By Rick Alan Ross

Political pundit Steven Hassan has a penchant for conflating his CV and at times just plain lying about his past status. And he seems to have an obsession about Harvard.

Again, and again Hassan claims to have taught at “Harvard Medical School.”

Steven Hassan

This misleading claim was repeated recently by Michael Shermer at his “Skeptic” website by way of introducing Hassan on the “Michael Shermer Show.” It seems that there wasn’t any meaningful examination and ultimately skepticism, concerning Hassan’s career claims.

Michael Shermer

According to the iconic “Ivy League” university Steven Hassan has never been employed there.

Hassan offers a letter posted at his website, seemingly in response to a past report at CultNews, which supposedly supports his misleading professional claims.

The letter is from John R. Peteet, M.D. Dr. Peteet is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In the letter sent to Hassan in 2019 Dr. Peteet states that Hassan “has served as a valued presenter in the course I co-teach, Spirituality, Religion and Psychiatry.” Dr. Peteet teaches this class at Harvard Longwood, which is a hospital associated with Harvard.

Steven Hassan’s CV repeatedly lists the title of “presenter” under the subheading “Professional Activities,” but does not make the distinction explicitly, that this was volunteer work.

CultNews sees this as potentially misleading the reader to conclude that Hassan worked for Harvard as a paid professional.

CultNews reached out to Dr. Peteet to better clarify and specifically understand the exact status of Steven Hassan at Harvard Longwood.

In response to an email (January 25, 2023) concerning Hassan Dr. Peteet explained, “Yes, he was a guest presenter for a few years, once a semester, in a course for Harvard Longwood Psychiatry residents, Spirituality, Religion and Psychiatry. I believe he also offered and taught an ongoing elective ‘Helping people influenced by Undue Influence: Hypnosis, Destructive Cults, and Traffickers’, which was taken by interested residents, but I was not directly involved in that course. Presenters in the course were unpaid, except for the first few years of the course when a grant was in effect.”

Again, Hassan does not make the distinction that he was only a “guest” and “unpaid.”

But Dr. Peteet later clarified specifically in a subsequent email (January 25, 2023), “Since I was not part of setting up his elective course, I’m afraid I don’t know what the payment arrangements were, if any. He did volunteer his time for us once per year during the semester the course ran. We did not pay him for this.”

So consistent with previous reports Hassan has apparently only been a volunteer speaker at a hospital associated with Harvard for a particular class invited as a guest by the class teacher. He has never been employed as an instructor by Harvard Medical School.

It is nice that Hassan does volunteer work, but within his CV and for the purpose of self-promotion, he does not make the necessary distinction that has he has never been employed directly by Harvard and has never held any professional teaching status at “Harvard Medical School.” In fact, it appears that Hassan has never been invited to lecture at Harvard as a paid professional.

It seems that Hassan has deliberately conflated his CV specifically to infer that he has somehow been part of the teaching staff at Harvard, which would be a false claim.

Some may say that these are “petty” distinctions, but given the cachet that claiming teaching status at Harvard Medical School confers upon someone, any effort to mislead or conflate cannot be ignored. And Hassan’s repeated efforts to make such conflated claims based upon past unpaid volunteer work as a classroom teacher’s guest does not equal the rather ridiculous claim that he “has taught at Harvard Medical School,” or for that matter at “Brigham and Women’s Hospital.”

George Santos

We are living at a time that no less than a Unites States Congressman, George Santos, has been exposed for lying about his past employment. It seems like Steven Hassan is following in the footsteps of George Santos. He may not be a spectacular liar like Santos, but he has chosen to conflate his CV in a way that is misleading and dishonest.

Truth, honesty and professional integrity matter. Certainly there are people that have abandoned these principles. But proven and established historical facts must be the basis for defining objective reality, not misinformation and/or lies. This report may be upsetting to Steven Hassan’s fans, but given a choice between confirmation bias and the virtues of honesty and genuine transparency, the later remains a meaningful focus for measuring professional conduct.

By Brian Birmingham

Matt Walsh of “The Daily Wire” made the documentary “What Is A Woman?” He also spearheaded the “End of Child Mutilation Rally” in Nashville last fall, and he was part of an investigation which closed the transgender clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Walsh is host of his own conservative political commentary show, “The Matt Walsh Show,” which is streamed online almost every day, and he has written four books, including one children’s book.

Matt Walsh is an important and very influential voice in the American conservative movement, especially among the Millennial generation.

Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is also identifying himself as a Christian, specifically as a Roman Catholic. But he’s said on his show that a Catholic church is the last place that somebody should go, if they want to learn about Catholicism. Walsh has called Pope Francis a disgrace and has expressed his appreciation for church history and church tradition. He talks a lot about bringing back “chivalry” and traditional displays of masculinity. Walsh also talks about traditional marriage, traditional nuclear families, the need for “sexual purity” and the cultivation of wisdom. He speaks in very conservative Catholic terms. However, noting the things he says about the contemporary Catholic church itself leads one to think that Matt Walsh is not really a part of mainstream American Catholicism.

So, what kind of Catholic and which church or organization does Matt Walsh support?

The Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP) organization was founded in 1960 in Brazil, by a Catholic priest named Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. TFP was organized, and its mission was directed, according to the principles outlined in Oliveira’s 1959 book, “Revolution and Counter-Revolution” which argued from a position of far-right, pre-Vatican 2 Catholic traditionalism. TFP is a little-known and very obscure group which the general public knows little about, since its numbers are small. According to the TFP website, there are less that one hundred members of TFP, all of whom are volunteers, and many thousands of affiliates and supporters who support the goals of the TFP through its campaign known as “America Needs Fatima.”

“Chivalry,” “purity,” and “wisdom” are three virtues promoted by a traditionalist Catholic organization known as the American Society for the Defense of Truth, Family, and Property, or the American TFP. These three words are TFP buzzwords, and they are also words and concepts that Matt Walsh uses and promotes on his show, in different forms, very frequently.

Walsh has also endorsed “America Needs Fatima,” in his public speaking engagements.

What conclusion does this lead to regarding Matt Walsh?

Matt Walsh apparently is somehow connected to the American TFP and uses his various platforms to support and promote its agenda.

CultNews reached out to Matt Walsh via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms and asked him directly if he is connected to, or affiliated with, TFP and all those queries were ignored.

To date, Mr. Walsh has chosen not reply or respond about the strangely coincidental parallels between what he says and the TFP organization principles, which some have called a type of political “cult” with a religious front.

“The TFP has nearly 75 full-time members or volunteers. It also has a large supporters network. The TFP and its affiliate America Needs Fatima campaign lists some 120,000 supporting members who contribute to its efforts.”

Watch the video on YouTube to get a better idea of what the TFP is like.

Matt Walsh has made a career out of seeking transparency and accountability from others with whom he disagrees (especially those in the media), and Matt Walsh frequently says on his show that he seeks to hold people in power to their own standards.

But what about accountability from Matt Walsh? Does he consistently abide by his own standards?

Here are the simple easy to answer questions that Mr. Walsh seems to have difficulty answering:

1. Are you now, or have you ever been, involved in any way, shape, or form with the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP)?

2. If you are not involved with, or connected somehow to TFP, then what Catholic church or organization are you affiliated with now?

3. Are you actively involved with and/or a supporter of “America Needs Fatima”?

The general public, and especially social conservatives, deserve to know whose agenda Matt Walsh is supporting and promoting.

Walsh must be as transparent and accountable, as he expects others to be. And if he is not willing to be accountable and transparent, then both he and his associates are hypocrites that are every bit as dishonest as the Leftists they denounce and seek to expose.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

By Rick Alan Ross

People often ask what makes cult leaders tick?

What motivates them to become cult leaders?

One answer to that question is cold cash.

Many cult leaders have learned that they can become rich while ruining people’s lives.

For example, the notorious NXIVM “sex cult” leader Keith Raniere, who reportedly bilked a billionaire’s daughters out of more than $100 million.

But long before Raniere began his scam another purported “cult leader” left South Dakota and moved to a warmer climate in Florida. His name was Charles Meade and he once led a church that many considered a “cult” called “End Times Ministries.”

Meade lived behind the walls of his Lake City, Florida compound in relative seclusion very privately. Not only was his house gated and secured, so too was the church he built in Lake City, with its guarded entrance and barbed wire.

Meade died more than a decade ago.

Meade’s residence sold a few months after his death for only $94,000 and then again in March 2012 for $200,000. Very little considering its current list price.

The Meade compound is now on the market listed at $2.5 million, though Zillow says it is worth less than half of the asking price, pegging its market value at $740,700.00.

It is interesting to see the online photos and realize what an opulent lifestyle Meade enjoyed within his gated private compound.

Realtor.com calls Meade’s home a “Hidden gem! Great neighborhood located 2 Miles from I-75 in Lake City, FL. This is a great investment opportunity. Entire ranch estate sits on 22.43 acres. There are a total of 27 Buildings, including 14 residences! Residences can be used as income properties or guest facilities. The main house (976 SW Hamlet Cir) is a 4/4 with 2 kitchens and has a total of 6700 SF. The property also features a 1750sf greenhouse, 100kw generator, 2990sf 2 story guest barn w/3BR cottage & office, 3200 sf glass enclosure with swimming pool, Outdoor Kitchen, 1170sf guest cottage, special Creekside Cabana beside the manmade creek & waterfall. This would make a great wedding venue or retreat!”

See the photos and you might just think that being a cult leader can really pay off. It certainly did for Charles Meade.

By Brian Birmingham

There is a new development in the child abuse case at the Hare Krishna TKG Academy in Dallas, Texas.

Documents obtained by CultNews reveal that the parents of the abused child did not immediately report the abuse when they were questioned by hospital staff and authorities.

ISKCON’s Child Protection Office did complete a report confirming the abuse, but it is not clear if that written report was copied to Child Protective Services (CPS) in Dallas.

See the official report by ISKCON’s Child Protection Office.

See this detailed narrative compiled by the family of the abused child.

Hare Krishna Devotees

But both parents of the abused child failed to explain what happened when questioned by child protective services and medical personnel. Sadly, they lied to CPS and the hospital staff, in order to protect the school and the Hare Krishna community in Dallas.

Failure to pursue the child abuse may have occurred at multiple levels.

First, and foremost, ISKCON CPO, which was created to protect children, had a responsibility to share their report with the authorities in Texas, and to demand definitive action be taken by the temple in Dallas.

It must be noted that at the end of the ISKCON CPO report it states, “Case was reported to local Dallas child protective services (CPS). No further action was taken by CPS once they determined that Rasakeli was no longer teaching at TKG Academy, and Ramananda was no longer under Rasakeli’s care.”

But what does “case reported” mean?

CultNews cannot confirm that ISKCON’s final report was sent directly to CPS.

Someone may have reported something to CPS, but Dallas CPS would not confirm who reported the abuse. Only that there is a record.

CultNews has made a record request, which is now pending, to determine the details.

The family claims that they offered to share medical records related to the abuse with the Dallas temple.

Here is what the father stated online:

“Jan[uary] late Jan[uary] – Social services/social worker calls our home asking about abuse, if our child was being abused and questioning if he had access to the restroom, and when was he potty trained, etc. They said that such frequent UTI’s [urinary tract infections] are not normal in a boy and is also a common sign of a child being in a situation of where they are being abused. Doctors had also expressed concern about the dangerous bacteria that had been found in his urine. We do not, at that time, provide any information about the school and Rasakeli [the abusuive teacher] not letting Ramananda use the bathroom in fear of causing trouble with the school. We did speak with the school and started mentioning the concerns from doctors and how they had social workers call us asking questions. We also asked both school principal and school board if they needed to see the hospital papers or speak with the doctors, they never reply.”

Hare Krisha kids

Here is the mission statement of the CPO according to its website:

“Our mission is to protect the children of Srila Prabhupada’s Movement from child abuse and neglect. By doing so, we strengthen the future of the Movement —the children—while providing an example to the world of a spiritual society that practices compassionate caring and protection.”

See ISKCON Child Protection Office

However, it appears that ISKCON’s CPO failed to take decisive direct action by actively encouraging and insisting upon a criminal investigation regarding child abuse as no criminal charges are evident.

And apparently the Dallas Hare Krishna Temple has done little to punish the teacher that abused the minor child, who remains within the Dallas Hare Krishna community.

So, how effective is the ISKCON Child Protection Office?

Is it adequately protecting the children of ISKCON from child abuse and neglect, or is its purpose rather public relations through investigations that accomplish nothing definitive?

ISKCON seems to be more concerned about lawsuits than protecting its children.

The abusive teacher at the Dallas Hare Krishna school was found guilty of child abuse by the ISKCON CPO. So why isn’t she being criminally charged and/or purged from the community?

It must be noted that according to sources inside the Dallas Hare Krishna community the Dallas temple leaders sought to have the CPO report findings reversed.

Is the Dallas temple more concerned with protecting its children from abuse or protecting its teacher and silencing criticism?

Krishna Temple, Dallas

The safety of children must come first, or so ISKCON has publicly stated.

Have the leaders of the Dallas Hare Krishna Temple learned nothing from their past mistakes?

Has ISKCON learned anything from the personal injury lawsuits that forced the organization into bankruptcy?

It seems that neither ISKCON nor the local temple in Dallas have genuinely learned much from the past mistakes, which hurt so many people. And apparently these religious institutions plagued in the past by child abuse scandals, may continue to have the same problems in the future.

Does ISKCON mandate reporting to the CPS and local police when a child is abused?

Or instead simply paper over such abuse by producing a report from its CPO, with no specific policy of mandated reporting to authorities by its affiliated temples?

What is the meaningful outcome and consequence of child abuse within ISKCON?

Will there be criminal charges far all of those found guilty of child abuse?

How does ISKCON’s CPO and its affiliated temples actually protect Krishna kids?

CultNews has updated this report based upon the latest disclosures from Dallas CPS and will continue to do so as records are delivered and further scrutinized.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

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By Brian Birmingham

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (also known as ISKCON, or colloquially as “the Hare Krishnas”) was founded in New York City in 1966, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In its heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s, ISKCON was one of the most recognized new religious movements introduced to the United States. ISKCON enjoyed some positive attention in the media. George Harrison of the Beatles was one of the most noteworthy of the celebrities who helped to promote ISKCON.

History of scandal

As it grew in the US, ISKCON became increasingly controversial and was one of most notorious groups called “cults” drawing increasing attention based upon the behavior of its leadership and devotees. At times families tried to rescue their loved ones through interventions with cult deprogrammers.

ISKCON devotees

ISKCON was likewise plagued by scandal. This included its most influential leader in the 1980s. Ultimately that leader Swami Bhaktipada (aka Keith Gordon Ham) was criminally charged. Ham was one of the first Hare Krishna disciples in the United States and he ruled over the largest Hare Krishna community in the country near Moundsville, West Virginia. Ham eventually pleaded guilty to racketeering, fraud and conspiracy to commit murder. But he ended up only serving 8 years in prison.

ISKCON moved on to more scandal, which involved child abuse that took place within ISKCON boarding schools in the United States and India.

The reportedly horrific physicals and sexual abuse began in the 1970s and continued through the 1980s. A class-action lawsuit was filed in Dallas, Texas on behalf of the victims in 2001. ISKCON subsequently sought refuge in Federal Bankruptcy Court, which ultimately forced the adult children to accept a greatly reduced settlement.

ISKCON claimed it would implement sweeping changes to ensure that no such abuse would ever occur again.

Changes

One of the most important changes is that ISKCON temples became independent and autonomous legal entities. This insulated ISKCON regarding legal liability. So certain temples today are not officially “ISKCON” temples, but rather only ISKCON-affiliated. Under this arrangement, if a temple is sued for misconduct or abuse, the larger organization ISKCON itself theoretically cannot be held liable, leaving liable only the local temple and its leadership.

In Dallas, Texas the local leadership does business as the “Texas Krishnas, Inc.” This supposedly means that Dallas temple is wholly independent and not an ISKCON temple at all.

ISKCON has made a tremendous effort at public relations to burnish its tainted image. In the past twenty years, the organization has become adept at PR. Anuttama das, is now ISKCON’s “Minister of Communications” and he has done his best to soften the media perception of ISKCON and persuade the general public that ISKCON has changed, and for the better.

ISKCON has apparently curtailed most of its questionable activities.

But has it essentially changed, at least at the local level in Dallas, Texas?

Recent events prove that the answer to this question is “no.”

Abuse in Dallas

It has come to light the families of several students in the Dallas Hare Krishna school were interviewed by ISKCON’s “Child Protection Office,” which revealed that their children were being abused by a certain teacher there.

Dallas Krishna temple

The mother of one abused boy has written about abuses in the school on her Facebook page. She describes physical, psychological, and emotional abuse that her son endured. The boy was forced to urinate and defecate on himself, and was humiliated by the teacher in front of his classmates. The teacher would ridicule the boy, denigrating him and encouraging his classmates to do the same.

Investigation

Quotes from an ISKCON mother’s Facebook page as follows:

“The ISKCON Child Protection Office investigated this abusive teacher, and found her guilty of child abuse. She was removed from her position and is not teaching in the school today. However, at every step of the investigation the Dallas temple management, headed by the temple president, blocked the investigation by telling school administrators and others to lie, and by threatening families in various ways. After the Child Protection Office made their decision regarding the abusive teacher, the Dallas temple management further tried to undermine their judgment by threatening legal action against that office, in an effort to have their judgment and decision reversed.”

The only way that this family found resolution in their situation, was to physically move and leave Dallas entirely.

They’d been banned from the Dallas temple, and told that their services at the Dallas temple were no longer required.

Accountability

The leadership of the Dallas Hare Krishna temple is no more accountable or transparent than they were in 1972. And the abuse within the local Hare Krishna school in Dallas is still apparently going on as the hierarchy of this temple chose to side with the teacher, not the students and their families.

Despite all of the public relations efforts of Anuttama das and whatever he might say to sway the media, the Hare Krishnas, at least in Dallas, have not substantially changed, it seems, very much at all.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

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By Rick Alan Ross

ABC GMA3 hosted leaders of a purported “cult” and asked them to dispense marital advice on what a show segment called “Faith Friday.”

Michael and Monica Berg, leaders of the so-called “Kabbalah Centre” were touted as “spiritual thought leader[s]” by ABC News presenters Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes. The Kabbalah Centre couple were even asked, “What is the key to a loving and lasting relationship”?

But Michael Berg’s background is hardly the basis for marriage counseling.

Philip and Karen Berg

The Kabbalah Centre, which was founded by Michael Berg’s father insurance salesman/rabbi Philip Berg (aka Fievel Gruberger) and his mother Karen Berg, has no meaningful history as part of the organized Jewish community. And credible Kabbalah scholars both in the US and Israel have sharply criticized its unorthodox practices, such as selling supposedly miraculous Kabbalah Water and claiming that somehow scanning the pages of the Zohar without being able to read the text imbues the believer with special energy, protection and/or power.

CultNews has received complaints about Michael Berg’s parents (now deceased), the Kabbalah Centre, its teachers and specifically concerning both Michael Berg and his brother Yehuda, found guilty of sexual misconduct with a Kabbalah Centre student, a scandal that pushed Yehuda Berg into the background, behind his brother Michael.

Michael and Monica Berg

The Kabbalah Centre is essentially the Berg family business and with wealthy patrons like Madonna and Donna Karan the Bergs became rich, despite the fact that the Kabbalah Centre is a tax-exempted religious nonprofit, which was investigated by the IRS. Nevertheless the Berg family greatly benefitted from the enterprise and now Michael Berg and his wife Monica run the organization from New York, though it has many other branches, such as Boca Raton, Los Angeles and London, seemingly targeting wealthy enclaves where people have more money to spend.

This video explains how the Kabbalah Centre and the Bergs manipulate their students and followers.

CultNews has received very specific complaints about how the Bergs and their teachers influence students/followers regarding their personal relationships, discouraging them from marrying or staying with someone that they see as an impediment and/or threat to their control. So rather than being a source of credible advice to couples the Kabbalah Centre has historically torn people apart, including estranging family members, if they ask too many critical questions.

How is it that ABC News did not know this and allowed the Bergs to use the GMA3 program platform to promote themselves, their podcast and teachings?

Is there someone associated with this news show that is a fan of the Bergs and the Kabbalah Centre?

Or is it possible that the GMA3 staff just didn’t bother to do an online search for more information about the controversial couple?

If someone at GMA3 had done some meaningful research they would have found that the Kabbalah Centre has a deeply troubled history of bad press, complaints, scandals and personal injury lawsuits. A number of news organizations have released very critical reports about the Bergs and their business.

Did GMA3 somehow miss that?

The Cult Education Institute has a historical archive that reflects criticism of the Bergs and the Kabbalah Centre within the United States and internationally, including Israel.

Michael Berg was asked by one of his GMA3 hosts to offer closing remarks to inspire us all. Berg then ruminated about the importance of realizing your potential and that the possibilities are “limitless.”

Well, Michael Berg certainly does seem to have limitless possibilities for self-promotion, paid for and supported through the spiritual empire he inherited.

But when a news program hosts purported “cult” leaders it’s more likely that those leaders will conspire rather than inspire, and that’s why it’s best to ask tougher questions, rather than pitching them flattering softballs.

By Rick Alan Ross

Recently a video from the 1980s of Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was released online. It features Thomas talking about her involvement in a cultic seminar-selling company called Lifespring, which was eventually sued out of existence. Thomas was one of the many victims of Lifespring.

Ginni and Clarence Thomas

The video shows Ginni Thomas as a young woman painfully recounting her experience with Lifespring in a support group for ex-members of cults. Thomas talks about her personal struggle to move on with her life.

Former cult member and author Steven Hassan apparently facilitated this support group and somehow had access to the 36-year-old video. He released the video on Twitter proclaiming, “I knew Ginni Thomas. Ginni Thomas was in a cult (the large group awareness training cult, Lifespring). Here she is in 1989 [actually 1986] speaking at an event I hosted for former members. Until today, almost NO one has seen this video.”

After releasing the video Hassan later speculated, “Sadly, the people who helped deprogram Ginni were also apparently involved in right-wing causes. As is the case with SO many former members, she was overly susceptible and went from one cult to another (The Cult of Trump),” [sic].

Thomas was reportedly “deprogrammed” by respected exit-counselor Kevin Garvey. Garvey, who passed away some years ago, never influenced Thomas to change her political views. Quoted in the Washington Post he simply said, “I got a phone call from her asking for help,” Garvey then met with Ginni Thomas (1984) for eight hours at a diner in Georgetown. And he “left feeling satisfied that the young woman would be all right.”

Kevin Garvey had no interest in Thomas’ political beliefs and consistent with his professional ethics, only focused on her concerns about Lifespring, and nothing else. And it must be noted that Steven Hassan has a troubled professional history of client complaints and was admonished by his licensing board for misconduct.

By way of historical background, Ginni Thomas grew up in Nebraska raised by Republican parents. Thomas herself is a lifelong Republican and supporter of conservative causes. Her politics were not changed either by Lifespring or her process of leaving Lifespring.

Before marrying Clarence Thomas (1987) and becoming involved in Lifespring, Ginni Thomas graduated law school (1983) and worked in Washington D.C. for Nebraska Republican Congressman Hal Daub (1981-1983). Later, she consistently continued her conservative commitment, which included opposing equal pay for women and later (2000) working at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.

Many people disagree with Ginni Thomas’ politics, but that’s no excuse for using her pain and suffering through Lifespring to excoriate her.

Ginni Thomas’ was deceptively preyed upon and victimized by a destructive cult-like organization. This must not be used to shame or blame her in any way. A former cult member like Steven Hassan who says he empathizes with cult victims knows this. What is shameful is trading on Ginni Thomas’ personal history and suffering, shared intimately at a support group, and using it as “click bait” for self-promotion, because she is now trending in the news. And doing so is not only a betrayal of Ms. Thomas’ trust, but more importantly an ethical breach for any helping professional that claims to care about cult victims.

What is the message this video release sends about a notable public figure or anyone else for that matter, coming forward to share their personal experience?

Does it discourage or encourage others to come forward like Ginni Thomas?

Ginni Thomas wanted to help people. She said in the video, “I want to expose Lifespring, I want to keep other people from going through that experience.”

Is this the way we want to respond to someone who has suffered through such an experience and wanted to help others?

Does the release of this video encourage cult victims to come forward, either in an effort to help others and/or seeking solace and understanding through a support group, with people who can share about similar situations?

There is currently far too much politicizing of the word “cult.”

Today factions on the political right and left use the word “cult” as an invective to denigrate and demonize political opponents.

Now, with total disregard of the historical facts, Ginni Thomas is being shamed publicly and branded as “brainwashed,” despite the fact that her political beliefs were neither changed by Lifespring, nor by leaving Lifespring.

Finally, it may be sensational and garner attention, but Thomas’ sad experience with a cult-like group, before her marriage to Clarence Thomas, must not be politicized and cannot ethically be used as an indictment.

Exploiting the painful “cult” experience of Ginni Thomas is wrong.

Note: Destructive cults have been similarly defined by cult experts historically over the years. Frequently these definitions intersect on three primary core characteristics that form the nucleus for the definition of a destructive cult. These three criteria were first established by psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton when he published his findings (1981) at Harvard University in a paper titled “Cult Formation.” These three core characteristics are (1) The single most salient feature of a destructive cult is an absolute authoritarian and totalitarian leader, often charismatic, who becomes an object of worship and is the defining element and driving force of the group. (2) The leader and group use coercive persuasion and thought reform techniques to gain undue influence over group members. (3) Having gained undue influence the leader and group manipulate the members to exploit them and do harm. This varies by degree from group to group, with some groups being much more destructive than others.

By Brian Birmingham

The Moorish Science Temple of America is this country’s first and oldest so-called “Black nationalist” organization, as well as this country’s first and oldest “Black Muslim” organization. It was founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1913, by a man named Noble Drew Ali.

Noble Drew Ali called himself God’s prophet, and he presented a book which he said was given to him by an Egyptian high priest. This book is called the Circle Seven Koran. Ali said that he was the reincarnation of Jesus, as well as Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad. He also claimed that the Black nationalist and separatist Marcus Garvey was his John the Baptist, the person who “prepared the way” for him.

This description of Marcus Garvey is stated within Chapter 48:1-3 of the Circle Seven Koran, which is the holy book of the Moorish Science Temple of America.

Noble Drew Ali apparently took some of the ideas and teachings of Marcus Garvey and others to create a religion and write religious texts. Ali then presented himself as God’s prophet to the United States of America.

Noble Drew Ali is an important American historical figure. He was the first leader of a Black nationalist group in American history.

Noble Drew Ali

Ali played the pivotal role in establishing the Moorish Science Temple of America. And without Ali there would never could have been an Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam or a Louis Farrakhan.

The Nation of Islam is essentially a splinter group that broke away from the Moorish Science Temple of America in 1930, after the death of Noble Drew Ali in 1929.

Frank Cherry first started to preach an early version of what are now called the “Black Hebrew” beliefs in the late 19th Century. But it was Noble Drew Ali who first explained that Islam was the true religion of the “Asiatic,” which is a word he used instead of “Black” or “Negro” regarding African Americans.

This Summer I interviewed Sheikh Ra Saadi El, who is the Supreme Grand Sheikh and Chief of Ministers for the Moorish Science Temple of America. He is the leader and Executive Ruler of a Moorish American group, which is descended directly from Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temple.

More about Sheikh Ra Saadi El can be found here.

The complete interview is here.

We talked about Rise of the Moors, a group that was in the news in recent months. Rise of the Moors claims to be related to the historical Moorish Science Temple and also seems to borrow its ideas in part from the notorious Nuwaubians.

Within the context of my interview with Sheikh Ra Saadi El we discussed the general history, belief and practices of the Moorish Science Temple and the teachings of Noble Drew Ali.

Noble Drew Ali was the first person to preach that “Black people” are not “Black,” but rather Moorish, the descendants of the Moors and therefore are “Moorish” by nationality.

It seems to me that in religious and sociological terms, the Moorish Science Temple of America, with its lineage going back to Noble Drew Ali, has evolved into an Islamic sect, rather than simply staying an idiosyncratic personality cult, defined by its founder.

The Moorish Science Temple does have its own unique prophet Noble Drew Ali and book, Circle Seven Koran, its own prayers, rituals, Holy Days, mode of dress, dietary restrictions, style of worship and other religious trappings. But unlike many other Black Muslim groups, it is not a racist or an identity supremacist organization.

In its early days, the Moorish Science Temple fit two of the core characteristics described by Dr. Robert Jay Lifton is his paper published at Harvard titled “Cult Formation.”

Lifton wrote, “Certain psychological themes which recur in these various historical contexts also arise in the study of cults. Cults can be identified by three characteristics:

1. a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;

2. a process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform.”

But the third characteristic cited by Lifton necessary for a cult to be considered destructive is evidence that there has been “economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.”

Based upon what I have learned neither Noble Drew Ali or the Moorish Science Temple have hurt or exploited people within their sphere of influence. Perhaps the organization might be considered a benign cult. It did come into being through a charismatic leader that arguably became and object of worship based upon his particular religious claims and there was intense indoctrination that may have led to undue influence regarding the recruitment and retention of members. But Ali and the movement he began have never used that influence to exploit or abuse anyone.

I could not find any record of harm done to anyone by Noble Drew Ali, the Moorish Science Temple, or even allegations of abuse or exploitation.

In fact, the Moorish Science Temple of America has nothing whatsoever to do with extremist groups like “Rise of the Moors,” the so-called “Nuwaubian Nation of Moors,” or any other groups that use the name “Moors,” which are known to promote racist or supremacist ideology. And as an institution, or more properly a movement of historically linked institutions, as there are three Moorish American groups claiming to be historically descended from Noble Drew Ali’s original organization, they have virtually no history of bad press, major scandal, or public reports of abuse or exploitation.

Regardless of whether one believes that Noble Drew Ali was a prophet of God or not, no one can deny that he was and is one of the most important religious leaders of the 20th century, who left behind a legacy of peaceful practice.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

Brian Birmingham interviews Jitarth Jadeja

BB: How long were you involved?

JJ: I was a full fledged QAnon believer from January 2018 to June 2019, so 1.5 years.

BB: Why did you stop?

JJ: There’s no single answer to this. First of all, my circumstances changed, I was diagnosed and received medication for Bipolar-2 which in combination with my ADHD treatment shifted my mindset. This was followed by a reduction in my social isolation because of my chaotic mental state.

This then led me to question a few things I had previously accepted without consideration. But it was also inconsistencies within Q’s own rules that they had set out. It started with a piece by Mike Rothschild discussing the sealed indictments Q touted. Which snowballed into eventually coming across a video debunking the last and most significant Q proof I had which was the ‘tip top tippy top shape’ phrase used by Donald Trump.

BB: Did you believe in other things labeled conspiracy theories before QAnon? What were those other conspiracy theories?

JJ: When I found Q I was deep into a conspiracy rabbit hole. That fall really started with Trump’s election and spiraled quickly into Pizza-gate and interdimensional aliens amongst many others.

BB: What do you think now about those conspiracy theories?

JJ: I hate conspiracies. I don’t even want to discuss them; I can’t stand any of them and looking back they’re so idiotic and complicated with bigger more grandiose conspiracies needed to explain initial conspiracies. I hate that.

BB: What drew you into the world of conspiracy theories?

JJ: I needed to feel special, I wanted answers, I wanted to mean something, be significant in some way, to know that despite being a consummate failure in every aspect of my life from career, education and relationships, that there was still some way I could not feel like someone on the lowest rung of the social hierarchy that I was.

BB: Do you think there is a type of person drawn to conspiracy theories?

JJ: I don’t know, I don’t think so, there’s correlation factors like say mental health or social isolation but these are correlations. The overwhelming majority of people with mental health issues don’t fall into QAnon. Ditto with social isolation. Just because they were factors for me doesn’t mean they would be for anyone else so it’s not possible to build an archetype of such a person with any certainty.

BB: Do you think Info Wars and Alex Jones is a scam?

JJ: No. I think he genuinely believes in what he says. He’s even been correct about a few things such as Bohemian Grove [sic]. And even his products that he sells, maybe it’s just placebo but they do work as advertised so no I don’t think it’s a grift. I think he’s connecting dots and making assumptions where he shouldn’t.

No one is more indoctrinated than the indoctrinator.

BB: Have you lost money through believing in conspiracy theories?

JJ: Not really but then I never had money to begin with or I’m sure I would have. I lost time, which is something you can’t buy.

BB: How do you think believing in conspiracy theories hurts people?

JJ: I think when you perceive the world that is so juxtaposed to the one that others see, not slightly, not a small shift, but almost completely opposite it changes your behavior and your actions. That is the real damage of such conspiracy theories, it’s not the beliefs really, it’s the behavioral change that occurs.

BB: What advice would you give to people caught up in conspiracy theories right now? What do you think they must consider? Why?

JJ: You must always genuinely consider the fact that you could be wrong. If you are sure you’re not wrong, then you have a problem.

BB: What advice would you give to someone that has a family member or friend caught up in conspiracy theories?

JJ: I wouldn’t know, it depends on the person, their actions and behaviors. Some I would say to focus on their change as a person and remind them that their beliefs are not an excuse to behave badly towards others.

To others I would say distract them, get them a hobby, find a way to get them to spend less time-consuming conspiracy related media.

And to others I would say run, run as far as you can, as quickly as you can, the person you knew is dead, they are gone and they are never coming back.

BB: Do you think QAnon will ever end? Will it go on indefinitely?

JJ: Everything ends, of course it will end. As long as Trump is around and in the picture it won’t though and before it ends, ironically there will almost be a personal reckoning, a “great awakening” of a different kind that will need to be grappled with. There will be fallout, people will get hurt, people will hurt themselves, hurt others, that cannot be stopped. We’ve crossed the Rubicon, there’s too many people in it now.

BB: Why do you think people often hop from one conspiracy theory to another?

JJ: It’s almost like a drug, the first time you read something that makes your head explode released a massive amount of dopamine. It’s like people keep needing that hit, that mind blowing effect and keep looking for it with other conspiracies. But at the same time, they need a bigger and bigger hit so they find bigger and bigger conspiracies.

BB: Do you think that you are done with the world of conspiracy theories? Why?

JJ: 100%

I hate them, I hate them all, from Epstein to UFOs, I don’t care, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to know about it, I don’t want anything to do with it.

BB: Did believing in conspiracy theories make you happy? Did it make you sad? Anxious and paranoid?

JJ: It made me all of that and more. It gave me hope that somehow, we could build a better future for all of humanity of we just ousted the bad guys. It also made me sad that people couldn’t see the truth I could. I was agitated, anxious, paranoid, aggressive and almost manic in my behaviors. I couldn’t talk about anything else to anyone, it was like being possessed.

BB: Is it healthy to believe in conspiracy theories or can it lead to extreme paranoia and anxiety?

JJ: I don’t know what that means to “be healthy,” I don’t think you can proscribe such a description to a belief. Beliefs are irrelevant, it’s the behavior that changes that is either healthy or unhealthy. You can believe anything you want but it’s your actions that come after which is what does damage. Why does one person who believes the same thing as another, not behave in the same way? End

Note: Jitarth Jadeja is a former follower of QAnon who now speaks out against the movement. Brian Birmingham is a cult researcher and graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology.

By Brian Birmingham

I once knew an older gentleman who lived near Mobile, Alabama. He called himself a “Christian” and he refused to read or study from any Bible other than a King James Version. He was retired, and he studied the Bible every day for hours. He was friendly and generous. We became Bible study partners and friends.

After weeks of study together, he began to share some of his personal beliefs and opinions.

That’s when it became evident that he was a racist.

But all of his racism was justified through interpretations of the King James Bible.

“Everything” he said was somehow explicitly spelled out and justified biblically, he claimed.

First there is the “Curse of Cain” (Genesis 4:15), which he interpreted as a premise for black slavery and servitude. Then he claimed that Acts 17:26 laid the foundation for biblically mandated segregation. He later told me that that Jeremiah 23:25 was the basis for denouncing Martin Luther King, Jr. as a “false prophet.”

He rejected all my arguments and insisted that “God” had commanded that the races must live separately and that black people specifically must be subservient to white people.

Within the world of “cults” these same racist sentiments are expressed by certain groups, who also insist that such pronouncements are solely based upon “God’s Word” in the Bible.

There is a group called “Twelve Tribes,” founded by Eugene Delbert Spriggs, that preaches Biblical justifications for holding racist beliefs. But Spriggs simply copied his teachings from other racists.

We often call groups that harbor such sentiments “White Supremacists.”

Now on the other hand what many don’t know is that there are also Black Supremacists.

The Ku Klux Klan marching on parade.

Black Supremacists often manipulate the bible too, much like the Ku Klux Klan and my old white racist friend from Alabama. The only difference is, which race is considered preeminent.

For example, the so-called “Black Hebrews” or “Black Israelite” movement, which includes “Israelites United in Christ” (IUIC) led by Nathaniel Ray of New York, also known as “Nathanyel Ben Israel.”

The IUIC represents just one faction, within the larger context of Black Hebrew or Black Israelite movement. But in many ways the IUIC is not unlike the Klan concerning their insistence upon ordained racial superiority.

By the way, the IUIC is hardly original. Just like the Twelve Tribes its beliefs are largely derived from earlier groups such as the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK), which is arguably even more militant.

Would Martin Luther King be considered a “false prophet” by such groups due to his philosophy of non-violence and peaceful resistance?

Years after my studies with the man from Alabama I came across a street preacher on a sunny Spring Day in downtown Dallas. He was accompanied by several supporters. The preacher blasted his message through a bullhorn, while his companions passed out flyers to pedestrians. They wore dark, tunic-like uniforms. Some had headpieces and they all carried Bibles. They were Black Israelites.

I stopped to listen and read one of their flyers. It was published by Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK). The message was hardcore Black Supremacist doctrine. All about how African Americans, and other people of color, are the true descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. How Christianity is a “false religion” and white people are “devils.”

Hate speech is still free speech in America. And the ISUPK preacher shared a racist and anti-Semitic message based upon a twisted interpretation of the Bible.

Were they so different from the Klan or the White Supremist Christian Identity Movement or any other supposedly Bible-based hate group?

Scripture twisting, after all, is characteristically done by both.

Black Israelites preaching

FYI — The Anti-Defamation League provides a very good history of ISUPK and related groups on its website, in an article titled “Extremist Sects Within the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement.” It explains how the ISUPK and IUIC have the same ideological roots, beginning with a preacher named Frank Cherry.

I stood and listened to that street preacher, which apparently drew his attention. He said, “If you are truly sorry for all the evil done by white people, bow down and kiss my boot.” He explained, “Talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words. Humble yourself before this descendent of slaves that your ancestors tormented and exploited. Kiss my boot.”

So, I did it.

All the Black Israelites clapped as I rose to my feet and shook the hand of the preacher, who seemed genuinely surprised.

I was interested in his reaction and how my act of contrition might affect him.

Would this change his opinion of me or about white people?

“I didn’t think you would do it,” he said.

And then he put his arm around my shoulder like a friend.

Then he said, “After the race war, which is coming, I will make sure that you are a well-treated slave.”

We talked for a while after that, but he never really changed his mind about me or white people. There was nothing I could do or say to persuade him. He was just
as rigid as my old white Bible study partner.

Today there are many hate groups online recruiting new members. Some have been banned on social media, while others have not.

YouTube has policies concerning hate speech.

However, groups like the IUIC, led by Nathaniel Ray, operate with impunity, using social media to spread hate, recruit and raise money. The IUIC is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok and uses the app Clubhouse.

Nathaniel Ray IUIC

See the IUIC YouTube channel and the many indoctrination videos available there. For example, the one titled, “Let’s talk Israel United in Christ” by IUIC founder Nathaniel Ray. Ray explicitly calls whites and Jews the “Devil” at the 14-minute mark.

Ray provides a very concise explanation of the basic beliefs of the IUIC. He says that European Jews are “Edomites” and are themselves the “Devil.”

I have no regrets about my brief encounter with the ISUPK or boot kissing. It helped bring some clarity about the nature of all hate groups and how rigidly they hold onto their hate, whether someone kisses their boot or whatever.

When someone has hate in their heart it’s hard to change them. They see the world in black and white, “us vs. them.” And this distinction isn’t about race, it’s about the dichotomy and limits of their thinking and the rigidity of their mindset.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

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