Oct 27, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/27/2020

Hallucinogens, Trafficking, QAnon, Cult Interventions, Bethel Church, Covid-19

"A new book tackles what's been called 'the best kept secret in history': Did the ancient Greeks use drugs to find God?"

AJC: Lawsuit: Midtown hotel management knew sex trafficking was going on
"The manager of a Midtown Atlanta hotel knew sex trafficking was taking place, a federal lawsuit filed this week claims.
The lawsuit, filed against America's Best Value Inn on Peachtree Street, is the latest targeting metro Atlanta hotels accused of profiting from trafficking, rather than reporting the illegal activity.
"This hotel was a prison for our client," attorney Pat McDonough said in an emailed statement. "She was kidnapped, drugged, and held captive there while being trafficked for months. Over the past two years, she has worked to rebuild her life and hopes that by holding the venue of her crime accountable, others will not be imprisoned there like she was."
The plaintiff identified as "J.B." was trafficked at the hotel between March and June of 2018, according to the lawsuit. She is represented by McDonough and Jonathan Tonge with Andersen, Tate and Carr law firm, along with Pete Law, Mike Moran and Denise Hoying from Law and Moran. In August, the attorneys filed two separate federal lawsuits against a Marietta hotel alleging that employees helped traffickers hide from police. Several previously filed lawsuits targeting hotels are still pending."

Inside Edition: Trying to Convince Someone to Leave Behind QAnon? This Cult Interventionist Knows the Way.
" ... Conspiracy theories have been around since the dawn of time. They appeal to people's most primal of instincts and are not unlike groups that are founded on unusual beliefs, or by a common interest in a particular personality, object or goal, otherwise known as cults, those familiar with such groups say.

"It's a way to allay the threat of the fact we know we're going to die," Joseph Szimhart told Inside Edition Digital. "We need to figure out ways to live and to find meaning. We tap into this sense of meaning and thriving that we can thrive better if we participate in a particular ideology."

Szimhart works as a cult interventionist, leading people out of cults or dangerous beliefs at the request of their loved ones.

"People get locked into certain points of view, and they like to feel certain," he explained. "My job is to expand [that point of view], and bring in more information to move them further into reality until they begin to feel, 'My leader is wrong,' and the leader starts to look like a flawed human being with a flawed philosophy."

Szimhart's interventions normally start when family members or loved ones reach out about someone they know who becomes involved in a cult or what they believe to be is a dangerous belief system. "A family of highly educated people engaged me because their father is a doctor involved with a mystic in Brooklyn," he recalled. "The relationship has completely taken over the doctor's life. He's more secretive around his family, he has rearranged all of his money, which is a big red flag. He's hinting that women aren't worthy on the path he's on, so I try to help them navigate."

He then tries to meet the person to discuss the group or belief. It's then that he explains to them why their family is concerned. "Setting that up often has to happen by surprise," Szimhart explained.

If the person doesn't want to talk or wants to leave, Szimhart welcomes it. If the family wants to continue with the intervention, it's up to them to convince the person to return.

"The way to cure the person that isn't mentally ill from the belief system is to separate them from that somehow," he explained. "Either by talking to them or physically getting them away from the form of influence and their common sense will start to kick in with new information."

Most interventions last three to five days, and each day's session can last up to 12 hours long. After, he refers them to speak with a therapist or interact with other former members of their cult.

Szimhart's passion for the practice started shortly after he extricated himself from a cult. As a young artist, he fell victim to a right-wing, new age cult based out of California in the 1980s.

"My wife left me when I came back from a four-day conference. She noticed I had changed a lot," he explained. "I cut my hair short. I shaved my beard. I stopped eating meat. How we had sex and everything else was affected – even my color palate changed, since black, brown and grey were considered evil."

But it didn't take long for Szimhart to begin questioning the group. He began researching the organization on his own, but it wasn't until about a year later that he separated himself from the cult. "I struggled my way out of it," he recalled. "It's not easy to leave because it's more of a mental struggle than anything else to choose to leave."

After putting the cult behind him, Szimhart began working as a portrait artist at a mall in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Another employee at the mall requested a portrait as a gift to her fiancé, whom she came to meet by arranged marriage through a church. He worked on the commission for about a month. It was as he worked that he noticed something was wrong.

"She would come by early in the morning to chat with me, trying to recruit me into her church," he recalled.

Believing she may have been on the wrong path, Szimhart gently questioned her when she preached about her church. By the time the portrait was finally completed, she declared she would leave the group, leave her fiancé and instead, give the portrait to her parents, whom she wasn't allowed to speak to for months as a rule of being in the church.

Shortly after, her parents reached out to him with their gratitude.

"You can change people's lives," he said. "It's become a blessing in so many ways."

Between his career as a caseworker at a psychiatric emergency hospital and a visual artist, Szimhart doesn't take on as many exit counselling cases, but in the past, he has charged an average of $500 per day, not including additional expenses like travel. He estimates that the process could take several days – including a few days before to prepare and meet with the family, and a few days for the intervention."

The Sacramento Bee: COVID-19 outbreak at faith-healing school alarms conservative Northern California town
" ... They come to Redding from all over the world for instruction in faith healing and raising the dead. They often approach strangers in local parking lots, businesses and hospitals offering prayers.

Now, state and church officials are asking the student body of more than 1,600 people at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Shasta County to lock down at their homes and apartments after 137 students and staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The cases represent 10 percent of Shasta County's total infections so far.

Bethel Church and local health officials say the Redding megachurch is taking steps to limit the outbreak from spreading. But health officials worry the dozens of new cases could set off a wave of infections in this conservative community where a group of activists has angrily pushed back against COVID-19 restrictions and the local health officer has received threats for enforcing state mask mandates and business closures.

In a statement on its website last week, Bethel Church said it had asked students to arrive early before classes started in early September to quarantine for 14 days, and students were required to have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to attending school.

But that didn't stop an outbreak from spreading.

"It's hard to say if they arrived with it, or if they acquired it here or some combination of that, and much of that transmission is in shared housing, so it's probably a combination," Shasta County's health officer, Dr. Karen Ramstrom, said during a media briefing last week.

The school has since shifted to a temporary distance learning model, and the church has asked students to stay home."

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