Father Marcial Marciel, an 86-year-old priest repeatedly accused of sexual abuse, probably thought that his age or past friendship with Pope John Paul II would protect him for the rest of his life, but he was wrong.

Father Marcial MarcielMaciel is the founder of the prominent and ultra-conservative Catholic order known as the “Legionaries of Christ” or “Regnum Christi,” which includes some 650 priests. But now the Vatican has publicly disciplined the priest on grounds of sexual abuse reports The Telegraph.  

Apparently the only consideration Marciel received is that he will be spared the public humiliation of a “full church trial.”

However, Marciel is “forbidden to celebrate Mass, speak in public or to the press.” And in its published official statement the Vatican urged him to live “a reserved life of prayer and penance.”

That “prayer and penance” is in response to complaints from about 20 Catholic seminarians that say Maciel sexually abused them when they were teenagers within the order. One such complaint came from the  former President of the United States Legionaries from 1971-76, who stated that Maciel began molesting him at the age of 12.

Though initially founded in Mexico the Legionaries of Christ has rapidly expanded its influence amongst American Catholics in recent years.

CultNews has received repeated and very serious complaints about the Legionaries from Catholic families. This has included claims that the order has isolated recruits and can be “deceptive, manipulative” and “secretive.”

Parishioners of at least one Catholic Church in California became divided and experienced serious problems after the Legionaries essentially took it over.

Likewise, Catholic educators have said that when the order takes charge of schools it soon purges those that don’t adhere to its strict ultra-conservative ways.

In New England an elderly man claimed the order bilked him out of much of his savings and home equity, through unethical fund-raising.

With this latest repudiation from the Vatican it seems that the Legionaries of Christ has always been deeply troubled, and from the top down. And its very foundation has now been shaken by the Vatican’s recognition of its founder’s serious sins.

Despite this though, neither Marciel or his followers have ever accepted responsibility for the sinful acts tacitly now acknowledged by the Vatican. Instead, the priest and his disciples have repeatedly denied everything, refusing to even admit that anything ever happened or apologize to anyone.

Fr. Marcial with Pope John Paul IIIn response to the recent Vatican ruling the Legionaries offered a not so cryptic response. It says that Marciel accepts the Vatican pronouncement “with faith, complete serenity and tranquillity of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God has allowed him to suffer.”

“God has allowed him to suffer”?

It sounds as if the Legionaries think that somehow Marciel is working on becoming a saint.

What about all the suffering of his victims?

“Serenity and tranquility of conscience”?

What kind of “conscience” does Marciel have that permits him such “serenity” after so many sins?

The statement appears rather arrogant and unrepentant to say the least.

It seems that the Legionaries of Christ will continue to ignore the facts and defend the indefensible.

Meanwhile the Vatican has by necessity correctly recognized it cannot afford to remain silent regarding any predatory priest. And it has taken action that was long overdue in response to the cross suffered by Marciel’s victims.

The Scientology saga of Tom Cruise seems far from over. It appears that the next battle for the middle-aged action hero of MI-3 may take him from film to family feuds.

Isabella and Tom CruiseCruise has not only arguably lost many movie fans but also apparently never really won over the family of Katie Holmes, which has been increasingly shut out of their daughter’s life.

The Holmes home in Toledo, Ohio is a long way from Cruise’s rented mansion in California, but that long distance gap widened further when baby Suri was born. 

Apparently the Holmes family was not invited and did not attend the blessed event. At the time the actress’s parents were on the other side of the country in their Florida vacation home. They supposedly received a text message from their daughter to let them know all was well.

On yet another family front Nicole Kidman may have fond memories of her ex, but she reportedly thinks Scientology is a “sinister force.”

The Oscar-winning actress, who completely abandoned Scientology after her divorce, is once again a Roman Catholic. And it seems Kidman is anxious about the influence Cruise’s religion may have over their two adopted children reports the Daily Mail.

As CultNews previously reported last year Scientology’s “Top Gun” has been pushing forward for the rapid indoctrination of his children Conner and Isabella Cruise. And it seems unlikely that he has any thought about discontinuing that process.

Meanwhile at the same time Scientology’s “Top Gun” has been busily submerging Katie Holmes in all things Hubbard. And as that process has moved ahead the former star of “Dawson’s Creek” has been described as “zombie-like” and a “Stepford Wife.”

The 27-year-old actress and unwed mother’s parents are reportedly unhappy about their daughter’s conversion from Catholicism to Scientology.

Who and/or what will come up next in the continuing sage of Scientology’s “Top Gun”?

Will Nicole Kidman be the first concerned parent to ride to the rescue of her children, or will it be the Holmes family intent upon saving their daughter and granddaughter from the “sinister force”?

“Holy Toledo”! 

The next battle facing Tom Cruise may not be at the box office after all, but instead a rather more conventional custody battle in the courts.

As the FBI closes in on Warren Jeffs, the fugitive “prophet” of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), other polygamist leaders are beginning to sweat and wonder who will be next. One example is Canadian polygamist leader Winston Blackmore, who wants the media to know that his group is “not…like Jeffs” reports ABC News in Canada.

Winston Blackmore, was FLDS bishopAt a press conference Blackmore attempted to put his spin on recent events, speaking from his home in Bountiful, British Columbia.

Rulon Jeffs, the deceased father of Warren Jeffs, once ruled over approximately 10,000 polygamists, primarily located within Arizona, Utah and British Columbia. Blackmore was one of his “bishops,” presiding over the faithful Canadian faction much like a feudal lord within the Jeffs kingdom.

But with the death of King Rulon, Blackmore no longer wants to be simply a vassal, so he broke away from Warren Jeffs.

It seems when it comes to the younger Jeffs current status; Blackmore is more than content that the FBI is stalking his enemy.

Winston Blackmore reportedly has 28 wives and about 100 children, but he says “We are not [Jeffs] and he does not represent the fundamentals of our faith.”

Whatever “fundamentals” Blackmore observes they seem to be essentially the same as Jeffs. And the only difference between their communities is largely whose the boss.

What Blackmore fears is the decisive and growing law enforcement crackdown concerning the criminal behavior of polygamists.

For half a century polygamist leaders pretty much did as they pleased, sexually abusing and exploiting children, violating labor laws, beating up or otherwise brutally punishing those that dared to disobey their edicts and expecting taxpayers outside their communities to pick up much of the tab through welfare and various public funded projects.

However, after years of government neglect the bad behavior of polygamists has caught up with them as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The early beginnings of what can be seen as a virtual “sea change” amongst government officials from apathy to sympathy regarding the polygamy problem can be traced back to the late 1990s.

Tom Green, a relatively obscure self-styled Utah polygamist with five wives and 25 children, began grand standing and touting his lifestyle on television, through afternoon talk shows and evening magazine programs. In the end Green must have regretted this grab for attention, because it landed him up in prison after a child rape conviction.

Green is currently scheduled for parole in August 2007.

Tom Green and wivesThe image of polygamist patriarchs was rapidly changing by the turn of the last century, from the perception that they were strange but somehow honest and pious religious men, to that of wanton child abusers and sex offenders.

In 1998 a 16-year-old girl that fled from the rich and powerful Kingston polygamist group in Utah, after being raped and beaten, testified in open court against her father and an uncle she was forced to marry.

A sordid picture emerged of sanctioned incest, brutal enforcement practices, which shocked the public and the leaders of the Mormon Church. What Mormon leaders in Utah like the proverbial “crazy uncle in the attic” had once tolerated became fodder for the tabloids and focused unwanted attention on their state.

In the fall of 1998 Gordon Hinkley, the President and “prophet” of the Mormon Church spoke out publicly. Though the leader of millions of Mormons acknowledged that polygamy had once been a teaching of the church he denounced it and  stated bluntly that polygamists “don’t belong to the church,” and not pleased with how such groups labeled themselves further said flatly, “There are no Mormon fundamentalists.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, who at first attempted to defend Jeffs and his minions as “very fine people,” was later pressed to make a public statement against polygamy. ”No one should be raping a child … we need to protect our children,” Hatch finally said. 

However, it should be understood that the so-called “Mormon fundamentalists” have a long history that goes back many decades. The FLDS itself has been in Arizona for 60 years.

According to popular legend none other than Brigham Young himself once visited what later became FLDS land, then known as Pipe Springs and he beheld its towering Vermilion Cliffs.

“This is the right place [and it] will someday be the head and not the tail of the church [and]…the granaries of the Saints,” Young supposedly said.

But today the place is more like a pain in “the tail” of the Mormon Church.

And since the death of preeminent polygamist Rulon Jeffs, the land that Young beheld has never been the same. The partriarch begot a sprawling rural religious and commercial empire that crossed state and national boundaries. Jeffs also beget at least 60 children and may have had as many as 75 wives.

Warren Jeffs, on FBI 'Most Wanted' listBut his son Warren is not as wily or wary as the elder “prophet” was and he has failed to keep his father’s legacy intact.

Increasingly, internal community problems within the Jeffs kingdom spilled into the pages of the press. There were forced evictions, lawsuits and investigations and the younger Jeffs seemed fated to be deposed. Today he is a hunted man, forced to flee and live on the lam. Jeffs recently was placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list of criminals with a bounty on his head.

Perhaps this was due to the changing times more than just a single man.

An ill-fated raid on the Arizona polygamist communities some fifty years seemed to insure that they would be left alone. Polygamists and their problems were perceived as a political “tar baby” by state officials as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

But Marshall Trimble, Arizona’s state historian acknowledged, “We are a different society today than in 1953, and [state authorities] could take action without the political risk.”

Too bad for Warren Jeffs.

A seminal statement was made during 2004 by Arizona State legislators that probably marked the no turning back point. ”For too long, Arizona has allowed this grave problem to deteriorate. Too many young women have lost their virtue without their consent. Too many young lives have been shattered. Too many witnesses have been ignored. The time has come for Arizona to act,” they wrote.

And Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard was willing to act. ”This issue should unite all Arizonans,” he said.

In Utah with the support of the all-powerful Mormon Church, its state officials were likewise at last willing to move forward there as well. And an unprecedented cooperation began between the two state attorney generals, which continues today.

Jeffs remains a prime target for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s prosecution of polygamists regarding marriages to  underage girls. Shurtleff told the Phoenix New Times as early as 2003, “Once we establish the case and have the evidence, we will charge him.”

Caught between the two top law enforcement officials that held within their jurisdictions his largest groups of followers Jeffs watched as his power was stripped away. His polygamist police, judges and other officials lost their positions. At the same time public funds utilized by the communities was scrutinized and eventually Jeffs assets were frozen.

Polygamists from the Kingston klan in Utah likewise faced withering criminal prosecutions and official scrutiny.

The once mighty and powerful polygamist kingdoms were crumbling.

It’s no wonder that Winston Blackmore wants to preserve his fiefdom in Canada, considering that this remnant of the former FLDS empire is worth millions of dollars.

Blackmore recently told the press that he expects to be arrested any day on charges of sexually exploiting girls in Bountiful. “We have one very reliable source that indicates that it will happen,” he said in an e-mail.

The polygamist patriarchs would have the public believe they are being “persecuted.” Not surprisingly the newspaper the Washington Times and wire service United Press International controlled by purported “cult leader” Rev. Sun Myung Moon reported that story.

Whenever “cult leaders” are questioned about their actions it isn’t long before allegations of “persecution” arise.

For example Rev. Moon, once convicted for tax fraud made such a claim, but the jury didn’t buy it. Interestingly, Orrin Hatch once defended Moon.

Posing as a concerned taxpayer Blackmore lamented the use of public funds to pursue polygamists. “A million and a half dollars, [a] five-year run to the Supreme Court of Canada — all when every single person knows, including the RCMP, that it would be a waste of time,” he said.

But if you ask the children that have fled polygamy, it seems doubtful that they would feel the same, considering the arrests of their one-time tormentors.

Canada and the United States have a history of protecting religious freedom. The questions about polygamy and its adherents has never been about their legal right to believe whatever they wish, but rather focused upon their desire to do anything they want in the name of their beliefs.

Polygamists live under the law and the prosecution of polygamists that break the law is not “persecution,” it’s justice.

Jim Belushi, sitcom star of the show “According to Jim” is out hawking a book titled Real Men Don’t Apologize. But the book and Belushi’s philosophy is largely based upon the views of a controversial weekend seminar guru with a “cult following” named Justin Sterling.

Jim Belushi's book not so sweetSterling who now lives in California was born in Brooklyn. His given name was Arthur ”Artie” Kasarjian.

The philosophy “Artie” concocted and later taught his disciple Belushi is a facile, self-serving mix of Robert Bly (Iron John), with a dash of John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) presented through a mass marathon training weekend format much like EST, which Sterling himself was once involved in.

Apparently the former “Estie” realized the profitability of such seminars and essentially copied the format to create his own spin-off of another guru’s teachings named Werner Erhard, formerly known as Jack Rosenberg, who just like Sterling had changed his name too.

Much like his mentor Belushi’s book is largely derivative and it appears the sitcom star may have done the Sterling Weekend himself. He offers warmed over “Sterlingisms” such as “men don’t apologize for being who they are,” with such original thought as “Beer does not judge you” reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Now on his third marriage the actor turned author has supposedly worked through his relationship foibles, with a little help from his guru, whom he gushed about and quoted last night on the CNBC Donny Deutsch talk show.

However, critics of Justin Sterling have told CultNews that this self-styled relationship guru has done more harm than good and is something of a woman-hating misogynist and his weekend has been likened to “brainwashing.”

Sterling preaches for a price that society is “screwed up because women have become masculine and competitive and men have become feminized” and that “we are going against thousands of years of genetic programming–men are the hunters, women are the gatherers.”

No doubt Belushi would grunt his approval of such “breakthrough” thinking.

Sterling teaches what are affectionately called his “$50.00 tips” such as the following:

  • Men don’t have any emotional needs (that can’t be gotten from a dog) 
  • Men should never discuss feelings with women 
  • Men should never do anything with women that they do with men (in a competitive sense) like play golf, tennis, etc. because women take it personally. 
  • There is no room for competition in a relationship 
  • Women are 100% responsible for the relationship 
  • Women are attracted only to power and resources or the potential to get these things. 
  • Women marry for power and resources, not love. 
  • Men marry for love. 
  • Men should not compromise themselves at all in a relationship. Corollary: How much you are devastated by the end of a relationship with women is a function of how much you compromised your masculinity. 
  • Men should focus on success and only that. 
  • Men think they are good at relationships–but aren’t and shouldn’t try to be. 
  • Women are problem concentric: They need to have problems so don’t try and help them solve them because they will just find another problem to bitch about. 
  • Problems to women are status. The highest status problems lately are sexual harassment, abuse, etc.
  • Belushi's guru Justin SterlingHey wait a minute, does this sound like the world “According to Jim”?

    Could it be that much of the ABC sitcom is based upon such “Sterlingisms”?

    One of the most bizarre features of the “Sterling Weekend” is its finale. At the conclusion of the seminar the participating men strip naked for a male bonding ritual that is routinely videotaped by Justin Sterling’s devoted “volunteers.”

    Is there a video of Jim Belushi dancing naked sitting up on Justin Sterling’s shelf?

    Whatever the case is it doesn’t appear that the actor’s philosophy garnered from his guru should be taken any more seriously than his sitcom character.

    Perhaps the best advice Belushi offers within his book is this, “Don’t be a know-it-all. There’s no reason to be an expert on everything.”

    Now if Jim Belushi will only take his own advice.

    Pop goes Kabbalah, and the bubble of Madonna’s second marriage appears ready to burst. The 1980s disco diva is about to launch another tour and was photographed without her wedding ring reports Jeanette Walls for MSNBC.

    Madonna with 'red string,' but no wedding ringAs pictured the star has the traditional amulet known as the “Kabbalah red string” on her wrist, but no wedding ring.

    So it seems that the controversial religious group called the “Kabbalah Centre,” adopted by Madonna a decade ago may have taken its toll and on her marriage. And that object of devotion is apparently more important to the “Material Girl” than her marriage to British film director Guy Ritchie.

    Lately Madonna has been living in LA where she is within driving distance to her mystical mentor Philip Berg and his family. The Bergs inhabit three mini-mansions located in Beverly Hills. Many of the rich and faithful Kabbalah Centre flock live around or near this seemingly sacred family.

    However, it has been rumored for some time that the 47-year-old icon’s hubby has grown increasingly weary of his wife’s religious devotion to the group she appears to rely upon.

    Ritchie and Madonna now seem to barely inhabit the same space, either figuratively or literally.

    Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone, who the star has failed to convert to her faith, told the press, “It’s the children that will keep them together. The children are everything to them.”

    Guy Ritchie with RoccoBut will the kids really be enough?

    It looks like husband number two will eventually join that exclusive club chartered by Sean Penn, as the second ex “Mr. Madonna.”

    It took Penn time to recover, but he ultimately remarried, started a family and picked up an Oscar.

    Though unlike the actor, Ritchie will be tied to Madonna through their son Rocco, which could potentially become a contentious situation if the aging diva wants to drown her child, so to speak, in “Kabbalah water.” 

    There’s only two weeks left in the American Idol competition and it’s down to three finalists. One of the three is 22-year-old Katherine McPhee and she just might be a Scientologist.

    'Pod Girl' Katherine McPhee“The Internet is full of Katharine-is-a-Scientologist stories and ‘Star’ Magazine even reported that McPhee completed the Scientology ‘Purification Rundown’ course in which one reaches a new level of spirituality by swilling cooking-oil, popping niacin and sweating your butt off in a sauna,” reports the New York Post. 

    For those that don’t already know about the “Rundown” it is a “religious ritual” favored by Scientologists like Katie Holmes and Kelly Preston to supposedly get the “poisons” or “toxins” out of their fatty tissue, though medical experts have dismissed it as little more than quackery.

    Post reporter Linda Stassi has labeled McPhee a “Pod Girl,” as in Invasions of the Body Snatchers and says “she has this whole Damien the Omen thing going,” only revealing her true self when the cameras are turned off.

    Perhaps it was just a coincidence that Scientologist Priscilla Presley showed up for a segment with McPhee at Graceland, who then delivered a medley of Elvis songs.

    Ironically, despite his ex-wife’s involvement with the controversial church, Elvis himself never took up Scientology.

    According to a close associate “The King” once said, “F – – – those people! There’s no way I’ll ever get involved with that son-of-a-bitchin’ group. All they want is my money.”

    Something of a sour note that McPhee is unlikely to sing.

    If the girl with that “Damien thing” wins the competition and then comes out of the closet proclaiming her devotion to Scientology, expect this to be something of a coup for the Sci-fi religion regarding the youth market.

    Maybe McPhee could team up with newly converted Katie Holmes and the two could work twenty-something market together as a traveling acting and singing Scientology show?

    However, Stassi says McPhee is “bland” and phony, questioning “is she real or is she Memorex, or maybe just a Scientologist?”

    Well, stay tuned because “Pod girl” could get “kicked to the curb” this week.

    Note: CultNews has learned that Katherine McPhee recently denied reports that she is a Scientologist. In an interview May 12th on KROQ 106.7 McPhee stated, “I am not a Scientologist. I was actually dating somebody who was a Scientologist. I was madly in love and sure I was like I’ll dabble in Scientology and I was quickly out the door.” So it seems that “Pod girl” may have taken a Scientology course or two, sweated in the sauna, popped niacin and sucked down some cooking oil, but ditched Scientology in the end. And she did it it all for “love.” Sounds like another song coming on.

    Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s office was picketed May 6th in response to his ties to Scientology.

    First stop for the group of weekend protesters was the sheriff’s Monterey Park office.

    Protest against LA Sheriff BacaThe next stop for the Scientology critics was a protest in front of a Hollywood Boulevard Scientology building that houses the church’s notorious “Office of Special Affairs.”

    Sheriff Baca has become a repeat booster of Scientology-linked programs such as Narconon.

    In January of this year, the sheriff wrote the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning to support Narconon’s application for a new facility in Leona Valley. He also was spotted at an event sponsored by ABLE, the Scientology-linked umbrella organization over Narconon. 

    The Sheriff’s consistent support of these organizations is puzzling considering all the bad press they have received and open criticism from other California officials.

    During 2004 school district officials in Los Angeles ordered a review of Narconon warning teachers that its instruction “is not based on science.”

    Maria Reza, the district’s assistant superintendent of student health and human services, sent a memo to all Los Angeles schools stating, “The information that is delivered in (Narconon’s) presentations is not based on science, and there have been serious questions raised about the accuracy of this information.”

    Narconon ceased to be a regular program in San Francisco schools after critical articles were run within Bay area newspapers questioning the accuracy of its presentations to students.

    “The facts that they were teaching the kids support a philosophical or religious belief, as opposed to science, so we had to say ‘no,’ ” School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman told the San Francisco Chronicle almost two years ago.

    However, despite all this publicity regarding Narconon Sheriff Baca not only accepted an award from ABLE, but also continued to support Scientology-linked programs.

    CultNews previously reported that Baca appointed Scientology’s apparent President for life Heber Jentzch to a slot on his “Executive Clergy Advisory Council.”   

    Then the sheriff “spearheaded” the “6th Annual Multi-Faith Prayer Breakfast,” which included Jentzch along with Scientologist and sitcom star Jenna Elfman. The former “Dharma” gave a speech pitching yet a Scientology-linked program called “Criminon.”

    Baca also dropped in at a special fundraiser for another Scientology-linked project called “Youth for Human Rights International” run by Scientologist Mary Shuttleworth according to a recent press release.

    The Sheriff and his wife both sat down to an elegant “gourmet dinner for a select one hundred and twenty guests” at Scientologist and actress Anne Archer’s Brentwood mansion.

    It’s nice to be the Los Angeles County Sheriff.

    But now Baca faces a backlash. His office has been picketed by protesters that don’t think a public servant should pander so preferentially to one religious group, especially one as controversial as Scientology.

    And that religion has become something of joke; between the antics of its “Top Gun” Tom Cruise and the cartoon show South Park’s face off with the church.

    Ever since the advent of the Internet Scientology’s secret teachings aren’t so secret anymore. This includes the bizarre belief that space aliens came to earth from outer space 75 million years ago, sent here by an evil warlord named Xenu, according to church documents now readily accessible.

    Scientologists like Tom Cruise believe that the spiritual residue of these alien beings continues to affect humanity today.

    Having fun with XenuSouth Park had some fun with this theology in its episode “Trapped in the Closet,” not unlike the protesters last week, who had their own Xenu pose for pictures in front of “The L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibit.”

    Hubbard is the founder of Scientology who not surprisingly was previously a Sci-fi writer before he became a religious prophet.

    But Sheriff Baca doesn’t seem to be laughing. Instead, he apparently takes Scientology’s beliefs rather seriously.

    Of course the church, which has its share of rich celebrities like Lisa Marie Presley and John Travolta, can well afford to take good care of its friends.

    Has Baca made some sort of pact with the Sci-fi religion many consider a “cult”?

    Now deceased “Yogi Bhajan” (a.k.a. Harbhajan Singh Puri), a notorious guru and purported “cult leader,” was honored by having a highway named after him posthumously that runs through New Mexico, where the guru’s followers still maintain their largest community compound.

    Governor Bill RichardsonThe New Mexico State Transportation Commission has renamed state highway 106 “Yogi Bhajan Memorial Highway” reports The Indian Express

    Bhajan died  October 6, 2004, but his diehard disciples keep arranging honors for their guru through their still functioning political connections in New Mexico.

    CultNews previously reported how the guru’s followers managed to pump a joint resolution honoring Yogi Bhajan through Congress. And before that came no less than a “presidential proclamation,” seemingly engineered by Bhajan’s old political crony New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson.

    During his lifetime Bhajan was apparently quite generous to Richardson, regularly contributing to his political campaigns and turning out his followers to vote at election time.

    Richardson reportedly remarked how Bhajan “kept a hand in politics” and noted that “many of the elected officials” attending the recent highway naming ceremony “sought his counsel…many times.”

    “Counsel” must be a politically correct euphemism for cash campaign contributions. And it seems the guru is still getting his payback even after his death. 

    However, Yogi Bhajan’s life can be seen as a series of scandals.

    Prominent sociologist and Stanford University professor Richard Offshe stated in an affidavit that Bhajan’s organization known  as “3HO exhibits characteristics common to cult organizations.”

    The guru’s former followers had less than glowing things to say about him. Many claimed that “3HO” exploited them and hurt their families. 

    Some female followers complained that Bhajan’s attentions were at times also less than spiritual. A former personal secretary sued him for sexual harassment and gross misconduct.

    One lawsuit stated, “The method by which Bhajan induced others to follow him was to pose as a Yoga master and teacher, and then covertly subject yoga students to a process of mental and emotional conditioning in which their personalities are disrupted and ultimately destroyed.”

    Bhajan cremation 2004Lawsuits against Bhajan and/or his businesses were often quietly settled and the guru lived a life of luxury, until his death at 75.

    Bhajan immigrated to the US in the 1970s and built his following amongst largely white, middle-class Americans. He began  as a yoga teacher, but soon declared himself a religious leader. The idiosyncratic brand of religion Bhajan concocted was a blend of yoga, meditation and his quirky personal philosophy, which was frequently denounced and/or criticized by more mainstream and traditional Sikhs.

    Over the years Bhajan and his followers succeeded in putting together a multi-million dollar financial empire that included AKAL Security, one of the largest private security companies in North America. AKAL relied heavily upon government contracts, helped along no doubt by Bhajan’s political connections.

    Through his various enterprises the guru also marketed teas, herbs and assorted health food.

    It seems illegal “herbs” also found their way through New Mexico with the help of Bhajan’s right hand man “Gurujot Singh Khalsa” (a.k.a. Robert Alvin Taylor). In the 1980s Taylor was criminally indicted for conspiring to import more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana into the US. He was subsequently sentenced to a term in federal prison.

    CultNews also has reported that in 1985 then Congressman Bill Richardson “hand-delivered” a letter from the Chancellor of the “Sikh Dharma.”

    The letter said in part; “We have been informed that the above [3HO phone] numbers are and have been the subject of electronic surveillance by the United States government during the past several months¦Would you please make an inquiry with the Justice Department, the CIA, the National Security Commission and any other government agency that may be involved in this surveillance and inform me of the results of your inquiry.”

    Bill did exactly what was asked. He sent a letter days later to the FBI.

    Richardson wrote, “I have received the attached letter from one of my constituents¦Any information you can provide my office to help us respond¦will be most helpful.”

    The congressman also assigned one of his staff “to handle [the] matter.”

    In December the FBI responded, “A check was made of our records here at FBI Headquarters and in our offices in Albuquerque and Los Angeles, and no information was located to indicate that the [3HO] is now or has been the subject of electronic surveillance by the FBI.”

    But what Richardson didn’t know is that he had contacted the wrong federal law-enforcement agency.

    Apparently it was the DEA that likely had the “cult” under surveillance, as the eventual arrest of Guru Jot Singh in 1987 for drug-trafficking would seem to indicate.

    “It is…with great pleasure that I declare New Mexico State Highway 106 as Yogi Bhajan Memorial Highway,’’ gushed the Governor of New Mexico at a recent dedication ceremony. 

    Bhajan may be dead, but the 3HO multi-million dollar financial empire still exists, as do old and loyal political cronies like Richardson.

    Perhaps the highway has a few crooked miles, which would make it a fitting memorial for the deceased “cult leader.”

    Some Scientologists think that the higher you go in the controversial church, the better you get. And there are currently eight levels to measure just how good your getting, along the pay-as-you-go path provided to the faithful regarding Scientology’s progressive revelation.

    Will John Travolta attain 'slumlord' status?Tom Cruise, Jeanna Elfman and John Travolta have all managed to pay their way to “Operating Thetan Level Seven” or “OT-7.” No doubt the trio hopes to some day reach the lofty heights of OT-8.

    But if Scott W. Snow is any example for these celebrities of what comes through such enlightenment, maybe they should reconsider their religious path. 

    Snow reached the pinnacle of Scientology’s OT-8 back in 1989, but he ended up becoming a “slumlord” reports the St. Petersburg Times.

    The Florida businessman is currently being investigated on 39 separate code violation complaints at his three St. Petersburg apartment buildings. And two dozen of his tenants have hired a lawyer to prepare a lawsuit against him.

    But how could this happen to someone so enlightened?

    A 1999 Scientology business directory (WISE) lists Snow as a member that supposedly ascribes to “higher standards than are generally accepted in the business world.”

    Does “slumlord” somehow fit within that description?

    One of Snow’s tenants picketed after being forced to evacuate his building by authorities due to code violations. The possibly homeless man’s sign read “We demand decent housing.” 

    Wouldn’t “decent housing” fit within the “higher standards” expected from a WISE member?  

    A spokesman for Scientology in Clearwater admitted that an OT-8 like Snow should “have a higher level of ethics.’’

    However, somehow it just didn’t take with this Scientologist.

    Madonna can’t seem to convert her brother from Catholicism to the Kabbalah Centre, despite all her money and potential for future gift giving reports Jeanette Walls at MSNBC.

    Madonna couldn't recruit her brotherIt seems that the star set her own brother up to be ambushed by her Kabbalah cronies.

    “She took me to her house and all of the teachers were there and I just listened,” says Christopher Ciccone.

    But the “Material Girl’s” sibling rejected the proselytizing effort and warned “anything that’s organized can become very cultish.”

    Ciccone has apparently decided to stick it out with his family’s traditional Catholicism rather than sign on with the Kabblah Centre, which has gained “cult status” in Hollywood.

    Could it be that even Madonna’s brother realizes that his sister’s religion is a fizzled pop fad?

    Lately with all the media attention focused on Scientology, Hollywood’s older more established “cult,” Madonna and the Kabbalah Centre seem to have been virtually forgotten.

    Perhaps the singer’s new tour will garner attention for the religion that she has tirelessly promoted, much like Scientology’s “Top Gun” Tom Cruise.

    Madonna’s Confessions Tour begins in Los Angeles later this month. The 47-year-old diva will be promoting her 2005 album, which did better in Europe than the United States.

    So-called “celebrity cults” such as Scientology and the Kabbalah Centre seem to depend greatly upon stars, but as the public’s interest in these celebrities wanes, so may fascination with their respective sects.

    Tom Cruise and Madonna have served as leading lights preaching about their religious groups, but both these stars burned far more brightly during the 1980s. Now the two middle-aged icons are dimming and the “new religious movements” they hawk may need to find some fresh superstars or learn to depend upon such status less.

    Cruise’s star status wasn’t compelling for his MI-3 director J.J. Abrams.

    “I was aware that Tom was such a huge part of that (Scientology) thing, so very early on, when we started hanging out together, I was very clear with him that (Scientology) was not going to be my path,” Abrams says. “I’m Jewish, my wife is Catholic, and we’ve got our own system” reported the San Francisco Chronicle. 

    Could it be that Christopher Ciccone and J.J. Abrams are onto something?

    Why bother with some new Hollywood religion when you already have a more established faith that has withstood the test of time?