Sep 30, 2019

CultNEWS101 Articles: 9/27/2019

Event, Cults, Podcast, LDS, Russia, Religious Freedom, Amish, Mennonite, Rumspringa, Sexual Abuse 

Topics discussed include: assessing a family's unique situation; understanding why people join and leave groups; considering the nature of psychological manipulation and abuse; being accurate, objective, and up-to-date; looking at ethical issues; learning how to assess your situation; formulating a helping strategy; learning how to communicate more effectively with your loved one; learning new ways of coping.  
September 27, 2019, 7 pm – 9 pm.
New York, NY

"Every day there are stories about how interactions between people have become increasingly tribal — prompting individuals to trash facts, science, and objective reality in the service of a cause or a set of beliefs.

It's almost as if society has been taken over by cults.

In this week's WhoWhatWhy podcast, we talk to Dr. Janja Lalich, professor emeritus of sociology at Cal State University, Chico, and one of the nation's leading authorities on cults.

Lalich talks about the recent and dramatic increase in cults. What are the characteristics that define all cults? What are the uses of paranoia? What is the appeal of the charismatic and highly narcissistic leader who demands total loyalty while promising some kind of salvation, framed in an us-vs.-them message?

She details how citizens are most susceptible to large-scale cults when a nation is in turmoil and ideology becomes sharply defined — as it has been historically by Hitler and Mao, as well as by the religious cult leader Jim Jones.

Successful cults, Lalich tells us, create an entire belief system, which is why they are so difficult to escape from: to leave means renouncing everything one has developed faith in.

She explains that when individuals try to leave cults they need the support and intervention of family and friends who are understanding, non-judgmental, and provide an emotional safe haven.

On the other end of the spectrum, for large populations or even whole nations that have been taken over by cults, the job of deprogramming millions of people usually requires a significant outside force — something that can be more dangerous and destabilizing than the cult itself.

Unfortunately, the law provides very little protection against the power of cults, most of which grow by word of mouth in a kind of ideological pyramid scheme. Based on her personal experience with cults, and years of academic research, Lalich provides a new framework for looking at the current political landscape."

"before 4 p.m. on Easter Sunday in 2018, in his first General Conference as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson made a historic announcement: The Utah-based faith would build a temple in a "major city" in Russia.

And, though it was after midnight in this distant land (and most Russians were fast asleep), some Latter-day Saints here began furiously messaging one another.

"I got texts from my [former] missionary companion," recalls Kristina Nikogosyan, who works for the church in Moscow. "I was crying for three hours."

It is a "huge blessing for Russia," she says, "that God sees us."

Sergei Antamanov, the church's spokesman in Russia, didn't hear the news until he was eating breakfast the next morning, and his Facebook page was exploding with the unexpected development.

Both Antamanov and Nikogosyan know the religious reality. The nation's 23,000 Latter-day Saints are the smallest of Davids compared to the Russian Orthodox Goliath, whose influence and infrastructure dominate the physical and spiritual landscape.

It is the predominant religion of the people. Its multicolored domes weave in and out of the skylines among the citadels and the statuaries, the Soviet-era apartments and the gleaming new malls. Its cathedrals are almost as ubiquitous as the standard-brand Latter-day Saint steeples in Utah County.

In this vast country, those rounded roofs of Orthodoxy make a statement beyond architecture and aesthetics: This, they silently trumpet, is our land and our identity.

Will an intruding Latter-day Saint temple — representing a faith not just from the West but from America — actually be permitted to puncture that picture?

Maintaining the visual message

In 2016, the Russian government passed a strict law against proselytizing by so-called minority faiths. It prohibited talking about religion on the streets, in homes and in any public places.

The purpose was to forestall — or at least hinder — these denominations from growing or from luring away believers from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Another tactic being tapped to limit these faiths is to block them from building their own churches.

"Local officials continued to prevent minority religious organizations from obtaining land," reads the 2018 U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom in Russia, "and denied them construction permits for houses of worship."

The report cited "a senior member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights and Development of Civil Society," who said "there was a new tendency among regional authorities to restrict the construction or restoration of houses of prayer and churches on residential lands."

In two separate cases in March, the State Department said, "authorities demolished residences on private land that were being used as churches, one in Novorossiysk and one in Abinsk."

Muslims, too, find their need for new sacred spaces to be blocked by the government.

"As elsewhere in the world, the number of Muslims is growing in Russia today," says Azamat Abdusalomov, deputy head of the international department of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia. "There is a large influx of external and internal migration, [which presents] a need to increase the number of mosques in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and other cities."

Moscow has more than a million Muslims and only four mosques.

'This issue requires attention and needs to be resolved," Abdusalomov writes in an email. "The authorities do not want to resolve this issue and throw off this issue on Russian nationalism and other reasons, but, in fact, these issues could be resolved."'

Lancaster Online: What do Amish, Mennonite, rumspringa mean? A guide to terms used in Lancaster County's Plain community
" ... The Amish use several terms that come from Pennsylvania Dutch and haven't quite made it to mainstream media.

To better understand our Amish neighbors, LNP worked to collect and define words that might be unfamiliar to those outside the Amish community.
Here are some frequently-used Amish-related words and their definitions:

Plain Sect Community

Characterized by living separately from the world, these Christian groups include the Amish and various Mennonite and Brethren groups. Most are of the Anabaptist movement, which traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation.Amish
The Amish make up a group of traditionalist Christians that originated from Swiss German Anabaptism. The Amish are best known for their plain dress and aversion to technology. While all Amish people share common beliefs, practices vary from congregation to congregation. Within Lancaster County, there are 229 Amish districts — each with different rules and regulations. 


While often mistaken for the Amish, more conservative sects of the Mennonite faith differ quite a bit from the Amish. Most use electricity and drive cars and tractors. However, other sects of the Mennonite faith have assimilated into mainstream culture.

If you're not a part of the Plain Sect community, you're what the Amish call English.


While the Amish Mafia does not exist, Amish gangs do. LNP sat down with Charles Jantzi, psychology professor at Messiah College and researcher of Amish youth, who explains what an Amish gang is and how it impacts Amish teens. A gang is like a youth group. 


In popular culture, rumspringa has been represented as an opportunity for Amish youth to go wild. This isn't exactly correct. Rumspringa is a period during which an Amish teen has more freedom. Around the age of 16, Amish teens join gangs, which greatly determine how rebellious their rumspringa experience will be. Fancy gangs might allow more of an "English" experience, while plain gangs will be more conservative. Most Amish teens stick to the boundaries of their gangs during rumspringa. 

Washington Post: I was the first woman to publicly accuse gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. But I was also abused in my own church.
"Rachael Denhollander was the first gymnast to come forward against sports physician and convicted sex offender Larry Nassar. This is her story of experiencing abuse in church when she was 7 years old.I still remember it like it was yesterday.The church was small, just a few hundred people, and everyone knew everyone. My mom played flute and sang on occasion. I earned a reputation early on for loving children, and I frequently cuddled babies for tired moms after the service or played with their toddlers in the nursery during business meetings. Our family was part of a tightknit, small group Bible study that was a highlight of every week, and my parents had been close friends with many of the people there long before I had been born. I'd been born alongside their children, and we had grown up together. The church, which was Baptist in theology but independent from any denomination, was part of our family, and we were part of it.But something changed when I was 7. I stopped heading straight from Sunday school to the church mailbox — a small set of cubbies, each with a family's name inscribed — to check for notes and newsletters. I didn't walk the hallways anymore, using my finger to trace the lines between the giant bricks covered in thick cream paint. And I wandered the bright green lawn with the other kids a lot less.

I spent a lot more time hiding in the girls bathroom, shaking and wishing someone would ask what was wrong but knowing I wouldn't know what to say if they did.
I had been abused and was still being preyed upon by a college student at the church. He'd managed to do it while sitting me on his lap during a church Bible study. No one knew except me, and I wasn't sure what I knew, except that I felt terrified and physically ill. I wasn't about to describe what made me feel that way, either. So I hung out in the washroom, the one place he couldn't find me.

Then one week, he didn't come back. I figured he'd finished college and moved. But somehow, even after he was gone, things didn't go back to normal. The Bible study we were part of eventually ended. The adults I loved and trusted suddenly seemed icy and distant. Some of our closest friends left to start a new church. The ones who remained weren't close to us any longer. More than a year later, we left, too. The reasons were vague and unclear. I was devastated at the loss and frustrated that I couldn't understand or just be told what had happened."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery 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. resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

CultNEWS101 Articles: 9/25/2019

Jehovah's Witnesses, Legal,  Universal Medicine, Australia, Resurrection Life Church and World Ministry Center, Micro Churches, Prosperity Gospel, Benny Hinn  
"An attorney for the Jehovah's Witnesses asked the Montana Supreme Court on Friday to reverse a $35 million verdict against the church for not reporting a girl's sexual abuse to authorities.

Last year, a jury awarded $4 million in compensatory damages and $31 million in punitive damages to a woman who said she was abused as a child in the mid-2000s by a member of the Thompson Falls Jehovah's Witness congregation.

The abuse came after the congregation's elders disciplined the man over allegations of abusing two other family members in the 1990s and early 2000s, the woman's lawsuit said."

"A Brisbane multi-millionaire who donated $300,000 to a charity associated with a group later found in court to be a "exploitative cult" has said he gave the money freely as a reward for treating his chronic pain.

But software business owner Stephen Ninnes got his cash back, after an Australian Tax Office (ATO) crackdown forced the College of Universal Medicine (COUM) to relinquish almost $600,000 in donations.

The COUM promotes the teachings of Universal Medicine's (UM) multi-millionaire founder Serge Benhayon — a former bankrupt tennis coach who claims to be Leonardo Da Vinci reincarnated.

Mr Ninnes said in hindsight, after damning findings by a New South Wales Supreme Court jury last year in a defamation case brought by Mr Benhayon, "without any shadow of a doubt, I would have nothing to do with it".

The COUM remains a registered charity, despite being stripped of tax-deductable gift registration by the ATO, which found it was not operating a "college" for tax purposes.

Other major donors to COUM include Neil Gamble, a prominent executive and former Sydney casino boss, who was once at the centre of the "cash-for-comment" scandal with radio broadcaster John Laws.

"A husband and wife team of pastors from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, are now facing tough questions after selling their longtime church to developers then splurging on a million dollar luxury lakefront home while telling their members that God now wants them to worship in "micro churches" held in their homes.

Bill and Sharon Predovich, senior pastors of the Resurrection Life Church and World Ministry Center they founded 30 years ago, were not immediately available to discuss their new vision with The Christian Post on Monday, but insisted in an ABC 5 report that the real estate transactions were appropriate."

" ... Real estate records cited by ABC 5 show that the pastors, who are both in their 70s, bought their luxury home located on Reitz Lake in Waconia with cash on Sept. 28, 2018.  That same day, the Resurrection Life Church and World Ministry Center received $1 million from a developer who was buying the church's land."

" ... Speaking to their former congregation in a message posted on the church's website in July, Sharon Predovich assured them that they weren't "quitting."

"We're not quitting, we're repositioning. We'll no longer be your pastors, we'll be your apostles over smaller works," she said after explaining how they ended up without a church building."

Faith healer and televangelist Benny Hinn has been getting a lot of positive press for saying he has corrected his own theology and now thinks "it's an offense to the Lord… to say give $1,000." In other words, he will no longer be asking for "seed money" like so many televangelists do.

As we pointed out, he's said this sort of thing before. He's always lied. There was no reason to believe him now.

But in case you need a little more convincing, check this out. Hinn posted this video on his ministry's website yesterday — I repeat, yesterday — and it's virtually identical to his pre-revelation schtick:

At the 26:30 mark, Hinn states very clearly:

… Now you know what to do. You have to sow seed… There's a number on the screen. You call that now and sow your seed. And believe your miracle is on the way!

So… either he forgot his own "revised" policy or he was just bullshitting his audience last week when he said he's a changed man.

He's a televangelist. You know the right answer."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery 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. resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

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.

Federal Jury Convicts Sex Trafficker Of Using Crack Cocaine And Heroin To Coerce Victims Into Prostitution

U.S. Attorneys » Western District of New York » News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Federal Jury Convicts Sex Trafficker Of Using Crack Cocaine And Heroin To Coerce Victims Into Prostitution

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal jury has convicted Valentino Shine, Sr., 51, of Buffalo, NY, of five counts of sex trafficking, and one count each of sex trafficking conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, using and maintaining a drug-involved premises, and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years in prison, a maximum penalty of life, and a $20,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth R. Moellering and Meghan A. Tokash, who prosecuted the case, with support from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, stated that the defendant ran a sex trafficking operation out of his Humboldt Parkway residence in Buffalo. Shine preyed upon and exploited women who were vulnerable and addicted to drugs, coercing them to engage in commercial sex acts. The defendant provided or withheld drugs to coerce the victims to engage in commercial sex acts. 

According to evidence presented by the government at trial, Shine was recovering from a cocaine addiction and knew the power that drug addiction could have over someone. The defendant used this as a weapon to target vulnerable women. Shine’s motto was “BABI PAE” – Break a (expletive) Incorporated; Pimping Ain’t Easy.

At the urging of the defendant, victims advertised on After performing sex acts for money, they would give that money to Shine. Money was important to Shine. When signing his name, the defendant wrote CREAM: “Cash Rules Everything Around Me.”

In addition to using drugs to control his victims, Shine also used physical beatings, manipulation, and brainwashing.

Three women who worked for the defendant died of drug overdoses as a result of their addictions. 

“Let this verdict serve as a warning to predators like Valentino Shine who think that they can exploit women and girls for profit and sexual servitude,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “My Office simply will not permit human traffickers—the modern day equivalent of slave owners—to exist in our community. I find it particularly fitting that defendant’s reign of terror, which involved at least nine female victims, was officially ended by two outstanding AUSAs in our Office—both of whom happen to be female—Meghan Tokash and Elizabeth Moellering. Sometimes the results achieved at trial seem particularly just—this was one of those trials.”

“The guilty verdict in this case makes it clear that Mr. Shine preyed on the vulnerable as do most traffickers,” said Kevin Kelly, HSI Buffalo, Special Agent-in-Charge. “So many of our investigations begin with identifying victims, which is why a key component of our work involves HSI's victim-centered approach to these cases. It’s critical that we work closely with survivors, helping them obtain necessary support services so they are able to move on with their lives and potentially participate in the prosecution of their trafficker, which was key in the case against Mr. Shine.”

The verdict is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly, and the Human Trafficking Task Force of the Western District of New York.

Sentencing is scheduled for December 12, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr., who presided over the trial of the case.

FBI: Twelve Tribes

FBI Records: The Vault

Twelve Tribes

CultNEWS101 Articles: 9/28-29/2019

NXIVM, Ozen, Cult Recovery, Apocalyptic Groups, PodcastGülen, Fethullahist

"Convicted sex-cult leader Keith Raniere will not be sentenced until 2020, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said at a hearing in Brooklyn Friday [September 13, 2019].

Sporting a new buzz haircut, convicted sex trafficker and former NXIVM cult leader Raniere wore wrinkled tan scrubs and sneakers to court, in a departure from the sweaters and slacks he donned at trial.
After an emotional six-week trial, a jury in June found Raniere guilty of sex trafficking, forced labor, wire fraud, creation and possession of child pornography, conspiracy to commit identity theft, extortion, and trafficking and document servitude.

Now, one of his defense attorneys wants to become a prosecutor.

"This is a very unusual circumstance," said Garaufis on Friday in the conflict-of-interest hearing, called a curcio hearing.

It is more common for lawyers to leave the government and go to the private sector, as lead Raniere prosecutor Moira Penza did earlier this summer when she joined the boutique firm Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz. Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York Tanya Hajjar appeared for the government at Friday's hearing.

Hajjar signed a letter to Garaufis on Sept. 4 advising him her office had received an application from Teny Geragos, an attorney at the well-known New York defense firm Brafman & Associates. Alongside lead counsel Marc Agnifilo, Paul DerOhannesian and Danielle Smith, Geragos represented Raniere throughout his trial.

"The government respectfully submits that the pending application on the part of Ms. Geragos to the Office gives rise to a potential conflict of interest. However, in view of the nature of the conflict, Raniere may waive his rights and continue to be represented by Ms. Geragos," said the letter, adding the government thinks Raniere could waive the conflict."

"Allison Mack is currently awaiting prison sentencing for her racketeering crimes in the NXIVM sex cult, months after she pleaded guilty. Now, former member Sarah Edmondson is ripping the lid off of the former Smallville star's corrupt actions in the disgraced organization for the first time – and has exclusive details of the revelations.

In Scarred: The Truth Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult that Bound My Life, out on Sept. 17, Edmondson bravely comes forward about the horrific abuse she both witnessed and endured at the hands of the organization's highest executives, during the 12 years she was a member.

Edmondson, a Canada native, wife and mother of two, tells the story about how she abruptly left NXIVM in 2017 after learning that the "women's empowerment group" known as DOS that she joined was actually an inner sex ring, where women were branded with cult leader Keith Raniere's initials."

"NXIVM leader Keith Raniere is due to appear in Brooklyn federal court.

Raniere was convicted in June on charges that included racketeering, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child.

Prosecutors say while NXIVM was billed as a self-help group, it was really a sex cult set up like a pyramid scheme.

Friday's hearing is to determine if there may have been a conflict of interest within Raniere's legal team.

Raniere is due back in court for sentencing on Sept. 25."

"Michael Gerard, 23, first heard about the guru Ozen online in August 2014, when he was searching for a cure to his depression.

The tall, thin student from Germany with an interest in science and politics had a diagnosis of agoraphobia and a history of suicidal thoughts. A friend described him as one of the brightest people at a boarding school they attended together. Family said Gerard badly wanted a girlfriend, but was struggling with dating.

By then, he was already a follower of Osho, the controversial spiritual leader who had built communes in India and Oregon and was featured in the popular Netflix series Wild Wild Country. Because of Osho, who died in 1990, Gerard had become a vegan, and had started meditating and practising yoga.

That day in August, he ran to his mom, laptop in hand, exclaiming that he had found a disciple of Osho, and begged her to let him go to Mexico.

The Osho disciple is named Ozen Rajneesh or Swami Rajneesh, and his legal name is Rajnish Agarwal.

In his book Tears of the Mystic Rose, Ozen claims to be the successor of Osho, writing that when the original guru died, his spirit entered him.

When Gerard found him online, Ozen and roughly two dozen followers were in the middle of building a massive ashram in the Mexican jungle, a 35-minute drive down a rough dirt road from the coastal resort town of Playa del Carmen. Drone footage shows massive concrete structures emerging from the forest canopy, arranged in a circle around a deep cenote. There was an art centre, a restaurant, a Buddha meditation hall, and dozens of cottages and studios. Wood pathways wound through the jungle connecting the buildings, and swans and peacocks roamed the property. The guru called it OZEN Cocom, after a Mayan dynasty that previously controlled the Yucatán Peninsula.

Ozen told his followers the Mexican commune would offer Osho-like meditations for free, unlike Osho International Foundation, in Pune, India, which charges $700 US to $2,200 US a month.

He immediately reached out to Ozen, telling him he was depressed, had a history of suicidal thoughts, and was desperate to join the commune.

According to emails between Gerard and Ozen, Ozen told him if he wanted to visit the commune, he had to buy a cottage. It would cost between $16,000 US and $33,000 US, and $5,000 US cash to reserve one. They were selling fast. Gerard said his mother had doubts, but the guru assured him that Ozen Cocom was a legally-registered non-profit with a board of directors and shareholders.

Gerard flew to Mexico on April 11, 2015, with about 400 euros (about $450 US). It's unclear if he ever put any money down for a cottage. Ozen did not respond when we asked if Gerard gave him money.

When Gerard arrived, he volunteered to work construction, without pay. In emails to his mom, Gerard said people at the ashram were nice to him, and they often went dancing on weekends. "Mom, I cannot express how deeply you were mistaken," he wrote. He asked her to send him money, saying everyone was investing in the project. She transferred 60 euros (about $70 US) into his account every month, but he asked for more.

In September, four months after he started working on the commune, Gerard told other residents he had reached enlightenment. But it was short-lived. Soon after, residents say Gerard locked himself in his cottage and refused to come out for days.

The next thing his fellow residents heard was that Gerard had left his cottage and walked alone into the dark, dense jungle.

No one has seen him since."

"For the past five years, I have received a daily email filled with stories about those who succumb to extreme religious ideologies. Whether it's the Nxivm sex-cult trial in New York earlier this year or the Netflix documentary series "Wild Wild Country," Americans have shown an expansive appetite for cult stories. While my interest in the topic isn't unique, it's personal: I grew up in a cult."

"The host of Snap Judgment opens up about being agnostic and rethinking the role of belief after growing up in an apocalyptic cult. Plus, the parts of your spiritual upbringing stick that with you in unexpected ways. Hosted by Lee Hale. From KUER and PRX."

Wikipedia: Gülen movement
"The Gülen movement (Turkish: Gülen hareketi), commonly know as FETÖ in Turkey (Turkish: Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü) Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, is a self-described transnational social movement based on moral values and advocation of universal access to education, civil society, tolerance and peace, inspired by the religious teachings of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic preacher who has lived in the United States since 1999. Owing to the outlawed status of the Gülen movement in Turkey, some observers refer to those the movement's volunteers who are Turkish Muslims as effectively of a sub-sect of Sunni Islam; these volunteers generally hold their religious tenets as generically Turkish Sunni Islam. The movement also includes participants from other nationalities and religious affiliations."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery 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. resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

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.