The musical satire “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant,” is described as “a spooky, sharp-toothed smile of a show” by the New York Times.

The production, which was previously sold out, has been extended in a larger venue to accommodate audiences at New York’s John Houseman Theater through January 4th.

The pageant is a musical review that mocks Scientology. It features a cast of children in roles ranging from devoted celebrity followers of the “cult,” such as Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley, to the founder himself L. Ron Hubbard.

A Times critic raved, “Honors this year go to Les Freres Corbusier…which decided to tell the story of Scientology through the mouths of babes.”

An earlier review by another Times critic called the pageant a “Polyphonic Spree” and “poignant.”

Interestingly, within the latest review the reporter noted that the show “acquired a halo of hipness and daring,” largely due to “the famously litigious [church's]…publicly expressed…objections to it.”

How about that?

Free publicity and added ticket sales due to Scientology’s sour grapes. Wouldn’t that make L. Ron proud?

Note: The John Houseman Theater is located at 450 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-239-6200

CultNews reported last month that there was little chance a “brainwashing” defense would work to acquit “D.C. sniper” Lee Malvo.

A jury found Malvo guilty of murder after 13 hours of deliberation yesterday reported CNN.

Now the teenager faces the sentencing phase of his judicial journey.

The sister of one victim called the verdict a “Christmas present,” others who lost loved ones to the so-called “D.C. sniper’s” bullets expressed emotions ranging from joy to relief reported the Baltimore Sun.

But will 18-year-old Lee Malvo be sentenced to death?

“When you catch someone with blood on his hands, don’t waste our time. Get a rope,” said the mother of one of the boy’s victims.

“I want him to get life in prison where he can receive counseling…God says to forgive,” offered the husband of another one of the teenager’s fatal targets.

Many believe Malvo became the puppet of his mentor John Muhammad. A man who witnesses described as a powerful influence over the boy, with a history of dominating and controlling those around him.

Was the control Muhammad held over Malvo cult-like “brainwashing” in its depth and intensity? Experts varied in their opinions, but in the end there seems to be little doubt that the older man was the impetus behind the murder spree.

But regardless of what malevolent influence convinced Malvo to pull the trigger, he did do it. And though God may forgive him, the jury did not offer absolution.

Will the issue of undue influence ameliorate his final punishment?

Malvo’s mentor Muhammad has already been condemned to death. The teenager’s lawyers now hope that the testimony concerning the older man’s control over his protégé will mitigate the boy’s sentencing.

However, Malvo may instead follow in the footsteps of Manson Family members, who despite being “brainwashed” by their leader Charles Manson, were sentenced to death for the grizzly murders they committed.

Only the temporary cessation of the death penalty in California saved them from execution.

If Malvo is sentenced to death he will be youngest prisoner on death row in the US reported the Times Dispatch.

“Statistically, a failed insanity defense usually results in a death sentence,” one defense attorney told Associated Press.

However, that same lawyer speculated that because of the jury’s relatively lengthy deliberation Malvo might receive a life sentence.

But the “D.C. snipers” executed ten people in their murder spree without mercy.

History may repeat itself, and like the followers of Charles Manson, the follower of John Muhammad may receive the ultimate punishment.

The Evangelical Christian missionary organization called “Jews for Jesus” is stirring up quite a ruckus in South Florida reports the Sun Sentinel.

The hit and run antics of these peripatetic proselytizers has been reported by the media since the 1970s, when an ordained Baptist minister named Martin Rosen founded the controversial group.

Pastor Martin was previously associated with an organization known as the American Board of Mission to the Jews, but he had bigger plans. So about thirty years ago he set up his own shop.

Business was good because Martin was clever in the way he marketed his missionary enterprise. Instead of just another Christian ministry he picked and trademarked the name “Jews for Jesus” (JFJ).

This garnered immediate attention, which then led to increasing fund-raising opportunities amongst his fellow Evangelicals.

Baptist, Nazarene, Evangelical Free and other churches included within the so-called “born-again” movement of Christians, essentially supports JFJ.

The Assemblies of God, the largest denomination of Pentecostal Christians, seems to prefer its own network of “Messianic Jews,” such as the so-called “Jewish Voice.”

Pastor Martin is retired now, but the ministry he created is something like a little kingdom. The annual budget for the group is $24 million and it has 240 full-time paid staff located in numerous offices.

However, if anyone were to judge the group strictly by its results (i.e. the number of conversions actually achieved) their success rate is modest. Very few Jews convert to fundamentalist Christianity, and even fewer through this group’s efforts.

Nevertheless, like many well-funded enterprises this one keeps chugging along anyway.

JFJ typically stages “campaigns” targeting large Jewish populations. Subsequently, they then inundate a community with unsolicited tracts, handouts etc. Some communities have found that they can cause a serious litter problem, as their tracts are quickly tossed aside by pedestrians.

But JFJ thrives on confrontation. “It’s a slick marketing technique. They perfected it over 30 years,” one Jewish leader told the Sentinel.

Recently in Palm Beach this was clearly evident as their confrontational strategy garnered controversy and press attention.

“It provided more publicity than we could have afforded on our budget. The publicity has been a great help for us,” the Florida JFJ coordinator told the Palm Beach Post.

The point apparently is to stir up a reaction through incendiary events and tracts and then exploit this eventually for fund-raising.

However, not all Evangelicals support such efforts.

Billy Graham has denounced the idea of targeting specific religious groups in missionary drives. And some Evangelical leaders in Florida announced that they too oppose this type of proselytizing reported the Palm Beach Post.

JFJ has repeatedly been accused of using “deception” to convert Jews. And one Jew has taken them to court.

A Jewish woman who claims that it was falsely reported within JFJ’s newsletter that she converted is currently suing the organization.

She is the stepmother of a JFJ staffer and her stepson wrote for the group’s newsletter in 2002 that she tearfully converted at her husband’s bedside.

But the Jewish mother said the account was “completely fictitious” reported Associated Press.

JFJ likes to cast its conflict with the Jewish community as an old one. Claiming it’s a “2,000 year old argument” between Jews about the identity of Jesus.

However, that’s not the principle issue that raises concern. Instead, it’s the issue of Jewish identity.

Simply put, the Jewish community has historically always established the parameters of its own identity.

“There’s no rabbi…who’s going to be the arbiter of what the Jewish religion teaches,” one JFJ leader retorted.

This is a new argument.

Since when are the rabbis not the arbiters of what the Jewish religion teaches? Who is then “Jews for Jesus”?

Would JFJ and its supporters concede that someone outside of Christianity has the right to determine the parameters of their faith’s identity?

Specifically, what Christian denomination has officially acknowledged that Mormons are Christians?

None.

But Mormons say they are “Christians.”

Would Evangelicals that claim “Jews for Jesus” are somehow “completed Jews,” also accept Mormons as “completed Christians”?

After all Mormons say their Book of Mormon essentially completes the New Testament.

No, you won’t find any Evangelicals or JFJ staffers making that argument.

Last night Michael Jackson’s attorney Mark Geragos denied emphatically that the pop star has joined the controversial sect Nation of Islam led by Louis Farrakhan.

The lawyer was interviewed on CNN Larry King Live.

King asked, “Is he joining the Nation of Islam?”

Geragos stated flatly, “No. No…that’s another one of these…litany of lies.”

So did the New York Post get it wrong?

Mark Geragos may actually be out of the loop. There are persistent rumors that the Jackson camp may dump the lawyer.

Meanwhile the Nation of Islam’s publication is trumpeting the innocence of Jackson in its publication Final Call.

And since charges have officially been filed against the star some have indicated doubts about the strength of the criminal case, such as Roger Friedman at Fox News.

It seems like the Nation of Islam has an extraordinary interest in all things Jackson. This could be because his brother Jermaine Jackson is a member of the sect, or perhaps the “gloved one” is actively involved in the group as reported.

Louis Farrakhan might also simply be demonstrating his legitimate concern for a member of the African-American community.

But there is all that media attention with an opportunity for some serious face time through this sensational and heavily reported story.

Michael Jackson’s celebrity friends Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor have finally stepped forward to support him, so Minister Farrakhan will have to share the microphone with the growing cacophony of Jackson defenders.

Will the former “King of Pop” eventually become a lesser light known as just “Michael X”?

One thing is for sure; the media will keep reporting the details from Neverland.

Michael Jackson has joined Louis Farrakhan’s controversial Nation of Islam reports the New York Post.

Jermaine Jackson joined the group in 1989 and later began trying to recruit his brother Michael reported Fox News.

The Jackson family has a history of involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses, another controversial religion with a troubled history, which does not allow its members to celebrate birthdays, holidays and discourages blood transfusions.

Michael Jackson disassociated himself from that faith not long after releasing his hit album Thriller. He has since said the religion was a source of sorrow in his life.

Now the former “King of Pop” has reportedly become “panicked” about the criminal charges he faces for child sexual abuse, but can Louis Farrakhan help him “beat it”?

The Nation of Islam didn’t prevent brother Jermaine from crashing into bankruptcy after his conversion.

Apparently some around the embattled “Jacko” are advising him to play the race card. And certainly Minister Farrakhan knows that game.

Farrakhan and Jackson seem to have little in common, other than taunting Jews.

Jackson once sang “Jew me, Sue me” and “Kick me, Kike me,” in his 1996 composition They Don’t Care About Us.

Farrakhan has derided Judaism, calling it a “gutter religion.”

Though the Nation of Islam leader would readily admit that according to his faith sexually molesting children might be somewhere beneath the “gutter.”

If Jackson is guilty will Farrakhan counsel him to confess and accept his punishment as the right thing to do?

The story of Malcolm X offers an example of a religious epiphany that led to higher moral ground.

However, Jackson is not unlike other celebrities that have fallen in with “cults” during times of distress and/or depression. He seems to be looking for a way out, a faith that can somehow deliver him from problems.

But given the seriousness of the star’s current situation, there may be no easy escape.

Note: Michael Jackson was charged today with nine criminal counts, seven for child molestation and two of administering an intoxicating agent for the purpose of a committing a felony. the complaint includes special allegations that could make Jackson ineligible for probation reports CNN.

Purported “cult leader” Lyndon LaRouche was convicted for felony fraud, which involved bilking his supporters out of $30 million dollars. He served five years in prison.

Now the former inmate and perpetual presidential candidate will receive $840,000 from public funds reports ABC News.

Yes, the United States government has sent Mr. LaRouche more than three-quarters of a million dollars and it’s likely there will be more money soon for the octogenarian.

Of course the money given to LaRouche actually originates from American taxpayers that check that little box on their income tax return and donate $3 to the federal election fund.

LaRouche is running as a Democrat, even though that political party has publicly denounced him reports the Daily Press.

He is registered as a candidate in Virginia, even though the convicted felon can’t vote in that state.

His devoted followers see him more like a messiah than a candidate and relentlessly fund raise for their leader. Such fund raising then provides the basis for federal matching funds.

The “LaRouchies” have raised $5 million so far for their leader’s supposed 2004 White House bid.

Has LaRouche turned running for political office into a profitable political “cult”?

Lyndon LaRouche has received more public matching funds than Congressman Dennis Kucinich. And more than candidates Al Shaprton and Carol Moseley Braun combined.

Not bad for the man many see as a “kook” from the radical fringe.

But is this just another scam for the convicted fraudster?

It seems this time Mr. LaRouche has found a legal way to grab money from taxpayers that may not even know and/or support him.

Lenora Fulani, follower of alleged “cult leader” Fred Newman, is a pivotal player within New York’s Independent party. This has given Fulani and her mentor some political clout, which critics say has led to favors.

Visible evidence of Fulani’s political connections and influence could be seen at a recent NYC fundraiser attended by US Senator Charles Schumer and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reports NY 1.

Schumer spoke at the event as Fulani stood behind him.

Critics say Fulani is little more than a front for Fred Newman. And that her involvement in politics is a way of gaining attention and gathering favors for the controversial group often called the “Newmanites,” such as a $8.5 million tax-free bond issue for the All Stars Project Inc., another one of Fred Newman’s interests.

Last year NY Attorney General Elliot Spitzer claimed he would investigate All Stars for reported financial irregularities.

Fred Newman is the founding father of something called “Social Therapy,” which critics say is little more than “brainwashing.”

Newman says, “The proletarian or revolutionary therapist is a leader. Proletarian therapy is not leaderless. To say the leader is non-authoritarian is not the same as saying it is leaderless. The identification of leader with authoritarian is a bourgeois identification. The revolutionary leader leads the suffering and struggling worker from the bourgeois ego to the proletarian ego, through an authoritarian act of violent overthrow. For as Engles pointed out, ‘A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is…’ But it is proletarian authority–the dictatorship of the proletarian rather than bourgeois authority. Revolutionary therapy involves an act of insurrection; of overthrow. The therapist is not a substitute conscience; the therapist is another worker who has been through the insurrection and is still working and struggling during the long period of withering away of the proletarian ego.”

Huh?

But in New York’s last very close mayoral election Bloomberg needed every vote he could muster and the billionaire businessman may not have won without the devotion and grass roots organizing provided by Newman’s faithful followers.

The mayor later donated $50,000 to the All Star Project.

Some elected officials are said to have a “cult following,” but this analogy just might be literally true for Mayor Bloomberg.

CultNews began reporting this summer about how a Scientology-related clinic in Manhattan called Downtown Medical was supposedly purging pollutants and poisons from Ground Zero rescue workers and using NY fireman to promote its program.

Firemen could get their treatment for free and Tom Cruise provided funding.

Walk-ins without sponsorship are typically charged $5,200.00 for the program.

The New York Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) initially endorsed the alleged cure that includes sweating in saunas, taking questionable doses of niacin and ingesting polyunsaturated oils, more commonly used for frying food.

However, the UFA has effectively dumped Downtown Medical by withdrawing its endorsement reports the New York Daily News.

Complaints from families, firemen and NY Fire Department officials seems to have led to this decision, not to mention bad press.

The NY Times even ran a story.

Chief medical officer for FDNY Dr. Kerry Kelly said, “The essence of their program is you stay in it until you suddenly wake up and say, ‘I feel great.’ It’s hard to have faith in a program like that.”

The doctor concluded that there is no “objective evidence” to support Downtown Medical’s claims.

Never mind.

Scientologist and director of Downtown Medical Jim Woodworth argued that it is unfair to deny treatments until the research is done.

Right.

But research has been offered in the past that the “purification rundown,” which is a religious ritual within Scientology and the basis for the program, is sorely lacking in scientific substance.

Woodworth dismissed this and said the detox program helped him to stop smoking marijuana. Likewise, actress Kirstie Alley offers a similar testimonial and supports another Scientology-related project that uses essentially the same process called Narconon.

In fact half the staff of Downtown Medical are Scientologists, according to Woodworth.

Without union support it seems unlikely that NYC firemen will keep coming to Downtown Medical. And it’s doubtful that any peer-reviewed scientific research will ever be published to support Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s rather bizarre theories.

As Dr. Kerry points out, the alleged cure the program offers appears to be subjective and based upon faith rather than fact.

But then Hubbard was a science fiction writer before he became a kind of faith healer. Maybe the detox program he proscribed for his devoted followers was one part religion and the other fiction?

Singer Lauryn Hill sold millions of albums in the 1990s and won a Grammy. But the rapper and world class singer now seems more concerned with preaching than performing.

During a scheduled Christmas performance at the Vatican Hill blasted the Catholic Church reports the Anti-Music Network.

Reading a prepared statement Hill told the audience, “I’m not here to celebrate, like you, the birth of Christ, but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death in this place.” She added “Holy God has witnessed the corruption of your leadership of the exploitation and abuses which are the minimum that can be said for the clergy.”

Hill then did a protest song, rather than the selection that was scheduled.

So what prompted the rapper to rap the church?

It seems Hill, like so many other celebrities, is under the spell of a charismatic leader.

She follows someone called “Brother Anthony” and the two are “inseparable” according to Rolling Stone.

The rapper reportedly often begins statements with “Brother Anthony says…”

“I met someone who has an understanding of the bible like no one else I ever met in my life. I just sat at [his] feet and ingested pure scripture for about a year,” Hill told MTV.

“It was like she was being brainwashed by this man, believing everything he was saying and tellin’ her what to do. I think he’s just looking at a cash cow,” observed a former Hill friend.

Like many people that have been recruited by groups called “cults” Lauryn Hill met Anthony at a vulnerable time in her life, after a series of personal and professional setbacks.

It seems likely that the speech Hill read at the Vatican was prepared under the influence of and/or scripted by the singer’s mentor. And rather than hearing from Hill the Vatican audience may have heard what “Brother Anthony says…”

The singer’s recent performance in Rome is unlikely to be heard by the Italian public on a coming radio broadcast and will probably be edited out.

No Grammy for this one Ms. Hill.

Guru Sri Chinmoy has been called a “cult leader” in the US, but it appears the Vice President of Indonesia thinks he is worthy of the “red carpet” treatment.

The guru from Queens, New York will be received officially by Vice President Hamzah Haz in the capital city of Jakarta this week.

Chinmoy will have hundreds of his followers in tow for a tour of Indonesia that will include rural areas and the island resort of Bali reports Antara.

Billed as “peace promoters” the “cult” tour will more likely promote the guru and his group, which is known to recruit amongst young people.

Sri Chinmoy also has allegedly taken a special interest in female devotees, according to allegations on the Internet about the supposedly celibate guru’s sexual exploitation of women.

Little more than a joke in the US, apparently this peripatetic guru has found a fan within the Vice Presidential Palace in Jakarta.