cults

Victims Raise Profile of ‘Spiritual Abuse’

Mixed media illustration, Elena Ray / Shutterstock.com

Mixed media illustration, Elena Ray / Shutterstock.com

SPOKANE, Wash. — Karen Wanjico had no choice.

Turn away from her mother like the rest of her congregation, or be exterminated by God at Armageddon — which could come any moment — with no hope of resurrection.

Wanjico, of Casa Grande, Ariz., was 17 years old when she chose to go with the congregation and shun her mom. Looking back now, at age 49, she says it was the most devastating thing she’s ever done.

After earning a Master of Divinity degree and working several years as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, Wanjico can talk about what happened to her: She was spiritually abused.

Amish Fringe Group Wants the Word ‘Cult’ be Banned From Hate-Crime Trial

CLEVELAND— Members of a fringe Amish group charged with committing hate crimes against fellow Amish have requested that certain words, including "cult," "splinter" and "rogue," be banned from their upcoming trial in U.S. District Court, according to court documents filed Monday (Aug. 13).

They also requested that any Amish called to testify "affirm the truthfulness" of their testimony rather than swear an oath because swearing an oath "would offend the witness' religious outlook."

Samuel Mullet, 66, of Jefferson County, Ohio, and 15 of his male and female followers are charged with hate crimes and cover-ups. Prosecutors accuse them of forcibly cutting the beards and hair of fellow Amish members. The attacks were designed to settle scores with people with whom Mullet and his followers had disputes, prosecutors said.

'Sound of My Voice': Belief, Skepticism and Cults

Apple image by OlegSam / Shutterstock.

Apple image by OlegSam /Shutterstock.

Typcially, cults don’t garner media attention unless they do something really big, like when Heaven’s Gate rose to the public eye in 1997 after 39 members committed mass suicide. And while cults may welcome newcomers openly or warily, it seems they prefer to remain elusive and secretive.

In the feature-length drama Sound of My Voice, Peter Aitken, a 20-something school teacher, is angry at the cultish fanaticism that led to his mother’s death (per her cult’s teaching, she refused to take medicine when she was gravely ill) and turns a cynical eye toward belief patterns he believes distort reality.

Shaped by an experience that left him void of parental companionship, he searches for meaning alone, not knowing what to believe.

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