A California university established by a controversial Japanese Buddhist organization, which has been called a “cult,” is having serious problems.

25% of the faculty at the newly established Soka Gakkai University in Aliso Veijo, California have been dismissed and/or walked out. And students are dropping out in protest, reports the Orange Country Register.

Japanese businessman Daisaku Ikeda is the founder and leader of the modern Soka Gakkai sect. His organization seems to be in the midst of a public relations meltdown regarding its newest school in the United States.

The controversial Buddhist sect spent nearly a half billion dollars to get the 103-acre campus up and running.

But despite the group’s wealth and expensive effort it seems that teachers and students alike don’t appreciate the way it runs the school.

Soka Gakkai previously promised the new university would not be focused on its beliefs, proselytizing and religious indoctrination, but instead would reflect “an open, nonsectarian environment.”

However, professors and students say, “most decisions are made by an administration composed entirely of Soka Gakkai Buddhists.”

One professor said the university is “secretive, hierarchical, coercive and deceitful.” Another who was fired has taken legal action, alleging “religious discrimination.” And the university’s Dean of Faculty is gone, seemingly as the result of a purge.

There is a sharp divergence of opinion between those faculty and students affiliated with Soka Gakkai and others outside the group. Those within the organization essentially deny the seriousness of allegations.

It seems Soka Gakkai is having considerable difficulty adapting to an academic setting based upon openness and dialog. The organization is instead historically known for its autocratic and authoritarian tendencies.

A lawyer for one former teacher said, “In a university environment, you’re supposed to be able to ask questions.” One teacher added, “This is the least powerful faculty I have ever seen in my life.”

But the sect and its political party known as Komeito in Japan has a deeply troubled history of aggressive proselytizing, allegations of abuse and purported blind reverence and obedience to its leader Ikeda.

Maybe these academics and students should have done their homework before going to Soka U?

Fresh from the oven and conveyer belt, Krispy Kreme donuts have been a spectacular commercial success. The company has also proven its savvy marketing skills and developed a cult following.

However, some market analysts say it’s time to dump the donut stock, while others claim this cult phenomenon has “staying power,” reports Knight Ridder.

Krispy Kreme sold more than a half billion donuts to its faithful last year alone, which represented a 27% sales increase over the previous year.

Can there be any doubt that these donut devotees are diehards? And does this mean that Dunkin Donuts is doomed?

Sarah Michelle Geller, has decided to make this the last season for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” reports Associated Press.

Seven years is a long run and Geller knows that after only five syndication residuals start rolling in. Geller 25, was only a teenager when she started in her role as Buffy, which quickly made her a star.

The show will certainly have a lucrative afterlife though through re-runs.

No doubt Buffy’s demise will dissappoint the cult following of devoted fans that the series developed over the years.

Pundits and reviewers have regularly mused if there was some deeper significance to the show’s success, such as “girl power” and/or a fascination with “witchcraft.” This has even been a focus for academic research, reported the University of Warwick in Britain.

However, the success of the show was not unlike any other television series, largely it was about well-defined and likable characters. And the vivid special effects certainly didn’t hurt its ratings.

But now it’s time for Geller to hang up her stake and move on. She will probably always be remembered as Buffy, even if she eventually marries her real life “angel” and becomes Mrs. Freddie Prinze Jr.

At least one group called a “cult” has been the recipient of substantial government funds in the United States–and without President Bush’s “faith based initiative.”

Millions of taxpayer dollars have already flowed into the coffers of one guru’s pet projects.

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who supposedly created Transcendental Meditation (TM), has a university called, what else, “Maharishi U.” The school in Iowa has received “$20 million dollars in state and federal funding for TM-related research,” reports Canada’s National Post.

Maharishi’s town in Iowa known as “Vedic City” was also recently granted $29,000 by the state for a salaried consultant.

The consultant “will research and coordinate energy saving technology into new construction at Vedic City, as well as for older buildings on the Maharishi University of Management campus,” reports the Fairfield Ledger.

The clever guru also managed to make a lucrative land deal late last year in the Bush family home state of Texas.

The Texas Department of Transportation paid the “Maharishi Global Development Fund” $14 million for acreage necessary to complete a highway, reported the Coppell Gazette.

It’s interesting to note that a guru, who controls a vast financial empire worth billions, can rely upon state and federal agencies to help him out.

At 92 Maharishi is as astute about money as ever and he doesn’t need to stand in line like evangelist Pat Robertson for any presidential “faith based initiative” funding.

Maybe it’s the guru’s vaunted meditation discipline or some special money mantra that enables him to so successfully scoop up government cash?

Rev. Moon founder of the Unification Church staged another one of his “conferences” in Washington DC this month. And of course the Washington Times and UPI, both which Moon essentially controls, covered the event.

This conference supposedly focused on “world peace.”

Newsman Sam Donaldson was on hand to offer his wit and wisdom. Moon pays celebrity speakers hefty honorariums to appear at such events.

Larry Moffitt the vice president of UPI operations and Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, president of UPI and chairman of News World Communications, which publishes The Washington Times were also there.

Moffitt and Kwak are both followers of Rev. Moon.

John Bloom who is not a member of Moon’s church reported the event for UPI. He said, “Despite working at UPI, I had never been entirely clear on exactly what the Unification Church stands for or why it was so intent on acquiring media organizations.”

Is Bloom serious?

Moon obviously bought up media outlets like UPI and the Washington Times as a means of gaining political influence, promoting himself and publishing reports like Bloom’s “Commentary: War, Peace & Rev. Moon.”

What is Moon’s plan for world peace?

Bloom says, “God ruling over the Earth through the agency of Reverend Moon.”

Sounds like Sadaam’s plan for peace in the Middle East doesn’t it? Just let the Iraqi dictator run everything and there won’t be any war.

Right.

And who else but UPI and the Washington Times would give the following items any serious attention?

“On December 25, 2001, at high noon, a meeting was held in heaven between Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, Mohammad and Shankara (founder of the Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism). Sitting with them were 600 representatives of the five leading religions…they adopted a resolution that says…Reverend Moon is the ‘Savior, Messiah, Second Coming and True Parent of all humanity.’”

And subsequently “‘A letter from God himself, proclaiming the Reverend Moon to be his ‘beloved Son’”

Is Moon a megalomaniac? Judge for yourself.

No doubt UPI, like the Washington Times will be another monetary abyss for Moon to lose millions of dollars annually. But the billionaire “Messiah” doesn’t seem to care.

Not as long as reporters like Bloom get his name, plans and prophetic utterances into print.

The Universal Church Kingdom of God is an organization based in Brazil and led by tycoon Edir Macedo. It has branches around the world including the United States.

The church reportedly takes in more than $1 billion dollars annually.

Macedo has diversified investments in South America, which include a media empire with holdings in television, print news and radio.

But the cash cow of the Macedo Empire seems to still be his church, which manipulates superstition for money. It promotes a belief in amulets and holy oil and conducts public exorcisms.

Such supernatural products and spectacle have attracted a following ultimately produce income through contributions.

Now a new branch of the church in Britain is marketing its ability at “breaking curses,” reports the Waltham Forest Guardian.

Promotional literature says, “This breaking curses method has been used for many years and has proved to be highly successful especially in the lives of those who have tried every other method and failed.”

Of course once your curse is broken you should be grateful and give the church money.

In addition to this unusual pitch regarding supernatural power church members are also working the more traditional mode of fund raising throughout a British neighborhood soliciting contributions. One reporter said he was approached “six times.”

The Universal Church Kingdom of God is currently under investigation by the UK Charity Commission, over child protection issues related to “exorcism” and money distribution.

Macedo has previously been accused of criminal activities in South America including money laundering.

Ten years ago the Waco Tribune-Herald began a three-part series called “The Sinful Messiah” about a then obscure cult known as the Branch-Davidians led by Vernon Howell, later known to the world as David Koresh.

The first part of that series appeared February 23, 1993, the same day the BATF came to the cult compound to serve a warrant.

But rather than cooperate with authorities Koresh chose to arm his followers for resistance. The ensuing gun battle ended with four federal agents and five Davidians dead. Many more were wounded.

The 51-day standoff that followed tragically concluded in a horrific fire ordered by Koresh, which consumed the lives of his remaining followers, including their children.

Beginning Sunday the Waco Tribune-Herald launched a new series. This time it will not cover the “Sinful Messiah,” but examine the legacy of the historical event that forever changed Waco.

How did it affect the town in Texas, the nation, society and those involved? What lessons were learned from this tragedy of cult devotion to a purported “psychopath“?

Interestingly, Stuart Wright a long-time cult apologist who has been recommended as a resource by the Church of Scientology was quoted within the first Tribune-Herald installment.

Wright testified before congress regarding the standoff and used that opportunity to essentially advance his own agenda concerning the supposed “persecution” of cults.

Wright seems dissatisfied with the results of two congressional investigations, a civil suit and the independent Danforth inquiry. Though millions have been spent to document the facts about the standoff he cryptically said, “I’m not sure the evidence was ever looked at in an objective light.”

Wright edited his own version of events titled “Armageddon in Waco.” This book is a collection of writings largely from other like-minded cult apologists such as David Bromley, James Richardson, Anson Shupe, James Lewis, Anthony Robbins and Edward Gaffney.

One entry within the book is by Nancy Ammerman, once lauded in a full-page article within Scientology’s “Freedom Magazine.”

Many of these academics have received cash from groups called “cults.” This includes grants for “research,” payments for court testimony and/or expenses for trips and conferences.

The objectivity and observations of such specious scholars should be suspect.

Benjamin Zablocki, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University said, “The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied…in the form of subvention of research expenses, subvention of publications, opportunities to sponsor and attend conferences, or direct fees for services, this money is not insignificant…This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal.

The physical evidence and facts now well established about the Branch-Davidian standoff failed to support the opinions of cult apologists or anti-government conspiracy theorists.

Instead, the only “persecution” that took place was the way David Koresh treated his followers, frequently targeting women and children for sexual abuse.

And the “Armageddon” that ultimately occurred outside Waco was the creation of a criminal cult leader, conceived in his twisted mind as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Harvard Professor of Psychology Richard J. McNally recently presented definitive research, which demonstrated that emotional trauma, can come from imagined experiences, such as UFO abductions.

McNally seems to think such claims are actually only “false memories” produced largely through “the power of emotional belief.”

But apparently another academic at Harvard thinks otherwise.

John E. Mack, a professor at Harvard Medical School runs “The Center for Psychology and Social Change” and his spokesperson disputed McNally’s results, reported the Harvard Crimson.

Instead Mack’s man announced that “a spiritual reality…exists apart from the material and the non-material.” He added, “McNally assumes that the alien encounters are just beliefs…but that’s not clear-cut.”

Huh?

Of course Mack’s center cited no objective evidence to substantiate its statements.

In 1995 Mack was warned about his questionable research. The professor was told it was “affecting the academic standards of the Medical School.” Harvard’s affiliation with the Mack center was subsequently withdrawn.

The editor of the New England Journal of Medicine said John Mack’s approach to research is rather to “only gone through the motions.” He quipped, “If I were dean, I might have said to him, ‘John, for God’s sake, take a look at what you’re doing, you’re making a fool of yourself.’”

So it seems that the ranks of “true believers,” who accept without meaningful proof such strange imaginings as UFO abductions, are not only naïve, uneducated, unsophisticated folks or X-Files fans.

At least one believer, who apparently thinks the “truth is out there,” is a tenured faculty member of Harvard Medical School.

This past week the state legislature of Kansas rejected a proposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which has been passed by 12 states including Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas, reports Associated Press.

One Kansas lawmaker commented, ‘‘I didn’t know that my religious freedoms needed to be restored.”

A similar federal law was stuck down through judicial review six years ago. So now a well-organized religious lobby, which has included the support of some groups called “cults,” is attempting to pass the provision state by state.

However, is this legislation really about “religious freedom” or special protection?

Based upon the way this law has been used historically it appears to be the later.

Certainly Americans have the right to believe whatever they want, but that constitutional guarantee does not mandate special privileges under the moniker of “religious freedom.”

It seems rather than restoring something lost, this group of specious lobbyists actually want something more.

Per Nielson Monitor-Plus Scientology spent $45 million dollars last year on advertising, reports Yahoo.

Now the controversial church has contracted a new firm named Horizon to handle its lucrative ad business.

And apparently Horizon is popular amongst Scientologists. It also handles Earthlink’s advertising, founded by prominent and outspoken Scientologist Sky Dayton.

So what’s up?

It seems like the celebrity cache of stars like Tom Cruise and John Travolta is just not enough to put the church over.

Big bucks must be continually dumped into ad campaigns to pitch Scientology, not unlike a new movie or retail product.