filed against Nithyananda by Madurai-based activist M. Jagathalapradapan for final hearing, the judge directed the Registry to list the matter for hearing on Tuesday.

“Sometimes, godmen will also have to pray to God to come to their rescue. Let’s see what happens tomorrow,” the judge said before adjourning the hearing. During a previous hearing of the case, the judge gave two options to Nithyananda — he was asked to choose whether he wanted to contest the civil suits pending before the Madurai district court or face the writ petition in the High Court.

On Monday, the Senior Counsel informed the court that his client had preferred a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court challenging the injunction granted by the High Court last year, and that the case had been given a diary number.

However, it could not be listed for hearing before an appropriate Bench due to the Holi holidays for the apex court, he added.

Irked by the submission, Mr. Justice Mahadevan said: “Much water has flown in this writ petition after the October 11, 2017 order.Having filed a vacate injunction application before this court, you are not entitled to file another petition elsewhere. You are trying to curtail the court’s proceedings.”

Advance bail

In the meantime, Justice A.D. Jagadish Chandira on Monday closed an anticipatory bail application preferred by Nithyananda after recording a submission made on behalf of Salmen city cyber crime cell police that as on date, he was not an accused in a case booked in connection with obscene Facebook posts by an inmate of his Ashram at Bidadi.

The judge, however, directed him to appear before the police for inquiry as and when required. In his petition, Nithyananda had apprehended that there was a possibility of him facing arrest whenever he appeared before the police, in compliance with a notice issued to him under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, requiring his presence before the investigating officer.


Feb 26, 2018

Pennsylvania school cancels classes over nearby church ceremony featuring AR-15s

CBS News
February 26, 2018

NEWFOUNDLAND, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania school district will cancel classes at an elementary school on Wednesday because a church down the street is hosting a ceremony featuring AR-15 rifles. World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland believes the AR-15 symbolizes the "rod of iron" in the biblical book of Revelation, and it is encouraging couples to bring the weapons to a commitment ceremony. 

The ceremony, to be held about a half-mile from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, is expected to draw hundreds of couples, who are invited to bring their semi-automatic rifles to "show their willingness to defend their families, communities and nation," CBS Philadelphia reports.

On Friday, the superintendent of the Wallenpaupack Area School District wrote in a letter to parents that while "there is no direct threat to our school or community," given concerns about parking, traffic and the "nature of the event," students will be bused to schools about 15 miles away. 

Superintendent Michael Silsby added there will be increased security at the school all week. 

"We respect your decision if you choose to keep your children home for the day," he wrote. 

Why the AR-15 is America's gun

The church -- a breakaway faction of the Unification Church -- has said it planned Wednesday's event months ago, well before the Feb. 14 massacre at a Florida high school. Authorities say the shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 in the attack that killed 17 people. 

Church officials say that weapons will be unloaded, secured with zip ties and checked at the door. 

The Unification Sanctuary's leader, Rev. Sean Moon, is the son of Rev. Sun Myung Moonwho was a self-proclaimed messiah who founded the Unification Church. 

The Unification Church, which is often described as a cult, has distanced itself from Wednesday's event, saying its ceremonies and theology do not involve weapons. 

"It saddens us that Reverend Moon's son has chosen to separate himself and walk in opposition to his parent's legacy building world peace," Rev. Richard Buessing, president of Family Federation, another name for the Unification Church, said in a statement.


CEE in association with Maharishi University of Management conducted workshops

India Educational Diary
February 27, 2018

New Delhi: CEE is association with Maharishi University of management (IOWA) conducted workshops for the teachers and students of academic institutions to guide and help the students of board classes to reduce the stress of exams which is the need of the hour.

The teachers were guided about how they can create stress free atmosphere and motivate the students to perform better in their board exams during these days. The students were given certain guide lines to follow so that at the last moment their learning power is in proved with any psychological and social pressure

CEE has planned a series of such sessions for students of Government and private schools which can reduce the social issues of the society. Social abuses are becoming the serious problem which is spreading among the young teenagers like a fire. Keeping these problems in mind CEE has taken the initiative to guide and educate the educational institutions to create a healthy atmosphere and make this initiative a big move with the help of the Government.

The key Trainers of session were Dr. Ashley Deens and Mr. James who carries International experiences from the top a related universities (MIT/ Havard etc), MS Shruti Arora the president of CEE is confident that there sessions would have help in the phase and will ensure the reduction of social and psychological pressure on students.


Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain


Bogus science, hidden agendas, and David Lynch’s campaign to push a million public school kids into Transcendental Meditation while falsely claiming it is not a religion

January 23, 2018

Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular It is secular and rooted in scientific research, widely practiced in schools and in the workplace. But all meditation is not created equal. In this new book, Transcendental Deception, author Aryeh Siegel exposes the hidden world of the enormously wealthy and highly secretive Transcendental Meditation organization.

Author Aryeh Siegel was first introduced to TM in the early1970s. What started off as a casual interest in meditation to relieve stress, morphed into an all-encompassing way of life for nearly ten years. Siegel became a TM teacher, attended small sessions with TM’s guru and founder, the Maharishi, and even was in Maharishi’s entourage in 1975 when he appeared twice on the Merv Griffin Show.

Siegel mostly worked at TM’s U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles and was involved with some early studies that were supposed to demonstrate the power and efficacy of the TM approach. He also participated in what was called the “TM-Sidhi program” which promised that meditators could learn to levitate, become invisible, develop miraculous powers, achieve permanent, perfect health, and even eternal life.

Over time, Siegel became disillusioned with both his TM practice and the organization. And he didn’t need his Ph.D. coursework in behavioral science at UCLA to understand that the so-called research TM was pushing was biased, poorly designed, and flawed. This was not science, but a form of contrived promotion. Although Siegel seriously practiced TM and the Sidhi program for years, he experienced no miraculous powers, no flying or levitating, just wishful thinking and hype. It became increasingly apparent to him that TM was a poorly adapted form of Hinduism, a religion, but was being falsely promoted to the public as secular and scientific. And lastly, Siegel experienced the TM organization as becoming increasingly authoritarian and cultic.

Siegel’s new book, Transcendental Deception, is the first comprehensive look at the TM movement written by a former insider.

Deconstructs the practices and philosophy of the Maharishi and the TM organization, demonstrating just how much it is a religionAnalyzes TM’s secret religious ceremony – the Puja – and explains why the TM movement keeps its content hidden so that individuals, students, and teachers don’t realize the true meaning of the Sanskrit ritualExplores how TM continues to maintain the fantasy that it is not a religion, but instead endlessly repeats the narrative that it is secular and scientificAnalyzes key research on the TM practice and demonstrates how most of it is preliminary, inconsequential or bogus

For many people, this book will be a surprise, even shocking. Over the decades, millions have started TM, seeing the practice as a simple form of meditation or stress-reduction. Some people benefit, but that is true of many kinds of meditation, not just TM. Most people who practice TM know nothing about the organization and what goes on behind the scenes. This is especially true for the many celebrities from Jerry Seinfeld to Tom Hanks.

“To be clear, I am not against meditation, mindfulness, or even Hinduism,” says author Aryeh Siegel. “In America, anyone is free to practice their religion or no religion, but what concerns me is the deception at the heart of TM. No religion has a place in our public school system. TM has falsely promoted itself for decades. It is important that people know the truth. That’s why I wrote this book.”

Aryeh Siegel is available for interviews. Transcendental Deception is available from Amazon Here.

For further information, www.tmdeception.com or email info@tmdeception.com



Aryeh Siegel


Church of Scientology of Budapest scores major legal victory

Court declares raid and seizure at the Church unlawful, and grants no appeal.

Church of Scientology Budapest protected by the Budapest District Court on raids by National Security

Ivan Arjona Pelado
Blasting News
February 25, 2018

In a significant decision, today the Church won a major victory when the Central District Court of Buda declared that the raid on the Church by the National Bureau of Investigation (NNI) was unlawful.

As a result, the National Bureau of Investigation (NNI) has to return hundreds of boxes of unlawfully seized documents and IT tools.

Court found raid violated rights

#The Court found that the raid and seizure conducted on October 18, 2017, violated the constitutional rights of the Church by being coercive and restrictive.

The #Church Of Scientology and its legal representatives filed legal objections which were first rejected by the Capital City Prosecutor's Office but overturned by the Court today which annulled the decisionof the NNI and the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The court emphasised that the investigating authority fundamentally violated the principle of necessity and proportionality as laid down the law. Therefore this court decision may also be of value to other authorities who made the same violations in regards to the Church of Scientology, says lawyer Istvan Szikinger.

"We are very pleased with the court's decision and we are confident that the entire procedure will be resolved rapidly in our favour, with our constitutionally protected rights fully restored", said Attila Miklovicz, spokesperson of the Church.

Peaceful demonstrations

Scientologists and friends from all over Europe and including the United States have done many peaceful demonstrations in Budapest, reminding the Hungarians the different atrocities that specific people using the power of governments have done throughout the Hungarian history.

The European Office of the Church of Scientology for Public Affairs and Human Rights, directed by the Ivan Arjona-Pelado, has also been denouncing the situation at the OSCE in Warsaw and to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, explaining and providing data and facts of the different discrimination acts of which Scientologists have been subject by very specific people within the Hungarian government including from the one who should have been protecting the privacy of Scientologists and all citizens.

The Scientology religion in Hungary was first recognised as such since the beginning of its existence and is one of the very few religions that has managed to survive and keep growing despite the repressive changes that the authorities have done with their law enacted on 2011. Its growth in Europe and worldwide is non-stop and keeps adding new churches and charitable activities all over the world.


Jonestown cult survivor recalls horrifying massacre in new documentary: I thought I would die at 22

Stephanie Nolasco
Fox News
February 26, 2018

Leslie Wagner-Wilson escaped death at age 22 when she strapped her 3-year-old son, Jakari, to her back and trekked over 30 miles through the jungles of Guyana with nine others.

On Nov. 18, 1978, Jim Jones, the leader of the People's Temple, had ordered the deaths of 918 followers by cyanide poisoning; 304 of them were children. Wilson lost six of her family members.

Jones, the leader of the religious movement, was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head at 47.

The Arizona-based grandmother is now coming forward to share her story for a new documentary on A&E, titled “Jonestown: The Women Behind the Massacre,” which examines the influence that four women in the cult leader’s inner circle had on the infamous mass murder and suicide ritual.

Sundance TV has also greenlit a docuseries that will air this November to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the tragedy with Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio serving as executive producer.

Wilson hopes her participation in the A&E documentary will shed new light on a catastrophe that, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, marked the single largest loss of U.S. civilian lives in a non-natural disaster.

“I think Peoples Temple rose from a social/political environment that’s similar to what we’re facing now,” Wilson told Fox News. “There’s a need. People want to be a part of something. They want to feel safe, they want to feel a sense of community… I want Jonestown to be a lesson… There are still folks out there and they are running under the guise of religious organizations. I just want people to be careful.”

Wilson can still vividly remember life before Jonestown. She described a happy childhood in San Francisco filled with summer camps and vacations. However, things changed when she turned 13.

“This was the late ‘60s, during the love and peace movement,” she said. “A lot of drugs, which my sister Michelle became involved in. Acid, LSD… My mother was told by a friend about an organization, People's Temple, that had a great drug rehab program. That’s how we got involved.”

Jones, a charismatic preacher, first opened the People's Temple in the mid-1950s in Indianapolis. By the early ‘70s, Jones and his wife relocated their headquarters to San Francisco, and his popularity grew. Jones’ message of social justice and a racially integrated congregation attracted a diverse group of followers, many of them African-American.

Wilson was proud to become a part of the community.

“I felt like I was going to make a difference in the world,” said Wilson. “I didn’t know children were going to bed hungry, people were being jailed or there was racism or discrimination [in the world]… I felt really compelled… to just be a young girl who would be active on social issues. And I loved it, I really did.”

But by 15, Wilson was starting to have doubts about Jones’ message.

“I think he was so insecure that he would always tout his sexual prowess and talk about how men were homosexuals,” she said. “He treated the women better because the women were more loyal… But also, he was very manipulative and would try to separate families and destroy marriages, which would give him more power… [And] we thought Jim could read our minds so I would stay away. We would say, ‘Don’t ever say anything negative when he passes us because he can read our minds.’ We were totally fooled in a lot of ways… It just became very controlling. It wasn’t fun anymore.”

Jones, who is said to have believed he was the only heterosexual on the planet, had sexual relationships with several of his female followers. He also became increasingly addicted to pharmaceutical drugs.

“In San Francisco, he would say that he’s tired because he stayed up all night doing all of this good work,” recalled Wilson. “We didn’t know about the drug use… But towards the end, there were times when he never came out of his house. You can hear him slurring his words, but he would just make up excuses, say he was tired or wasn’t feeling well. The community had no idea, even in San Francisco, that he was abusing drugs. That was new to me after the suicide massacre.”

Wilson wasn’t the only one to have doubts. In the ‘70s, news media were beginning to investigate claims of abuse and tyranny, prompting Jones to summon his followers to Jonestown, his sanctuary in Guyana. However, it was far from a utopia.

“It was tough,” she explained. “We had outhouses. We didn’t have flushing toilets… Cold showers were OK because it was so humid and hot. But, I went in with an open mind and tried to find the positive in that. I felt that this was a community where we could make a difference… We were hopeful. We were optimistic that we could build something that was incredible. And with that comes some sacrifice.”

But death awaited Wilson if she stayed. A day before the massacre, Congressman Leo Ryan and several newsmen had come to investigate the remote settlement, only to be shot dead by Jones’ followers. And prior to the massacre, Jones reportedly ordered “revolutionary suicide” rehearsals.

“It just became a place where there was no future,” she said. “I had a child… We were basically starving. We were eating rice every day. No vegetables. No nutrients. It just became obvious this place was a prison… I was ready to go. And if Jim had given people the option to go, I think there would have been a lot of people who were ready to get back to the states… But we had no voice. And that didn’t change in Jonestown.”

Wilson fled in secret with her son.

“I feel grateful every day because I did not believe I was going to live past the age of 22,” she said. “I had to forgive Jim Jones and those involved in order for me to move on and live. I have two other children. I have grandchildren. I have a good life.”

Wilson hopes the documentary will show audiences Jones had enablers to help him lead a cult and that her personal journey will warn people that similar groups still exist.

“I cannot believe there weren’t people like myself whose mind first said there’s something wrong, but because everyone else is embracing it and clapping and being joyous, you look at yourself and say, ‘It must be me,’” she said. “It’s important we don’t see this again in this magnitude.”


Feb 23, 2018

Unification Church Does Not Encourage Firearm Use


February 22, 2018

Unification Church Does Not Encourage Firearm Use

NEW YORK CITY, NY - After the tragic recent events last week in Parkland, Florida, Family Federation (FFWPU) wishes to express our condolences to the families of the victims of such a horrendous incident. We would also like to take this opportunity to stress that our events, programs and theology do not involve the use of firearms or weapons whatsoever.
Family Federation for a Heavenly USA and Family Federation for World Peace and Unification are founded by Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. We are also referred to as simply Family
Federation or the Unification Church.

A breakaway organization calling themselves The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary of Newfoundland, PA, known simply as Sanctuary Church, is not affiliated with Family Federation. While we respect and support every individual's religious freedom, freedom of speech and constitutional rights, as an organization we strongly oppose the initiation of violence and do not utilize weapons in religious ceremonies.

Local Family Federation pastor, Rev. Iwasaki Shota of the Pennsylvania Family Church said, "Family Federation is all about healing and reconciliation. We host events to promote interreligious dialogue, responsible civic leadership, and marriage blessing ceremonies. Rev. Moon's teachings are all about bringing people together so that we bring joy and happiness to God, our Heavenly Parent and feel fulfillment ourselves. Bringing weapons into any of that seems completely contradictory to me."

While the founder of Sanctuary Church is the son of Rev. Moon, it should be noted that he has sadly chosen to separate from and rebel against his mother and his father's philanthropic endeavors. Since the death of Rev. Moon back in 2012, Family Federation has been led by Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, the co-founder. The symbols of Family Federation, both pictured above, are also registered trademarks and not authorized for use by Sanctuary Church.

"It saddens us that Reverend Moon's son has chosen to separate himself and walk in opposition to his parent's legacy building world peace. As an organization, Family Federation stresses the value of family as the antidote to societal breakdown. But as any family who has its troubles, we still love all of the members of the Sanctuary Church as our brothers and sisters despite our disagreements. We pray every day and look forward to being able to call each other one united family once again," said Family Federation president Rev. Richard Buessing.

For interviews, statements, or other inquiries, please use the contact information listed below.


About Family Federation
Family Federation is composed of families from around the world striving to establish a world of peace and unity among all peoples, races, and religions as envisioned by Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon and to embody the ideal of true love as taught in the Divine Principle, the core teachings of the Unification Movement. Family Federation champions three ideals: family, peace, and unification. Our mission statement is:
"To guide America back to God through the teachings and Marriage Blessing of True Parents."

Prophets and profitsIn South Korea fortune-telling will soon be a $3.7bn business

South Korea fortune-telling
South Korea fortune-telling
But like every other trade, it is having to contend with automation

The Economist
February 24, 2018

DESTINY is usually said to lurk in heavy drapes of purple velvet, in the wicked glint of a crystal ball, behind a veil of heady incense or in the tuck of a gold-chiffon turban. Your correspondent went in search of hers among a crush of Korean schoolgirls at the “Broken Heart Tarot Club” in booming Hongdae, a university district in Seoul. The café’s façade is an inviting jumble of pink neon signs and glowing graffiti. At the next table, a hip tarot reader spread a deck face-down for two girlfriends in oversized denim jackets, who took turns picking out cards and sipping on their lattes. He looked as cool as them, more rapper than rune-reader, in dark glasses with a chain around his neck.

Interrogating the decorated cards costs 3,000 won (about $2.75) a question. A tarot reader assesses the character of her clients first. Two flicks of her wrist, and a pair of Queens appears. “You chose the strongest set in the deck,” she says brightly. “Fame is within reach.” Will a move to a new country go smoothly? The Beggar. “The start will be hard, but you can succeed if you ask for help.” Will the Koreas go to war? Death and The Emperor show up, apparently the tarot incarnations of Kim Jong Un (here a scythe-wielding woman in blue veils) and Moon Jae-in, the leaders of North and South Korea. “Death plays tricks but the Emperor is wise,” the reader assures.

“Broken Heart” is among dozens of fortune-telling businesses on the street, packed between cheap clothes and cosmetics shops. Business is brisk. Other stores offer the Korean arts of face-reading, palm-reading—one entices clients with a detailed mapping of Barack Obama’s raised hand at his presidential swearing-in—and saju. An ancient form of divination, saju analyses the cosmic energy at the hour, day, month and year of a person’s birth from Chinese astrological records and texts. A seer at “Broken Hearts” says she began to study saju two decades ago (she says she found it hard to trust other fortune-tellers), but took up tarot recently to keep up with the times. “The young like it. The cards are pretty, it’s cheap and it’s quick,” she says.

The otherworldly in South Korea will soon be a 4trn won ($3.7bn) business, predicts the Korea Economic Daily, a local newspaper. Paik Woon-san, head of the Association of Korean Prophets, estimates that there are over 300,000 fortune-tellers in the country, and 150,000 shamans, many of whom provide clairvoyance. Unusually in a country of evangelical Christians and devout Buddhists, it continues to thrive as anything from a bit of curious fun to a dependable guide for making everyday decisions.

Duo, an online marriage agency, found that 82% of unmarried women and 57% of bachelors surveyed in 2017 had visited saju masters to ask about their love life. The practice survived government campaigns in the 1970s that urged citizens to junk juju and make their own fate; they were, after all, conjuring their own potent magic by building South Korea’s economic “miracle on the Han river”. (The North has other reasons to dislike diviners, who are banned yet sought after; reports have trickled out of the authorities punishing those who make political predictions.)

Now fortune-telling apps for smartphones are beguiling city kids, taking the occult into the otherworldliness of cyberspace. Handasoft, a software developer, has launched 13 apps in the past five years. Its most popular, Jeomsin, introduced two years ago, has been downloaded over 3m times. Every morning it sends users their personalised fortune for the day (other mobile prophecy-providers sell their detailed user data on to marketers, but Jeomsin makes money only from ads). Proffer your palm to the camera or snap a selfie, and another app provides instant face- and palm-reading. Shin Hyun-ho of Jeomsin reckons two or three new apps are being launched every day.

More than two-thirds of those surveyed by Trend Monitor, a local market-research firm, said they see a fortune-teller at least once a year. Many visit between December and February, to see what awaits them in the new solar and lunar years. At Kyobo, South Korea’s biggest bookstore chain, as many shelves are devoted to deciphering destiny as to understanding Korea’s modern history, with primers including “Your Winning Lotto Number is in Your Dreams”. Diviners appear regularly in television dramas, sometimes as fraudsters but often to foreshadow a plot twist. In “The Face Reader”, a gifted seer employed by a 16th-century king correctly identifies traitors from their facial traits. It was among the highest-grossing films of 2013.

Andrew Eungi Kim, a professor at Korea University, says soothsayers hold an everyday relevance in South Korea that they do not have in the West. He likens dropping in on one to occasional Sunday churchgoing in the West. The practice is passed on within families—as “one possible way by which to make sense of the world”.

Judgment and The Lovers

Big junctures in life are a common time for a celestial steer. Careers fairs at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, in Seoul, reserve places for tarot readers. Students go to saju masters with lists of potential employers to determine those most likely to hire them. Businessmen might go to one to select a propitious date to launch a new venture. New parents routinely visit name-makers, another branch of fortune-telling, to help decide on the luckiest name for their baby. Couples check their compatibility before marriage, and one or both may be advised to change their first names to improve their matrimonial lot. In the past decade 1.5m Koreans have legally taken a new one.

The clairvoyance business has also been able to thrive because fate is not fixed in Korean cosmology. Bad news can be mitigated with charms, often given in the form of an action: take up a religion, take out health insurance, stop eating red meat, do not even think about getting a tattoo. Repeat clients are thus ensured. Some even drop in for a weekly check-up.

As palm lines and facial features evolve with age, so too, it is thought, does fortune. Rather than put a brave face on a luckless situation, a small number of Koreans simply change theirs. Some plastic surgeons have been educating themselves in physiognomy to advise their clients. (In “The Face Reader”, rivals to the throne modify the face of a contender to get the king to banish him.) Purists in the face-reading business lament that their jobs are getting tougher in plastic-happy Korea.

In the posh district of Apgujeong (part of stylish Gangnam) the entrance hall of a prominent saju café is plastered with autographs from glitterati. Sotdae Saju Cafe offers clairvoyance with cocktails. Its saju master says counselling is the biggest part of his job. “A lot of rich types around here are dissatisfied. Not long ago South Koreans were trying to survive. Now they’re trying to be happy,” he says. Tae-young, a 30-something Seoulite, says she goes for a reading whenever things get too much, or if something worrisome is on her mind. Some say readings help them to accept whatever unhappy situation they are in.

Few of those who see fortune-tellers take the readings as fact. Many say they offer an additional perspective. In a country where mental troubles are taboo, this is useful. Lim Chaewoo of the University of Brain Education in the city of Cheonan, south of Seoul, says that as modern societies have grown more complex, making decisions has become exacting. During the financial crisis in 2008, American stock traders and insurance brokers, themselves givers of advice, turned to psychics for a steer. Theirs seemed as good as any, in the circumstances.

That saju and face-reading are recognised as academic pursuits in Korea also lends them some modern-day credibility. Janet Shin, a saju master and newspaper columnist who also lectures at universities, says that her clients include doctors, professors and religious types. Status within the profession is achieved through study and experience, as in other disciplines, rather than bluster. Kwon Hee-gwan, who offers readings from soothsaying tents near Tapgol Park in Seoul, is a firm believer in this. On a recent weekday evening, wearing a navy-blue cardigan and tie, he delicately examined clients’ palms with a bone-handled magnifying glass. Mr Kwon sees as many as 20 faces a day, and has worked on a total of 10,000 in his career. But that is only half the number necessary, he says, to know a client’s troubles as soon as she enters his tent.

Some contend that this is not as mysterious as it sounds. Face-readers consider cues like posture, body language and tone of voice in assessing a customer, much as people naturally assess physical appearance to guess someone’s emotional state. In pre-industrial Korea, when few people left their place of birth, many thought people’s faces were a record of their lifestyles and so in some ways a guide to their fate. Researchers even suggest that palm lines may be a “fossilised record” of a person’s earliest moments, because they develop early in the womb. Maybe, then, they hint at a baby’s future health.

If computers could process and dissect what contributes to human intuition, might they become the fortune-tellers of the future? In 2016 a computer programme beat Lee Sedol, a South Korean who is among the world’s best (human) Go players, by four games to one. Even the clairvoyants had not seen that coming. Already, robots are being taught how to anticipate human actions—in effect, reading the future. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have trained a system to foresee when two actors will kiss, shake hands, hug or high-five by feeding it millions of hours of television dramas. Chinese researchers have trained a computer to distinguish between criminals and non-criminals nine times out of ten.

For many, all this portends a rather fearsome future. But a pair of South Korean artists at LOVOT LAB, a startup, offer a different vision. The pair tinker and exhibit above an old rubber-and-metals workshop in Mullae-dong, a run-down industrial neighbourhood of Seoul. In a corner of their studio, a small white robot sits cross-legged, surrounded by coils of sweet-smelling incense. “Buddha I” (pictured) has been programmed to read faces to detect a few basic emotions including happiness, anger and sadness, and dispenses lighthearted prophecies accordingly.

Hong Hyuns of LOVOT LAB has never been to a fortune-teller. But part of his inspiration came from cracking open a fortune cookie. The prophecy told him to “go east”. As he had already decided to move from Chicago to New York, this put him “in a good mood”, he says. Many perfectly rational folk have been found to adjust their behaviour, even in tiny ways, after taking advice from cookies. Mr Hong was struck by how many go to have their fortunes read even as they laugh it all off.

The robo-Buddha stirs from its slumber. “You look happy today,” it purrs. “Good things will come to you.”

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline "Prophets and profits"


Jehovah's Witness exemption from conscription deemed prejudicial in "pivotal" ruling

Uudet alokkaat saapuivat Santahaminan varuskuntaan Helsingissä tammikuussa 2017. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

A Finnish court has ruled that the exemption from military service currently enjoyed by Jehovah's Witnesses is discriminatory.

February 23, 2018

A new court ruled on Friday that the Finnish practice of allowing male Jehovah's Witnesses to avoid conscription is discriminatory.

The Helsinki Court of Appeal on Friday voted 4-3 for naming the policy discriminatory against other conscientious objectors. The ruling came in a discrimination case brought by a man who was imprisoned in 2016 for refusing conscripted service the year before.

The decision is the first court verdict that directly denounces the decades-old exception (instated in 1987), which says that men belonging to the Jehovah's Witness denomination will uniquely not be sent to prison if they refuse both military and civilian service.

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Defense Ministry have long held that the law contradicts the constitution's principle of equality as well as its prohibition on discrimination.

Basis in faith

The majority of the court held that Finland has taken significant measures to improve equality since the exemption became law more than 30 years ago, such as signing the European Convention on Human Rights.

Under current legislation Jehovah's Witnesses may postpone their entry into service for three years at a time (starting at age 18), until their obligation officially ceases at age 29.

Proponents of the Christian faction cite their pacifist reading of the Bible as the basis of their objection, for which they receive no punishment. No other groups in Finland have the same right, except women, who have never been legally bound to enter conscripted service.

"Pivotal" step follows international condemnation

The Union of Conscientious Objectors (Finnish acronym AKL) tweeted about the news on Friday, calling the court's decision "pivotal" in the process towards banning conscription altogether.

Robin Harms, a senior advisor to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, has acted as legal counsel to the imprisoned man who originally brought the case to the Eastern Uusimaa District Court in 2015.

"Favouring Jehovah's Witnesses in this way is an embarrassment for Finland," Harms says.

More than that, human rights organisations including Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Committee have long chastised the Finnish government for its ongoing practice of forced conscription. Only male (non-Witness) Finns are obliged to choose between military service, a longer civilian service term and a six-month prison (or remote monitoring) sentence.

AKL reports that an average of some 40 objectors have annually refused both military and civilian service since the beginning of the 21st century. Some 100 Jehovah's Witnesses plead the law of exception to avoid conscription each year. While 72 percent of young men enter military service (minimum 6 months) when called, some 2,000 men opt for a civilian service period (minimum 347 days).

All men who are jailed for objecting to conscription are considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience.

Justice Minister: Consider exemption anew

Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen said after the verdict that the current exemptions from military service should be evaluated in the light of the verdict.

"If some group or other has exemptions based on their beliefs, then in this day and age they should always be evaluated to make sure different groups are treated equally," said Häkkänen.

Häkkänen added that participation in national defence is mandated in the Finnish constitution, and that exceptions to that are based on religious convictions.

"How are those interests weighed against each other in different situations, especially in a changing world, then that's a big constitutional law question as well," said Häkkänen. "This is an interesting issue that must now be resolved fairly."

EDIT: This story was edited on 23 February to addcomments from the Justice Minister.

Sources Yle


Cult weddings in Church of England buildings could become a reality, bishop warns

Bishop of Winchester Tim Dakin.
Bishop of Winchester Tim Dakin.
Harry Farley 
February 23, 2018

Cult-type 'New Religious Movements' could hold weddings in Church of England churches if proposals contained in a new bill pass, according to an Anglican bishop.

John Gummer's ecumenical marriage bill, which passed its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday, could allow 'New Religious Movements', which include controversial groups like Scientologists, the right to use Church of England buildings for weddings.

That is according to Tim Dakin, the bishop of Winchester, who spoke against the bill this morning.

The private member's bill is designed to allow Catholics, Methodists and other Christian denominations' marriages to take place in Church of England buildings.

But Bishop Dakin warned it also 'affords potential legal rights to the use of churches to New Religious Movements with which the Church of England does not have any existing formal ecumenical relationship'.

He said parliament was 'addressing questions of doctrine, creed and ecumenical dialogue, all of which ought properly to sit with the churches themselves'.

He warned 'there is a longstanding constitutional convention' that parliament does not interfere with Church matters. 'This Bill represents a departure from that convention,' he told peers in the House of Lords.

Gummer, Lord Deben, is a former Conservative party chairman and environment secretary who converted to Catholicism 1992 after previously being an Anglican and serving on the CofE's ruling General Synod. He introduced the bill after finding his daughter could not marry in his local Anglican church in Suffolk because she wanted the Catholic ceremony.

He hit back at the bishop's claim and said the bill 'does not tell the Church of England to do anything'.

'It is entirely fictitious to suggest we are breaking the convention,' he said. 'What we are doing is removing a legal impediment for the Church of England to make up its own mind. That is clearly different.'

There is no great difference in the different wedding liturgies between Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists and Methodists but marriage law in the UK is designed around a buildings-based system meaning ceremonies must take place either in a register office, approved premises or in an officially registered place of religious worship. If in a Church of England building, the wedding must be carried out 'according to the rites of the Church of England', according to the 1949 Marriages Act.

Gummer's bill would remove this restriction meaning other denomination's weddings could, if the CofE agreed, take place in Anglican buildings.

Before the debate he told Christian Today: 'My bill doesn't force the Church of England to change. It merely allows them to. At the moment parliament stops the Church of England doing this and all my bill does is remove that impediment. It does what parliament would want.

'It gives the Church of England freedom and if the Church doesn't want to do it, it doesn't have to.'

But the Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Church of England and the Anglican Church in Wales all oppose the move.

The CofE said it allows ministers from other denominations to take other services such as funerals and mass and they can help in some parts of the wedding service but an Anglican minister must lead the marriage vows themselves. A spokesman said: 'We see no need for Lord Deben's Bill, and believe that the current arrange­ments give sufficient pas­toral flexi­bility for weddings which are conducted in Anglican churches and chapels, involving ministers of differ­ent denominations.'


LDS, Undue Influence: Discovering Truth - Part 1

February 8, 2018

Author Luna Lindsey joins in for a discussion of the concepts of undue influence conveyed in a recent animated video released by the Mormon Church and Elder Uchtdorf.

Luna Lindsey: http://recoveringagency.com/

Brainwashed Annie, taken by the cult

The Australian

February 24, 2018

Melbourne women “Mary” and “Sally” know where their sister is some of the time, and where she sleeps at night, but she’s essentially a missing person, keeping odd hours and rejecting all pleas to come back.

Mary and Sally have asked that their real names not be used for fear of reprisals by the Australian arm of a cult that has taken their sister.

“Annie’’ is gone. In her place is a cult recruit obsessed with “Bible studies’’ and intricate journals, but most of all with secrecy.

Her sisters keep a scrapbook full of photographs of Annie to remember her as she was.

“She used to be softly spoken, now she’s so hard and tough,” Sally says. “We just want to shake her and find out what is holding her. We want to get her released and get her back, and we want to stop other people from falling into this.”

The cult is an apocalyptic South Korean group called Shincheonji (SCJ), or the Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony. It is estimated to have 120,000 members worldwide and it is now growing rapidly in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

New members are recruited largely from peace groups and mainstream Christian churches, and from the huge international student community at universities. SCJ has 100 members in Melbourne, most of whom are busy looking for what the organisation calls “fruit” — that is, potential new converts.

The sisters come from Malaysia but moved to Melbourne for tertiary studies. They say Annie was recruited by SCJ members who had infiltrated the churches she attended, Hillsong and Planetshakers. By this time she had a masters degree in architecture, but she no longer studies, nor works in ­architecture, because of the cult.

She was recruited in 2014, and by 2015 had missed five family gatherings, including her grandmother’s funeral, her mother’s birthday and her nephew’s birthday. She kept unusual hours, being summoned late at night by text messages from the group. Her sisters thought she was working long hours, but in fact she had quit her job to meet fellow SCJ members every day and often all night. She kept living at home with one of her sisters, but was either absent or distant and non-communicative. She also began keeping intricate journals of her “studies’’.

The secretive group is led internationally by founder Lee Man-hee, 86, of Seoul, who says he has seen Jesus and has everlasting life.

Members are taught it is permissible to lie “for God’s purpose”. Their teachings are based on metaphorical interpretations of small biblical sections of Ezekiel, Matthew and Leviticus. They draw heavily on the Book of Revelations, including a belief that the opening of the Seven Seals will trigger the Apocalypse and the second coming of Christ.

In Australian SCJ strongholds, members study cult texts round the clock and sit frequent examinations as they rise up the levels of the organisation. They also stick up posters on university campuses. In Melbourne, Inquirer has learned, they often do this at 4am.

Raphael Aron, a Melbourne-based counsellor and the director of Cult Consulting Australia, has been probing the cult’s activities in Australia.

“In general, cults have the ability to cause their members to become withdrawn and very distant from their families,” he says.

“The drift away from their families is significant. They are physically absent but also emotionally absent because their emotions are all directed inwards toward the group, and their emotions are ­directed by the group.

“I am seeing young people who previously showed drive and passion being robbed of their potential. It’s like they have died.

“This is a relatively small cult (in Australia),” Aron says. “But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to expand.”

Eminent British psychologist Anthony Storr, author of a landmark book about cult leaders, Feet of Clay, wrote that a cult leader or guru is someone who claims to be a teacher with “special knowledge of the meaning of life”, usually based on “personal revelation”. They promise their followers “new ways of self-development” and have the “hubris” or charisma to persuade people they are right.

According to sources, SCJ has used two Melbourne universities as meeting and teaching ­venues: RMIT and the Australian Catholic University.

Sources also say a City of Melbourne-owned venue called the Multicultural Hub has been used, along with free meeting rooms at a suburban Officeworks in Box Hill and a public library in the suburb of Brighton.

Only ACU could confirm SCJ members had used its facilities. “Three or four” members had infiltrated an interfaith conference on the university’s Fitzroy campus in May 2014, a spokesman said.

A City of Melbourne spokesman said the council “conducted a check of the booking records of the city’s Multicultural Hub and there are no records that suggest any links with the (alleged) cult”.

However, a Melbourne man who infiltrated the SCJ says five Sunday meetings he went to in 2015 were at RMIT in Swanston Street, Melbourne. He says recruits think they are doing Bible study with a peace group until they advance to higher levels and learn of SCJ and Lee Man-hee. “They never call themselves by (the cult’s) name,” he says.

Recently, the main SCJ meeting place in Melbourne was rented factory space in Kensington. Video seen by Inquirer shows groups of mainly young Asian cult members dancing and chanting “We are the one”, an adaptation of USA for Africa’s 1980s charity single We are the World.

Video also shows members greeting a visiting South Korean cult leader at Tullamarine airport with singing and dancing. The organisation appears to use two “peace groups” as cover. They are: Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) and International Peace Youth Group. SCJ denies these are cover groups but says HWPL is led globally by Lee. A spokesman for HWPL in Melbourne, who has not been named for legal reasons, also denies the link but has provided Inquirer with contact details for SCJ leadership in Australia. HWPL Australia is registered at a Sydney residential address.

The Australian leader of the cult provided his name by email to Inquirer, but again, it has not been used for legal reasons.

He says he is based in Melbourne and that SCJ is not a cult. He writes: “There is no one in this world to call anyone a cult other than God himself. Therefore, we strongly ask you to look at yourself first whether you are righteous in God’s eyes so that you can call anyone by any names and wish you perform your noble task correctly as a journalist.”

He says SCJ recruits in Australia from big Christian churches. “Not only in Melbourne but all SCJ is giving the word of God to whoever truly wants to understand without any cost.”

However, he will not answer questions on using tertiary institutions and City of Melbourne buildings as meeting places.

“It is not appropriate to ask whether the members of SCJ used these venues for meetings since everyone living in Melbourne has right to use any places for any personal purposes. Writing article about this is a violation of the right itself and misleading ­people.”

He writes that families with “different faiths” can have “conflicts” with SCJ. “But confining this only to SCJ matter is surely ­misleading. You should let us know of the families who are claiming this so that we can all meet together to resolve the problem if there are any.”

Melbourne man “Steve” says his wife, who is 55 and not Asian, was lured into the cult through online “Bible study” and also cult plants at a Pentecostal church in bayside Melbourne.

“We were a perfectly normal married couple,” he says. “We have been married more than 30 years. Now that has all broken down. She is away from home up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. She is controlled by the cult through her phone. She was a loving mother and a fantastic wife but now she believes I am the devil.”

Steve says his wife has no relationship now with their adult children. He says when he tries to talk to her about her new life in the cult, she refuses to listen.

She still lives in their home, but won’t talk to him and often leaves home at 3am, summoned by a text message.

He says she has begun seeing “secret messages” in movies and media. In 2015 he put a tracking device in her car to find out where she was going and then confronted a male cult leader, who told him: “You can’t destroy us.”

“I ask myself,” he says, “what is it that they tell these people that makes them so dedicated? What is the promise?”

Expat Australian academic and South Korean cult blogger Peter Daley, who teaches in Seoul, says SCJ is one of 50 “messianic” cults from South Korea, beginning with the Moonies, led by the Reverend Sun Myung-moon from 1954.

SCJ, he says, is the “most visible” of the modern-era cults and holds stadium events in Seoul. Allegations the group breaks up families and encourages young people to leave school, university and jobs gained traction in 2015, he says, and many Christian churches in South Korea have “Shincheonji Keep Out” signs on their doors.

Notorious South Korean sex cult Providence, or JMS is also known to have a strong foothold in Australia. JMS’s leader, Jeong Myeong-seok, is nearing the end of a 10-year jail sentence on multiple counts of rape.

Aron says many of the cults in Asia peddle “a very literal ­interpretation of the Bible based on taking some Bible stories as metaphors”. He says South Korea is a fertile breeding ground for cults because it is a ­“hierarchical” society right next to North Korea, which is “one big cult”.

South Korea is also a very Christian country “living in crisis” because of the nuclear threat from North Korea, leading people to seek avenues for hope.

Aron says there is a “disturbing” boom in cult organisations in Asia, in particular South Korea and China. He says the Australian government should be looking at the potential misuse of student visas by cult members who abandon their studies through cult affiliations but remain in Australia to ­recruit other students.

Sally and Mary fear it may be too late. Their missing sister, they fear, has been brainwashed.

“We just want her back,” says Sally, “as she was.”

Chris Johnston is a Melbourne-based journalist and co-author of The Family (Scribe, 2017).


YouTube Made An 'Absurd Excuse' For Why It Can't Have Humans Moderate Trending Videos, Says Expert

February 22, 2018

“A professor who studies algorithms and social networks says that YouTube's excuse for not moderating the section of its site that helps users discover new videos is "absurd." Google-owned video site YouTube came under fire this week when a video promoting the idea that a survivor of the Florida school shooting was a crisis actor hit the No. 1 spot on its "Trending" tab in the United States. After reporters pointed it out, YouTube removed the video for violating its policy against harassment, which was updated last year to include "hoax videos that target the victims" of breaking news tragedies. This latest blunder hit on several areas of scrutiny that YouTube is facing right now. It has previously struggled with promoting fake news after tragic events, such as last year's shooting in Las Vegas. Its algorithmic recommendations routinely promote divisive videos. This is the second high-profile incident in 2018 in which the "Trending" tab has featured inappropriate content (a now-deleted video by YouTube star Logan Paul crassly featured a suicide victim in Japan).”

When Indian parliamentarians saw a CIA plot in the Beatles’ stay at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram

The Beatles during their Magical Mystery Tour | Wikimedia Commons [Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)]
The Beatles during their Magical Mystery Tour
Not everyone was happy about the Fab Four’s visit to India 50 years ago.

Ajoy Bose
February 23, 2018

Despite the adulation and enthusiasm of the growing band of Beatles fans in India, their trip to Rishikesh was not without its controversies. There were many people in the country who were openly hostile to both Maharishi [Mahesh Yogi] and the arrival of the rock band and other celebrities from the West in his ashram. In the Lok Sabha, the elected Lower House of the Indian Parliament, the Opposition went up in arms alleging that the yogi was in cahoots with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and that many of his guests from abroad were actually foreign spies. The charge was led by communist members of Parliament who formed a sizeable block in the Opposition benches and were supported by the socialists who too felt that something fishy was happening in Rishikesh.

‘Rishikesh, the Hotbed of Espionage,’ the front-page headline of the Free Press Journal newspaper had screamed the next morning. ‘Rishikesh has become the hotbed of espionage thronged by the Beatles yearning for Nirvana and intelligence agents nibbling at India’s security, Left Communist member K. Anirudhan complained in the Lok Sabha today,’ read the dramatic first paragraph of the report.

The veteran parliamentarian belonging to the Marxist Communist Party had painted an alarming picture in his lengthy supplementary question in the House. ‘The Beatles and hippies have set up their own colony in Rishikesh. And a foreign secret service boss is sitting at the feet of the yogi and living in the inner camp of the ashram ostensibly seeking nirvana,’ he had shrieked as his leftist and socialist colleagues on the Opposition benches thumped their tables.

Anirudhan had also expressed outrage at the luxurious quarters of the Beatles inside the ashram. ‘The huts built there are extremely comfortable. In fact, in one place palaces have been constructed,’ revealed the MP. He had also been very critical of the local Uttar Pradesh government gifting land to the Maharishi for an airstrip under pressure from powerful central leaders, and alleged that a special aircraft had been arranged for him by a suspicious foreign association.

Clearly, for a section of Indian MPs, the Beatles and their high-flying guru had touched the wrong chord.


The Himalayan valley of Rishikesh was located in the state of Uttar Pradesh which, when the Beatles arrived at the Maharishi’s ashram in mid February 1968, was under the political rule of a coalition government that had the socialists as one of its partners. With the socialists espousing the cause of the local landless peasants who were upset with the guru for trying to grab land to construct an airstrip to ferry his famous and wealthy disciples, the local authorities gave the Maharishi and his foreign guests a hard time.

In fact, United News of India (UNI), one of the country’s leading news agencies, quoted local police sources to pinpoint a suspected CIA agent called Russell Dean Brines in the ashram. ‘According to police sources Mr. Brines carried an accreditation card signed by Mr. Rowley, allegedly chief of the U.S. Secret Service. The card said that Mr. Brines was correspondent of the Continental Press Incorporated and covered the White House. A local police officer who for obvious reasons prefers to remain anonymous told UNI that Mr. Brines’ link with the secret service (presumably CIA) had not been contradicted by the American Embassy so far. Ordinarily the embassy quickly denies such reports appearing in the Press,’ said the UNI report.

A flustered Maharishi hurriedly summoned the media after newspaper reports connected his ashram with the CIA. He did admit that an American called Russell Dean Brines had come to his ashram one day in early March a few weeks after the Beatles had arrived. The UNI report added, ‘The Maharishi said Mr. Brines was introduced to the ashram staff as an author and journalist from the United States by his Indian companion. “I did not grant him a personal interview but saw him in the audience. I did not even talk to him,” he said.’

The Maharishi complained to correspondents at the ashram that it was not his job to take care of spies; it was the duty of the government and the immigration authorities to stop them from entering India. ‘Why do they allow spies? I do not investigate the profession or antecedents of the men who come here for meditation. As far as I am concerned all are welcome. But there is no spy at the ashram as far as I know,’ he asserted.

Ridiculing the Marxist MP’s charge in Parliament that he was harbouring foreign spies, the Maharishi retorted, ‘But I thought the Marxists were pro-Peking.’ It was a reference to the treason charges against members of the left-wing party during the Sino-Indian war a few years ago for their pronounced tilt towards the Chinese communist regime.

While the band was quite bemused by the controversy, Paul was the only Beatle to react to charges of a foreign spy racket at the ashram. ‘Do you really think England is coming back to take over India and we have to spy for it?’ he had asked journalists.

Despite the media hype and the furore in Parliament over allegations of a CIA spy ring at the Maharishi’s ashram, no concrete evidence ever turned up to prove the charges. But ironically, some years later, a top Soviet spy, Yuri Bezmenov, after defecting to the West, revealed that the KGB had sent him to the ashram after the Beatles and other Western celebrities had visited it to find out about the kind of people who went there to learn Transcendental Meditation. He still had a faded black-and-white photograph of himself posing with the Maharishi.

‘The KGB was even curious about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a great spiritual leader, or maybe a great charlatan and crook, depending on from which side you are looking at him. Beatles were trained at his ashram in India how to meditate; Mia Farrow and other useful idiots from Hollywood visited his school and they returned to United States absolutely zonked out of their minds with marijuana, hashish, and crazy ideas of meditation.... Obviously KGB was very fascinated with such a beautiful school, such a brainwashing center for stupid Americans,’ Bezmenov told author Edward Griffin in an interview in 1985 on his work for the Soviet spy network.

There was also considerable resentment and anger towards the Maharishi among rival gurus and yogis in the many ashrams and yoga centres that thrived in the Valley of Saints. Most of them were jealous of the storm of national and international publicity around the Maharishi’s ashram with the arrival of the Beatles. Rishikesh was rife with speculation that he was making a vast fortune from the foreign celebrities who had become his disciples and there was worry among local holy men that they would soon be marginalized in their own region, where many of them had been running ashrams and yoga centres for decades.

With tensions mounting in the area, police protection around the ashram was increased fourfold, newspapers reported. There were strict instructions from [Internal Security Minister Vidya Charan] Shukla that the Maharishi and his foreign disciples had to be protected at all costs from both left-wing activists and rival holy men.

Ironically, as wire services across the world buzzed with the news of the Beatles and Mia Farrow in the Maharishi’s ashram, it provoked an angry outburst from the Los Angeles-based guru Swami Vishnudevananda Saraswati who had been the first Indian holy man to approach the Fab Four while they were shooting their film Help! in the Bahamas three years ago. Clearly peeved at the ease with which the Maharishi, despite appearing on the scene later, had appropriated the world’s most famous rock stars, the swami lashed out at his rival for administering what he described as ‘watered-down yoga’. ‘He tells young people that it is easy to find inner peace. That you can drink, smoke and eat anything you want and need only meditate just fifteen minutes a day. This is not correct,’ he complained. He also had a problem with the Maharishi’s scraggly beard. ‘It is only to attract attention,’ declared the clean-shaven swami.

The conflict between tradition and modernity over the Beatles in India spilled over into the world of Hindustani classical music as well as religious beliefs.

Even as the Beatles fan club grew in leaps and bounds in India, old-world purists of Hindustani classical music were disappointed that sitar maestro Ravi Shankar had associated himself with a rock band, while conservative Hindus were upset with the Maharishi for allegedly demeaning the concept of sacred mantras and meditation to make a fast buck off foreign celebrities.

The hype and publicity around the Beatles’ trip to India coincided with a concerted attack on Ravi Shankar. It reflected an interesting tussle between self-appointed guardians of Indian cultural traditions and what were perceived as modern and global influences brought by Shankar to the classical musical ethos. By the time the Beatles arrived in India, the legendary sitarist was believed to be spending more time abroad than in his country and the tremendous response he received from foreign audiences was seen as an indication of him selling out to the West.

In his autobiography, some years later, Ravi Shankar himself lamented this questioning of his loyalty to Indian classical traditions:

At the same time as being feted in the West, I was also experiencing the effects of false propaganda formed in India. I was in the news all the time, but along with much praise there was also condemnation of me for having become a ‘hippy’ or even a member of the Beatles and for being sacrilegious toward our music: ‘commercializing,’ ‘Americanising,’ and ‘ jazzifying’ it, not playing ‘pure music’ for Westerners.

Interviews with India’s most well-known musician during that period reflect his deep sense of hurt at being lampooned for losing his head over the Beatles and Western audiences. In an interview with V. Patanjali of the Times of India, Ravi Shankar said he was upset with a fellow musician who had recently remarked that what was being presented in the West in the name of the sitar was but a satire of it. ‘There should be some professional ethics!’ the sitarist lamented. He also asserted, ‘Allow me to repeat that I have a strong enough sense of responsibility never to degrade our music.’

In the same interview Ravi Shankar strongly denied that he was trying to change the fundamental character of Hindustani classical music, conceding that he did modify it but ‘only in the presentation of our music’. He said, ‘People in the West as you know attend recitals not exceeding a few hours. I must therefore present our music in small doses. In fact I took my cue from the Carnatic concert tradition in which select items of a very classical nature are rendered in the beginning. There is no question of my modernizing Indian music. I am satisfied with the results. Listeners in New York, London, Paris, Los Angeles and many other cities are not accustomed to sitting through recitals lasting over four hours and in places ask me to play even less.’

Asserting that he was teaching George ‘as an individual and not a Beatle’, Ravi Shankar said that his love for the sitar had led to the ‘big sitar explosion’ and ‘overnight I was the hero of the teenagers’. Asked why he spent so much time abroad, Ravi Shankar replied, ‘I am responsible to my teacher Ustad Allauddin Khan, to my gharana, and to Indian music. I cannot allow the Hippies to strum the sitar as if it were a guitar. Having been instrumental in creating the sitar craze I consider it is up to me to see that our traditions are respected. And I think I am succeeding in the task.’

Excerpted from Across the Universe: The Beatles in India, Ajoy Bose, Penguin Random House.


Parents Concerned Over Church Blessing Involving Assault Weapons

FEBRUARY 19, 2018

Parents Concerned over Blessing Involving Assault Rifles


DREHER TOWNSHIP -- Parents are expressing concern after a church announced it will hold a ceremony next week, and worshipers are encouraged to bring assault weapons with them, and the ceremony will be just down the road from an elementary school.

The ceremony in Wayne County was planned before the mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week.

Church leaders still plan to go ahead with the blessing ceremony, which has some parents of elementary school students on edge.

Sanctuary Church and Rod of Iron Ministries are one in the same, run by the Moon family from South Korea who started the controversial Unification Church.

Church leaders tell Newswatch 16 that state police wanted to know what the ceremony next week involving AR-15-style rifles is all about.

At 10 a.m. next Wednesday, church leaders expect up to 600 people for a blessing ceremony, and many of those people are expected to be armed with AR-15s, the gun used in recent mass shootings across the country.

"This will be a big thing for us. It's a new stage for us because it incorporates the rod of iron, as it is in Revelations. Revelations talks about the returning Christ ruling with the rod of iron."

Tim Elder sat down with Newswatch 16 to explain the beliefs of the church, led by the Reverend Sean Moon.

Moon is the son of the late Sun Myung Moon, who founded the controversial Unification Church that drew national attention in the 1970s and '80s. The Rod of Iron Ministries is an offshoot of that religious organization focusing on what it believes is the right of families to defend themselves with assault weapons.

"This rod of iron is the AR-15, in today's terms."

The Moon family also owns Kahr Arms, a gunmaker that moved to Pike County a couple years ago. Newswatch 16 was at the opening ceremony at that time in Blooming Grove Township.

Church leaders say the AR-15s will not be loaded for the ceremony next week and safety zip ties will be used. However, state police are involved. Elder says troopers have reached out for more information.

Just down the road from the church is Wallenpaupack South Elementary School with 280 students, plus teachers and staff. In light of recent gun violence at schools, the planned ceremony with assault weapons is concerning for parents.

"It's something I would consider keeping my child home. It's scary," said Liz Zoccola.

"I wish they wouldn't have it at all. I don't think there's a good time to have it, especially this close," Kendra Hanor said.

The ceremony was planned before last week's deadly rampage at a high school in Florida.

Wallenpaupack Area school officials are deciding what, if anything, the school will do next Wednesday in response to the ceremony down the road.


Feb 22, 2018

Doomsday cult 'prophet' pleads guilty to sexually abusing child he married

Samuel Warren Shaffer
Bree Burkitt
St. George Daily Spectrum
February 21, 2018
The former self-proclaimed prophet of the Knights of the Crystal Blade pleaded guilty to marrying and sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in Southern Utah.

Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, was charged with first-degree felony rape of a child and one second-degree felony count of child abuse. His plea acknowledges he had engaged in a sexual act with the underage daughter of a fellow member of the Iron County-based religious sect.

The first-degree felony alone carries a sentence of 25 years to life in the Utah State Prison, while the child-abuse charges carries an addition one to 15 years. The judge can choose to order the sentences to be served consecutively or concurrently. 

The plea deal was vital to prevent the child victims from having to testify, Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett explained.

"We're ecstatic about this plea, not only to hold him accountable with a 25 to life sentence, but also to protect the child from being revictimized."

Deputy Iron County Attorney Mike Edwards said Shaffer could face additional charges if child pornography is found on a computer currently being searched by law enforcement.

A pre-sentence investigation report will be completed prior to his sentencing on April 10.
Child brides

The Beryl man told an Iron County sheriff's investigator he had married John Alvin Coltharp’s underage daughter, according to a search warrant. Coltharp, a fellow sect member, had also allegedly married Shaffer’s 7-year-old daughter. Court documents state Shaffer had physically inspected the girl's genitals to determine if she was a virgin.

Shaffer was the original prophet of the small fundamentalist Mormon religious group. He told investigators in December that he had passed the prophecy on to Coltharp, who is currently being held in Sanpete County on charges of kidnapping and sodomy of a child.

He outlined his beliefs in writings, podcasts and videos hosted on a website titled “The Kingdom of God or Nothing.” Shaffer asserted that his beliefs, including supporting plural marriage and child unions, were handed down to him by God directly on June 22, 2015.

New search warrants recently unsealed in 6th District Court reveal police had expected to find a notebook detailing their plans to kidnap even more children as they prepared for the impending end of the world.

"John and Sam both believed that the end of the world was near," according to the warrant. "Also expected in the recorded notes or revelations is the plan by John and Sam to abduct more family children about the time of the anticipated Muslim invasion of the United States, which was imminent."

Shaffer is still facing two counts of first-degree felony sodomy of a child in Sanpete County. He's also charged with one count of obstructing justice in addition to child bigamy, both second-degree felonies.

Coltharp was arrested at his home by Spring City police Dec. 1 after he allegedly failed to turn over his four children to his ex-wife, who had been awarded full custody of their two daughters and two sons in November. He told investigators the children were in the care of Shaffer, but refused to revealed where they were.

Shaffer's father, James Shaffer, was recently charged with obstructing justice after being accused of lying to police about having Coltharp's children hidden in his Spring City home.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued Dec. 5 after the Iron County Sheriff's Office raided a compound belonging to Coltharp approximately one mile west of Lund. The grandparents of Coltharp’s children and the two boys were found living in a makeshift residence composed of storage containers on the compound. They told authorities the girls had spent the night with Shaffer in a tent on the property. He had last been seen leaving the area on foot the day before.

A witness later spotted Shaffer walking alone on a dirt road several miles west of the compound. He was taken into custody without incident shortly after before telling law enforcement where Coltharp’s two daughter and his own biological daughters were hidden. Two of the children were found hiding in a blue plastic 50-gallon water barrel. Shaffer told investigators he had placed the children in the water barrel an estimated 24 hours earlier to hide them from searching law enforcement, the probable cause statement said.

The other two females were hidden separately in an abandoned single-wide mobile home in “deplorable conditions” approximately five miles away from the property, the report detailed. The mobile home appeared to be primarily used for storage and was not equipped for living.

All four females were transported by helicopter to the Cedar City Hospital after the rescue. One of Shaffer’s daughter was flown by Life Flight helicopter to the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake.

Bree Burkitt is the Cedar City reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @BreeBurkitt, or call her at 435-218-2241.