Today US District Court Judge Gene Carter dismissed a lawsuit filed in Maine by the Gentle Wind Project (GWP) against Rick Ross and the Rick A. Ross Institute For The Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements (RI).

The judge also denied the plaintiff’s motion for any further discovery, effectively ending the litigation in Maine entirely regarding both this “cult watcher” and the nonprofit RI database.

Previously, Maine magistrate David Cohen recommended that the suit be dismissed and the presiding federal judge agreed, ruling swiftly.

Judge Carter also refused to hear any oral arguments on the matter.

GWP is a nonprofit charity run by John and Mary Miller of Kittery, Maine. The group holds seminars across the country and sells “healing instruments” for suggested donations reportedly ranging from $450 to upwards of $10,000. GWP claims that its instruments are based upon a healing technology that is supposedly channeled telepathically from “spirit world.”

Some time ago I called the group “rather odd” in a Flaming Website award, which was given after GWP published a rant about me at their Web site. That rant was prompted by a link posted at the RI Links page to a Web site launched by former members of the group James Bergin and his wife Judy Garvey, which is critical of the group.

The Garvey/Bergin Web site describes the healing tools as modern day “snake oil” and claims that the group manipulates its members. The couple left GWP about four years ago after a 17-year involvement.

GWP’s lawsuit initially included several defendants, now only two essentially remain, Ms. Garvey and Mr. Bergin.

One defendant Ian Mander of New Zealand did not respond to the legal action and has been declared in default. He continues to carry negative information about GWP with a link to the Garvey/Bergin site. Mander warns that GWP is an “extreme New Age group. Believed by many to be a…cult/scam.”

Other defendants in the lawsuit Steve Gamble and Ian Fraser negotiated a settlement, which restricted the content and meta tagging of their Web site, and included deleting their link to the Garvey/Bergin site. That settlement allows them to retain some information about GWP, but within certain guidelines.

One defendant dismissed from the suit through settlement, noted anti-cult professional Steven Hassan, has complied completely with GWP demands by deleting any and all information about the group from his Freedom of Mind Web site.

The remaining active defendants Bergin and Garvey also received good news today from the court; one of the primary counts against them was dismissed.

Since the filing of the lawsuit GWP has garnered increasing media attention, which has largely been critical of both the group and its products.

“Our concern is that they are scamming people by selling basically pieces of paper and plastic,” attorney Carl Starrett of the Special Investigations Agency of California told a San Diego news channel last year.

Starrett later said, “The whole thing is ludicrous. They’re bilking people.”

“It seems the Gentle Wind Project is selling what Health Canada considers ‘risk class 1′ devices, something the group is not allowed to do without a license” reported Now Magazine.

Robert Baratz, president of the National Council Against Health Fraud in the U.S. said that GWP’s scientific explanations of their instruments are “high-sounding phrases that mean nothing.”

While doing a story about the lawsuit a reporter for the Ellsworth American dug into the publicly accessible financial records of GWP.

The group’s latest IRS disclosure shows assets of $2,077,324 as of August 31, 2003, up from $1,918,205 the year before. Revenue for the 2002-03 fiscal year totaled $1,969,923, with expenses totaling $1,810,804.

Direct donations, accounted for $1,889,227 of revenues.

Expenses during the 2002-03 fiscal year included $1,015,899 for “program services.” The project spent $358,995 in compensation to officers and directors.

As president of the corporation, Mary Miller earned $71,799 during the 2002-03 fiscal year, the same salary as the corporation’s treasurer and clerk.

GWP also spent $379,845 for other salaries and wages. Expenses also included $43,474 for employee benefits and $176,072 for “supplies.”

The project’s books also show that gifts, grants and contributions collectively totaled $4,112,751 during the fiscal years that began in 1998 through 2001. Total revenue for that same period was $5,593,033.

One filing notes a $231,660 loan to a GWP employee who is the brother of a corporation officer. No purpose for the loan is listed.

The Attorney’s General office in Maine is reportedly “looking into” GWP.

According to court records GWP has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Prominent Massachusetts attorney Douglas Brooks who was generously assisted by local counsel William H. Leete Jr. of Portland, Maine represented the Ross Institute pro bono.

GWP’s current attorney Daniel Rosenthal seems unfazed by the group’s latest legal setbacks. “It streamlines things and creates a tighter focus,” he told the Portland Press Herald.

However, it seems like Gentle Wind has blown its situation badly through all its legal wrangling and would have been better off as a quiet breeze.

Singer Lauryn Hill sold millions of albums in the 1990s and won a Grammy. But the rapper and world class singer now seems more concerned with preaching than performing.

During a scheduled Christmas performance at the Vatican Hill blasted the Catholic Church reports the Anti-Music Network.

Reading a prepared statement Hill told the audience, “I’m not here to celebrate, like you, the birth of Christ, but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death in this place.” She added “Holy God has witnessed the corruption of your leadership of the exploitation and abuses which are the minimum that can be said for the clergy.”

Hill then did a protest song, rather than the selection that was scheduled.

So what prompted the rapper to rap the church?

It seems Hill, like so many other celebrities, is under the spell of a charismatic leader.

She follows someone called “Brother Anthony” and the two are “inseparable” according to Rolling Stone.

The rapper reportedly often begins statements with “Brother Anthony says…”

“I met someone who has an understanding of the bible like no one else I ever met in my life. I just sat at [his] feet and ingested pure scripture for about a year,” Hill told MTV.

“It was like she was being brainwashed by this man, believing everything he was saying and tellin’ her what to do. I think he’s just looking at a cash cow,” observed a former Hill friend.

Like many people that have been recruited by groups called “cults” Lauryn Hill met Anthony at a vulnerable time in her life, after a series of personal and professional setbacks.

It seems likely that the speech Hill read at the Vatican was prepared under the influence of and/or scripted by the singer’s mentor. And rather than hearing from Hill the Vatican audience may have heard what “Brother Anthony says…”

The singer’s recent performance in Rome is unlikely to be heard by the Italian public on a coming radio broadcast and will probably be edited out.

No Grammy for this one Ms. Hill.

Yesterday the national television program Inside Edition ran a report about John Gray and his educational credentials.

During that interview Gray admitted that he has no accredited degree from any institution of higher learning.

The Ross Institute/CultNews was cited as a source and I commented within the broadcast.

Gray told Inside Edition, “I don’t need to put Ph.D. by my name I’m the most famous author in the world.”

It seems the “good doctor” may have overlooked a few other authors and that modesty was not something Gray learned at those unaccredited colleges he attended and/or corresponded with.

Gray insists, “I’m not a fraud.”

John Bear, Ph.D. (an accredited degree) is a top expert on correspondence schools. He told Inside Edition that Gray’s doctorate from an unaccredited school “holds a lot less weight” than one from an accredited institution, but that having it branded on all his books must have helped sales.

“People look for respectability. Would [Gray] reach [millions] in sales with the non-Ph.D.? I would guess not,” Bear said.

Immediately following the airing of the Inside Edition program email started flowing to CultNews from Gray’s fans, though some seemed more like the cult followers of a charismatic leader, rather than people receiving advice from a supposed relationship expert.

Here are some excerpted examples:

“I was appalled to see your ‘judgement’ of Dr. Gray on Inside Edition tonight based on his degrees… he does have all three, a [Bachelors], [Masters] Ph.D., no matter what the accreditation issues are to date. A degree does NOT qualify intelligence. Are you next going to bash Bill Gates for his lack of credibility in growing a very successful business? Mr. Gates has NO degrees, along with many intelligent leaders of yesterday and today who have contributed so much to society. I have personally spoken to people with Ivy League degrees who have no common sense at all!”

However, Bill Gates did not base his career on essentially misleading credentials like John Gray, who constantly uses the moniker, advice from “Dr. Gray.”

The impression Mr. Gray sought to make, was that whatever philosophy he promoted, it was coming from a highly trained and degreed professional in the area of marriage and family counseling.

In every bio or introduction, it was always “Dr. John Gray,” John Gray, Ph.D. etc.

He also became a professional member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), even though he did not meet their minimum educational requirements.

Perhaps Mr. Gray should have promoted himself as simply “John Gray a man with ‘common sense’ and a high school education.” Though as Dr. Bear points out this probably would not have been as effective for the marketing of his books.

Another viewer wrote, “I was outraged at your daring stupidity to talk about something you have no idea what you are talking about in Inside Edition and through your nasty website…There are very few people in this world who have been able to do what John Gray has done for the benefit of others in the history of this world…The greatest people in this world never held a degree, Jesus Christ, being the greatest of all…John Gray has accomplished what he has accomplished, meaning his capacity to lift and help human kind, not because he has or does not have a stinking degree. The degree is totally irrelevant. John Gray developed, through divine intervention, a new science, a new understanding, an understanding of the human soul to help us live in peace and harmony.”

“Jesus Christ…[and] divine intervention”?

It seems like this viewer has elevated Gray to the status of a “Sacred Science,” which cannot be questioned.

However, “Dr. Gray” emphatically insists upon his titled prefix and uses it constantly, so apparently he doesn’t think it’s “totally irrelevant.”

There were also numerous personal attacks, following the old axiom “if you don’t like the message kill the messenger.”

Here are a few:

“What degree do you hold? How many people have you affected for good in this world? You are no match to John Gray.”

“You are very jealous, get over it. John Gray is better than you are.”

“Why do you feel comfortable applying such standards to everyone but yourself. I am also curious how you can reconcile your finger pointing with the [Jewish] law of lashon hora [gossip].”

I have never attended college.

My bio linked from CultNews states my education plainly as does the CV posted at the Ross Institute (RI).

Clearly the impression John Gray sought to make was that whatever philosophy he promoted, it was something coming from a highly trained and educated professional. Subsequently, it is certainly not “gossip” to report about Mr. Gray’s lack of accredited degrees.

The area of marriage and family counseling is a field typically populated by state licensed professionals. Ironically, John Gray insists upon licensed mental health professionals for his own Mars/Venus counseling centers.

The following comments came in from someone who had a more personal experience with John Gray:

“I was a…repair technician and went to ‘Dr. Gray’s’ house…I…had no idea that I was going to THE Dr. Gray’s house. I…[was] there for about one hour and 15 minutes…During that time He parked his car…in such a way that blocked my car. He seemed pissed when he had to go outside and move his car. I remember that. I overall didn’t like him…He had an assistant that he seemed to treat rudely…The guy is kind of a jerk, if you ask me!”

The fictional hero created by author J.K. Rowling continues to be a “whipping boy” for religious fanatics worldwide.

This past Sunday members of the “Jesus Non-denominational Church” of Greenville, Michigan burned copies of Harry Potter along with other damned books at a church bonfire reported Associated Press.

Like Germans under Nazi rule these zealots were led to believe that evil can be spread easily through inanimate objects like reading material.

The Nazis liked to condemn art too and they staged more than a few book burnings.

Church members in Michigan shouted “Hallelujah,” “Thank you, God” and “Burn, devil, burn” as the tomes turned to cinders and some CDs sizzled.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, other fanatics picked up on the same theme.

“The Harry Potter books are evil. They teach sorcery and run counter to the Bible,” proclaimed Ling-Leung Church preachers in Taiwan as reported by CNN.

Like their fellow fanatics in America the Taiwanese church members managed to burn some books too.

Meanwhile the latest installment of Harry Potter has sold 1.8 million copies in Taiwan alone. And the author has repeatedly stated publicly that she is not interested in promoting witchcraft, which she doesn’t even believe in personally.

Magic or sorcery in the Potter books is obviously only a theme utilized as a vehicle for fantasy.

Nevertheless a church leader in Michigan warned about allowing “Satan to take the minds of our children.”

But isn’t bad behavior or evil more likely to come forth from a mindset built upon unreasonable fear, paranoid suspicion and hysteria?

A controversial conservative Catholic organization called the Legionaries of Christ founded by a Mexican priest accused of sexual misconduct, appears to have some influence over the family of the President of Mexico , reports Newsweek.

The second wife of President Vicente Fox has historic ties to the group and two of his children have attended its schools.

Former members allege the group is excessively authoritarian and abusively controlling.

The Legionaries of Christ control 10 universities and 154 private schools.

Critics claim the group often seizes control of such institutions in what can be seen as a somewhat hostile take over process, purging those who don’t hold to their strict view of Catholicism and harsh style of governance.

There have been repeated and serious complaints within the United States by lay Catholics, priests and educators regarding the organization.

Recent defectors from a controversial Chilean group, which has been called a “cult,” offered shocking accounts of their existence within the tightly controlled community, reports Knight Ridder Tribune.

Life within the collective commune known as Colonia Dignidad is harsh. Leaders expect hard labor and exercise total control, confided “cult” escapees. They fled to freedom with nothing, but the clothes on their backs.

However, Colonia Dignidad itself is rich.

The commune consists of 70 square miles, which includes forest and 37,000 acres under cultivation. Its assets have been valued at $5 billion.

A Nazi and former Baptist preacher created this veritable “cult” empire. Founder Paul Schaefer, fled Germany for Chile in 1961 amidst charges of sexually abusing orphan boys.

Schaefer apparently continued his predatory ways inside the Chilean “cult” kingdom he established. The leader supposedly disappeared in 1996, while under investigation for 27 child abuse charges. Schaeffer would now be in his eighties.

More than 70 criminal investigations remain pending against Colonia Dignidad.

However, it seems authorities are afraid to seriously pursue and/or confront the “cult.”

The community has its own laws and security forces. It was rumored to have sinister connections to the regime of former Chilean dictator Pinochet.

A recent refugee from the group said, “There are more people who still want to get out.” But it is doubtful anything will be done to rescue them.

An American tourist disappeared, while hiking near Colonia Dignidad in 1985. He is believed dead, reportedly “executed” as a “Jewish spy,” by members of the group.

Colonia Dignidad appears to be a stark example of what can happen when a “cult” becomes so powerful it can seemingly make its own law, with little if any meaningful accountability to the government.

When it comes to cash, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi perhaps the worlds richest guru, has so much he’s apparently out looking for investment opportunities.

One such opportunity popped up through a piece of prime property located within one of Chicago’s historic districts, reports the Sun-Times.

Maharishi’s business arm, called “Maharishi Global Development,” is now engaged in the expensive renovation of a 22-story Blackstone building, which it is refurbishing into 39 luxury condos.

The estimated cost is $135 million.

How does this project promote the guru’s vaunted goal of world peace?

Developing luxury condominiums for the rich in a historic downtown neighborhood is certainly a savvy business move. But how does that achieve progress for humanity along the spiritual path outlined by Maharishi for planetary salvation?

Well, maybe “global development” actually means real estate development?

The guru seems to be meditating on a business plan to enhance his burgeoning investment portfolio, rather than the often-stated goal of global harmony.

His status as probably the world’s richest guru apparently wasn’t enough for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He created his own country and currency, which generated some attention.

Maharishi seems to like attention.

But maybe the attention this time is unwelcome. The Dutch Central Bank is investigating the old guru’s funny money called the raam, reports Yahoo.

In the sixties Maharishi hung out and/or hung onto the Beatles. They eventually ditched him.

Maybe the Dutch will make him ditch the raam?

A 35-year-old white supremacist allegedly recruited teenage boys as young as 13 in Wisconsin and offered them weapons training, reports WISN News in Milwaukee.

Michael Faust was arrested after authorities found illegal weapons stashed at his grandmother’s farm.

The racist was reportedly teaching teenagers to fire weapons at a nearby field.

Faust previously served prison time for attempted murder.

As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about with drugs, drinking and sexually transmitted diseases, they may now need to add racist recruiters to their list.

But Faust could pull 60 years for his latest offense. That sounds about right, to help families keep their children safe by taking the racist off the streets, at least until he’s too infirm to walk them.

New York Times reporter Kate Bates wrote a telling piece about the Manhattan yoga scene titled “Yoga, Unlike Fashion, Is Deep. Right?

Bates discusses in part controversial yoga guru Eddie Stern.

Stern has a studio in lower Manhattan and has taught Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Christy Turlington. He has his critics though. Classes at the Broom St. studio are tough, structured and what Bates calls “boot camp yoga.”

The NY Times writer offered some interesting observations. She refers to yoga as “a spiritual discipline…not known for logical rigor.” And says this “secretive, exclusive ritual” has a “whole change-your-life fervor…where you feel that a new identity can be precipitated.”

Wait a minute, this sounds like religion. Whatever happened to just being focused on shedding pounds and making muscle, instead of some “spiritual” “ritual” to “change your life”?

But Bates says, “the doctrines of yoga might be aimed at the conquest of the self.”

Huh?

And “the practice of getting there” is suffused with a “feeling of belonging, of believing for a moment that you are fresh and new and recreated.”

Hmmm.

This exercise practice seems to have another agenda. Is it about getting in shape, or reshaping your mind?

Warning. If you are not interested in consciousness raising regarding some new “spiritual” awareness, but instead just want to raise a good sweat, maybe the local gym is a better choice than some yoga classes.

It appears that many yoga enthusiasts are gathering around gurus and learning more than healthy exercise.