Dec 30, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/30/2021 (Falun Gong, Australia, Religious Discrimination, Eliezer Berland's Shuvu Bonim, Isreal, Legal, Joel Osteen, Religion and Taxes)

Falun Gong, Australia, Religious Discrimination, Eliezer Berland's Shuvu Bonim, Isreal, Legal, Joel Osteen, Religion and Taxes

"Falun Gong practitioners have been blocked from taking part in this [years] Perth Christmas Pageant after organizers deemed the spiritual movement too political and could give rise to "security issues" at the event.

In email correspondence seen by WAtoday, the Falun Dafa Association was initially offered a place in the event, run by billionaire Kerry Stokes' Seven West Media, but the invitation was revoked 10 days later.

Seven organizers told the group the pageant was an apolitical event and their presence could lead to the "airing of international political issues".

"The pageant is not a forum for those involved in such issues to be represented, and it gives rise to potential conflict and security issues for the event," an email to the organization on Monday said.

It is the second time the group has been dropped from the event.

On the eve of the 2018 pageant, Falun Gong performers were told they could not join the parade, which they believed was a result of pressure from the Perth Chinese Consulate on Seven West Media organizers.

The group was eventually allowed to perform after an eleventh-hour backflip, but they were banned from wearing anything that could identify them as Falun Gong, including the movement's motto of "truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance" printed on their drums.

Before 2018, the group had been a regular performer at the pageant, which is one of Perth's biggest events and attracts crowds of about 200,000 people every year.

Falun Gong practitioner Mark Hutchison was surprised when he received an email from Seven West Media last month informing him the group was approved to participate in the event.

After a follow-up email to ensure the group would be allowed to be introduced as Falun Dafa, another name for Falun Gong, he was told they could no longer be accommodated."
"Two followers of convicted sex offender Eliezer Berland's Shuvu Bonim sect were charged on Friday in connection with the 1986 murder of a teen.

The two were indicted over the murder of 17-year-old Nissim Shitrit. His body was never found and Friday's charges were the first made in connection with his death.

One of the suspects charged in the case was the son of a former minister. His name has not been released for publication. The second suspect was Baruch Sharvit, a Shuvu Bonim follower.

According to the indictment, some of those involved in the abduction and death of Shitrit have not yet been detained.

Prosecutors asked for the suspects to remain in detention until the end of legal proceedings.

"The serious acts attributed to the accused indicate his danger to the public despite the lapse of time since the murder attributed to him," read the indictment for one of the suspects. "The fact that this is a multi-stage event, a very complex and extremely cruel event which was intended to impose the lifestyles of the defendants on the deceased and the public, establishes a reasonable basis for fear that his release will endanger public safety."

According to the indictment, Shitrit was suspected by members of the sect of having some form of relationship with a girl, in contravention of the sect's religious norms, the Ynet news site reported.

The teen was collected from his boarding school in Ashdod by the sect's "religious police," in January 1986, four months before he disappeared.

He was driven to Jerusalem and taken to a secluded location, where he was beaten."
" ... Most people know that religious organizations pay no property taxes on their houses of worship. Lesser known is that many also get a valuable break on residences for their clergy as well.

The word "parsonage," as these residences are called, conjures images of humble, spartan rooms attached to drafty churches. A few still are.

Yet in many places across Texas, parsonages are extravagant estates nestled in the state's most exclusive enclaves. Like their wealthy neighbors, the clergy occupants enjoy spacious and well-appointed homes, immaculate grounds, tennis courts, swimming pools, decorative fountains and serene grottos.

Unlike their neighbors, the parsonage owners pay nothing in taxes, leaving other Texans to backfill the uncollected revenue to cover the cost of schools, police and firefighters.

State law allows religious organizations to claim tax-free clergy residences of up to 1 acre. Yet each of the state's counties has its own appraiser responsible for overseeing local properties. So no one entity has examined how many parsonages there are in Texas, their value and their legality."

" ... Religious organizations own tax-free homes worth at least a billion dollars in Texas thanks to an obscure state law. Here are some examples of the homes.

Well-off religious organizations that clearly have the means to afford their taxes don't have to seek the exemption. Lakewood Church did not ask the Harris County appraiser for a tax break on the 15,000-square-foot residence of the state's most famous prosperity gospel preacher, Joel Osteen. His annual tax bill comes to $218,000 a year, according to county tax records.

Osteen, who hasn't taken a salary since 2004, believes it's important for donors to know all their money goes to the church, said his brother-in-law, Don Illof.

"He could take the parsonage break," Illof said. "But he pays his property taxes, just like he's supposed to."

Property records also show that San Antonio's Cornerstone Church didn't seek an exemption for any clergy residences in Bexar County. Appraisal records show its well-known spiritual leader, John Hagee, pays $42,000 annually in property taxes. A spokesman said the matter was personal and declined to comment.

But Harris County Appraisal District documents show New Light Church World Outreach & Worship Centers pays no taxes on its nearly 25,000-square-foot mansion in Spring perched on the shore of a private lake and occupied by its high-profile leader, I.V. Hilliard. The 11.8-acre lot includes three hot tubs, two fountains and a swimming pool and tennis court, property records show.

Hilliard's wife told appraisal officials it was their home, district documents show.

"Because Bishop Hilliard and his wife are living there, we are treating the 24,900-square-foot home as a parsonage," said Jack Barnett, a spokesman for the Harris district.

New Light's attorney, Malachi Johnson, said "Apostle Hilliard occupies only a portion" of the home and that the "primary use" of the property, which in addition to the mansion includes six other homes, was a "minister's retreat and conference center" that qualified for its tax break as a place of religious worship.

Johnson added that the large "H" adorning the wrought-iron gate surrounding the property didn't refer to Hilliard but to the Biblical word Hamath — a city of "wealth and prosperity." The tax break on the property where Hilliard lives saves New Light $100,000 a year in foregone property taxes.

Some religious organizations maintain deluxe accommodations for their clergy that appear at odds with their self-described austere values."

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Dec 29, 2021

The Story of Marjoe

The story of Marjoe Goetner: Trained as a child to be an "evangelist" , without even being a Born Again Christian!! He used church goers to gain money and fame and only stopped when bothered by his conscience. He filmed this picture at the end of his scam, in order to demonstrate to his MANY followers his true nature, and even today, some of them do not believe he was a False Prophet.

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/29/2021 (Church of Scientology, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Love Has Won)

Church of Scientology, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Love Has Won

"After a contentious 46-year history in Clearwater, three top city officials and Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige met this week to discuss how to start fresh.

The meeting on Monday [11/29/2021] at a church office on North Fort Harrison Avenue served as an introduction between Miscavige and Clearwater's two newest administrators: City Manager Jon Jennings, who took over on Nov. 8, and City Attorney David Margolis, who started on Oct. 25. Mayor Frank Hibbard also took part in the meeting.

"I heard loud and clear from (Miscavige) that he wants to partner with the city," Jennings said. "From my perspective, a partnership is really that we are going to put the past behind us in terms of any acrimony and so forth and that we are going to develop a place of trust where we can work collaboratively together."

That partnership would relate primarily to redeveloping downtown, where Scientology has had its international spiritual headquarters since 1975 and where companies connected to the church have purchased large tracts of real estate in recent years. During a sit-down that lasted 3½ hours, Miscavige reintroduced photo renderings and a video simulation of the downtown retail plan Scientology developed in 2017, according to Hibbard.

The plan, created without city input, included Scientology paying to renovate facades of buildings on four blocks of Cleveland Street and using consultants to recruit high-end retailers to empty storefronts. It also included building an entertainment complex along vacant land on Myrtle Avenue with a movie theater, bowling alley and dining.

Miscavige confirmed at the time the church used limited liability companies to purchase the Myrtle Avenue land, a vacant jewelry store and auto garage, a nine-story office tower and a historic theater on North Fort Harrison Avenue for the retail plan."

Religion News Service: Mormon tithing, revisited
"In this season of giving, I have been thinking about what has changed in my life in the last year since I published a column explaining why I had stopped tithing to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The short version of the story is that I was deeply disturbed two years ago by the revelation that the church had stockpiled more than $100 billion worth of investments and was not utilizing those funds for helping others, but rather to shore up business enterprises such as the City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City.

$100 billion is an almost unimaginable sum of money, and it is fair to say with the tremendous gains in the stock market in the last two years, that could have grown to $130 billion or even more, depending on how the assets are allocated.

I don't want to have the argument that "The church is already doing so much! Look at all it does for charity." It's true the church gives millions of dollars every year to charity. In 2020, it gave nearly a billion (though not, apparently, from the investment fund in question). I have been very proud this year, for example, of the church's involvement globally with ensuring a more equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations, to which it has donated more than $20 million."
"Amy Carlson, the leader of a New Age sect known as Love Has Won, died due to decline brought on by alcohol abuse, anorexia and dosing colloidal silver, according to an autopsy report from the El Paso County Coroner's Office in Colorado.

Mystery initially shrouded Carlson's death after her mummified body was discovered in April in a green sleeping bag with its eyes missing in a home in Crestone, Colorado, arrest affidavits revealed at the time. Police had raided the home after being alerted by a member of the group who said Carlson's body had been transported to a mobile home that served as the group's headquarters from across the country.

Several members of Love Has Won, who referred to Carlson as "Mother God," were taken into custody after her body, which had been decomposing for roughly one month, was found. In interviews with law enforcement, the group claimed Carlson was not dead, but was simply "out of communication."

But, in a report obtained by The Guru Magazine, Dr. Emily Russell ruled that Carlson "died as a result of global decline in the setting of alcohol abuse, anorexia, and chronic colloidal silver ingestion."

Corporal Steve Hanson of the Saguache County Sheriff's Office previously said that investigators found human remains with "what appears to be glitter type makeup on around the eyes."

While conducting an external examination, Russell similarly remarked on the body's missing eyes which she said were "not appreciated secondary to decomposition," but showed no evidence of trauma.

At a mere 75 lbs, Carlson had a tie-dye fleece shawl draped around her bony shoulders and a faux-fur scarf and bandana cradling the blue-gray skin around her neck, Russell wrote.

The 45-year-old wore two pairs of socks and donned a gold-colored headband encrusted with blue and green stones, several chains, and a pendant necklace, the report stated. A red scrunchie swept back her reddish-brown hair and she wore grey cotton pants with a "diaper containing red purge-type fluid," the report states.

County coroner Tom Perrin told The Daily Beast in May that there was nothing to indicate her death was caused by foul play. In July he told the Denver Post that autopsy results had been delayed due to challenges finding a lab that could test Carlson's body for metals."

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How religious are Gen Z Mormons in the US? The results are mixed.

Young Gen Z Mormons are attending church and youth activities, but many say they have been personally harmed by religion.

Jana Riess
Religion News Service
December 27, 2021

A new study of Americans ages 13 to 25 shows teenage and young adult Latter-day Saints to be traditionally religious . . . and also not. And in that, they are similar to other Americans who still consider themselves religious but are in many ways disengaged from their faith traditions.

“The State of Religion and Young People 2021: Navigating Uncertainty,” conducted throughout 2021 by the Springtide Research Institute, argues that “for a large and growing segment of young people, religiosity is increasingly decoupled from institutions, even as they express high levels of religious belief, practice, and identity.”

Over the course of the year, more than 10,000 young people were surveyed, including a total of 470 who self-identified as Latter-day Saints or Mormons. Of that group, 134 also received an additional set of questions about their experiences and views.

So, as always when interpreting data about Mormons, keep in mind that when the sample size is small, the margin of error is high. For each finding discussed below, I’ll indicate the n, or sample size, for that particular question.

Let’s start with the positive findings — what many stalwart members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would consider to be good news.

Mormons reported the highest participation rate in what the study called “youth group” activities, at 43%.

This indicates that even in a time when many young people are disengaging from organized religion, programs like Young Men and Young Women, seminary, and Institute are still a factor in the lives of many young Latter-day Saints.

When attending services and gatherings which do you attend? (Youth group?) (n = 396)

Mormon: 43%
Protestant: 36%
Just Christian: 33%
Orthodox Christian: 32%
Jewish: 31%
Buddhist: 29%
Roman Catholic: 28%
Unitarian Universalist: 25%
Muslim: 24%
Agnostic: 16%
Nothing in particular: 14%
Atheist: 12%

These Mormons also report higher attendance at religious services than the national average.

Only one in ten say they never attend, compared to more than one in four nationally. And more than a third (36%) of the Mormon young people say they go to church nearly every week or more often, compared to 23% in the sample as a whole.

How often do you attend religious services, for example, at a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or any other religious ?

Mormons (n = 396)/ All Respondents (n = 10,274)

Never: 10%/ 27%

Once a year or less: 25%/ 25%

1­ to 3 times a month: 25%/ 19%

Weekly or nearly every week: 28%/ 18%

More than once a week: 8%/ 5%

I don’t know, or not applicable: 6%/ 7%

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

They show somewhat greater trust in organized religion.

57% of the LDS respondents said they trust organized religion “completely” or “a lot,” compared to 35% in the national sample.

How much do you trust Organized Religion?

Mormons (n = 396)/ All Respondents (n = 10,274)

Do not trust at all

7%/ 19%

Trust somewhat

31%/ 33%

Trust a lot

34%/ 21%

Trust completely

23%/ 14%

Not applicable

5%/ 13%

On the other hand, the research also showed a number of findings that will give LDS parents and leaders pause. Before I get into that, let me try to provide a bit of context. In most data about religion in the US, two things are consistently true about Mormons: they aren’t immune from national trends toward disaffiliation and decreased orthodoxy, but they’re still more religious than other Americans. They generally report stronger belief in God, higher attendance at religious services and a greater sense that religion is important in their lives.

In fact, last month when I reported on longitudinal data from the Cooperative Election Study about the drop-off in Mormons’ religiosity, some readers complained that I didn’t give enough context about the declines that are happening in other religions too.

But with the Springtide data, it’s not necessarily the case that Generation Z Mormons are holding to the line I’ve been using for years when I talk about Millennial Mormons: “they’re less religious than their parents but still noticeably more religious than their peers.” The picture is murkier here, especially in the smaller subsample of Mormon respondents who were asked a battery of additional questions about their faith.

Their belief in God is about average.

I found this very surprising. While few young Mormons surveyed were flat-out atheists (only 7% compared to 16%), they expressed a significant level of agnosticism, with most falling somewhere in the middle. Only one in five said they had no doubts at all about the existence of a higher power, on par with Gen Zers nationally.

“Which statement comes closest to expressing what you believe about a higher power—whether it be God, gods, or some other divine source of universal energy?”

Mormons (n = 470) / All respondents (n = 10,274)

I don’t believe in a higher power.

7% / 16%

I don’t know whether there is a higher power, and I don’t believe there is any way to find out.

24%/ 18%

I doubt a higher power’s existence more than I believe.

22% / 13%

I believe in a higher power’s existence more than I doubt.

23%/ 24%

I know a higher power exists and I have no doubts about it.

20% /23%

I don’t know.

5%/ 7%

Mormons rank highest of all faith groups in saying they personally have been harmed by religion, faith, or a religious leader.

For me, this was a jaw-dropping finding, and a potentially disturbing one. (Remember, the n here is only 134 people, so I am taking all of this with a grain of salt, as I’ll explain at the end.)

I have been harmed by religion, faith, or a religious leader in the past.

Group/ % agree

Mormons: 59%
Atheists: 52%
Jews: 45%
Muslims: 45%
Orthodox Christians: 45%
Buddhists: 43%
Hindus: 35%
Protestant Christians39%
Agnostics: 38%
Roman Catholics: 38%
Just Christian: 33%
Unitarian Universalists: 28%
Nothing in particular: 26%

Nationally, 39% of respondents said they had been harmed by religion. For Latter-day Saints, it’s a full 20 points higher. It’s hard to digest that number, frankly: more than half of young Mormons say they’ve been harmed by religion? On a similar question, 60% of Mormons said they don’t feel safe within religious or faith institutions.

This is particularly confusing when you juxtapose these findings side by side with the trust results reported above: a majority of young Mormons say they have been harmed by religion or religious leaders (59%), but an almost identical percentage (57%) say they have a lot of trust in religion. It’s a head-scratcher.

Young Mormons don’t feel like they can bring their whole selves to church.

Mormons ranked fifth overall on this question, so on the one hand you might see them as occupying the middle of the pack in the table below. But compared to other Christian groups, they are markedly more likely to say they can’t be themselves in a religious organization.

I don’t feel like I can be my full self in a religious organization.

Group/ % agree

Atheists: 82%
Agnostics: 76%
Nothing in particular: 75%
Unitarian Universalists: 66%
Mormons: 57%
Jews: 56%
Buddhists: 56%
Muslims: 52%
Orthodox Christians: 52%
Roman Catholics: 51%
Hindus: 47%
Protestant Christians: 43%
Just Christian: 43%

Of course, one possibility is that these respondents are reflecting on the idea that they can’t be themselves in any religious organization, not just their own. The question doesn’t specify. But in any case, it demonstrates a discomfort, a worry that the community might not be expansive enough to hold whoever they are behind the façade.

Half of Mormons don’t think religious leaders care about their concerns.

I don’t think religious leaders will care about the things I want to talk about during times of uncertainty.

Group/ % agree

Atheists: 72%
Agnostics: 66%
Nothing in particular: 65%
Jews: 58%
Mormons: 50%
Orthodox Christians: 50%
Unitarian Universalists: 50%
Muslims: 48%
Buddhists: 44%
Roman Catholics: 40%
Hindus: 38%
Just Christian: 37%
Protestant Christians: 35%

The question doesn’t spell out what kind of leaders, so it’s hard to know if these Mormon respondents were thinking of apostles in Salt Lake City or a bishop closer to home.

So there’s good news and bad news, potentially. I think we should exercise a lot of caution in interpreting the results from the small subsample, and also be aware that post-survey weights that are applied to make data represent the national population in terms of gender, race, and region can skew the results somewhat for Mormons. The nation is more racially and geographically diverse than Mormons are, and this can make a difference. For example, Utah Mormons are more religiously orthodox in both belief and practice than Mormons elsewhere in the US, and they make up about 30% of Mormons throughout the country. But in a national survey that is weighted to reflect the total population of each state, Utah only accounts for 1% of the US population, which means the post-survey weights may be deflating responses from some of the most orthodox respondents and artificially inflating the responses of Midwestern heretics like me. However, that’s true of every national survey that includes Mormons, not just this one.

Despite the data’s limitations, I also think that the Springtide data is particularly valuable for people who care about LDS young people, because it’s able to harness something that studies that only include adults often miss. By targeting people ages 13 to 25, Springtide is unconsciously including some Mormons who will probably leave the Church later.

Think about it this way: Some of these respondents are still living at home, maybe attending church with their parents (or not). They still consider themselves Mormon, and will self-identify as Mormon on a survey, but they’re not strong believers. Some years down the road if they’ve been inactive in the Church for a long period, they may be less likely to still identify themselves on a survey as being LDS.

I think that’s a major part of why Springtide’s data looks different from what we’re used to seeing from outlets like Pew and PRRI, which only focus on adults older than 18. Since the median age for leaving the LDS Church is in late adolescence (19 in the Next Mormons Survey, and apparently 18 in internal data from the Church itself), the Springtide data gives us a glimpse of young adults who may have one foot out the door but not yet both.

We need to learn from what they have to say.

Dec 28, 2021

Coercive control in intimate relationships to be criminalised in NSW

Hannah Clarke and her children were killed by her estranged husband after years of coercive control. COURTESY OF HANNAH CLARKE’S FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Lucy Cormack
Sydney Morning Herald
December 18, 2021

Coercive control in intimate partner relationships will become a crime in NSW, with the government moving to create a stand-alone offence for the abusive behaviour that is a precursor to almost every domestic homicide.

Outlawing repeated patterns of abusive behaviour, which can be physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial, is among 17 recommendations the state government will support from a parliamentary inquiry testing calls to criminalise coercive control.

The government will also respond by reviewing school programs, while comprehensive training on coercive control will also be introduced across government systems, communities and public campaigns.

Attorney-General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman will release the government’s response to the inquiry on Saturday and soon begin consulting to draft the law.

“It’s pretty clear the criminal law has this gap,” he said. “When I became the minister two-and-a-half years ago I had never heard of coercive control and I suspect many of my colleagues hadn’t either.

“No person deserves to live in fear, and it is among our responsibilities in government to uphold the safety and human dignity of all of our citizens.”

The eight-month inquiry heard evidence from victim-survivors, frontline service workers and members of the criminal justice system about the cumulative effect of denying people autonomy and independence.

Minister for Mental Health and Women Bronnie Taylor said domestic abuse took many forms and was “unacceptable”.

Controlling what someone wears and who they see, limiting access to money, tracking their location and incessant texting and phone calls are all behaviours that constitute coercive control.

While NSW law already recognises that domestic abuse extends beyond physical violence and can involve patterns of abuse, the government believes more can be done.

“Any legislative reform must be approached with great care and caution to ensure it does not unintentionally put in further danger those in our community we are seeking to help,” the government’s response to the inquiry said.

Among concerns raised by stakeholders is the challenge of proving a course of behaviour, over-criminalisation of marginalised groups and that perpetrators of violence could use coercive control laws to make vexatious complaints against real victim-survivors.

Mr Speakman said the government recognised all valid concerns, noting that “generally speaking, criminal law is incident-based rather than behaviour based”.

“That’s why a period of consultation on the form of the draft [legislation] is so important. More important than that is that once legislation is enacted, there is a period in which police and frontline services can be trained.”

The Queensland government committed to legislate against coercive control in November 2020, while a taskforce recently recommended several reforms to the justice system be rolled out before coercive control was criminalised from 2024.

The murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children – Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey – in February 2020 drew the issue of coercive control into the national spotlight.

Ms Clarke’s family said she was the victim of sexual and emotional abuse for years, before she and her children were ambushed, doused in petrol and set alight by Ms Clarke’s estranged husband.

The NSW government aims to introduce a bill to Parliament in the second half of next year, with laws potentially enacted by the end of 2023.

Since the inquiry Mr Speakman said there had been consensus across the political spectrum, “from the Greens through to One Nation,” while support for the committee’s recommendations was unanimous.

“This is something that should be above politics, and fortunately most members of NSW Parliament get that,” he said.

Domestic Violence NSW chief executive Delia Donovan welcomed the response and said consultation, including with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse services would be critical to reforms.
Lucy Cormack

Lucy Cormack is a state political reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

Appellate court upholds acquittal of Shincheonji leader

This file photo shows Lee Man-hee, the 90-year-old founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. (Yonhap)
Yonhap News Agency
November 30, 2021

SUWON, South Korea, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- An appellate court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's ruling and acquitted a religious sect leader of charges that he obstructed the government's response to COVID-19 outbreaks last year.

Lee Man-hee, the 90-year-old founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was indicted last year for allegedly underreporting the number of Shincheonji followers and church locations to the government when the virus was fast spreading among the followers.

However, both the district and the appellate courts found that submission of such information pertains to the data acquisition process, not the government's epidemiological investigation process, concluding Lee's act is not punishable under the infectious disease prevention act.

"It is also difficult to conclude the accused deliberately omitted requested data," the Suwon High Court said, noting that the church later submitted all requested data to the government.

The court, however, found Lee partly guilty of charges of embezzling 5.6 billion won (US$4.7 million) from church funds to build a new church facility and holding unauthorized religious events at local government facilities from 2015 to 2019.

The high court gave Lee a three-year prison term, suspended for five years, for the offences, a sentence slightly heavier than the three-year term, suspended for four years, handed by the lower court.

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/28/2021 (ultra-Orthodox, Israel, Legal, Russia, Father Sergiy, Covid, Falun Gong, Misinformation)

ultra-Orthodox, Israel, Legal, Russia, Father Sergiy, Covid, Falun Gong, Misinformation

"The son-in-law of convicted sex offender Eliezer Berland and another follower of the extremist Shuvu Bonim sect were named on Monday as two of the suspects in the cold case murder and suspected murder tied to the cult.

The names of the two were permitted to be published after a ruling by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.

The first suspect was named as Tzvi Tzucker, Berland's son-in-law who served as head of the ultra-Orthodox sect's "religious police." He left the sect a few years ago amid the allegations of sexual abuse against his father-in-law.

Tzucker has denied all involvement in the killings.

The second suspect was named as Baruch Sharvit, a member of Berland's cult. According to Channel 13 news, Sharvit has admitted to investigators that he killed 17-year-old Nissim Shitrit and has implicated other suspects.

Earlier this month, Kan news reported that Sharvit met with Berland in the interrogation room, where the sect leader instructed his follower to provide information to the investigators.

According to the report, Sharvit then admitted to playing a role in the murder of Shitrit as well as the killing of 41-year-old Avi Edri. Sharvit was said to have additionally incriminated other suspects.

Shitrit was allegedly beaten by the sect's "religious police" four months before he disappeared in January 1986.

In a documentary broadcast by Kan in 2020, one of Berland's former disciples said that the religious police murdered the boy, dismembered him and buried his body in Eshtaol Forest near Beit Shemesh. His remains were never found and the case was never solved.

Edri was found beaten to death in Ramot Forest in the north of Jerusalem in 1990."
"A rebel Russian monk who castigated the Kremlin and denied that the coronavirus existed was convicted Tuesday on accusations of encouraging suicides and given a 3½-year prison sentence.

The monk, Father Sergiy, was arrested in December 2020 on charges of inciting suicidal actions through sermons in which he urged believers to "die for Russia," breaching the freedom of conscience and making arbitrary moves. He rejected the accusations and his lawyers said they would appeal Tuesday's ruling by Moscow's Ismailovo District Court.

Father Sergiy reacted to the verdict with a biblical "Do not judge and you will not be judged."

When the coronavirus pandemic began, the 66-year-old monk denied its existence and denounced government efforts to stem the pandemic as "Satan's electronic camp." He has spread the long-debunked conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and described the coronavirus vaccines being developed against COVID-19 as part of a purported global plot to control the masses via microchips.

The monk urged followers to disobey the government's lockdown measures and holed up at a monastery near Yekaterinburg that he founded and had dozens of burly volunteers, including veterans of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, help enforce his rules while the prioress and several nuns left."
"On Oct. 2, New Tang Dynasty Television, a station linked to the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, posted a Facebook video of a woman saving a baby shark stranded on a shore. Next to the video was a link to subscribe to The Epoch Times, a newspaper that is tied to Falun Gong and that spreads anti-China and right-wing conspiracies. The post collected 33,000 likes, comments and shares.

The website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician who researchers say is a chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, regularly posts about cute animals that generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook. The stories include "Kitten and Chick Nap So Sweetly Together" and "Why Orange Cats May Be Different From Other Cats," written by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian."

" ... Videos and GIFs of cute animals — usually cats — have gone viral online for almost as long as the internet has been around. Many of the animals became famous: There's Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and Nyan Cat, just to name a few.

Now, it is becoming increasingly clear how widely the old-school internet trick is being used by people and organizations peddling false information online, misinformation researchers say.

The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher."

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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Dec 27, 2021

Master of the Cultiverse: Patrick Ryan on Transcendental Meditation

Little Bit CULTY
Season Two: Episode Eleven
December 27, 2021

"What do Pete Rose, Grandma Walton, skin boys, Dear Prudence, Brooks Brothers suits, David Lynch, Mary Tyler Moore, Merv Griffin, Mary Tyler Moore, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Margaret Singer have in common? They’re all mentioned in this episode, and you’ll have to listen to find out why. There’s just not enough room in these show notes to tell you. But don’t worry, you’ll be glad you listened, because Patrick Ryan can tell a culty oral history with the best of them. He joins Sarah and Nippy for the penultimate episode of Season 2, and it’s a doozy that just might make you take a second look at your meditation practice. As Stefon on SNL would say, “This one has something for everyone: Yogic flying, off-brand incense, and fake CIA operatives.” It’s been a batshit year, kids, so enjoy 2021’s last A Little Bit Culty episode drop. 

More about today’s guest: Patrick Ryan is a graduate of Maharishi International University. He has been a cult intervention specialist since 1984. He’s the co-founder of TM-EX, the organization of ex-members of Transcendental Meditation, established ICSA’s online resource (1995-2013), and has presented 50 programs about hypnosis, inner-experience, trance-induction techniques, communicating with cult members, conversion, cult intervention, exit counseling, intervention assessment, mediation, religious conflict resolution, thought reform consultation, eastern groups, transcendental meditation and workshops for educators, families, former members and mental health professionals at ICSA workshops/conferences. Mr. Ryan received the AFF Achievement Award (1997) from AFF, the Leo J. Ryan Foundation, and a Lifetime Achievement Award (2011) from ICSA. Along with fellow intervention specialist Joseph Kelly, Patrick publishes several cult news sites that are an indispensable resource for all things cult-related."

Dec 26, 2021

Utahns share why they have chosen polyamory over monogamy

Matt Didisheim
Salt Lake Tribune
December, 23, 2021

This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.

Sabrina and Ben Gallegos had been married for a year when they met Allie Bullock in July 2014. The women were co-workers and became friends, so when Bullock and her boyfriend broke up, the Gallegoses offered her a place to stay while she sorted things out.

The three grew close, and over a period of about seven months, the Gallegoses both decided they wanted Bullock to be more than a friend. As Utahns, their polyamorous “throuple” has been mistaken for polygamy on more than one occasion, but they are part of a growing number of Americans who practice this relationship style.

“I started to see this relationship blossom between the two of them,” Ben Gallegos said. “It was a deep friendship, it was a different kind of connection. I couldn’t help but admire [it], and seeing Sabrina fall in love with Allie, I kind of started to fall in love with Allie through her eyes.”

The concept of a relationship like this was new to him.

“I had no idea that ‘polyamory’ was even a term,” he said. “Looking stuff up online, there’s other people like us, there’s a whole community.”

Polygamy and polyamory are different — the latter is a fluid continuum based on the freedom to love multiple partners consensually, while the former is marriage to multiple people. While not all involved in polyamorous relationships want to get married, both groups at times must navigate issues like hospital visits and insurance coverage.
Practicing polyamory

In February 2020, the Utah Legislature lowered the criminal charge from a felony to a misdemeanor for a married person taking another or multiple spouses.

It was called the bigamy bill, and was aimed at polygamists. Then-Sen. Deidre Henderson, the sponsor of the bill, said, “We removed the fear of otherwise law-abiding polygamists of being jailed or having their children taken away from them.”

While polyamory has not gained legal recognition in Utah, it has elsewhere. In July 2020, polyamorous unions were legalized by the town of Somerville, Massachusetts, providing them the same rights as married couples, like hospital visits and shared health insurance coverage.

Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen said he is willing to fight for the option to practice polyamory. He has fought before.

Back in 2013, Kitchen was part of the federal case that led to Utah recognizing same-sex marriages. This was before the Supreme Court legalized these unions nationwide.

At the time, as he disclosed for the first time in a New Yorker article published in March 2021, he was practicing polyamory. He opened up about the reactions he has received since that article came out, and about the future of polyamory, in an interview on KUER’s RadioWest in April.

“I never imagined or desired out of the gate a polyamorous relationship, it’s just how a relationship with a primary partner evolved,” he said.

Kitchen told host Doug Fabrizio about his experience fighting for the right to marry his former husband, while still feeling like he couldn’t be honest about his relationship style at the time. But understanding of polyamory has increased since then, and there isn’t as much of a stigma.

“It’s about individual freedom, it’s about liberty, it’s about empowering people to be intentional about their family-making,” he told Fabrizo. “I think we’re able to talk about it in a productive way that allows for a healthy dialogue and discussion without this thick layer of shame or judgment.”
A deliberate lifestyle

Amy Peterson, a film major at Salt Lake Community College, made a documentary about polyamory this fall called “Love One Another: Polyamory in Utah.”

In her film, Utahns — including the Gallegoses and Bullock — share what polyamory can look like and how they believe it has helped them have healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

“It wasn’t that we felt like there was something missing from our marriage,” Ben Gallegos said. “It just kind of seemed like there was a puzzle piece that we didn’t know needed to be there. And when she was always around, it always felt complete.”

When they came out about their relationship in 2017, friends and family had mixed reactions. Some confronted them angrily, taking issue on religious or moral grounds, and then stopped talking to them.

But for the most part, people have stuck with them in the six years they have been together. Not long into their throuple relationship, Sabrina Gallegos gave birth to a daughter, Emery, in 2015. The new baby helped some family members to overcome their initial problems with their relationship.

“It’s just taken [them] a lot of time, a lot of years, a lot of interactions, a lot of opportunities ... to see our daughter and appreciate the young lady that she’s becoming,” Ben Gallegos said. “The person that [Emery] is today, [Allie] is one-third equally responsible for everything that that little girl is. When Emery was born, Sabrina held her, I held her, Allie held her, and it’s all she’s ever known, she’s just always had three parents.”

For Berk Forbes and Daley Yoshimura, both in their 30s and living in Salt Lake City, polyamory has been a deliberate lifestyle. They live together and have been together romantically since 2019, but they are non-hierarchical and do not call each other their primary partner. For them, the appeal of polyamory is the freedom to love and experience others outside the traditional boundaries of monogamy.

“Daley and I get to come together and be like, OK, this is what we want our relationship to be,’” Forbes said. “And if I have a relationship with someone else, me and that person get to sit down and decide for ourselves just between us, too, what do we want it to be.”

Sometimes they are both dating other people, sometimes just one of them is, and sometimes neither of them are.

“That’s a misconception with polyamory – that you’re always dating multiple people,” Forbes said. “That’s not the case at all. Certainly, space exists for that, but you get to decide and navigate it on your own terms.”

According to Forbes, people sometimes dismiss polyamory because they think it comes from the flawed belief that one person won’t fulfill them. That’s an unrealistic expectation, he said.

“No one single person can give me everything I need in life,” he said. “You’re attaching a negative connotation to that because of how you’ve been conditioned, but there’s actually nothing wrong with that. That’s humbling and valuable to accept. I can’t imagine being everything for Daley or for anyone else. That would exhaust me.”
Difficulties exist

One difficult aspect of polyamory, Peterson said, is feeling a need to show that this relationship style is legitimate.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it is,” she said. “And so there’s this pressure to show that it’s working, whatever that’s supposed to mean.”

Meeting new people, Forbes said, can also be tricky. “I’ve always loved meeting people in real life. I find it really exciting to meet someone and ask for their number, but how do I slip this into conversation casually that I’m polyamorous and I have a partner, but I would love to take you out on a date. It’s weird and it’s awkward sometimes. So I think that’s the crux.”

Dating apps can help, but they are exhausting, said Yoshimura. “I know it’s a tool and it’s really straightforward to weed out who you would get along with or not. But sometimes I get bogged down by the texting back and forth. And then also just living life in general and not trying to be on my phone all the time.”

There are internal struggles, too. Ben Gallegos said, “As a throuple, comparison vs. equality can be hard. We want to treat each other as equals without comparing each other. Comparison will kill joy faster than anything in this lifestyle.”

To get out of the comparison mindset, Gallegos said, “We remind each other that our relationships are unique and each one has different needs. Uniformity wouldn’t fulfill all of our needs.”
Finding what works, and what doesn’t

For Peterson, whose film attempts to demystify polyamory and who identifies as polyamorous herself, it’s just as important that people understand what it is as what it is not.

“Some people feel this pressure to say they’re polyamorous and that they have to be dating multiple people at the same time, but you can identify as poly and just have one partner,” she said.

Even though polyamory is about realizing a capacity for deep emotional connections with multiple people, Peterson said, it doesn’t have to amount to love, just like in a traditional relationship. “It doesn’t have to be on that level. I have yet to really feel like I’m in love with multiple people at the same time, but I feel strongly that I have that capacity.”

Peterson got married at 20 and found herself struggling with monogamy, ultimately divorcing her husband after two years in 2018. Peterson has been practicing polyamory for about three years.

“Trying to be monogamous just made me feel like there was something wrong with me for wanting something else or for not wanting to spend all my time with one person,” she said. “I could never go back to those rigid ways of doing things, because I like being open to the possibilities.”
It’s about intention

Monogamy is undergoing the pressures of a changing world, according to Esther Perel, a bestselling author and psychotherapist, who gave an interview to Lewis Howes for his podcast “The School of Greatness.”

“In the era of self-fulfillment, and the right to happiness, we don’t have more desires today than the previous generations, we just feel more entitled to fulfill our desires,” she said, “and we feel that we have a right to be happy.”

This ideal of the freedom to choose is the driving force of Peterson’s film. She hopes that for those watching, polyamory will be understood less as an avoidance of commitment and more of an intentional decision on when, and with whom, to commit.

“It’s not something that’s trying to tear society apart,” she said. “So much of [polyamory] is about community and supporting one another. It’s about having this network of care and love and the capacity and the availability to love people. From a polyamorous standpoint, there is no limit to the amount of love that we can give.”

Matt Didisheim wrote this story as a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published as part of a new collaborative including nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune.