J. Gordon Melton 1994J. Gordon Melton has made a substantial income over the years by selling himself as a “cult apologist.” His list of clients has included the notorious “Children of God” (COG) known for its fund raising through prostitution and child sexual abuse.

As CultNews previously reported Melton received $10,000.00 from a charity controlled by COG members, now known as “The Family.”

He has also defended the existence of “Ramtha” — the 35,000-year-old spirit from the “Lost Continent of Atlantis” allegedly channeled by Judy Z. Knight for her follower’s edification in Yelm, Washington.

Melton was hired by Knight to “research” her claims and concluded that she is “not a fraud.”

It seems that no matter how bad or ridiculous a purported “cult” may be Gordon Melton can come up with an apology, for the right price.

This same “researcher” also traveled to Japan after the cult Aum gassed subways in Tokyo and surmised quickly that the group “was a victim of excessive police pressure.” Aum reportedly paid for all of his travel expenses.

Now Mr. Melton offers up his apologies for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In an article published by the Grand Rapids Press, largely skewed to the Witness point-of-view, the supposed ”religious scholar” and former UC Santa Barbara library worker claimed the controversial religious organization is “very benign.”

Melton apparently chose to ignore the many Witnesses that have died due to their religion’s rules regarding blood transfusion. And he likewise neglected mentioning the frequent court interventions ordered by judges around the world that have at times saved the lives of Witness children. Kids that needed blood who would have otherwise become a needless sacrifice made by Witness parents through medical neglect.

Melton also ignored the countless families that become estranged because of the undue influence exerted by Jehovah’s Witnesses and its leaders. A seemingly endless stream of child custody battles that trail in the wake of Witness divorces, when one spouse won’t follow another into conversion, prompted by the door-to-door proselytizers.

And then there is the Jehovah’s Witnesses sexual abuse scandal, a series of allegations concerning the church’s inadequate handling of reports regarding child molestation made by its members.

Never mind about all these very serious issues.

Mr. Melton says the Witnesses should be thanked for ”some of the basic rights we enjoy today [which] they won for us.” He means like the right to pester people at their homes repeatedly through unwanted visits with redundant prophecies of doom.

Mr. Melton is also reportedly fascinated with vampires.

Maybe there  is something about people dying over blood loss that makes Melton a fan of both Jehovah’s Witnesses and the mythical predators of the night?

Perhaps Gordon Melton sees himself as something like a familiar, the people who according to some stories guard the vampire’s lair during the day when they are confined to coffins. Protecting their “Master” while the sun shines, so that he can crawl out safely at night to prey upon humanity.

Dracula in his coffinIn much the same sense Melton the “scholar” can be seen as a protector providing cover for his ”cult” patrons that exploit others. He offers up apologies about how supposedly benevolent they are, thus shielding them from ”persecution” so that they can continue to recruit unsuspecting potential victims.

Sound a bit over the top?

Jim Jones was responsible for the cult mass murder-suicide of more than 900 people in Jonestown November 18, 1978. However, Mr. Melton said, “This wasn’t a cult. This was a respectable, mainline Christian group.”

Whether it’s Dracula or a murderous cult leader like Jim Jones, J. Gordon Melton apparently sees something ”respectable.”

According to Los Angeles Times staff writer Louis Sahagun, J. Gordon Melton is “eternally curious,” has an “encyclopedic mind” and “is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on religion.” Scientology, which has recommended Melton as a “religious resource, would certainly endorse the reporter’s view.

J. Gordon Melton 1994But serious journalists have often found Melton’s expertise a bit biased to say the least and he has been called a ”cult apologist.”

The 64-year-old Melton was apparently using the article to tout his ”Encyclopedia of American Religions,” a boring book that weighs about seven pounds and retails for $320.00.

But don’t expect to find weighty research within his creation, at least not anything that the groups listed don’t want the general public to know.

There seems to be something like a “quid pro quo” understanding between Melton and groups frequently called “cults,” which is essentially that he won’t write up anything they don’t like. 

For example, you won’t find out about the Scientology belief in space aliens and how that’s linked to pesky little critters the controversial church calls “body thetans,” because Melton’s “encyclopedic mind” doesn’t allow such information to leak out, at least not to the public.

Note this short study by Melton  about Scientology. He doesn’t even mention the mythical Xenu, who 75 million years ago sent billions of beings to earth that still haunt us.

Melton could easily add a page or two about the legendary galactic overlord within his 1,250-page book, but Scientology wouldn’t like that.

Maybe it’s cost and/or the questionable quality of his research that makes the ranking of his book so low at Amazon.com. Melton’s encyclopedia has at times been listed below 500,000, though the LA Times article gave it a bump up recently. 

Melton is not known for meaningful analysis about what he calls “new religions.” The itinerant academic doesn’t appear all that “curious” when it comes to the darker side of groups more commonly called “cults.”

Perhaps that’s why many of those same groups have paid Melton hefty fees to help them out with a friendly book, or as an “expert witness” and “consultant.”

The part-time teacher and library worker lionized within the LA Times, basically is known to reiterate whatever “cults” want and/or need for him to say.

However, first he attempted to sell himself as a reource to “help” those working against “cults,” but for “$5,000.00,” to expose the “soft underbelly” of cults because he was “convinced that such groups cannot stand the light of day.”

But later Melton found that the real money lay on the other side of the ”cult” question. 

J.Z. Knight, a purported “cult” leader who claims she channels the spirit of a 35,000-year-old dead general from the lost continent of Atlantis, had no problem getting Melton to take her seriously. She paid him to write a book for her titled Finding Enlightenment: Ramtha’s School of Ancient Wisdom.

And after Scientology lawyers bankrupted the Cult Awareness Network  they gave that organization’s files to Melton, who subsequently went through them before he eventually handed them over to UC Santa Barbara.

Melton has often collaborated with Scientologists and was also recommended as a ”religious resource” by so-called “new Cult Awareness Network” essentially controlled by Scientology.

The librarian/author seems eager to help “cults” whenever he can.

Once he flew all the way to Japan to defend the cult Aum, right after it released poison gas within Tokyo’s subway system murdering twelve. While thousands of victims were being rushed to hospitals Melton came to the rescue, of the cult that is.

Melton’s traveling companions were James Lewis, another “religious resource” recommended by Scientology and Los Angeles attorney Barry Fisher, recommended by the “new Cult Awareness Network.” The trio’s expenses were paid for by the Japanese cult.

The Washington Post reported that the three Americans pronounced the subway gassing cult “innocent of criminal charges and…a victim of excessive police pressure.”

This remains a profound embarrassment for Melton, since Aum was ultimately proven guilty by overwhelming evidence and its leaders are now sentenced to death

Melton’s insists otherwise, “We concluded that there was a high likelihood that the groups’ leaders had done what they were accused of,” he told Sahagun at the LA Times

It appears that Sahagun didn’t take the time to Google Melton, or he doesn’t care about such research search results.

CultNews thinks the Washington Post got it right and the LA Times apparently was taken in by Melton’s spin.

For a “scholar” Gordon Melton often seems indifferent regarding historical facts.

Jim Jones was responsible for the cult mass murder-suicide of more than 900 people in Jonestown November 18, 1978. However, Melton says, “This wasn’t a cult. This was a respectable, mainline Christian group.”

Melton most often completely dismisses or ignores the testimony of former cult members that he calls “apostates.”

Professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi of the University of Haifa noted, “In every single case since the Jonestown tragedy, statements by ex-members turned out to be more accurate than those of apologists and NRM researchers¦It is indeed baffling¦the strange, deafening, silence of [such scholars]¦a thorny issue¦like the dog that didn’t bark¦ should make us curious, if not outright suspicious.”

Is Gordon Melton and example of a silent scholar, or perhaps more like a “silent partner”? 

Melton was prominently mentioned within a confidential memo written and distributed by Jeffery Hadden. This memo has been cited as a kind of “smoking gun,” regarding the tacit cooperation of like-minded “cult apologists” within academia cooperation in a kind of network.

Within that memo the now deceased Hadden cited Melton’s importance and willingness to cooperate in an organized effort, which would hopefully be funded by “cults,” to essentially quell criticism about them.

Hadden said, “We recognize that Gordon Melton’s Institute is singularly the most important information resource in the US, and we feel that any new organization would need to work closely with him.”

More recently Melton was exposed for receiving a specious gift, or what looked like a possible payoff, from a notorious group once known as the “Children of God” (COG) now called “The Family.” The purported “cult” taught its members to sexualize their minor children and encouraged women to become “hookers for Christ.”

Melton apparently hooked $10,000.00 for his so-called “International Religious Directory,” a pet project he runs. 

Melton was exposed by Moving On.org, a Web site created by young adults that were raised within COG, but have left the group and formed a support network through the Internet.

Their Web site made public a portion of a 2000 IRS disclosure document filed by a charity linked to COG listing Melton as a recipient of a $10,000.00 gift.

Melton is that you?Sahagun didn’t report about the cash Melton has received, but did find the space to discuss Melton’s “fascination with vampires.” The supposed scholar once was paid to testify in court about “vampire and werewolf relationships.” An attorney that worked with Melton lauded his ability to recall examples off the top of his head.

Maybe that’s because just such a relationship has become J. Gordon Melton’s stock in trade?

Melton markets himself to groups often seen as something like weerwolves in sheeps clothing, and he feeds on the misery they create much like a vampire.

Dianetics
Salon calls Scientology Dianetics “stranger than fiction”

Academics often called “cult apologists” have come to the rescue and defended both Tom Cruise and Scientology in the press lately.

J. Gordon Melton and David G. Bromley were both quoted in a recent article run within the Chicago Sun-Times.

Bromley is an old friend of Scientology and has been officially recommended by the controversial church as a “religious resource.”

The so-called “new Cult Awareness Network” reportedly run by Scientology also once recommended both Bromley and Melton for “factual information on new religions,” in the wake of a California cult (“Heaven’s Gate“) mass suicide in 1997.

David Bromley’s frequent writing partner Anson Shupe made a bundle working for Scientology lawyers. He helped Scientology knock off its perceived nemesis the “old Cult Awareness Network” enabling a Scientologist attorney to eventually buy its name and files through a bankruptcy proceeding.

The files of Scientology’s former foe were later handed over to J. Gordon Melton.

Melton and Bromley can almost always be counted on to defend virtually any group called a “cult” no matter how heinous or harmful.

Bromley told the Chicago Sun-Times, “Cult is a four-letter word for a religion you don’t like.”

It seems Time Magazine must have got it wrong when it called Scientology the “Cult of Greed,” despite the fact that a subsequent libel suit filed against the publication by the purported “cult” sputtered to a dismissal without ever going to trial.

Mr. Melton has raked in quite a nest egg working for groups like the Children of God and the International Church of Christ. He was paid by J.Z. Knight (known as Ramtha) to write a book, not to mention his all expenses paid trip to Japan courtesy of the infamous cult known as “Aum Supreme Truth.”

Melton arrived in Japan in 1995 and promptly pronounced that Aum was the victim of “persecution,” despite the fact that the cult had gassed the Tokyo Subway system sending thousands of Japanese to hospitals and killing twelve.

Melton told the Chicago Sun-Times that “new religions,” his supposedly politically correct euphemism to describe “cults,” put people off because of their “newness.”

However, it appears that what puts people off most about Tom Cruise’s behavior and his strange Scientology banter is the bizarre nature of it all.

Today the London Free Press asked, “Has Cruise Cracked?”

Meanwhile Salon Magazine published a critique of Scientology and its founder titled “Stranger than Fiction.”

How convenient is the timing that these two alleged academics Melton and Bromley are now helping out Scientology’s “poster boy” Tom Cruise.

But the news media should know that such specious scholars cannot be counted upon for any meaningful objectivity, they are politically if not literally invested in their positions.

Benjamin Zablocki, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University put it succinctly when he 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…This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal.”

Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta in Canada concluded, “Scholars who compromise objectivity or academic integrity threaten to diminish the reputation of social science.”

Rich religious groups like Scientology can easily afford to pump cash into the pockets of quite a few professors and assorted academics. Perhaps the press should scrutinize more carefully the likes of sources such as David G. Bromley and J. Gordon Melton.

CounterCOG.com, a domain name once devoted to archiving critical information about the so-called “Children of God” now known as “The Family,” seems to have been co-opted by cult apologists.

It appears this shift of purpose took place about two years ago during March of 2003, but only recently came to the attention of CultNews.

According to records held within the “Way Back Machine,” an Internet database with “40 billion Web pages” archived from 1996 to just a few months ago, some time after February of 2003 and beginning in March 2003 the domain name went from a resource of critical information about COG to an entry point for apology.

The site then announced; “Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts ‘cult’ and ‘sect’ are employed in popular discourse.” And that the new page would “seek to promote religious tolerance and…not carry implicit negative stereotypes.”

“Negative stereotypes” apparently means posting personal testimonies, research, news stories and/or court documents that note the destructive nature of groups that have been called “cults.”

Entering www.countercog.com now takes visitors to “Academic Research 2K,” which uses “politically correct” euphemisms to describe destructive cults such as “minority religion” and/or “new religious movement” (NRM).

The Web page features links to The Family Web site, once the focus of criticism at CounterCOG.com and other purported “cult” sites such as Rev. Moon’s Unification Church and the Church of Scientology.

These Internet destinations are listed under the heading “Information on Religious Movements.”

Links to additional resources often called “cult apologists,” such as CESNUR run by Massimo Introvigne of Italy, the “Religious Freedom Page” originally launched by a now deceased professor Jeffrey Hadden and a Canadian database known as “Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance,” which is essentially the brainchild of Bruce Robinson a former chemical company employee and self-professed agnostic.

These pages come under the heading of “scholarly works.”

Professor Hadden was an academic once quite friendly with Rev. Moon and recommended by Scientology as a “religious resource.”

But Mr. Robinson admits “that few if any of our authors have theological degrees. We feel that a formal theological degree would be counter-productive” and that “theological training is not needed for our work.”

Well, so much for the “scholarly” standing of works at his site.

Mr. Introvigne, like his former colleague Professor Hadden, has been criticized for working closely with groups called “cults”

In fact, Scientology may be the common thread that runs through the current so-called “counter-COG” Web page.

Because rather than testimonies from those exploited by COG, a controversial group often called a “sex cult,” visitors will instead see links to friends of Scientology along with one link specifically to that organization’s own database.

This makeover is reminiscent of the radical shift of purpose that took place when the Cult Awareness Network was reportedly taken over by Scientology in 1996.

A Scientologist bought CAN’s name, files and even its phone number. Now when you call the “new CAN” the phone is likely to be answered by a Scientologist.

Peter Vincent of Chicago, Illinois bought the domain name “countercog.com.”

Mr. Vincent was contacted by CultNews for comment, but did not respond.

Note: For genuine counter COG information see the following Web sites:

Ex-Family.org

Moving On.org

The Magic Green Shirt

J. Gordon Melton, a somewhat specious “scholar” of what he refers to as “new religious movements” received a rather questionable gift from a foundation linked to a purported “cult,” reports Moving On.org.

Moving On.org is a Web site created by and for young adults with parents who joined the notorious “Children of God” (COG).

The Web site recently made public a portion of a 2000 IRS disclosure document that lists a $10,000.00 gift given to the so-called “International Religious Directory,” which is a pet project of Mr. Melton.

The gift-giver is the Family Care Foundation, an organization founded by COG leaders.

Infamous sexual predator “Moses” David Berg who died in 1994 once defined COG as its absolute leader.

The group taught members to sexualize their minor children and encouraged its women to become “hookers for Christ.”

COG is now known as “The Family” and has been in the news lately due to a grizzly murder-suicide.

Ricky Rodriquez the son of its current leader Karen Zerby, Berg’s widow known as “Mama Maria” to her followers, committed suicide after murdering his former nanny Angela Smith. The young man who left COG about five years ago claimed she had molested him as a child.

Ms. Smith at the time of her death was listed as a director of the Family Care Foundation, which is reportedly “an arm of The Family.”

J. Gordon Melton has often been labeled a “cult apologist” because of his friendly relationships with such groups, but until now no one knew exactly how lucrative his COG connection was through the Family Care Foundation.

Mr. Melton seems to have made something of a career out of selling his scholarly services to various fringe groups, often called “cults.” His list of sponsors and/or clients has included JZ Knight or “Ramtha,” a new age guru that funded a Melton book project. And also Aum the terrorist Japanese cult, which paid the peripatetic apologist’s expenses to come to Tokyo after they gassed that city’s subways sending thousands to hospitals.

Mr. Melton’s motto seems to be, “have apologies will travel,” apparently that is when some substantial funding is made available.

Note: Supposedly objective academic papers by J. Gordon Melton and others often called “cult apologists” have recently been linked on-line through a Web site database. Many of the authors listed such as Dick Anthony & Thomas Robbins, David Bromley, Jeffrey Hadden, James Lewis, James T. Richardson and James Tabor have been recommended either by Scientology or the Scientology-linked “new Cult Awareness Network” as “resources.” Anson Shupe who is listed once worked for lawyers linked to Scientology. Another listed author Eileen Barker has received funding from Rev. Moon. Scholar Rocheford E. Burke cashed some checks from Krishna/ISCKON while Professor Susan Palmer worked closely with the Raelians. Cult apology appears to be a meaningful source of income for some within the academic community. The Web site CESNUR, which is home for many of the papers listed is run by Massimo Introvigne, a controversial man that works closely with many groups called “cults.”

Eileen Barker the founder and impetus behind “INFORM” (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements) has long been considered a leading “cult apologist.”

The British professor of sociology has aligned herself with other “apologists” such as J. Gordon Melton, Massimo Introvigne and the late Jeffrey Hadden.

Barker sits on the board of Introvigne’s CESNUR an organization that regularly attacks cult critics

Hadden cited Barker prominently within a notorious memo that outlined strategies to suppress criticism of “cults.” And he hoped that funding for his proposals would come from groups called “cults.”

This would not have been anything new for Ms. Barker; whom once received funding from Rev. Moon of the Unification Church for a book she wrote about the organization and its members.

Nevertheless the London professor wants the public to believe she is an objective observer and academic.

However, it appears that the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t buy it.

The Church of England leader recently “snubbed” Barker’s INFORM organization reports The Guardian.

The English prelate will apparently not follow his predecessors by becoming a patron of the group.

It seems that Barker and her supporters are already busy trying to spin the bishop’s snub as the result of pressure from “evangelicals” that disapprove of “INFORM’s consensual” rather than confrontational approach to so-called “new religions” (a politically correct euphemism for “cults”).

But is this all about style or substance?

Critics of Barker have raised serious questions about the professor’s academic integrity and the substance of her “research.”

And concerned families that have historically sought help from INFORM have complained that its “consensual approach” may have included letting a “cult” know about their expressed concerns.

Maybe the snub from the Archbishop is just evidence that he is informed about INFORM.

NPR offered up its final segment regarding “New Religions” yesterday and featured coverage of the latest fashion in faith often called Neo-Paganism, categorized in this presentation under the heading “Wicca.”

Host Barbara Bradley Hagerty narrated what was billed as an exploration of “Teens and Wicca.”

Various teenagers, mostly girls, came out of the “broom closet” to discuss their fascination with witchcraft, which one expert said really took off through the popular movie “The Craft.”

But in the end it seemed that Hagerty let her own bias show a bit by giving fellow evangelicals largely the last word.

The NPR host reportedly is “on the board of directors for Knowing and Doing, the magazine of the C.S. Lewis Institute, which ‘endeavors to develop disciples who can articulate, defend and live faith in Christ through personal and public life.’”

One evangelical dryly observed on NPR that “playing with Wicca [is] dangerous,” but he failed to offer any specific examples. A “born-again” teen warned Wiccans had “sold [themselves] to Satan.”

According to a critical report about her professional conduct Hagerty “likes to say that God is her ‘employer and audience.’”

Does this mean the reporter does double duty for NPR and “God”?

The “cult apologists” Hagerty promoted through her first piece about “new religious movements” might not appreciate the sentiments expressed in her last one about Wicca.

And most of the public appears to agree that though Wiccans might appear weird they are benign, unlike the previous “cults” essentially given a free pass by Hagerty and NPR.

National Public Radio doesn’t seem to be in touch with its public through this recent programming.

But then again, maybe the only “audience” that concerns Ms. Hagerty is “God”?

Cult apology is a trade for some, but it may be a “politically correct” calling for others.

This week National Public Radio (NPR) “All Things Considered” apparently was on a mission, the program featured well-known “cult apologists” in a broadcast about “New Religions.”

The two-part series hosted by Barbara Bradley Hagerty discussed the history of so-called “new religious movements (NRMs),” which is a politically correct euphemism for groups commonly called “cults.”

Feigning academic objectivity was J. Gordon Melton and James Lewis.

Both men have long been closely associated with well-known “cults,” such as the notorious “Cult of Greed” (Time Magazine May 1991) Scientology, which has recommended the two as “religious resources.”

Melton frequently hires himself out to “cults.”

Melton, the founder of the “Institute for the Study of American Religion,” has worked for the likes of J.Z. Knight, a woman who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old spirit named “Ramtha.”

“Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati” a former Brooklyn housewife and the leader of the Kashi Ashram in Florida also has retained Melton.

Melton’s professional “research,” which frequently flatters “cult leaders,” seems to provide them with academic cover, but for a price.

The peripatetic apologists Lewis and Melton were once flown to Japan all expenses paid by the notorious cult Aum, just after its leader and many members were arrested for gassing Tokyo’s subways.

Lewis claimed at a press conference after conducting an “investigation” based upon photos and documents provided by the cult, that Aum could not have produced the poison gas used to murder 12 Japanese and send thousands to hospitals.

Not to be left out Melton chimed in that the Japanese authorities “were threatening the group’s religious freedom.”

For those that don’t already know, Aum’s leader Shoko Asahara and his key subordinates were found guilty and sentenced to death through a court process that included overwhelming evidence.

Apparently Lewis and Melton overlooked and/or ignored such factual information.

Another “scholar” featured on the NPR program was Catherine Wessinger.

This academic once described the suicide cult “Heaven’s Gate” led by lunatic Marshall Applewhite as “definitely Gnostic…very similar to Hinduism (and also Buddhism).” She concluded, “The outcome with Heaven’s Gate certainly calls into question traditional Hindu beliefs and practices.”

Huh?

What about the more obvious explanation that Applewhite was crazy? After all, the cult leader did once sign himself into a mental hospital, wasn’t his psychological instability a factor?

Wessinger says, “I’m not trained in psychology so I don’t articulate those opinions…”

Wessinger also engages in something like revisionist history regarding Jonestown led by another madman Jim Jones. This cult tragedy claimed the lives of more than 900 Americans in 1978. According to Wessinger “they would still be here. But due to the attacks and investigations they endured…”

Melton, Lewis and Wessinger might be the cult version of the “Three Stooges,” or maybe more like the proverbial monkeys that “hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil” when it comes to cults.

Whatever they are NPR appears to be just plain dumb, for either not doing its own research, or simply ignoring the facts in favor of some sort of “political correctness.”

Here are some glaring examples:

NPR discussed Krishna without even mentioning that the “cult” is currently embroiled in a $400 million dollar class action lawsuit filed by its childhood victims.

The Waco Davidians were labeled as a “new religious movement (NRM),” even though they are commonly called a “cult.” No mention was made about David Koresh’s bizarre claim that he was “The Lamb of God” or how the cult leader exploited and abused his followers, including the rape of a 10-year-old.

Another “NRM” mentioned was the Raelians, but again nothing about the sordid history of leader Claude Vorilhon (“Rael”) or the context of the group’s clone claim, within an endless series of self-serving publicity stunts.

Instead, all these groups were essentially whitewashed under the politically correct rubric of “new religious movements.”

And the word “cult” was never even used once throughout the entire program.

After all, according to the NPR “scholars” any meaningful discussion of “cult” bad behavior may be characterized as “persecution” and/or an “attack” upon “religious freedom.”

Note: In its second installment yesterday NPR featured yet another “cult apologist” Lorne L. Dawson. This program discussed the “Toronto Blessing,” an aberration on the fringes of the Charismatic Movement. However, in what can easily be seen as misleading, the report focused on the bizarre aspects of this Canadian group as if it offered listeners a pivotal understanding of Pentecostal Christianity.

The most notable member of the so-called Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON), often called a “cult,” was former Beatle George Harrison, who gave the group millions.

Harrison penned the song that was to become an enduring Krishna anthem titled My Sweet Lord. But that hit went sour when it was later the subject of a copyright infringement suit, which the singer lost.

Today ISKCON “spokesman” Anuttama Dasa is busy trying to persuade the public that the organization has changed since “the sad days of the ’80s and ’90s.” He is at the hub of a public relations effort and the organization’s seasoned spinmeister.

Dasa held forth recently within what amounts to a puff piece published within the Dallas Morning News.

He wants Texans to believe that ISKCON devotees have gone mainstream. They reportedly “dress in clothes from Brooks Brothers or L.L. Bean” and have joined Middle America.

E. Burke Rochford Jr., a professor at Vermont’s Middlebury College, has worked very closely with Hare Krishna and had articles published within the organization’s official journal. He told the Dallas newspaper, “They’re just now part of the culture in ways that the average person couldn’t have imagined some 20 or 25 years ago.”

Long-time “cult apologist” Larry Shinn not only agreed with Rochford, but claimed that historic “accusations” against the group were somehow based upon “the same activities that made the movement an authentic expression of Hinduism.”

However, Hare Krishna founder Swami Prabhupada once stated, “The Krishna consciousness movement has nothing to do with the Hindu religion or any system of religion…. One should clearly understand that the Krishna consciousness movement is not preaching the so-called Hindu religion.”

Rather than accepting all this spin from the likes of Dasa, Rochford and Shinn it seems more prudent to carefully examine the real basis for “accusations” against the Hare Krishna movement.

The so-called “sad old days” featured horrific psychological, emotional, physical and at times sexual abuse, that many ISKCON adherents endured at the organization’s hands, including children.

Some of that abuse has been openly acknowledged by ISKCON, since the facts have become common knowledge.

“Speaking as a member of the first generation, we made a lot of mistakes,” Anuttama Dasa admitted within the Dallas article. Later in the report such “mistakes” were consigned to the acts of “overzealous” devotees.

“Overzealous”?

How did Krishna devotees become so “overzealous,” if not through the indoctrination, continuing influence and policies of ISKCON’s leaders?

This “abuse excuse” has become something of a mantra amongst “cults.”

That is, whenever abuses are publicly exposed, they often blame this on “overzealous” members, rather than admit the obvious, which is that such abuses stem from the leadership, its policies and/or its own gross negligence.

Published author and former decade long Hare Krishna devotee Nori Muster sees things differently than apparent apologist Shinn and ISKCON published researcher Rochford.

Muster wrote a thought-provoking piece titled Can Cult Groups Change (1999). Speaking specifically about ISKCON she said, “If the organization now really wants to change for the better, it should remove all illegitimate gurus, Governing Body Commission (GBC) board members, temple presidents, sannyasis (priests), and zone managers. There are at least 20-30 illegitimate leaders that still remain firmly in place within its hierarchy.”

But ISKCON didn’t do that.

The same leadership that controlled the Hare Krishna movement through its so-called “sad days” remained essentially intact. And ISKCON’s leaders continue to lack any meaningful constitutional accountability through organizational checks and balances implemented through bylaws and institutional financial transparency.

Instead, the reported “new faces of Krishna” can easily be seen as a largely superficial pose and part of an ongoing public relations strategy, made necessary by a $400 million dollar class action lawsuit.

ISKCON has currently sought refuge from that lawsuit through the protection provided by Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

The litigation addresses the damage done by Hare Krishna’s “mistakes,” which includes the gross abuse of its children consigned like chattel to ISKCON “boarding schools.”

Krishna kids were not only frequently subjected to substandard living conditions, but also at times brutally beaten and even raped by adult devotees.

Certainly these were “sad days” for the children who were not later meaningfully compensated.

According to ISKCON’s peripatetic spokesman Dasa we are to believe that they will eventually receive something through a settlement plan being devised through the current bankruptcy proceeding.

However, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs called the bankruptcy a “dodge,” contrived to avoid any serious settlement. And to date Hare Krishna has reportedly only paid a paltry $2,000 per victim in “grants” to some of the victimized children.

By comparison Muster suggests that it would be “more reasonable to give $30,000 for each count of abuse to each victim.”

Incredibly the Hare Krishna movement wants everyone to believe it is impoverished. “The movement is poor – surviving, but poor,” claims one devotee interviewed by the Dallas Morning News.

However, this incredible claim ignores the vast wealth accumulated by the organization through real estate holdings, book sales and donations. One Ford Motor heir alone is now giving millions for building projects in India.

It is sad to see how many responsible people seem to have been taken in by ISKCON’s spin and apparent apologists.

But Muster sees through such maneuvering and instead has focused her attention steadfastly on the behavior, policies and leadership structure of the organization.

“In order for ISKCON to really change all these attitudes must change and then it could really become a better organization,” Ms. Muster summarized succinctly.

Karen Robidoux was found not guilty of second-degree murder, in the 1999 death of her infant child this week, reported the Taunton Gazette.

The Massachusetts mother was accused of starving her baby son Samuel to death.

Robidoux’s husband Jacques was convicted for Samuel’s murder in 2002 and is now serving a life sentence.

But the mother’s attorney, Joseph Krowski, offered the defense that cult “brainwashing” coerced Karen Robidoux’s behavior

The attorney argued that his client was victimized, abused and ultimately controlled by an obscure religious sect led by her father-in-law Roland Robidoux called “The Body.”

“There were two victims here, Karen and Samuel,” Robidoux’s older sister told the press.

And after seven hours of deliberation the jury agreed with the defense and its witnesses, acquitting the “cult” mom of murder, but finding her guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery.

“Because a child died, it may be an unpopular verdict, but we felt Karen Robidoux’s intent was not to kill her baby,” the jury foreman told the Boston Herald.

He later added, “I do believe she was psychologically held prisoner,” and concluded “she has suffered enough” reported NBC News.

Private journals kept by a “cult” member were made public after the verdict and they offered further proof of Roland Robidoux’s total control over his followers reported the Boston Herald.

“Dad [Roland Robidoux] feels that the end is coming soon…Our prayers should not be for Samuel to be healed but for God’s purposes to be fulfilled…What can we do for Samuel? Nothing…God is the master. We are his servants,” wrote the “cult” member.

The mother of four was sentenced to time served and walked out of the Bristol courthouse a free woman reported the Boston Globe.

“I’m just glad the nightmare door is shut,” she told reporters on the courthouse steps.

“It was a trail-blazing case that will affect all cult cases nationally. It’s now been proven what can happen when someone is brainwashed,” said nationally known forensic pathologist Dr. Millard Bass.

In Virginia late last year another jury came to a similar conclusion regarding the sentencing of “D.C. sniper” Lee Malvo. His lawyers also claimed their client was “brainwashed.”

The teenager’s defense team contended that he was dominated and controlled by his mentor John Mohammed.

Mohammed was sentenced to death, but Malvo was sent to prison for life.

In a noteworthy child custody case in North Carolina this fall a judge ruled that the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) exerted “complete control over the mind, body and spirit of its members, both adults and children.”

WOFF led by Jane Whaley has been called a “cult.”

The Carolina judge concluded, “The environment created at WOFF has an adverse effect on the health, safety and welfare of children,” and he subsequently ordered them to be removed from the group.

In a tacit acknowledgement of cult “brainwashing” another judge in California granted the release last year of a woman charged with the death of her small child to receive “deprogramming.”

Later that same judge sentenced the cult leader to 16 years in prison, while charges were dismissed against two of his followers.

The mother charged received an eleven-year sentence and told the court, “Mind control is a reality.”

CultNews reported that professional cult apologist Dick Anthony was involved in both the California and Carolina cases. Anthony is a psychologist and well paid for his work, but he failed his clients abysmally.

Judging from the prosecution’s arguments in the Robidoux case, they apparently were receiving input from someone like Anthony.

But the Robidoux verdict may be the most colossal setback for cults and their apologists to date. And will likely be cited in the future as proof of “brainwashing.”

Overall, 2003 was possibly the worst year ever for cults and their apologists.

They even attempted fruitlessly to dismiss the “brainwashing” of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart.

But brainwashing has become understandable to the public after Jonestown, Waco and the “Heaven’s Gate” suicides. It is no longer the mystery it once was when Charles Manson and his followers entered the California judicial system.

Europeans likewise came to acutely understand the cult brainwashing phenomenon through the Solar Temple suicides in Switzerland. And the Japanese were forced to confront this reality by the cult Aum, when it attacked Tokyo’s subways.

Joseph Kibwetere sent shockwaves through Africa when he led hundreds of his followers to death in Uganda shortly after the Millenium, once again demonstrating the power of cult mind control.

And isn’t “brainwashing” something Osama bin Laden has used to transform his followers into tools of terror?

Cults and their apologists will have increasing difficulty convincing anyone that “brainwashing” is only a “theory.”

The Robidoux verdict is evidence of that.