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NOTE: (Landmark Education lawyers, pay attention please!)
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Formerly known as "est" and the "Forum", "Landmark Forum" is a so-called LGAT - Large Group Awareness Training program, operated by Landmark Education.

What Is Landmark Education?

Landmark Education says:

The Landmark Forum provides a technology that enables participants to think and act outside existing views and limits, both in their personal lives and relationships in the wider communities and areas of concern in which they are engaged.

Watchman Fellowship has said:

est, Warner Erhard: Personal transformation seminar promising individual growth, business management skills, stress reduction, etc. Teaches the world has no objective meaning, enlightenment, and to live moment to moment with no regard for the future. New Age themes. [...] est has been discontinued and replaced by the Forum and later Landmark.

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What Are The Concerns?

A Landmark critic sums them up as follows:

To round things up, everything in short:

1. THE BAIT
A friend/relative tricks you with the most sincere words into attending an introductory meeting, while appealing to your trust and curiosity, or actual weakness, or all of the above.

2. THE TRAP
Group pressure techniques and wordplay are used upon you and at least 100 more people in 3 days, during which, proper rest and natural needs are denied from you.

3. THE EFFECT
Overwhelming. Might lead to personality disorders. The Forum becomes the most important thing, not its outcomes. You might become a zealot for the Forum (without even registering for the advanced courses), or addicted to it by registering for more, or both. The real effect, most importantly, is economically beneficial to the Forum (unless, of course, you lose your mind and sue them...)

TIME, in The Best of est?Off-site Link - subtitled, "Werner Erhard's legacy lives on in a kinder, gentler and lucrative version of his self-help seminars" - wrote:

Critics say Landmark is an elaborate marketing game that relies heavily on volunteers. Says Tom Johnson, an "exit counselor" often summoned by concerned parents to tend to alumni: "They tire your brain; they make you vulnerable." Says critic Liz Sumerlin: "The participants end up becoming recruiters. That's the whole purpose." Psychiatrists who speak on Landmark's behalf dispute these claims. But Sumerlin says a 1993 Forum turned her fiance (now her ex) into a robot. She organized an anti-Landmark hot line and publications clearinghouse. Landmark officials made sounds to sue her.
The Best of est?Off-site Link TIME magazine, March 16, 1998
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How Does Landmark Handle Criticism?

With lawyers. Landmark does not appreciate criticism - real or perceived. After ELLE magazine wrote a typical reporter-experience piece, Landmark sued:

Although the Elle article made it clear that Landmark and its programs are not cult-like, the lack of research and the thoroughly evident intent of the writer to denigrate the reputation of Landmark and our employee Beth Handel with irresponsible statements and shoddy research require a legal response.

This Wikipedia page documents Landmark Education Litigation>Off-site Link cases.

A writer for MetroActive was warned beforehand:

Once word about my story got around, popping up in an online Landmark newsgroup, it somehow made its way into the office of Art Schreiber, general counsel of Landmark Education Corporation.

Schreiber responded swiftly with a 10-page letter advising me of his "serious concern" that I might defame Landmark. What followed were six pages explaining why Landmark is not a cult, a page of why Landmark cannot be said to brainwash its enrollees, a page and a half of why I must not defame Werner Erhard or est, and a tedious summary explaining that should I "leave Landmark and its programs depicted in a false light ... Landmark is fully prepared to take the appropriate legal action."

Landmark's lawyers also lean heavily on those who provide information online - including Watchman FellowshipOff-site Link in the USA, Jan Groenveld's Cult Awareness and Information Center in Australia, and SIMPOSOff-site Link in the Netherlands.

The business takes a more mature approach in the "Overview" section on it's own site. There Landmark Education used to address what it called "Past Controversies" in an informative article titled Controversy and MisunderstandingsOff-site Link   However, even that articles ends on a mixed note:

Landmark does not expect that its work will always be perfectly represented in the media and public conversation, and recognizes that as with any corporation or enterprise, there will be valid criticism and room for improvement.

At the same time, Landmark is committed that it be represented in the media and public conversation consistent with the facts regarding the quality, content, and results of its programs. Landmark's policy is to take appropriate action to both generate consistent representations and to correct misrepresentations.

Just so there is no confusion: Apologetics Index believes it is important to present accurate information, and welcomes documented corrections where appropriate. However, this site also includes a disclaimer for those who can not handle free speech.
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Is There A Scientology Connection?

A small one:

In the late 1960s, Erhard studied Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard became a significant influence. Scientologists to this day accuse Erhard of having stolen his main ideas for est from Hubbard. We do know that when Erhard set up est he considered making it a church, as Hubbard had done with dianetics and the Church of Scientology. But Erhard decided to incorporate as an educational firm for profit in a broad market.

Erhard and his supporters accuse Scientology of being behind various attempts to discredit Erhard, including hounding by the IRS and accusations of incest by his children.
(...)

est bears little resemblance to Dianetics or Scientology, however. est is a hodgepodge of philosophical bits and pieces culled from the carcasses of existential philosophy, motivational psychology, Maxwell Maltz's Psycho-cybernetics, Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts, Freud, Abraham Maslow, L. Ron Hubbard, Hinduism, Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, P.T. Barnum, and anything else that Erhard's intuition told him would work in the burgeoning Human Potential market.
Werner Erhard and estOff-site Link - Skeptic's Dictionary

Landmark's own site at one time included a copy of a Los Angeles Times article, titled, Scientologists Ran Campaign to Discredit Erhard, Detective SaysOff-site Link (now published on wernererhard.com, a site operated by "Friends of Werner Erhard.")
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Research Resources on Landmark, Landmark Education, Landmark Forum

Articles

Secular The Best of est?Off-site Link March 16, 1998, TIME magazine article, subtitled, "Werner Erhard's legacy lives on in a kinder, gentler and lucrative version of his self-help seminars"
Secular Controversy and MisunderstandingsOff-site Link Copy of article formerly posted at Landmark's own site addressing what the organization at the time referred to as "Past Controversies." [A copy formerly available via the WayBackMachine.org internet archive is currently blocked]
Secular Do You Believe In Miracles?Off-site Link ELLE Magazine, Sep. 1998 article the on Landmark Forum. ELLE promptly got sued: Press Release: Landmark Education Corp. Sues Elle Magazine for LibelOff-site Link
Secular Drive-thru DeliveranceOff-site Link New Phoenix Times, Oct. 19, 2000: "It's not called est anymore, but you can still be ridiculed into self-awareness in just one expensive weekend"
Secular Enlightenment in Two Weekends - The est TrainingOff-site Link Excerpt from the book Outrageous Betrayal, by Stephen Pressman
Secular The est of FriendsOff-site Link MetroActive's July 1998 article on Landmark.
Christian Landmark EducationOff-site LinkPDF file (German-language only) Information provided by Oekumenische Beratstellung, a Swiss countercult ministry.
Christian The Siren Call of Modern Pied PipersOff-site Link Addresses the New Age leanings and implications of LGATs.
Secular Think About ItOff-site Link (Contra) Clearly-reasoned critique
Christian Watchman Fellowship Profile on LandmarkOff-site Link
Secular Werner Erhard and estOff-site Link An entry in The Skeptic's Dictionary
Secular When it comes to Landmark Education Corporation, There's no meeting of the MindsOff-site Link (Contra) Westword, April 18-24, 1996, article
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Information Package

Secular ICSA Information PackageOff-site Link ICSA has an information package about LGATs
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Multimedia

Recently we posted a link to a French TV documentary about Landmark Education. We were subsequently contacted by an attorney for Landmark Education, requesting that the link be removed since, the letter claims, the documentary includes copyrighted material from the "Landmark Forum Manual."

Copies of the documentary in question were briefly posted at Google Video, YouTube and the Internet Archive. Those copies were removed, but are currently the subject of legal action (See, for instance, Landmark Education sues Google over video).

In response to Landmark's actions against Google, YouTube and the Internet Archive, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit group working to protect digital rights, on Oct. 30, 2006 posted a story titled, "Self-Help Group Bullies Net Critics"

EFF subsequently explained in detail why it is challenging Landmark Education's efforts:

The video was posted on several websites, including the Internet Archive, YouTube and Google. In October 2006, Landmark Education started to send threatening cease and desist letters to online service providers who hosted the material. In addition to disputing the truth of the documentary program's allegations, Landmark Education claimed the French documentary infringed its own U.S. copyright in the "Landmark forum leaders manual" (Copyright Reg. No. TXu-1-120-461).

Using the copyright allegation as a pretext, Landmark then issued subpoenas pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows content owners to issue subpoenas to identify alleged infringers even without filing a lawsuit. Subpoenas were sent to Google Video, YouTube and the Internet Archive, demanding to find the identity of the uploader(s).

A review of the video makes clear that the documentary does not contain a copy of the leader manual referenced in Landmark's letters. Rather, it is a news documentary critical of the Landmark organization in France. Moreover, even if Landmark's copyrighted works were visible in the documentary, any such limited and transformative use of a copyrighted work for purpose of criticism, commentary and news reporting is self-evidently fair use and, therefore, noninfringing.

Landmark is not seeking to identify those who originally made the documentary, since it already knows who made it. Nor are the subpoenas based upon the defamation claims Landmark's letter asserts -- DMCA subpoenas are only authorized to identify alleged infringers of the sender's copyright. They are not, however, designed to allow content owners to identify their critics, as Landmark is attempting to do here.

EFF's explanation includes direct links to the video as well as a transcript of the video.

In turn, Landmark Education has distributed Press Releases like this one: Landmark Education Takes Action Against Copyright Infringement.

On Nov. 9, 2006, EFF responded as follows:

Last week, EFF announced that it was fighting against Landmark Education's campaign to identify individuals who posted a French documentary, entitled Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous (Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus), that was critical of the Landmark program, and included hidden camera footage from inside a Landmark Forum event in France.

EFF is currently talking with Landmark in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution about Landmark's DMCA subpoena to Google. In the hope that we can resolve this without need of litigation, EFF has held off on filing its motion to quash that subpoena.

In the mean time, Landmark responded to our press release, according to Red Herring magazine:
"While we appreciate the work of the EFF, the allegation that our copyright claim is bogus is entirely inaccurate," [Art Schreiber, general counsel for Landmark Education] said. "The facts are clear that the Landmark Forum program has for many years been copyrighted. Materials covered by this copyright registration were included throughout the video."
While we appreciate the kind words, we disagree with Mr. Schreiber's copyright analysis. To the extent that the documentary includes any materials copyrighted by Landmark, that use is clearly for purposes of criticism and commentary, i.e., a non-infringing fair use. Yesterday we released a draft of our motion to quash, which explains in detail (see pages 11-16) why Landmark's copyright claim does not hold water. Indeed, it's not even a close call. Sorry, Landmark, but your claim is still bogus.

Wikipedia, the user-edited online encyclopedia, has an indepth entry on the documentary:

Voyage au pays des nouveaux gourous, (Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus) is a TV documentary that presents an investigation of the activities of Landmark Education in France. The documentary was made in 2003 by the investigative journalism program Pièces à Conviction [Exhibits], and aired in France on May 24, 2004 on the channel France 3. The documentary has been the subject of various legal repercussions in France and the United States. As of June 2004, Landmark Education ceased its activities in France.
Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous, Wikipedia entry, accessed Nov. 15, 2006
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The Wikipedia entry talks about the controversies surrounding the documentary, and includes links to the the Australian website that carries the video, a transcript of the video, and related material.

The Google search engine also carries links to the video, which is titled, "Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous" ("Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus")

We are currently in the process of obtaining legal advice regarding the legality of our direct link to the video in question. While we do not encourage nor condone copyright violations, we await the outcome of the EFF communications with Landmark Education before we decide whether or not to remove our link.

By the way, we encourage you to support the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Read EFF's Legal Guide for Bloggers


News Media

» Religion News BlogOff-site Link RNB logs current and archived news about religious cults, sects, alternative religions and related issues.

» Database of archived news items on Landmark Education
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database)

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Websites

Secular The Awareness PageOff-site Link Pro- and contra information on LGATs in general. Includes a good collection of links, and a "fictional LGAT section" with information that is "a stone's throw from the truth" (this approach is probably due to the fact that some LGATs are known for taking legal action against detractors).
Secular LandmarkOff-site Link collection of links on the site of SIMPOS: a Dutch "foundation for information on social problems and occult tendencies"
Secular Landmark Education and the Landmark ForumOff-site Link (Pro) Official site.
Secular Landmark Forum: Just a Bowl of Cherries...But Watch Out for the Pits!Off-site Link Archived at ex-cult.org (and at the WayBackMachine) Mostly addresses the pits.
Secular Landmark Forum: Rants and RavesOff-site Link (Pro and Contra) Mirror of a disappeared US-based site.
Secular Landmark versus SIMPOS/Kleintje MuurkrantOff-site Link Dutch language (Dutch). A roundup of media coverage in Holland, documenting Landmark's uphill battle against Dutch web sites, magazines and newspapers.
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