“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).

A California university established by a controversial Japanese Buddhist organization, which has been called a “cult,” is having serious problems.

25% of the faculty at the newly established Soka Gakkai University in Aliso Veijo, California have been dismissed and/or walked out. And students are dropping out in protest, reports the Orange Country Register.

Japanese businessman Daisaku Ikeda is the founder and leader of the modern Soka Gakkai sect. His organization seems to be in the midst of a public relations meltdown regarding its newest school in the United States.

The controversial Buddhist sect spent nearly a half billion dollars to get the 103-acre campus up and running.

But despite the group’s wealth and expensive effort it seems that teachers and students alike don’t appreciate the way it runs the school.

Soka Gakkai previously promised the new university would not be focused on its beliefs, proselytizing and religious indoctrination, but instead would reflect “an open, nonsectarian environment.”

However, professors and students say, “most decisions are made by an administration composed entirely of Soka Gakkai Buddhists.”

One professor said the university is “secretive, hierarchical, coercive and deceitful.” Another who was fired has taken legal action, alleging “religious discrimination.” And the university’s Dean of Faculty is gone, seemingly as the result of a purge.

There is a sharp divergence of opinion between those faculty and students affiliated with Soka Gakkai and others outside the group. Those within the organization essentially deny the seriousness of allegations.

It seems Soka Gakkai is having considerable difficulty adapting to an academic setting based upon openness and dialog. The organization is instead historically known for its autocratic and authoritarian tendencies.

A lawyer for one former teacher said, “In a university environment, you’re supposed to be able to ask questions.” One teacher added, “This is the least powerful faculty I have ever seen in my life.”

But the sect and its political party known as Komeito in Japan has a deeply troubled history of aggressive proselytizing, allegations of abuse and purported blind reverence and obedience to its leader Ikeda.

Maybe these academics and students should have done their homework before going to Soka U?

Many seem to think Soka Gakkai is to Buddhism what the Unification Church is to Christianity. The Japanese-based international organization has often been accused of being little more than a personality-driven “cult,” led by Daisaku Ikeda.

Soka Gakkai became known in the United States largely through celebrity involvement, such as rocker Tina Turner, who remains an avid devotee.

Members often claimed they could chant for whatever they needed or wanted. In this respect it is not unlike the equally controversial “Word of Faith” movement within Pentecostal Christianity, where adherents believe they can claim health and/or prosperity in the “name of Jesus.”

In 2001 Soka Gakkai opened a new university campus in Southern California. They promised this would be non-sectarian educational institution.

But now it seems sit-ins are in vogue again as students protest the dismissal of a popular teacher and dean, reports the Orange County Register.

The writing professor and well-known author Joe McGinniss said, “To be honest, if I were a member of Soka Gakkai, there would be no question of my (not) returning next year.”

Soon students may be chanting in protest. But this is not quite the mantra Soka Gakkai may have had in mind.