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The Farce Revealed
Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective

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The Farce Revealed : Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective

The Farce Revealed

Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective

Author: Peter Arnone

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INTRODUCTION

Prior to his death in 1973, Mark Prophet, self-proclaimed prophet and messenger of God, made a startling announcement to his staff, of which I was a part. Mark had founded the Summit Lighthouse in 1958. From its "What is The Summit Lighthouse?" brochure, it was promoted as "a unique non-denominational religious and philosophical organization," not as a traditional church. Yet Mark stated to us the world would be practicing "Summitry" for the next thousand years.

It wasn't until 1974, when for dubious reasons, the Summit Lighthouse became known as Church Universal and Triumphant. This was instituted by Mark's successor and widow, Elizabeth Clare Prophet. She too, was a self-proclaimed prophet and messenger of God. It was only then that the organization identified itself as a church. And it was soon thereafter that Mark's dream of his organization becoming a world religion became a stated objective.

To accomplish the goal of Church Universal and Triumphant placing itself alongside Christianity and Judaism, CUT focused its energies on the building of its church congregation, or "community." Even though it abandoned its mission of establishing its "Community of the Holy Spirit" in Montana in the mid-1990's, it did not, and has not, abandoned its efforts to become the next world religion.

Since Elizabeth Clare Prophet became mentally incapacitated in 1999, the leadership of Church Universal and Triumphant has fallen into the hands of her subordinates. But since the church's major preparations for nuclear catastrophe (which failed to materialize) in 1990 cast doubt on Elizabeth's prophecy and messengership, CUT has fallen on hard times. Members have left in great number. And they have taken their financial support of the Church with them.

Today, Church Universal and Triumphant finds itself in the precarious position of maintaining its very survival, let alone prospering and growing into a dominant faith. It's present leadership is attempting to re-define itself as well as re-define its mission. Expanding its church community has been replaced with the less responsible and more economical mission of making its spiritual sponsors, the so-called "Ascended Masters" a household name. But in its present undertaking, CUT finds itself having to confront the questionable past of its founders, Mark and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, and if their Ascended Masters even exist. The true history of Church Universal and Triumphant and its leaders, until recently unknown to its faithful membership, is now being brought to light. The Farce Revealed - Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective, is but one revelation into its clouded past.

THE FARCE REVEALED

Clearly, there are two academic perspectives regarding Church Universal and Triumphant. On one hand is the school of thought which looks upon CUT as a destructive cult. For example, the American Family Foundation (AFF) serves as a forum for these scholars, which include Dr. Margaret Singer and Dr. Stephen Kent. I have read Dr. Singer and spoken with Dr. Kent. Because of my 22-year experience in CUT, I am impressed with the depth of their understanding of the cult issue. I have come to support their views. These people tend to possess the common sense and insight to see something that is wrong. More importantly, they have the courage to say it.

On the other hand is the school of thought which looks upon CUT as a legitimate, though non-traditional, new religion. For example, the Association of World Academics for Religious Education (AWARE) serves as a forum for these scholars, which include J. Gordon Melton, Dr. James Lewis, his wife Eve Oliver, professor Rob Balch, and Stephan Langdon. The latter were all participants in the AWARE study of CUT in July, 1993. This led to their 1994 publication, CHURCH UNIVERSAL AND TRIUMPHANT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE (Lewis and Melton, editors). I have read the book and talked with James Lewis, read Rob Balch and talked with him at great length, and talked with Stephan Langdon at length. Because of my 22-year experience in CUT, I am astonished at their lack of understanding of the cult issue. But more so, I am appalled at the shoddy scientific methods which lead to not only the publication of CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE, but its endorsement by a large segment of academia. (I also spoke at length with Larry J. Halford, Ph.D. of Washburn University. His support of Lewis and Melton and their book was conclusive. It was as if every revelation ' I brought up to refute their study went in one ear and out the other.) I have little to no support for their perspective. These people tend to lack the common sense and insight to see something that is wrong. My impression is their collective motto is see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.

My involvement with the farce began in the summer of 1993. A good friend of mine who was a Church Universal and Triumphant staff member told at least one member of the AWARE investigative team to get in touch with me. I was a critic of the Church, had been a 22-year member, and had been a staff member for 14 years. Since my friend was assured the study of CUT was intent on being objective, it would seem the scholars should be interested in an alternative view from someone who was close to the Church for so long. My friend was puzzled when I told him I was contacted by no one. By late summer 1994, CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE was published. It was about the same time John Pietrangelo's LAMBS TO SLAUGHTER came out. Here in Livingston, MT, John's book became quite controversial and was the subject of several letters to the editor in the Livingston Enterprise. My letter in support of John's book was met with ridicule by some CUT members. I was criticized as being bitter and ignorant, while CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE was being waved in my face as the real truth. It would not be the last time the book was waved in the faces of CUT critics. Ever since CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE was published, it has been used as a propaganda tool by CUT leaders and members to qualify themselves as a mainstream religion. It is basically an endorsement of CUT by the AWARE academics who conducted the study on the church at its 4th of July conference in 1993. Its conclusion states CUT is a harmless, legitimate new religion that has been unjustly subjected to criticism and persecution. But for those who know better, it is a whitewash of the Church by so-called impartial scholars who themselves became unwitting victims of the cult's subtle seduction. For myself, it was very discouraging to read the book when it first appeared. The introduction by James Lewis was such a gushing tribute to CUT, yet so insightful, I was convinced that Murray Steinman, CUT spokesman and public relations director, was its author. The overall attitude of the book was that allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the Church were the exaggerated grumbling of a misinformed, narrow-minded media, and disgruntled former members with an ax to grind. Since former members held no credibility with Lewis and Melton, the two went ahead and published their investigation without seeking and including their input. As for the inclusion of other academics who had a differing perspective than their own, they too, were left out. Consider the following:


AWARE
Association of World Academics for Religious Education
160 North Fairview Ave, Suite D282
Goleta, CA 93117 (805) 968-1677

March 4, 1993

Prof. Monty L. Lynn
Dept. of Management Sciences
Abilene Christian University

Dear Prof. Lynn:

It has recently been brought to my attention that the Spring 1993 volume of the INTERNATIONAL ANNUAL FOR RESEARCH AND SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC STUDIES OF RELIGION will contain an article by Stephen Kent, "The Lustful God: A Psycho-Sexual Historical Study of the Children of God's leader, David Berg." There are many points on which his research is questionable. I have, for example, been informed that Prof. Kent relied heavily on information obtained from hostile former members of The Family (A.K.A. the Children of God) for this paper. Research on former members of controversial religious groups (e.g., my "Apostates and the Legitimation of Repression," Sociological Analysis, Winter 1989) has, however, demonstrated that such limited subsamples are non-representative, which calls into question the objectivity of his entire study.

Stephen Kent's contact with current members was minimal, except to obtain certain out-of-state publications, as well as highly-sensitive, internal documents, which the leadership generously provided. Family members with whom I am in contact feel that Prof. Kent was not completely honest regarding his intended use of these documents.

Finally, I am personally concerned that, "The Lustful God repeats popular stereotypes," stereotypes that serve to reinforce rather than to diffuse fear and prejudice with regard to non-traditional religious groups. As academics attempting to provide objective information to the general public, we should be particularly sensitive to this issue, especially considering the hysteria presently being whipped up by the mass media in the wake of the Branch Davidian incident.

Because Prof. Kent may have violated professional ethics as well as proper sampling methods, the controversy that could emerge following the appearance of his paper would reflect poorly on the good reputation of your publication. For these reasons, I advise that "The Lustful God" be withdrawn, at least from the current year's annual. Thank you.

Sincerely,
James R. Lewis
Ph.D. Director


Regarding the self-professed credibility and ethics of James Lewis, consider the following also:

LOS ANGELES TIMES

May 6, 1995 (excerpts)

Alleged Persecution of Cult Investigated Japan: U.S. activists visit Tokyo. They're concerned about treatment of sect suspected in subway attack. (Teresa Watanabe, Times staff writer)

Tokyo - Four California activists are investigating charges of religious persecution against Aum Supreme Truth, the sect suspected in a poison gas attack against subway riders here in March.

In an interview Friday, Los Angeles lawyer Barry Fisher (chairman, American Bar Assn. subcommittee on religious freedom) said he and the others decided to visit after hearing that authorities had conducted mass arrests of Supreme Truth members,

He was accompanied by two Santa Barbarans - J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religions, and James R. Lewis, director of the Assn. Of World Academics for Religious Education - and Thomas Banigan of Anver Bioscience Design Inc. in Sierra Madre.

Melton said he contacted Supreme Truth's New York office after news reports raised questions about possible persecution.

Supreme Truth agreed to pay the group's plane fare and expenses - but no other fees


THE WASHINGTON POST

May 9, 1995 (excerpts)

U.S. Visitors Boost Cause of Japanese Cult Lawyer Says Police Imperil Religious Rights of Sect (T.R. Reid, Washington Post Foreign Services)

Tokyo - One of the U.S. visitors, James Lewis, told a hostile and clearly disbelieving roomful of Japanese reporters gathered at an Aum office today that the cult could not have produced the rare poison gas, sarin, used in both mass murder cases (March 20, 1995, 12 dead - 1994, 7 dead). Lewis said the American group determined this from photos and documents provided from Aum.

The Americans said they were invited to Japan by the cult after expressing concern to Aum's New York branch about religious freedom here. They said their air fare, hotel bills, and "basic expenses" were paid by the cult, but neither Aum nor the Americans would say how much money was involved.


What kind of scientific objectivity was employed in CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE? As far as I was concerned, if anything or anybody was misinformed and prejudiced, it was this book and its authors. These people didn't have a clue what was really going on beneath the surface in CUT, nor what a pack of useful idiots they were for the Church. But what could anyone do to confront their bad science? In the winter of 1995, a friend called. She was an excommunicated member of CUT, and not afraid to speak her mind. She told me she had become friendly with Eve Oliver, and that both Eve and her husband James Lewis had a falling out with CUT. Eve had become aware of abuses in the Church with the help of our mutual friend. I got the phone number of James Lewis and called him. I gave him an earful about the real CUT. He told me he was put out with CUT because of some contractual obligation the Church was not fulfilling. He felt he had been taken for a ride and was going to get back at the Church. He told me he was planning on returning to Corwin Springs to research book two of his study, but would in fact be getting information to expose the Church. I kept all of this to myself and a few close friends of like mind. I looked forward to James Lewis' expose. But over the next year or so, it never materialized. At least I and my friends had the consolation of telling others that one of the authors of CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE knew the church was a fraud. Still, I was miffed that Lewis never publicly repudiated his original work. In time, I would learn that not only was there no honor among thieves, but certain academics as well. In the summer of 1995, I was contacted by another participant in the AWARE study, Rob Balch, a professor of sociology at the University of Montana. He came to Livingston and interviewed me. He also told me he was not pleased with the AWARE study and its result, CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE. He told me he would be writing a paper to be published exposing the study as flawed and biased. As a critic of CUT, I told him I would help him in whatever way I could. We thus began an association that would last until his paper was published. Forthwith is a copy of his first draft the following summer.


HOW NOT TO DISCOVER MALFEASANCE IN NEW RELIGIONS

An Examination of the AWARE Study of the Church Universal and Triumphant*

Robert W. Balch
Stephan Langdon
Department of Sociology
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812

August, 1996

NOTE: The full text of this article is included in the book, "Wolves Within the Fold," edited by Anson Shupe.


[...]
Our involvement in the AWARE study was the first time we had seen how other scholars do research on new religions. It was a disconcerting experience. The overriding problem was the study's lack of objectivity, which permeated every aspect of the data collection process. For the most part, the scholars turned a blind eye to the controversies surrounding the Church because the real intent of the study was not to investigate, but to exonerate.

Our purpose is not to slander the Church by implying the existence of abuses for which we have no hard evidence. As we stated in our introduction to this paper, our personal experiences with the Church have been thoroughly positive, and we must add that even if abuses have occurred, we have no reason to suppose they are any more common or serious than the abuses that occur in institutionalized religions. Nor is it our intent to malign anyone who was involved in the AWARE project.

Instead we want to point out the lessons to be learned from the study. Even when allegations of malfeasance fly in the face of conventional academic wisdom, they need to be investigated thoroughly and objectively. The need for objective research should be paramount, even when it is obvious that the group being studied is being persecuted by the mass media and anti-cult organizations. Researchers should not take members' claims at face value, but rather they should develop innovative strategies for digging into the inner life of the organization to discover if the charges can be substantiated. Researchers need to pay attention to Goffman's insights about back-stage life and the teamwork used to conceal it from outsiders. In the case of collaborative studies, investigators should agree beforehand on steps to encourage the free expression of findings and opinions, so that potentially fruitful avenues of investigation are opened instead of closed.

Unfortunately, the AWARE investigation closed more doors than it opened. As a result, The Church Universal and Triumphant, far from becoming one of the most thoroughly studied new religions, remains as much of an enigma as ever.



Response to Rob Balch from Peter Arnone after reading above paper:

August 27, 1996

Dear Rob,

Having waded through the one-sided nonsense of CHURCH UNIVERSAL AND TRIUMPHANT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE, and having the book waved in my face as the unbiased and definitive authority on the Church, I very much appreciate your paper HOW NOT TO DISCOVER MALFEASANCE IN NEW RELIGIONS.

You made a couple of points I'd like to comment on:

#1 "the Church provides a viable spiritual path for its members." The problem I have with this statement is that if and when individuals pursue the spiritual path of Church Universal and Triumphant to its culmination in "the white fire core," they will most likely be hurt.

#2 As the AWARE researchers themselves fell into the trap of "groupthink," make no mistake, CUT is an entire institution overcome by the malady.

Will Jim Lewis get a copy of your paper? What do you think his reaction will be? His support of Aum Supreme Truth and CUT, and academia's support of Lewis, cause me, and I'm sure others, to question the credibility of academia itself.

What is the next step for your paper? Will it be published? CUT continues to use the AWARE book for public relations leverage. And its members use it as leverage with their families and friends to justify their excessive involvement with the Church in the face of so much accusation and contradiction. I would like to see your work in the hands of more people, including the media, to level the playing field.

I look forward to speaking with you again.

Sincerely,
Peter

p.s. Kathy Schmook is out of town. When she returns I will give her a copy of your paper. I will also ask her if I can give you her phone no. and address. I would really like to see the two of you get together. I know your paper will move her as I'm quite certain you will appreciate what she has to offer.


Rob Balch response to Peter Arnone letter above:

August 28, 1996

Dear Peter,

Thanks for your comments on our paper. It will appear in Wolves Within the Fold, an anthology edited by Anson Shupe, a sociologist at Indiana/Purdue University in Ft. Wayne. Andy is a past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and author of many books about new religions, including a major study of the Moonies. Ironically, Andy is one of those who testified against CAN (Cult Awareness Network) in the trial that sunk the group. He is generally a cult apologist and one of those who distrusts apostate testimonies. Yet he's pretty enthusiastic about our paper. The audience for the book will be pretty limited - mainly academic sociologists.

As for getting the paper into the hands of more people, some of that may happen even before the book is published, A couple days ago I got a call from Gordon Melton, who runs the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, and who was a member of the AWARE study team. He thought the paper was, for the most part, "right on," as he put it. He liked it so much that he plans to distribute copies to participants at a special session on research methods at this fall's meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. Gordon said most of the participants at last year's session were graduate students and new PhDs in sociology and religious studies, and he expects a similar group this year. (Gordon went to Japan with Jim Lewis to study the Aum group, but told me that he was embarrassed by Jim's public statements he clearly wants to distance himself from Lewis.)

More on the notion of getting a wider readership for the paper, tonight I got a call from Tom Robbins, another sociologist who has written extensively about new religions. He also liked the paper, but one of his concerns was that it will be used by people in the anti-cult movement to discredit all sociological research on so-called cults. I think he had a good point because a lot of sociological studies have been very good, and a lot of the anti-cult studies have been very bad. I plan to include a sentence or two about that. As I think I said in my last letter, Stephan and I are not CAN supporters, and we don't want to convey the impression that we are. Our concern is not to discredit unconventional religions, but to promote thorough, objective research. I think every group probably has its skeletons in the closet. The Catholic Church certainly does, but I still think it's a "viable" path for lots of people.

As far as getting the paper into the hands of media people, I'm pretty leery. I'm not a political person, and I prefer to keep a low profile. I don't want to be portrayed as a CUT antagonist, because I'm not, and neither is Stephan. Stephan has a cousin and an aunt who are in the Church, and he thinks the Church is working well for them. But once the paper is out on the land, we can't control what's done with it. If interviewed by any reporters, however, I will make it clear that I am not a CAN sympathizer and that I do not support incidents like the Laverne Collins deprogramming attempt. I'd be happy to talk more about this the next time I see you there are fundamental philosophical issues here about free will, social influence, victimization, religious freedom, caveat emptor, etc.

As for groupthink,,,, I would not be at all surprised that it's pervasive in CUT. I used the groupthink model in the first couple papers I wrote about the Love Family. But I think it's important to note that the concept was not developed from observing cults, but from studies of government decision making. The classic case of groupthink, described in detail by Janis, was JFK's inner circle of advisors which hatched the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1962. For me, the fact that groupthink was at work in Kennedy's inner circle can't be taken as a blanket discreditation of everything in the Kennedy administration.

But back to the paper. I sent Murray (Steinman) a copy and he seems pretty upset about it. He called Andy Shupe and wants to write a rejoinder, which is fine with Stephan and me. He also made several calls to Gordon Melton. When Stephan and I talked with him, he characterized the rebuttal he wants to write as a "friendly rejoinder." He said our paper would not jeopardize our relationship with the Church I can still bring students to visit. He was friendly but frankly, he's clearly concerned and taking the paper very seriously. He flat-out denied any knowledge of the incident where the Church minister had her confession letters read publicly. I got most of this information from Louise J. What do you know about the incident?

So that's where things stand now. Yes, I'd like to talk with Kathy again. So would Stephan. He's planning on spending 2-3 weeks in Montana this fall and wants to begin interviewing ex-members.

Take care,
Rob


Washington Times

March 1997 ( vol. IV, no. 14) following the Heaven's Gate debacle (excerpt):

The deadly effects of the group's beliefs caught major cult watchers by surprise. The only academic in the country who had studied them (Heavens Gate), University of Montana sociologist Rob Balch, was inundated by media requests. After infiltrating the group, he told the Chicago Tribune in 1994 the cult was not dangerous. "It is not in the mold of the Charles Manson family, Jim Jones' People's Temple or David Koresh's Branch Davidians," Mr. Balch told the newspaper. "It does not have a violent history."


In 1997 Peter Arnone received the following message on his answering machine from Eve Lewis, a director and member of the AWARE team, and wife of Dr. James Lewis, co-author of CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE:

Peter,

My name is Evelyn Oliver. I was the person who came out with James Lewis on the AWARE study. And I'm calling you back. I think we talked (not so, P.A.) some time ago when I wanted to get the rest of the study done on ex-members, and all of the horrible things that were happening. And you sent us some information. And I had called Rob Balch to go out there. I'm the person who put together that meeting two days before the study was over and found out all these horrible things that were hidden. And I'm trying to get people to write me things even though they didn't put their name down to protect their privacy. But at least to write it in writing, so that my report of it wasn't gossip or hearsay. People didn't do that, so I went ahead and sent Rob Balch out there, and he took information last March and promised to get everything back to them as far as what, you know, his report and mail them things. And he never did. And in the meantime, I was relying on him to follow through on the ex-members and the horror stories that were going on. It was impossible to get ex-member information at the time of the initial study. Also, in the wake of Waco happening, everybody was under pressure at that time, you know, to be sure that the Church wasn't doing horrific activities for which they needed to be raided. And we just did an overall view. We are preparing the rest of the study for Syracuse University, and when I went to Rob to get the information, he has not put this together but instead, he's putting together a slander to us for our AWARE study. And I don't know where he's coming from. But he did not put together any of the gory details, and instead is trying to slander us, his own colleagues. And I mean it's just outrageous. And I would like to talk to you about some input or about whatever information that you have so that we can add it into the Syracuse study. Obviously we, in … (end of first message) Hi, sorry to keep going on like this but to finish up is that, the problem obviously in retrospect is that, as we look back, Rob perhaps feels that we've stepped on his toes by coming in his territory where he's devoted a lot of time, and years, looking at CUT. And we come in and do a study, and this is why we did include him in the study. And, it's just become a nightmare because of it. I mean, he didn't print up any of these things that his associate had done. I mean, I called him and I said you know, you're right. There is malfeasance going on here. Let's flesh it out. Let's investigate it all. And I mean this is a hell of a way to respond to our, you know, good intentions and good investigative work. I'm not a scholar. I used to be an investigator with law enforcement. And so I'm pretty ticked off at this. And I do want to get the full story and all of the details, and all of your good work, not to just go down the drain. I mean there's things that need to be put together here. I understand now that the Church has changed. It has done some positive things. That's important to know. But at the time I reported this to them they were not interested in doing anything about it. And that's why I went forward with Rob to flesh it out so people would be validated, vindicated, and the painful things would stop. So, if you would be so kind, give me a return call at my office *****, my fax number *****, and we'll call you back so it doesn't have to be on your nickel. But I would like to hear from you. Thank you. Bye.


January, 2000

Looking back, I did not return Eve Lewis's call. By then, I was fed up with every one of the intellectual morons from the AWARE study. It appeared the truth was secondary to their egos and stature among their peers. What I witnessed was half-baked effort. No one had the courage to make waves, even Rob Balch. None of them had, or was willing to roll up their sleeves and penetrate and expose Church Universal and Triumphant for what it really was. Rob Balch eventually published his paper. It was re-edited and so watered down that after reading it, I threw it out. I had heard he was under threat of being sued by James Lewis and Eve Oliver. And there is speculation Lewis settled out of court with CUT over terms of his original contractual agreement. Lastly, CHURCH UNIVERSAL AND TRIUMPHANT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE has itself become an indictment against CUT. Community, portrayed in the book as the present and future of CUT has been abandoned by the Church. Comparing the CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE fantasy account of the Church of only a few years ago with the reality of its present decaying condition makes a powerful statement: Church Universal and Triumphant is a fraud and a failure.


From the Livingston Enterprise

December 27, 1999

Caption: Paolinis Did Their Homework

Editor:

It has been roughly two weeks since the Enterprise published its headline article announcing Kenneth and Talita Paolini's new book, "400 Years of Imaginary Friends." As the article pointed out, much of the book focuses on the questionable history of Church Universal and Triumphant. Not surprising, there have been only a few minor objections to the article and book voiced in the Letters to the Editor. What is very surprising however, is that no official comment from the CUT leadership has been forthcoming. The silence emanating from Corwin Springs has been deafening. It appears it is CUT's best defense against the exposure of the truth.

The Enterprise article caught CUT spokesman Chris Kelley with his foot in his mouth one more time. Without reading "400 Years of Imaginary Friends," he criticized the academic credibility of the book. Apparently Chris has a preference for members of academia like those who produced his favorite volume in 1994, "Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective." The authors and editors of that CUT whitewash were professor James Lewis and Dr. Gordon Melton. As reported in the Los Angeles Times (May 6, 1995) and Washington Post (May 9, 1995), the same Lewis and Melton were flown to Japan by the Aum Supreme Truth group to defend their cult and leader Soko Asahara after the saran gas attack in the Tokyo subway. The outspoken Lewis used Aum's own documentation to defend them before all evidence was presented. He looked like a fool when the truth was made known.

Similarly, Lewis and Melton spoke up for CUT and against its critics without all evidence being presented there. They went ahead and published their book with most input provided by CUT. There was no reference to CUT critics, including former members or even fellow academics with an alternative view. Today, the Lewis & Melton investigative team looks like a pack of fools. Prof. Rob Balch, a participant in the study from the University of Montana, admits their research of CUT was flawed and biased. Since the early 1980's, the Livingston area has witnessed the rise and fall of Church Universal and Triumphant. Like David and Goliath, pebbles of well-placed truth have brought down the high and the mighty. Today, CUT barely maintains a heartbeat with only a small fraction of its former supporters remaining. During its recent October conference, treasurer Sydney Bennett admitted that without operating funds from the sale of thousands of acres of its Royal Teton Ranch, CUT would have been forced to "close its doors." The CUT leadership yet refuses to answer the embarrassing questions why they find themselves in this predicament. In spite of CUT surviving on its land, the coup de grace may have now been applied by the Paolini book, "400 Years of Imaginary Friends." The aforementioned "academics" failed to do their homework. The Paolini's have not. Those who think it is an assault on the CUT religion should read the book before passing further judgment. They may well discover that CUT has not been a religion at all. But in fact, a clever con game merely posing as a religion, spawned by its delusional founders.

Peter Arnone
Livingston



Addendum - January 7, 2000

A friend forwarded the above paper to Gordon Melton yesterday. She asked him, "Care to rebut?" Meltonís reply:

Care to rebut? Not really. There is not a lot to rebut. I do not believe that brainwashing exists and I doubt that Arnone has anything new to bring to the brainwashing table. He hates CUT, I could care less. He has made no substantive critique of the study, actually he has said nothing about the study that indicates he has even read it. I gather that he is upset with the fact that we did not denounce CUT but resented our findings in rather mundane fashion. He complains of methodological flaws, but does not point them out. I can only assume that he doesnít know what he is talking about.

The simple fact is that we did the study, as preliminary as it was. It will stand until someone is able to do a more thorough study and offer any refutations that they might have.

Gordon

Mister Melton remains naÔve. I would go so far as to say he is defensive, out of his own insecurity.

Mr. Melton has never spoken with me. He has never heard my story, yet judges me hateful. My paper, THE FARCE REVEALED, was not intended to be a critique of the AWARE study. Contained therein, Rob Balch provided the critique. And according to Balch: "He (Melton) thought the paper (Balchís critique) was, for the most part, "right on," as he put it. He liked it so much that he plans to distribute copiesÖ,"

Was I upset the AWARE study did not "denounce" CUT? I was upset, as Rob Balch explained, the study was undertaken with haste. I was upset, as Rob Balch explained, the study was flawed and biased. I was upset, as Rob Balch explained, CUT was exonerated. I was upset because Melton, and his sidekick Lewis, went ahead and published a book that is a misrepresentation. Yet Mr. Meltonís attitude is the study will stand.

As I stated in my paper, I read CUT IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE. If Melton read my paper, it went in one ear and out the other. I suggest he re-think his position on "brainwashing." In addition, if he can get over his own prejudice, he should read the Paolini book, 400 YEARS OF IMAGINARY FRIENDS. He might actually learn something.

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The Farce Revealed : Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective
First posted: Dec. 16, 2002
Last Updated: Jun. 18, 2004
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