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News about religious movements, cults, sects, world religions and related issues.
  1. Religion and Cult News

    Religion and Cult News

    Today's edition includes stories about a radicalisation prevention program that may backfire. A protest against Whole Foods over its link to Marc Gafni. Iglesia ni Cristo, a powerful cult of Christianity, endorses presidential candidates. Plus: Religion and Cult News Quick Takes

    Additional items may be posted throughout the day.

    Does the UK's covert propaganda bid to stop people joining Isis alienate Muslims?

    The UK government has embarked on a series of clandestine propaganda campaigns intended to bring about “attitudinal and behavioural change” among young British Muslims as part of a counter-radicalisation programme, the Guardian reports.

    However, the methods of the Research, Information and Communications Unit (Ricu), which often conceal the government’s role, will dismay some Muslims and may undermine confidence in the Prevent counter-radicalisation programme, which already faces widespread criticism.

    The paper sees it as a "sign of mounting anxiety across Whitehall over the persuasiveness of Islamic State’s online propaganda," but notes that critics say it risks alienating UK Muslims.

    The article says that "[m]uch of Ricu’s work is outsourced to a London communications company, Breakthrough Media Network."

    [Breakthrough Media Network's] relationship with Ricu helps them get their own messages to a wider audience, and that they retain editorial control over counter-radicalisation communications.

    However, a series of Ricu and Breakthrough documents seen by the Guardian show that Ricu privately says it is the one retaining editorial control, including over the products produced as part of these partnerships.

    Inside Ricu, the shadowy propaganda unit inspired by the cold war: The Guardian unravels the secretive workings behind a campaign to stop UK Muslims from falling prey to Islamic State -- The Guardian, May 2, 2016

    Prevent strategy 'sowing mistrust and fear in Muslim communities': UK’s terror watchdog urges review of government’s anti-radicalisation scheme, saying it is significant source of grievance -- The Guardian, Feb. 3, 2016

    'You worry they could take your kids': is the Prevent strategy demonising Muslim schoolchildren?: Teachers now have a statutory duty to spot signs of ‘non-violent extremism’, with children as young as three being referred for anti-radicalisation. Does the policy safeguard vulnerable pupils – or discriminate against Muslims? -- The Guardian, Sept. 23, 2015

    Abuse Groups to Protest at Whole Foods 365 Launch in LA over links to Marc Gafni

    National advocacy organizations for raising awareness of childhood sexual abuse issues are backing a protest at the inaugural opening of Whole Foods 365 store, May 25 in Los Angeles. Planning is underway for a coordinated protest at a Whole Foods store in New York City.

    The protests are in response to Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey's link to spiritual leader and former rabbi Marc Gafni, as reported by The New York Times in December.

    More than 100 rabbis have authored a petition demanding that Whole Foods sever ties with Gafni.

    Understanding the Marc Gafni Story, Part II, Mark Oppenheimer -- Tablet, Dec. 29, 2015. A follow-up to the New York Times story mentioned above.

    Marc Gafni: Wikipedia

    Why You Should Boycott Marc Gafni’s Movie, “RiseUp”, Huffington Post, May 3, 2016

    Cult expert Steven Hassan keeps track of the Marc Gafni story on Twitter.

    Philippines: Powerful cult of Christianity endorses presidential candidates

    Iglesia ni Cristo, one of the largest and most powerful religious movements in the Third World, has officially endorsed Rodrigo Duterte for President and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for Vice President in Monday’s national elections.

    Members of the cultic movement vote en-bloc, falsely laiming that the Bible teaches the practice.

    The Inquirer writes:

    INC announced its endorsement through a circular read during worship service by executive minister Eduardo Manalo, who called on the sect’s members to vote as one on Monday.

    “This is based on the teachings in the Bible that were taught to us even before we were accepted as members of the Church of Christ. We have faith that it is God’s teaching that there shouldn’t be division among us, but that we should be one in thinking and one in judgment,” Manalo said in Filipino.

    The INC head cited I Corinthians 1:10 and Romans 15:6 in claiming that the sect’s unity came “in the name of Jesus Christ, for the glory of God and for the sake of the church.”

    Theologically Iglesia ni Cristo is a cult of Christianity, since the movement's teachings and practices fall outside the boundaries of the Christian faith.

    Sociologically INC has somecult-like elements as well.

    Recent scandals involving the Iglesia ni Cristo cast doubt on the practice of bloc voting. Will INC members still obey their ministers on election day? -- Rappler, May 1, 2016.

    Revolt in the Iglesia ni Cristo: Over 100 years old, no one ever imagined the INC was in the throes of dissension in 2015, with no less than members of the family entangled in a bitter quarrel -- Rappler, Dec. 23, 2015.

    Former INC pastor flees Philippines to seek refuge in Canada -- Asian Pacific Post, May 5, 2016

    Religion and Cult News Quick Takes

    Full story: Does the UK’s anti-radicalisation program alienate Muslims?

  2. how people get radicalized

    how people get radicalized

    Today's edition contains stories about the Palmarian Catholic Church, how easily people get radicalised, and what IS jihadists have in mind for Europe's cities. Also: tongue-in-cheek, How do Operating Thetans get in touch with eachother? And is Crossfit a religion? Finally: Religion News Blog's new design.

    Religious cult took our sister from us, says family

    The Palmarian Catholic Church, a secretive Spanish cult is in the news.

    The family of a Wexford pensioner, whose body lay undiscovered in her home for two months, believe the public should be vigilant to "the dangers of alternative faith-based groups, sects and cults".[...]

    A member of a group known as the 'Palmarian Catholic Church' - a highly secretive Spanish sect that broke away from the Catholic Church and has declared a series of its own 'Popes' - Bridget effectively was forced to cut herself off from her family when she became involved with the sect in the late 1970s, around the same time she returned to Ireland to look aft er her parents.[...]

    Michael Garde, Director of Dialogue Ireland, an independent trust that works to promote awareness and understanding of new 'religious' movements and cultism in Ireland, told the Irish Independent: "We are regularly contacted by families who have seen a loved one lost to the Palmarian church. We are deeply concerned by the group and how it destroys families and isolates people, especially the elderly. There are also reports that the Palmarians are targeting younger people and students."

    Mr Garde said there have been many examples of Irish people adjoined to the Palmarians selling their homes, or leaving their property to the group in their wills, with proceeds going to the 'church' which has its headquarters in the remote Spanish town of Palmar de Troya, where it has a lavish basilica behind high walls.
    "Groups like the Palmarians have undue influence on people, they remove the rational capacity for people to deal with things. In Ireland, these groups have left behind a trail of hundreds of people no longer connected to society."

    This website provides information and support to those affected by Palmar de Troya / Palmarian Church cult.

    Earlier this month the New Zealand Herald published an article about Maria Hall, who was a nun in the Palmarian Catholic Church.

    Established in the 1970s, after four young girls claimed to have seen a holy apparition on farmland near the village of Palmar de Troya, the Palmarian church has distanced itself from Rome; it’s created its own rites, liturgies and its own bible.

    Ms Hall’s life within it was dominated by religious rituals, sleepless nights, punitive regimes and temperamental superiors. The daily routine was controlled by tolling bells, endlessly gruelling domestic tasks all done in the compulsory silence enforced outside of prayer or song. She slept in a tiny room, with a threadbare blanket on a wooden bed, wore ill-fitting hand-me down clothes and shoes and was cut off from friends, family and the rest of the outside world, with no television, radio, newspaper or telephone.

    When her father and sister did one day make the trip across the world to visit her, she was only allowed to see them only twice in her ten minute breaks. “Many years later she [my sister] told me that she felt like I had died.” Eventually this thankless commitment eroded what was left of her once unfaltering faith. She left and was cast out of the convent with nothing but a plane ticket home, some money and a shoulder bag containing her bible, writing pad and passport.

    At home, in New Zealand, Ms Hall had to “relearn” what it meant to be human.

    Maria Hall has recently written REPARATION: A Spiritual Journey, described as the true story of one woman’s journey from the sweeping coastlines of New Zealand to the barren plains of Southern Spain, from youthful hope to deep despair, and from sin to reparation.

    If you want to dig deeper, check this research paper by Dr Magnus Lundberg of Uppsala University, Sweden.

    Dialogue Ireland has additional information as well.

    The story of a radicalisation: 'I was not thinking my thoughts. I was not myself'

    how easily people are radicalised

    If you think you would not ever find yourself in a cult, consider these words:

    Nobody joins a cult.

    You join a self-help group, a religious movement, a political organization.

    They change so gradually, by the time you realize you’re entrapped – and almost everybody does – you can’t figure a safe way back out.
    - Deborah Layton, survivor of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple cult

    This story in The Guardian in a case in point. Maysa, a teenager from Brussels, was a music fan and a ‘ray of sunshine’ at school. But an encounter on social media had changed her within a year.

    “I was so nearly there, just hours from leaving. I was there in my head: in Syria, with Islamic State,” the 18-year-old says. [...]

    Her parents are Muslims, but not rigorous. Maysa first donned a jilbab -- a long and loose-fit coat or garment worn by some Muslim women who observe the Islamic dress code -- after she had put on some weight.

    After she posted a selfie wearing her new clothes on social media, she was contacted by another woman also in her late teens. They went shopping together, and some time later Maysa was introduced to a group of young women from a similar background to her own.

    First the conversation was about Islam, and the failures of many so-called Muslims. Then about politics, and the worldwide persecution of Muslims. Then finally about Isis, and life in the new “caliphate”, and how good life was there. [...]

    “They told me how there was no crime and no discrimination in the Islamic State. They spoke about relations between men and women, and said that I would find a good husband, even if I would be one of several of his wives. They spoke about fighting the unbelievers and the heretics, but never mentioned any violence or executions or anything like that,” Maysa says.

    Within weeks, her new friends provided Maysa with a cheap mobile phone with a pre-paid sim card and told her to keep it secret. It was on this phone that she was contacted, usually by text message, and told where and when the next meeting of the group would take place.

    When the group told Maysa it was time to travel to Syria (they would help her, regardless of whether or not she had a passport), something held her back. "And then came the threats: if she did not travel with them, Maysa would be tracked down, her family and friends too, and the consequences would be terrible."

    Read the article, which also addresses the reason why parents and other family members usually don't notice anything is wrong until much later.

    Learn more about brainwashing

    What the Paris Attacks Tell Us about IS Strategy

    The new jihadists have our cities in their sights, German news weekly Der Spiegel says.

    The attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and Copenhagen at the beginning of 2015 weren't isolated cases, Peter Neumann, a professor of security studies at King's College London, warned in his new book "The New Jihadists," published in September in German. He believes what we have just witnessed are the "first, very dramatic warnings of what will play out on the streets of Europe in the next decades." Europe, he cautions, is standing "at the precipice of a new wave of terror that will still occupy us for a generation to come."

    How much do you know about Jihad?

    How do Operating Thetans contact each other?

    British film maker Louis Theroux -- whose latest film is a feature length documentary entitled My Scientology Movie -- used Twitter to contact John Sweeney, the BBC journalist and author know for, among other things, the Scientology and Me documentary.

    Note Sweeney's tongue-in-cheek reply:

    Not sure what an Operating Thetan is? Operation Clambake explains what Scientology is trying to sell. It should be clear that there are no Operating Thetans.

    Consumer Alert: Scientology

    Is Crossfit a religion?

    Crossfit Church

    A for-profit gym franchise founded in 2000 that now has 13,000 licensed operators serving at least two million exercisers, CrossFit — like television, sports fandom and health fads — has become the focus of study by researchers trying to pinpoint what constitutes religiosity in America. [...]

    In an increasingly secular America, all sorts of activities and subcultures provide the meaning that in the past, at least as we imagine it, religious communities did.

    "Skeptics might scoff that Crossfit is just a gym," Mark Oppenheimer writes, but "[i]t is a culture that can produce effects more often associated with church."

    Join Religion News Blog on Twitter

    We encourage you to join 18,200+ others in following Religion News Blog's Twitter Stream. On this website, though, we go beyond Twitters 140-characters limit.


    This information was curated by Anton Hein, the founder of Religion News Blog.

    Full story: Nobody joins a cult, but it is easy to get radicalized

  3. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

    Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

    Are you old enough to remember the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ADiK74fve8
    Oregon Public Broadcasting, Nov. 21, 2012

    In 1981 this spiritual leader from India spent $5.75 million on a remote piece of property in Oregon and invested millions more to build Rajneeshpuram as a spiritual retreat for thousands of his red-frocked followers.[ref]They used to be known as Rajneeshees or "Orange People," because of the orange and later red, maroon and pink clothes they used from 1970 until 1985[/ref]

    The East Oregonian recalls

    In news clips from the 1980s, Rajneeshees line the road for the Bhagwan’s daily drive-by in a vehicle from his fleet of more than 90 Rolls Royce automobiles. Rancho Rajneesh, as some called it, had its own newspaper, fire department, night club and mall.

    The Rajneeshees clashed with locals over land use. The utopian desert commune collapsed after Rajneeshees were convicted of infecting four salad bars with salmonella in The Dalles, the Wasco county seat, in order to hamper voter turnout and swing an election. Other crimes included attempted murder, arson, election fraud and wiretapping. About 10 followers were imprisoned. The Bhagwan was deported for immigration violations.

    751 people were poisoned in the 1984 bioterror attack. According to Wikipedia, "The incident was the first and single largest bioterrorist attack in United States history. The attack is one of only two confirmed terrorist uses of biological weapons to harm humans since 1945."

    The Rajneesh had hoped to incapacitate the voting population of the city so that their own candidates would win the local election.

    The Rajneesh actually did gain political control of the nearby city of Antelope.

    But by 1986 they were all gone.

    Oregon Public Broadcasting, which produced the fascinating documentary shown above, says

    Twenty-five sannyasins would be convicted of crimes: arson, wiretapping, immigration fraud, election fraud and attempted murder. Ten would serve time in prison.

    At the end of it all, Wasco County Judge Bill Hulse predicted (correctly) that somebody would write a book about what had happened there: “The people who read that book,” he said, “will think it’s fiction.”

    The East Oregonian reports that

    Montana billionaire Dennis Washington bought the seized property for a cool $3.65 million as a destination resort, but ran into zoning problems. The Washington family donated the property to Young Life in 1996 and has continued support with additional donations.

    Given Bhagwan's open disdain for Christianity, it ironic that his former land now is home to the world's largest Young Life camp -- a Christian camp.

    Speaking of irony, the paper also writes

    When planners couldn’t decide what to do with the Bhagwan’s house, a 1997 range fire decided matters. A finger of the fire raced down the ridge and torched the residence, the only one of 300 Rajneeshpuram buildings to burn.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGH5q_QLwbY]

    Born in 1931 as Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Acharya Rajneesh, in the 1960s he changed his name to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and in 1989 to Osho. Though he died in 1990, he still has an international following.[ref]Wikipedia entry on Rajneesh[/ref]

    Want to know more? Rajneeshes in Oregon: The Untold Story, a special report by The Oregonian, is a great place to start. Includes FBI and police reports.

    See also:

    Seeing a cult through a child's eyes
    Rajneesh Foundation - The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power

    Full story: Are you old enough to remember Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh?

  4. Escaping Polygamy

    Escaping Polygamy

    Going Clear, Alex Gibney's smash documentary that exposes the Scientology cult to daylight, was HBO's highest-rated documentary premiere in almost a decade. By popular demand it is going to be back in theaters.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXCXKcRDCN0]

    By the way: the documentary has seven Emmy nominations.

    “I want to leave and I want to leave now, but I’m scared and don’t know who I can trust.”

    That anonymous text message opens LMN’s documentary series Escaping Polygamy.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pnfP7tW494]

    "This show is not like 'Sister Wives'" Fox News headlined. It sure isn't. Rather than sugarcoat polygamy, this series highlights what it is like to be trapped in an insular polygamous group.

    The series follows the work of three sisters who left the Kingston clan, a secretive polygamist group based in Salt Lake City, Utah known as the Order, as they help both loved ones and strangers break free of polygamy.

    Which Groups Practice Polygamy?
    10 Polygamist Wives Who Escaped Unbelievable Abuse

    Can Moral Disputes Be Resolved?

    From the head-in-the-sand department: Obama's looking-glass Islamic World.

    Reality check: The Religion of Peace

    Full story: Escaping Polygamy — and Scientology

  5. newspapers

    newspapers

    Scientology quacks at work:

    After a Church of Scientology-backed group helped organize a campaign against it, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed legislation that would have given Texas doctors more power to detain mentally ill and potentially dangerous patients, according to records obtained by The Texas Tribune.

    The group in question is the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) -- a Scientology front group that fights against alleged abuses in psychiatry and psychology. (Yes, it's an odd name. Scientology and human rights do not normally go hand in hand).

    After all, Scientology hates psychiatry with a passion.

    The cult's primary goal is to "clear the planet" by "obliterating psychiatry."

    To normal people the organization is known as the destructive space-alien cult that teaches, promotes, and engages in quackery:

    Medical claims within Scientology's secret teachings
    Scientology versus medicine
    The healing claims of Scientology

    Here's a site you'll want to bookmark and use: What is Scientology?

    In our view, CCHR is morally reprehensible -- a dangerous hate group.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SAFFM1sFZA]

    So here's the moment more than 30 people, mostly women and children, made their way to freedom after escaping the IS barbarians who kidnapped them.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSDPCKY08AI]

    This footage -- filmed in Northern Iraq -- is part of Escape From ISIS, to be broadcast by the UK's Channel 4, tonight at 10pm UK time.

    The Independent says

    In August 2014 the area was attacked by Isis, with the militants killing hundreds and capturing 3,000 Yazidi women and young girls.

    Isis locked up their captors and forced many to convert to Islam; the kidnapping has been described as the largest of its kind this century.

    We steadfastly refer to IS/Isis/Daesh members as barbarians. These depraved savages -- who pretend to be Muslims -- have no qualms committing the most horrendous crimes.

    Last April Human Rights Watch released a report that documents how Isis has carried out systematic rape and other sexual violence against Yezidi women and girls.

    Human Rights Watch documented a system of organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage by ISIS forces. [...]

    “ISIS forces have committed organized rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against Yezidi women and girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Those fortunate enough to have escaped need to be treated for the unimaginable trauma they endured.”

    Incidentally, while climate change is seen as the 'top global threat,' the Pew Research Center says Americans, Europeans, Middle Easterners Focus on ISIS as Greatest Danger

    Wheaton chaplaincy staffer Julie Rodgers [attracted to women, celibate] backs same-sex relationships, quits the evangelical college, Religion News Service reports.
    Julie Rodgers

    The news of Rodgers blessing committed, same-sex relationships has upset many evangelicals who have presented her as a model gay Christian. [...]

    The most critical portion of Rodgers statement wasn’t her affirmation of same-sex relationships but her condemnation of how the church treats celibacy.

    “I’ve become increasingly troubled by the unintended consequences of messages that insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy,” Rodgers wrote.

    “No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love…. It’s hard to believe we’re actually wanted in our churches. It’s hard to believe the God who loves us actually likes us.”

    Are you a Christian sharing fake news? Cut it out!

    Twelve years in, US bishops’ sexual abuse charter is facing challenges.

    US Catholics at every level need to guard against “a tendency for complacency” toward the sexual abuse crisis says Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

    “We have established procedures and policies, and we think that we have that in place,” he told Catholic News Service. “There might not be that ongoing mindfulness and certain small things might start to slide. They are not really paid attention to the way they should.”

    We may add to this page throughout the day. Got an appetite for more right now? Join 16.600 people who enjoy our Religion News Twitter feed.

    Full story: Religion News, Wednesday July 15, 2015

  6. Facegloria

    Facegloria

    A group of Evangelical Christians in Brazil have set up Facegloria -- a sin-free version of Facebook, the Telegraph reports.

    The service is patrolled by volunteers who prevent the posting of all-too-revealing selfies, 600 banned words, and anything related to homosexuality or, for that matter, the whole LGBT alphabet of lifestyles.

    The paper notes that 42 million of Brazil's 202 million people are estimated to be Evangelicals – and that the "fervent Protestant movement continues to make inroads into traditionally dominant Catholicism."
    Facegloria

    Brazil has the world's biggest Roman Catholic population.

    However Evangelicals, who numbered just six per cent of the population in 1980, are now 22 per cent, while the Catholic total has dropped from 90 per cent to 63 per cent.
    At that rate, Evangelicals will become the majority by 2040 and Facegloria hopes to be riding the wave.

    But the term 'Evangelical' is rather flexible and not clearly-defined. For instance, the Telegraph says that

    the biggest-selling books in Brazil over the last two years have been autobiographical works by Edir Macedo, who founded the powerful Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in 1977, and owns the country's third-biggest media group.

    Macedo and his church are controversial, to say the least. Both have a seemingly insatiable appetite for money.

    Many Christians consider the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus) to be theologically a cult of Christianity.

    It promotes the teachings of the Word-Faith Movement, with a particular emphasis on the seed-faith doctrine.

    According to this teaching God cannot bless you (with health and wealth) unless you 'sow' a seed of faith (yes, money -- 'donated' to the church).

    Perhaps Brazilia's evangelicals have yet to find the story about Jesus and the money-changers.

    Anyway, Facegloria has attracted 100,000 users in its first month, and the folks behind it expect to have 10 million users in Brazil in 2 years time. After that, the world.

    Acir dos Santos, the mayor of Ferraz de Vasconcelos -- and the person who provided the start-up capital -- says there's no limit.

    "Our network is global. We have bought the Faceglory domain in English and in all possible languages. We want to take on Facebook and Twitter here and everywhere," he said.

    Full story: Brazilian Evangelicals set up a ‘sin free’ alternative to Facebook

  7. ICSA International Cultic Studies Association

    ICSA International Cultic Studies Association

    Founded in 1979, the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is a global network of people concerned about psychological manipulation and abuse in cultic or high-demand groups, alternative movements, and other environments. ICSA is tax-exempt, supports civil liberties, and is not affiliated with any religious or commercial organizations.

    ICSA is unique in how it brings together former group members, families, helping professionals and researchers.

    We highly recommend ICSA. See our sister site, CultExperts.org, for details.

    International Cultic Studies Association

    Upcoming Events

    Recovery Workshop for Former Group Members (July 31 - August 2, 2015) - Colorado Springs, Colorado

    Organized by Carol Giambalvo, a thought reform consultant, these workshops are for former group members only, not family or friends (ICSA has other events for these persons. ICSA also has a special workshop for former group members who were born or raised in high-demand groups.)
    ICSA Recovery Workshops: The Colorado Model

    High-Control Groups: Helping Former Members and Families (November 6-8, 2015) - Santa Fe, New Mexico

    This conference will focus on the needs of former group members and families and will include a training track for mental health professionals.

    Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Second-Generation Former Members (April 15-17, 2016) - Chester, CT

    As increasing numbers of people born or raised in cultic movements have reached adulthood, the International Cultic Studies Association has developed a program that addresses their special needs. Two articles describe this program: (1) Lessons Learned from SGAs About Resiliency and Recovery (Leona Furnari and Rosanne Henry) and (2) My Perspective of Rosanne Henry and Leona Furnari’s Presentation to the Annual SGA Workshop (Patrick Rardin) describe this program. There is also a video on ICSA's YouTube channel: "Born or Raised in Cultic Groups" with Lorna Goldberg and Leona Furnari.

    Meeting annually since 2006, this workshop addresses the needs of SGAs (Second Generation Adults) through presentations by specialists and former members, including discussions in which attendees may participate according to their comfort levels. Special attention is paid to the need of SGAs for privacy, reflection, and working at their own pace.

    Call for Papers: ICSA Annual Conference (June 30 - July 2, 2016; preconference workshops on June 29th) - Dallas Texas

    The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is conducting its 2016 Annual International Conference jointly with Info-Secte/Info-Cult of Montreal in Dallas, Texas. The conference will take place from June 30 through July 2, 2016 (preconference workshops on Wednesday June 29). The conference will address the needs and interests of ICSA’s four main constituencies: former group members, families, helping professionals, and researchers.

    Full story: International Cultic Studies Association: Upcoming Events

  8. sweetcakes2

    sweetcakes2

    The Christian owners of the Sweetcakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon who denied service to a same-sex couple must pay $135,000 in damages, the state's Bureau of Labor and Industries has ruled.

    The bakery refused to bake a wedding cake cake for lesbian couple Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer in January 2013.

    In April this year, a judge ruled that the bakery had discriminated against the couple and suggested damages of $135,000. Now, the Bureau of Labor and Industries has affirmed that amount, ordering Sweet Cakes to pay it.
    Sweet Cake by Melissa
    Bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein said their refusal to bake for the lesbian couple was prompted by their religious beliefs regarding marriage.

    The case has been cited in the national debate over religious freedom and discrimination against gays.

    The couple intends to appeal the decision.

    Last April crowdfunding site GoFundMe shut down the couple's campaign because it involved formal charges.

    The Kleins will still receive the $109,000 donated to the fund before it was shut down.

    Meanwhile, Samaritan’s Purse has established a fund to help people who face financial distress and are punished for their sincerely held religious beliefs, convictions, and conscience.

    Full story: Anti-gay bakery owners must pay $135.000 to lesbian couple

  9. two

    two

    The insular Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) is building a "fortress-type" wall around its meeting house in Colorado City, Arizona.

    Private investigator Sam Brower, who has observed the cult for many years, says he has no doubt that the wall is being erected on the express orders of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

    Jeffs, whom followers believe to be a prophet who speaks for God, is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in a Texas prison after he was found guilty of taking underage girls as his wives in what were claimed to be 'spiritual marriages.'

    While his brother, Lyle, and other leaders in the cult take care of day to day business, Warren Jeffs continues to rule his followers with an iron fist.

    Theologically, the FLDS is considered to be a cult of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, commonly known as the Mormon Church) -- which itself is, also theologically, a cult of Christianity.

    It is the best known among many such groups, most of which separated from the church over the issue of polygamy.

    Interestingly, for the most part, the doctrines and practices of Mormon Fundamentalists are closer to those of the original Mormon Church than are the doctrines and practices of today's Mormon Church.

    Sociologically the FLDS is also consider a cult. The movement has been in the news for ousting young boys, for reassigning the wives and children of excommunicated men to men who are for the time being still in good standing, for forcing girls into underage marriages, for other forms of child abuse, and a range of other issues.

    Full story: Polygamous FLDS cult erects wall around meetinghouse

  10. cult leader Lia Eden

    cult leader Lia Eden

    The leader of a religious cult based in Jakarta has asked Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for their permission to allow a UFO, piloted by the archangel Gabriel, to land at the country's National Monument so that he can pick up her followers.
    Lia Eden
    Lia Eden, 67, claims to have had an encounter with the Archangel Gabriel, whom she refers to as the Holy Spirit, in 1995.

    As a result she came to believe she is the reincarnation of Mother Mary. According to Eden God declared her to be "Gabriel's mate," and that she was "the one God has declared as His heavenly incarnate on earth."

    At various times she has also claimed to be Gabriel himself, or to be the Messiah tasked with bringing security and justice to the world.

    Eden also says her son, Ahmad Mukti, is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

    The religious cult, known as Salamullahor 'God's Kingdom of Eden,' believes Muhammad was the last prophet, and teaches that all religions are true.

    Earthquake Warning

    The desire to be whooshed away by a UFO may have something to do with a failed prophecy.

    On April 28 Eden warned that Jakarta was going to be hit by a major earthquake before the end of the month.

    Not a tremble was felt.

    Eden said two young men sighted Gabriel's UFO near the National Monument and recorded it on their cell phones. She therefore asked Indonesia's President and the local governor to allow the UFO to land.

    Neither official has responded.

    Full story: Cult leader Lia Eden wants UFO to pick up her followers