The Gentle Wind Project has filed a lawsuit in response to online criticism of its products and activities:
A local new age psychotherapeutic organization
recently filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court against a Maine couple and others they claim designed a Web site intent on destroying its reputation.
The Gentle Wind Project is a 24-year-old non-profit corporation that describes itself as being "dedicated to education and research aimed at alleviating human suffering and trauma."
Headquartered in Kittery, Gentle Wind Projectís core group includes spokeswoman Mary "Moe" Miller and founder John D. Miller (no relation), who reside in Durham, N.H.
The organization holds seminars across the country, selling "healing instrument" products for donations ranging from $450 to upwards of $10,000, asserting they have exclusive healing technology that is channeled telepathically from the "spirit world" and has healing powers.
Filed in May, the suit names Judy Garvey and her husband James F. Bergin
of Blue Hill, Maine, the J.F. Bergin Company, Steve Gamble, a resident of the United Kingdom, a corporation controlled by Gamble named Equilibra
, Ivan Fraser, a resident of the United Kingdom, The Truth Campaign
, a corporation run by Fraser, and several other individuals from Massachusetts and New Jersey. [The 'others' include Ian Mander, New Zealand, Editor of Cults.co.nz; Rick Ross and Rick Ross Institute; Steve Hassan and Freedom of Mind. - Editor, Apologetics Index]
The suit contends the defendants alleged that members of Gentle Wind engage in or subject others to voluntary or involuntary group sexual rituals; extort or coerce individuals to donate money or things of value; cause the abuse and/or neglect of children; misrepresent the nature and effectiveness of Gentle Wind products for material gain; and engage in or cause the misappropriation of Gentle Wind funds.
The Gentle Wind Project collected
millions of dollars in donations by distributing plastic healing instruments that believers say alleviate suffering through the regeneration of human energy fields damaged by trauma.
But when two of the group's former associates went on the Internet and compared the Kittery-based nonprofit to a "mind-control cult," Gentle Wind called a lawyer.
The organization and six of its officers have filed a complex defamation lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland. It charges that former adherents James Bergin and Judy Garvey, a married couple from Blue Hill, made false accusations of financial and sexual exploitation that damaged the organization's reputation and slowed the flow of donations, its only income.
According to court documents, Bergin wrote that he and Garvey had been "obedient followers" of Gentle Wind for 17 years, allowing the organization to influence his family in "very destructive ways." He said his wife had participated in sexual rituals with members of the Gentle Wind inner circle. Bergin said after leaving the group he studied "cults
and high-control groups" and was struck with "their universal similarity of these groups to Gentle Wind."
In addition to Bergin and Garvey, the lawsuit names as defendants several operators of Internet sites that published the couple's work. Three of the operators have settled the claims against them by removing the material from their Web sites, and one has published an apology.
But one Web site operator, Rick Ross
, a New Jersey consultant who studies cults and similar groups and sometimes testifies about them in court, has refused to remove the material he has collected on Gentle Wind and remains a defendant in the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Gene Carter has described the lawsuit as "convoluted." The original complaint, filed in May, claimed relief under federal racketeering laws. Bergin and Garvey successfully got those charges dropped. But Gentle Wind filed a new complaint that relied on different laws.
A motion to dismiss those claims is pending. In the meantime, one defendant, a Web site operator in New Zealand, has been found in default for not responding to the complaint, and three Web site operators have settled.
Ross has asked to be dismissed from the case because he argues that he never came to Maine and could not have violated Maine law.
The New Zealand web site operator who has not deemed the lawsuit worthy of a reply is Ian Mander, whose excellent website - Cults.co.nz include a highly informative entry on The Gentle Wind Project
Steve Hassan is among those who have removed material from their websites. His erstwhile Freedom of Mind website entry on The Gentle Wind Project can still be viewed in the WayBackMachine's Internet archive.
Judge David Cohen wrote that a court in Maine has no jurisdiction over Rick A. Ross and his Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements.
Cohen said that because Ross has no connection to Maine, he cannot be sued here for alleged defamation.
On his Web site, Ross referred to Gentle Wind, a nonprofit corporation that has collected millions of dollars in donations for distributing plastic healing devices, as "a rather odd group" and a "purported 'cult.' "
Gentle Wind argued that those statements have damaged its reputation and reduced the donations that are its only income.
Details about the lawsuit, along with answers and counterclaims by James Bergin and Judy Garvey, can be read on the Wind of Changes website.
It is also helpful and enlightening to read these comments from Truth Campaign - one of the web sites sued by the Gentle Wind Project and later dismissed from the case:
I am pleased to announce that the Lawsuit filed by the GWP against Steve Gamble (Equilibra) and Ivan Fraser (Truth Campaign) has now been dismissed from Court, with prejudice and without costs. To View Court Filing
The GWP (the Plaintiffs) and Steve and Ivan have reached a consensual Agreement. Neither Ivan nor I have had to pay the GWP, the Plaintiffs, or the Courts any money whatsoever in reaching this agreement. It has cost us only our attorney fees.
This Agreement can be viewed here for those who may be interested, and also so there can be no missunderstandings as to what both parties have agreed to. The agreement is in PDF format - Download Agreement
This agreement means Ivan and I have agreed to remove links to the GWP and former members websites from our websites. We have also place[d] a clarification to this effect on our respective websites. An article about the GWP, slightly amended, (gentlewindupdate.pdf
) written by Ivan and myself reflecting our personal and critical opinions about some of the GWP Healing Instruments and methods used to promote them will remain on our websites, but from hereon in, it is agreed that this particular article will not be altered or added to.
However, this does not prevent Ivan or I from reporting reliable, newsworthy and factual information about the GWP in the future, or from expressing our personal opinions about the effectiveness of the GWP's products, or providing critical observations about GWP products or claims where the criticism is based on information authored and published by governmental agencies or independent standards organisations, or on scientific, statistical or recognised qualitative analysis.
This agreement also means that the GWP and the Plaintiffs cannot engage in unsupported disparagement of either Ivan or myself. Likewise, we cannot disparage without support the GWP or the Plaintiffs either.
I can hear the fat lady singing, and her voice is as sweet as honey.
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