Apr 30, 2021

Tracing the remains of the ancient Fujiko cult in Tokyo’s mini Mount Fujis

Tracing the remains of the ancient Fujiko cult in Tokyo’s mini Mount Fujis
Tracing the remains of the ancient Fujiko cult in Tokyo's mini Mount Fujis

George Lloyd
Japan Today

Mount Fuji has always been regarded as a sacred mountain, but for much of their history, the Japanese have been content to admire the iconic peak from afar. The only people interested in actually climbing it were the mountain-loving followers of Shugendo, (修Y道 "the way of self-discipline"), a sect of mountain ascetics.

However, in the early years of the Edo period (1603C1868), a cult called Fujiko (富士v) arose around the mountain. It was founded by a Shinto priest called Hasegawa Kakugyo (1541C1646), and it turned the ascent of Mount Fuji into a religious rite and duty.

The followers of the new cult solicited funds from their neighbors in Edo (now Tokyo) to sponsor their annual pilgrimages to Mt. Fuji. Only groups of hardy young men made the trip, for it was not easy to travel from Edo to Mt Fuji in those days. Children and the elderly found the trek too arduous, and women were forbidden to climb the sacred peak, in the belief that their "earthiness" would defile its 'purity'.

In 1780, Takada Toshiro, the leader of a local branch of the Fujiko cult, had the bright idea of building a miniature replica of the sacred mountain on the grounds of his local Shinto shrine. This gave cult followers who were unable, whether through age, infirmity or gender, to climb Mt. Fuji the option of climbing a mini version of the mountain instead.

This was Edo's first fujizuka (富士V "mound made in the image of Mt Fuji"). It jutted 10 meters into the sky and is said to have taken Tanaka and his brethren over nine years to complete. They built it using rust-colored volcanic rocks painstakingly hauled to the capital from Mt Fuji. Affectionately known as the Takada Fuji, you can still see it today, tucked away in the grounds of Mizuinari Shrine, near Waseda University.

Thanks to the proselytising of another Shinto priest, Jikigyo Miroku, the Fujiko cult gradually took root among the people of Edo. Wherever the cult went, fujizuka followed. The mini-mountains allowed cult followers of all ages and both sexes to worship the sacred mountain without leaving their neighborhoods.

Of course, a pilgrimage to the real Mt Fuji was the ideal, but as the Fujiko cult grew in popularity, it became impractical for all of its adherents to make the trip and this spurred the creation of even more mini replicas. By the time the cult reached the height of its popularity in the early 19th century, there were 800 fujizuka in the city.

The cult's followers had a typically pragmatic attitude to religion, and saw no contradiction between their adherence to Shintoism, Buddhism and their worship of Mt Fuji. Indeed, Fujiko seems to have been a way of cementing social ties as much as of worshipping the sacred mountain, for most branches were organized by and for workmates.

Most fujizuka followed the template of the Takada Fuji in Waseda, albeit on a smaller scale, usually being around 10 feet high. So as to cut down on the labour required, they were usually built from local rocks, with genuine Mt Fuji volcanic stones only being used as a covering. Once the mound was complete, it was adorned with copies of the station markers, shrines and stone monuments found at the 10 waystations on Mt Fuji itself.

The Fujiko cult continued to thrive well into the Meiji period (1868-1912). According to Mr Suzuki, the priest at Shinagawa shrine, the fujizuka in the grounds of his shrine was not built until 1869C72. Over the course of the 20th century, however, most of Tokyo's fujizuka were demolished to make way for modern roads and buildings. Thankfully, about 60 of them have survived to the present-day, and most of them can still be climbed.

The best-known examples are in the grounds of Ekoda, Jūjō, Otowa, Takamatsu, Sendagaya, Shinagawa and Shitaya-Sakamoto shrines. The last of these, the Shitaya-sakamoto fujizuka, is in the grounds of Onoterusaki, a popular shrine in the Shitaya/Iriya area. Unfortunately, it is closed to the public for most of the year, but the head priest allows people to scale it on several days each year to celebrate the start of the official climbing season on Mt Fuji.

Sadly, many of the surviving fujizuka have been reduced in size by unscrupulous builders on the unit for rubble for the foundations of new buildings.

The mini-Fuji that remains closest to its original shape is probably Toshima Nagasaki, which stands in the grounds of Takamatsu Sengen Shrine in Toshima-ku. It is eight meters high, 21 meters in diameter and covered with volcanic rock hewn from the slopes of Mount Fuji. Its 50 Buddhist statues and religious symbols give some indication of how popular the Fujiko cult used to be in this part of Tokyo.

Another famous fujizuka is the Komagome Fuji close to Rikugien Gardens. It was built atop a prehistoric burial mound and is thought to have been consecrated as a Shinto shrine in 1629.

The best fujizuka I have seen is the one behind Narukotenjinsha shrine in West Shinjuku. It was built in 1920, making it the last to be built in this part of the city. At 12 metres, it is one of the highest in Tokyo, though these days it is dwarfed by the skyscrapers that surround it.

The Fujiko cult was mainly confined to Edo, but there are a few Fuji replicas outside Tokyo as well, such as the Kizoro Fuji in Kawaguchi, Saitama prefecture. Built in 1800, it ranks as one of the oldest fujizuka in Japan. There's even one in the grounds of Fanhams Hall, a hotel in Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.


China brutalizes religious groups with repressive policies

Members of the Church of Almighty God meet outdoors in China to avoid police surveillance. (Photo: Bitter Winter)
Church of Almighty God members give accounts of detention, interrogation and torture

UCA News reporter, Hong Kong
April 30, 2021

Communist China has continued its crackdown on religious groups and practices by arresting and abusing hundreds of members, accusing them of being associated with entities that the state authorities deem illegal.

From January to March this year, some 750 members of the Church of Almighty God were arrested, interrogated and tortured in various Chinese provinces including Jiangsu, Henan and Sichuan.

At least 123 members were detained and abused in Jiangsu province in January and on Feb. 15, while 50 were arrested in Sichuan.

Subscribe to your daily free newsletter from UCA News

They faced beatings and were forced to sit still facing walls for many hours, according to an April 27 report from Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights.

A female member who was tortured in detention said she felt “my arms were nearly broken” and she sweated all over her body and “could not help screaming.”

China’s crackdown on the Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning, a controversial Christian cult movement that is believed to have 3-4 million members, has been going on for years.

Sinicization aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions, especially religious groups

The church’s 2020 report claimed that 5,587 members faced various forms of persecution by Chinese authorities last year.

Observers says the crackdown on the church is part of China’s wider repression of freedom of religion and belief with three draconian policies — the Sinicization of religion, regulations on religious affairs and its Beautiful Villages policy.

Sinicization aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

Controversial demolitions of dozens of churches and crosses across China since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013 were prime examples of Sinicization of Christianity in the officially atheist country.

Officially, atheist China recognizes the legal entity of five religions — Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism.

Since adopting new regulations on religious affairs in February 2018, Chinese authorities have escalated clampdowns on religious institutions and charities, accusing them of using welfare fronts for religious indoctrination and conversion.

The Beautiful Villages policy, based on China’s wide-ranging New Socialist Countryside policy, was adopted nationally in 2013 after being applied in some provinces since 2006.

The policy stipulates that a village should be certified as beautiful when it has implemented socialist norms, an ecological environment and eradicated all religious practices deemed illegal by the state.

Under the guise of the policy, banned religious sects including the Falun Gong, Church of Almighty God and Xie Jiao (a group of about 20 cults or belief groups labelled “anti-China” or “evil cults”) have been targeted and wiped out from many villages.

China is regularly listed among the worst offenders for repressing religious freedom in global reports

A village can be proclaimed beautiful if it can score 900 out of 1,000 points by conforming to parameters formulated by Beijing. Thus, local authorities enforce measures to eradicate all religious activity that might bar a village from scoring points to gain coveted Beautiful Village status.

The persecution of minority Uyghur Muslims has added to new dimension of religious repression in China. Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang.

China is regularly listed among the worst offenders for repressing religious freedom in global reports.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Report 2021, released on April 21, placed China among 14 countries where governments engage or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations” of religious freedom or belief. Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, India and Vietnam were also on the list.


CultNEWS101 Articles: 4/30/2021

The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Chris Oyakhilome, Nigeria, Legal, Tantra, Psychic, Australia

"A popular Nigerian televangelist has urged his followers to "pray for YouTube" for shutting down his account after he posted videos on his channel claiming to 'cure' gay members of his congregation of their sexuality.

"I got to know what happened to YouTube when I saw the viewers complaining... I want you to help me pray for YouTube... Don't see them the other way around; see them as friends. We need to be strong," T.B. Joshua said in a sermon posted on the ministry's Facebook page at the weekend.

The YouTube channel of The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) -- run by Joshua -- was deactivated last week and can no longer be viewed by its nearly two million subscribers.

OpenDemocracy, a media rights group based in the UK, told CNN that it sent a message to YouTube on April 8 asking if the conversion therapy videos did not violate its policies.

"We noticed at least seven videos. In one video, T.B. Joshua slapped a woman and her partner whom he called her 'second' (partner) at least 16 times," said Lydia Namubiru, OpenDemocracy's Africa Editor.

"He said he was casting the 'spirit of woman' out of her," Namubiru said as she narrated the content of the footage flagged to YouTube and Facebook by her organization. The woman later told Joshua that she no longer felt affection for her partner because of his intervention, Namubiru said."

"British media regulator Ofcom has imposed sanctions against a channel founded by Nigerian megachurch preacher Chris Oyakhilome for airing "unsubstantiated claims" linking 5G to the coronavirus pandemic.

The regulator said while it does not oppose broadcasts airing controversial views or those challenging health authorities, the claims in a sermon aired by Christian channel Loveworld News calling the pandemic a "global cover-up" posed serious health consequences to viewers.

The sermon questioned the need for lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus without providing context, according to the Ofcom investigation."
"TEDx talk in San Francisco in which she spoke of her plans to build an empire on the female orgasm. A tall, self-assured woman in her early 40s, dressed in a black silk trouser suit, auburn hair falling to her shoulders, Daedone did not, of course, put it quite like that.In the course of the talk, which has since been watched more than two million times on YouTube, Daedone, who had recently published a book entitled Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm, and was standing in front of..."

"A British TV psychic has been hit with a £100,000 ($A180,000) court bill after lying about losing his powers in a car crash.

Maurice Amdur, 56, had sued the insurance company of the driver who hit his Jaguar XKS convertible, for £250,000 ($A450,000) compensation.

The celebrity psychic, who starred in Maurice's Psychic World on Sky and Channel 4's Four Rooms, had claimed he damaged his neck and spine during a car crash in London's Marble Arch six years ago."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.

CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.

CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.





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

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

Please forward articles that you think we should add to cultintervention@gmail.com.

Trouble in The Garden: The rise and fall of the infamous TikTok commune

Social media brought Tennessee’s The Garden global notoriety, spurring charges that it’s a cat-eating cult and leading to a member exodus. Now the commune’s future is in doubt.
Social media brought Tennessee’s The Garden global notoriety, spurring charges that it’s a cat-eating cult and leading to a member exodus. Now the commune’s future is in doubt.

Mic Wright
March 31, 2021

Each day on Twitter there is one main character. The goal is to never be it.” That 2019 tweet from @maplecocaine has become a mantra for the extremely online.

But what happens when you become the main character for a significant number of TikTok users? And not just the main character but the main villain in a conspiracy theory that casts you as the leader of an insidious, cat-eating, and potentially murderous cult?

That’s what happened to TreeIsAlive — Tree for short — a 24-year-old redheaded British man traveling across the U.S. with his partner Julia. He intended his TikTok posts about The Garden, a commune in Lafayette, Tennessee, to spread the word and encourage other people to visit. But they became the catalyst for what some see as a crowdsourced investigation into a cult and others consider a moral panic remade for the digital age.

Since he first posted on TikTok in late January 2021, Tree has amassed over 82,000 followers on the app. (I’ve agreed not to use his real name because of the ongoing harassment he’s been subject to.) Born in Liverpool, he’s spent the last few years travelling around Europe and Africa, and has also visited communes in Costa Rica. He and Julia have documented their experiences on their YouTube channel, Astro Kidz, and on TikTok.

In January, Tree published TikTok posts about climate change (3,000 likes), making a birdhouse (2,160 likes), and “showering off-grid” (6,487 likes) — all shot at The Garden. But it was his video from February 2 — a tour of the commune in which he shared its address and encouraged TikTokers to join him there — that went big. It has 57,000 likes at the time of writing and over 2,738 comments.

Julia tells me about the point at which the tour video started to take off: “It started off really positive, and TikTok showed what we were doing to people who were interested in this kind of community. But then we got to the next level of ‘viralness,’ and it reached people who were totally unaware of the idea of intentional living.”

Tree picks up the story there: “We didn’t take the criticism to heart originally, but at a certain point it definitely turned. I think my somewhat ‘charisma’ was turned around and represented as me being a ‘leader.’ I was just a guy making TikToks. I’d only been at The Garden for three months; this is a community that has been going for 12 years.”

The Garden’s origin story is knotty. Its founder — and one of the owners of the 21.5-acre plot of land it sits on — is Patrick Martion, who grew up in the utopian, bohemian groups the Rainbow Gathering movement and the Rainbow Family of Living Light. Just like The Garden, the Rainbow Gathering/Family is considered a cult by some and seen as (mostly) harmless by others. Tree and Julia say they originally met on the way to a Rainbow Gathering protest.

“I had THIS VISION where we’d get THIS LAND and that people would FLOCK to it.”

Beginning as an offshoot of the Rainbow Family’s Shut Up & Eat traveling kitchens, The Garden was originally called Shut Up and Grow It. Its stated purpose is to encourage people to sustainably produce food, and its website describes the endeavor as “an egalitarian, alternative, leaderless (leaderful) community propagating a culture of sharing freedom and cooperation.”

The Garden is governed through council meetings that try to achieve consensus and — when the space is open — new arrivals are given a 10-day pass, during which time they can be asked to leave by any community member. After 10 days, visitors who are still there can ask the rest of the group to be allowed to stay longer.

In a YouTube interview from July 2020, Martion explains the “very clear goal” of The Garden: “to enable and empower as many people as possible, as fast as possible, to no longer need money.” He adds, “I had this vision where we’d get this land, I’d put it out there on the internet, and let people know what we were planning on doing, and that people would flock to it.”

The number of people living on the site has been as high as 100; Rel has said there were about 30 residents at the time of the first TikTok. But the very attention that drew a steady flow of people from TikTok to visit the commune may also have broken it for good.

It’s not surprising that a community with a publicly promoted “open-door policy,” which has seen hundreds of people pass through it over the course of its 12 year history, has as many detractors as it has advocates. Former members who were asked to leave (“run off” in the commune’s parlance) tell stories of egos, cliques, and support for conspiracy theories. But others, some of whom are admittedly more recent community members, describe a supportive environment that had to tell dangerous or disruptive people to leave for the good of the community.

It isn’t hard to see why TikToks from Tree and others in the group made people suspicious. To a lot of people, the word “commune” is a synonym for “cult.” Other TikTok users quickly accused Tree of actively recruiting vulnerable people, and as more members of The Garden started to post — including often trollish responses to the cult accusations — the amount of material amateur TikTok sleuths had to analyze grew. They dug into the backgrounds of people posting clips and those featured in them, discovering difficult pasts, criminal records, seemingly disturbing YouTube videos, and a shocking story about a cat.

Emily Church, a British YouTuber who presents a series called Weird Reads With Emily Louise, was drawn to the community investigating the commune. She says that internet sleuths are split into two groups: “People like me on one side who think it’s not a cult, but could be dangerous in some ways, and the ‘investigators’ on the other who are convinced that it definitely is a cult.”

TikTok posts by Rel Gumson, the second-most followed person connected to the commune after Tree (61,000 followers), have played a big part in fueling cult talk on the social network. Her posts include a description of how she made the carcass of her dead pet dog into a skirt and video of a candle-lit “séance.”

In one of her TikToks, residents at The Garden pass around a wine-filled jug labeled “Kool Aid,” mocking the cult accusations. She’s said she wasn’t referring to the poisoned Flavor-Aid used in the mass murder/suicide at Jonestown but Ken Kesey’s LSD-laced Kool-Aid, as documented in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

But it was Tree’s story of how commune members killed, cooked, and ate a feral cat because it was killing their chickens — which he told via TikTok livestream — that really alarmed many TikTok investigators, who expressed fears that the cult could end in murder.

The cat incident occurred long before either Tree or Julia was present at The Garden. In a since-deleted Facebook post, Martion explained that the cat was shot after the group failed to catch it in a trap. He also commented that it “tasted like chicken.”

“If you want an internet HATE MACHINE, tell them you killed and ATE A CAT.”

“If you’re going to kill it, you should eat it,” Rel told Insider “I don’t see why somebody would kill an animal if they’re not going to eat it, if it’s edible.” It’s a viewpoint she’s shared in several TikTok videos, while defending both herself and The Garden in general.

Former The Garden resident David Guthrie says he had told the group before that they shouldn’t talk about the cat online: “If you want an internet hate machine, tell them you killed and ate a cat.”

Guthrie is a hacker, activist, and photographer who first started going to The Garden “about four years ago” and was “run off” the commune in May last year because, he claims, he told the group that they were not taking the Covid-19 pandemic seriously enough. (I’ve seen chat logs involving Guthrie and other Garden members that confirm he was part of the group.) He says he’s concerned about Covid denial and QAnon beliefs among Garden residents but doesn’t think it’s a cult.

“The Garden is a grand experiment in truth,” he says. “Running land that operates by general consensus for over a decade is impressive. But groupthink is one of those things that presages cult mentalities.”

Input spoke to three experts specializing in the study of minority religious and spiritual and political movements. None of them were comfortable with labeling The Garden a cult.

“Opinions are always going to be polarized,” says Dr. Sarah Harvey, senior research officer at King’s College London’s Inform center. “There are always going to be people who have different experiences and opinions — some positive, some negative — within the same group. One of the problems with applying a ‘cult’ label, which is not something we do, is the question of who gets to decide whether this is a cult? Does that then invalidate any positive experiences?”

Timothy Miller, emeritus professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas and author of The Encyclopedic Guide to American Intentional Communities, echoes Harvey’s sentiments. “In the academic world, we shy away from the world ‘cult’ because it imposes a judgment before the evidence has been heard,” Miller says. “While I’m not familiar with The Garden, I do know something about the Rainbow Gathering/Family, and I would imagine there’s nothing sinister there.”

The self-appointed investigators also dug into Tree’s past posts — deciding that a YouTube video of a dramatic improvisation in which a wide-eyed Tree talked to a seemingly imaginary woman named Margaret was yet more proof that he was an unhinged cult leader.

The virtual frenzy on TikTok translated into serious actions IRL. A prominent figure among the TikTok sleuths, Edie Santos — who posts as Book of Edith and has been promoting a forthcoming podcast series about cults — has said she called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to report Tree. “He’s abusing our visa system,” she told Insider. “If you’re going to come here, be respectful. Contribute to our society, be a respectful person, but don’t prey on people during the pandemic."

There have also been death threats. Amil and Britt Livingston, a couple who had moved to the commune at the start of the pandemic and posted on TikTok about their experiences there for their 18,000 followers, left after saying that their lives had been threatened via online comments. Other residents of The Garden followed them, including Tree and Julia last week.

On Sunday, Rel posted a series of TikToks announcing that The Garden is, for the first time ever, officially closed to the public, “because no matter how many times we’ve proven, over and over again, that all the accusations are just straight misinformation and lies, people are continually harassing us.” She adds, “Y’all ruined it for everybody.”

Between its dwindling population and its closure to the public, the commune’s future has become cloudy. But the story of The Garden will no doubt make waves again soon because a Vice documentary crew visited the commune before the exodus. Tree believes the project will allow people to see The Garden as the good place he believes it to be: “Hopefully it will put the message out there about what The Garden really is.” Given how the commune has already been portrayed, he may be a little too optimistic.

Emily Church compares the entire episode to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. “There are some interesting points to be made about communes in general — like are they safe places for marginalized people?” she says. “But people are jumping from that to ‘This ginger dude from Liverpool is the next Jim Jones!’”

Whatever your conclusion about The Garden, it’s clear that Tree — who only spent a few months on the commune — is no cult leader, either there or anywhere else. He’s a young man who’s very enthusiastic about sustainability and occasionally a little naïve, who posted some videos. There is no evidence that he intended anything beyond that or that he’s responsible for what The Garden is or isn’t. He and Julia are still travelling around the U.S., visiting other intentional communities, and posting new videos on YouTube.

The problem with the story of TikTok and The Garden is that it’s one of conflicting opinions, competing worldviews, and a very messy community. None of that can be solved or summed up in a 60-second TikTok.


Love Has Won Exposed


Lag Ba'omer: What's Toldot Aharon, hassidic sect whose members were killed?

Israeli rescue forces and police near the scene after a stampede killed dozens during the celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer on Mt. Meron on April 30, 2021. (photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
It is perhaps the most insular, well-organized and cohesive of the groups that make up Israel’s haredi community.

APRIL 30, 2021

Many of the dead and injured at the Lag Ba'omer stampede on Mount Meron Thursday night were from the insular Toldot Aharon Hassidic sect, which is based in Jerusalem. The stampede took place during the lighting of the bonfire by the current Rebbe (spiritual leader).

It is perhaps the most insular, well-organized and cohesive of the groups that make up Israel’s haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community; any type of intervention in its domestic affairs is tantamount to a total usurping of the community's belief system.

The hassidic sect was established in Jerusalem by Rabbi Aharon Roth in 1928 as an offshoot of Satmar, a hassidic movement that originated in Germany. In 1942 shortly before Nazi Germany invaded Hungary, Roth and his followers fled Europe for Mandatory Palestine.

Today, Toldot Aharon hassidim live in the heart of Jerusalem despite their staunch opposition to Zionism. They have developed extensive social and cultural barriers to protect their community from the bustling secularism of Jaffa Road and Ben-Yehuda Street, located less than a kilometer away.

Roth, who died in 1947, started the tradition, which continues to this day, that every male member of the sect signs a contract obligating him and his family to abide by the strict dictates of Toldot Aharon.

Clothing, customs – even how the hassidim spend their spare time – is carefully regulated. Cohesion is as tight as super glue. In contrast, the outside world – especially anything affiliated with Zionism – is described as dark and evil.

Shlomo Guzmen-Carmeli of Bar-Ilan University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who is an expert on the Toldot Aharon hassidim and is the source for the information here about them, explained in 2009 that the hassidim do not view themselves as individuals.

In his study The holy contract: The Social Contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group, Guzmen-Carmieli, along with Asaf Sharabi, wrote about the core texts of the Toldot Aharon community. One of the central books that the community follows was written by Roth and is called Sefer Takkanot ve-Hadrachot (The Book of Regulations and Guidance). He wrote the book toward the end of his life; it contains many of his stringent and mystical beliefs which are followed in the community until this day.

"Members of Toldot Aharon do not see themselves first and foremost as individuals. Rather, they see themselves as one organic entity," said Guzmen-Carmeli. "No one would ever think of involving outsiders in internal issues of the community, let alone representatives of the Zionist entity, which is perceived as an apostate body inimical to the sect's belief system."


What’s the secret science of conspiracy theories?

Chemistry world
April 26, 2021

A year ago, just a few weeks after the World Health Organization declared that Covid-19 was a global pandemic, UN secretary-general António Guterres announced a campaign to tackle another emerging threat to society. This new epidemic was not medical, however, but digital: misinformation and 'wild conspiracy theories' surrounding Covid-19 were going viral online. To combat this infection of information the UN planned to 'flood the internet with facts and science'. Yet the 'misinfodemic' remains a persistent problem, contributing to vaccine hesitancy and resistance to public health measures that threaten our ability to control Covid-19 around the world.

Conspiracy theories are not a modern phenomenon, but as our feature explores, their modern manifestations have traits that give them more serious consequences. The internet and social media have been valuable communication tools during the pandemic, but they have also enabled fringe views and falsehoods masquerading as truth to reach large audiences far faster than they can be debunked.

Studies on the psychology of conspiracy theory believers show that, ironically, they have something in common with scientists: our curiosity and desire for answers; our need to understand and explain. Wherever these epistemic needs are unfulfilled, conspiracy theories can fill the gap – and in times of crisis those needs are especially acute. That's a problem for science because the answers it can provide often exist behind barriers that put them beyond reach of the general public. Also, science has done some pretty incredible things that are, at times, straight out of science fiction, so being able to spot truly outlandish claims can require a high degree of science literacy. And of course there have been genuine cover-ups where science has been misused or evidence concealed, and science has been tarred by those episodes.

Even the scientific method, a prophylactic against our tendency to tell ourselves stories that might not be true, can be corrupted. The philosopher Karl Popper first defined conspiracy theories in the early 20th century and noted that they appear to be scientific by selecting evidence and proof that seem to support their narratives – a veneer that it can be hard for the uninitiated to penetrate.

It is seldom sufficient to simply disprove a specious claim, because those who believe in it can exhibit a plasticity of thought that reconciles refuting evidence. And it's more difficult still to predict how public opinion will be swayed by a claim. The mishandling of the narrative around GM foods, for example, is generally considered a textbook example of PR failure. However, it's worth noting that the much-publicised study claiming to show harm in mice fed on GM potatoes was recommended for publication despite being regarded as flawed by some of its reviewers, partly because rejecting the paper might raise suspicions of a conspiracy. The attempt to be transparent instead made the issue murky in the public consciousness and GM became more contentious.

The conspiracy theory phenomenon also tells us something about our society. Social scientists have found that conspiracy theories tend to take hold where society is fragmented – by inequality in wealth, education and opportunity, for example. Individuals who feel failed by society are more likely to seek alternatives to the consensus, and are less likely to have the inoculation of education against false narratives. And nowadays, those fragments then further disintegrate across a smörgåsbord of choose-your-own-reality social media circles – echo chambers where suspicion and fear are amplified and monetised.

Part of the solution to both Covid-19 and its misinfodemic is therefore an immunisation programme. Education, critical thinking and science communication can give people resistance to the threat, but if broader societal problems are not also addressed, then the threat remains. Ideas are powerful things – and they do not have to be real to cause real harm. 


Inside the ‘Cult-Like’ Summer Camp Where Women Say They Had to Hug Their Abusers

Pilar Melendez
National Reporter
The Daily Beast 
April 29, 2021

At the Association for Research and Enlightenment’s long-running summer camp in Virginia, established 90 years ago by a self-described spiritualist and clairvoyant, campers are told they’ll experience “a different kind of vacation.”

Sprinkled among hiking, swimming, and other traditional camp activities, A.R.E. encouraged campers to participate in unconventional pastimes, like massage trains that resembled a conga line of male counselors and young girls, hugging circles, and learning “body-mind-spirit” resources.

During the “Liberated Underwear Movement,” underage campers would run through the rural grounds in their underwear. On “Goddess Night,” girls would be expected to strip naked and run through a field while male staffers and fellow campers cheered them on.

Now, at least eight women have come forward to allege they were sexually harassed and abused by adult counselors and other staff members, whose ages ranged from late teens to early 40s, according to two lawsuits filed Wednesday in Virginia Beach.

“I was 12 years old the first time I was sexually assaulted by an A.R.E. counselor,” one woman, identified in the lawsuit as Lynsey Doe, said during a Wednesday press conference. She alleged she was assaulted by two counselors between 2009 and 2014. “I reported the assault to camp authorities, who did nothing. When I was 16, I returned to camp and I was forced to participate in a so-called ‘Forgiveness Circle,’ which meant I had to hug my abuser and say I forgave him. It was a horrible, degrading experience.”

The women are among dozens who say they were victims of a cult-like organization that brainwashed campers to believe in unconditional love and forgiveness—even against their abusers. The lawsuits state that victims told camp managers about assaults but were ignored and their abusers continued to work.

“A.R.E. created a cult-like atmosphere that encouraged sexually abusive behavior by these camp counselors,” attorney Steve Estey, who is representing the women, said on Wednesday. The lawsuit alleges A.R.E knew of sexual abuse dating back to the late 1980s.

The lawsuits, which name Executive Director Kevin Todeschi, seek $10 million per client, as well as punitive damages.

In a statement, Todeschi said A.R.E. first became aware of the allegations last summer when some former campers posted their experiences on the group’s Facebook page. An independent investigation was launched and A.R.E. encouraged others to come forward, he said.

“We continue to be extraordinarily distressed by these allegations. The camp has been in operation for decades. Sexual assault or assault of any kind has never been even remotely acceptable,” Todeschi said, adding that the camp was closed last year due to COVID-19 and will remain closed while the investigation continues.

“Such conduct is contrary to everything we believe in. The Camp is a Family Camp that focuses on healthy living for body, mind, and spirit,” he added.

According to A.R.E.’s website, the non-profit organization was founded in 1931 by Edgar Cayce, a clairvoyant and self-proclaimed spiritualist known as the “sleeping prophet.” The organization offers a camp for children aged 10 to 16, a retreat for teenagers, a family camp, and year-round activities for all ages based on Cayce’s principles.

The lawsuits claim that, from a young age, participants of the Rural Retreat camp were taught that A.R.E. is the “safest place for them” and that everyone there was a “good person” who should be loved and forgiven without hesitation. Campers were told that the “world was depending on their unconditional love and forgiveness.”

“The culture created by the lack of boundaries and failure to hold anyone accountable for their actions led to a dangerous cycle of continued sexual abuse and cover-ups that has lasted generations,” one lawsuit states. “Those who have been abused are told they would be going against everything they had ever been taught if they spoke up.

“They were told they would lose the community they had grown up in often since birth, and quite frequently a community that stretched through generations of families. They were made to feel they would be left with no family and no home. They would have to carry the shame of not believing, not being able to reach enlightenment. And they were told it would be their fault, and their fault alone.”

That mindset was ingrained in Lynsey Doe, who began attending camp at age 9. She was forced to participate in daily hugging sessions and massage sessions with staffers.

In 2009, when she was 12, she was sexually assaulted by a camp counselor after being coerced to play “spin the bottle” with two other male staffers and two girls, the lawsuit alleges.

The counselor, who was then 18 or 19, “placed his hands under the clothing and her underwear and penetrated her vagina.” Later that night, he tried to get her “to a secluded place with him...to further sexually abuse her.”

The lawsuit says Lynsey told a camp manager about the abuse—but nothing happened. No report was made to local police. Years later, Lynsey was forced to participate in a “Forgiveness Ceremony,” where she had to tell her abuser she forgave him and embraced him.

The lawsuit states that, when she was 15, Lynsey began a relationship with a 22-year-old counselor, who raped and sexually abused her for years.

Another victim, only identified as Jane Doe, was also sexually abused when she was 16 under the guise of “spin the bottle,” the lawsuit states.

“I believed that in speaking, I would become a source of shame to my family and the community. This left me feeling deeply responsible for his secret. At the same time, what happened to me did not feel unusual... In the context of the camp, his behavior was normalized,” Jane Doe said on Wednesday.

“It was my job as the victim to meditate or go to healing prayer or journal my trauma away.”
Hannah Furbush, a third-generation camper, said on Wednesday that she started going to camp as an infant and her parents were both employees. The lawsuit states that she estimates she was sexually abused, molested, or harassed “at least one hundred times” over the years.

In one instance, a senior camp director allegedly massaged her against her will, touched her butt, and tried to kiss her. When Furbush, 27, lodged complaints, she was made to feel like an outcast and told to meditate and write about it in her journal.

“They did nothing other than to say this is the way things are,” she said Wednesday. “It was my job as the victim to meditate or go to healing prayer or journal my trauma away while these dangerous men were given promotions and allowed to stay.”

Furbush detailed the camp’s bizarre activities, like the “Liberated Underwear Movement” in which “minor campers ran through the camp in their underwear” and sometimes “male counselors would participate.”

She also participated in “Goddess Night,” in which “female campers would run through a field naked, and the male campers would stand at the top of a hill watching and yelling at the girls,” the lawsuit states. “These events were considered to be a right [sic] of passage for young campers, and it was made clear that participation in the events was expected of each camper,” it says.

Another camper, identified as Cheyenne Doe, alleges she was raped in 2010, at age 16, by a counselor she had a crush on. Afterward, she said, she felt like a “throwaway” and blamed herself and the camp.

“He took advantage of me and others when he should have been taking care of us,” she said Wednesday.

The apparent open secret of abuse came to light in mid-2020, when a former A.R.E camper wrote a lengthy Facebook post laying out “several claims of inappropriate behavior.” Almost immediately, other Facebook users began to share similar stories.

The lawsuits note that A.R.E purposefully didn’t keep records of any reported assaults, allowing the camp to retain employees accused of abuse.

“They chose to cover it up instead of reporting it,” Estey, the attorney, said. “Their coverup and negligence demonstrate a pattern of systemic abuse that has traumatized my clients—they’re all suffering emotional anguish and anxiety as a result of being abused.”


Apr 29, 2021

Ole Anthony, R.I.P.

We lost a great, weird man. Crooked televangelists will rejoice.

APRIL 29, 2021

Editor’s note: Ole Anthony died April 16, at the age of 82. It has taken folks a few days to learn the news. The New York Times ran an obituary two days ago. John Bloom (aka Joe Bob Briggs) was a friend of Anthony’s and profiled him for D Magazine in a 1999 story titled “The God Thing.”

Ole Anthony was a complicated man. Several journalists over the years tried to understand him, usually looking for the “gotcha” factoid that would reveal him to be a charlatan or a con man — and they usually found it! Insecure about his lack of a formal education, he tended to inflate his credentials and pretend to have skills he didn’t have. He basked in the attention of intellectuals and media figures. He never met a microphone he didn’t love. Before his conversion experience in the ’70s, he was a heartless corporate creep and politician. And not just any politician — he was the kind that always bent the rules and at one time was engaged almost exclusively in the business of selling access to the Dallas mayor’s office.

All these tendencies were suppressed but not extinguished by his Damascus Road experience, and they served him well as he established the Trinity Foundation and became a one-man scourge against the “prosperity gospel” religious establishment and its shameful, organized, computerized and cynical fleecing of widows and orphans. He recognized the greed because he was greedy. He spotted the cons because he knew how to deal from the bottom of the deck (literally! — he had dealt blackjack in a small-time western casino). He loved the “whited sepulcher” types, the holier-than-thou preachers, because he could easily spot their hidden sexual fetishes, the secret lives that often led to the collapse of empires built on fake healing and dummy corporations used to finance their lust.

That’s why a lot of people were confused by his preaching — the flash of fire that came from his extensive study of the Torah and the Talmud. He was often described as “an Old Testament prophet” — maybe because he was a 6-foot-5 Norwegian with the deep voice of a radio announcer — but he was about as New Testament as they come. He could quote any verse of Paul’s letters at any time, because he basically believed that they were the whole secret to the kingdom. It was as though, when he opened the Bible, he became a different person or what the 19th century would have called a “pure vessel.”

The Catholic church has always been troubled by spiritual wisdom that comes from an unlikely source — a child, a mentally ill person, a criminal — and so they have rules for investigating “miracles” and assigning sainthood. The people who best understood Ole Anthony come from a different tradition, the one that started in Scotland and snaked down through the Great Appalachian Valley to the ramshackle little roadside churches strewn along every highway in the South. These people don’t trust a preacher unless he overcame whiskey or women or homicide. They believe the pure gospel comes out of a broken vessel. Ole Anthony was always welcomed into those churches, and always understood.

Tarot booms as Generation Z sorts out spiritual path

Generation Z has been the driving force behind the renewed popularity and mainstreaming of the age-old esoteric system.
Generation Z has been the driving force behind the renewed popularity and mainstreaming of the age-old esoteric system.

Heather Greene
Religion News Service
April 26, 2021

(RNS) — Jenna Cargle was first introduced to tarot by her mother, a Catholic. “She was always talking about herbs, crystals, astrology and tarot,” explained the 18-year-old Atlantan.

Her mother’s mix of beliefs wouldn’t have attracted attention in many households, where tarot is akin to divination fads such as throwing I Ching or playing with a Ouija board. Not in Cargle’s family, some of whom rejected tarot and other practices as evil. Cargle herself was reluctant to embrace the practice.

Then, when she was 16, said Cargle, “I got comfortable with myself, Catholicism and spirituality. … I was no longer afraid to touch a tarot deck.” Cargle, who now identifies as spiritual but not religious, sees tarot as a tool.

“I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and that there is a set path for everyone. But there are different (possible) endings.” The tarot can help predict those endings, she explained.

Cargle is not alone in her spiritual discovery. Generation Z has been the driving force behind the renewed popularity and mainstreaming of the age-old esoteric system.

As Theresa Reed, known online as The Tarot Lady, put it, “It’s not just for witches anymore.”

Reed, who has been a tarot professional for 30 years, said that the crop of young readers haS demanded “a much needed upgrade,” explaining that their interest has provoked new “inclusive decks and better representation.”

Based on a mix of European Renaissance esoterica and religious symbolism, tarot was first popularized by spiritualists in the 1800s but then found its mainstream American audience in the 1960s. Since that point, tarot has enjoyed occasional bouts of trendiness. Most recently, sales of tarot decks increased 30% in both 2016 and 2017, according to The New York Times, the biggest bump since the mid-1960s, part of a wider increase in occult and New Age practices.

Tarot and divination can still run afoul of religious people — in 2014, an attempt to retire a law banning “magic arts” in the rural town of Front Royal, Virginia, was met with unexpected backlash from those defending Christian values. But tarot isn’t necessarily a reflection of the decline in the religiously affiliated: according to Pew Research Center, alternative beliefs are popular among even evangelical Christians.

Reed agreed that the stigma of reading tarot is dying down, making it easier for readers of all faiths or none to practice: “Today you’ll see people from all belief systems using tarot.”

Reed believes that the most recent surge is specifically being led by young Black tarot readers and those in the LGBTQ community. “That’s a good thing. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you,” Reed said.

Whatever its source, the trend has likely been intensified by the pandemic. “I believe due to social media growing and (now) all of us being quarantined, the word on tarot has spread quickly,” said Cargle, who said she reads for friends as well as herself.

Barbara Moore, an acquisitions editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, one of the leading publishers and distributors of decks, agreed that there is a noticeable upswing in interest. Moore said that Llewellyn is now publishing six new decks per year, which is double from a few years back. “We are (specifically) seeing a demand for more diversity in tarot decks,” she said.

“While the pandemic has definitely been a major factor for the current surge, there are other forces at play,” explained Moore, including digital media and self-publishing.

“Independent venues and crowdfunding have opened up a whole new world of tarot and oracles. Because these options are not under the same sales requirements as a traditional publisher, it is a way for more specialized, unique or experimental decks to come to life,” she said.

The Simplicity Tarot, an inclusive deck created by New York City-based reader and spiritualist Emilie Muñiz, was crowdfunded and was so popular that she created a second “Red Rose” edition. Muñiz has since contracted with U.S. Game Systems for a mass printing.

A related form of divination called oracle decks has also been gaining popularity, specifically with younger readers. Moore explained that oracles are a good resource for people looking for daily comfort without having to spend time memorizing tarot’s esoteric system. They are particularly attractive to young people just beginning a spiritual journey, she added.

The growing interest in both types of decks has forced an Atlanta-based metaphysical store, Phoenix and Dragon, to completely rearrange its space. The tarot display, which now holds well over 128 decks and 60 kits, was moved to a larger room near the store’s front.

Owner Candace Apple said, “The surge in sales is definitely fueled by the 18- to 25-year-olds searching for their spiritual path and answers to the challenges they are facing in an uncertain world.”

Although her most popular deck is still the century-old Rider-Waite-Smith, Apple said, “The popular new aesthetics (in deck theme and art) reflect more forward movement than nostalgia of the past.”

Like Cargle, Apple names social media as the main factor behind the surge. “My book and deck buyer, Preston, scans the related TikTok posts to determine the strength in the newly introduced decks.”

Platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Instagram are the most common places for young readers to discuss and share their practice. All three are visually oriented and therefore conducive to tarot.

For all of social media’s power, however, tarot’s pull still has much to do with its aesthetic, which has expanded over the centuries from traditional esoteric depictions to Manga and pop culture. Even in its most modern form, tarot still holds its fundamental imaginative power. Cargle began reading with Vanessa Decort’s Sun and Moon Tarot deck, which was a gift from her mother. But she has since moved to Tarot of the Divine, attracted by the art of creator Yoshi Yoshitani, which, Cargle said, helps her to intuit what the cards are saying.


CultNEWS101 Articles: 4/29/2021

Children of God, #IGOTOUT, Ole Anthony, Nityanand, Danny Masterson
NPR: After Growing Up In A Cult, Lauren Hough Freed Herself By Writing The Truth
"Writer Lauren Hough grew up in a nomadic doomsday Christian cult called the Children of God. She says she remembers being taught animals could talk to Noah — that's how he was able to get them on to the ark — and that heaven was located in a pyramid in the moon.

"I had problems with [the teachings] pretty early on, but I couldn't express those," she says. "Probably the earliest thing I learned is just keep your mouth shut — and I couldn't, which was a problem."

Hough tells of how she was put in solitary confinement as a kid and suffered rampant sexual abuse from adults in the "Family," as the cult was known (it's gone through several iterations and is now called the Family International). When Hough was 15, her family left the cult for good — but she struggled to connect with other children. She joined the military, but she didn't fit there either: Hough is gay — and it was the 1990s, during the era of "don't ask, don't tell."

Hough asked for, and received, a discharge from the Air Force, but things didn't get any easier. She became homeless and lived in her car. Eventually she took on a number of jobs, including as a bouncer in a gay club and as a "cable guy" — and she began writing as a way of sorting out her feelings about the past."

Washington Post: Ole Anthony, longtime critic of prosperity gospel televangelists and head of Trinity Foundation, dies at 82
"Ole Anthony, a small-church pastor and activist who spent years investigating the lifestyles of rich and famous televangelists such as Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn and Jan and Paul Crouch, died Friday (April 16) at the age of 82.

Anthony, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, was the longtime president of the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation Inc., a nonprofit that helped the homeless, ran a radio show, held Bible studies and eventually spent years investigating televangelists.

He was an advocate of "full contact Christianity," a form of the faith that, he explained, went beyond church "niceness" and focused on a high level of commitment to following the teachings of Jesus. The foundation was named in the 1970s after the Trinity nuclear test site in New Mexico, and hoped to set off an "explosion of faith."

"Anthony appeared more like an Old Testament prophet than a modern preacher," according to an obituary posted on the Trinity Foundation website. "He could most often be found sitting on his back porch, swathed in tobacco smoke from his ubiquitous pipe."

Anthony came to fame in the early 1990s, after the Trinity Foundation's investigation of Tilton's direct mail operation was featured on ABC's "Primetime Live" broadcast. During the investigation, Anthony visited a Tulsa, Oklahoma, direct mail firm that had helped Tilton raise millions. The firm's president offered to help Anthony do the same, according to the Tulsa World at the time.

The Trinity Foundation also claimed Tilton's direct mail operation kept the checks from donors but threw their prayer requests in the trash — a claim the ministry disputed. Anthony also appeared on the program, lambasting Tilton as someone who misused religion for profit.

"It was awesome," Anthony told the Dallas Observer in 2006. "The one aspect of the program that everybody remembers is when Tilton crossed over the sleaze line. They remember the prayer requests in the trash. A producer at ABC told me it was the No. 1 topic on talk radio for weeks."

Anthony would spend three decades investigating televangelists and even ended up advising a U.S. Senate committee that looked into the finances of high-profile televangelists. His followers would climb through dumpsters, comb mountains of documents and interview whistleblowers in a relentless crusade against what Anthony saw as religious fraud. For a time, the Trinity Foundation also ran The Door, a satirical Christian magazine.

Anthony and the Trinity Foundation also spent years investigating the Crouches, whose long tenure at the helm of the Trinity Broadcasting Network was filled with controversy over their wealth.

"Paul Crouch at TBN is the greatest proponent of the oldest heresy in the church — that gain is godliness," Anthony said in 2013. "All of the heresy connected with that position is what they're based on and the problem is they've spread that all over the world."

His hard-charging style made enemies, among both the televangelists he hounded and some of his own followers. A number of former members claimed the Trinity Foundation was a "cult of personality" dominated by Anthony.

"Some former members blame Trinity for the breakup of marriages. Several members, they say, have had nervous breakdowns," the Observer reported in 2006 in a feature titled "The Cult of Ole," which also reported three members of his team killed themselves.

"Many of the men and women attracted to Trinity are people who've come to the end of their abilities and want to throw everything at the feet of God," the paper said.
"DirectorMadan Patel has a very important agenda in mind. The filmmaker has announcedfour films recently but the one garnering most of his attention is the one about Nityanand sex scandal.
The director counts the film as one of his most ambitious projects. Patel has titled the film as 'Satyananda' and claims that it is the true story of Nityanand.Though based on a controversial topic, Patel is least bothered about facing flakand objections.

He declares, "I don't care about any pressures and I will showcase the ills of a particular Swamiji." Patel isupset that the entire Swamiji fraternity has got a bad name due to the offensive activities of Nityanand."

"Danny Masterson isn't ready to defend himself against charges of rape — and he's blaming Leah Remini.

Masterson filed papers in Los Angeles this week alleging that Remini's well-documented campaign against The Church of Scientology is extending to his court case. According to TMZ, which obtained the documents, Masterson, 45, is claiming Remini pushed for the three women — all Jane Does — in his case to make reports to the Los Angeles Police Department, with two of them only coming out with their allegations after being urged to by Remini.

Masterson's papers hold that Remini's celebrity has prosecution "starstruck" and further alleges that she has a close relationship with LAPD detectives, "even using them as her personal security," per TMZ."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.

CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.

CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.





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

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

Please forward articles that you think we should add to cultintervention@gmail.com.

Lawsuits make new sex abuse claims against Legion of Christ

AP News
April 26, 2021

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Legion of Christ, a Roman Catholic order disgraced by sexual abuse committed by its founder and other clergy, is facing new allegations of molestation of children in lawsuits filed this month in Connecticut, where it is based.

Five men and a woman sued the order in federal court on April 14 and 15, saying they were victims of sexual crimes when they attended schools run by the Legion of Christ in Newl Hampshire and Rhode Island in the 1990s when they were children.

A spokesperson for the order said Monday that it was reviewing the complaints.

“The Legionaries of Christ respect everyone who comes forth with these types of allegations and are committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all children and all people who interact with its members and are involved in its ministries,” spokesperson Gail Gore said.

The five men allege they were fondled and subjected to other abuse while attending the Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor, New Hampshire. The woman claims a staff member exposed himself to her when she attended Immaculate Conception Academy in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

The men, known in court documents as John Does 1 through 5, are from Grants Pass, Oregon, Bellevue, Ohio, Sacramento, California, Fenton, Michigan, and Immokalee, Florida. The woman is from Auburn, California.

Three of the men allege they were abused by a member of the order. A fourth says he was molested by another member of the legion. The fifth man alleges he was abused by another student at the New Hampshire school. The woman says a legion member exposed himself to her at the Rhode Island academy.

The Legion of Christ, headquartered in Cheshire, Connecticut, has faced legal battles in the U.S. stemming from the fallout of a sexual abuse scandal involving the order’s founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, and church officials. A church investigation determined Maciel sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children. The Vatican took over the order in 2010, and Pope Benedict XVI ordered wholesale reform.

In a report released last month, the order said 27 Legion of Christ priests were known to have committed sexual abuse from 1941 to 2020, representing 2% of the 1,380 order members ordained to priesthood around the world throughout the order’s history. The report also said there were about 170 minors who were sexually abused by the priests.

Two of the priests were convicted in criminal courts, three died without being tried and the others have not been prosecuted, the report said. Sixteen of the 27 priests were sanctioned by the church, and another eight are facing disciplinary proceedings.

In 2019, the Legion of Christ acknowledged that four priests at the New Hampshire school, which closed in 2015, had abused students.

In 2012, the Rhode Island school closed after dozens of women said they endured psychological abuse that led to multiple cases of anorexia, stress-induced migraines, depression and suicidal thoughts.


‘A guru who is always conscious of the absolute bliss is the right guru’, says shaktipat yogi Siddhaguru

“A guru who is always conscious of the absolute bliss is the right guru to be approached,” says, Siddhaguru Sri Ramanananda Maharshi, an enlightened master of the highest order.
“A guru who is always conscious of the absolute bliss is the right guru to be approached,” says, Siddhaguru Sri Ramanananda Maharshi, an enlightened master of the highest order.

SNS Web | New Delhi | April 28, 2021


Let no one in the world be deluded. People approach guru not to go wrong in search of the right knowledge for attaining the source of existence (what we call is absolute bliss). But there is no mystery that they end up in ambiguity.

“A guru who is always conscious of the absolute bliss is the right guru to be approached,” says, Siddhaguru Sri Ramanananda Maharshi, an enlightened master of the highest order.

Siddhaguru Sri Ramanananda Maharshi (Born on 27th April 1968 as Guduru Venkata Ramanaiah), publicly known as SIDDHAGURU, is an enlightened master and shaktipat Yogi. His spiritual path began when he was nine years old.

The turning point in his life occurred on June 29, 1995, at the goddess Kanakadurga temple in Kappatralla, Kurnool, where, through the grace of Shirdi Saibaba and his Guru Mata Sri Poornanandagiri Yogini, he encountered the true self and later described it as the true nature of every human being.

Since 2001, he has been practising Shaktipat yoga, the path of kundalini shakti awakening. His guru, Mata Sri Poornanandagiri Yogini referred to him as “Shaktipat Siddha Yogiswara” and his disciples referred to him as Siddhaguru.

At Ramaneswaram, near Yadadri Bhongir, he founded Shiva Shakthi Shirdi Sai Anugraha Mahapeetam, which runs an ashram focusing on various spiritual activities such as Shivaling Consecrations Discourses and Shaktipat Meditation, as well as Vedic literature.

Siddhaguru credits his guru Shirdi Sai Baba with all he does for the greater good of the world. He claims that without Guru’s grace, nothing in spirituality works out. He revealed the concept of Gurutrayam {The concept of Satguru, ParamaGuru and Adiguru) and made his seekers follow it.

He is the author of a number of spiritual works. His renowned book “Shivude Devavdi Devudu Adi Devudu Paramapurushudu” (Telugu and Hindi) set 11 world records for successfully donating 10 million books in a single day. He is a public speaker who is invited to speak on the philosophy of Shiva, Shakthi, and Shirdi Sai by his followers all over the world, in addition to being a guru and writer. His works and the accounts of his followers show him as a real guru of the time.


Apr 22, 2021

Jehovah's Witnesses challenge constitutionality of B.C. privacy law

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, a charity that represents the Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian denomination in Canada, has filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court. PHOTO BY NICK PROCAYLO
‘This is really the government interfering with religious practice,’ says Watch Tower society lawyer

Keith Fraser
Vancouver Sun
April 21, 2021

A charity representing the Jehovah’s Witnesses claims that a B.C. privacy law violates religious freedoms and is seeking to have the legislation struck down as unconstitutional.

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, a charity that represents the Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian denomination in Canada, filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court after two former congregants lodged complaints with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.

The former congregants, one in Grand Forks and one in Coldstream, had repudiated the Jehovah’s Witnesses and had contacted the privacy commissioner after the congregations in the small communities had denied them access to personal information.

When they had withdrawn as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the congregations had set up committees of three elders to provide the former congregants with any possible spiritual assistance and otherwise confirm their decisions to repudiate.

The committees each created a “confidential religious summary” of the matters and securely stored them in the local Kingdom Hall used by the congregations. The congregations refused to release the documents to the former congregants.

In the case of one former congregant, the privacy commissioner appointed an investigator and in January a decision was made to proceed to an inquiry, although the inquiry has not yet commenced.

In the other case, an investigator has not yet been appointed, but a lawyer for the charity said in an interview Tuesday that there should be no inquiries in either case.

“Our position is we shouldn’t go there,” said Jayden MacEwan. “This is really the government interfering with religious practice.

“The big issue is the law itself is unconstitutional because there’s absolutely no exemption for religious practice, for religious ministers, for non-profit religious organizations that are not doing any type of commercial activity.”

The Personal Information Protection Act, which received assent in 2003, requires private sector organizations in B.C. to follow certain rules to protect the privacy rights of individuals in the process of collecting, using, holding or disclosing personal information.

The law gives an individual a right to request access to their personal information in the possession of an organization and aims to balance the rights of those individuals with the reasonable needs of the organization.

MacEwan said it’s the position of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that the documents being sought are the religious minister’s personal information.

“These are the personal notes that have to do with spiritual, pastoral care that they offer congregants. We’re talking about certain types of confidential communications and notes. That’s what we’re dealing with here.”

He said that what really stands out is there are some exemptions in the law that protect the charter rights of journalists, artists and writers but nothing that protects religious rights.

The attorney-general’s ministry said in an email that it has received the lawsuit and is considering its response.