By Rick Ross

In a recent opinion/editorial New York Times piece titled “The Cult Deficit” columnist Ross Douthat stated, “the cult phenomenon feels increasingly antique, like lava lamps and bell bottoms.” He concluded, “Spiritual gurus still flourish in our era, of course, but they are generally comforting, vapid, safe — a Joel Osteen rather than a Jim Jones, a Deepak Chopra rather than a David Koresh.”

Interestingly, Deepak Chopra was a disciple of Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was often called a “cult leader.” Maharishi was the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), a group frequently included on cult lists and still quite active amidst allegations of abuse.

Douthat doesn’t seem to care much about destructive cults or the damage they do. He laments that the Branch Davidians were “mistreated and misjudged.” Apparently the columnist hasn’t bothered to do much research as he has ignored the facts reported in the press about the Davidians and as established through the congressional record, the Danforth Report and submitted through court proceedings. Suffice to say that despite anti-government conspiracy theories David Koresh was one of the most vicious cult leaders in modern history. He was a deeply disturbed man that sexually preyed upon children and stockpiled weapons for the purpose of a violent end.

Journalist Tony Ortega at Raw Story points out that “The same week the US goes to war with one, NYT’s Douthat asks, where are the cults?” Ortega recognizes that many terrorist groups today are little more than personality-driven cults, such as al-Qaeda once was under the influence of Osama bin Laden. History is strewn with examples of the destruction wrought by totalitarian cults from the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler to the family dynasty that continues to dominate and control North Korea.

Not surprisingly following up Douthat doesn’t quote Ortega’s response, but instead prefers “Reason Magazine,” a Libertarian leaning publication that essentially agrees with him. Calling a column written by Peter Suderman a “very interesting response” Dauthat again ignores the facts and reiterates his opinion, as supposedly supported by a “religious historian” and venture capitalist. Suderman doesn’t dispute Douthat’s claim that cults are in decline, but rather uses it as a hook for his own spin about the “rise of subcultures.”

However, despite all the liberal or Libertarian posturing performed by these pundits the cult phenomenon has actually expanded around the world.

Unlike the United States, other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East have taken steps to respond to cults both through regulation and law enforcement. For example, in Japan and Germany cults have been closely monitored and in China some have been outlawed. Recently in Israel cult leader Goel Ratzon was convicted of sex crimes. Ratzon’s criminal conviction followed a lengthy government investigation and raid by law enforcement.

In addition to malevolent cult movements that have captivated nations the old familiar groups called “cults” that Douthat thinks have faded away actually are still around such as Scientology, the Unification Church, Hare Krishnas, Divine Light Mission, International Church of Christ, and Est (the Forum), although they may now use new names to avoid easy recognition.

In fact the United States has become something of a destination point and haven for groups called “cults.”

Dahn Yoga, led by Ilchee Lee, which started in South Korea, later set up shop in Arizona and now has a following across America.

Another recent arrival is the World Mission Society Church of God led by Zhang Gil-Jah, known to her devotees as “Mother God.” Not long ago Zhang opened her first church in New Jersey. Since then the group has grown rapidly across the US and Canada. Mother has even rented space in Manhattan not far from the New York Times.

Exiled “evil cult” leader Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, had to leave China, but found refuge in New York. According to researchers Li now has a flock of about !0,000 followers in North America. He claims to channel miraculous healing powers, which has allegedly led to medical neglect and death. The group has regular parades and demonstrations in NYC, Apparently Mr. Dauthat missed that.

Just as there will always be con men running schemes to take people’s money, there will always be destructive cult leaders exploiting the vulnerabilities of humanity. For con men and cult leaders it’s a business and it seems to be quite profitable. When Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986 his estate totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, Scientology reportedly has a billion dollars in cash and vast real estate holdings. When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died he left behind a spiritual empire valued in billions. Rev. Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, likewise left behind a hefty financial legacy, which is now managed by his children. Whenever there is cash and assets someone will step in to take over. And in the United States cults can operate with relative impunity as an unregulated industry.

No one knows exactly how many cult members there are in the United States. But almost every day I learn of a new group or organization that seems to fit the core criteria, which forms the nucleus for most definitions of a destructive cult. These core criteria were established by Robert Jay Lifton back in the 1980s. Rather than focusing on what a group believes Lifton’s criteria focus on the structure, dynamics and behavior of a group.

First, the single and most salient feature of a destructive cult is that it is personality-driven and animated by a living, charismatic and totalitarian leader. It is that leader who is the defining element and driving force of the group. Whatever the leader says is right is right and whatever the leader says is wrong is wrong. He or she determines the relative morality of the group and its core identity.

Second, the group engages in a process of thought reform to break people down and then redevelop them according to a predetermined mindset, which includes a diminished ability to think critically and/or independently. This is accomplished through a synthesis of coercive persuasion and influence techniques, relentlessly focused on individuals subjected to the group process.

Finally, the third criteria, is that the group does harm. This may vary from group to group as some groups are more harmful than others. One groups may simply exploit its members financially or through free labor, while others may make much more intense demands such as sexual favors, medical neglect or even criminal acts.

Whatever the group may present as its facade, be it religion, politics, exercise, martial arts, business scheme or philosophy, it is the structure, dynamics and behavior of the group that sets it apart and aligns it with the core criteria, which forms the nucleus for a definition of a destructive cult.

For those who would attempt to diminish the power of persuasion used by cults we have only to look at the pattern of behavior within such groups. Why would people act against their own interests, but instead consistently behave in the best interest of the cult leader? Why would cult members allow their children to die due to medical neglect or surrender them for sexual abuse? The most compelling explanation for such otherwise improbable behavior is that cult victims are under undue influence and therefore unable to think for themselves independently.

The dirty little secret about cults and their bag of tricks, is that we are all vulnerable to coercive persuasion and influence techniques. And this is particularly true when we are at a vulnerable time in our lives. This might include a period of grief, financial instability, isolation or some other personal setback. It is at these times that cults can more easily and deceptively recruit people. No one intentionally joins a cult. Instead, people are tricked by cults, through deceptive recruitment practices and a gradual indoctrination process that doesn’t immediately fully disclose the group’s expectations and agenda.

If people were not vulnerable to persuasion and influence techniques there would be no advertising or political propaganda. Every person approached isn’t taken in by cult recruitment tactics, just as everyone doesn’t buy a product promoted by slick advertising. The question is not why don’t cults recruit everyone, but rather how do they recruit people and why do those people often stay to their determent.

Instead of denial and fanciful claims about the decline of cults our best response regarding such groups is education and increased awareness. Understanding the basic warning signs of a potentially unsafe group is a good start. And utilizing the Web to find information about specific groups before becoming more deeply involved is always a good idea. More information helps people make more informed choices. Ignorance may lead to devastating consequences.

As Tony Ortega concluded, “As long as the media remains in the dark about destructive cults and the way they work, we’ll continue to get bewildering statements about ISIS, and ignorant columns from the New York Times.”

Arizona State Representitive Mark Anderson, a Republican from Mesa, has a long history of loyal and devoted service to Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed “messiah” (photo below right) and leader of the Unification Church.

rev_moon_corontation.jpgMoon’s followers have historically been called “Moonies.”

Almost ten years ago the Mesa Tribune reported about how Anderson’s actions as an elected official were often closely aligned to Rev. Moon’s agenda.

CultNews has now learned from a reliable source that Anderson’s political pandering to his religious leader apparently has continued unabated.

Rev. Moon teaches his disciples that singles should not expect a happy hereafter and that marriage is a requirement for salvation and entering heaven.

Matrimony also plays a pivotal role in Moon’s theology. He calls himself the “Lord of the Second Advent” who provides a “physical salvation,” which Jesus was unable to accomplish, because he was executed and didn’t marry.

It is largely because of these beliefs that Moon has presided over mass weddings, often marrying thousands of his followers simultaneously.

Mark Anderson appears to be dutifully following Moon’s dogma as a state legislator.

In the Spring of 2000 he sponsored a bill that successfully passed and created a “Marriage and Communication Skills Commission.”

Funded by Arizona’s taxpayers, the purpose of the Commission is to recognize “the importance of marriage.”

Beyond this the Commission also doles out funding for “workshops” and “programs,” which are provided through contractors.

And guess who is co-chairman of the Arizona marriage commission?

manderso.gifNone other than Mark Anderson (photo left), who has substantial influence concerning which contractors receive state money.

Five states have created marriage commissions including Arizona, South Carolina, Utah, Louisiana and Michigan.

But only Arizona allows its Commission to choose, which community agencies receive a contract.

The selection process includes an objective evaluation process.

That is, because Arizona requires that contracts be awarded to the highest scored vendor.

But are they?

Enter Pastor Leo Godzich, President of the “National Association of Marriage Enhancement” (NAME), a close associate and long-time friend of Mark Anderson.

NAME has been and continues to be the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars in state contracts.

But Arizona’s Department of Economic Security (DES) didn’t rank NAME highly through its scoring process as a potential provider for workshops and programs.

Nevertheless Godzich’s group got the money, because the Commission had the power to award a contract regardless of a potential provider’s DES score or ranking.

This isn’t the first time Godzich has gotten money through his buddy Mark Anderson.

mlgodzich.jpgIn a Mesa Tribune article that raised questions about Representative Anderson’s peculiar mix of religion and politics, Godzich (photo right) is named as one of two “paid speakers” at an Anderson related political event called “Parents Day.”

Should Mark Anderson be helping his cronies with state funds, in what appears to be a blatant breach of public procurement policy in the name of his special interests?

On what basis does his Commission “accept” or “reject” DES recommendations? And what process is in place to ensure that Commission members like Anderson do not have a conflict of interest?

What about NAME and Anderson’s religious agenda?

Doesn’t this potentially represent a violation of the separation of Church and State?

CultNews has been told by a reliable source “that it is unethical for the Commission to have any involvement in ‘recommending’ which community agencies receive a contract award with DES, when the Commission is not involved in the internal DES review, evaluation, and scoring process of the proposals.”

Maybe Rev. Moon should fund Mark Anderson’s pet projects instead of the taxpayers of Arizona.

After all Rev. Moon is a multi-billionaire, while Arizona is currently facing what could become a multi-billion dollar revenue shortfall.

Note: Mark Anderson is running for US Congress.  At his Web site Anderson says, “Congress is a mess. Thee is too much partisan bickering, too many scandals and too much wasteful spending of taxpayer’s money.” But given the potentially scandalous and often partisan way Anderson spends taxpayer’s money in Arizona, why send him to Washington to mess around?

A new book has been released about the business, religious, media and political empire constructed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, designated “messiah” and leader of the Unification Church.51seszfolkl_ss500_.jpg

Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right and Built an American Kingdom by John Gorenfeld published by Polipoint Press was released March 1, 2008, and is now available at Amazon.com.

Gorenfeld says:

“Years ago, Moon was widely considered a dangerous madman, like Jim Jones or L. Ron Hubbard, the inspiration for TV specials with names like ‘Escape From The Moonies.’ His group was notorious for prying young people from families, persuading them to sell flowers to pay for Moon’s mansions and yacht, and marrying them to strangers as a show of domination. Not only is he still around, but he is richer and more influential than ever.”

CultNews has often been asked, “Whatever happened to the Moonies?” As if the purported “cult” had suddenly disappeared after becoming marginalized and insignificant.

But as Gorenfeld reveals Rev. Moon instead became a multi-billionaire and a formidable fixture in American politics, who exerts his influence through media assets such as the Washington Times and United Press International (UPI).

The Bush family in particular has forged friendly ties to the would-be messiah, who has donated to their political campaigns, presidential libraries, pet charities–not to mention handing out generous honorariums for speaking engagements.

President George H. Bush has reportedly made millions on Moon’s lucrative lecture circuit.

At one time “Moonie” David Caprara ran the so-called “faith-based initiative” from an office in the White House.

The growing political influence of Moon reaches even into the UN, where his long-time devotee Josette Sheeran is now heading the UN World Food Program.

Neil Bush, younger brother of George W. Bush, just days ago called upon Paraguay’s president courtesy of a business federation founded by the Rev. Moon, reported Associated Press.

Gorenfeld’s book reveals how Moon’s influence crept from the fringes of America into the mainstream of American politics.

A ”Moonie” (moniker denoting a loyal follower of purported “cult leader” Rev. Moon) may soon be running the UN’s World Food Program. 

Ambassador Josette SheeranThat is, if US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Ambassador to the UN John Bolton have anything to say about it.

Inner City Press reported that Rice and Bolton apparently hope to slip the appointment through before General Secretary Kofi Annan ends his term of office this year.

The five-year appointment just might be one of the last things the controversial Annan does before he packs up and leaves his office in New York. 

The would-be UN official and long-time fan of Rev. Moon is Josette Sheeran (Shiner), currently a US trade ambassador appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate.

Sheeran was once the managing editor of the Moon-controlled Washington Times before she left that newspaper and experienced something like a religious epiphany.

Suddenly in 1996 Sheeran went from two decades of devotion to the self-proclaimed “messiah” and membership in his controversial Unification Church, to an Episcopalian.

The ambassador has never offered many details concerning her religious conversion and/or whatever prompted her to apparently abandon Moon, but the timing sure was convenient.

Ms. Sheerhan’s conversion took place just before she entered government through a series of opportunities and appointments.

Moon gets crownedIt is no secret that Rev. Moon has long sought world influence and his disciples believe the world would be a better place unified under his “divine” guidance.

According to Rev. Moon deceased presidents of the United States have even decreed this and a few of his political sycophants crowned him in Washington not that long ago.

Ambassador Sheeran herself once claimed, “There is one man, one couple, in the world, which has taken on the power of the anti-values media. That is Reverend and Mrs. Moon.”

What power might Moon garner through Sheeran if she is appointed to a position of authority at the UN?

As CultNews previously reported the Bush/Moon connection goes back to the first President Bush, who received millions in honorariums for speaking engagements tied to Rev. Moon and his interests.

President George H. Bush has also benefited from Rev. Moon’s generous contributions to help build his Presidential Library.

Will Bush pardon Moon?It seems though that Rev. Moon’s gifts come with strings attached.

And that appears to include political appointments for his long-time supporters and perhaps a pardon is in the works for his tax-fraud conviction, before the present President Bush leaves the White House.

Of course there is nothing new here regarding Washington politics.

Big givers typically expect big favors.

But having a “Moonie” running a major program at the UN would be a really big favor indeed, potentially affecting the world.

Is that what big bucks buys from the Bush family? And is global influence so easily for sale at this White House?

The “anti-values media” Ms. Sheeran/Shiner once mocked has not reported that much about apparent influence peddling by the Bush White House regarding the Unification Church.

At times people wonder “what happened to all those ‘cults’ from the 1970s”?

Well, some of those groups have effectively maneuvered from the fringes of society to the centers of power and influence potentially affecting our daily lives.

Note: Japan Today reported that a Tokyo District Court ordered the Unification Church to pay about 280 million yen in damages to a woman who said she was swindled. What’s next world hunger?

A man with long-standing ties to self-proclaimed “messiah” Rev. Sun Myung Moon will soon become the new  Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Liberty University, an “independent Baptist” school founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971.

Rev. Jerry Falwell Dr. Ron Godwin, formerly a Senior Vice President at the Moon-controlled newspaper the Washington Times, will begin his new role of managing the “everyday responsibilities of running the university” in Lynchburg, Virginia at the beginning of next month reported The Liberty Champion.

Rev. Moon has given millions to Falwell’s school.

The North Korean businessman and purported “cult leader” funneled $3.5 million dollars to the university through his ”Women’s Federation for World Peace” and the Christian Heritage Foundation run by Falwell friends to help relieve the school’s debts in 1995 reported Robert Parry.

Soon Moon may become more than a donor, when his old crony Godwin takes over this summer. 

In 1992 Godwin was exalted by Moon’s followers “as very precious” for “uniting with Reverend Moon’s ideology.”

But the Unification Church leader seems like a strange friend for Jerry Falwell.

In a bizarre ceremony during 2004 Moon had himself crowned in Washington D.C. And the year before that he claimed that 36 dead U.S. presidents, from George Washington to Richard Nixon, endorsed him through ”spirit world” conferences.

No less than Thomas Jefferson supposedly proclaimed Moon ”the Messiah to all people, who has appeared in Korea.”

But isn’t Jesus the only messiah for a Baptist minister such as Rev. Jerry Falwell? 

It appears Falwell may want a “messiah” with money.

Godwin has served both Moon and Falwell, furthering his career through both their interests and apparently allowing both men to become his mentors. 

Falwell with friend Rev. MoonA professor at Liberty University during the 1980s Godwin took a job at the Washington Times in 1986. He also once served as Executive Director and Executive Vice President of Falwell’s ”Moral Majority” and was contributing editor of its newspaper according to his bio.

However, despite all the practical benefits a rich “messiah” can provide the mission statement of Liberty University seems far less concerned with pragmatism than faith. According to its statement Falwell’s school serves a higher purpose as “a Christian academic community in the tradition of evangelical institutions of higher education.”

Liberty says it wants “to produce Christ-centered men and women…[through] the synthesis of academic knowledge and Christian values” and that it ”points people to Jesus Christ as…personal Savior.”

How does Rev. Moon’s brand of religion fit into this?

Well, Moon was the “savior” of another university in Connecticut.

In 1992, through the “Professors World Peace Academy,” Moon’s Unification Church supplied the money to keep the University of Bridgeport open. But in exchange the school’s savior wanted control. He now names 60% of its Board of Trustees and the university president is one of his loyal followers, often called “Moonies.”

Maybe Godwin has some special plans for a new sort of “synthesis” at Falwell’s school?

Perhaps this will be the beginning of a new era for Liberty University?

Has Jerry Falwell’s school been ”saved” by a new “personal savior,” that has enough cash to insure the aging minister’s legacy?

Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s followers within the Unification Church consider him their ”savior” and “messiah” and according to a statement run within his Washington Times newspaper 36 dead US presidents speaking from “spirit world” have agreed and proclaimed him “Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah, the Savior and the True Parent.”

Moon gets crowned 2004Moon even had himself crowned once within the US Senate building, in a ceremony attended by politicians and assorted sychophants.

However, the one self-proclaimed and gradiose title the seeming megalomaniac Moon has spoken that just might prove to be true, was when he called himself “king of the ocean.”

Given to ranting and rambling on and on about his supposed greatness the man many consider a “cult leader” outlined a plan in a 1980 speech about how he would eventually rule the world’s fishing industry.

“I have the entire system worked out, starting with boat building. After we build the boats, we catch the fish and process them for the market, and then have a distribution network. This is not just on the drawing board; I have already done it.”

And despite some pretty pitiful business failures, such as the Washington Times that has cost Moon millions annually to subsidize, his fishing investments have actually paid off. 

Moon is now “dominating one of America’s trendiest indulgences: sushi,” according to the Chicago Tribune as reported by Monica Eng, Delroy Alexander and David Jackson. 

The Moon-controlled enterprise called “True World Group” has apparently largely fulfilled the would-be “messiah’s” 1980s prophecy. The business ”builds fleets of boats, runs dozens of distribution centers and, each day, supplies most of the nation’s estimated 9,000 sushi restaurants” reports the Chicago Tribune.  

True World Foods reported revenue for 2005 was $250 million. Its fleet of 230 refrigerated trucks delivers raw fish to 7,000 sushi and fine-dining restaurants across America and Moon’s Alaska plant processes more than 20 million pounds of salmon, cod and pollock annually.

King and Queen of the Ocean?Rev. Moon’s fish businesses operate under a nonprofit umbrella called ”Unification Church International Inc.” (UCI) 

In 1978 a congressional investigation concluded that UCI had no ”independent functions other than serving as a financial clearinghouse for various Moon organization subsidiaries and projects.”

Like Moon who was convicted criminally for tax fraud in the 1980s and sentenced to 13 months at Danbury, the one-time prison inmate’s fish business has gotten into its share of trouble too.

True World Foods in Alaska pled guilty to a federal felony, was fined $150,000 and put on probation in 2001. And more recently Moon’s company has had repeated problems with the FDA, which cited it for ”gross unsanitary conditions” just last year.

The 86-year-old Moon’s journey is nearing its end and it won’t be long until he is in “spirit world.”  He has failed to fulfill his goal to become a globally recognized ”messiah” and perhaps the head harvester of human souls.

But maybe the purported “cult leader” has finally succeeded at something somewhat more conventional, as a sole catcher and sushi provider.

Does that make Moon a ”messiah/fishmonger”? 

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

Rev. Moon, purported “Messiah” and “cult leader” of the Unification Church has “funneled” $250,000 to help pay for President Bush’s inaugural festivities reports John Gorenfeld of I approve this messiah.com.

The $250,000 cash contribution, which represents the limit set for such gifts, comes from the Moon-controlled Washington Television Center.

The Center is a $55 million dollar building at 650 Massachusetts Ave. in Washington D.C. and it is home to such Moon-controlled enterprises as Atlantic Video and the “Nostalgia Network,” now known as “American Life TV.”

Apparently another tenant is the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), which may be a good fit considering that the Moon family is also in the gun business.

The Bushes do have a long-standing and fruitful relationship with Rev. Moon, which is why the South Korean religious leader makes it a point to attend their inaugurations and he can count on good seats.

Bush Sr. has raked in millions through accumulated honorariums paid out for speaking engagements at Moon-linked events.

The George H. Bush Presidential Library also was the recipient of a hefty gift from Rev. Moon and of course there is an appropriate plaque honoring the distinguished donor.

However, this donor is also distinguished by his criminal record, which includes a tax fraud conviction.

Pardon me?

Could it be that Rev. Moon and his followers are lining up a presidential pardon for the future to be granted right before the current President Bush leaves the White House?

“The donation may signal the beginning of an effort to secure a pardon for Moon,” says Larry Zilliox a private investigator and concerned Moon-watcher.

Is there reason to believe that Bush II can be counted on for such a favor?

Well maybe so, after all “Dubya” has so far tapped two long-time Moon devotees for political appointments, one to head AmeriCorp at Vista and another to serve as a US Trade Deputy.

Perhaps George W. Bush will once again follow in the footsteps of another president, but instead of his father this time it might be Bill Clinton, who handed out a few controversial pardons just before he left the White House.

After all if a criminally convicted former Arizona governor and wanted fugitive can get a pardon, why not a would-be “messiah”?

Harbhajan Singh Puri, known to his devoted followers as “Yogi Bhajan,” is dead at 75, reports the Times of India.

A former customs agent in New Delhi, Bhajan emigrated to the United Stated from India through Canada during the 1970s guru craze. He eventually became a Los Angeles yoga teacher and ultimately formed a religious group known as “3HO” (The “Happy, Holy, Healthy Organization”).

Like other pop gurus Bhajan had his share of celebrity followers.

3HO has been linked to singers Courtney Love and Seal. And a popular LA yoga teacher and 3HO member attracted celebrity students such as Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Melissa Etheridge, Cindy Crawford, David Duchovny and Sherilyn Fenn.

However, despite its name 3HO had many unhappy former followers and ironically the guru that claimed his yoga made its adherents healthy, was plagued by perpetual illnesses and died from heart disease.

Bhajan also had a history of allegations regarding rather unholy sexual misconduct.

He was repeatedly accused of exploiting female devotees and once sued by his personal secretary for “assault and battery.” The case was later quietly settled out of court.

Yogi Bhajan’s followers preferred to address him as “Siri Singh Sahib,” but he was also known as a “cult leader” and once compared to Rev. Moon founder of the Unification Church.

Prominent sociologist and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Offshe said in an affidavit that 3HO “exhibits characteristics common to cult organizations.”

The self-proclaimed “world Sikh leader” actually ruled over a relatively small religious following composed primarily of Americans and situated largely in New Mexico, Arizona and California within small insular communities.

Bhajan’s faithful were known for their yoga, vegetarian diet and white dress code.

In India, Sikhs allow democratic elections of priests and oppose personality cults. Yoga has no part in Sikhism, and India’s Sikhs are known to be meat eaters and often wear colorful garments.

Despite a historic rift between mainline Sikhs and Bhajan’s American disciples an Indian Sikh leader eulogized the alleged “cult leader” as “a tech-savvy new age guru” who propogated “the message of Sikism,” reports Indo-Asian News Service.

Bhajan’s religious compound near Espanola, New Mexico experienced an exodus of members in 1985 and 3HO today appears to be an aging and dwindling group.

Nevertheless New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared, “Yogi Bhajan a leader in the Sikh community nationally and internationally…[and]…a great friend of New Mexico” reported The Albuquerque Journal.

Richardson benefited politically from 3HO support and its members made substantial campaign contributions.

The governor has ordered flags throughout the state to be flown at half-mast for two days to honor Yogi Bhajan.

Perhaps Gov. Richardson overlooked these prophetic words of Bhajan who once told his followers, “Your dead bodies will lie on these roads, your children will be orphans, and nobody will kick them, rather, people will eat them alive! There will be tremendous insanity. That is the time we are going to face.”

He concluded, “So you have two choices: be a Sikh, or a sick.”

Hardly the thoughts of a benign spiritual leader and “friend.”

Bhajan was a relentless self-promoter and his multi-million dollar business empire is likely to be his most enduring legacy.

The web of corporate holdings he once controlled includes Akal Security, a company responsible for $1 billion dollars in US government contracts, according to a recent article run in the New York Times.

How could “homeland security” be in any way dependent upon a company linked to an alleged “cult,” which also has a closely related history of criminal indictments regarding one of its past and most prominent leaders?

Yogi Bhajan’s trusted subordinate, Gurujot Singh Khalsa (AKA Robert Alwin Taylor), was convicted for conspiracy to import marijuana, racketeering and money laundering. He also attempted to obtain illegal weapons.

Ironically, while Gurujot served time in a federal prison Akal Security began to turn a profit for Yogi Bhajan and his 3HO followers, largely through federal contracts.

The legacy of loot left behind by Bhajan is considerable and no doubt his surviving family will live comfortably.

Somewhat uncomfortable though is the thought of Akal as part of America’s “homeland security” and a US governor pandering to a purported “cult” by memorializing a man many considered little more than a megalomaniac.

Note: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson later declared October 23rd officially “Yogi Bhajan Memorial Day.”

For those who have been waiting breathlessly since last summer, it’s time once again for “Vanguard Week.”

Vanguard Week is that annual event set aside to commemorate the birthday of Executive Success Programs (ESP) and NXIVM creator Keith Raniere, known to his devoted fans as “Vanguard.”

The event will take place August 26th through September 5th at Lake George New York, touted as “10 days of synergy, enthusiasm and reflection.”

Mr. Raniere was previously best known as a failed multi-level marketing guru who beget “Consumer Buyline,” his business brainchild that ended less than a decade ago amidst a much-publicized financial meltdown.

But this time around Mr. Raniere seems to be selling enlightenment, and it’s pretty pricey.

Just for the privilege of seeking synergy with Vanguard “Nixians” will shell out about $2,000.00 per head, though there are “flexible payment options.”

Assisting Mr. Raniere will be his faithful sidekick Nurse Nancy Salzman known to her pupils as “Prefect,” self-proclaimed as “one of the top trainers of human potential in the world.”

Over 400 devotees are expected to turn out for Vanguard Week at the Roaring Brook Ranch and Resort Center and Silver Bay Association Conference Center in upstate New York.

And they will be regaled with programs that include “forums, inquiries, workshops” and of course “synergy…around the clock.”

“Select world-class entertainment will include…one of the world’s leading hypnotists…[an] internationally-acclaimed pianist, author of a New York Times Best Seller” and “special surprises.”

All this will be done for a proposed budget that totals about $130,000.

$50,000 just to bring in the best-selling author.

$12,500 for “gourmet vegetarian…specialty foods.”

$12,500 for sweatshirts.

$7,500 for T-shirts.

$8,000 for a “24-hour gourmet coffee bar.”

$7,500 for a “performance by the world’s leading hypnotist.”

$5,000 for decorations,

$10,000 for that “acclaimed pianist.”

$12,000 for the “NXIVM internationally acclaimed Harmonic Choir.”

$3,000 for “NXIVM entertainment night.”

$2,000 to be spent on “welcome gifts for Vanguard, Prefect and proctors or VIP attendees.”

The $130,000 price tag for Vanguard Week does not include another $60,000 proposed for an “Oscar winning director of leading documentary.”

Nexians have been asked specifically to sponsor a item “toward the investment of creating a memorable experience.”

CultNews has learned from a reliable source that one loyal disciple of Mr. Raniere has already agreed to sponsor “gourmet vegetarian chef and specialty foods” from their restaurant in exchange for training “intensives.”

As Keith Raniere says, “Humans can be noble. The question is: will we put forth what is necessary?”

Putting forth fat fees for high profile speakers and performers is nothing new for controversial groups.

Rev. Moon, founder of the Unification Church, has hosted former presidents, including the father of our current President Bush, not to mention well-known entertainers like Bill Cosby.

Rev. Moon, a self-proclaimed “messiah” and leader of a purported “cult,” is willing to sign off on exorbitant fees, which in turn often lead to photo ops or at least a few blurbs citing big names at one of his events.

Mr. Raniere, the self-proclaimed “Vanguard,” probably cannot afford the level of notables nailed by Rev. Moon, but last year he did almost snag actress Goldie Hawn.

However, after Ms. Hawn heard that NXIVM had been called a “cult” she demurred and was a no-show for Vanguard Week despite the fat fee she might have picked up.

This year NXIVM has carefully kept its roster of alleged celebrities under wraps.

Whoever does show up at Lake George for Vanguard Week this year one thing is for sure, Mr. Raniere and Nurse Nancy will be there to hold forth for the faithful, shoveling out what Forbes Magazine once speculated might be labeled “horse manure.”

“Horse manure” was not listed as a line item on the proposed budget, but it may be provided at no additional charge.

Note: NXIVM is suing the Ross Institute (RI) and this CultNews reporter for “trade secret” violations and “copyright infringement.” This frivolous litigation has led to one court defeat after another for Keith Raniere, despite his willingness to spend big bucks on legal fees. Most recently Raniere has retained Carter G. Phillips and Eric A. Shumsky at the prestigious Washington D.C. law firm of Sidley, Austin, Brown and Wood to represent NXIVM on appeal before the United States Supreme Court. Were faithful Nexians asked to “sponsor” this too? RI is represented pro bono by Boston area attorney Douglas Brooks and Albany attorney Tom Gleason.