Oct 31, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/31 - 11/1/2020

NXIVM, Research, Maharishi European Research University, neo-Nazis, Research on Cultic Childhood's, Germany, Timothy Leary, Adnan Oktar, Legal, Turkey 

ABC News: NXIVM founder Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison
"Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison at a Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday for running NXIVM, a self-help organization prosecutors labeled a "criminal enterprise" exploited by Raniere for power, profit and sex.

To followers, he was known as Vanguard, but prosecutors cast Raniere as a con artist who did "immeasurable damage" to victims over 15 years of crime and exploitation. They had asked he receive a life sentence.
"You have done irreparable harm to peoples psyches, to their self-esteem, their belief in themselves and their experience of sanity and well being," filmmaker Mark Vicente, a former member of NXIVM turned whistleblower, said in an impact statement delivered at Raniere's sentencing.

"I believed in you. I believed in your mission. Because I thought it was the same as mine," Vicente added. "I believed you knew what goodness was. Finding out the truth about you and your actual motives turned my world upside down."

"Raniere and his co-conspirators maintained control over the Enterprise by, among other means, obtaining sensitive information about members and associates of the Enterprise; inducing shame and guilt in order to influence and control members and associates of the Enterprise; isolating associates and others from friends and family and making them dependent on the Enterprise for their financial well-being and legal status within the United States; and encouraging associates and others to take expensive NXIVM courses, and incur debt to do so," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

The U.S. attorney in charge of the case said he was satisfied with the result.

Victims spoke to local FBI, but downstate office made case against Keith Raniere

"When Sarah Edmondson told an FBI agent in Albany on May 30, 2017, that she and other women had been blackmailed and branded in a Saratoga County townhouse, and that more brandings of female "slaves" were expected to take place the following week, she thought it would lead to a raid.

Edmondson, the former head of the Vancouver office of the personal-growth company NXIVM, had just supplied the FBI with a blockbuster tip — the same information that would ultimately contribute to the conviction of NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere, the guru known within the group as 'Vanguard.'"

Tomoya Watanabe is a student studying a master's programme on the Psychology of  Coercive Control at the University of Salford, UK. She is at the stage of beginning her master's  dissertation that focuses on psychological distress and recovery of former cult members in the UK/North America and Japan. Accordingly, she is looking for former cult members who are  willing to take part in this study.

The purposes of the study:

1. to comprehensively understand psychological problems and recovery that former cult  members can experience after leaving a cult

2. to find the similarities and differences of the psychological problems and recovery  between former cult members who live in the UK/North America and Japan. 

The global headquarters of the Transcendental Meditation movement and Maharishi European Research University (MERU) -- 1972 to 1983 -- the Grandhotel Sonnenberg in Seelisberg, Switzerland is for sale.

A police recruit in northwestern Indiana has been fired after a department investigation found he was involved in a neo-Nazi online chat forum in 2016

"A police recruit in northwestern Indiana was fired less than 24 hours after the department was notified that the officer was involved in a neo-Nazi online chat forum.

The Lafayette Police Department launched an investigation into Joseph Zacharek, who was hired in June, after being notified on Twitter Friday evening of his possible participation in a chat forum called Iron March in 2016.

The department's internal affairs division concluded the information was "accurate and credible," and Zacharek was terminated, according to a Saturday news release from Chief Patrick Flannelly."

Here are the findings of a german study on "Cultic Childhood" (in which Katharina Meredith and Dieter Rohmann also were involved).   
"Cults are religious organizations requiring total commitment and submission from their members. They form a highly controlling environment with rigid structures to suppress individuality. Being born and raised within a cultic community has a significant impact on the life course of those affected. Especially after exit or exclusion, second generation ex-members commonly have to face different challenges. This study aimed to investigate these cultic childhood experiences and their long-term effects on the individual development and the further lives of those affected. Former cult members (n = 16) who were born and raised in cultic groups participated in an in-depth qualitative interview study. The findings indicate that growing up in a family belonging to a cult is often associated with serious restrictions, burdens and even traumatization. Later in life, this may lead to the development of self-esteem problems, mental disorders, and difficulties in intimate relationships. Individual life experiences should be taken into account when providing help for those who have grown up in a cult and managed to get out of it. Based on the study results, recommendations for psycho-social practice are presented in this paper."

"Richard Nixon once described Timothy Leary as "the most dangerous man in America". A Harvard clinical psychologist whose experiments with drugs led to his dismissal, he became a stand-up performer, convict and fugitive, and unlikely dabbler in psychedelic theology."

"Turkish police seized smuggled fossils worth $10 million from the home of a jailed cult leader infamous for his anti-evolution views and bizarre female following, state news agency Anadolu reported on Wednesday.

Authorities discovered a total of 879 fossils in raids on two of Adnan Oktar's properties.

Oktar, also known as Harun Yahya, is an Islamic creationist who became known internationally through his televangelist network. In his televised lectures he would surround himself with "his kittens" - female followers with nearly identical bleached-blonde hair and perceived surgical enhancements.

He delivered televised sermons to "his kittens" and often danced with his young followers between his speeches.

The religious cult leader was arrested two-years-ago alongside more than 160 of his followers. 

Last year, he was indicted on a whole host of charges including kidnapping, sexual abuse, political and military espionage and running a criminal enterprise."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



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CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.





Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

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Oct 30, 2020

Alexandra Stein, Ph.D.: Understanding Cults and Extremist Groups

Understanding Cults and Extremist Groups
Understanding Cults and Extremist Groups

Alexandra Stein, Ph.D. is a writer and educator specializing in the social psychology of ideological extremism and other dangerous social relationships. She is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at London South Bank University, and previously taught at Birkbeck, University of London.

​Dr. Stein offers programs and materials to help people understand how to identify and protect themselves and others from recruitment to cultic or extremist groups. She also studies and teaches about positive social relationships: "small d" democracy, inclusivity and healthy social and personal networks that can oppose these dangerous relationships.

She offers the following services:

  • Consulting for individuals and organisations 
  • Cult recovery counselling, education and support for individuals
  • Training for social workers, teachers, law enforcement, and mental health workers
  • Talks and lectures
  • Media Resource

Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in Cults and Totalitarian Systems

Terror, Love and Brainwashing

Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in Cults and Totalitarian Systems  Audible Audiobook – Unabridged

Available on Amazon

Alexandra Stein

Written by a cult survivor and renowned expert on cults and totalitarianism, Terror, Love and Brainwashing draws on the author’s 25 years of study and research to explain how almost anyone, given the right set of circumstances, can be radically manipulated to engage in otherwise incomprehensible and often dangerous acts.

Illustrated with compelling stories from a range of cults and totalitarian systems, from religious to political to commercial, the book defines and analyses the common and identifiable traits that underlie almost all these groups. It focuses on how charismatic, authoritarian leaders control their followers’ attachment relationships via manipulative social structures and ideologies so that, emotionally and cognitively isolated, they become unable to act in their own survival interests. Using the evolutionary theory of attachment to demonstrate the psychological impact of these environments, and incorporating the latest neuroscientific findings, Stein illustrates how the combined dynamic of terror and ‘love’ works to break down people’s ability to think and behave rationally. From small local cults to global players like ISIS and North Korea, the impact of these movements is widespread and growing.

This important book offers clarity and a unique perspective on the dynamics of these systems of control, and concludes with guidance to foster greater awareness and prevention. It will be essential reading for mental health professionals in the field, as well as policy makers, legal professionals, cult survivors, and their families, as well as anyone with an interest in these disturbing groups. Students of social and developmental psychology will also find it fascinating.


'Chinese Female Jesus' Stalks Indian Youth On Social Media, Alarming Church Leaders

Stephen David
Religion Unplugged
October 14, 2020

(ANALYSIS) Church leaders in India’s majority-Christian northeastern state of Nagaland are sounding the alarm following an aggressive social media campaign by a Chinese religious sect that claims Jesus has come back as a woman.

The sect was founded in central China by Chinese physics teacher Weng Zhedong in 1991. The Church of the Almighty God (CAG), better known as the Eastern Lightning Church or Dongfang Shandian, was banned in China in 1995 and Zhedong and some of his followers gained asylum in the U.S. A 47-year-old Chinese woman linked to this group, called Yang Xiangbin, or Lightning Deng, has been advertised as the “new female Jesus” and currently operates from CAG’s base in New York. The sect claims to have received new revelations from the new messiah, captured in their Bible the cult calls “The Word Appears in the Flesh.”

“Soon after we saw their activities online, especially luring our young people on platforms like Facebook, we sent out a warning,” Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) General Secretary Rev. Dr. Zelhou Keyho told Religion Unplugged. The NBCC represents over 1,600 local Baptist churches representing nearly 700,000 members in northeast India, where Christianity was seeded by American Baptist missionary Edward Winter Clark, who established the first Christian mission and a church in Nagaland in 1872. Nagaland’s 2 million residents are 95% Christians, following a revival in the 1950s and 60s. It’s sometimes called the world’s most Baptist state, having a higher concentration of Baptists than even Mississippi.

Keyho, a former professor of Old Testament and biblical languages at a Nagaland seminary, sent a notice to his fellow church leaders, warning about the false teachings of CAG. He cautioned his flock that this well-organized group is “aggressively moving forward with publication and creating many Facebook pages and colourful artwork that appears biblical and enticing.”

Keyho, who is also president of North East India Christian Council, worries that the group’s outreach is making headway thanks to their aggressive promotional campaigns. The sect is peddling its wares, he says, “through books, videos, computer-generated movies, artwork and other forms of media,” appealing to youth in particular. The sect’s operations remain murky, but estimates suggest that it has over a million members worldwide.

Around 2012, the CAG cult was linked to the Mayan end of the world and doomsday predictions, getting railed by the Chinese authorities in the process. Officials there rounded up an estimated 1,000 members of the sect because of their apocalyptic propaganda: the CAG was warning the public that earthquakes and tsunamis would mark the end of the 5,125-year Mayan Long Count calendar on Dec. 21, 2012. Of course, the predicted doomsday never came, but some followers had built cataclysm-proof bunkers in the Tibetan mountains. It so happened that a Hollywood disaster film, “2012,” riding the doomsday mania, created a furore in Chinese cinemas. Chinese leaders denounced the sect’s doomsday prediction of the demise of what it calls the Great Red Dragon, a reference to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Decades ago, there was a rebel leader in China who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus. This “fake Jesus” had created a “Taiping Heavenly Kingdom” in south China and almost took on the Qing dynasty. In the late 1990s, a quasi-religious meditation practice called Falun Gong saw the onset of an aggressive crackdown by the Chinese government. In 2015, China executed two CAG members found guilty of murdering a person in a McDonald’s restaurant. It should be noted that the Chinese regime is clamping down on religion across the board, most brutally in persecuting Muslim Uighers in the Xinjiang region.

With India’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions forcing worshippers to go online for worship services, Indian church leaders like Dr. Keyho are calling on their clerical peers across the subcontinent to be vigilant and to remain on guard against the CAG’s online recruitment efforts.

Stephen David is a Bangalore, India-based journalist and political commentator specializing in religion, politics and public policy.


Info-Cult - Support Group for Former Members

Support Group for Former Members - Online: Next meeting November 5th

Info-Cult’s support group is intended for people who have experienced, or are presently experiencing, one or more controlling relationships, or various challenges in connection with groups, systems or environments with a high level of commitments, demands or control.

The support group aims to provide these people with the opportunity to share with others who have had similar experiences. It can also help counter the isolation that can result from this type of experience.

The meetings are led by experienced facilitators (a psychologist and a psychoeducator), whose role it is to welcome participants and act as moderators in order to facilitate discussions so that everyone can have the opportunity to express themselves.

Participation is on a voluntary basis, and can be more or less regular.

To take part in the support group meetings, please contact: soutien.infosecte@gmail.com

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/30/2020

World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church, Sun Myung Moon, Duggar's, NXIVM, La Luz del Mundo 

"During the weekend of October 9, more than 5,000 gun enthusiasts filled the parking lot of Kahr Arms's Tommy Gun Warehouse in Greeley, a small Pennsylvania town with just 1,300 residents. The group had assembled for the second annual Rod of Iron Freedom Festival, a gathering of far-right ideologues and Second Amendment activists organized by the sons of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the controversial Korean religious leader. At the center of the asphalt lot, organizers erected a stage, and vendors, including members of the National Rifle Association, surrounded it, selling food, marketing law enforcement and citizen defense groups, and hawking Trump-themed clothes and decor.

Attendees were treated to a smorgasbord of fringe conspiracies trotted out by politicians, right-wing icons, military veterans, and religious leaders. Stephen Bannon, the former White House senior counselor and Breitbart founder, even made a special virtual appearance, in which he warned of a Democratic conspiracy to rob President Donald Trump of the election through voter fraud, "particularly in certain areas of Pennsylvania." He encouraged the crowd to watch polling places to protect against such [an] attack, adding, "We need tough people."

"What the left intends to do — and you're seeing it in Pennsylvania right now," Bannon told the crowd. "Use the courts, use social media, use the mainstream media to try to make sure Trump is not declared the winner that night." He said falsely that "uncertifiable" mail-in ballots would be used to "steal the presidency" away from Trump. "Look we're going to win this thing," he said. "Pennsylvania is the key that picks the lock for a second Trump term."

As The Trace has reported, election officials across the country have expressed concern over how fear mongering about vote fraud, which has been repeatedly debunked, might lead to instances of voter intimidation."

"Jill Duggar Dillard says she never expected to be distant from her large family.

Duggar Dillard, who with her parents and siblings found fame on the TLC series "19 Kids and Counting," talked to People magazine about how her life has taken a turn since she and her husband, Derick Dillard, pulled away from the family business.

"I never expected this to happen or for it to get to this point," she told the publication. "But I'm realizing I can't put a timeline on healing. I love my family and they love me. I really just have to follow God's lead and take it one day at a time."

Duggar Dillard, 29 and her 31-year-old husband are now the parents of two young sons. They talked about the show, which showcased the very religious and conservative Duggar family, as well as it's spin-off, "Counting On."

She said: "Our control to choose what jobs we were allowed to accept and even where we were allowed to live was taken away from us."

Added Derick Dillard: "The first few years of our marriage, we spent time and money working towards opportunities only to hit a dead end when we'd be told, 'Well, you're not allowed to do that.'"

The couple said pulling out of the family business did not go over well."
"Just a few years ago, few people had heard of the self-help group/cult of personality known as NXIVM. Now the dark story has gone global, thanks to an eight-part docuseries that debuts on Neon today."
"A Los Angeles judge has thrown out extortion charges against the leader of a Mexican megachurch but left in place accusations of child rape and human trafficking.

The Los Angeles Times says the judge ruled Wednesday that state prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence for the four charges against Naasón Joaquín García, and also for two sentencing enhancements involving sex with a minor.

However, he refused to throw out other charges, including rape of a minor. Last month, García was arraigned on dozens of sex-related charges involving underage girls. He has pleaded not guilty.

He is the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, a Mexico-based evangelical Christian church that claims 5 million followers."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



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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.

Please forward articles that you think we should add to CultNEWS101.com.

NXIVM Founder Keith Raniere Speaks Out From Prison Ahead Of Sentencing

WNBC Nightly News
October 23, 2020

"Keith Raniere is days away from being sentenced on federal charges related to NXIVM, the group he founded that prosecutors call “cult-like.” Raniere spoke out from prison to Dateline and Frank Parlato, a former NXIVM spokesman who helped take him down."

NXIVM founder Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison

Raniere asserted his "complete innocence," defense attorneys said.

Aaron Katersky
ABC News
October 27, 2020

Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison at a Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday for running NXIVM, a self-help organization prosecutors labeled a "criminal enterprise" exploited by Raniere for power, profit and sex.

To followers, he was known as Vanguard, but prosecutors cast Raniere as a con artist who did "immeasurable damage" to victims over 15 years of crime and exploitation. They had asked he receive a life sentence.

"You have done irreparable harm to peoples psyches, to their self-esteem, their belief in themselves and their experience of sanity and well being," filmmaker Mark Vicente, a former member of NXIVM turned whistleblower, said in an impact statement delivered at Raniere's sentencing.

"I believed in you. I believed in your mission. Because I thought it was the same as mine," Vicente added. "I believed you knew what goodness was. Finding out the truth about you and your actual motives turned my world upside down."

"Raniere and his co-conspirators maintained control over the Enterprise by, among other means, obtaining sensitive information about members and associates of the Enterprise; inducing shame and guilt in order to influence and control members and associates of the Enterprise; isolating associates and others from friends and family and making them dependent on the Enterprise for their financial well-being and legal status within the United States; and encouraging associates and others to take expensive NXIVM courses, and incur debt to do so," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

The U.S. attorney in charge of the case said he was satisfied with the result.

"The judge's sentence incapacitates Keith Raniere for the rest of his life," said Seth DuCharme, acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "Keith Raniere will not be able to victimize people anymore after today's sentence and we're very grateful for that."

Raniere has been jailed since his June 2019 conviction on charges including sexual exploitation, forced labor and sex trafficking.

"Members of the Enterprise recruited and groomed sexual partners for Raniere ... and many were themselves in sexual relationships with Raniere that involved pledges of loyalty, penances for ethical breaches and collateral," the memo said.

Among the victims who testified during the sentencing hearing was a woman identified as Camilla, who was 15 when Raniere allegedly raped her. He was 45 at the time.

Raniere trafficked a woman called Daniela for labor and services and confined her to a room for nearly two years in an attempt to force her to do work for him.

According to prosecutors, Daniela was told that if she left the room, she would be sent to Mexico without any identification documents. Daniela went months without human contact and was denied prompt medical care. She testified she contemplated suicide.

"Raniere's reign of control over the women he scarred, both physically and emotionally, is the making of a horror story," said the FBI's Bill Sweeney. "It is inconceivable to think of the sexual exploitation, abuse, seclusion and mind control his victims suffered -- at his direction."

Unapologetic, Raniere asserted his "complete innocence," defense attorneys said.

"Simply put, he remains proud of his life's work. He also remains determined to fight this case, which he views as a terrible injustice and, respectfully, an affront to what should be one of the great systems of justice to ever exist," his attorneys said in their sentencing memo.

A life sentence for Raniere was the "only sort of thing that would stop him," Angela Ucci, one of the original "NXIVM 9" victims of Raniere, told ABC News.

"This is the finale for him, his victimization of people, his terrorizing people," she said. "It really is over."

"For nine years I was his girlfriend," said Barbara Bouchey, another former member of NXIVM. "I felt he was my soul. And when I left, I realized, 'Oh my god. This guy is a crazy pathological liar.' ... This man robbed me, emotionally, physically, financially spiritually. ... This guy terrorized me. He set out to destroy me."

The judge rejected Raniere's latest bid for a new trial on Friday.

"This complex situation of personal motives, individual regrets and life choices has no place in a federal courtroom. Yet, the government seeks a life sentence for Keith Raniere in a case that has no guns, no knives and no force. No one was shot, stabbed, punched, kicked, slapped or even yelled at," the defense memo said.

At trial, Raniere was accused of forming a group within NXIVM composed of female "slaves" who were branded with his initials and coerced into having sex with him after giving him nude photographs or revealing embarrassing secrets.

"Every single person making the decision to get branded or not get branded ... or to make any one of a thousand other decisions was a free-thinking adult," the defense said.

ABC News' Sasha Pezenik and Henderson Hewes contributed to this report.


Judge combines trials of 'cult mom' Lori Vallow and husband Chad Daybell

The couple are accused of hiding or destroying the bodies of Lori's children

Paul Best
Fox News
October 30, 2020

Human remains found at Chad Daybell’s property amid search for missing children

The human remains found on an Idaho property are Lori Vallow's missing children, family says; Attorney Andrew Stoltmann weighs in.

An Idaho judge ruled Thursday that "doomsday couple" Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell will stand trial together on charges that they conspired to hide the bodies of her children.

The case also involves the suspicious deaths of both of their former spouses.

Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood argued that having two trials could result in the second trial's jury being prejudiced by the first trial jury's verdict. Attorneys for the Daybells could ask in the future that the trials be separated if they think their clients aren't being treated fairly.

The couple each pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said the couple, who reportedly hold apocalyptic beliefs, conspired to hide or destroy the bodies of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.

Rexburg Police Detective Ray Hermosillo said in August that “JJ” Vallow’s body was bound with duct tape and buried in a black plastic bag.

The remains of daughter Tylee were found burned a short distance away.

In June 2019, Lori Daybell's estranged husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed in Arizona by her brother, Alex Cox. Vallow was seeking a divorce because Daybell believed she was a godlike figure who would bring on the apocalypse.

After the death of Vallow, Daybell and the children moved to Idaho, where she eventually married Chad Daybell. Chad Daybell's previous wife died in October 2019 of natural causes, according to her obituary. He also held apocalyptic beliefs, telling friends that he could see "beyond the veil."

The Daybells reportedly believe dark spirits or "zombies" can possess people, and that the only way to get rid of these dark spirits is to kill the person. A friend of Lori Daybell's said she thought the two children were possessed.

Investigators said the couple lied about the whereabouts of the children before quietly leaving Idaho for Hawaii last year. They were arrested earlier this year.

Russian Court Refuses To Release Jailed Jehovah's Witness, Calls Him 'Malicious Violator'

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
October 27, 2020

A court in Russia has refused to release a Jehovah's Witness, Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, who was sentenced to six years in prison on extremism charges that have been condemned by rights groups in Russia and abroad.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses' website said that a court in Russia's western region of Kursk on October 26 refused to replace Christensen's unserved term with a fine despite the fact that the same court had approved such a move in June.

Christensen was arrested in May 2017 and sentenced in February 2019.

On June 23, the Lgov district court paroled Christensen after he served half of his sentence and ordered him to pay a fine of 400,000 rubles ($5,250) in place of serving the rest of his sentence.

However, that ruling was overturned by the Kursk Regional Court and sent for retrial after local prosecutors had appealed the parole, insisting that Christensen had violated prison rules.

The religious group's website said that the administration of the penal colony in the town of Lgov in September had labeled him a "malicious violator" of the penitentiary's regulations.

According to the website, Christensen was placed in solitary confinement three times as punishment for his refusal to carry out work, due to his medical condition.

Russia banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017 and declared the religious group an extremist organization.

According to human rights groups, hundreds of the religion's adherents are facing criminal cases in Russia, with dozens either imprisoned or awaiting trials.

In July, Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Russia “has absolutely nothing to gain from the pointless, cruel, and abusive persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” urging the authorities to “immediately free Christensen and stop wasting time and resources on these prosecutions.”

In September 2019, the United States banned two high-ranking regional officers from Russia's Investigative Committee from entering the United States over the alleged torture of seven detainees who are Jehovah's Witnesses.


Judge dismisses extortion counts in Luz del Mundo sex abuse case

Naason Joaquin Garcia, leader of the Guadalajara-based La Luz del Mundo church, at a bail hearing in August.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times
October 21, 2020

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has thrown out several counts of extortion against the head of La Luz del Mundo church in a case where prosecutors say the leader used his base to groom underage victims for his sexual pleasure.

Citing insufficient evidence, Judge Stephen A. Marcus on Wednesday ruled to dismiss four counts of extortion against Naason Joaquin Garcia. He argued that the state attorney general’s office had failed to show that Garcia had threatened to disgrace his alleged victims if they didn’t perform sexual acts.

The judge also dismissed enhancements against Garcia for great bodily injury on counts of forcible rape of a minor and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, saying that there lacked evidence that an injury had resulted from the sexual act.

But Marcus otherwise denied a motion by Garcia’s defense attorneys at Wednesday’s hearing in downtown L.A. to dismiss before trial the case against Garcia, a man known amongst his followers as the “apostle” of Jesus Christ. Garcia is being held on $90-million bail and has pleaded not guilty to counts that include human trafficking, forcible rape of a minor, and possession of child pornography since his arrest in June 2019.

Garcia’s attorneys argued in their motion that prosecutors have shown “virtually no evidence” that Garcia’s alleged victims had participated in sexual acts under pressure from the defendants, claiming that they’ve only pointed to an “unspoken and internalized fear.”

“What the government has consistently done from the beginning of this case,” said Alan Jackson, Garcia’s attorney, “was focus almost entirely on the belief system, the belief structure of LLDM [church], making relatively broad brushstroke allegations about the church.”

The judge held otherwise. Marcus said that Garcia, along with two co-defendants whom prosecutors claim helped prepare minors for the apostle’s pleasure, had exploited and manipulated his alleged victims “using religion as invisible handcuffs.”

“They used the fact that these girls were members of the church their entire life, and their families were members of the church,” he said. “They believed Garcia was the apostle of God, and they had to obey his wishes… Why else would these girls engage in sexual activities with Garcia?”

Jackson said he didn’t wish to comment on the ruling.

The complaint against Garcia, 51, and co-defendants Alondra Ocampo, 37, and Susana Medina Oaxaca, 25, details crimes that allegedly occurred between June 2015 and June 2019. Prosecutors have claimed that the alleged victims were told that if they went against Garcia’s desires as “the apostle” they were going against God.

The attorney general’s office refiled charges in late July after a previous case against the defendants was dismissed for violation of a right to a timely preliminary hearing.

Ocampo, who is being held without bail, pleaded guilty to four counts this month, according to prosecutors. These include three counts of contact with a minor for a sexual offense, involving three Jane Does, and one count of forcible sexual penetration, involving a fourth Jane Doe. The attorney general’s office said it could not immediately share more information on a possible plea deal.

Prosecutors have described Ocampo as someone who groomed girls who were later allegedly sexually assaulted by Garcia and coerced minors into pornographic photo shoots in hotel rooms in Whittier and El Monte.

In court papers, they allege that Garcia was served by an exclusive group of young girls within a larger group of congregants that assisted with household chores at his East L.A. home. Ocampo, they said, carried substantial influence at the Luz del Mundo church nearby and was in charge of the exclusive group typically composed of teenagers about 15 years old.

Ocampo’s group included four of the Jane Doe complaining witnesses in the case, prosecutors said. The group was known as “the dancers,” and its members would dance or perform skits for Garcia while in lingerie or partially nude.

In a statement following Wednesday’s hearing, La Luz del Mundo renewed its support for Garcia.

“We express our confidence in the integrity and honorability of the Apostle of Jesus Christ Naason Joaquin Garcia, knowing that justice and truth will prevail at all times,” it said.

Garcia succeeded his father in 2014 as the leader of La Luz Del Mundo, which is based in Guadalajara and claims millions of members. The case against him came as a result of a tip to a Justice Department website that was created to help people report abuse by clergy.

In February, a former member of La Luz del Mundo filed a federal civil lawsuit against the church, Garcia, and other high-ranking church members, seeking damages for human trafficking, racketeering, sexual battery and forced labor, among other charges.


Europe's Top Court Rules for Jehovah's Witness Child in Medical-Bias Case

Europe's Top Court Rules for Jehovah's Witness Child in Medical-Bias Case
Courthouse News Service
October 29, 2020

LUXEMBOURG (CN) — A Latvian child who needed open-heart surgery prevailed Thursday in a religious discrimination case against the country’s Ministry of Health, which refused to sign on off on letting him undergo the procedure in another country where he wouldn’t require a blood transfusion.

Names are withheld from the ruling released this morning by the European Court of Justice. It says only that the child was a Jehovah’s Witness who needed surgery because of a congenital heart defect, and that in Latvia the procedure is not possible without a blood transfusion.

The boy’s parent requested a form called an S2 that would authorize treatment in Poland — presumably where the surgery can be performed without a transfusion — but Latvia’s National Health Service refused to comply. The family began fighting in court, losing every step of the way before the case reached Europe’s high court in Luxembourg, but ultimately the boy underwent heart surgery in Poland on April 22, 2017 — over a year after he was first denied an S2 form.

requested that health authorities sign o

“Such a refusal introduces a difference in treatment indirectly based on religion,” the opinion states.

Under the 2004 Coordination of Social Security Directive, citizens of one member state who travel to another member state for medical care must first obtain authorization. This is to limit unexpected financial burdens on publicly funded healthcare systems. “[A member state] would, in the absence of a prior authorization system based exclusively on medical criteria, face an additional financial burden which would be difficult to foresee and likely to entail a risk to the financial stability of its health insurance system,” the court’s second chamber wrote.

Believing that it is counter to God’s will to receive blood, Jehovah’s Witnesses risk being expelled from the church if they receive one.

“A Member State may provide for a system of prior authorization for hospital care. However … the criteria and the application of those criteria, and individual decisions of refusal to grant prior authorization, must be restricted to what is necessary and proportionate to the objective to be achieved, and may not constitute a means of arbitrary discrimination or an unjustified obstacle to the free movement of patients,” the five-judge panel wrote.

The court was clear that discrimination based on religion is forbidden within the 27-member state political and economic union, writing: “The prohibition of all discrimination based on religion or belief is mandatory as a general principle of EU law.”

But the ruling did allow for some exceptions. “The criteria attached to the grant of the prior authorization should be justified in the light of the overriding reasons of general interest capable of justifying obstacles to the free movement of healthcare, such as planning requirements relating to the aim of ensuring sufficient and permanent access to a balanced range of high-quality treatment in the Member State concerned or to the wish to control costs and avoid, as far as possible, any waste of financial, technical and human resources,” the judges found.

“It is for the referring court to examine whether the Latvian system of prior authorization … was restricted to what was necessary and proportionate,” the court found, leaving the final decision in this specific case in the hands of the referring court, the Supreme Court of Latvia. The case now returns to that court for a final ruling.

Latvia, whose population is just under 2 million people, has about 2,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to the church. The government recognizes it as an official religion and has granted asylum in recent years to Russian church members who have been persecuted in their homelands. Some stigma surrounding the religion exists, however, especially with regards to medical care.


Ultra-Orthodox Jews' Greatest Strength Has Become Their Greatest Weakness

In Israel and the U.S., this isolated community is thriving. The coronavirus pandemic has shown why this may be its biggest problem.

Shmuel Rosner (Contributing Opinion Writer)
New York Times
October 29, 2020

TEL AVIV — In early October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York ordered schools to close in some areas with large populations of ultra-Orthodox Jews because of coronavirus outbreaks. Some of the schools refused, and the governor threatened as a consequence to withhold state funding.

At about the same time in Israel, a rabbi commanded his followers to open ultra-Orthodox schools, in defiance of government shutdown orders. Israel’s health minister warned these schools that they could face “heavy fines.”

Two countries, two different systems of government — and a similar challenge: how to deal with ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities that while having high infection rates also refuse to take the necessary precautions.

Jews and gentiles must be careful not to single out the ultra-Orthodox, who look different and act different from most of us. I will try my best to be cautious. I will also state that I see much to admire in the ultra-Orthodox way of life: the sense of community and mutual responsibility, the emphasis on study, the devotion to tradition.

And yet, I also feel an urgent need to advise ultra-Orthodox Jews to adapt to a new reality, one in which ultra-Orthodoxy’s great success — its ability to thrive in a modern world — has become its great challenge.

Ultra-Orthodox Judaism today is based on strict adherence to Jewish law, a highly conservative worldview and a rejection of many components of the modern world (from evolutionary science to television), with the aim of erecting a shield against secularization and assimilation. In shorthand, the ultra-Orthodox are called Haredi — based on the Hebrew word for “trembling,” because these Jews tremble before God.

On its own terms, ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel and the United States has been highly successful in achieving its goals. What were those goals? To establish an undisturbed and vibrant community of mitzvot (commandments) and Torah study.

Seventy years ago, with the destruction of most ultra-Orthodox communities in Europe in the Holocaust, some assumed that the end of this branch of Judaism was near. However, with stubbornness and sophistication, high birthrates and social cohesion, ultra-Orthodox communities are growing and thriving.

This success hasn’t come without many challenges. The first is economic: Ultra-Orthodox Jews tend to be poor by design. They prioritize study over work, and thus rely heavily on philanthropy and public support. The second is civil. Especially in Israel, where Haredi Jews both rely on public funds and still enjoy exemption from military service, there is a general feeling that this community does not pull its weight.

The third challenge is the relationship Haredi communities have with their surroundings. A demographic rise of the Haredi world makes the population both more noticeable and more influential. In a democracy, numbers have meaning, and in Israel and New York, the Haredi are a highly effective voting bloc. Socially, Haredi neighborhoods and towns tend to be less than hospitable to outsiders, and as the neighborhoods expand, clashes with neighbors are common.

So these communities are gradually becoming harder to ignore. And the pandemic might be the ultimate demonstration of the emerging problem. In Jerusalem and New York, where these Jews live in great and fast-growing numbers, a puzzled public begins to feel these communities have become too independent.

Haredi Jews have large families and live in densely populated areas. This enhances their model of togetherness and separateness. It also makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. By and large, like many closed communities, Haredi Jews are suspicious of outside institutions. (Some of this is born of a long history of persecution.) When outsiders demanded they shut down schools or cancel weddings or stop attending their synagogues, many of the leaders were thinking that such a decree could come only from people who do not understand the importance of these practices. They refused to comply.

To these characteristics we must add Haredis’ suspicion of science (a feature of modernity) and their general stiff-necked mentality — the essence of resisting the temptations of a changing outer world.

So it is not surprising that a sudden demand to change their community’s behavior was met by many Haredi Jews — and, notably, by many important Haredi leaders — with suspicion and open revolt. Some of them refuse to wear masks; some evade testing.

Others send their children to school even when it is prohibited or attend mass funerals, where they clash with the police in New York and Jerusalem. Many attend crowded synagogues. No wonder that the rate of infections in ultra-Orthodox communities has skyrocketed.

Haredi Jews are well practiced in defying the larger society in which they live, and defiance is the tool they pulled out when new pandemic rules were dictated. They did it by using political clout and harsh rhetoric, arguing that the authorities were being discriminatory.

Of course, they have every right to use political clout to make their case. It is also reasonable to assume that in some cases Haredi Jews are being singled out. (The fact that they are easily identifiable because of their distinctive clothing makes it almost inevitable.)

And yet it is time for Haredi leaders to realize that their model of isolation from the larger public is becoming archaic. Not because it failed, but because it succeeded.

The Haredi model in Israel and the West over the past century was meant to keep a threatened enclave from being wiped out by a cultural tsunami. It was tolerated as such by a generally indifferent public in relatively tolerant countries, and in Israel, where Jewish sentimentality added another layer of commitment of the state to the survival of the Haredi world. In short, it was designed for a weak group attempting to prevent decline. But as a model for a strong and thriving community it is flawed and dangerous.

The thriving of the Haredi world in recent decades was made possible by an ability to be different, without being threatening; to reject the influence of the outside world, without being disruptive. Indeed, the disobedience of a weak minority can be tolerated. But the disobedience of a strong community — particularly one that could affect the health of the larger public — is more difficult to defend.

Few things prompt hatred, fear and vengefulness like a pandemic. What we have witnessed in recent months is dangerous, first and foremost for the future of the ultra-Orthodox world. If Israelis completely lose patience with the Haredi lifestyle, the consequences for the community could be drastic. If Americans become hostile to the community, the consequences could be even graver. Anti-Semitism, already on the rise, feeds on fear and suspicion.

So Haredi Jews are playing with fire. That is because they are not truly that powerful. Not if the world turns against them.

No wonder that those of us who see value and beauty in the Haredi world — those of us who watch with admiration their prioritization of compassion over personal success, who identify with their prioritization of study over wealth and who respect their resistance to assimilation look at recent events with a growing sense of apprehension.

Shmuel Rosner (@rosnersdomain) is a contributing opinion writer, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute and the author, most recently, of “#IsraeliJudaism: Portrait of a Cultural Revolution.”


A look behind the curtain of cult psychology

A look behind the curtain of cult psychology
Verena Daniel
The State News
October 29, 2020

Since the popularization of cults in the mid-20th century, the intrigue surrounding these organizations and how they attract their members has grown. Despite the typical negative connotation, the controversial nature of cults is what some say makes them so appealing.

In recent years, there's been a noticeable uptick in the portrayal of cults in popular culture. Documentaries about the Children of God, songs like Post Malone's "Jonestown," and abundant references to the saying "don't drink the Kool-Aid" made recognizable by The People's Temple are all examples of the prevalence of cults in media.

Psychology junior Siena Fontanesi has had a longtime interest in the psychology of cult influence. According to Fontanesi, a lot of the recruitment process is about convincing a target that they are loved and that any questions they are seeking answers to can be addressed by belonging to something that is bigger than themselves.

Once a target has been identified, cult members deploy a variety of tactics to establish power over the individual. These mental manipulation tactics include techniques like love-bombing, inciting paranoia about the outside world, and public humiliation. While anyone could fall victim to this, young adults and women are most vulnerable.

"Women are way more likely to be recruited into a cult," Fontanesi said. "... Women are the majority of cult members, and men are the majority of cult leaders. It definitely changes the overall experience. Cults are very 1950s about everything. Women are inferior, so you probably aren't having the best time in a cult as a woman. ... You don't really know that. You're being brainwashed."

A study by Columbia University, focused on three groups of people, all between the ages of 22 and 32 with one group being ex-cult members, offers some reasoning behind the age demographic.

The study release said this group "can be characterized by difficulties with identity, particularly feelings of depression specifically related to identity formation ... Difficulties with identity formation appeared to have made this group more vulnerable to cult recruitment techniques that offer clear cut identities and prescriptions for living."

"There's a lot of psych tactics that are used to recruit, super negative ones," Fontanesi said. "Paranoia, manipulation, deception, all that stuff goes on a lot. And I think its kind of easy. I think that cults kind of look for people who are insecure, and those people are usually more susceptible to manipulation and all these negative psych tactics used to rope them in."

Arguably one of the most effective and widely used methods is love-bombing.

The concept is to gain a target's trust by making them feel loved and accepted to essentially disguising any sign of manipulation in order to be able to influence them and the way they behave without raising suspicion.

"They prey on vulnerable people and they use a lot of tactics like love-bombing and acceptance and offer answers to everything. The leaders will come or the recruiters and they say 'oh we know why you're feeling sad or why you're feeling vulnerable but we can fix this and this is what we do' and they really rope you in with all these promises that they won't deliver," Fontanesi said.

Religion resonates with potential recruits as well. A lot of cult leaders like David Berg and David Koresh preached to their followers as a "prophet" or someone sent by God himself in order to make what they had to say convincing.

"It's a safety blanket to explain things that are unexplainable," Fontanesi said. "You just blame it on God or the universe or whatever you believe in. There's so many cult leaders that think that they're the second coming of Christ or something, that they're an apostle coming down to save the world again."

Chemistry freshman Raegan Swartz and her family have seen firsthand the impact a cult can have on someone's life.

Her great-grandfather was involved in a small cult near her hometown. During his high school years, he was a devout Christian. He was invited by some friends to join a spiritual group that seemed innocent initially. He realized shortly after that something more sinister was happening around him.

"They started controlling how he dressed, what food he ate, when he ate, what he was drinking, how much of it," Swartz said. Around the time the shift in the nature of the club occurred, he met Swartz's great-grandmother. Not long after, they decided to get married.

The leaders of the organization he was part of refused to allow them to get married at their own church. Instead, they let him invite his family and friends to the ceremony, where they addressed their suspicions as outsiders. Swartz's grandfather denied anything was wrong.

"He had to get married in this building where they put everybody's families in and they were all supposed to live here together. So, they got married in this building with all of his friends and his family was there and his mom was like 'hey, this seems a little weird,'" Swartz said. "He was like, 'no, it's fine, it's just our little club. It's kind of like the Freemasons.'"

After the marriage, the cult began to exert even more pressure on the couple, even requesting they abort their first child. Swartz's great-grandmother fled the compound where the members lived and hid out in her husband's parental home. Her in-laws realized their earlier assumption of the religious organization was correct, and her great-grandfather came to stay with them late into the pregnancy.

This angered the leaders of his cult, so members were sent to retrieve Swartz's great-grandfather from his home, along with his newborn child.

"He ended up going and living with them for a while, and everybody in the cult was not having it," Swartz said. "... They ended up abducting him and bringing him back with the baby," Swartz said. "They raised my great-grandmother's daughter in the cult.

As the child grew up, members of the cult began exploiting her.

"They started abusing her and having her do things she didn't want to do," Swartz said. "They said it was the right way to get to God."

This was the final straw for her great-grandmother, Swartz said. She gave her husband an ultimatum: He could choose to stay and live in the cult, or he could choose his wife and daughter. He decided to defect, and members of the cult attempted to abduct him a second time.

"He ended up leaving, and he got hunted down by them," Swartz said. "But they ended up contacting officials right before they left and so the leaders got arrested."

Some of the cult members were sentenced to life for their participation in the physical violence and assault that was fairly routine in the organization.

"Beating up the children and the women, and if they wouldn't do the correct things they would assault them," Swartz said.

Fontanesi said the decision to defect from a cult usually comes from the realization that the promises made in recruitment were empty and meaningless.

"One factor is probably realizing the cults can't give you everything they promise," she said. "It's all pretty much based on lies. ... They're not going to give you eternal healing and peace and love," she said. "They slowly realize 'this isn't what it's chalked up to be, this isn't what I was promised.'"

Post-defection, a new journey begins for a victim of cult manipulation and their loved ones. There's a long road to recovering from the impact of the experience. While it's important to seek therapy, the psychological trauma cuts deep and, according to Fontanesi, sometimes can't be fully healed.

"There's a ton of long-lasting psychological consequences," Fontanesi said. "I think being manipulated and abused unknowingly for that long and then finally leaving the cult and realizing that is super traumatic and that can absolutely scar a person permanently. I feel like you can never really get over that regardless of how much therapy or anything that you do."

According to Swartz, after the family was no longer involved in the cult, her great-grandparents were always on edge. Swartz said coping with the manipulation they endured was hard and they didn't reach out for help or attend therapy.

The psychological trauma the family was left with was extensive.

"He didn't trust himself anymore," she said. "He ended up becoming an alcoholic later on in life to try to cope with it. He didn't like his wife and kids going out alone just in case something were to happen. He was just very untrusting of everyone, no matter who you were, family or not. ... He also had a lot of depression for allowing those things to happen to his family."

It's difficult for a victim to acknowledge that they've gotten themselves involved in a cult, according to Fontanesi.

"Nobody wants to admit that a cult is a cult," she said. "... I think people deny the fact they're in a cult after they've realized it because it has such a negative connotation to it for good reason. It's kind of embarrassing to admit that you're in a cult. They don't want to see it for what it is, especially if they're still in that organization."

In an effort to keep outside influence from infiltrating the cult, members were not allowed to watch certain TV channels. Communication with non-family members was prohibited and even their clothing was restricted. Leaving the compound was also largely prohibited unless a member was going to get absolute necessities, such as food or medication.

"They weren't allowed to send letters out to non-direct family members," Swartz said. "They weren't allowed to dress a certain way. If they were allowed to go out, but they weren't allowed to go shopping, it was only groceries. And then if there was a member that needed medicine, they were allowed to go pick it up."

Swartz echoes Fontanesi's sentiment on the word "cult" having a dark undertone.

"I do have a negative connotation when it comes to the word 'cult,'" she said. "... The word cult really puts me on edge. I don't think I ever want to be part of a cult."

Swartz said she believes her great-grandfather was unsure of how he felt about the cult during his time there. It was hard for him to grasp that what seemed so innocent at first could be a bit dark.

"I think he didn't want to believe what was happening," she said. "But I also think he didn't see the severity of it because it was a very slow and gradual process. So, it was like one thing would lead to another thing, which would lead to another thing. I think he was sort of in denial about it, but he also truly believed what they were saying because it didn't start out absolutely terrible. It just started out as a normal type of club."

The transition from being a member of secular society to forfeiting everything to a cult is very gradual and smooth, according to Fontanesi.

"It's very easy to transition when you're not really paying attention to it," she said. "You meet a recruiter. They're like 'come by, see what it's like.' They put on all their happy faces. You're like 'you know I could hang out here, see what's going on,' and then slowly you're being caught up and manipulated into being a little puppet for a cult leader."