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.

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.”

“Lord of the Rings” star Orlando Bloom participated in a “religious ceremony” in England this month, which demonstrated the teen idol’s commitment to Soka Gakkai International (SGI) reported Teen Hollywood.com.

But has Bloom become the latest celebrity cult casualty?

All religions have their heroes and embarrassments. Whereas the Dalai Lama of Tibet is seen as the bright positive light of his faith, SGI’s leader Daisaku Ikeda may be the bad boy of Buddhism.

SGI certainly is a controversial Buddhist sect with a troubled history and it has been called a “cult.” Ikeda its absolute ruler is a business tycoon and the power behind a Japanese political party called New Komeito.

Orlando Bloom and 60 other SGI devotees attended an hour-long religious service. At the end the actor best known for his role of Legolas in the Rings trilogy received a Gohonzon; a religious scroll that SGI devotees seem to believe is somehow imbued with supernatural powers.

Pop icon Tina Turner and Patrick Duffy star of the soap “Dallas” are other noted celebrity members.

SGI is known for its chanting. Members believe they can chant for almost anything, such as more money, a new car or whatever they want.

SGI leader Ikeda has been called “a grasping power-monger.” And New Komeito and SGI are feared by many Japanese.

One former high-ranking member publicly accused Ikeda of rape in 1996.

A Web site was launched by former members “to inform the world about the reality of Soka Gakkai, its anti-social activities and infringements on human rights, and to provide assistance to those who have suffered or are currently suffering from the distress associated with membership in Soka Gakkai.”

Sounds like something Orlando Bloom and his handlers should be looking into?

NPR offered yet another installment yesterday of its “politically correct” view of so-called “New Religions” titled “Soka Gakkai” on All Things Considered.

This program focused on a controversial group called Soka Gakkai International (SGI); another group that has been called a “cult.”

But listeners didn’t hear the “c” word at any time within this report, which sounded more like an infomercial scripted by SGI than objective reporting.

SGI is a sect controlled by a by a Japanese businessman Daisaku Ikeda.

One of the most powerful men in Japan Ikeda has been both condemned and praised “as a devil and an angel, a Hitler and a Gandhi, a despot and a democrat” reported the Los Angeles Times.

Ikeda also controls the “New Komeito” party in Japan, which has been called the “political arm” of SGI.

However, NPR chose to never say Ikeda’s name or cite his role at any time during its broadcast. This was tantamount to explaining the Roman Catholic Church without mentioning the Pope, though some might observe that Ikeda’s religious significance within SGI might be more akin to Jesus.

NPR featured a plethora of SGI devotees rhapsodizing about how constant chanting helps their lives; one said it puts “gasoline” in her tank.

And of course like many groups called “cults” this one has celebrities too, Tina Turner and jazz musician Herbie Hancock are members.

NPR did mention parenthetically that the SGI teaching, you can chant for whatever you want, has been called “prosperity Buddhism.” However, there was no meaningful critique of the practice.

Former members of SGI have spoken out about the group’s abuses, but those voices were never heard.

“Very little about actual Buddhism is discussed by SGI, as most meetings and publications revolve around Ikeda and his writings, and a constant drama regarding the bad relations between SGI and it’s parent organization, Nichiren Shoshu, which excommunicated SGI several years ago.” said one former member.

NPR never cited this rift, even though they offered a supposed historical background about the group.

The broadcast also touted SGI’s status as a UN NGO (non-governmental organization).

Rev. Moon of the Unification Church also boasts UN NGO status, but as he knows such recognition can essentially be bought by paying dues and generally lubricating that international body financially.

NPR also reported that a liberal arts college was launched by SGI in California.

But nothing was said about the controversy that engulfed the school in its first 18 months. “Allegations of religious preferences” were reportedly the cause for a teacher exodus including its faculty dean and a prominent professor amidst campus protests.

NPR did find time though for two authors to plug SGI friendly books, one called “Soka Gakkai in America: Accommodation and Conversion.”

The Public Radio broadcast at times sounded more like a crusade than a news program.

Note: The introductory host of NPR’s “New Religions” series Barbara Bradley Hagerty seems to have her own critics. CultNews was recently notified that there have been serious questions raised “about Hagerty’s blatant conflict of interest and violation of professional ethics” (see report).

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.”


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.

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.

Tom Cruise has been busy holding forth lately on everything from Japanese culture to “inner peace,” promoting his latest movie The Last Samurai reports AAP.

Of course “inner peace” for the actor comes from Scientology not Zen.

However, the devout Scientologist wasn’t so serene when Today Show host Katie Couric pressed him about the controversy that surrounds his religion in a Dateline interview.

Cruise curtly cut Katie off when she asked him about the persistently controversial organization that has church status in the US.

“Controversial but with who?” said the one-time member of The Firm.

Before Couric could offer an explanation he cut her off again.

“See you’re wrong,” he told Katie.

Then the NBC host really did it; she used the “W” word, offering that Scientology seems a bit “weird.”

Cruise shifted into hyper-drive.

“Absolutely, you’re wrong. And I can tell you that my personal experience with it, you know, I’ve been a Scientologist for going on, I guess 17 years. And it’s extraordinary, it’s extraordinary. And you know, you always have to look at someone who criticizes you, you have to look at them and say, okay, so? Who is that person? Why? What do they know? And I can tell you, you’re sitting in front of a Scientologist who knows. And I can tell you from my personal experience it’s been extraordinary for me. I wouldn’t be here where I am today without, you know, those things to help me out.”

Some might observe that Tom Cruise protests just a bit too much.

Couric seemed to think so. She said,”This obviously annoys you, I can tell.”

“Well I think it’s bigotry. And it’s people’s ignorance. And it’s something that I am offended by. Absolutely I’m offended by what you said, everyone and everybody, and that’s not true.”

Maybe Katie Couric should join the Klan and do some cross burning? What an “ignorant bigot” she must be to ask critical questions about Scientology.

Cruise ranted on, obviously Katie had hit his hot button.

“I think Scientology is misunderstood by some people. But I think also you look at Scientology it is the fastest growing religion. It’s helped so many people. I know it, because I use it and I am a Scientologist. And it’s extraordinary, is what it is… You know, when I make choices, it’s not just what is best for me. You know, it’s what is the right thing. What is the right thing to do. And I think through everything that I’ve been through, that I feel I can sit here and say I feel good about it. I feel good about the decisions that I made and I’m happy. You know, I’m really happy.”

OK. But something about this star’s temperament is very telling.

Cruise may be just a bit nervous. After all he could use a hit movie to fuel more than his jet. His last few films (Minority Report, Vanilla Sky and Eyes Wide Shut) have been less than blockbusters. And the middle-aged actor now appears to be the last Scientologist Superstar (SS) standing.

Is Tom Cruise’s career running out of gas?

Let’s face it John Travolta’s films have bombed for five years and his SS status is a serious question.

Former sitcom star Kirstie Alley is down to pitching for Pier 1.

Perhaps Cruise is “really happy” for his ex-wife Nicole Kidman though. After her split from the SS and his religion she has had one critically acclaimed film after another, not to mention the Oscar on her shelf.

So what happened?

Has this “extraordinary” religion somehow let down Tom Cruise?

Hey Katie, that might be a good question to ask Nicole Kidman.

The Last Samurai does appear promising and maybe this will turn out to be a good pick for the former Top Gun.

Yesterday was supposedly slated as the “end of the world.” That is, according to Yuko Chino and her Pana Wave followers in Japan.

But the planet’s destruction has been postponed, reports Mainichi Daily News.

Likewise, Chino’s claim that she is “dying of cancer” seems to be a bit exaggerated. The “cult leader” has reportedly been on the brink of death for at least a decade.

Chino likes to indulge in drama regarding her health as well as the fate of humanity.

Expect the “coming end” to be an ongoing saga in installments. And it looks like media coverage may turn Pana Wave into a mini-series.

All this keeps Chino’s followers preoccupied and attentive.

Preeminent cult expert Margaret Singer has said, “Cult leaders are like con men, only the con never ends.”

Pana Wave seems to be a never-ending story.

What alarms the Japanese is that Chino’s hype about Armageddon reminds them of Aum cult leader Shoko Asahara. He decided to personally fulfill his doomsday predictions.

A former member says Chino is an unstable and delusion ridden woman, which certainly isn’t reassuring. And she loves some type of type of green tea pudding.

Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the suicide cult “Heaven’s Gate,” had a penchant for pudding too. The San Diego UFO group ingested a lethal concoction of vodka and barbiturates mixed into pudding.

But police apparently found nothing to worry about in a recent search of Pana Wave facilities, reports The Strait Times.

It seems that Chino’s delusions revolve around lost seals, dressing everyone in white and television spots.

Hopefully it will stay that way.

Tomorrow the world may end, or so says Yuko Chino, the 69-year-old leader of the bizarre wandering “Japanese cult” clad in white called Pana Wave, reports England’s The Independent .

However, a purported “cult” making doomsday predictions is nothing new.

Many groups before the turn of the century seemed enveloped in a kind of “millennial madness,” making dire predictions of coming catastrophe and calamity.

If it were not quite planetary extinction, then at least there would be a kind of technological meltdown due to the “Y2K” computer glitch.

Nothing happened.

Never mind. Cult leaders and/or prophets of doom simply came up with some savvy spin to satisfy their followers and moved on, with the tragic exception of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments in Uganda.

Historically long-established groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned that failed end times dates don’t mean “The End” for them and actually may increase baptisms, essentially becoming a useful recruitment tool.

People join up as if membership is the equivalent of an insurance policy against the event of Armageddon.

Yuko Chino seems to be carefully hedging her bets, by alternating between the claim that a lost seal in the news will somehow save humanity and/or that changes in outer space have already provided for a postponement, reports the New York Times.

One Pana Wave follower said, “I think it will be delayed till around May 22.”

But Japan’s Prime Minister just doesn’t get “why people believe in things said by such a group,” he asked plaintively.

After cult tragedies like “Heaven’s Gate,” the Solar Temple and most notably for the Japanese the doomsday cult called Aum, authorities in Japan are not taking any chances.

This week police raided Pana Wave locations just to make sure the group wasn’t concealing anything dangerous, like Aum once did, reports Mainichi Daily News.

However, one Japanese resident observed, “They’re not dangerous.” And added his main worry was “their…cars blocking…traffic.”

Yuko Chino has become a familiar figure in Japan through a series of such traffic jams. Perhaps that is what she always wanted.

Many cult leaders do seem to crave attention.

Despite Chino’s claims that she is suffering from terminal cancer and at death’s door, it appears the woman in white will be around for the foreseeable future.

Though judging from the reactions reported from several Japanese towns, Pana Wave is not a popular potential neighbor.

The Japanese “cult” Pana Wave is now encamped within a mountain region of Japan, reports Mainichi News.

But area residents are not happy and hope the group will move back to its own property soon.

Police continue to watch Pana Wave closely.

Next week on Thursday, according to Pana Wave’s leader Yuko Chino, the world will end.

Hopefully, this date may mark the return of group members to their compound to ponder a failed prophecy.

Japanese citizens appear weary of the wandering “cult” caravan of white vans rolling around the country.