Feb 26, 2020

Shincheonji Wuhan church emerges as possible link to Korea virus spread

Kim Bo-gyung
Korea Herald
February 26, 2020

Members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus reportedly held meetings in the Chinese city of Wuhan until late last year, raising the possibility that the group’s South Korean members could have contracted COVID-19 virus there and brought it back to Korea.

Korea now has the greatest number of COVID-19 infections outside China with over 1,000 confirmed cases. The majority are tied either to the religious sect’s church in Daegu or to the Cheongdo Daenam Hospital in the nearby county of Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province.

Korea’s health officials have yet to identify exactly how the virus first spread to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted a member of the group, who claimed to have attended a gathering in Wuhan in December, as saying, “Rumors about a virus began to circulate in November but no one took them seriously.”

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus has some 200 members in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak, and gatherings were reportedly suspended in December after the group learned about the deadly virus.

As of Wednesday morning, Korea had reported 169 additional confirmed cases for a total to date of 1,146 patients and 12 fatalities, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Daegu, Korea’s fourth-largest city, and adjacent North Gyeongsang Province have emerged as a hotbed of the virus, accounting for roughly 82 percent of the infections here.

Of all confirmed cases in Korea, 944 were reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, where local authorities have tightened measures to contain the spread of the virus. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)


World Mission Society Church Of God Former Member - "Don't Be Angry At God"

Great Light Studios
February 26, 2020

"This is a clip from the recent interview with Nathan, a former WMSCOG member. Jordan and Nathan talk about the need to persevere in faith after you leave the WMSCOG and freedom you can find if you do. Nathan encourages members not to blame God or to be angry at him for the years you may have lost being inside this cult group. God is sovereign over all of it, and will ultimately use it for your good if you will stick with him."

CultNEWS101 Articles: 2/26/2020

Twelve Tribes, Legion of Christ, La Luz Del Mundo, Polygamy, Hasidic, Home  Schooling, Religious Freedom, YouTube, Jehovah's Witnesses

"The headquarters of the Sydney-based arm of the Twelve Tribes cult was raided [February 18th] by detectives as a part of Strike Force Nanegai.

A Current Affair can reveal that police have been investigating the cult known for its strict disciplining of children and lack of medical care since 2018.

Detectives from Springwood Police searched the cult's Peppercorn Creek Farm property in Picton for six hours earlier today, collecting documents and diary entries as evidence.

Numerous investigations into the Twelve Tribes have taken place overseas within the last decade, including a US investigation into allegations of the group forcing their young members to work on farms and factory assembly lines, and a German police investigation into the repeated physical punishment of children.

A Current Affair has heard numerous accounts of Australian children of the Twelve Tribes being beaten with rods from a very young age."
"The cardinal's response was not what Yolanda Martínez had expected — or could abide.

Her son had been sexually abused by a priest of the Legion of Christ, a disgraced religious order. And now she was calling Cardinal Valasio De Paolis -- the Vatican official appointed by the pope to lead the Legion and to clean it up -- to report the settlement the group was offering, and to express her outrage.

The terms: Martínez's family would receive 15,000 euros ($16,300) from the order. But in return, her son would have to recant the testimony he gave to Milan prosecutors that the priest had repeatedly assaulted him when he was a 12-year-old student at the order's youth seminary in northern Italy. He would have to lie.

The cardinal did not seem shocked. He did not share her indignation."
RNS:  La Luz del Mundo minister says abuse allegations are false

"A minister for La Luz Del Mundo, a Mexico-based Pentecostal movement that claims 5 million members, said new allegations of abuse against more than a dozen of its leaders are false and meant to disrespect their sacred celebration this week.
"We find these accusations to be absolutely untrue and ridiculous," said Jack Freeman, a spokesman and minister for La Luz Del Mundo. "There is no possible way that those could have taken place."
At a news conference Friday (Feb. 14), church leaders gathered at the Fairplex in Pomona to address the allegations made in a recently filed lawsuit against the church and its leaders. The media briefing took place as church members flocked to the fairgrounds for the third and final day of the Holy Supper, a sacred rite that church members say memorializes the death and salvation of Jesus Christ."  

Salt Lake Tribune: Lindsay Hansen Park: It helps no one to equate polygamy with slavery

"In the late 19th century, thousands of human hands were systematically amputated from enslaved Africans who failed to meet quotas for extracting rubber in the Congo. Nearly three decades after the United States abolished the practice of slavery, rubber was bought and sold to feed a growing demand in the international tire market created by Dunlop and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

This is just one small glimpse into the brutal history of the transatlantic slave trade that robbed the personhood and freedom of millions. Millions more were tortured for centuries while black and brown bodies were systematically purchased, exploited, raped and brutalized in state-sanctioned violence. The consequences of this system still deeply impact our world today.

This is likely why comments by anti-polygamy activist Angela Kelly raised concerns at a caucus lunch this week as she advocated to vote against Senate Bill 102, which reduces bigamy among consenting adults to an infraction.

Kelly, a white woman and director of Sound Choices Coalition (a group that seeks to criminalize polygamy), used her invitation to speak with the Utah Legislature's House Minority Caucus to draw comparisons between Mormon polygamy and slavery. Taking her comparison a step further, she singled out Rep. Sandra Hollins, the only black legislator in Utah, by handing her a name tag that read "Slave" and verbally referenced Hollins' black skin.

The act drew public outrage for good reason. Not only are Kelly's words racist and aggressive, they are concerning coming from someone claiming to advocate for the marginalized.

Polygamy is not slavery. Polygamy is its own system with its own unique challenges and we needn't plunder the traumas of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to highlight those issues.There are plenty that stand on their own.

To effect change and disrupt power structures, we need a working knowledge of how those structures interact. Kelly's remarks reflect a privilege that lacks important historical distinctions. This context is critical to helping victims and survivors from these communities get the justice they deserve.

My work allows me unique and exclusive access to some of the most isolated fundamentalist polygamous groups in the American West. As a born-and-raised LDS monogamist, feminist activist and researcher on the history of polygamy, I have struggled to accept some of the nuances that challenged my preconceived notions about these communities.

Polygamy is hard. I still don't like it. It systematically discriminates based on gender. It commodifies women. I've seen true horrors as the result of this doctrine."
CBC News: Hasidic schools aim to strike a balance between faith and provincial curriculum, court hears

"Quebec's Hasidic community is trying to strike a balance between preserving its own religious faith and satisfying the educational requirements of the provincial government, the president of Quebec's Jewish Association for Homeschooling told a Montreal courtroom [February 17, 2020].

Abraham Ekstein was the final witness in the civil case brought before the Quebec Superior Court by Yohanan and Shifra Lowen, two former Hasidic Jews who say the province and their home community of Tash should have done more to provide them with a secular education.

"We strive to maintain our culture, to transmit our culture to our children, to survive as a people," said Ekstein, a Hasidic Jew and father of seven who lives in Montreal's Outremont borough.

"This whole case is so sad for us, in the sense that there are no winners."

The Lowens are seeking a declaratory judgment from Justice Martin Castonguay, to compel the province to do more to ensure children in Tash are taught subjects like math, English and French.

Castonguay will also need to consider whether new rules for home-schooling put in place by the previous Liberal government and strengthened under the Coalition Avenir Québec have helped achieve that goal."

" ... As president of the home-schooling association, however, Ekstein said he met multiple times with Tash leaders in recent years and that they are aware of the need to work with the province.

He acknowledged there had been resistance in Tash, which was founded in 1962, over fears the province was trying to "impose assimilation."

However, he said, "I'm convinced that we are going in the right direction and that children will succeed much better."

Children in Tash were the subject of an investigation by Quebec's youth protection agency beginning in 2014, the court heard last week.

The agency found that boys were taught "little to nothing" from the provincial curriculum, while the girls received a balance between a religious and a secular education — learning math, social sciences and English."

CultNews101: YouTube Channel
News, links and resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

Goatlike Personality: Watchtower lost in the Netherlands.

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery

Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.
CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.
CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.
Cults101.org 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.

Cristina Rosetti: Making polygamy a crime hasn't helped its victims

 (Tribune file photo) Vera Johnson Black's children, left to right, Wilford, Orson, Francis, Emily, Lillian, Elsie and Spenser. The children were placed in state custody after the 1953 raid on Short Creek, which lead to a Utah Supreme Court case that set precedent and is still a cause célèbre for polygamists and their detractors.
Cristina Rosetti
Salt Lake Tribune
February 26, 2020

On July 26, 1953, multiple branches of law enforcement entered Short Creek, a community built by polygamist Mormons on the border of Utah and Arizona.

Over the course of the afternoon, officials drove thirty-six men and eight women to the jailhouse in Kingman, Ariz., and 153 out of the 263 children in the town were taken from their homes. The cited crime was polygamy.

The 1953 raid, and previous legal actions meant to “save” members of polygamist communities, failed. Rather than protect vulnerable members of the community through legal action and prosecution, it instilled fear and led to increased isolation.

Following the raid, women lived in fear of losing their children, victims no longer felt safe turning to law enforcement to report crime, children did not receive necessary government resources and families carried the label “felon.” Taken together, the government created a system where polygamists increasingly distanced themselves from society. Like the 1953 raid, current polygamy laws are a failure that instill fear and create barriers.

Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), was born into this system. Once Jeffs took over the leadership of the FLDS in 2002, he began to harness the fear and isolation already present in the community to perpetuate and hide his crimes.

The legal status of polygamy was used to scare victims into silence. The raids became a weapon. Members of the community were taught that disclosing criminal activity would lead to arrests and loss of family. The law that was intended to protect women and children created an environment where reporting crime was inconceivable and secrecy was encouraged.

Jeffs was sentenced in 2006 and is currently serving a life sentence for accomplice rape. However, Jeffs was not the first or last man to weaponize the legal status of polygamy.

The status quo failed victims and it is time to try something new. This week, Utah state Sen. Deidre Henderson’s bill to amend polygamy laws in Utah was unanimously approved by the full body of the Senate.

Rather than approach polygamy as an issue of religious freedom or marriage equality, the bill takes the approach of harm reduction. Currently classified as a felony, polygamy under SB102 would be reclassified as an infraction for consenting adults. However, in cases where polygamy is involuntary or associated with other crimes (such as rape or domestic violence), it would remain a felony.

By lowering the criminal status of polygamy, fear of the government and need for isolation would no longer be a weapon. The passage of SB102 would offer victims greater safety in reporting crimes, the potential for increased prosecution of violent offenses and a more open relationship between polygamist communities and law enforcement.

I know women who were taught not to report crime, whether home invasion or rape. They were instructed that involving police would jeopardize their families’ safety. These women were victimized by their leaders because they came to believe the law wasn't intended to protect them.

know women who were deterred from escaping harmful situations because they believed the outside world was scarier than any situation on the inside of their insular community.

I know women who, once they fled, faced discrimination in everything from employment to housing. Many, being outwardly marked as polygamist from their clothing, were unable to receive something as simple as a driver’s license or ID card.

The current law, aside from deterring vulnerable communities from reporting, creates a second-class citizenry in Utah.

As a scholar of Mormon fundamentalism, I have spent years with families that practice plural marriage. I have also listened to victims bravely explain how the law created violent and exploitative situations for minors and individuals trying to leave their community.

Utah achieved statehood in 1896 after its dominant religious group, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stopped practicing polygamy. For this reason, Utah is the state to watch when discussing reform. However, polygamy is not solely a Utah issue. Currently, Mormon polygamists live throughout the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico.

We tried making polygamy illegal and criminal. Nevertheless, the United States’ efforts to end the practice only drove it into the shadows, allowed men like Warren Jeffs to rise to power and contributed to increased victimization. With SB102 approaching a vote in the Utah House of Representatives, it is time for a conversation on the decriminalization of polygamy that centers harm reduction.

Cristina Rosetti

Cristina Rosetti, Ph.D., teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California Riverside and is co-chair, Religion in America, American Academy of Religion - Western Region.


Cults and Coercive Control ~ Raising Awareness, Seeking Justice

You are invited by The Family Survival Trust to attend a panel presentation.

A panel of speakers will be followed by Questions & Answers. The speakers will each present on their lived experiences of coercively controlling groups in modern Britain as well as their activities and concerns in raising awareness and seeking justice.

  • There will be opportunity for networking among attendees and to meet the speakers.
  • The University Women's Club, 2 South Audley Street, London, W1K 1HF
  • March 10, 2020, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM GMT
  • Doors open at 6.00 PM for refreshments and networking. Talk starts at 7:00 PM.

Ste Richardson
Ste is an ex-Jehovah's Witness living in London. He follows a long line of devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, his father and grandfather were elders, as was his great grandfather who helped spread the faith to Jamaica in the late nineteenth century. After leaving the religion in 2007 Ste was shunned and disowned by his family. For a time he was homeless.

Today, Ste is vice-chair of Faith to Faithless and hosts regular museum tours and apostate meet-ups in central London. He is also vice-chair of LGBT Humanists and an organiser of XJWFriends, a group which supports ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Ste holds Masters’ degrees in medical translation and secondary education teaches languages and is a French and Japanese translator.

Jacky Hart
Jacky Hart was born into and raised in the Exclusive Brethren. At the age of 18 she was faced with the decision of leaving her parents and living with a brethren family, or leaving the brethren and staying with her parents. She chose the latter.

In the last 5 years, Jacky has been involved in helping members who want to leave this group, by supporting them emotionally and practically in the difficult journey of adjusting to life outside the brethren environment. In 2015 Jacky featured in the documentary, “Britain’s Secret Sect” which followed the story of one leaver.

Jacky has given various factual presentations on the Exclusive Brethren. She also works to raise awareness of this group with the public. This is with the aim of helping people who have never heard of the Exclusive Brethren, understand their beliefs systems, and how this impacts on the practical and emotional difficulties of leaving the group.

Emily Green
Emily grew up in Stamford Hill, London in the ultra-orthodox, Belz, Chasidic community. Despite expressing the desire to go to college and study, following two years in ‘sem’ (a religious, usually residential, study school for 16 - 18 year old girls) in Gateshead, she was persuaded into an arranged marriage at the age of 20. She studied for her bachelor degree through correspondence courses, whilst raising her young children. This she did at night when the children were asleep and subsequently managed to gain a postgraduate Masters in education using a hidden internet router. Her day job was teaching. She worked to become Head of English in a local Chasidic Girls School.

In 2012 she finally left the Chasidic community. She now lives in Harrow with her six children and works at Crest Academy (London Borough of Brent) where she teaches full time, English to ‘A’ level.

Emily fought through the English court system for the right to send her children to a mainstream Jewish school where they would get a good secular education that would give them choices in later life. Her case was taken to the Court Of Appeal where the Law Lords supported her in a landmark judgment.

Emily founded GesherEU, now a registered UK charity, to support others who have left ultra-orthodox communities in the UK and Europe. Her aim was to use her experience of the process, to help others who also make the choice of leaving and need assistance and support in integrating into mainstream society.

The Family Survival Trust
The Family Survival Trust is a registered charity whose mission is to prevent, and to provide information on, coercive control, cultic behaviour and psychological manipulation. We support those affected by groups that use these techniques. We educate regarding the risks these groups pose to individuals and society and seek appropriate controls on these groups’ activities.


A donation of £5 pounds would help towards costs of the event; greater or lesser amounts are also welcome. Please do not feel obligated to contribute financially if your circumstances do not allow it.


Feb 25, 2020

Fr. Marcial Maciel, Pedophile, Psychopath, and Legion of Christ Founder, From R.J. Neuhaus to Benedict XVI, 2nd Ed

Richard J. Neuhaus Duped by the Legion of Christ revised and augmented

Peter Kingsland, J. Paul Lennon

Purchase on Amazon

"A scathing review on Amazon.com hit the author's R.J. Neuhaus Duped by the Legion of Christ below the waterline. Hence this second "revised and augmented" vessel. Leaving dry dock the old Neuhaus Duped is launched with a new name, the repaired hull sporting streamlined chronology: inserted late reflections were tidied up and consigned to the stern. A discussion of Pope Benedict XVI's comments on the Legion of Christ Founder provides greater ballast. Maciel's psychology is put under review showing that he was much more than a sexual deviant. And, finally, an excellent essay by Peter Kingsland on Maciel as an abusive leader pulled the chapters together making for a more seaworthy ship. The author's brief correspondence with Richard John Neuhaus took place in 2002 as a reaction to his then famous "Feathers of Scandal" defense of Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, accused of pedophilia. Fr. Neuhaus demonstrated his willingness to engage in correspondence with an unknown minnow of the Catholic world who dared "question him". He was always civil, respectful, and fair in the fray. His pointed questions made me reflect and he, in turn, reflected on my answers. Those 2002 corazonadas - heartfelt intuitions - regarding the immoral life of the Rev. Marcial Maciel - were borne out by subsequent revelations made by the Legion leadership itself, a Vatican Investigation followed by a Reform Intervention, and finally by the words of His Holiness Benedict XVI. Ever since their 1941 foundation Maciel and the Legion had been "a sign of contradiction" in Mexico, the Vatican, Ireland, the USA and many other countries. From the 1960's through the early 21st century the Legion sailed silently and swiftly to forty countries buoyed by the adulation of conservative Catholics. Even after a Vatican investigation into allegation of pedophilia against Fr. Maciel in 2005 and a subsequent slap on the wrist in 2006, many refused to doubt or question, attributing criticism to ill will, hatred, and even a desire to "destroy the Catholic priesthood and the Church". Not long after Maciel's death Legion leadership out of the blue revealed he had lovers and engendered children. Evidence of a cynically double life destroyed Maciel's image in the eyes of the public much more successfully than his detractors had ever hoped. A second Vatican "visitation" of the institution in 2009 put a further dent in the Legion's armor. Pope Benedict XVI in Light of the World tried to explain the mystery of Maciel to the faithful while saving the Legion he spawned. Did the pope succeed?"


Feb 22, 2020


The report does not rule out potential other victims.
Associated Press
February 22, 2020

PARIS, France — An internal report reveals that L'Arche founder Jean Vanier, a respected Canadian religious figure whose charity work helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over half a century, sexually abused at least six women.

Vanier died last year in Paris at age 90.

According to the report seen by the AP Saturday, the women's descriptions provide evidence enough to show that Vanier engaged in "manipulative sexual relationships" over a period from 1970 to 2005. The report does not rule out potential other victims. 

During the inquiry, commissioned by L'Arche last year and carried out by the independent, U.K.-based GCPS Consulting group, six adult, non-disabled women said Vanier had engaged in sexual relations with them as they were seeking spiritual direction. 

According to the report, the women, who have no links to each other, reported similar facts and Vanier's sexual misconduct was often associated with alleged "spiritual and mystical justifications."

A statement released by L'Arche France Saturday stressed that some women still have "deep wounds." Vanier's actions show "he had a psychological and spiritual hold on these women," the statement said, adding that nothing suggests that disabled people may have been involved.

Vanier worked as a Canadian navy officer and professor before turning to charity work. A visit to a psychiatric facility prompted him to found the Catholic-inspired charity L'Arche in 1964 as an alternative living environment where those with developmental disabilities could be full-fledged participants in the community instead of patients.

The charity now has facilities in 38 countries that are home to thousands of people both with and without disabilities.

Vanier, who was unmarried, also traveled the world to encourage dialogue across religions, and was awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize for spiritual work, as well as France's Legion of Honor. He was the subject of a documentary shown at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival called "Jean Vanier, the Sacrament of Tenderness."


Feb 21, 2020

Once unspoken, Scientology at forefront of Clearwater City Council's Seat 2 race

For years, candidates avoided even saying the word ‘Scientology.’ But the church’s influence has emerged as a campaign issue in 2020.

Tracey McManus
Tampa Bay Times
February 20, 2020

CLEARWATER — During the last city council election, candidates went out of their way to avoid using the s-word: Scientology.

“One of the biggest problems trying to move Clearwater forward is getting people to communicate openly and honestly,” City Council member Hoyt Hamilton said at a 2018 election forum.

When asked later if he was referring to the Church of Scientology and its secretive nature, Hamilton confirmed he was. By not calling it out directly, he was “trying not to poke the bear.”

So it has gone for decades in Clearwater. Scientology’s massive influence over downtown’s present and future hovers over the city like a fog. Few elected officials have been willing to publicly address the church’s impact.

That all changed this year.

In his bid for City Council Seat 2, longtime Scientology critic Mark Bunker, 63, has publicly discussed downtown’s largest property owner in ways not seen in decades: like his campaign call for the city to urge that the IRS revoke Scientology’s tax exempt status for alleged fraud and abuse.

Bunker’s platform to address “the biggest problem that no one will talk about” has come to define the race for the open Seat 2. The other four candidates have responded by explaining how they plan to deal with the church.

But they’ve also tried to push their platforms beyond Scientology.

Mike Mannino, 42, the owner of an athletic event business, has advocated for removing what he calls “red tape” holding back the city’s business climate and soliciting more resident feedback on the Imagine Clearwater downtown waterfront project.

Attorney Bruce Rector, 56, is pushing the need for a regional transportation plan and a fiscally conservative vision.

Eliseo Santana, a 61-year-old retired communications maintenance supervisor at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, has made his priorities affordable housing and attracting businesses downtown.

Fashion designer and bar owner Lina Teixeira, 50, wants to champion affordable housing and building a strong local economy.

But all have acknowledged the concerns they’ve heard from residents about Scientology’s influence over downtown.

• • •

Between 2017 and 2019, Scientology and companies tied to the church bought 100 properties within walking distance of the downtown waterfront. Many of the buildings remain vacant and empty lots sit undeveloped. The church has not disclosed what, if any, plans it has for the holdings.

But there are fears that the church could intentionally leave downtown barren and undermine Imagine Clearwater, the city’s $64 million waterfront redevelopment. Mannino has proposed imposing vacancy fees on property owners who leave buildings vacant. He proposes verifying business tax receipts for addresses to ensure they are “not a shell.”

“We’re finally being forced to talk about it and have these conversations that frankly should have been discussed and had 20 years ago,” Mannino said.

Mannino says he is the candidate best equipped to address not only Scientology’s land holdings, but other issues like revitalizing North Greenwood and navigating the search for a new city manager.

He said he delayed running for a City Council seat in 2018 to obtain his master’s degree in public administration. That has prepared him to run in 2020.

“It’s electing strong leadership that has the ability to unite a fractured city,” said Mannino, who noted at a Feb. 12 forum he is not a Scientologist. “You have to elect leadership that can affect change.”

Teixeira said she would like the church to be transparent about its 10-year plan for its downtown campus. She also says she is the best-equipped candidate because of her “solutions-based platform" and record as an entrepreneur who invested in the city by opening business downtown.

As president of the Downtown Clearwater Merchants Association, Teixeira has helped business owners navigate city codes. She has pushed concerns from merchants about parking to city officials. And in May 2018, Teixeira opened Pour Yours wine bar on Cleveland Street to encourage other business owners to take a chance on downtown.

“There’s no guesswork when it comes to me,” she said. “How will she do it? Well she’s already done it.”

• • •

The suspicion about Scientology’s influence in this election is so strong that Teixeira took to Facebook on Jan. 28 to address it. She posted a video telling residents there are business owners like herself who are not Scientologists who are trying to revitalize downtown on their own — not to benefit the church.

“I am not a Scientologist,” Teixeira said in the video. “The fact that I have (campaign) signs all over downtown Clearwater does not mean that I’m being endorsed by the church. It just means that as president of the merchants association, I have supported and I have represented all the merchants and they have honored me with their endorsement.”

Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The issue of Scientology’s vast downtown holdings came up during the Feb. 12 election forum, when moderator Al Ruechel asked candidates about the impact of having such a large number of tax-exempt properties in downtown.

Rector said there had already been much discussion on that topic, that there are other issues concerning residents.

“When I talk to people out in neighborhoods all over Clearwater, they care about their own neighborhoods, their streets and roads, they care about jobs, they care about education,” he said. “The number one thing they talk to me about is traffic congestion, and that is where I want to focus our tax money and time.”

Rector has pitched his 30-year background in leadership, including serving as president of Junior Chamber International, as proof he can build a responsive city government, grow the tax base and reduce traffic.

When Ruechel asked about the perception that Scientology discourages residents from living downtown, Rector first made a point of explaining that he is a member of Calvary Baptist Church, not a Scientologist.

He said he was not willing “to fight a war with Scientology” over its tax-exempt status that would waste tax dollars.

“I’m all for making sure that Scientology does not have control over downtown Clearwater or Clearwater," Rector said. “But let’s not waste taxpayer money trying to remove a tax exemption that the city of Clearwater has absolutely no control over removing.”

• • •

Seat 2 is one of three City Council seats and six referendum questions on this year’s ballot. March 17 is Election Day.

The most friction in this council race has played out between Bunker and Santana.

At a Jan. 15 candidate forum, about five audience members began heckling Bunker during his opening statement, shouting that he was a “bigot” when he started talking about Scientology’s impact on downtown.

One of the hecklers was Van Farber, Santana’s campaign manager. Farber confirmed he also brought Santana what he described as “opposition research” on Bunker — an old injunction — to the forum.

Bunker once worked with the Lisa McPherson Trust, a nonprofit established in the name of a woman who died in 1995 while under the church’s care in Clearwater, to advocate against alleged fraud and abuse by Scientology. In 2000, a Pinellas County judge issued an injunction against Bunker and eight others, forbidding them from coming within 10 feet of Scientologists.

Afterward, Santana told the Tampa Bay Times that he did not expect Farber to participate in the heckling or bring him the injunction. Like his fellow candidates, Santana also said he is not a Scientologist.

But Santana said he objects to what he calls “hate” directed toward the church.

“As long as it is an adversarial type of conversation, there cannot be a forward path,” Santana said. “I am not for or against anyone. I am for the citizens of Clearwater.”

Santana’s first run for office was an unsuccessful 2016 bid for Pinellas County School Board.

His past financial issues include a 2012 foreclosure, a 2013 bankruptcy and a final judgement against him in January for $4,000 of unpaid credit card debt. Santana said he’s struggled just like “millions of people affected by the financial collapse.”

Bunker filed for bankruptcy in 2018 as a result of medical debt, which he says allows him to connect with voters “just trying to get by.”

As for Santana’s allegations of religious intolerance, Bunker said his goal is to hold Scientology’s leadership accountable, not to attack individual parishioners.

Besides advocating against Scientology’s tax exempt status, Bunker also proposes training Clearwater police on Scientology’s policies that forbid reporting crimes to law enforcement, educating city staff about Scientology’s history and imposing daily fines on vacant properties.


Scientology and Pinellas County general assignment reporter


South Korean 'Cult' at Center of Local Coronavirus Outbreak

February 20, 2020

Amysterious religious group described by the government of South Korea as a “cult” has emerged as a hotbed of new coronavirus cases, according to official statistics.

At least 33 of South Korea’s 104 confirmed cases as of Feb. 20 are linked to the Shincheonji sect, which is also known as “Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.”

The group, an offshoot of Christianity, was founded in 1984 by a man claiming to be a prophet sent by Jesus Christ. It reportedly has more than 120,000 followers worldwide.

Its adherents believe the religion is the one true version of Christianity, and that they will be the only ones to achieve salvation when judgement day arrives, according to its scripture. Relatives of adherents to the sect have said in media reports that they have been cut off from contacting family members.

One woman is believed to have spread the virus (officially named as COVID-19) among the Shincheonji sect. Officials said she had come into contact with 166 people, who were asked to quarantine themselves, according to the Associated Press.

The cases linked to the sect are clustered in the city of Daegu, in the south of the country.

South Korea now has the third-most infections of the coronavirus in the world, behind China and Japan. Globally, more than 75,750 people are infected and 2,130 have died. The vast majority of cases (74,579) are in mainland China — but there are confirmed cases in 30 countries and provinces around the world, including in Europe and North America.


Feb 20, 2020

Lawyer for Quebec couple urges court to act against ultra-Orthodox schools

Clara Wasserstein, left, and Yochonon Lowen arrive at courthouse in Montreal on February 10, 2020. The lawyer for a couple who left their ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community is telling a courtroom that the Jewish schools operating north of Montreal are illegal and leave no time for secular education. In his closing arguments today, Bruce Johnston told Superior Court Justice Martin Castonguay that the judge can push the Quebec government to do something to fix that situation. Johnston is representing Yochonon Lowen and his wife Clara Wasserstein, who have filed legal action against the Quebec government and ultra-Orthodox Hasidic schools in Boisbriand, Que.
Bruce Johnston told Superior Court Justice Martin Castonguay that he can push the Quebec government to do something to fix the situation.

Montreal gazette
February 19, 2020

MONTREAL — Ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools operating north of Montreal are illegal and their religious curriculum for boys is so onerous the students have little time to study anything else, a lawyer told a Montreal courtroom on Wednesday.

Bruce Johnston, who is representing an ex-Hasidic couple in their claim that the province and ultra-Orthodox schools in Boisbriand, Que., failed to ensure they were properly educated, said the court has a chance to remedy the situation.

“How could a boy going to religious classes at six in the morning and coming back at 9 p.m. have any time for school?” Johnston asked Superior Court Justice Martin Castonguay during his closing arguments.

Yochonon Lowen and Clara Wasserstein are seeking a ruling declaring the province and the Hasidic schools violated provincial education laws. The couple, who have left the Boisbriand Tash community, accuse the schools and the Quebec government of leaving them unprepared for a life within mainstream society.

“They aren’t asking for damages, because they want to maximize the chances of changing the situation,” Johnston told the court.

Eric Cantin, a lawyer for the Quebec government, said in his closing arguments that the province has recently instituted new rules governing the Boisbriand Hasidic schools. He said there have been many improvements in schooling in the Hasidic communities since Wasserstein and Lowen lived there.

The community’s children now need to be registered as home-schoolers, Cantin said, giving the government the ability to monitor their academic progress. Cantin said the new rules ensure all children who aren’t in government schools or in certified private schools can be properly educated.

“We are able to track all the 830 children in Boisbriand,” Cantin said. “Those children will be evaluated. This is good news. It wasn’t always like that.”

David Banon, lawyer for the Tash community, said Lowen and Wasserstein “are attempting to put the blame for their misfortunes on a community they left in 2007.”

Since then, he said, many steps have been taken by the Education Department, the province’s child welfare services and by schools boards to ensure parents of Hasidic children are registering their children and following the law.

“Things are going well,” he said, reminding the court that the Hasidic community is not on trial. “We aren’t here to validate the beliefs or the lifestyles of these people.”

Lowen has testified that when he left the Tash Hasidic community 10 years ago, he spoke little English and no French, had never heard the words “science” or “geography” and had never spoken to a woman who was not a member of his family.

The girls’ schools make more time for secular education, the court has heard, but Wasserstein testified that at the age of 13 it was judged she had enough secular knowledge and she was exempted from the courses to help her mother.

Johnston’s legal argument against the Boisbriand schools is two-pronged. He says the girls’ schools are “illegal” because they lack the necessary licence to provide secular education, and he says the requirement that boys study religion at least 20 hours a week leaves insufficient time for the secular home-schooling they are supposed to receive.

Castonguay noted that recent changes to provincial laws have allowed more government oversight of education in the community and suggested more time is needed to see the results of those legal reforms. He also said he’s seen no evidence the boys have no time in the week for secular courses.

“You seem to want me to set a time limit on religious courses, and I won’t do that,” the judge told Johnston.. “That’s not my role.”

Cantin said he hasn’t seen evidence of illegality in the schools. “I conclude that there aren’t any real and actual difficulties that the court needs to take action on,” he said.

Johnston is scheduled to deliver his reply in court to Cantin and Banon’s closing arguments Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2020.


Why people who have lived in polygamy support - or don't - a Utah bigamy bill

Nate Carlisle
Sara Weber
Salt Lake Tribune
February 19, 2020

The Utah Senate approved a bill that would remove the felony penalties for polygamy among consenting adults.

Such polygamy would be an infraction, an offense on par with a traffic ticket. Polygamists who commit frauds, abuses or engage in other conduct like human smuggling could still be convicted of felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

SB102, sponsored by Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, has evoked a mix of opinions among polygamists, former polygamists and the children of polygamists. Even sister wives Catrina and Lydia Foster, both seen on the reality television show “Three Wives, One Husband” don’t agree.

Nine people who have lived in polygamy sent The Salt Lake Tribune videos explaining whether they support the bill. SB102 still needs to pass the Utah House and be signed by Gov. Gary Herbert before it becomes law.

Lydia Foster, Plural wife: “Hi, my name is Lydia. I chose the principle at 26 years old. I had lots of different options, different men — single young men — I chose the principle because I wanted the opportunity to share my life with as many people as I possibly could, with the opportunity of one life to impact as many souls as I could. I just want to support any law that lets me live my lifestyle. Thank you.”

Jedediah Darger, Child of polygamists: “Hello, my name is Jedediah, and I’m recording this because I support Senate Bill 102 to reduce polygamy to an infraction instead of a felony. As a child, I grew up in a polygamous household. My parents are still polygamists to this day. I have no religious affiliation with polygamy. I have no interest in becoming a polygamist. I do not believe the same way that they do in the least bit. That being said, I don’t believe that they are bad people, and I do believe that they should have the freedom to live the way that they want to live, as should everybody.”

Amanda Rae, Child of polygamists: “I don’t think that this new polygamy bill is going to change much here in Utah. I think that it’s great that Utah’s trying to address that we do have a polygamy problem, but I think we need to address the deeper problems in these polygamous cults, first. Like, the incest that’s going on, the child brides that are happening, the abuse. Like why is it legal for a 15-year-old girl to get engaged with her parents’ consent? There are so many laws that we need to focus on before we focus on this polygamy thing. It’s just, it’s crazy that I can name to you over a thousand people who are married to their half-sibling, or their uncle, or their first cousin and they’re having children with deformities, and all of this starts from them being a child being manipulated in to this situation. So I think that, if Utah will start to focus on the incest and the child marriages and the abuse that’s going on, then the polygamy part will be a lot easier to take care of.”

Charlotte Erickson, Plural wife: “I support Senate Bill 102 because consenting adults should be allowed to have the kind of marriage that they want. And the actual crime should be what is punished, not the marriages, but welfare fraud or whatever else are the problems going on.”

LeAnn Henderson, Raised in a polygamous community: “Hi, I’m LeAnn. I’m from the Turmoil Blog Within AUB, Turmoil within AUB. I grew up within a polygamous community. I’ve been trying to work with abuse within my own circle for a few years now, and it’s been really difficult. And I firmly believe that the fear of the law that’s gone back a long ways, the fear of persecution has been the deciding factor on whether victims will come forward or people will allow changes to happen. And, in my opinion, the most secretive polygamous societies having the most amount of abuse and problems is clear evidence that the fear of the law is an issue here, and I believe that religious freedom from within and without polygamy needs to happen, and this is a step in the right direction.”

Emily Tucker, Former member of The Kingston Group: “My name is Emily Tucker. I’m originally from the Kingston Group. We left when I was 14. I do not support Senator Henderson’s bill on polygamy. First, we need to define what exactly is a consenting adult. Is a consenting adult someone who has grown up in these groups and believes that this lifestyle is the only way for them and their future children to get to heaven? They say that they want to help victims, how is this going to help victims? They’ve already said they won’t prosecute polygamy itself, but they will prosecute crimes in polygamy. They don’t do that either, though. We need more resources for victims when they leave, we need more housing, Medicaid would be nice, we need daycare assistance. If we want to actually help victims, that is what we need to do. We need to prosecute the criminals, we need to hold them accountable and we need to help the victims who are leaving.”

Catrina Foster, Plural wife: “I am one of three happily-married plural wives. I chose to enter the principle at the age of 25, and we have been happily married. I love the fact that Senator Deidre Henderson is trying to push forward a bill that is lowering the criminalization of my lifestyle. However, I can’t fully give my support to Senate Bill 102 because I can’t give my full support to anything short of complete decriminalization. And also, I can’t support the enhancement penalties in any way.”

April Dawn, Former polygamous wife: “As a former polygamous wife here in Utah, I support bill SB102. Not that it’s perfect, but I think it’s a great step in the right direction. I think it is fundamentally unconstitutional for polygamy to be a felony when, ultimately, it is a lifestyle choice. When people are afraid because their grandfather or their father, was put in prison, they’re not going to call and report a domestic violence or a sexual abuse crime. And I don’t think the general public realizes that this is very real to these people. It was their fathers, it was their grandfathers that were put in prison, that were persecuted. And so there is like a cloud of fear that hovers over.”

Anne Wilde, Co-founder of Principle Voices: “My name is Anne Wilde, and I identify myself as an independent fundamentalist Mormon. Exactly 50 years ago, I became a plural wife and, throughout those years, I’ve become acquainted with literally thousands of other fundamentalist Mormons. Only a very small percentage of these people have not been upstanding, law-abiding citizens and consenting adults if they are in a plural family. I suggest we enforce the existing laws penalizing those who are guilty of associated crimes and separate them from a freely chosen religious lifestyle. For many reasons, I am in favor of Senator Henderson’s SB 102 bill reducing the living of plural marriage between consenting adults from a felony to an infraction. For one reason, it would bring state law in agreement with the current policy and practice of the Utah Attorney General’s Office, which is refusing to prosecute consenting adult polygamists who are not guilty of any other crimes. It is certainly inconsistent and poor state government, to say the least, to have a law on the books that is ignored and not enforced.”



CultNEWS101 Articles: 2/20/2020

Polygamy, NXIVM,  Transcendental Meditation  

Utah lawmakers are unanimously backing a bill that would lessen the punishment for people caught practicing polygamy.

Senate Bill 102, sponsored by Senator Deidre Henderson (R-Spanish Fork), would change bigamy from a felony offense to an infraction.

"We have a really stiff penalty, and what my bill proposes to do is to remove the fear that a lot polygamists have," Henderson said.

While the bill passed unanimously in a senate committee earlier this week, some who've escaped polygamy have mixed feelings about the legislation.

Jessica Christensen left polygamy when she was 15 years old. Since then, she's been an advocate for others trying to do the same. When she first read S.B. 102, she said she had some reservations.

"When I first heard about this bill, it was kind of like a gut punch reaction: 'What? Why? This is insulting."

Christensen said to her, the bill seemed to make perpetrators more comfortable.
"Sara Bronfman-Igtet has fled France, abandoning her newly built mansion in Provence, and leaving her hotel in managers' hands.
Authorities in France also shut down Bronfman's Campus Beyond the School, after learning from Frank Report and French journalists, L'Heyre De Se Reveiller and Oli Porri Santoro, that the school was conducting Keith Raniere's Rainbow Cultural Garden children's experiments in government leased property.

The sudden flight from France was totally unexpected.

Bronfman-Igtet had just finished building a mansion in Provence at a cost of $12 million USD.

There are many rumors as to why she fled so suddenly, including that she got news that, if she is indicted in the US, France will turn her over at once to the USA.

She has moved to Portugal."
"Why did Sara Bronfman-Igtet and her husband, Basit Igtet, dash out of France so suddenly – and go to Portugal?

She had everything going for her in France. She was entrenched, ostensibly planning to live the rest of her life here. Then on a dime, she left.

We have more information, thanks to sources in France and elsewhere. The more we learn, the more it begs the question: Why did she leave her new home?

Sara and Basit [with Sara's money] acquired a hotel called the Domain of Andéoles in the Luberon.  They built a mansion to live in, at a fantastic price, which was just recently completed.

She was buying up land in the area. She bought a farm to grow produce for her hotel's restaurants and reportedly had her eye on a golf course.  She created a raft of companies – some 25 in total under her Athal Holdings umbrella – many of them put under the name of her CEO, Stefan Fraenkel, to disguise her actual ownership, as she began to take greater ownership control of the area.

She was working closely with Jacques Attali, the famous handler of French presidents. And top French leaders, it was told to me by an eyewitness source, came to her hotel to meet with her husband, and seek financial support from Sara.

There were discussions about building a casino.

Business is business but, for the longtime Nxivm financier, who lost more than $100 million for her beloved Nxivm mission, Sara had something more in mind for France. It was her start-over. The place to reestablish the golden teachings of her Vanguard, Keith Alan Raniere, now in federal custody awaiting sentencing for racketeering, forced labor, and sex trafficking."

"In 2020, instead of "sex sells," pop-culture's newest maxim is "sects sell" – and we're (guiltily) here for it. Hot on the heels of the box-office success of Quentin Tarantino's Manson family blockbuster Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood and Ari Aster's terrifying depiction of a pagan commune in rural Sweden in Midsommar, stories about cults are coming out thick and fast.

Prepare to be haunted by a score of new novels, movies and docudramas from Hollywood and closer to home. Some of Australia's nest storytellers are releasing bone-chilling "cult-fiction" this year. First up is Stan's The Gloaming, an eight-part crime series set against the dark and moody Tasmanian landscape. Hitting screens in January, Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie play police detectives whose shared past comes back to haunt them as they solve a horrific murder connected to a terrifying occult religious order."

"Sen. Bernie Sanders' rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination have accused him of promising pie-in-the-sky solutions to America's problems like "Medicare for All" and free college tuition that, they say, can never become reality.

But in a small southeastern Iowa town that was put on the map by a New Age faith movement that aims to create world peace with the power of silent, Transcendental Meditation, Sanders' proposals seem downright practical.

In his remarks attempting to woo caucus-goers to support Andrew Yang, the businessman's precinct captain told the audience that when he had met Yang, he'd been "able to give him some books on TM, hopefully to turn him on to it." The precinct captain for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said that when he met the Hawaii congresswoman, they had discussed how those advocating for world peace might not make as much money as military contractors, but would receive greater rewards in a "different realm."

"She's the one taking on the military-industrial complex, talking about it, coming back from service and against war," the Gabbard precinct captain said, calling on the 274 people here to align with Gabbard "for world peace."

Unique among the rural counties to the north, south, east, and west, Fairfield is the Midwest epicenter of the Transcendental Meditation technique, or "TM," a movement founded in the 1970s by the eponymous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that popularized silent mantra meditation in the West in part by cultivating world-famous practitioners like the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

In Maharishi Vedic City, whose founding constitution vows to "protect, nourish, and satisfy everyone, upholding the different social, cultural, and religious traditions while maintaining the integrity and progress of the city as a whole," locals congregate twice a day under a pair of gilded domes to meditate in the hopes that their brain waves, once synchronized, can prevent various global catastrophes."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery

Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.
CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.
CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.
Cults101.org 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.