Nov 29, 2020

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults

November 24, 2020

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. What started in 1975 with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on US soil and changed the face of modern new age religion forever. This four-part docuseries uses never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to explore the infamous UFO cult that shocked the nation with their out-of-this-world beliefs."

Selling Female Pleasure at a Cost

Bloomberg Quicktake
March 29. 2019

"OneTaste is a global wellness company that is evangelical about women’s sexuality. They teach a practice called orgasmic meditation and argue it is the way to a happier, healthier and more fulfilled life. But it doesn’t come cheap. Some say it has transformed their lives for the better, while others say it pushed them into sexual servitude and five-figure debts."

Nov 28, 2020

Costa Rica expels foreigners for naming king of remote Indian

Source: Associated Press
Publication date: 2002-07-18 Link

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Costa Rica’s president has ordered the expulsion of a group of foreigners, apparently linked to an Indian guru, after they paid members of an Indian reservation in return for the right to name a king, the country’s security minister said Thursday.

The foreigners, members of an organization called the Global Country for for World Peace, allegedly offered each family dlrs 250 a month in return for the right to name the king of the Talamanca reserve, 140 miles (230 kms) south of the capital, San Jose.

After analyzing a report by the security ministry, President Abel Pacheco decided to expel German Emmanuel Schiffgens, the organization’s presumed leader.

In March last year, Schiffgens was listed as prime minister of the Netherlands-based Global Country of World Peace, a “nation without borders” founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a spiritual leader with followers around the world who was once guru to The Beatles.

The Global Country’s “sovereign ruler” is Raja Nader Raam, also known as Tony Nader, who the group’s web site credits with discovering “the constitution of the universe.”

'Psychic’ woman arrested for fraud on Crete
November 27, 2020

A 50-year-old woman who claimed to possess the skill of divination was arrested on Friday for fraud on the island on Crete and the extortion of sums of money from a 46-year-old woman over a two-year period.

She was arrested after an investigation by police, who searched her house in the town of Hania and found and confiscated pre-marked banknotes, which had been paid by the victim at an earlier time, as well as handwritten notes related to the fraud case.

“The woman, presenting false facts as true, pretending to have divination abilities, managed in a period of two years to extract from the victim a total amount of 15,000 euros,” police said in a statement.

Nov 26, 2020

The Cult of Kek: An Archaic Belief System for an Alt-Right “New Age”

Chamila Liyanage
Fair Observer
November 26, 2020

"Pepe the Frog landed a role in the alt-right’s project to restore traditional hierarchical society within a racial state. 

“Boy’s Club” cartoons, is familiar on the internet. The alt-right started to use it to symbolize their battle against political correctness as well as the principles of liberty, equality and justice — the founding values of liberal democracy. The alt-right aims to restore traditional hierarchical society and a racial state. Pepe the Frog landed a role in this task, mainly because of the alt-right’s desire to use memes to spread their message far and wide. From its humble beginning as a cartoon character, Pepe the Frog made a meteoric rise when the alt-right renamed it Kek, establishing the Cult of Kek.

The Cult of Kek appears to offer different things to different people based on what they seek. For those who enjoy creating or following memes, the Cult of Kek is satire. For others, it offers a religion, a deity, even a prayer to advance “meme magic.” However, at the heart of it, the Cult of Kek is neither satire nor religion but an arcane belief system firmly grounded in ancient Egyptian mythology.      

Who Is Kek?  

The ideology behind the Cult of Kek is explained in a series of eight books published under the pseudonym “Saint Obamas Momjeans” in 2016-17. The satirical pseudonym helps to keep the books from inviting serious analysis. Dan Prisk identifies this as “an ironic and irrelevant mode of communication” that seems to have the best of both worlds: the advantage of using “ironic humour” to attract attention and the ability to “hide true politics while openly promoting them.” “Nothing is as it seems” is the best adage to explain the Cult of Kek; even its “prayer” asks to “twist reality around the memes we make.” 

The term “meme magic” seems to have multiple meanings. First, meme magic is a reference to the accessibility and appeal of memes, which can attract followers and create thought movements. Second, the Cult of Kek wants memes to have perceived magical qualities, a pretext to attract followers and enthusiasts. As a 2015 essay published on Daily Stormer explains, “The trve power of skillful memes is to meme the karmic nation into reality, the process of meme magick. By spreading and repeating the meme mantra, it is possible to generate the karma needed for the rebirth of the nation.” But who is Kek, and in what context did the alt-right come to appropriate it?"

Head of Russian division of Aum Shinrikyo terror group sentenced to 15 years in prison

November 26, 2020

Mikhail Ustyantsev was apprehended on May 1, 2018, during organization of a meeting
ROSTOV-ON-DON, November 26. 

Mikhail Ustyantsev, leader of the Russian division of the Aum Shinrikyo (currently known as Aleph) international terror group, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, Southern District military court press service told journalists Thursday.

"By the ruling of the court, the defendant was sentenced to a penalty of 15 years in a penal colony," the press service said.

Previously, the state prosecutor asked for a penalty of 18 years.

The court began reviewing Ustyantsev’s case, initiated over charges of "establishment of a terror group with a goal of propaganda, justification and support of terrorism;" "organization of a group deemed terrorist by the Russian law;" and "creation of a religious group, whose activity involves violence or causation of other harm to the citizens."

According to the investigation, in 2010, Ustyantsev conspired with people, wanted by the federal authorities, as well as with unidentified people, and created and led a division of the Aum Shinrikyo terror group division. The defendant organized dissemination of a religious doctrine among the residents of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Volgograd, which coerced the adepts to present him money, which he transferred to the leadership in Japan.

Ustyantsev was apprehended on May 1, 2018, during organization of a meeting. Arrest warrants have been issued against his accomplices.

Nov 25, 2020

$15,000 Fine After Secret Hasidic Wedding Draws Thousands of Guests

“This was amazingly irresponsible,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Liam Stack
New York Times
November 24, 2020

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered to celebrate a wedding inside a cavernous hall in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood earlier this month, dancing and singing with hardly a mask in sight. The wedding was meticulously planned, and so were efforts to conceal it from the authorities, who said that the organizers would be fined $15,000 for violating public health restrictions.

The wedding, organized on Nov. 8 by the leaders of the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, is the latest incident in a long battle between city and state officials and members of the ultra-Orthodox community, who prize autonomy, chafe at government restrictions and have frequently flouted guidelines like mask-wearing and social distancing.

In October, state officials announced a series of restrictions in several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens with large Orthodox Jewish populations after the positive test rate in those areas rose above 4 percent. Many residents protested the restrictions, which included the closing of nonessential businesses and limiting capacity at houses of worship.

While the rates in several of these areas have decreased since the implementation of the restrictions, tensions between city officials and area leaders have continued.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the fine on Monday night after video of the wedding — and a florid account of the event and the extensive efforts to conceal it appeared in a Hasidic newspaper — drew backlash online. He said additional penalties could be imposed on the organizers.

“We know there was a wedding,” the mayor told the local news network NY1. “We know it was too big. I don’t have an exact figure, but whatever it was, it was too big. There appeared to be a real effort to conceal it. Which is absolutely unacceptable.”

Representatives for the Satmar community did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“We’ve been through so much,” the mayor added. “And in fact, the Williamsburg community in recent weeks responded very positively, did a lot more testing and was being very responsible. This was amazingly irresponsible, just unacceptable. So there’s going to be consequences right away for the people who let that happen.”

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the event “a blatant disregard of the law” and “disrespectful to the people of New York.”

State officials ordered the Satmar community in Orange County to cancel a series of weddings planned for Monday night, but it was unclear if the group complied with that order.

The wedding in Brooklyn, which lasted for more than four hours, was held at the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in Williamsburg and celebrated the marriage of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the grandson of Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum. The bride’s name could not be determined.

Last month, Satmar leaders canceled another wedding in Williamsburg, which they said expected 10,000 guests, that was to be held for the grandson of Rabbi Teitelbaum’s brother and longtime rival, Grand Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum.

An account of the wedding was published on Nov. 11 by Der Blatt, a Yiddish-language newspaper closely aligned with the Satmar leadership in Williamsburg.

It described the wedding as “an experience for which words do not suffice” and “a celebration the likes of which we have rarely had the good fortune to experience,” according to a translation provided by Hasidic activists.

The newspaper also said it knew about the wedding in advance but had participated in an elaborate scheme to hide the event “so as not to attract an evil eye from the ravenous press and government officials, who have in the past exploited the present situation to disrupt already-planned simchas,” a Hebrew word for a joyful event.

“All notices about upcoming celebrations were passed along through word of mouth, with no notices in writing, no posters on the synagogue walls, no invitations sent through the mail, nor even a report in any publication, including this very newspaper,” it wrote.

The Hasidic community in New York City has been gripped with tension in recent months over restrictions meant to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which has left few families in many of these insular neighborhoods untouched by sickness and death.

A range of factors have lead to the pandemic’s heavy toll in the community, experts say, including unsuccessful government outreach, widespread misinformation over herd immunity and the effectiveness of masks, what the city has described as the insufficient quality of education in subjects like science and a longstanding wariness of outsiders that has grown out of a history of religious oppression.

Those tensions spilled onto the street last month when violent protests erupted in Brooklyn over new health restrictions. Face masks were burned in the street and a Hasidic mob attacked three Jewish men, including two Hasidic Jews accused of disloyalty to the community.

Those tensions, and a fear of turncoats, were alluded to darkly in the Satmar newspaper’s account of the wedding.

“Despite having organized this simcha with minimal public notice, the days leading up to the wedding were nonetheless filled with tension,” it said, “not knowing what the next day, or the next moment, will bring, which disgruntled outcast might seize this opportunity to exploit even what hasn’t been written or publicized, to create an unnecessary uproar, and to disrupt the simcha, God forbid.”

Liam Stack is a religion correspondent on the Metro desk, covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He was previously a political reporter based in New York and a Middle East correspondent based in Cairo. @liamstack

A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 25, 2020, Section A, Page 8 of the New York edition with the headline: Organizers of Wedding Fined for Covid Laxity

CultNEWS101 Articles: 11/21-22/2020 (Love has Won, Patricia Hearst, SLA, Brainwashing, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Legal, Religious Freedom, Predatory Alienation, Unification Church, Proud Boys)

Love has Won, Patricia Hearst, SLA, Brainwashing, Jehovah's Witnesses, Legal, Religious Freedom, Predatory Alienation, Unification Church, Proud Boys

Dr. Phil: My Sister Is Running A Cult With A Bunch Of Followers,' Woman Claims; Sister Denies Accusation
"Sisters Chelsea and Tara say that growing up, their sister Amy was a sweet girl who got good grades. Then, by her early 20s, she was married three times and had three children with different dads. Their mother, Linda, says that's when Amy started to change.

"After her third child was born, Amy became very distant," Linda says.

Tara says that in 2006, Amy started acting strange. "She started calling herself 'Mother God,' and she believed that she was God," Tara says. "She claims that she is Jesus, Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra, and different people in the past."

'My sister is running a cult with a bunch of followers in Hawaii," Chelsea claims, of the group Amy says is called Love Has Won. "She believes that she has been sent to save the world. All of Amy's followers refer to her as Mom or Mama. I believe that Amy is scamming all of her followers.'"

"Around 9pm on February 4, 1974, Patricia Hearst, heiress to the greatest newspaper fortune in the US, answered a knock at her apartment door in Berkeley, California.

Three people ran into the room, attacking and tying up Patty's partner, Stephen Weed, before grabbing the 19-year-old, dragging her outside and pushing her into the boot of a car.

Neighbours reported seeing Patty struggling as she was carried away, blindfolded. They were powerless to help her as the kidnappers began firing shots into the street and around them to cover their escape.

And so began one of the strangest kidnappings in American history."
"Lower courts say First Amendment prevents juries from considering case

"The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case alleging male leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Roy forced a 15-year-old girl to listen to a recording of a man raping her in 2008.

Lower courts found the church is not liable for the incident under protections of the First Amendment.

The state's high court has not yet made any ruling, but one justice made his views on the alleged conduct clear.

"The allegation here is a mental and emotional equivalent of waterboarding," Justice Deno Himonas said. "I've been a judge for a long time and a lawyer for a long time. I've never seen, in court, anything like this that's alleged."

The justice was responding to an attorney for the church who referenced the torture in defending her clients. Lawyer Kara Porter said she would draw a line at such physical harm. But she emphasized the woman in the case alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Attorneys for the woman now in her late 20s argue that lower courts got it wrong when they ruled that the First Amendment shields the church from liability.

They say that Utah's highest court will set a dangerous precedent if it decides to grant such protection, effectively permitting other harmful conduct by religious organizations like sharing a person's medical records or repeatedly striking a child in the face."
" ... A 2017 New Jersey law defined predatory alienation and ordered a study of its effect on young adults and senior citizens, conducted by the Rutgers University School of Social Work. Bills now before both houses of the New Jersey Legislature call for the Predatory Alienation and Consensual Response Act to implement some of the study recommendations, but do not criminalize the destructive behavior.

Those who seem to have abandoned all reason to give up everything they have and everyone they know—and even to submit to servitude in an equatorial jungle or to branding in an upstate suburb—can't know they've been unduly influenced until they get away from their coercive handler. Yet once a son or daughter reaches the age of legal majority, parents lose all rights to rescue them from the psychological bondage imposed by the Keith Ranieres of the world, even if they have evidence of a pattern of deceptive control with no informed consent.

Meanwhile, victims of predatory alienation who say they're "estranged" from their family typically don't have to prove it to obtain subsidized housing or college financing. Such gaming of the social services system can render care providers unwitting accessories to predatory behavior."
 "The author recounts her experiences as a child and young adult in the Unification Church ("the Moonies"). She discusses the enduring sense of not fitting in, which arose from her many years of travelling and being taken care of by people other than her parents (who were usually busy with missionary work) and stigmatized for being an "unblessed" child (not born to Moonie parents). During this prolonged conflict situation she vacillated between trying to "buy it" and rebelling. Leaving the group proved to be difficult because she discovered that she did not fit in "outside" either. Ultimately, however, she left the group permanently and began to build a new life."
"The one-time leader of the Proud Boys' most paramilitary arm is now trying to rebrand the far-right streetfighting group as a more explicitly racist entity. It's the latest headache for an organization currently in denial about President Donald Trump's re-election loss.

Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman was once the leader of the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights, essentially the frontline shock troops of the group known for taking part in brawls across the country. The Proud Boys' founder even said in 2017 that he considered naming Chapman president of the entire organization.

But that was while Trump was ascendant. Now, with the ultranationalist group scrambling in the wake of Trump's loss, Chapman is threatening a putsch to make the Proud Boys even more explicitly hateful, accusing the group's current leadership of being too soft.

Chapman, who did not return a request for comment,
"Due to the recent failure of Proud Boy Chairman Enrique Tarrio to conduct himself with honor and courage on the battlefield, it has been decided that I Kyle Chapman reassume my post as President of Proud Boys effective immediately," he wrote on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram. "Our logo will forthwith be changed to reflect the core beliefs of Proud Boy members. Going forward we will now be known as PROUD GOYS. The coup is complete. The grifting leaders have been deposed.

The announcement carried on in racist terms, claiming the organization's new direction would be more explicitly white supremacist, and (unlike the current group) opposed to gay members. (The proposed group's name, the Proud Goys, was a nod to anti-Semites' embrace of the word "goy," which is Yiddish for a non-Jewish person.)

Enrique Tarrio, the current head of the Proud Boys, told The Daily Beast the putsch wasn't going to succeed. And indeed, Chapman's standing in the group has fallen since its peak several years ago.

Still, his announcement hinted at recent upsets in Proud Boy circles, as well as a bigoted tendency that keeps surfacing among Proud Boys despite the group's insistence that they're not racist."

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Millionaire Preacher Skips Bail in South Africa, Fueling International Dispute

Shepherd Bushiri, the founder of a megachurch in South Africa, fled to his home country, Malawi, amid fraud and money laundering charges, leaving the two nations to argue over his fate.
Shepherd Bushiri, the founder of a megachurch in South Africa, fled to his home country, Malawi, amid fraud and money laundering charges, leaving the two nations to argue over his fate.

Monica Mark
New York Times
November 19, 2020

JOHANNESBURG — Shepherd Bushiri, a multimillionaire pastor with a network of churches across Africa, has claimed he can walk on air and harness the power of God to cure people of H.I.V.

This past week, Mr. Bushiri, 37, appeared to perform another remarkable feat: spiriting himself out of South Africa, where he faces charges of fraud and money laundering, and back to his home country of Malawi, without a passport and undetected by law enforcement officials.

His disappearance has set off a power struggle between the governments of South Africa and Malawi, the small southern African country to which he fled, and which is now facing political pressure to turn him in. In South Africa, it has left ministers scrambling to explain how such a high-profile figure was able to abscond, and exposed serious lapses in the ability of officials to monitor the country’s borders.

Mr. Bushiri amassed tremendous wealth after founding the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in South Africa’s capital of Pretoria. The megachurch, which he says has at least a million followers in South Africa alone, is one of the fastest-growing churches on the continent, and has branches in several other African countries.

He preaches to congregants, many impoverished and disillusioned, that if they give money to his churches, God will bless them with wealth and health — a brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as “prosperity gospel.” He has attracted attention for his penchant for ostentatious gold jewelry and expensive-looking suits, and for his jet-setting lifestyle traveling between his congregations in a private plane.

Mr. Bushiri has also built up a business empire, with an investment company with interests in mining and real estate. He has tried to use his money to influence politics in his Malawi, and at least one politician from the governing African National Congress in South Africa credits his career to Mr. Bushiri’s blessings.

The case against Mr. Bushiri, his wife, Mary, and two co-defendants involves what prosecutors called a fraudulent “investment scheme” that had allegedly raked in some $6.6 million. But the prosecutors have never released details of the case. The Bushiris were first arrested in connection with the allegations in February 2019 by South Africa’s elite crime-fighting unit, known as the Hawks.

Mr. Bushiri has denied the charges and after skipping bail, posted a statement on Twitter saying that he and his wife fled after years of threats to their lives. He said that his requests for state protection had gone ignored, and that the case against him was “persecution NOT prosecution.”

“Our coming to Malawi, hence, is a tactical withdrawal from the Republic of South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives,” he said. His spokesman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Bushiris had been released on bail this month after a hearing in which supporters chanted and prayed outside the courtroom. Bail conditions included remaining in Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg, where they live, and handing over five passports they each have, according to Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s home affairs minister, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday.

Still, without a single passport in his possession, Mr. Bushiri turned up in his home country of Malawi last weekend, and from there launched an online tirade against South African officials.

The Bushiri affair has now reached the highest levels of government in both countries. On Tuesday, lawmakers in the South African Parliament grilled Mr. Motsoaledi, the minister of home affairs, about the lapses — or, as one suggested, the complicity — that had allowed the flamboyant pastor to flee, saying the blunder exposed flaws in national security.

In Malawi, members of the government were angry that South African officials seemed to suspect that the entourage of the Malawian president, Lazarus Chakwera, had been trying to smuggle the pastor out of South Africa last weekend on a plane belonging to the president’s entourage. The Malawian government released a statement complaining that the presidential entourage was held up for hours at the airport in South Africa.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bushiri and his wife handed themselves in to a police station in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. A police statement, referring to Mr. Bushiri as “the Prophet,” said the pastor and his wife would be interviewed and would then face “a competent court of law in accordance with the prescriptions of law.” After detaining the Bushiris for one night, the authorities released the couple on bail, without requiring them to post a bond.

South Africa wants them extradited. Phumla Williams, a South African government spokeswoman, said in an interview on Wednesday, “We are currently preparing the paperwork to hand over to Malawi.”

Mr. Bushiri and his wife, Mary, in court in Pretoria, South Africa, during a bail application last month. The couple were first arrested in connection with fraud and money laundering allegations in February 2019.

It was unclear whether Malawi would hand over the pastor. Under a regional extradition treaty signed by both countries, any decision to surrender Mr. Bushiri would need to be made by the Malawian Ministry of Justice and approved by President Chakwera, a prominent Pentecostal church leader, who was elected in June of this year.

Returning Mr. Bushiri would risk riling his huge following in Malawi. Tens of thousands flocked to a football stadium there in 2018 to give him a hero’s welcome, with a marching band and security officials escorting him. At that event, Samuel Tembenu, the Malawian minister of justice, gave a speech praising Mr. Bushiri on behalf of the man who was then country’s president, Peter Mutharika.

Gospel Kazako, Malawi’s minister of information, said in an interview, “We are governed by laws, and if the law allows us to send him back we will do so as law.”

Gary Eisenberg, a lawyer based in Cape Town who specializes in immigration and extradition, said, “It really becomes a political question at the end of the day. This is not a South African case any longer, it’s a Malawian case.”

Other legal experts said that another sticking point was that Mr. Bushiri has repeatedly claimed that he will not be guaranteed a fair trial in South Africa — a key requirement of the extradition treaty.

In 2018, Mr. Bushiri lodged his own case against the police, alleging that they had tried to extort him in the course of investigating him on separate, allegations of rape, for which he has not been charged.

Mr. Eisenberg said the pastor appeared to be setting the grounds for his case to be dismissed: “He’s tipping everybody off — he’s saying, listen to me, even the police who investigated me in South Africa are corrupt. So how can the process be unblemished by corruption?”

In 2017, he allegedly promoted a get-rich-quick program to church members, promising a 50 percent profit within a month if they pledged about $6,500 or more to his “commodity investment opportunity,” South African news media reported.

Many who poured their savings into the plan claim they lost their money, while others were advised to deposit their investments with Rising Estates, a company run by close associates of Mr. Bushiri. Police later opened an investigation into the program.

Mr. Bushiri, defending his opulent lifestyle, has said that part of his mission is to enable his congregants to likewise acquire such wealth, and that the church offers what it calls “entrepreneurial programmes and skills development.”

“There is this perception that men of God are not supposed to be rich,” Mr. Bushiri said in an interview on his church website. But, he added: “If you read the Bible, you will note that men of God were rich, including Abraham.”

Ralph Mweninguwe contributed to this story from Lilongwe, Malawi.

CultNEWS101 Articles: 11/23/2020 (World Mission Society Church Of God, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Faith Healing, UK, Bountiful, Polygamy, Book, Canada)

World Mission Society Church Of God, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Faith Healing, UK, Bountiful, Polygamy, Book, Canada

"The WMSCOG (the mother god cult) is a group that has a record of splitting up families and disrupting relationships. Jordan shares some encouragement for those of you who have experienced losing a friend or family member to this group and also some tips on how to talk with them."

Clergy Sexual Abuse as a Betrayal Trauma: Institutional Betrayal & A Call for Courageous Response
" ... A robust body of literature exists for child abuse as a betrayal trauma, with a long-term sequela of consequences for victims, while being a significant social and public health concern. Less widely known are the impacts of clergy sexual abuse as a betrayal trauma and a unique spiritual wound. Betrayal trauma theory and institutional betrayal is explored in relation to clergy sexual abuse in the context of American religious landscape. Institutional betrayal is postulated to be an exacerbator of betrayal trauma for clergy sexual abuse victims. Individual and institutional factors for religious betrayal trauma and institutional betrayal are discussed. Recommendations for individual and institutional change and a call for courage on both fronts are made."

The vulnerable woman lost £100,000 to the criminal who's now on the run

"A Derby woman says her life has been "devastated" by being scammed by a faith healer.

The woman from Chellaston, who has asked not to be named, says she was targeted by a manipulative fraudster when she was at her most vulnerable.

The 53-year-old had contacted a man who claimed he could help with her husband's serious medical conditions through rituals and black magic. Among the services he offered was crocodile sacrifice that he claimed would help solve his victim's problems.

Instead, he turned out to be Abdoulie Gassama, a con artist who scammed her out of more than £100,000 of life savings, leaving her financially ruined in just four months."

"Jane Blackmore was gaunt with the hollow eyes of a refugee sitting huddled in a restaurant booth when we first met in 2004.

The ex-wife of Bountiful's once-powerful bishop, Winston Blackmore, Jane still looked the part of a fundamentalist Mormon wife in a pioneer-styled dress with her hair swooped up from her face and braided in the back.

A registered nurse and midwife, she'd fled the community with her youngest daughter. She wanted to protect her from being placed in a religious marriage before her 18th birthday, as had already happened to Jane's other two daughters.

Over the years, Jane has remained a reluctant, but powerful voice for change in the polygamous community, always insisting that education is key.

So, it was with interest and some dismay that I read Mary Jayne Blackmore's recently released book, Balancing Bountiful: What I Learned About Feminism from My Polygamist Grandmothers.

Mary Jayne has a unique perspective on Bountiful. She's one of the daughters Jane was forced to leave behind.

Now 37, she's disavowed fundamentalist Mormonism even though she is principal of Mormon Hills School — an independent school overseen by her father with just over 100 students that last year received $602,023 in government grants.

She also ran for mayor of Creston in 2018, not 2019 as the book's biography says, finishing a distant third to the incumbent.

As the fifth of the polygamous leader's 150 children, Blackmore writes that she grew up "in the glory days of Bountiful."

Her golden-hued memories of ponies, pet lambs and a loving, tight-knit community are only briefly derailed with mentions of darker events — a cousin jailed for sexually abusing his sister and the rapidly increasing number of her father's wives startlingly close to her in age."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources.




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CultNEWS101 Articles: 11/24/2020 (NXIVM, Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Legal, Korea, Peru, World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, Cult Recovery)

NXIVM, Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Legal, Korea, Peru, World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, Cult Recovery

" ... Despite the spate of revelations about NXIVM, though, some of its followers have remained loyal to the organization, according to a new New York Times report. As the paper notes, eight of Raniere's supporters released videos last month in which they said their branding, one of the group's most notorious aspects, was consensual, and that they hadn't been forced into sex with him. Even as public awareness of Raniere's crimes grew, some supporters danced outside the jail in Brooklyn where he was held.

Those who continue to stand by Raniere and NXIVM have continued to push back on how the organization has been portrayed. Nicki Clyne, an actor who was in Battlestar Galactica, told the Times that her marriage to the Smallville actor Allison Mack was "born from genuine love." Mack has pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy after recruiting women for NXIVM, and she is currently awaiting sentencing. As the Times notes, prosecutors have called the marriage a "sham" that allowed Clyne, who was born in Canada, to stay in the United States. Clyne, who has not been charged, also denied prosecutors' claim that she had directed some women in NXIVM to move what was known within the group as "collateral," such as nude photographs and access to financial assets, from their computers onto hard drives that they gave to her lawyer.

Ivy Nevares, who the Times said dated Raniere, gave the paper a different account. At his sentencing, she said that he required her to weigh 95 pounds and be constantly available for sex. Nevares told the Times that she needed almost a year after leaving NXIVM before she stopped seeing Raniere as a "Jesus-type figure," adding, "I was in the bubble of NXIVM for so long that I didn't know how I could navigate the world."

"If you want to go on believing he's God on Earth, that's fine," Nevares also said. "But don't go around enrolling people into this very dangerous criminal organization."

In addition to Mack, three other women in Raniere's inner circle are awaiting sentencing dates after pleading guilty to lesser crimes. Clyne told the Times that she and other Raniere supporters are currently reviewing trial evidence and "keeping an open mind.'"

" ... A court on Thursday granted bail to the leader of a minor religious sect at the center of the early coronavirus outbreak in South Korea.

The Suwon District Court, south of Seoul, allowed the bail request of Lee Man-hee, the founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, citing a low risk of destroying evidence and his deteriorating health.

The court set the bail bond at 100 million won (US$89,700) and ordered him to stay at his residence and wear an electric device to trace his movement.

The 89-year-old leader was indicted in August for allegedly submitting false documents to health authorities on the whereabouts and number of participants at Shincheonji's gatherings in February when the sect was blamed for spikes in the spread of COVID-19.

He is also accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won from church funds and holding unauthorized religious events from 2015 to 2019.

Since his arrest, he has requested bail, citing poor health.

Appearing in court earlier this month, he pleaded with the court to allow him to be released on bail, saying, 'Death would be better than living (in prison).'"

"For decades, lay movements and communities have given countless Catholics a chance to rediscover and deepen their faith.

Yet, while many bring people closer to God, questions have been raised about the influence some lay groups exercise over their members and about how the church should determine whether the movement should be reformed or dissolved when there is abuse or corruption.

In his 1998 message for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, St. John Paul II recognized their importance and said lay movements were "one of the most significant fruits of that springtime in the church which was foretold by the Second Vatican Council."

But not all the fruit was good. And several movements and communities have faced Vatican-imposed reforms and even dissolution.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a professor of psychology and president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, told Catholic News Service Nov. 4 that before deciding to dissolve a movement or community, certain criteria should be met to indicate reform is possible.

"One condition would be how much that community or that movement is really willing to revise its statutes and its way of proceeding under the guidance of someone external," such as a commissioner, Zollner told CNS.

A key issue, he said, is a willingness to have a clear separation of "spiritual guidance and external power" when it comes to decision-making.

"A spiritual director should never have the power to direct the movement or a decision for a person," he said. "There needs to be a separation between who decides the mission aspect ('forum externum') and who knows about the spiritual side ('forum internum'). This is a very important point which some of those movements and some of those religious congregations have not been taking seriously, against the tradition and the law of the church."

Perhaps surprisingly, the Catholic Church has a limited number of options for intervening when it comes to lay movements and communities. While a pope can remove cardinals, priests and bishops, laypeople can be punished only by excommunication.

Another condition, Zollner said, is that there must be a set period of time — preferably between three and five years — for changes to be implemented and that a person not affiliated with the movement must determine whether the conditions of the reform have been met."

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Russia Carries Out Mass Raids on Jehovah's Witnesses, Makes Arrests

U.S. News & World Report
Nov. 24, 2020

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - LAW enforcement authorities carried out mass raids on the Jehovah's Witnesses across Russia on Tuesday and made a number of arrests as part of a new criminal case against the group, the Investigative Committee said.

The law enforcement agency said it had opened an investigation as it suspected the Christian denomination, which Russia has labelled "extremist" and outlawed, was organising the activity of its national centre in Russia and local affiliates.
Russia's Supreme Court ordered the Jehovah's Witnesses to disband in 2017 and some of its adherents have been jailed or hit with criminal charges in an ensuing crackdown.

The Investigative Committee said in a statement it had identified a number of the group's organisers and followers in more than 20 regions and had taken them into custody as part of its investigation.

Some adherents have met privately in a flat in northwest Moscow from June 2019 to discuss and study religious literature relating to their faith, and have converted some Moscow residents, it said.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have been under pressure for years in Russia where the Orthodox Church championed by President Vladimir Putin is dominant.

Putin said in 2018 that he did not understand why authorities were pursuing the group and called for the matter to be analysed.

The Kremlin declined to comment on Tuesday. Jehovah's Witnesses representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Jehovah's Witnesses are a Christian denomination known for door-to-door preaching, close Bible study, and rejection of military service and blood transfusions.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Alexander Marrow; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Documentary Film - Truther or: I Am Not a Conspiracy Theorist

Perhaps no single event has set off more conspiracy mania than the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001. Truther or: I Am Not a Conspiracy Theorist explores this movement by profiling some of the central figures who have successfully spread their doubts and theories throughout the globe.

The film opens at Ground Zero, where conspiracy activists continue to preach their views to the masses to this day. "9/11 is a lie," says one truther who stands near the site. The camera witnesses several volatile confrontations truthers and deeply offended passersby.

The consensus behind the movement is that the government has shrouded the true events of that horrific day. They question every detail - from the terrorist's hijacking of airplanes to the aftermath of their impact onto the towers. Many truthers believe that the destruction was part of an "inside job" and likely involved the detonation of controlled explosions, particularly as it pertains to Building 7 which stood nearby the two World Trade Center towers.

The mania surrounding these theories were largely inspired and inflamed by the controversial 2005 documentary Loose Change. The film features a centerpiece interview with that film's director Eric Wong. He speaks of the formative experiences that shaped his world view. His struggling mother felt shafted by the government during the big bank housing scandal. His first notions of becoming a filmmaker were inspired by the anti-authoritarian cult hit Fight Club. He rejects the idea that he deals in damaging conspiracy.

The film also features conversations with members of Architects & Engineers of 9/11 Truth, a non-profit organization dedicated to challenging the accepted narrative of the attacks. The mainstream media is often the focus of their crusade.

As evidenced throughout the film, these truthers proclaim their observations are founded in science as they question the probability of melting steel or buildings in freefall.

The film is likely to anger many viewers who don't concur with the theory of a grand cover-up. Beyond the occasional detractor on the street, there are no dissenting viewpoints offered in the film. Instead, it takes a deep dive into the world of the truthers and allows their perspectives to dominate.

Directed by: Alexander Jorgensen

What Is a Cult, Anyway?

What Is a Cult, Anyway?
Gabriel Andrade
Merion West
November 23, 2020

“The word ‘cult’ is tossed around quite frequently in media, but few can offer a precise definition.”

In a recent edition of his show Real Time, Bill Maher compared President Donald Trump to Keith Raniere. Raniere was recently sentenced to 120 years in prison, on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor. Needless to say, President Trump has done nothing remotely similar to this; however, Maher insists that President Trump and Raniere are cut from the same cloth because they are both leaders of cults. In Maher’s telling, Raniere was the leader of the NXIVM cult, while President Trump is the leader of his own political cult.

The word “cult” is tossed around quite frequently in media, but few can offer a precise definition. Nobody acknowledges being part of a cult. At the end of the day, the word cult simply connotes a religion or an organization that one just does not like. And, for this reason, it is basically impossible to establish a meaningful difference between a cult and a religion or organization that could be respected.

Maher went on to point out similarities between Raniere and President Trump. In his words, “like most cult leaders, Vanguard [Raniere] had an extraordinary need to be surrounded by a— lickers telling him how great he was”; Maher then presented clips of President Trump’s followers telling him how great he is, as well as clips of President Trump boasting about his own exaggerated virtues. Sure, President Trump and Raniere have narcissistic personality traits. But, does that make them cult leaders? Founders of virtually every religion (both mainstream and fringe) have had followers singing their praises. One such man in first century Palestine is on record saying things such as, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Yet, in most Americans’ telling, it would be very offensive to call him a “cult leader.”

Maher also mentions “both men were unrepentant sex creeps, and they literally could not stop themselves from bragging about it.” Of course, Raniere and President Trump have behaved far from virtuously in their sex lives. However, is that the exclusive purview of cult leaders? Joseph Smith abused power to marry tens of women; Gandhi slept naked with young girls; and the Bible makes no qualms about the patriarch Judah having sex with his own daughter-in-law dressed as a prostitute. Once again: A cult is simply a religion or organization one does not like.

One self-proclaimed “cult expert,” Steven Hassan, insists that cult leaders use hypnotic powers to lure women. Perhaps Hassan is unaware of the racist background of the idea that men can hypnotize unwilling women: In 1912, boxing champion Jack Johnson was accused by a white woman of using hypnotic powers to seduce her daughter, and Johnson was sentenced to prison in yet another ugly episode of racism in American history. The idea that a person can be hypnotized against her will is a myth, yet Hassan perpetuates this false notion by attributing such powers to cult leaders.

Hassan was once a member of the Moonies (Unification Church). He apparently could never come to terms with the fact that as a young man he joined such a bizarre religious organization. As such, he came up with the idea that, somehow, he was brainwashed and did not act out of his own free will. Now, he wants to persuade his readers that President Trump is a cult leader, just as Sun Myung Moon was. In his 2019 book The Cult of Trump, Hassan claims that President Trump’s rhetoric and conduct may actually subvert Americans’ free will, and this is extremely dangerous. Hassan is especially concerned with brainwashing: “Whatever term you wish to use—mind control, thought reform, brainwashing—it is ultimately a process that disrupts an individual’s ability to make independent decisions from within their own identity.”

We need a reality check. Brainwashing does not exist. Rebecca Moore correctly argues that “like the word ‘cult’, the term brainwashing seems to only be applied to groups we disapprove of. We don’t say that soldiers are brainwashed to kill other people; that’s basic training. We don’t say that fraternity members are brainwashed to haze their members; that’s peer pressure.” Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) uses it as a concept, claims about brainwashing lack scientific evidence. We like to say that someone has been brainwashed whenever he does something bizarre at the command of others, but we have no way of proving whether his own free will has been suspended. Occasionally, defendants try to get off the hook by invoking the-Devil-made-me-do-it-style arguments, and brainwashing is one such argument. Wisely, courts consistently reject such appeals.

Now, of course, someone can be compelled to do certain things, such as prisoners in the Korean War professing their loyalty to Communism—or forced confessions. However, here, we are talking about outright coercion. Neither President Trump nor any other alleged cult leader point guns to people’s heads. As much as we may be saddened by it, we must admit that the people who drank the Flavor Aid in Jonestown in 1978 were not forced to do it.

President Trump may be not a particularly nice man. Neither were David Koresh, Jim Jones, or Keith Raniere. However, to describe them as cult leaders is dangerously inaccurate for two reasons. First, such a choice of words gives other problematic leaders an unfair out (i.e. at least they are not cult leaders). President George W. Bush claimed to be in contact with God when deciding to invade Iraq; Pope Francis styles himself as the “vicar of Christ on Earth”; and the Dalai Lama is happy to be called the “Precious Conqueror.” However, few are as troubled by these episodes. So we are worried about cultish narcissism but not religious narcissism, even though we have no clue about what the difference may actually be.

Second (and more importantly), by describing President Trump as a cult leader, we deny the American people the agency they need in order to come to terms with the decision they made in 2016. To say that President Trump simply brainwashed people into voting for him amounts to suggesting that voters have no responsibility in what they do. It fails to understand the disenfranchisement of the blue-collar worker; it neglects the role of racial anxieties and tensions in American history. Instead, authors such as Hassan opt for the very simplistic explanation of saying that some Fu Manchu-like cartoonish character is the sole reason for what he sees as an American tragedy. It is an infantilizing narrative that—instead of reckoning with the complex issues at stake in any election—leaves people singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” once the alleged cult leader is defeated.

Hassan and the other self-proclaimed cult experts are wrong. As much as he may hate to admit it, Hassan did not forego his free will in joining the Moonies. As Eileen Barker explains, “much as the [Moonies and other] movements tried to persuade people to join their ranks, and much as they would have like to have had greater persuasive powers, they demonstrably did not have access to the irresistible or irreversible techniques they were reputedly wielding.” Likewise, the American people may have voted for President Trump for many reasons, but brainwashing was not one of them. President Trump is not a cult leader. In fact, cult leaders do not exist.

Dr. Gabriel Andrade is a university professor. His twitter is @gandrade80