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Selected news summaries of recent press reports are posted below.
Older news summaries are posted on the News Archive page.

Families say this “healer” cast a spell on their girls

“Dressed in a theatrical felt hat and quilted jacket, this is the first picture of self-styled ‘healer’ Anne Craig to emerge since a Mail on Sunday investigation accused her of helping to tear apart some of the country’s [UK’s] best-connected families. For four weeks Craig has refused to comment despite mounting allegations that she helped isolate a string of impressionable young women from their friends and families. They include highly educated society girls Laura Hue-Williams and Victoria Cayzer.  . . . Through her lawyers, Craig—who is understood not to have any recognized qualifications and is not a member of a professional body—has denied any wrongdoing. . .” The godmother of another former Carig client commented, “The method is to isolate you from friends and family. I told my goddaughter that this was toxic and she agreed that she would stop seeing Craig.”  The Mail on Sunday report continues, “Meanwhile, a businesswoman believes that her daughter was saved because she was older and more skeptical about the ‘healer.’ Her daughter was a friend of Victoria Cayzer, who recommended Craig. She said: ‘My daughter did not see Craig for long because she thought it was ridiculous. When she tried to raise this with Victoria, Victoria said they could not be friends unless she was on “the journey” with Craig.’ Last night, former Home Office Minister Tom Sackville, an anti-cult campaigner, joined the Mail on Sunday’s call for a law to extend the existing protection of children to vulnerable adults too.  . . . Professor Rod Dubrow-Marshall, a director with the International Cultic Studies Association, also called for new protection. He said: ‘Anyone is susceptible to psychological manipulation and mind-control. The guru usually has some kind of psychological disorder, such as a narcissistic personality disorder. They yearn to have people worship them.’″ (Daily Mail, 6/1/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Alleged polygamist leader of cult-like Ontario church pleads guilty to “corrections and chastisements”

“It didn’t take much to set off Fred King, the leader of a small, isolated church [Church of Jesus Christ Restored] in Chatsworth Township, just south of Owen Sound, Ontario. Sometimes he’d deliver ‘corrections and chastisements’ by punching, kicking or spitting on parishioners, an Owen Sound court heard Tuesday. Other times he used humiliation or did something such as squeezing a child’s hand with crushing force for fighting with a sister. The victims were his parishioners. In one case when a teen tried to run away, his grandmother tattled and Fred King, who was known simply as ‘The Prophet,’ retaliated fiercely with a beating at a Sunday church service. King, 57, of Chatsworth Township, pleaded guilty before Superior Court Justice Clayton Conlan Tuesday to nine assaults which took place between Dec. 12, 1988 and Aug. 10, 2008, mostly in Chatsworth Township or Grey County, and in one case in Peel Region, involving four church members. Other charges King faces are to be withdrawn when he’s sentenced Sept. 14, Martin said afterward.” (National Post, 05/11/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Germany opens files on Nazi pedophile sect in Chile

"Germany is declassifying its files on Colonia Dignidad, a sect in Chile run by a Nazi pedophile. . . Colonia Dignidad was a German commune founded in 1961 by convicted pedophile Paul Schaefer and a group of fellow German immigrants in a remote part of Chile, where residents were indoctrinated and kept as virtual slaves over three decades. . . . ‘The handling of Colonia Dignidad was not a glorious chapter of the history of the foreign ministry,’ said Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. For many years, from the 60s to the 80s, German diplomats looked the other way, and did too little to protect their citizens in this commune,’ he said as the ministry screened a movie about the case starring Emma Watson and Daniel Bruehl.  . . . In 1997, Schaefer faced a series of lawsuits and fled Chile. He was arrested in Argentina in 2005 and subsequently convicted in Chile for sexual abuse of children, arms possession and human rights violations. He died in a Chilean jail in 2010 while serving a 20-year sentence.” (The Local, 04/27/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Germany seeks extradition of Nazi sect pedophile doctor

“A doctor who was convicted in Chile for complicity in child sex abuse at the Nazi-tied Colonia Dignidad commune may have to serve out his sentence in Germany. Hartmut Hopp, 76, was the right-hand man of convicted pedophile Paul Schäfer, who in 1961 founded the notorious German commune Colonia Dignidad in Chile where residents were indoctrinated and kept as virtual slaves over three decades. Schäfer also collaborated with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose secret police used the colony—which lies around 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of the capital Santiago—as a place to torture opponents. Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal had also reported that infamous concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele, dubbed the ‘Angel of Death,’ had been at the colony. Hopp was convicted in 2011 for complicity in 16 cases of child sex abuse, but returned to Germany before the final court ruling was imposed two years later. But now prosecutors in western Germany’s Krefeld have demanded that Hopp serve out his five-year jail term in his country of origin, a spokesman said.  . . . Former residents of the commune are bringing a lawsuit against the Chilean state for allowing the camp to operate for years, during which they say numerous victims were abused and enslaved. The history of the commune inspired last year’s film Colonia starring Emma Watson. (The Local, 06/08/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Evidence contradicts Exclusive Brethren denial that group is antigay

“The Exclusive Brethren (EB) church has denied that it is ‘resolutely anti-gay,’ even though it mistreats its gay members, and has launched numerous political campaigns against the rights of LGBTI people starting over a decade ago. Fairfax Media has reported that the cashed-up separatist religious sect, which donates secretly to the Liberal Party, has ‘virulently anti-gay’ attitudes.” Fairfax Media obtained a number of internal documents, including a note in which EB leader Bruce Hales “tells a young girl she should not live with her father because he is homosexual.” . . . The EB’s PR representative Benjamin Haslem said, "The Church has never campaigned against LGBTI individuals or communities." (The Age, 06/19/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Exclusive Brethren school gets record funding

 “An exclusive private school run by an ‘extremist cult’ that warns children to stay away from the outside world and bans its graduates from physically attending university receives more in government funding per student than up to a third of the state’s public schools. Data obtained by Fairfax Media from the MySchool website reveals that a school [Meadowbank Education Trust (MET)] run by a Protestant religious sect, the Exclusive Brethren, receives $800 more in public funding per student than Homebush West, which has been forced to ban children from running in its playground due to overcrowding.  . . . Private schools that receive a similar level of public funding, such as Emmaus Catholic College in Kemps Creek, have one-twentieth the level of private donations. The combination of a high level of donations and public funding has meant that the Brethren school has been able to guarantee funding of up to $22,000, per student per year, more than many private schools secure through student fees, according to MySchool data.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 7/5/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

$13.5M award vacated in Jehovah’s Witnesses abuse case

In 2012, Jose Lopez filed a lawsuit at the San Diego Superior Court claiming he was molested at the age of 7 by a leader in a Jehovah’s Witnesses Church. Church elders recommended that Lopez and his mother attend the services because Gonzalo Campos, the church leader, would be a good mentor for Lopez. The church elders recommended Campos even though they knew that he had molested a boy as early as 1982. Lopez said Campos spent months grooming him and then assaulted him one day at Campos’ La Jolla home. The boy told his mother, who reported it immediately to the church leadership. The elders told her they’d handle the situation and discouraged her from calling law enforcement, the lawsuit says. Once the trial began, Campos later confessed to abusing at least eight children between 1982 and 1995. He fled to Mexico around 2010 after San Diego police were notified and is believed to still be there, said Lopez’s lawyer, Irwin Zalkin. “Lopez’s lawyers put on a six-day trial in front of the judge, without Watchtower’s lawyers there to offer a defense. In the end, Judge Lewis handed down a default judgment of $10.5 million in punitive damages and $3 million in compensatory damages against Watchtower.” In April 2016, however, an appeals court threw out the $13.5 million judgment against the governing body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses church. However, the “ruling by the state Fourth District Court of Appeal hits the reset button on the case, potentially leading to another trial but with one major caveat—that documents concerning past sexual abuse cases in the church should be turned over.” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 04/14/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Russian Supreme Court refuses to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses branch

“Russia’s Supreme Court on Friday declined to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Tyumen as [an] extremist organization, RAPSI reports from the courtroom. The Tyumen Regional Court ordered the liquidation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses branch in 2015. The court granted a motion filed by prosecutors and declared the group extremist. The Supreme Court thus reversed the lower court’s ruling.  . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses have had many legal problems in Russia.  . . . In January 2014, a court in Kurgan ruled to ban the organization’s booklets as extremist. The books talk about how to have a happy life, what you can hope for, how to develop good relations with God and what you should know about God and its meaning. In late December 2013, the leader of the sect’s group in Tobolsk, Siberia was charged with extremism and the prevention of a blood transfusion that nearly led to the death of a female member of the group. In 2004, a court in Moscow dissolved and banned a Jehovah’s Witnesses group on charges of recruiting children, encouraging believers to break from their families, inciting suicide and preventing believers from accepting medical assistance.″ (RAPSI, 04/15/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Jehovah’s Witnesses face £1M legal bill after young girl was sexually abused by one of its members

“The Jehovah's Witnesses face a million-pound legal bill after a young girl was sexually abused by one of its members. The victim, now aged in her 20s, was molested by an elder, or ‘ministerial servant,’ Peter Stewart, over a five-year period in Loughborough in the 1980s and ‘90s, London’s High Court heard. Last year, a judge ordered the organization to pay £275,000 compensation to the victim for failing to protect her or to warn other parents about Stewart. The church sought permission to appeal the decision. But this week an Appeal Court judge rejected their application to appeal, and said the church should pay Stewart's victim £275,000 compensation and the massive legal costs of the case, which have been estimated at around £1 million. Stewart, who carried out Bible study sessions and door-to-door evangelical rounds, molested the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on a weekly basis.” (Leicester Mercury, 07/08/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Hitler-loving Korean sex cult lures young girls as “spiritual brides” for serial rapist

“A notorious cult which allegedly brainwashes young women into having sex with a serial rapist is luring potential members in major cities across Australia. South Korean group Jesus Morning Star (JMS)—who[se leaders] praise Hitler and preach members will be purified by having sex with their leader—are [sic] believed to be recruiting in shopping centers and universities in Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne. The quasi-Christian sect was founded in 1980 by Jung Myung-seok (JMS), who is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Seoul for raping and molesting his followers. He is due to walk free in 2017. The highly secretive group, also known as Providence, is believed to have spread to Australia through a number of front organizations, including fashion modelling classes and Bible studies. Members say they are groomed into following a ‘doctrine’ which enforces sleep deprivation and encourages severing ties with family in order to be ‘spiritual brides’ for Jung. Former followers have told Daily Mail Australia of the devastating impact the cult had on their lives and said they were left psychologically and emotionally scarred after leaving.” (Daily Mail Australia, 05/20/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

FBI raids of Hasidic Kiryas Joel “part of sex-abuse probe”

“FBI raids in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel are reportedly part of a child abuse investigation stemming from two recently released videos in which a yeshiva principal intimately touches two young boys. The Journal News reported Friday that an unidentified law enforcement source said Thursday’s raids, targeting the United Talmudical Academy and the town’s public safety building, were investigating abuse allegations. Kiryas Joel, in upstate New York, is an almost exclusively Hasidic community, with the majority of its residents part of a branch of the Satmar sect.  . . . The videos of the principal were reportedly taken several months ago using a ceiling camera hidden in his office. It is not clear who hid the camera and leaked the videos. According to The Journal News, the Satmar school’s board of directors issued a statement Tuesday defending the principal.” (The Times of Israel, 05/13/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Danish cult that claims demons cause autism arrives in Spain

“A religious group is staging several ‘spirituality seminars’ this weekend in Barcelona, claiming that its members—through Jesus—can heal people with a variety of conditions, including autism. The Last Reformation, an evangelical Christian group founded in Denmark by Torben Sondergaard, arrived in Spain on Friday for a series of spirituality seminars.  . . . The group will be going out onto the streets of Barcelona . . . to practice ‘kickstarting’; performing ‘miracles’ and healing the sick . . . under the supervision of team members from The Last Reformation,’ according to the seminar guide, published online.  . . . The group is particularly proud of the miracles performed by its members, promoting them across its social media, on Facebook and YouTube. One video shows a member of The Last Reformation laying his hands on a woman with crutches, who immediately discards them and walks unaided.” (The Local, 05/06/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Moonies offer olive branch to former cult leader who died in Bedford, UK

Former Moonie Dennis Orme gives tribute to his beloved wife Doris and her work as a spiritual pioneer and as a “restored Eve.” “Doris Orme traveled the world organizing the Unification Church, criticized for its brutal pre-marriage ceremonies, sex rituals and its tyrannous former leader Rev Moon.” The Ormes left the church after a public fallout with Rev Moon. They returned to Mr. Orme’s hometown Bedford in 2014. Doris Orme passed away in Bedford Hospital after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. She published God Speaks to Doris, which contains “seventy revelations from 1993–2006, including a warning to the US that if they live by the sword they will ‘die by the sword’ and criticizing America’s involvement with Iraq.” (Bedfordshire On Sunday, 06/04/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Polygamous sect verdict: Religion is not a shield for crime

A federal jury found the two FLDS-run towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona “guilty of multiple civil rights violations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation rounded up 11 FLDS leaders on felony welfare fraud charges. The jury found that the towns sabotaged people who were considered threats, that the police departments harassed and intimidated nonbelievers, and that local officials denied services to new residents from outside of the faith.  . . . A federal jury found that the FLDS towns, run from a Texas prison by convicted child molester and bigamist Warren Jeffs, violated child labor laws as well as civil rights laws, which they did by refusing service to nonbelievers, many of whom live side by side with FLDS adherents, who post signs reading ‘Zion’ on their front porches.” (The Christian Century, 03/14/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Federal appeals court tosses Sister Wives lawsuit over Utah’s polygamy ban

“A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit filed by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives, declaring that the family did not actually face a threat of prosecution from Utah authorities. In a ruling handed down Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver sent the case back to a lower court, essentially dismissing it. The effect means that, for now, polygamy once again is a felony in Utah. The Brown family's lawyer said in a statement that they were considering their options—including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  . . . Kody Brown and his wives, Meri, Christine, Janelle and Robyn, filed a lawsuit against the state challenging its historic ban on polygamy (Utah abandoned the practice of plural marriage as a condition of statehood). They argued that it violated their right to privacy and freedom of religion. The family found itself under investigation in 2011 by Lehi police when they began appearing on their TLC reality-TV show Sister Wives. In 2012, the Utah County Attorney claimed he would not prosecute the Browns for polygamy alone—unless there was evidence of other crimes like abuse or fraud.  . . . The case has been sent back to the federal court in Salt Lake City where it is expected to be dismissed, unless the Browns appeal.” (Fox 13, 04/11/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Former child bride, polygamous trust settle lawsuit for $2.75M

“Former child bride Elissa Wall has reached a $2.75 million settlement with the United Effort Plan [UEP], the trust that oversees homes and other real estate in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz[ona]. Wall, who originally filed her lawsuit under the moniker ‘MJ’ because she was a juvenile when she was forced to marry, will receive a mix of cash and property.  . . . On March 23, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the UEP—now a charitable trust under management independent from the FLDS—could be held liable for Jeffs’ role in forcing Wall to marry. The justices then sent the case back to Salt Lake County's 3rd District Court, where the settlement occurred. In 2001, Jeffs was head of the UEP and Wall’s attorneys argued that he was acting in his capacity as trustee of the UEP when he forced her to wed her 19-year-old cousin that year.  . . . Attorneys for the UEP unsuccessfully countered that ordering a marriage to an underage girl is so far outside the bounds of Jeffs’ duties as trustee that the trust cannot be liable.” (The Salt Lake Tribune, 05/06/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

“Nearly 200 children from a polygamous sect had to work long hours in the cold, sometimes with little food, as they picked pecans for a Utah contracting company with ties to the group, a federal judge found in a decision that marks the latest blow to the group. U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell held Paragon Contractors in contempt of court, siding with federal labor lawyers who said kids as young as 6 were sent to the harvest. The government said the company had deep connections to the sect led by Warren Jeffs and was under pressure to make money for its leaders before it used 1,400 workers, including 175 children, as unpaid labor. Paragon denied that, saying families from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [FLDS] volunteered to pick up fallen nuts in the city of Hurricane.  . . . Sect members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. It is a legacy of the early teachings of the Mormon church, but the mainstream faith abandoned the practice more than [a] century ago.” (ABC News, 06/02/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Feds call for judge to disband police in polygamous towns

 “The police department should be disbanded in polygamous towns on the Utah-Arizona border found guilty of violating the constitutional rights of nonbelievers, the federal government recommended Friday in a new court filing.  . . . The government is also asking a judge to assign an independent monitor to watch over municipal staff in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, and have access to city meetings and documents.” (ABC News, 04/29/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Accused polygamist Winston Blackmore loses latest court appeal

In the latest legal decision in a years-long polygamy battle, British Columbia’s (B.C.’s) “highest court has upheld the appointment of special prosecutor Peter Wilson and the decision by Wilson to file polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore. Wilson, the third special prosecutor appointed in the case, decided in August 2014 to [once again] file charges against Blackmore, a leader of the Bountiful community in southeastern B.C.  . . .[The] court heard that allegations first surfaced in the early 1990s that individuals were practicing polygamy in the small community of Bountiful, near Creston. RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] conducted an investigation and forwarded a report to Crown counsel, with the Crown declining to approve charges.

Further allegations were investigated in the early 2000s, with the result that once again charges were not laid by the Crown. [First special prosecutor Richard] Peck was appointed in 2007 and decided not to file charges, expressing a preference that a ruling on the constitutional validity of polygamy laws be obtained. The following year, Terrence Robertson was appointed as the second special prosecutor. In January 2009, Robertson approved charges against Blackmore, who went to court and challenged that decision. The B.C. Supreme Court [at that time] found the attorney-general had no jurisdiction to appoint Robertson and quashed that appointment and his decision to approve charges.” (The Province, 06/01/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs has a network of hiding spots

“Rachel Jeffs didn’t even know where she was living. Somewhere in Idaho is all she knew.  . . . She and the other women there were not allowed to leave, Jeffs said, or even to go outside during daylight. ‘We could go outside at night on the deck and stuff, but not during the day,’ Jeffs said. ‘And we were supposed to sew—everybody—and stay in the house and clean and make meals.’ Jeffs was living in what the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [FLDS] calls a ‘house of hiding.’ Her caretaker there, she said in an interview Wednesday, was her uncle—Lyle Jeffs. Former FLDS followers suspect he is now living in such a house—somewhere. The house of hiding network was one reason federal prosecutors asked Lyle be kept in jail pending his trial in October on two counts related to food stamp fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart released Lyle from jail earlier this month. Jeffs became a federal fugitive on June 19 when he ditched his GPS ankle monitor. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.  . . . Rachel assumes Lyle is with one or two other people living in some house of hiding that only a few in his circle know of. Soon a driver will move him to another house in a vehicle owned by a third person. ‘It’s very much thought out how to hide people,’ Rachel said.” (The Salt Lake Tribune, 06/26/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

India’s Mathura cult clashes raise disturbing questions

“When cops clashed with a cult of 3000 heavily armed men and women at Mathura in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on June 2, leading to dozens of injuries and the death of 24 people, including two senior and celebrated police officers, it came as a shock. Not just for those in khaki, but also the government—which had been caught napping on the intelligence front. When the police entered the illegally occupied enclosure of the cult, Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi, on government horticultural land (Jawahar Bagh) on June 2—not really to evict the members, but to carry out an assessment—the cops found themselves confronting a hostile mob. The women stood with batons, while the men were perched on tree tops with guns. They began firing and used cooking gas cylinders to set off blasts. The police had to beat a hasty retreat before regrouping itself and calling for more reinforcements.  . . . About 360 people were arrested, including 58 on serious charges of homicide and attempt to murder.  . . . What is equally disturbing is that Mathura is just 161 km away from India’s capital, and if there has been an intelligence failure in the state, there seems to have been a greater slip-up at the federal level in New Delhi. And in these times of terrorism, such carelessness can be very costly.” (Asia Times, 06/04/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Russia arrests Scientologist for stealing $2M and giving to church

“Authorities in Russia say a woman stole money given to her for dream homes and donated it to the Church of Scientology. Ekaterina Zaborskikh allegedly stole 130 million rubles ($2 million) between 2012 and 2014 by selling Russians apartments that were never built by her construction company, an indictment in St. Petersburg alleged last week, as reported by Komsomolskaya Pravda. Part of that money was funneled to her church, prosecutors say.  . . . In January 2015, authorities raided the Moscow church to analyze financial documents.  . . . The raid, however, was only the start of Scientology’s problems in Russia. A Moscow court banned the church in November over its American trademark of its name. ‘The representatives of the Church of Scientology themselves have created many legal conflicts by restricting the religious freedom through the use of trademarks,’ Russia’s Ministry of Justice said, according to RT [TV network]. ‘So it turns out a commercial partnership was spreading the religion, while religion can only be spread by religious organizations.’ But not to be deterred, the Church vowed to appeal and said its trademarks were no different from those appearing on copies of the Bible or the Quran. The European Court of Human Rights has, in fact, ruled in favor of Scientology several times.” (Daily Beast, 04/25/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Scientologist must pay damages for “vitriolic” personal attack

“A chiropractor [Zabrina Collins] was ordered by a judge on Monday to pay €5,000 damages for a ‘vitriolic and personalized’ attack on the character of a Co Mayo [County Mayo, Ireland] man who opposes the beliefs and teachings of the Church of Scientology, of which she is a leading member. Judge James O’Donohoe in the Circuit Civil Court said that allegations by Zabrina Collins against Peter Griffiths of criminal activity, hate-mongering and links to gay pornographic movies of teenage boys ‘were largely untrue and grossly defamatory.’ . . . The judge said on Monday that the claim of qualified privilege regarding Ms Collins’s remarks could not extend to protect such ‘a vile attack’ on Mr. Griffiths’s good name. He said there had been a good deal of history and animus between the two parties that accounted for the tone of the email, which he described as ‘malicious in the extreme.’ He said publication of the defamatory remarks had not been extensive and had been directed to the school principal.

Judge O’Donohoe also gave judgment in a second, related case in which Ms. Collins . . . and Scientologist Michael O’Donell . . . sued Mr. Griffiths and embalmer John McGhee, of Armstrong Grove, Clara, Co Offaly, for assault and battery.  . . . The judge awarded Ms. Collins and Mr. O’Donnell a total of €3,500 against Mr. McGhee for assault and battery. Mr. Griffiths, he said, had played a lesser role by videoing the assault, but had nevertheless consorted with Mr. McGhee. For harassment and assault he awarded Ms. Collins and Mr. O’Donnell €2,000 damages against Mr. Griffiths. Mr. Beatty and Mr. O’Tuathail agreed that the question of costs could be dealt with by the court at a later date.” (Irish Times, 04/25/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Russia’s Supreme Court dismisses complaint filed by Church of Scientology

 “Russia’s Supreme Court has dismissed a complaint the Moscow Church of Scientology had lodged in connection to the Russian Justice Ministry refusal to register this organization’s charter, a court representative told RAPSI on Thursday.  . . . The Moscow Regional Court ruled in 2012 that some of [L. Ron] Hubbard’s books be included on the Federal List of Extremist Literature and prohibited from distribution in Russia.” (RAPSI, 5/5/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Woman drops lawsuit against Scientology

 “A Texas woman embroiled in a years-long legal battle with the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige filed a motion Tuesday to voluntarily dismiss her harassment lawsuit against the church and some of its top officials. The legal move came as the Texas Supreme Court was poised to review arguments in the case, and months after Monique Rathbun, the wife of a former high-ranking Scientologist, fired her attorneys without explanation. Rathbun claimed in a 2013 lawsuit that the church mounted a three-year campaign of dirty tricks, including surveillance, harassment and ‘ruthlessly aggressive misconduct’ that drove her from her South Texas home and into seclusion in the Hill Country, where she was found again by Scientology operatives.  . . . In what turned out to be their last legal maneuver, church attorneys in February filed a 92-page petition for review to the state supreme court, asking it to take up the First Amendment arguments that had been rejected by the lower court. Rathbun waived the filing of a response, but when the justices requested that she produce one, she filed a motion to end the legal battle instead. ‘I do not have the resources, the time, nor the motivation to litigate in the Supreme Court of Texas against Scientology’s army of lawyers,’ she said in the motion.  . . . Rathbun also blamed her former attorneys for ‘defects’ in her lawsuit that she says Scientology attorneys used to create further delays.” (Courthouse News Service, 05/13/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Scientology opens state-of-the-art communications headquarters in Hollywood

“Soaring 45 meters above Sunset Boulevard in the center of Hollywood stands a communications tower adorned with two triangles and a stylized ‘S.’ The logo belongs to the controversial Church of Scientology and is being used as branding for the religion’s new hi-tech media complex known as Scientology Media Productions (SMP), which has been created to act as an ‘uncorrupted communication line to the billions.’ Speaking to more than 10,000 Scientologists at the unveiling of the complex, church leader David Miscavige said the global media center would be used to combat biased media reports and allow for the delivery of ‘unadulterated and pure’ teachings of the religion. ‘As the saying goes, if you don’t write your own story, someone else will,’ he said. ‘We’re now going to be writing our story like no other religion in history. And it’s all going to happen right here from Scientology Media Productions.’ Originally built in 1912 and situated on a five-acre complex near the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood boulevards, the motion picture and television studio has been restored for Scientology to create and deliver content across print, broadcast and online media.” (, 05/30/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Russia’s feud with Scientology leads to arrests

“The Russian branch of the Church of Scientology has denounced the raids carried out by the Russian police in its Moscow and St. Petersburg locations earlier this week, The Moscow Times reports. Ten church members were arrested in St. Petersburg on allegations of ‘illegal business activity.’ And in Moscow, eyewitnesses said that police officers were not letting people in or out of the Scientology church. ‘It is a disease of our society when government agencies charged with protecting the people and enforcing the law, use the name of the law to persecute the practice of religion,’ the Church said in a statement on Wednesday, saying the authorities had violated the concept of religious freedom enshrined in Russian law. The arrests were made in the wake of a long-running conflict between the Russian government and the Russian Church of Scientology, which the authorities view as an extremist organization. In November 2015 the Moscow City Court ruled to dissolve the Moscow church because the term ‘Scientology’ is an American trademark, Kremlin-controlled RT reported. As a result, the ministry said that the group should be subjected to consumer protection laws.” (Transitions Online, 06/23/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Scientology leader threatens UK publisher with legal action

“British independent publisher Silvertail Books has been threatened with legal action by lawyers representing Scientology leader David Miscavige. Silvertail is due to publish an account by Miscavige’s father Ron on 3rd May titled Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me in the UK and Ireland. However, the publisher has received a letter from Johnsons law firm, seen by The Bookseller, warning that if the book is published next week then the company will be sued for defamation. (The Bookseller, 04/27/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Public funding revealed for schools associated with Church of Scientology

“Schools associated with the Church of Scientology are receiving more government funding per student than hundreds of Australian public schools, new data has revealed, despite benefiting from generous private donations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in school fees. The Athena and Yarralinda schools receive a combined amount of up to $475,000 in recurrent public funding every year to educate fewer than 60 students. The schools . . . maintain they are a secular part of the tax-exempt Applied Scholastics group of schools worldwide, which has strong public links to the church.  . . .

At the inner-west based Athena school, . . . students are funded through a combination of public funding, fees, and tax-free donations, . . . benefiting from up to $20,000 in funding [per student] per year. According to MySchool data, the school . . . receives just $2,000 less per student in public funding than the nearby Newtown Public School, which has been forced to restrict its enrollment boundaries to stem overflowing classrooms.

At the same time, the Yarralinda school outside Melbourne receives up to $11,000 in public funding for each [student,] . . . more than the amount received by up to 800 NSW and Victorian public schools, and $2,700 more per student than the nearby Rolling Hills school in Mooroolbark.  . . . A spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology said the church does not manage the schools, nor are they a front group for the church.

In a statement, the federal Department of Education declined to comment specifically on the schools but said Productivity Commission data shows that, on average, total government funding for a student going to a public school is over $16,000 per year, while the support for a student attending a non-government school is $9,300.  . . . ‘Under the Australian constitution, the Commonwealth has no specific power in relation to schooling and does not have a direct role in the registration, administration and operation of schools,’ the statement said. The Athena school was contacted for comment.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 7/12/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Man denied security clearance at work for being Scientologist

“A Berlin court ruled that it was okay to deny a man security clearance due to concerns about him being a Scientologist. The man was working for a company that produces helicopter parts, often for the German military.  . . . the court on Tuesday ruled that denying him security clearance for classified materials was justifiable, in particular because Scientologists are required to go through auditing—a sort of confessional counseling in which their thoughts and experiences are kept on record. The court explained that this practice rightly leaves doubt about Scientologists’ trustworthiness with classified materials and their loyalty to the constitution. The court further said that this decision did not violate the man’s right to freedom of religion. The German government does not recognize Scientology as a religion, unlike in the United States, and tends to view the organization with a high level of skepticism. Courts have ruled in the past that the group is engaged in activities that are subversive to freedom and democracy and should be subject to closer surveillance.” (The Local, 7/13/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

More than 30 burned during hot coal walk

“Fire officials say more than 30 people attending a Tony Robbins event in Dallas have been treated for burns after the motivational speaker encouraged them to walk on hot coals.  . . . The hot coals were spread outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, where Robbins’ ‘Unleash the Power Within’ seminar was taking place.  . . . A statement issued by Robbins Research International said, in part: ‘In Dallas tonight, someone not familiar with the fire walk observed the event and called 911 erroneously reporting hundreds of people requiring medical attention for severe burns. While we are grateful to the quick and robust response from Dallas emergency services, only 5 of 7,000 participants requested any examination beyond what was readily available on site. We are pleased to have completed another successful fire walk for 7,000 guests and look forward to the remainder of an outstanding weekend with them.’ . . . It’s not the first time people have been hurt at Robbins’ seminars. In July 2012, nearly two dozen people reported being burned after a fire-walking exercise at a Robbins’ event in San Jose, California. The event continues through Sunday.” (CBS News, 6/24/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Father of New York teen killed in church beating pleads guilty

“The father of a 19-year-old beaten to death during a church [Word of Life Christian Church] counseling session pleaded guilty Wednesday to his role in the attack, describing how he whipped the teenager and a younger son with an electrical cord during a group assault that authorities said went on for 14 hours over two days. Bruce Leonard wobbled and cried and at times had to sit down during an appearance in Oneida County Court, where he pleaded guilty to first- and second-degree assault the day before he was to stand trial on a more serious murder charge. His wife, Deborah Leonard, pleaded guilty to assault in December. As part of his plea, Bruce Leonard, 66, will have to testify against the seven remaining defendants. They include his step-daughter and the church's leaders, who are awaiting trial for the session that killed Lucas Leonard and injured 17-year-old Christopher Leonard last October.  . . . Bruce Leonard is expected to be sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison.” (CTV News, Associated Press, 06/22/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

Human Rights Court: Romania must pay €291,000 to controversial yoga-group members

“Romania must pay EUR 291,000 to 26 members of the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA), whose rights had been violated during a police operation that took place in March 2004, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled on Tuesday, April 26. MISA is a famous yoga movement founded by controversial Romanian guru Gregorian Bivolaru. MISA and its leader . . . have been accused of various illegal activities over the years and Bivolaru has even been convicted by Romanian courts. However, MISA representatives have always claimed that they were persecuted by the Romanian authorities. On 18 March 2004, the Romanian police carried out an operation in 16 apartment blocks housing members of MISA, who were suspected of using computer software to produce and disseminate pornographic images on the Internet and of sending members of the association abroad for prostitution. Around 130 members of a military anti-terrorist squad took part in the operation, which was aimed at gathering evidence against MISA leader Gregorian Bivolaru.  . . . The allegedly abused MISA members filed complaints in Romanian courts but these were rejected, so they decided to seek justice at the Human Rights Court. The Court awarded EUR 12,000 just satisfaction to 23 of the applicants, EUR 6,000 to another one, and EUR 4,500 to two others.” (, 04/27/16) [IT 7.3, 2016]

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