By a concerned Jewish mother

Our family practiced Conservative Judaism. My son graduated valedictorian from high school and went on to the University of Pennsylvania where he was accepted into the Wharton school of business. This was the school of his dreams and economic and finance were his career aspirations.

Our son was a person who was always surrounded by a warm family and many friends. He excelled in almost everything he tried and he was the kind of person who always put other people’s needs before his own.

During his time at the University of Pennsylvania, he was active at the gym, joined a fraternity, and excelled academically. He won an award secured a position at a prestigious investment bank in New York. My son was at the cutting edge of his field, with a bright future and a role model to others.

But then he became involved in ultra-Orthodox “Jewish outreach” or Kiruv organization named Meor. During his second year of college my son was approached by Rabbi Shmuel Lynn of Meor. He was offered a large sum of money (for a college student) to attend a weekly lecture series, where he was supposed to become in touch with his “Jewish roots.” He was recruited into the so-called “Maimonides Leadership Program,” which purportedly would make him somehow become a “better person” and “successful leader”.

Rabbi Shmuel Lynn

He would attend weekly seminars and Friday “Shabbats” with other students who were raised within secular Jewish families or families that practiced Conservative Judaism or Union of Reform Judaism. These seminars were led by Rabbi Shmuel Lynn and culminated in a “FREE” trip to Israel and Poland where they were to learn about the Holocaust, the existence of God, and the importance of getting in touch with your Jewish roots.

When our son came home from the Israel trip, he had changed. He began to keep Kosher. He began to isolate himself slightly from his fraternity and his friends. He began to become more heavily involved in the Meor program. After graduating the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania our son sat down with his father and me one night while at a Sushi restaurant and announced, “I decided I don’t want to take my job at the investment bank. Instead I want to study in a Yeshiva in Israel – at Machon Yaacov.”

We pleaded with him to at least spend a few years working at the investment bank before make such an abrupt change. His father and I asked him if he would at least work for two years. And if he still wanted to give the Yeshiva a try after that we would be more likely to support it. He reluctantly agreed.

Our son moved to Manhattan and started working in the city for the investment bank. He lived with one of his fraternity brothers who also graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

My son went to weekly Shabbatons in New York and would met regularly with local Rabbis of the community. After one year of working at the investment bank he became involved in the West Side Kollel, Kollel Yisroel VeShimshon, where he met Rabbi Mordechai Prager. Shortly after that our son’s life took a drastic downward spiral.

Rabbi Mordechai Prager

First, our son declared that he would no longer work on Shabbat. And that he must leave work early to go and study at the Kollel. He also broke off an engagement after Rabbi Prager told him that he must honor “Chok Hanegiya” and was not allowed to be in the same room with his fiancé until they were married.

His relationship with his family also deteriorated. Our son’s behavior became erratic and he would run away in the middle of a sentence. He neglected his father, even when he became ill with lymphoma. He lost all care and interest in his niece and nephews.

Rabbi Prager and Rabbi Prager’s wife recommended that my son take time to study in Israel. He was then introduced to another rabbi in New York, whose name he never disclosed. This rabbi recommended that he go to study at Yeshiva Tehilas Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva school run by a group of Haredi Litvak Jews. Our son was told by the rabbis not to disclose to us under any circumstances where he was going. He was also told to lie to his parents and told us that he would only be going for two months. And that he would be back soon to go back to work after completing two months of Yeshiva study in Israel.

Our son left in the middle of August 2017 to Yeshiva Tehilas Shlomo in Jerusalem, which is headed by Rabbi Pinchas Leibovic. At the end of September our son announced that he was not coming back. Not in one year. Not in two years. Now our son announced that he would stay at the Yeshiva for at least five years. He had no intention of going back to work or coming back to live in the United States.

My husband attempted to reach out to Rabbi Pinchas Leibovic. But his calls were not returned. My daughter’s husband tried to reach Rabbi Liebovic and after a dozen attempts, a disgruntled man picked up the phone and said “I can see why he left his family. If you were my family I would leave too.”

In December 2017 our family took a trip to Israel to visit a sick family member. Our son told us that he would not be able to meet with anyone or see anyone because it would cause too much conflict.

We decided to go to the Yeshiva he attended, which is located at Ramat Hagolan 57 in Jerusalem. We found our son living in a run-down apartment. He had not showered, was unshaved, pale, dressed in a black hat, white shirt, and a black suit, soiled and covered with stains. He looked unkempt and dirty. His face showed no emotion and instead he had a flat affect, and appeared subdued and depressed. He agreed to go to a restaurant, but would not eat any food.

At the end of our visit he thanked me, his father, sister, and niece for coming and gave them a hug.

We were able to persuade him to come home for a visit during Pesach. He returned home in 2018 six months after beginning his studies at the Yeshiva. Our son planned to visit us for two weeks. Immediately after coming off the plane, his brother-in-law noticed that he was quite withdrawn. Our son seemed restless and agitated in the car when music was playing and walked with his head down, looking at the ground. When he arrived home he announced that no one could enter his room to keep it free of Hametz.

We soon found out that the restrictions set up by his rabbis were endless, extreme, and very difficult to accommodate. He was not allowed to eat in restaurants, even if they claimed to be Glatt Kosher and were in Orthodox religious enclaves, including New Jersey and New York. Our son obsessively inspected every piece of food for very specific Hekshers. He would not use a phone, not even to navigate when he had to drive. He would not look out the window.

We agreed to all of his demands as best we could. We koshered our oven, even catered strictly Glatt kosher food and purged every bit of hametz per his instructions, following every rule he had been told by his rabbis.

But our son stopped talking to us. He would only read and study the Talmud. He woke up at 5 AM, dressed in a suit and tie, never showered, and left for the nearest ultra-Orthodox synagogue to pray or to some Hasidic Yeshiva to study. And when he was home he would pray by himself, reading his Talmud and isolating himself from everyone that was not ultra-Orthodox, including his family and old friends. He also said bizarre and completely uncharacteristic things. For example, during a Seder he mentioned that women do not need to use a pillow because “Women don’t need to recline, only men do.” This was rude and confrontational, which is totally unlike our son.

The rabbis from Yeshiva Tehilas Shlomo called our son as soon as Pesach was over. They wanted to check up on him to make sure he was following their restrictions and regulations in our home. After those phone calls, our son’s mood changed for the worse. He became stressed, overwhelmed, agitated, and restless. He was ill-tempered and curt with us. He stayed in his bedroom totally isolating himself. He acted depressed and did not readily communicate with us.

We were very worried about his behavior and asked our son if he would sit down and have a serious family discussion to address our concerns.

The next day, he announced that he was unable to stay in our home, eat any of the kosher food we had purchased, and was so uncomfortable that it was necessary that his visit be cut short. Instead of a two-week visit he ended up staying for only one week.

We begged our son and pleaded for him to stay and talk with us and have some quality time devoted to family interaction and discussion. He repeatedly refused.
My son was living in fear. He acted like he was in a state of horror. His mind was not his own.

Our son was transformed by Meor and a network of “Jewish Outreach” rabbis that completely changed his life through their undue influence. He was once independent, analytical, well-informed, free thinking, happy-go-lucky soul. Now he has been distorted into a miserable, tired, rigid, condescending, racist, and empty person dependent upon his “leaders” for every basic life decision.

Beware of the so-called “Jewish Outreach” movement promulgated by ultra-Orthodox rabbis like Rabbi Mordechai Prager. What they call getting in touch with your “Jewish roots” seems more like the kind of manipulation associated with “brainwashing” than legitimate Jewish studies. They recruit on college and university campuses much like controversial religious groups called “cults.” But they specifically target Jewish students. Everyone should be more aware about who they are and how they have negatively impacted Jewish families. Hopefully our story will help to enlighten people and serve as a warning.

Note: CultNews and the Cult Education Institute has received many complaints over the years from Jewish families about the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Outreach movement and its network of rabbis operating on college and university campuses across the United States. This heartbreaking account by a concerned Jewish mother is sadly not unique and instead seems to reflect the familiar pattern and practice seemingly understood within the movement. That is, to recruit Jewish students regardless of their existing denominational affiliation, submit them to intense indoctrination and then feed those recruits into cooperating yeshivas in Israel. Many of these students stay in their assigned yeshivas for years and some never return from Israel.

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Sherry Daniel, PhD runs something called “The Miracle School” from Seattle, Washington. Daniel sells her “miracles” online through the Web. For example, if you provide the headphones Sherry will somehow supernaturally make them miraculous headphones. She explains, “It is important to purchase headphones that have a band over the head and a padded earpiece that fully covers your ears. These more substantial kind of headphones give me an object that is sturdy enough to hold the kind of Miracle Link that make the headphones perform at this level of power.” Sherry concludes, “The Correct Exchange for the Miracle Link for the Headphones is US $70.”

Daniel’s devotees called “Heaven Agents” pay their heavenly hostess thousands of dollars for her “Source Directed” mystical powers. These spiritual gifts evidently can only correctly come through Sherry as apparently she alone is the only reliable “Direct Source Connection” in this world. But being connected through this exclusive channel isn’t cheap. Sherry cosmic “Miracle Tools” can get quite pricey.

Sherry Daniel explains, “There are several ways in which a Miracle Tool can be created: I provide the object and the Miracle Link that transforms it into a Miracle Tool. You provide the object and I provide the Miracle Link. This kind of Miracle Tool can be created in two ways: You can pick a Miracle Tool that I suggest, provide the object and I transform it into a Miracle Tool. I offer some suggested Miracle Tools in the list below to give you some idea of what is possible.”

Sherry Daniel

But then comes Daniel’s so called “Correct Exchange” rate. Sherry determines this somehow supernaturally. She says, “I then check in with the Design and Implementation Aspects of my Source Identity to see if this Miracle Tool can be created for you and if so, what the Correct Exchange will be. I then communicate this to you and you decide if you would like me to go forward with creating the Miracle Tool.”

Some self-proclaimed “psychics” have been arrested by police for using supernatural claims to bilk their clients. Psychic scams are not new or unique on the Web and Sherry Daniel’s brand of miracles has garnered criticism.

Someone not happy with Daniel’s influence states, “I have a sister who is a highly intelligent person, but she appears to be completely brainwashed by this Sherry Daniels cult. Through my sister I discovered they talk about aliens and how we are all connected and that Sherry Daniel is in fact God – the Source, as my sister refers to it all. She has pledged all of her money.”

CultNews has received complaints about Sherry Daniel. According to one source Daniel solicited and received thousands of dollars from one devotee in a matter of months for her supposed supernatural help.

What is Sherry Daniel up to?

Is she a psychic medium making money or a PhD trying to start a new religion?

You can watch Daniel lay out her cosmic plan through an online video.

Whatever Daniel is doing it certainly involves copious amounts of cash. And she effectively uses the World Wide Web like a net to catch customers.

Is Sherry Daniel like a predatory spider lurking on the Web?

Reza Aslan’s series “Believer” on CNN ran an episode about Scientology last night. And as expected it was misleading and a disappointment to almost any serious Scientology watcher. CNN has done some great work exposing the bad behavior of Scientology, but Aslan let CNN down by providing half-truths and misleading information to its viewers.

Aslan started out by admitting he has been called an “apologist” when it comes to Scientology and perhaps other “new religions” referred to as “cults.”

CultNews noted in a previous report that an online CNN article promoting the Aslan’s Scientology show featured two academics, David Bromley and J. Gordon Melton, used by Scientology as “religious resources.” Both of these “scholars” have been called “cult apologists.”

In the show last night Aslan featured an interview with yet another apparent apologist Donald Westerbrook, Lecturer, Center for the Study of Religion, University of California, Los Angeles, who offered no meaningful criticism of Scientology, but rather whatever explanations the controversial church had provided. Westbrook has said, “I suspect that Scientology’s theology, practices, and marketing will continue to provide promising case studies for understanding contemporary intersection points between science and religion.”

Reza Aslan

Aslan flippantly dismissed Lawrence Wright and his book “Going Clear” about Scientology by challenging the author to criticize Jesus.

But according to the New Testament Jesus didn’t collect fees from his disciples and unlike L. Ron Hubbard didn’t leave this earth a wealthy man. Jesus was poor and sought nothing in any material sense. Hubbard arguably designed Scientology as a business to make money. Scientology and its founder have historically been described differently than Jesus. “The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be reflective of its founder LRH,” wrote California Superior Court Judge Paul Breckenridge during a top Scientology defector’s court suit against the church. “The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements,”

When Aslan describes what is called Scientology’s “tech” he failed to include how expensive it is or what the fees are charged by “independent Scientologists” who have now gone into business separated from the original organization. Aslan compares Scientology to McDonalds in a dispute with former franchise holders over its “secret sauce.” It’s actually Jack in The Box that has a secret sauce, but never mind, this mistake stating the facts is minor when compared to the mountain of misleading information Aslan lays out during the show.

Aslan compares the Protestant Reformation to Scientology independents withering away in tiny enclaves. But the defections of Scientologists has little to do with doctrine and more to do with the bad behavior of the organization under the dictatorial rule of David Miscavige. And as Aslan should know, unlike Miscavige, the Pope is elected.

What viewers see throughout the episode is aging Scientologists clinging onto to an imaginary Hubbard that belies the reality of history and his genuine biography. Independent Scientologists can be seen as an example of cognitive dissonance, not a serious and substantial movement for reformation. The comparison made by Aslan is laughable if not pathetic and doesn’t reflect any serious historical research or scholarship.

Even in Aslan’s happy compliance when he submits to an auditing (spiritual counseling) session there is no meaningful explanation of what is actually happening. That is, an interrogation of someone with the aid of a machine called an e-meter. What Aslan fails to disclose is that “Hubbard was granted a US patent in 1966 for a ‘device for measuring and indicating changes in resistance of a living body,’ but the original electropsychometer was developed in the 1950s by psychoanalyst Volney G. Mathison.” And that “since a 1963 US food and drug administration edict, Scientology can no longer refer to E-meters as having any medical use: they are now ‘religious artifacts’.”

Aslan correctly states that the e-meter can be seen as part of a “lie detector.” So auditing within Scientology might be more accurately portrayed as a form of coercive persuasion aided by a machine to intimidate the subject.

Independent Scientologist and auditor Randy then puts Aslan through a training routine (TR) within Scientology known as Bullbaiting (TR 0 Bullbait). In this routine the subject is baited to have an emotional response to confrontational conversation, such as insults. Randy throws a few softballs and Aslan does the same in their exchange. It would have interesting to watch Randy’s reaction if Aslan has thrown him a few curve balls, such as all that according to the coroner’s report when Hubbard died his “blood contained traces of Hydroxyzine, also known as Vistaril,” a psychotropic drug prescribed by psychiatrists for anxiety. Did Scientology’s “tech” fail its founder? Aslan doesn’t touch upon this historical fact, which might really upset Randy.

Aslan concludes that Scientology is not unlike the Roman Catholic Church that has had its share of clergy abuse scandals. However, this comparison doesn’t take into account that the Catholic Church has paid out more than $1 billion dollars in compensation to the victims of sexual abuse and changed its policies to address this issue. Meanwhile Scientology has paid out relatively little to its victims and has not significantly changed the policies that hurt them. Likewise, unlike Pope Benedict IX, David Miscavige has not stepped down for an early retirement, but rather remains fully in charge of Scientology.

Reza Aslan may have proven that he has a bright future as an apologist for “new religious movements” (NRM) called “cults,” following in the footsteps of Bromley and Melton, but as a supposed intellectual inquirer he falls flat in his show about Scientology. What Aslan proves instead is that he is not an objective student of history when it comes to Scientology.

Note: The Cult Education Institute (CEI) has one of the largest historical archives online about Scientology. It represents more than 20 years of work and research and covers everything Scientology, from real estate holdings to Scientology’s damaging policy of “disconnection.” CEI founder Rick Alan Ross, author of the book “Cults Inside Out” and a court qualified expert on Scientology, explains within an educational video how Scientology manipulates and controls people.

Update: Reza Aslan’s show “Believer” was later cancelled by CNN.

Recently the Cult Education Institute (sponsor of CultNews) received a very serious complaint about Steven Hassan, a cult specialist and licensed mental health professional based in Boston, Massachusetts. Hassan is also the president, treasurer, secretary and director of a for-profit corporation called “Freedom of Mind.” The complaint concerned the fees and questionable conduct of Steve Hassan concerning the counseling he provided to a former cult member.

Hassan charged thousands of dollars for his services draining the former cult member’s savings.

Steven Hassan’s former client said that Hassan’s counseling was worse than his bill. The former client characterized Hassan’s counseling as debilitating and damaging. The former cult member stated, “I did feel traumatized both during and after my therapy with [Steve Hassan].” Hassan’s former client subsequently sought and received professional help to recover from the counseling. The former cult member noted that “other professionals in the field” who were subsequently consulted described Steve Hassan’s counseling “as both unprofessional and potentially dangerous.”

Steven Hassan

Steven Hassan

Steve Hassan has a long history of complaints, including complaints filed with his licensing board.

On April 20, 2012 Hassan was officially notified by the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health Professionals in Massachusetts that he was facing an official complaint filed by a former client against him. The board advised Hassan in an Order to Show Cause, that he might have his license as a mental health professional revoked or suspended.

The Massachusetts licensing board decided to forward the complaint for prosecution (In the matter of Steven A. Hassan Docket No. MH-12-014).

In June 2011 Hassan was served with three subpoenas and he retained an attorney to respond to those subpoenas. Hassan’s attorney then wrote a letter to the individual that served him, which contained the names of two former clients. Subsequently Hassan posted the letter publicly at his website “Freedom of Mind” and also used both Facebook and Twitter to further share the contents of the letter.

According to Hassan’s licensing board he violated ethical provisions of both the American Mental Health Counselors Association and the American Counseling Association (ACA). Specifically regarding “client confidentiality” and the expectation that “no information will be released without the client’s permission and written consent.”

Hassan’s licensing board also cited an ACA ethical code violation of “failing to respect the dignity and promote the welfare of clients.”

The Massachusetts licensing board concluded that Hassan’s conduct constituted “unprofessional conduct and conduct that undermines public confidence in the integrity of the profession.”

Attorney Jessica Uhing-Luedde was the prosecuting counsel for the Division of Professional Licensure. And a court proceedings later took place in Boston, Massachusetts.

On November 16, 2012 the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Service Professionals in Massachusetts officially notified Steve Hassan that the complaint filed against him by a former client, which was forwarded for prosecution, was dismissed without prejudice.

It must be noted that when a complaint is dismissed without prejudice, unlike a dismissal with prejudice which is final, the complaint may not be dismissed forever and can potentially be reopened.

Within its official notification of dismissal the licensing board felt it was necessary to “remind [Steve Hassan] of the rules and regulations that govern all licensed mental health counselors in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

The board specifically focused on “the limitations of social media and the importance of maintaining confidentiality.” The board told Hassan that he must “monitor any posts on social media websites to ensure that patient confidentiality is never compromised.” And that “the responsibility for maintaining patient confidentiality always falls upon the mental health counselor.”

The board admonished Hassan, “All licensed mental health counselors are expected to adhere to these standards and failure to do so may result in disciplinary action against your license.”

It would seem, based upon the prosecution of the complaint and admonishments by his licensing board that Steve Hassan narrowly escaped disciplinary action.

CultNews learned that another complaint was filed against Steve Hassan with his licensing board more recently. However, this complaint was dropped and not prosecuted.

The Cult Education Institute has had a disclaimer posted concerning Steve Hassan since May of 2013. This disclaimer notes the numerous complaints received about Hassan.

From time to time the Cult Education Institute receives complaints and reports of other concerns expressed about cult intervention practitioners. The institute makes every effort to follow up on those reports and relay them to the individuals involved for their response. Steve Hassan is the only deprogrammer/exit-counselor about whom CEI has received numerous and consistent complaints over a period of years involving matters of cult intervention methods, fees, and professional ethics.

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It appears that noted religious studies scholar Reza Aslan has become of a spin-doctor for Scientology. The best-selling author of three books and professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside will host a series on CNN titled “Believer” to premiere Sunday March 5th.

Here is what the public intellectual had to say to UCR Today about the controversial organization Scientology, which has frequently been called a “cult” by its critics.

“People know about Scientology, but they don’t really know what Scientologists actually believe or do. What I wanted to do was shed light on that aspect of it, including auditing. … I had the opportunity to visit Scientology groups around the world and to really focus on what makes this a successful, and perhaps the most successful, new American religion of the 20th century.”

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan

What Scientology does has been widely reported for decades including the Time Magazine cover story “Scientology: Cult of Greed,” to more recent accounts such as the book “Going Clear” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright and the documentary “Going Clear” by Alex Gibney. Historically, Scientology has frequently been accused of exploiting its members and in some cases brutal treatment through its Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF). Apparently Professor Aslan spent little if any meaningful time studying such historical information.

Instead Aslan says, “Scientology is a very secretive religion, a religion that, in their view, has not had a fair shake from the media.”

Aslan then talks about “being audited” and that he “went through four or five hours” and it “was an extraordinary experience.”

Aslan appears clueless about how Scientology’s auditing, confessionals, done with the aid of an e-meter machine, which can be seen as a crude lie detector, is used by Scientology as leverage to manipulate its members. Moreover, notes taken during the auditing process by a Scientology auditor are routinely passed along and become part of person’s permanent file within Scientology. And such files have allegedly been used to intimidate Scientologists and denigrate former Scientologists.

Has Reza Aslan become an apologist for Scientology?

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Claims in a lawsuit filed against cult specialist and court expert Rick Alan Ross and others were dismissed last month. United States Federal Judge Katharine S. Hayden ordered, “NXIVM’s claims against…Ross, the Ross Institute [now known as Cult Education Institute], [Dr. Paul] Martin, and Wellspring Retreat…dismissed in full.”

The legal action was filed against Ross by a relatively obscure self-help guru named Keith Raniere of Albany, New York who runs a group called NXIVM (pronounced nexium). Media coverage regarding Raniere has often focused on his wealthy followers, particularly Clare and Sara Bronfman, two heirs to the Seagram’s Liquor fortune of billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr. The Bronfmans have apparently backed many of Raniere’s schemes and lawsuits.

Raniere, whose followers call him “Vanguard,” sought to silence criticism of his large group awareness training (LGAT) programs staged through his company NXIVM formerly known as “Executive Success Programs” (ESP). Through ESP/NXIVM Raniere trains participants to believe in a composite philosophy he calls “Rational Inquiry.” Raniere appears to have largely copied ideas for his LGAT from Scientology, Ayn Rand, Werner Erhard and Amway.

Keith Raniere

Keith Raniere

Raniere was once an Amway distributor and later put together his own multi-level marketing scheme called “Consumer Buyline,” which ultimately failed when legal restraints were placed on Raniere.

The lawsuit known as NXIVM v. Ross, was first filed in New York and later moved to New Jersey. The litigation dragged on for more than a decade through a series of legal maneuvers and stalling tactics managed by NXIVM through its successive attorneys. The lawsuit centered upon three reports. Two by a psychologist and another by a psychiatrist about the NXIVM programs. Raniere didn’t like what the doctors had to say and so he sued both of them, Ross, the Cult Education Institute (formerly known as the Ross Institute of New Jersey) and others after the reports were published by the institute online.

Psychologist Paul Martin wrote one report titled “A Critical Analysis of the Executive Success Programs Inc.” and another “Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as applied to the Executive Success Programs.

Psychiatrist John Hochman wrote a report titled “A Forensic Psychiatrist Evaluates ESP.

A family hurt by NXIVM commissioned the reports and was also sued. One family member who had gone through NXIVM training provided study notes regarding the programs, which largely formed the basis for the doctors’ criticism of the LGAT. Raniere included members of the family as codefendants in the lawsuit filed against Ross.

Raniere attempted to obtain an emergency court injunction to remove the reports from the Web. But the injunction was repeatedly denied including on appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The reports have never been removed from the Cult Education Institute database and have remained intact and online throughout the litigation.

Raniere claimed defamation, copyright and trade secret violations because the doctors quote the study notes to make specific points in their reports.

Judge Hayden evaluated the defendants’ argument that quotes from NXIVM’s study notes constituted “fair use.” In her opinion she concluded, “The Second Circuit held that this fourth factor ‘weigh[ed] heavily in defendants’ favor.’ NXIVM, 364 F.3d at 482. ‘It is plain that, as a general matter, criticisms of a seminar or organization cannot substitute for the seminar or organization itself or hijack its market.’ Id. The Court agrees, and finds that defendants’ use of NXIVM materials was limited and protected critical reporting under the fair use doctrine. Defendants did not attempt to use the copyrighted work for commercial profits, for unfair business advantage, or as an attempt to compete. Insofar as plaintiffs characterize the psychologists’ articles as an attempt to undermine NXIVM’s business, the Court notes there are First Amendment concerns to be reckoned with. ‘If criticisms on defendants’ websites kill the demand for plaintiffs’ service, that is the price that, under the First Amendment, must be paid in the open marketplace for ideas.'”

Keith Raniere lost another lawsuit recently when U.S. District Judge Barabra M.G. Lynn dismissed his claims against AT&T and Microsoft. Raniere sued based upon claims that he held certain patents, which the companies had violated. However, his apparently false testimony unraveled the case. Judge Lynn subsequently awarded attorney fees and costs to both defendants, AT&T $935,300 and Microsoft $202,000.

Clare Bronfman

Clare Bronfman

Raniere has spent millions of dollars in legal fees and costs on NXIVM v. Ross alone. But the money to pay for such frivolous litigation comes from his wealthy supporters such as Clare and Sara Bronfman, not his own pocket. The Albany Times-Union reported that NXIVM “has swallowed as much as $150 million of their fortune.”

Meanwhile throughout the long NXIVM v. Ross litigation that ended last month in dismissal of all claims against cult specialist Rick Alan Ross, Dr. Paul Martin and the Cult Education Institute they were represented pro bono by a number of lawyers. Beginning with Douglas Brooks of Massachusetts and Thomas Gleason of New York and later by Peter Skolnik, Michael Norwick and Thomas Dolan of Lowenstein Sandler in New Jersey. And there was additional help provided by both Public Citizen of Washington D.C. and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Due to the dedication of these attorneys, law firms and public interest groups freedom of speech prevailed and a purported “cult” leader’s efforts to censor criticism backed by a billionaire’s daughters failed.

Note: Keith Raniere and NXIVM are mentioned within the book “Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out” by Rick Alan Ross. Raniere’s training scheme is cited within a chapter about LGATs (large group awareness training).

Falun Dafa, more commonly known as Falun Gong, is recruiting on Boston University (BU) campus. The group, which has been called a “cult,” has weekly meetings attached to the Marsh Chapel at BU.

The Falun Dafa Club announced at the BU website that it wants to teach “exercises,” but the group will also “study spiritual teachings.”

College students have historically been targeted by groups called “cults” as a vulnerable demographic over the years going back to the 1970s.

BU has a history of exposing cult recruitment on its campus going back to the 1980s. Dean Robert Thornberg once opposed a group called the International Church of Christ, which was banned from many college campuses. He said, “I refer to it as a destructive religious practice.” Thornberg said that ICOC was “banned” at BU beginning in 1989 and he noted that “a whole bunch of other colleges use [the BU] model.”

Dean Robert Thornberg

Dean Robert Thornberg

Often when cults recruit students it can negatively impact their studies. In a 1989 interview Thornberg explained, “We figure in 1989, at the high point here, 40 students dropped out entirely to follow them. Two guys were second year medical school students. They dropped out after four years of college and two years of med school.” He added, “An awful lot of kids were swept up by [the ICOC] and the results were almost always a disaster.”

An authoritarian leader named Kip McKean led the ICOC. McKean was extolled as “The one man God has used above us all.” One ICOC leader explained within the group’s official publication, “There is no greater discipler, disciple, brother, husband, father, leader, and friend than Kip McKean. Some say it is dangerous to respect any one man that much. I believe it is more dangerous not to.”

Master Li

The authoritarian leader of Falun Dafa is Li Hongzhi, known to his disciples as “Master Li.” Purportedly imbued with divine authority Li supposedly knows “the top secret of the universe.” He says, “No religion can save people” only the “almighty Fa,” which Li exclusively represents.

Falun Dafa exercises and meditation are an introduction into the world of Li Hongzhi and his idiosyncratic teachings, which revolve around Li’s often egocentric claims.

Li Hongzhi

Li Hongzhi

Li Hongzhi’s teaches his followers that only he can install an invisible spinning “falun,” which is a mystical “wheel of law” within their abdomens telekinetically. This is the key to salvation, and the basis for incredible health claims, such as a cure for diabetes and the ability to reverse aging.

Falun Dafa practitioners believe that whatever Li Hongzhi says is right is right and whatever he says is wrong is wrong. Master Li’s authority is absolute.

The absolute authoritarian role of Li Hongzhi has caused many researchers and academics familiar with cults to see Falun Dafa as a personality-driven group that fits the description of cult formation.

Hateful teachings

CultNews has reported about Li Hongzhi’s racist and homophobic teachings. Li has said that “mixed-race people [are] instruments of an alien plot to destroy humanity’s link to heaven.” And that interracial unions are somehow part of “a plot by evil extraterrestrials.”

Li Hongzhi has also claimed that a “black substance” accumulates in the body due to homosexuality, which causes bad health. He labeled the LGBT community “disgusting,” and stated one day the LGBT community will be “eliminated” by “the gods.”

What will BU do to protect its students from this hateful and homophobic “cult” recruiting on its campus?

Will students be informed?

Will BU educate its students about the dangers of cults?

A new voice in Marsh Chapel?

Marsh Chapel

Marsh Chapel

Dean Robert Thornberg died in 2013. He was once the Dean of Marsh Chapel at BU. Thornberg oversaw religious activities at BU and taught at its School of Theology. “For 23 years he was the voice of Marsh Chapel,” according his obituary in the Boston Globe.

Now Falun Dafa has announced it will be a weekly voice within the “Room of Robinson Chapel, Marsh Chapel, Boston University.”

Note: The book “Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out” has two chapters devoted to Falun Gong. One focuses on the history of the group and its leader and another about how an American family staged an intervention to get someone out.

Children are dying of medical neglect needlessly while the Idaho State legislature dithers doing nothing to protect them.

The Idaho Statesman recently reported that five children died directly due to medical neglect because their parents belong to religious groups that don’t believe in modern medicine.

But rather than being prosecuted for manslaughter parents in Idaho are instead protected by a religious exemption.

Religious groups such as General Assembly of the First Born and Followers of Christ implicitly expect adherents to refuse medical care.

But does religious liberty preclude the right of child to live and somehow negate the responsibility of a parent to facilitate proper care? Certainly such needless deaths fit well within the realm of child abuse of the worst sort.

Parents have been charged, convicted criminally and sentenced to prison terms in other states for what apparently is considered a religious right in Idaho.

The Child Fatality Review Team annual report covered 2013 and now brings the total number of deaths to 10 since 2011 in Idaho.

All five dead children added to the list recently were infants.

Causes of death included birth-related complications and according to authorities they all could have been saved with proper medical care.

Why won’t Idaho protect helpless babies?

Well, Idaho Governor Butch Otter says that state lawmakers have agreed to at least talk about it, but so far there is no schedule even set for the promised discussion.

While the lawmakers look for an opening on their calendars children continue to suffer and die needlessly in Idaho.

Other states have removed religious exemptions regarding the medical care for minor children such as South Dakota, Oregon and Colorado.

When will Idaho act? How many more deaths will it take to convince legislators that changing the law is necessary?

Former White House director of public liaison Linda Chavez says, “As I have for the past few years, I will be emceeing an event that brings together tens of thousands of opponents of the Iranian regime…”

But does Ms. Chavez know that the “convener of the Paris conference” she will emcee is a purported “cult” leader once officially recognized by the US as a terrorist?

The event convener is Maryam Rajavi, wife of notorious “cult” leader Massoud Rajavi (rumored to be dead). The couple is known for their authoritarian control of the so-called “People’s Mujahedeen” (MEK), which was once listed by the United States State Department as a “terrorist organization.” That is, until 2012 when it was decided that the MEK be dropped from the list.

However, Mila Johns of the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism told Wired, “The delisting of the MEK, following a well-funded political lobby campaign, creates the dangerous impression that it is possible for terrorist organizations to buy their way off the [terrorism] list.”

Maryam Rajavi

Maryam Rajavi

In a 2004 New York Times Magazine reported about the “cult-like behavior” of the MEK. Journalist Elizabeth Rubin wrote, “Every morning and night, the [MEK] kids, beginning as young as 1 and 2, had to stand before a poster of Massoud and Maryam, salute them and shout praises to them,” One former member told Rubin that the group was little more than a “husband-and-wife cult” that subjected its adherents to enforced celibacy and public confessions of sexual desires. Rubin reported that not unlike some of the most extreme cults MEK members were often extremely isolated within a compound where there was little if any access to “newspapers or radio or television” and that all devotees knew was whatever Mr. and Mrs.Rajavi “fed them.”

In a recent interview a former Rajavi follower Masoud Banisadr said that “In MEK, we were not even allowed to think of our children and their well-being.” He further explained, “You have to teach your children: instead of loving you, love the leader.” Banisadr is the author of the book Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez

Why would Linda Chavez want to align herself with such a notorious group? Is it possible she is clueless and doesn’t know the group’s history and how the MEK has hurt and/or horribly exploited people?

Or is Ms. Chavez simply picking up a paycheck?

Four years ago the BBC reported that “the going rate for a pro-MEK speech seems to be $20,000 (£12,500).”

How much might the purported “cult” be willing to pay for a prominent emcee to imbue its event with a patina of authority?

Is Linda Chavez cashing in on her past status as the highest-ranking woman in President Ronald Reagan’s White House? Or is she trying to look important after the embarrassment of not being confirmed as President George W. Bush pick for Secretary of Labor?

Why would someone like Ms. Chavez want to help a “husband-and-wife cult” once listed as a terrorist organization?

Cult leader Jim Roberts is dead. He died in Denver during December according to an official coroner’s report obtained by a member of the Cult Education Institute (CEI) message board. Roberts ruled with absolute authority over his small flock of followers, which probably never numbered much more than a hundred core members.

The relatively obscure group often drew attention because of its bizarre behavior. Known as both “The Brethren” and “The Brothers and Sisters” the group was also frequently called the “garbage eaters” due to its practice of feeding from garbage dumpsters. The nomadic cult recruited on college campuses and was the subject of news reports when students that joined suddenly vanished.

Roberts, a former Marine, known to his followers as “The Elder” or “Brother Evangelist,” lived a very secretive life and was rarely photographed. In 1998 an ABC News crew, led by journalist Dianne Sawyer, managed to confront him. Roberts subsequently refused to answer questions and quickly ran away.

Jim Roberts

Jim Roberts

Roberts was pronounced dead on December 6, 2015 at 6:59 AM. The likely cause of death was cancer. Cult members identified the body and claimed that Jim Roberts had not seen a doctor in 40 years.  Upon his death Roberts, who was 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 105 pounds and was clothed in a green T-shirt, khaki trousers and an adult diaper. Authorities obtained fingerprints and digital photographs.

Followers in the Roberts group often “suffered health problems” that could have been cured through modern medicine. Instead at times they died due to medical neglect. One reportedly passed away from pneumonia.

The Roberts group claimed to be based upon the bible, but was known for encouraging its members to terminate contact with family with and old friends. Members then wandered from place to place under Roberts’s guidance fund raising and attempting to persuade people to join the group. Cult members lived largely from charity and whatever food they could find, much like homeless people. One former member explained that Roberts “weaseled his way into control until next thing you knew he was running every aspect of your life.” Another former member described Roberts as a “paranoid megalomaniac.”

CEI has maintained a subsection about the Brethren led by Jim Roberts since the 1990s. Many complaints over the years came from families desperately trying to locate lost loved ones submerged in the group that remained isolated and dominated by Roberts. Hopefully, now that Jim Roberts is dead some of those families will find their lost loved ones through restored communication. However, it is likely that long-time Roberts loyalists, influenced by the cult leader’s teachings, will try to maintain the group mindset and to some extent its historic pattern of behavior.

Note: There is a website run by parents of members of the Jim Roberts group. Many are still searching for their children.

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