Jan 28, 2022

The Dark Side of Mother Teresa Mother Teresa, A Saint or a Fraud?

Sal Writes
Mar 25, 2021

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, or Mother Teresa as she is now known throughout the world, was one of the most important Catholic Church figures when she was alive and even posthumously. Someone who Christians and everyone alike admired, she is best known for her work in uplifting poverty and helping the marginalized in the poorest regions of Calcutta, India. Her trophy cabinet is filled with multiple awards that ranged from the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, cementing her legacy as someone who worked solely for the welfare of those suffering.

Even today, if her name is mentioned, the first thought that comes to mind is of a pious woman who had the purest intentions and a smile that welcomed everyone into her grace. However, the truth might be far from this perception. Many people have questioned Mother Teresa’s actions and motives over the years, deeming them as a romanticization of people’s suffering. From her questionable practices in the Missionaries of Charity to her dubious ways of handling the money granted to her by equally shady people, this is a deep dive into the dark side of Saint Mother Teresa.

Hell’s Angel.
By Christopher Hitchens — Christopher Hitchens — Mother Teresa:  Angel

In a 1994 documentary with the name “Hell’s Angel,” the first of many criticisms of Teresa’s work started to emerge. The documentary was spearheaded by someone who was a volunteer in Teresa’s missionary work. This meant that there was some credibility to the claims that were being made. In the documentary, the sanitation of the soup houses and hospices was critiqued heavily. It was claimed through various eyewitness testimonies that there was no regard for safety for terminally ill individuals under the watchful eyes of Mother Teresa. This disregard was seen in the form of reusing the same needles for various other patients who were receiving treatment.

There was no sterilization in the process, which meant that there was a very high chance of infection. Shockingly, these malpractices were happening at a place where there were patients of HIV/AIDS who are already immunocompromised. Another eyewitness claimed that no staff at these places of care were medically trained and had poor skills in handling patients already making peace with death. It can be concluded that Teresa was taking advantage of these people to boost her picture of being compassionate rather than actually caring for these people.

Was it just a case of no funding?
Many people would jump to the conclusion that operating in an impoverished area like India meant that there was a lack of funds that made the conditions of the hospices terrible. However, this claim is false as Mother Teresa alone brought in over $30 million in funding from various donors across the world. There was more than enough money for the operation to run smoothly. Instead, there were no attempts made even slightly to make the conditions of the people better.

Teresa’s and the other missionaries’ refusal to install water heaters at certain camps is a testament to her caring about her persona rather than the actual freezing water with which the patients used to bathe. Donald McIntyre went undercover to one of her hospices to volunteer for Teresa and reported similar neglect and even cases of abuse. His reports claimed that children and the mentally ill were often tied up with ropes and clothes so that they could be fed or kept stationary. These clear violations of human rights were brushed off and never associated with the holier than thou personality of Mother Teresa.

Friends in High Places?

For someone who has been canonized in Christian literature, Mother Teresa sure mingled with the wrong individuals. She was known to have made friends with people that donated to her cause regardless of their actions. Teresa accepted donations and medals from people involved in large genocides of the Christian communities around the world. This included Ronald Reagan, the President of the US, someone who is alleged to have orchestrated the mass murder of catholic nuns and archbishop of San Salvador during the cold war.

For someone who dedicated her life to saving lives, this was very hypocritical. She was also involved with successful business tycoons like Charles Keating, who would later be convicted for fraud and racketeering for his dirty loan practices. This showed that Teresa had an inclination towards gathering money (which, by the way, was not even used for making the lives of the ill better) rather than actual altruism.

A Saint, or a Fraud?

In 2016, Teresa was posthumously granted the title of Saint, one of the highest ranks for preaching members, by Pope Francis I, and her life was canonized in the Roman Catholic Church. To be awarded the title of a Saint, the individual has to perform two known miracles that would then be acknowledged and approved by the Catholic Church. Teresa’s two miracles happened in 1998 and 2008. The former was Monica Besra, a woman in Bengal who claimed that her illness, caused by a tumor, was eradicated after praying to Mother Teresa. In 2002, the Church formally acknowledged this as a miracle.

However, various reports, including one of her own husband, claimed that Monica was cured by the doctors more than Teresa, and it was the regular treatment that saved her. This was backed up by various medical reports as well, but these statements were later retracted. It seems that the Catholic Church could care less about the science behind benign tumors but more about this miracle. After Teresa’s death in 1997, there was another report of a miracle in 2008 by a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumors. In just seven days, the Catholic Church completed its investigation, and Pope Francis would later grant Mother Teresa with the title of Saint.

Mother Teresa’s Life: A Gray Area.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta is undoubtedly someone who spent her life trying to help out the poor and the ill. Her years of struggle are proof that she wanted to cultivate a narrative of helping other people. However, her altruism was not black and white; with all the eyewitness reports and criticism that her actions have garnered, it is safe to say that Mother Teresa’s life lies in a gray area that is far from perfect like many seem to claim.
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Jan 27, 2022

'Gone by 2040': Why some religions are declining in Canada faster than ever

Ashleigh Stewart 
Global News
January 8, 2022

It’s Advent Sunday and snow is falling thick and fast outside the front doors of the soaring, neo-Gothic bell tower of the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto.

A tiny crowd huddles around a black Weber grill, emitting brief puffs of smoke as a crackling fire battles the elements.

“Come, gather around the holy barbecue,” Reverend Jason Meyers jokes.

It’s a modern scene amid very modern challenges facing religious institutions in Canada.

Religiosity in Canada is at an all-time low, with recently released data from Statistics Canada showing only 68 per cent of Canadians 15 or older now report having a religious affiliation. It’s the first time that number has dipped below 70 per cent since StatCan began tracking the data in 1985.

In response, Global News has spent the past two months speaking to members of religious communities across the country and looking at historical data to determine why this is happening. This is part one of that series.

It’s important to note that this decline is not across the board; the number of Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus is increasing, and StatCan predicts the number of Canadians reporting a non-Christian religious affiliation could double by the year 2036.

Christianity, however, is in sharp decline. In 2011, 67.3 per cent (about 22.1 million people) of Canadians said they were affiliated with a Christian religion. In 2019, that number had dropped to 63.2 per cent. Catholicism, Canada’s largest denomination, now accounts for 32 per cent of Canadians over 15, down from 46.9 per cent in 1996.

The decline is even more precarious for Canada’s United and Anglican churches.

In 2021, the first Sunday in Advent — the season that commemorates Christmas, or the birth of Jesus Christ — has fallen on Toronto’s first snow day, Nov. 28.

Just six people have come to congregate around the Weber grill, for Metropolitan’s Taddle Creek Wild Church, a more modern and nature-based service than the traditional Sunday service.

Being experimental, it tends to attract smaller numbers than the standard Sunday service held an hour earlier. But that one too had barely 50 people in attendance; two to three people per pew scattered across a cavernous church.

But United members have been decreasing for decades, far before a snowstorm and a global pandemic.
'We lose a church per week'

United, the country’s second-largest Canadian Christian denomination, accounted for 14.6 per cent of Canadians in 1985. In 1996, that number had declined to 9.7 per cent and to just 3.8 per cent in 2019. Islam, considered a minority religion, now sits at 3.7 per cent.

Nowadays, Meyers says, on average, United loses one church per week across Canada and he expects that to accelerate.

He acknowledges that many people are brought up religious but lose interest, but says some come back of their own volition later in life. Meyers did so himself, turning to the church in his 30s after the breakdown of his marriage.

It’s for these reasons that he says, despite the membership decline, he’s optimistic United will not die out completely.

“There will be fewer churches and yet, the ones that are able to build belonging across lines of difference — whether that is racial or economic, or like literal space, or somewhere here, somewhere online — they’re the ones that are going to stay and grow.”

It seems optimistic after a service of 50 people in a church built to house 2,000. But Meyers believes the pandemic has strengthened many Christians’ resolve.

“The deep desire for connection has not gone away. It has accelerated, I would say, and in a traditional church like this, or small group gatherings, we are hardwired for community. We’re hardwired for spirituality,” Meyers says.

“There’s more of a yearning, and people are looking for hope.”
The generational gap

But it’s hard to ignore the demographics of the congregation — the vast majority of whom have grey hair.

Statistics Canada data confirms the generational gap, finding that religious affiliation was at 85 per cent among older Canadians born between 1940 and 1959, compared with 32 per cent for those born between 1980 and 1999.

Gunn Wongsuwan, 28, knows, at his age, he’s in the minority as a regular Metropolitan churchgoer. The Toronto resident was brought up Roman Catholic but stopped attending church as a teenager. When he returned, in his late teens while living in Scotland, his friends thought he was “crazy.”

“I went back into church looking for structure, and then just realized there was a lot more to it than that. There’s a whole side of wanting to be still for a bit, to think on the eternal, to appreciate the art and the music and to contemplate the whole narrative,” Wongsuwan says. He joined Metropolitan upon moving back to Canada.

When asked his views on the role religion plays in 2021, given the changing times, Wongsuwan says perhaps now it is more important than ever.

“Aristotle said that man is a political animal. I think we’re also religious animals. A lot of us try to see meaning, to have a sense of spirituality. We want order, we want knowledge, and I think we have this sort of longing to be something that’s bigger than ourselves.”

Statistics Canada, however, also found that religion was becoming less important for Canadians on the whole. Those who reported religious or spiritual beliefs were “somewhat important” or “very important” to their lives was 54 per cent in 2019. In the mid-2000s, it was around 70 per cent.
Anglicanism: gone by 2040?

Anglicanism shares a similarly bleak outlook. StatCan data shows that in 1986, 10.4 per cent of all Canadians were Anglican. That dropped to 7.0 per cent in 1996 and to 3.8 per cent in 2019.

That year, Neil Elliot, the Anglican Church of Canada’s statistics and research officer, produced a report intended to show church elders what this would mean for its future.

After a membership decline between 1961 and 2001 of 50 per cent, and a similar decline between 1991 and 2015, Elliot projected the Anglican Church would run out of members completely by 2040.

Baptisms and confirmations had showed churches were “not drawing in substantial quantities of new members” and figures for funerals showed “we are not just losing members, we are losing the opportunities to draw in members, we are losing contacts with our communities.”

“These figures are therefore arguments for an increasing rate of decline in the next decade,” the report said, also stating that it was “unlikely that we are going to turn it around in the next 20 years.”

Two years later, Elliot’s outlook has changed somewhat. The pandemic had brought about an impetus for change, he says, but it remains to be seen if that will result in an influx of new members.

He says modern culture has been “pushing people away from the church” for decades.

“The idea of modernity, which is based on science, is somehow intrinsically against religion. There is a view that is out there, not one that I agree with, that science and religion can’t mix,” he says.

Elliot says the Anglican Church must adapt to survive. He says that his role is to try to drill this into the minds of clergy across Canada.

“I think of it very much like climate change, and people’s responses to climate change,” Elliot says.

“There’s three main responses to climate change: there’s denial … then there’s people who say we can stop it. And then there’s people who say, we can adapt…that’s what I’m trying to get us to do within the Anglican Church, it’s how do we adapt to it?”

Pivoting to more modern ways of delivering church services was crucial for future survival, he says, and to ensure active engagement. He’d done so for his own parish, St Andrew and St George in Kootenay. He now builds bulletin-style services, complete with YouTube videos.

Not only is there a decline in those who consider themselves religious in Canada, but participation in religious activities is also on the decline.
50% 'never' partake in religious activities

The number of people who answered “not at all” to the question of frequency of attending group religious activities in the StatCan survey, was an overwhelming 53 per cent. Only 23 per cent of Canadians said they attend group activities at least once a month. Between 2000 and 2009, that figure was around 30 per cent.

However, some denominations were well above this average — mostly more evangelical groups. Jehovah’s Witnesses (86 per cent) reported the highest participation rates.

Canadian Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman James Dumeignil says the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses is increasing year-over-year — with 3,000 more members in 2021 than in 2020. StatCan data, however, shows a decline in Canadian membership to 137,775 from 168,370 in 1991.

Dumeignil says participation rates are so high because their religion — which differentiates itself in its belief in only one God, Jehovah, rather than the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) of Christianity — underpins their entire lives.

That, and for the religion’s well-known, often relentless, advocacy of itself, through door-knocking and outreach programmes. But Dumeignil says that only plays a small role in persuading people to attend meetings, and people are more likely to be drawn in by its optimistic outlook and a mantra that “it’s inevitable that things will improve.”

Some Christian congregations say they are also bucking these trends. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Toronto, home to Catholics in the GTA, says while city locations were suffering, churches in smaller towns and communities continued to pull in big numbers.

Father Liborio Amaral, pastor of St. Mary’s in Brampton, a Catholic church, says it is rare for his 800-capacity church to be less than 75 per cent full on a Sunday. Amaral thinks, anecdotally, that attendance is increasing — especially in younger people.

“Normally now, when you see a line-up of people going to confession, they’re younger people — in their teens or early 20s. Within the last 10 years or so, something is happening and the youth are realizing that they need God. I think it’s about the shallowness and emptiness in sometimes what people think will bring them joy — the job, the career, the house, the car. So they’re looking at the spiritual part of their life,” he says.

“When you’re younger, you are carrying your parents’ faith. But they get to a certain age and they say, ‘It’s no longer my parents’ faith. It has to be mine.’”
'You don't have to be religious to be Jewish'

The United and Anglican churches and Judaism report the lowest numbers of those who engage in religious activity at least once per month — at 19 per cent, 19 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively.

Judaism has unique challenges. For example, Shabbat (Judaism’s day of rest, observed from sunset on Friday to nightfall Saturday) is when many school sports are played, prompting a choice between religion and extracurricular activities from a young age.

“The society we live in discourages adherence to religious precepts,” says Stan Grossman, chair of the ritual committee for the Beth Sholom synagogue in Toronto.

The proportion of Jews in Canada has fallen steadily over the years. In 1985, 1.6 per cent of Canadians were Jewish, according to StatsCan. That number fell to 1.1 per cent in 1996 and in 2019 is about 0.8 per cent.

For the non-Orthodox community, participation in weekly and daily services pre-COVID had been “somewhat disappearing,” Grossman says.

“We’ve been impacted just across the board as this whole generation has grown. And religion has not become a way of life for this generation.”

Five years ago, a Shabbat service would have pulled in 150 to 200 people, Grossman says. At a service in early December, during Chanukah, about 80 well-dressed people are scattered around the expansive Beth Sholom synagogue. But about half of them are not members — they’re friends and family of a young girl celebrating her Bat Mitzvah.

Cantor Eric Moses addresses the congregation as he would a full congregation — tearfully recounting his own journey as the only Jew at his school in Sudbury, desperately trying to fit in.

“I was the boy who knew all the Christmas songs by heart, who left milk and cookies out for Santa, but Santa never came.”

Speaking after the service, Grossman says Moses’ story is typical of many. But these days, young Jewish children were given a choice about going to the synagogue, when that choice didn’t exist for previous generations.

“As a next generation, I’m guilty, because I didn’t do to my children the same thing that my parents did to me,” Grossman says.

Beth Sholom had been working on youth outreach programmes to get their attendance up. But Grossman accepts that declining membership and attendance shouldn’t directly translate to a decline in Jews in Canada.

“You don’t have to be religious to be Jewish,” he says.
Why life no longer revolves around church

Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme, who teaches sociology at the University of Waterloo, has been tracking changes to Canada’s religious landscape for years. However, she subverts the question of decline: “I say, ‘Why were so many people involved with Christianity?’ rather than saying, ‘Why are so few involved now?’”

Wilkins-Laflamme says Western Christianity in Canada was not receiving an influx of new immigrants to boost their rolls, unlike Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

A societal shift was also propelling Canada toward secularization, in a world where daily life no longer “revolves around the church.”

“There’s a series of factors at play. We’re just not in the same kind of society we were at the end of the 19th century, or start of the 20th century, when a Christian church went with a set of other social factors. So you think back to the 19th century, the hub of social life was the village and in the centre of the village was a church or multiple churches,” she says.

“We’ve shifted to a different society where there are alternatives. There’s alternatives in terms of who’s providing the social services, schools, health, education and entertainment.”

The past few decades had been about “consolidating” an “unsustainable number of churches” across the country, she says.

“There were a lot of churches in downtown Toronto. A lot of those have sold and become condos or high-end restaurants. It tells you something about our society, what these places are becoming. We’re desperate for housing and we’re not desperate for places of worship.”

The lack of affiliation had been most pronounced in younger age groups, due to how people are being brought up, Wilkins-Laflamme says.

However, the religions that have remained are “so much more diverse,” she says. Questions around exclusivity to one religion will now need to be addressed, where people can report being part of more than one, “like a multi-choice answer,” she says.

“We’re currently in a society that highly values things like personal choice … where you’re finding your own way rather than relying on a religious leader or an institution,” she says.

“So will the United/ Anglican Church completely die out? Probably not there’ll be some form leftover but it’ll be quite small. They’re going to be a small minority.”


New sex abuse allegations target son of former headmaster at now-closed Christian boarding school

Since November 2021, two more people have come forward to The Fifth Estate alleging that Robert Farnsworth sexually assaulted them in the late 1980s when they were children. (Grenville Christian College 1985-1986 yearbook)
Ontario Provincial Police reviewing previous investigation into Grenville Christian College

Timothy Sawa, Andrew Culbert, Bob McKeown ·
CBC News
January 20, 2022

More former students of a now-shuttered Christian boarding school in eastern Ontario are coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse against a son of the former headmaster, fearing he continues to be a danger to children.

The two former Grenville Christian College students told CBC's The Fifth Estate they were abused by Robert Farnsworth as children in the 1980s.

"I'm [speaking out] today because I know that someone who sexually assaults little kids … who doesn't hesitate to take away their innocence at the age of six or seven, or eight … will never stop," one former student said.

"Not until he's … locked up."

The CBC is protecting her identity because of the nature of the allegations.
Watch "School of Secrets: New revelations from inside the cult" on The Fifth Estate on Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC-TV or stream on CBC Gem.

Robert Farnsworth hasn't responded to repeated requests for comment from CBC News.

The new allegations are in addition to those of two other former students who say they, too, were abused as children by the same man. Those allegations were revealed as part of an investigation by The Fifth Estate into Grenville Christian College in November.

Farnsworth, 55, lives near Brockville, 115 kilometres south of Ottawa.

In the 1980s, he was a student and then, after graduation, a maintenance person at the Anglican boarding school near Brockville. His father, Charles Farnsworth, was the headmaster at the school from 1983 to 1997.

In 2020, former students won a lawsuit, later upheld on appeal, confirming they had been emotionally and physically abused over three decades at Grenville Christian College.

The Fifth Estate's report in November revealed additional allegations of sexual abuse involving Farnsworth, and his father Charles.

"There was a sleepover that was going to be held at [headmaster] Charles Farnsworth's house," former Grenville student Michael Phelan told The Fifth Estate last summer. "In the night, [his son] Robert molested me and [another] boy."

One of the two new people to come forward says she was assaulted by Robert Farnsworth when she was six or seven years old in the late 1980s. The other was 14 years old and a Grade 8 student at Grenville Christian College when he says he was assaulted at the school in 1986.

Family believes allegations may be true

Charles Farnsworth died in 2015. Robert's brother, Donald, who was also a senior administrator at the school, has repeatedly defended the school and his brother's reputation. He also denied the earlier allegations of sexual abuse on behalf of his brother in an email to The Fifth Estate.

Donald has not been the subject of any allegations.

However, in response to a series of more recent private Facebook messages with one of his brother's accusers, obtained by The Fifth Estate, Donald appears to admit he believes, in at least one case, the allegations against his brother could be true.

His brother's accuser reached out to him after The Fifth Estate story in November, saying she and another boy had been abused.

"Your brother raped me while another boy was in the same room," she wrote. "He then sexually assaulted that other little boy."

Donald Farnsworth replied: "I have asked my brother on multiple occasions to admit guilt and pay consequences."

As a former student, Donald is familiar with his brother's accuser and her family, adding: "You are someone I would choose to believe over my brother."

Cult connection

The Fifth Estate investigation also uncovered strong connections between Grenville Christian College and a controversial cult in Cape Cod, Mass.

The Community of Jesus was founded in the 1960s. Its website says it has 275 members, many of whom live at its sprawling compound on the shores of Cape Cod.

The group vigorously denies it's connected to the former Ontario school, but witnesses and documents obtained by The Fifth Estate show ties between the two entities that lasted decades, including provincial records listing leaders in the U.S. as corporate directors for the school. A judge in Canada also confirmed the connection.

Senior leaders from the U.S. group often visited the Ontario school and children from Cape Cod were sent to attend school there. Teachers and staff members often travelled back and forth between the two for retreats and employment.

One of Robert Farnsworth's accusers who recently came forward says he abused her at the Community of Jesus in Cape Cod, where he visited. She lived there when she wasn't going to school at Grenville Christian College.

In a written response, a lawyer for the Community of Jesus says Robert Farnsworth was never an official member of the U.S. group.

"We understand that allegations have come to light about the alleged conduct of a Canadian citizen, Robert Farnsworth … including allegations that such conduct occurred not only in Canada but at a privately owned house on Cape Cod," Jeffrey Robbins wrote in an email to The Fifth Estate.

"The conduct alleged would have been disgraceful, outrageous and in utter contradiction of what we stand for and believe in."

OPP reviewing case

A fourth man accused Robert Farnsworth of assaulting him when he was a student at Grenville in 1986 and 1987. Farnsworth had recently graduated from Grenville Christian College and was working as a maintenance person there at the time.

In 2016, Farnsworth was charged with sexual assault and gross indecency in that case, but was acquitted at trial.

Following The Fifth Estate report in November that revealed the new allegations of sexual assault against Robert Farnsworth, the Ontario Provincial Police announced it was reviewing its entire investigation into Grenville Christian College, including allegations against Farnsworth.

That review is underway.

"The OPP criminal investigation branch is continuing to actively review the allegations which the CBC brought to our attention in late 2021," the OPP wrote in a statement.

"This could include interviews or re-interviews of witnesses, as determined by the assigned OPP major case manager. All of this will take time."


Russia jails more Jehovah's Witnesses, prompting calls for 'strong measures'

More than 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses are imprisoned in Russia, including some awaiting trial and some detained after being convicted.

Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
January 20, 2022

(RNS) — Despite a court ruling by Russian judges in October that seemed to endorse leniency for Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested after their faith was labeled “extremist,” a recent rash of sentences against members of the faith group has prompted concern among human rights advocates that the government is continuing its earlier crackdown against the denomination.

More than 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses are now in confinement in Russia, some awaiting trial and some imprisoned after being convicted.

“USCIRF had hoped that a … 2021 decision by the Russian Supreme Court banning the prosecution of Jehovah’s Witness group prayer signaled a shift in official policy towards the group, but this is clearly not the case,” said U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom commissioner Khizr Khan in a statement to Religion News Service.

“The Russian government’s persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses has gained renewed momentum in the last week,” Khan said.

On Thursday (Jan. 20), a court in Seversk sentenced Yevgeniy Korotun, a Jehovah’s Witness who had been detained since July 2020, to seven years and Andrey Kolesnichenko to four. Their convictions occurred a day after Aleksey Yershov, a 68-year-old member of the religious group, was sentenced to three years in a penal colony.

Korotun, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was charged on the basis of hidden recordings of him conversing about the Bible. The religious group said Kolesnichenko was recorded by someone who acted interested in the Bible and turned the recording over to authorities.

Yershov, also accused based on recordings, was charged for “extremist” activities, including praying, singing religious songs and participating in worship services.

“That is the largest number of Jehovah’s Witnesses behind bars since the Russian Supreme Court banned as ‘extremist’ the whole Jehovah’s Witness organization in Russia,” said Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division, in an interview Thursday from Moscow, referring to the dozens of imprisoned members of the faith group.

“The fact that there are actually people behind bars for doing nothing more than worshipping or supporting worship is — it should be unthinkable in our times. And yet it’s happening and yet it continues.”

In Russia, conviction of a charge involving “grievous bodily harm” has a maximum prison sentence of eight years; kidnapping has a maximum of five years; and a rape conviction leads to a sentence of three to six years.

“The escalating discriminatory assault against Jehovah’s Witnesses is putting a huge burden on a growing number of families to support themselves without the help of their husbands and fathers, who were often the family’s primary source of income,” said Jarrod Lopes, a spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in a statement.

“We hope that soon the callous persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia will end — families will no longer be needlessly separated — and they can worship freely in their home country as they do in over 200 other lands.”

The International Memorial Society, a judicial watchdog organization whose affiliated center published a list of political prisoners, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, was closed by Russian courts in late December, according to The Washington Post. The crackdown on the group, known as Memorial, was condemned by USCIRF, which called it “an irreplaceable resource for monitoring severe persecution, including religious freedom conditions in Eurasia.”

Asked on Thursday how the closure would affect the situation with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Denber said: “It’s certainly not good news for them.”

In December, a dozen members of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, including the United States, issued a joint statement declaring their “grave concern” about “the increased repression of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a number of countries.”

At a virtual news conference on Wednesday where the religious freedom organization Open Doors announced its 2022 World Watch List, Rashad Hussain, the new U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, said in a prerecorded video, “The alliance has spoken out forcefully against repression of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, Christians and other religious minorities at risk in Afghanistan, and of other oppressed religious minorities in several other countries.”

He added, “Strong diplomatic and political measures often follow these statements.”

In 2019 Russian President Vladimir Putin told human rights advocates that assertions that Jehovah’s Witnesses were classified as being part of a destructive or terrorist organization were “complete nonsense.”

“Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians too. I don’t quite understand why they are persecuted,” Putin said. “So this should be looked into. This must be done.”

But since that time, Denber said, “That didn’t go anywhere.”


Man, 77, accused of killing reputed CT cult leader dies after contracting COVID in prison, attorney says

Rudy Hannon after New Britain police arrested him in 2018.  New Britain Police Department / Contributed photo
Lisa Backus

CT Insider
January 20, 2022

A 77-year-old man accused of participating in the murder of a reputed leader in the Brother Julius cult died from complications of COVID-19 while he was incarcerated awaiting trial, his attorney said Thursday.

Rudy Hannon, 77, was arrested by New Britain police in July 2018 and charged with murder and murder during the commission of a felony in the death of Paul Sweetman, the second-in-command in the Brother Julius cult who went missing in Southington in 2004, according to court documents.

Julius Schacknow, known as Brother Julius, was accused of enlisting hundreds of residents from the Northeast in the 1970s and 1980s to join the cult, which discouraged education or any free thought, former followers said, according to court documents.

Schacknow died in 1996, leaving Sweetman and others to continue the cult on a smaller scale, former members said, according to court documents.

According to an arrest warrant, Hannon and Sorek Minery, another cult member, killed Sweetman in Plainville in 2004, placed his body in a freezer and then dismembered him, burying his remains at various locations in New Britain.

Hannon, however, maintained his innocence to the end, his attorney J. Patten Brown III said Thursday.

“He was going to trial,” Brown said. “The tragic thing is that because of COVID, he sat there for years.”

Brown was notified last weekend by Hannon’s family that he had died with COVID-19 while being held on $2 million bond. His case had been essentially stalled by the pandemic and no trial date had been set, Brown said. During a routine court date next month, the case would have likely been continued again, Brown said.

New Britain State’s Attorney Brian Preleski said Thursday he will dismiss the charges on Feb. 1, which was Hannon’s next scheduled court date.

Minery pleaded no contest to a single charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the case. He is expected to be sentenced in the next few months, Preleski said.

Hannon became ill after contracting COVID-19 while incarcerated and later died at a local hospital on Jan. 15. He is the 27th Connecticut inmate to die from complications of the virus.

Officials at the state Department of Correction declined to confirm that Hannon had died.

A press release issued by the agency on Wednesday said that a 77-year-old inmate being held on $2 million bond on murder charges had died from COVID-19 complications. The inmate had entered the DOC system on July 31, 2018, the agency said. It was the same day that Hannon was arraigned in Sweetman’s murder.

Hannon’s arrest and death brings mixed emotions, said Lisa O’Neil Guerci, who was raised in the cult, but escaped with her young daughter more than 30 years ago.

“Nothing good comes from a cult except the insight you gain when you leave,” O’Neil Guerci said in an interview Thursday. “I look back and feel sorry for everybody. With Hannon’s death, unless Sorek comes to justice, justice has not been done.”

O’Neil Guerci fled the cult when she was 26 years old, she said. By that point, she had never held a regular job unless it was within the financial empire Schacknow and Sweetman had built and never graduated high school because she was forced to leave, she said.

Although she is now an accomplished writer and has a job and a regular life, she is in the process of obtaining her GED to make up for being forced to drop out of school at 17.

“I wanted to be a writer, but cult leaders don’t want people to be free-thinkers,” she said.

According to his arrest warrant, Hannon lured Sweetman to Minery’s construction shop in Plainville in July 2004.

New Britain police investigated the discovery of a human leg found in the area of Shuttle Meadow Golf Club in August 2004, an arrest warrant said. The state medical examiner determined the leg had been severed with a sharp object likely during a homicide, police said. But the case remained open for years without an identity of the person.

Although Hannon had told federal investigators about his role in the homicide in 2006, the information was never provided to New Britain police, according to the warrant. A decade later, a lieutenant who had been part of a team of detectives who solved homicides of unidentified people found in New Britain, was checking NAMUS, a national database for missing persons, when she discovered that Sweetman had disappeared around the same time the leg was found, an arrest warrant said.

DNA provided by Sweetman’s son confirmed the leg belonged to his father, the warrant said. New Britain police interviewed Hannon and Minery in 2016 and 2017 who provided conflicting stories about who committed the homicide, blaming each other for the crime, the warrant stated.

Both men said after Sweetman was beaten and incapacitated, they stuffed his body into a freezer, the warrant said. Minery later used a saw to cut off Sweetman’s arms, legs and head, and buried the remains in at least two locations, the warrant stated. Sweetman may have been alive when he was placed in the freezer, Minery told police, according to the warrant.

Detectives found Sweetman’s torso buried under a garage in New Britain that at one time belonged to Minery after they reviewed Federal Bureau of Investigation documents in 2016, the warrant said.


Jehovah's Witnesses Sue German Museum for Archive of Nazi-Era Abuses

The archive documents the lives and suffering of the Kusserow family, who were among many from the religious group to be persecuted by the Nazis because of their faith.

Catherine Hickley
New York Times
January 25, 2022

Jehovah’s Witnesses, a pacifist religious group, are pursuing legal action against the German government to claim a family archive that documents the Nazis’ persecution of the Christian denomination.

The archive comprises 31 files of documents relating to the Kusserow family, whose members were arrested, imprisoned and murdered by the Nazi regime because of their faith.

It has been held by the Museum of Military History in Dresden, which is operated by the German army, since 2009 when it was purchased from a member of the Kusserow family.

A German regional court rejected the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim last year, saying the museum had purchased the archive in good faith and should keep it. But the religious group is appealing that ruling, arguing that the family member who sold it was not the actual owner of the archive, which had been bequeathed to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 2005 will of Annemarie Kusserow, the family member who had assembled and maintained the documents.

The museum’s retention of the archive, said Wolfram Slupina, a spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, “deprives us of a significant and invaluable part of our cultural heritage.”

The archive documents the lives and suffering of the family of Franz and Hilda Kusserow, devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were raising their 11 children in a large house in Bad Lippspringe in northern Germany when the Nazis came to power. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were the first religious denomination to be banned, and the Kusserows’ home was searched for religious materials by the Gestapo 18 times.

In 1939, the three youngest children were abducted from their school and sent to a Nazi training school, where they were denied contact with their family. Franz, Hilda and the other children were all sentenced to prison terms. Two of the brothers, Wilhelm and Wolfgang, were executed as conscientious objectors.

On April 26, 1940, the evening before he was executed, Wilhelm sent a letter to his family.

“All of you know how much you mean to me, and I am repeatedly reminded of this every time I look at our family photo,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, above all we must love God, as our Leader Jesus Christ commanded. If we stand up for him, he will reward us.”

Wilhelm’s farewell letter — and his brother Wolfgang’s — are among the documents in the family archive.

Some 1,600 Jehovah’s Witnesses died as a result of Nazi persecution. About 4,200 were sent to concentration camps, where they were identified by a purple triangular badge attached to their camp uniforms.

They were the only persecuted people who had the choice of ending imprisonment: If they signed a declaration renouncing their faith, they were liberated. Very few agreed to sign, Slupina said.

Before she died, Annemarie Kusserow, the keeper of the archive, had lent documents to her brother, Hans Werner Kusserow, to make copies for a book he was writing.

Though Annemarie’s will stipulated that the documents should go to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ headquarters in Selters, a small town northwest of Frankfurt, her brother, who was not a member of the faith, sold them to the Dresden museum for less than $5,000.

He has also since died; only the youngest child of Hilda and Franz Kusserow, Paul-Gerhard, is still alive. He is 90.

“My brothers died for refusing to participate in military service,” Paul-Gerhard Kusserow said. “I don’t find it proper that this inheritance is stored, of all places, in a military museum.”

A spokeswoman for the Museum of Military History declined to comment on the legal battle. The museum’s permanent exhibition includes two documents from the archive in a section about the Nazis’ victims; four further items, including Wilhelm’s farewell letter, are on display in an exhibit about resistance against the regime, the spokesman, Kai-Uwe Reinhold, wrote in an email.

“The inclusion of various objects from the Kusserow archive in the permanent exhibition is of considerable value to the museum and for the public,” Reinhold wrote. “These objects testify to and are a forceful reminder of the fact that religious freedom and steadfast beliefs are not a matter of course, they must be defended and fought for again and again.”

In negotiations before the lawsuit, the Dresden museum offered to provide the religious organization with copies of all the documents in the archive, Slupina said. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses rejected that offer.

A proposal that the museum should loan the group the original documents not on display in Dresden was rejected by the museum’s lawyers, said Armin Pikl, a lawyer for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses filed suit in April 2021.

The regional court that ruled last year found that Hans Werner Kusserow had not stolen the archive and was rightfully in possession of it at the time of the sale, which was therefore legitimate regardless of who the legal owner was.

But the Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that the group was then, and remains, the owner and that the archive was sold without the consent of his surviving siblings or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It wasn’t his to sell,” said Jarrod Lopes, the New York-based international spokesman for the group.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses also challenge the court’s view that the purchase was made in good faith, arguing that the museum should have been aware from its correspondence with Hans Werner Kusserow that he didn’t own the archive or have the right to sell it, Pikl said. In 2008, Hans Werner wrote to a museum employee saying that he and his two surviving siblings agreed to “a long-term loan” of the archive to the museum. A representative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was also in contact with the museum about the loan. The group argues that the museum should have surmised from this contact that Hans Werner was not authorized to sell the archive.

Slupina says the group is extending its premises in Selters, including its permanent exhibition there. “The fate of this family is very closely linked to the fate of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Slupina said. “We are very keen that these documents are cared for by us.”

Specific mention of the suffering of Jehovah’s Witnesses is frequently omitted in Holocaust accounts or on memorials; they are often included in a vague reference to “other victims’ groups,” Slupina said. While Berlin has memorials for the murdered Jews, Sinti and Roma, gay people and euthanasia victims, there is no memorial as yet dedicated to the Jehovah’s Witnesses killed by the Nazis. Erhard Grundl, a Green Party lawmaker, called for a specific monument for the religious group in a speech to parliament on Jan. 13.

A hearing on the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ appeal has yet to be scheduled.

Correction: Jan. 25, 2022

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to a media representative for the Museum of Military History. The representative, Kai-Uwe Reinhold, is a spokesman, not a spokeswoman.


Parental Paradox w/ Jon Sawyer

Rachel Bernstein IndoctriNation

Rachel Bernstein
January 26, 2022

Listen to Parental Paradox w/ Jon Sawyer
Jon Sawyer was raised in two homes influenced by both high-demand religion and secular worldviews. Prior to his parent's divorce at the age of four, his family was involved with both Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Christian Science. Shortly after his parent's divorce, his mother took a secular route, while his father converted to Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity. While Jon's father sprinkled elements of TM and Christian Science into his childhood, his dad's newfound evangelical Christian faith fixated on the end of the world, divine healing, speaking in tongues, and the "prosperity gospel." When Jon was fifteen, he converted to Mormonism. From the age of fifteen to thirty-five, Jon was involved with various high-demand religious groups that were associated with both charismatic Christianity and Mormonism. As a teen who was deeply conflicted about his attraction to the same sex, Jon attended the now-defunct Spirit Life Bible College (SLBC)-associated with Roberts Liardon Ministries-in Orange County, CA. While at SLBC, Jon experienced multiple sessions of exorcism and conversion therapies that were aimed at "healing" his sexual identity. When Jon was twenty-six, he became involved with Sovereign Grace Churches: a group that began during the charismatic Jesus Movement of the 1970s and eventually adopted a neo-Calvinist theology that emphasized strict gender roles and courtship practices. Jon separated from organized religion six years ago, at the age of 35. Since that time, Jon has benefited from somatic therapy, completed both a BA and MA in education, and is currently a doctoral student and researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder. Partly due to the influence of his experiences with high-demand religious groups, Jon now studies the intersection of education policy and anti-discrimination law.

In this first half of Jon's two-part conversation with Rachel, He shares an intimate portrait of his childhood as he was pulled in the many different and extreme religious directions his divorced parents took. Throughout the conversation, Rachel gives insights into the religious trauma Jon likely experienced as a child by being exposed to graphic demonic imagery. Jon explains how his varied and controlling religious upbringing caused him to internalize homophobia as he examined his own sexuality and place on the LGBTQ spectrum.

Before You Go: Rachel warns about the dangers of parental alienation which often occurs in separated families, explaining how this can be exacerbated within families involved in high control groups and relationships.

You can contact Jon here:

Find Rachel's book "Now I Know, Kids Talking To Kids About Divorce..." here:

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The ‘Just Love’ cult that has no clue what love is — Vishwananda, Bhakti Marga and his spiritual crime (of making people believe he is God)

The ‘Just Love’ cult that has no clue what love is — Vishwananda, Bhakti Marga and his spiritual crime (of making people believe he is God)

July 14, 2021

Love is feeling in the heart. But it is also a deep respect for others and a wish not to hurt them. This is absent in Vishwananda. Here is the proof.

Just like a good spiritual narcissist, a normal homosexual guru man managed to manipulate the energies/emotions and convince his followers that he was an avatar of God, Vishnu. Because of their love and devotion, they did everything he said and gave all their energy, creativity, power, lifeforce away to him, thereby losing their lives and their empowerment — maybe never even knowing it had happened.

Would you consider that a spiritual crime?

Vishwananda is a homosexual self-proclaimed guru that has been accused of coercing young men into sex against their full will, whether they were homosexual or not, ever since 2008.

He is able to coerce young men because they believe he is God. For a long time, Miles Witt, a heterosexual man, spoke out into the internet alone, not really being heard. Eventually, I came along and interviewed him and another man, and it was published online.

We know there are many more who do not come forward because they are afraid. We have spoken to them.

Many people are always afraid. And that is why they never come forward. That is why only a few of us speak.

Maltimanjari Dasi approached me on behalf of her guru at the Jiva Institute in Vrindavan to find out if the allegations were true, and she tells me that she then obtained some of her own private testimonials through her own research. She was focused on doing this to serve her guru rather than for the purposes of telling the world.

This is what she wrote to me when I wanted to show her more private recordings:

“Dear Camila, my guru is already convinced of the evidence I am constantly sending him… I am also in contact with a family from Switzerland who wants to leave. 
They are very much afraid of the karmic reactions and the anger of the Swami, which they also personally experienced… 
I have already sent him the recording that I made myself and he heard the others. I don’t really think he needs more evidence since the matter is clear to me.”

If a mainstream journalist publishes this information, more people will likely come forward.

Vishwananda has publically lied about having sex with men when asked. We know he is a normal person because we have heard personal accounts as to how he behaves privately, especially in the early days. We heard that he has sexual urges and behaviors similar to any person that likes to watch strippers, for example.

Here is another testimonial from a French man (that is not Matthieu — it is a different man) who does not wish to show his name, but we have heard his recording, and we have it. It is translated from French (not my translation):

I massaged the whole body. He quickly proposed to be naked while I massage and he also promptly asked me to massage around sex. Not necessarily on sex but around sex. And then there were several given moments when there were nonverbal pressures; Once again I did not have the eyes to see at that time, and too much naiveté … Nonverbal pressures, touching, with … Before we go any further, that was where, in place that you have massaged and that he was naked? It was at the ashram (Springen). The first times it was on a place of pilgrimage. The ashram, it was in his bungalow is that? Yes, in his bungalow, and it was at night, between 1am and 3am — 4am. He said people did not go to bed before. It was night, most of the time. 
Interviewer: And how did you react when he asked you if he could be naked? 
For me it was shocking. But in fact I trusted him. I had total confidence in him. So I had no doubt that it was going to be fine; Is it in connection with what is called the “surrender” abandonment, letting go, trust in the Master?
Interviewer: Did these teachings influence you? 
It influenced me, yes. And his physical state, when he was naked, were there any particular expressions of his body? Yes, he was erect sometimes. Yes. Reactions, obviously … He was erect, yes. He asked me to massage his belly, to massage around sex. He asked me once at the end, the last time I massaged him … 
In fact he was even very explicit, very clear in his expressions. He took my hand to put it on his cock, on his testicles. There I could not doubt anymore. And I was very shocked indeed, especially since I had already expressed to him that I had no attraction for men. And there was even one time I had said that. He even told me that anyway he would never have asked me to massage him if I had been homosexual … here…

Interviewer: And you what did you feel? Did you feel a healing power or spiritual work that was taking place on you during these practices? 

I felt a lot of trouble. I needed explanations. I did not dare to ask because I did not feel his permission, I did not allow myself to do it. I was waiting somewhere for explanations, to explain to me how it worked in the unmanifest, the invisible, or what was happening at the karmic level. There was no explanation. I really would have liked to be explained but here it is. I came to understand that it was bluffing. In any case, there was a graduation that made me mistrust little by little until I had no doubt about the fact that I was being manipulated. 
…He claims to be a swami, a renouncer; Normally renunciates, that … gives up … to sexuality, to food (specific diet without onions, garlic, or others). Often it is justified by the fact that he is the incarnation of God on Earth, that he is beyond all things, that he is his Leela, his Maya, and that he does what he wants. We can not understand … Have you ever heard such explanations, lessons? 
The second time I massaged it, I think; And he told me … he was very clear .. he said to me, “I am above everything.” He was very clear. There I was very shocked by the way. I was certainly outraged by this “low-end immunity”, and at the same time there was this fascination that was still there and I did not have the lucidity to leave… 
…It’s interesting to see that on the one hand, he is above all, that he is God, and therefore he is omnipotent, and on the other hand one often hears from Bhakti Marga that he needs to this, of sexuality with men. That otherwise “he would disembody.” We have also spoken of “sexual karma”: that it “would burn supposedly sexual karma.” But we can ask ourselves questions: Why only men, and not women? And darshan, that would not be enough (to burn sexual karma)? And if he is God, does he need these practices? Why not just a blessing? These are questions that are interesting to ask. Because on their side, at BM, they try to justify these actions. 
At first, they try to hide them, and when it becomes too obvious to some people, they try to justify them; 
And the justifications that are reported are troubling to a rational and reasonable person. The fact that some people are (potential or suspected) victims of sexual assault, some of whom may be potentially minors (under 18), can not be justified by the fact that, in my opinion, either Krishna or an incarnation of Krishna or God on Earth, and does not put him beyond the justice of men and of earthly justice. And why would this be hidden? He claims to be a Swami …”

“On the one hand, he asks a lot of things to people: to give him their soul, to give him their money: to contribute even … physically … But on the other hand him who he really is, and what he does. That’s what’s shocking and shocking from my point of view. There are families who are divorcing, separating. There are people selling their homes to become renunciants. “

Myself, once when I was at Bhakti Marga, I heard a Swamini from France (Swamini Godavari) saying to a person who was in retreat; “listen, now you are a renunciant. If I ask you to give me your house and put all your belongings on the table, you will have to do it,” and the person said “oh yes? And how would I live?”'
She replied, “you would do like birds; you would live on faith, and in faith that God cares for you.”
And on the other side, we ask for a lot of financial investment from people. Vishwananda has a fairly luxurious lifestyle: helicopter trip; he is offered very nice cars … And he asks retired people, or fragile psychologically… to squander their inheritance or their savings, leaving aside their children, their training, etc. . People whose children felt helpless made suicide attempts. I think of Roshnee’s daughter, who has a suicide attempt. And when Roshnee told VS, he laughed and said to his daughter, “oh … but why did you do that?” It’s troubling. But on the spot, we are taught not to judge … everything is a Leela…
When one becomes devout, ie the first degree of commitment, devotion, or brahmachari, he asks us for a percentage … 10%. 10% of his income. People are signing a contract now, those who are initiated brahmachari or devotees: It has changed. There is a contract today, that you sign. And you give your RIB (Bank Statement of Identity). In this contract, you commit to giving 10% of your income and you make transfers.
…But in 2008 already there were several scandals where the order of Bhakti Marga was officially dissolved for reasons of sexual acts against the wishes of renouncers. It was in 2008. I came in 2013. It was in 2008. I came in 2013. At the time VS was presented as a saint, a holy man in the service of God, to spread a message of ‘love. The logo, by the way, is very inspired by Sai Baba (Sai Baba had a logo with many religions, the unity of religions, which takes what you say), and with a motto, Serve all, Love all I believe, and Vishwananda is Love — Patience — Unity, and a logo that includes all religions, unity. It was this message that had called me, a mixture of an OM, a Cross, the Crescent of Islam, and the Star of David, all in a lotus, for Buddhism. And I found this message very beautiful, and that’s what I liked, which attracted me. Over the years the logo has changed. It became a horse. In 2015: “Awakening of a new area”: the advent of a New Era. At the same time Vishwananda was no longer presented as an envoy of God, but rather, from the moment he made the presentation of the Guru Gita on the occasion of a Navaratri, as an incarnation of God on earth.
And it was even said of him that he was the full reincarnation of Krishna Narasimha and that he could thereby do what he wanted since he was beyond Maya and his Leela; that others could not understand it, that we should not doubt, that we must pay attention to the mind (“the dangers of doubts”), that spirituality is a journey from the mind to the heart.
But on the spot we are so enlisted … We are cooking gradually … it is done gradually. We follow the classes of Guru Gita. We play a lot on fear: if you say evil about the Guru, if you have any doubt about the guru, if you spread ragots (his sexual acts are called “ragots”), then you go to hell, you go into the deepest and the worst of hell and you resume all your spiritual evolution at the stone stadium.”

“It is true. It is true that fear is extremely used.“
“I really could take the extent to which I had been manipulated with fear. And that’s also one of the things that allowed me to leave because when I really realized that it was clear that it was not right at all and not worthy of a Master who comes to bring Love, Light, and Transformation of the Heart.”
“After in my experience, he enslaves them, using Guru Gita, fear, and he turns people into sheep; sheep who can not think, and who will contribute (to this cult) financially, or by the Seva, when they have no money. “
But for me, the Spiritual Masters turn people into lions, not sheep. From my point of view, we recognize a tree with its fruits. Yogananda, to name only him — because Visham (another name for Vishwananda) claims to be an incarnation of Yogananda, Jesus, Saint Anthony of Padua, Padre Pio, and so on … everyone was him … but that is really what we learn at BM. Yogananda spent 10 years with Sri Yukteswar. And he has reached the heights of spiritual realization. However, some people have been with Visham for more than 10 years … Péppé, Pierre, Paul, Jacques, … and yet their behavior does not reflect the attitude of a highly evolved person spiritually.
For example, I heard Peppé talk about “bitch” the salesperson of BM … They have not reached the highest peaks of achievement. Or they hide it, and they hide it well then …” 
He and his entourage of Swamis make people believe that he is God, when in fact he is just a normal human being that uses brainwashing techniques.
So when Paramahamsa Vishwananda told other people to follow a guru, Nithyananda, that had a negative impact, because anything a guru, that is God, says, is trusted.
As the testimonials in the below video show, Nithyananda is prostituting out young girls for money, abusing little children, lying, and deceiving many people into giving over their life savings. The below video explains this with my personal testimonial. The video has a testimonial from one of the children and shows other proof. 
In a nutshell, I was told by Nithyananda’s group that someone would be healed by December of that year and when it did not happen, it started my journey to uncover the truth.


As I show in the video, I know that what Sarah Landry says is true because I found out what she was saying in the videos, before she did, from another insider. 
After Jordan speaks about how he was also sexually abused by Nithyananda, he says: 
“I saw a handful of beatings done with my own eyes being done on young adults and children.” 
Sarah tells her followers new information came to her that: 
“There were select (young girls), who had been sent to wealthy businessmen in order to perform sexual favours in exchange for land and money donations… 
… I heard recently from a gurukul boy that left, that he had been raped by Nithyananda.”


So, that is the man that Vishwananda said was Shiva/God, and the man that Vishwananda said I could go to. He commits a spiritual crime again by telling people who trust him that another manipulative person is also God. 
My mother introduced me to Vishwananda when I was young and she was in a cult of her own so I trusted this delusion because I trusted her.
After I was introduced, I was gradually brainwashed. I lost half my life to this cult until my realising the truth about Nithyananda was the beginning of my fight through the deprogramming and coming to terms with the sense of betrayal.
Every time I went to the ashram I often collapsed on the floor and could not move. I was diagnosed with what appeared to be narcolepsy, but I do not know what it actually is in hindsight. When I left the ashram it stopped happening after a while. However, following the instructions of Nithyananda’s group almost finished me off. There are others who are sick in the ashram and believe that Vishwananda is going to make them better because he is God. 
I am still alive, I fought very hard for myself and now I am fighting for those who are considering being with Bhakti Marga. 
Bhakti Marga is not that popular (yet), so that's why it might not be of interest to journalists, but it will be since it is growing around the world. Bhakti Marga recruits people at the Hale Clinic in Regents Park, London. 
Once you are brainwashed in this cult, you are well and truly brainwashed. The truly well-meaning, sensitive people, looking for the love of God, people who want to help others, are gone. Sucked away. That's why it is a spiritual crime. 
In addition, Vishwananda has stolen sacred relics from sacred places and he was actually sent to prison for this: 
This is a German translation from a journal article in a German anti-cult organisation: 
“Because of this offense, he and two supporters were convicted of property damage by the criminal court in Liestal in June 2007 and disturbance of freedom of religion and worship conditionally sentenced to four months. 
The Court saw it as proven that he had stolen relics from followers from at least 23 churches. From the first darshans in living rooms of private houses and rented rooms.” 
This is an article from a German newspaper (Basellandschaftliche Zeitung / MLZ; 06/16/2007):

Court. A 29-year-old guru (Vishwananda) stole relics from churches and sold them. Two women who were addicted to the man helped him.

German Translation:
“In the clutches of a charlatan


Court. A 29-year-old guru (Vishwananda) stole relics from churches and sold them. Two women who were addicted to the man helped him. Three defendants were sentenced to prison or fines yesterday for multiple disturbances to their freedom of belief and freedom of worship.

The youngest of the three accused, a 29-year-old man currently lives in the United States as the director of a religious-spiritual center. He operated as a Hindu priest in Mauritius. He came to Europe eight years ago and stayed in various places in Switzerland, Germany, and France, always succeeding in finding followers who believed in him and financed his extravagant lifestyle.

He met the second defendant, who was on trial yesterday when she was looking for a healer for her sick friend. … 
… The woman helped him find relics all over Switzerland. The bones of saints were mostly housed in precious containers. While the defendant opened the reliquary with a Swiss Army knife and a glass cutter, she stood guard at the church doors. Then she transported in her Volvo the accused and the stolen relics which he kept in his backpack. 
The cathedral was at the beginning
The accused took relics and relic containers at least 23 times in various Catholic churches in Switzerland. One of the first churches that he visited for his raids was the Arlesheim Cathedral. 
The accused was a worst kind of soul seducer,”
said the woman, who was accused, in court. She took part in order to be near him.
She wholeheartedly regrets the offenses to which she has been seduced. 
It was only after two years of dependency that she was able to break free from the man’s (Vishwananda’s) spell and has feared his death threats ever since.
The third defendant, who also participated in some of these raids, described in court her emotional dependence on this guru. He had given her the feeling of being chosen by God, felt protected and guarded by angels.
When she managed to get out of the “healer’s” spell, she reported her offenses to the police…”

Bones Stolen from Churches


 Another German Newspaper article about the same thing.

Bones Stolen from Churches



The link to the German article above says “Bones Stolen from Churches”: 

“Swami Vishwananda, born in 1978 to a Hindu family on the island of Mauritius, traveled to Europe in 2000, where, thanks to his great charisma, he soon gathered a following. “Even at the first meeting, I was totally under his spell, it was like magnetism,” said the older of the two women, describing the first meeting with the then 23-year-old. The guru became her spiritual master, she believed everything he said. For the woman from Zurich, too, Swami Vishwananda had “become the whole purpose of life”. The two women were also fascinated by Swami’s teaching, a connection between Hindu spirituality and Christianity. He claimed to have received messages from Jesus and Our Lady. “With a delighted face and sinking to your knees,” as the ex-younger women said. One of the messages was the order to collect as many relics as possible and to bring them to safety. The reason is the imminent war of relics and the end of the world in the near future. “Black magic” wants to destroy the relics, so as many as possible must be saved. The guru convinced the two doubting women with the argument that the theft of relics was God’s will. 
…The court sentenced the main defendant to four months in prison for property damage and disruption of freedom of religion and worship. The 48-year-old from Bern receives a conditional fine of 3500 francs, the 29-year-old from Zurich receives a fine of 400 francs. Most of the bones are in Mauritius and in a French monastery. The relics confiscated in Switzerland are handed over to the diocese of Basel, which returns them to the places of worship.
Other evidence that people have tried to post has been pulled down on YouTube in order to mask the truth. I am fed up with losing my life to this. 
I am fed up with the feeling I have to write this and I wish a proper investigative journalist would do this — that the Germans and the English would work together. 
I do not want this to be what my life is about. I am fed up with living in a world where so many spiritual people are veering far, far away from reality. I do not want this for my children.


Former Pope Benedict denies knowing about Legionaries of Christ abuse when cardinal

Pope Benedict XVI denied that he was given information about child abuse in the Legionaries of Christ

Globe and Mail
January 19, 2022

Former Pope Benedict XVI denied that he was given information about child abuse in the Legionaries of Christ religious order when he was a top Vatican official, in a case that has tarnished the reputation of his predecessor, John Paul II.

Founded by Mexican cleric Marcial Maciel in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ order was heavily favoured during the conservative papacy of John Paul II, who praised Maciel’s work in reaching out to and evangelizing young people.

Maciel turned out to be one of the Catholic Church’s most notorious pedophiles, even abusing children he had fathered secretly with at least two women while living a double life and being feted by the Vatican and Church conservatives.

The former pope’s denial was made to Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper in response to allegations it had published from filmmaker Christoph Roehl, who said he had found evidence that two Chilean priests had presented the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with a dossier listing abuse victims in the order.

At the time, Ratzinger was head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith
and John Paul II’s right-hand man, the Polish pope’s ideological and doctrinal enforcer.

But Benedict, 94, who retired in 2013, denied this had happened.

“No, this is not correct,” his long-time personal secretary and fellow German cleric Georg Gaenswein said in a statement to Die Zeit on behalf of Benedict.

Although allegations were made against Maciel as early as 1954, the Vatican and the order only began slowly acknowledging Maciel’s abuse in 2006, when Benedict, as newly-elected pope, ordered him to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence.”

Maciel died in 2008, aged 87. Pope Francis, Benedict’s successor, in 2020 told the Legionaries they still had a long road of reform ahead of them.

John Paul II was made a saint in 2014, nine years after his death, effectively a declaration by the Church that his life was so exemplary that he was sure to be in heaven. Allegations that he failed to discipline abusers have tarnished that legacy, with many now saying his canonization was too hasty.


When a Jewish Cult in Southern Iowa Got National Attention

Eliot Clough
January 25, 2022

After binging the 'Sons of Sam' docuseries on Netflix and considering the fact that I'm in the middle of 'Cults and Extreme Beliefs' on Hulu, I got curious about the Hawkeye State and its history with cults.

Unfortunately (for me) and fortunately (for literally everyone who has ever lived in Iowa) there wasn't much information available. But, there was one story from the early 1990s that caught my eye.

As reported by The Seattle Times and the Tulsa World, a town in southern Iowa was home to a group of people that subscribed to the ways of living of an ancient Jewish sect.

Referring to themselves as Essenes, the collection of 60 people in Lamoni lived their lives in this same manner -- nearly 2,000 years after the last group of its kind was heard from. According to the story, the original Essenes were those "who are believed to have written the Dead Sea Scrolls." IMJ.org says "The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts that were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves near Khirbet Qumran, on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea."

"They are approximately two thousand years old, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. Most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew, with a smaller number in Aramaic or Greek. ... The sectarian manuscripts reflect a wide variety of literary genres: biblical commentary, religious-legal writings, liturgical texts, and apocalyptic compositions. Most scholars believe that the scrolls formed the library of the sect that lived at Qumran," that likely being the Essenes.

The 1990's iteration of the sect "left jobs, friends and sometimes family to seek spiritual perfection on 240 acres in a small town a few miles from the Missouri border."

In pursuit of said perfection, the community acted as the cult did two thousand years ago. It had "a leader called a teacher of righteousness. They shared all property communally and followed a strict penal code that assessed penalties such as 30 days of lowered food rations for a public display of anger." They left the secular world in order to 'purify' themselves.

According to Julie Holtz, a member at the time,

We believe that's the only way we can achieve our purposes; to come out of society so we can save the purity of our own society.

BUT WAIT, there's more.

The self-described Essenes used to belong to the Church of Latter-Day Saints. In other words, they were Mormons.

According to the article: "The Iowa group got its start about a decade ago when former minister Ron Livingston and five others could no longer stand the gulf between what was preached on Sunday and how church members lived their lives the rest of the week. ... By 1987, they had bought some land, and soon families began moving on to it."

The group lived without running water, plumbing, or electricity. All the water they used for drinking, bathing, washing clothes, etc., came from a well on their land.

Livingston, who served as the community's teacher of righteousness and was referred to as 'Grampa' had this to say about their way of life:

We don't care about the price of gas. We don't care what the interest rate is. Those kinds of pressures and anxieties that everybody has in the world are gone.

At the point in time the article was written, six families had already departed from the commune, unable to live under the penal codes and without modern-day conveniences.


CultNEWS101 Articles: 2/27/2022 (John of God, Brazil, Podcast, Polygamy, Church of Latter-day Saints, Kingstons, Women, Lioness)

John of God, Brazil, Podcast, Polygamy, Church of Latter-day Saints, Kingstons, Women, Lioness 

9News: 'Do You Believe in Miracles?' How celebrity faith healer was exposed as rapist and abuser
"Over four decades, he worked as a celebrity faith healer in Abadiânia, a small town in central Brazil.

It was there - conducting bizarre and unproven medical procedures - that João Teixeira de Faria became known as John of God, building a legion of believers across the world, including a band of loyal followers in Australia who were happy to open their wallets for his supposed miracle-giving touch and ethereal blessings.

Each week, people from all corners of the globe flocked in their thousands to John of God's compound, Casa de Dom Inacio, 130km south-west of Brasilia.

There, dressed in all white, many hoped to find a cure for cancer, blindness or to stand and rise from their wheelchairs.

Faria's rising fame was elevated to a new trajectory, courtesy of some Hollywood star dust, when Oprah Winfrey came calling in 2010 for a series titled "Do You Believe in Miracles?"

In a since-deleted column on oprah.com, Winfrey wrote how she was overwhelmed by the experience of seeing Faria cutting into the breast of a woman without anaesthesia and that she left feeling "an overwhelming sense of peace".

That appearance on Oprah's mega platform ensured John of God attracted even more international attention, with Faria's faith healing compound reportedly luring celebrities and stars, including supermodel Naomi Campbell and Brazilian footballer Ronaldo.

In 2012 Oprah Winfrey traveled to visit de Faria to record a special for her talk show, Super Soul Sunday. She told Brazilian media at the time that the experience was overwhelming. "It was so strong that I had to sit down because I felt like I was going to pass out," she told Band TV Goiania. (Supplied)"John of God is not a surgeon, he is not a trained doctor," Michael

But it was regular people - often vulnerable - who were John of God's bread and butter.

It was the stream of those visitors which allowed Faria to amass a fortune worth tens of millions of dollars before his world caved in under an avalanche of explosive accusations that he had sexually abused hundreds of women, and claims he had operated an international baby-trafficking ring from his compound.

Among his followers, Faria became famous for conducting "psychic surgeries" that he said could cure diseases, including cancer.

The "psychic surgeries" involved supernatural invisible procedures using only the power of what Faria called the "Entity" - some kind of divine connection - to cure illnesses."

Maxwell's Kitchen Podcast: Episode 57 - Ashlen Hilliard
"In this episode, Ashlen and Maxwell discuss Polygamy, hyper-conservative, Catholicism, Utah, Salt Lake City, Kaysville, Mormon, LDS, Church of Latter-day Saints, trying to convert people to different religions, Alexander Campbell, Joseph Smith, colonialism, hermeneutical methodology, recruiting people to the church, evangelism at Temple Square, polygamist groups, Kingstons, similar to the Mafia, preserving the bloodline, Aryan, marrying young girls off early, inbreeding, white supremacy, tracking devices, and trying to save women leaving these groups."

Here's how a two-person startup became a powerful source for holding major companies accountable.
"Nearly two years before Better.com CEO Vishal Garg fired 900 workers in a phone call that made him infamous as one of 2021's worst bosses, half a dozen of his employees got on the phone with two women at a tiny startup in Brooklyn, New York to talk about the problems with Garg.

Garg didn't magically become a pariah on that day he fired 10% of his workforce without apology or warning. Ariella Steinhorn and Amber Scorah knew just how miserable his workers were in 2020 — before the pandemic began — because they sit at one end of a vast whisper network of internet-savvy workers who share gossip and tips about how to take your (usually horrible) workplace story and bring it into the public light, without going to traditional journalists.

The whispers go a little something like this: Scared of your non-disclosure agreement? Need legal help? Don't trust reporters? Lioness sells itself as the destination for those who just really want to share their story with someone. With very little advertising and no search engine optimization — their website is very hard to find on Google — Steinhorn and Scorah have achieved a word-of-mouth reputation that leads a few dozen people every week to reach out about a problem at work.

Coordinated groups of legal, strategy and media teams for tech whistleblowers started to emerge in the late years of the Obama administration (think Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning), according to Delphine Halgand-Mishra, the founding and executive director of a whistleblower support organization called The Signals Network. (The Signals Network was founded in late 2017.) Prominent whistleblowers like Frances Haugen and ex-Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma made the importance of a coordinated legal and media strategy well-understood across the tech industry specifically, Halgand-Mishra said.

Lioness is one of the newer entrants to the developing whistleblower support space. Though most organizations like The Signals Network fund themselves through grants in a nonprofit model, Lioness is funded primarily by paid partnerships with law firms. Law firms pay Lioness as a partner, and Lioness will refer clients to their attorneys for help and receive pro bono legal advice when they need it. Though Lioness has received venture funding offers, the women turned down the investments because they want full control over their work.

Scorah and Steinhorn said it's not exactly a lucrative job. "We always say, this would be the perfect job for a trust-fund kid," Scorah said (which neither of them are, they clarified). And they aren't immune from trying to make a buck off a hype cycle; they minted a non-fungible token for the art attached to one essay on their platform as an experimental funding source, and they are now accepting donations in cryptocurrency. "Whomever buys the NFT, we don't know who they are necessarily. They don't have any control over us," Steinhorn said. "There is so much money sloshing around in that ecosystem, if someone were to buy it, it could be a revenue stream for us that doesn't conflict us." Lioness is also exploring documentary film projects, which tend to be more lucrative avenues than written stories for companies in the media industry."

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