THE leader of a California religious ‘cult’ which landed Google in a lawsuit is abusive and has given a chilling warning to those who want to leave, a current follower has claimed.
The controversial religious sect, led by Robert Earl Burton, has its headquarters based in nearby Oregon House, a small town deep in the Sierra foothills.
Lloyd alleges in his lawsuit he was fired after complaining about the department’s link to the Fellowship and its bizarre practices, including Burton’s rumored ‘love fests’ where he tries to bed 100 male followers in a day.
News of his firing came after a bombshell Spotify podcast, Revelations, hosted by investigative journalist Jennings Brown, who spoke to men who claimed they were sexually exploited.
The Fellowship, also known as Living Presence and the Fourth Way School, was founded by Burton in 1970, who previously settled a sexual abuse lawsuit in the 1990s.
A current member of the group has now decided to break ranks to speak exclusively to The Sun about the allegations the leader has faced over the years, while has never been criminally charged.
The woman, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said she believes the many survivors who gave harrowing accounts of the alleged abuse in the podcast.
Fellowship of Friends, which has around 1,500 members worldwide, is still active and is run by Burton, 83, who lives at the headquarters in northern California.
Asked how she feels to hear about the latest claims featured in the podcast, the member said: “It’s horrible. It bothers me, it’s always bothered me. It should be called out.”
She added: “Nobody that’s in the group is supposed to talk to you.”
The member, who said she rejoined the group as her late husband and friends were still followers, said Burton should be removed, saying: “I do think it would be wonderful for the health of the community.”
Asked if she feels the Fellowship is a cult, she admitted: “It’s absolutely a cult. It meets all the criteria, it’s leader centric, and you’re punished if you leave.”
Quizzed on what members are told will happen, she cackled: “Oh, you are going to the outer reaches of hell!
She added that when someone starts “exerting their spiritual authority,” the choices are to speak out against what’s happening within the group or leave.
“But for many people it’s like, this is their social life, this is their spiritual life, this is their family, you know, it’s a lot to walk away from,” she admitted.
“These are not made up stories and I’d say, ‘Why doesn’t it bother you?’ They [the other members] just put it back on me; ‘Why does it bother you?’
“The tricky part about this is that there’s some really powerful, important ideas that underpin the Fellowship, that are overlaid with a lot of personal cultish ideas, you know, proposed by Robert Burton.
“He is a very, very flawed human being, he carved out something that worked for him.”
‘VERY FLAWED HUMAN BEING’
In the podcast, Brown says he spoke to seven men who claim Burton sexually exploited them, two of which also alleged they participated in the rumored sex ritual where he attempted to sleep with 100 of his male students in one day.
They also claimed the Fellowship helped them obtain religious visas.
“They told me they were just two of many who had this experience. So if this has been going on, why has nothing been done to stop it?” Brown said in one episode.
The journalist also told The Sun this week: “I haven’t heard of any law enforcement investigations since the podcast came out.
“More survivors have reached out to me, making similar allegations.”
An insider claims the alleged victims have been too afraid to speak to law enforcement on the supposed historic abuse due to the statute of limitations and feelings of shame.
Brown’s podcast also revealed in 2005, ICE received a tip, alleging the Fellowship was bringing non-citizens into the US on religious visas, for sexual exploitation.
The investigation only found that “non-citizens were brought to the US to work non-religious menial jobs for extremely low wages,” according to Brown’s reporting.
Five years later, in 2012, ICE agents raided the Fellowship’s compound a second again. This time along with the DEA.
Fellowship President Greg Holman confirmed in the podcast there was a “big bust,” telling Brown: “I mean, they put on a hell of a raid on this property, with FBI, Immigration, Fire Department, Sheriff’s Department. It was amazing.”
Brown obtained records from the Department of Homeland Security through a Freedom of Information request, which claimed some followers were paying membership funds with cash made from drug sales.
The agents seized marijuana plants and arrested three people, but the organization itself was reportedly never charged with any wrongdoing.
The report said that Homeland Security joined the DEA in the raid because it was still pursuing allegations of human trafficking connected with the group.
Brown reported: “An ICE representative told me that the investigation didn’t substantiate allegations that the Fellowship was using religious visas to bring non-citizens into the US for sexual exploitation.
“Even though the Homeland Security investigation into possible human-trafficking was set in motion by a tip about sex abuse, the reports show that agents didn’t even ask members about that.”
President Holman also told Brown he did not believe the reports of sexual abuse by Burton, but that he would listen to any member who had concerns, but warned they must be “loaded for bear” with facts and evidence.
The Sun has also reached out to Holman and the Fellowship for comment about the sexual exploitation claims, but did not receive a response.
The anonymous member claimed they mostly do not discuss the claims at the headquarters, explaining: “When you go to an event with Robert, it’s usually a dining event. Or it could be a concert.
“There’s no conversation. It’s all about him. He completely controls the environment.
“In terms of what is said, who gets addressed to speak, it’s not like people spontaneously [speak], there could be 20 people at a table. And there’s no side conversations.”
According to Brown’s reporting, a Fellowship lawyer previously asked Burton about the allegations on behalf of the board of directors.
He said in the podcast he obtained an internal record of the exchange and that Burton insisted he “did not brainwash or coerce his students,” and that all his relationships were consensual.
Burton, a former Arkansas school teacher who tells members he speaks with 44 angels, reportedly added that they monitor everything and “would not allow sexual abuse.”
“The lawyer asked Robert why he had sex with male students even though, at the time, homosexuality was forbidden in the Fellowship,” Brown went on.
“Robert responded by quoting the creator of the Fourth Way, Gurdjieff; ‘When a man crystallizes into a conscious being, there are no longer any laws for him, he is a law unto himself.'”
The Sun visited Apollo in Oregon House and can confirm the group is still recruiting, handing out bookmarks often hidden in stores with a phone number for introductory meetings.
A reporter also stopped by local shops, with many staff members admitting to being members, including a cafe close to the headquarters.
When asked about the accusations of abuse, one waitress’s face dropped, as she asked: “What have you heard?” before declining to talk further about the group.
The member who spoke to The Sun said she originally joined the Fellowship back in the early 1970s, and left after her own issues with Burton which she cannot openly discuss.
But she said her husband was still a part of the group, along with many of her friends, and she decided to rejoin years later as they refused to leave – deciding to keep her distance from Burton.
The anonymous member says she feels powerless to do anything about Burton, adding that many members do not agree with her views and ignore negative press.
She alleges Burton was initially confronted many years ago about rumors he was having sex with male students, to which she alleges: “He immediately recoiled and said, you know, my private life is my private life.”
The member was shocked by the claims as he had allegedly banned homosexual relationships within the Fellowship, along with sex outside of marriage.
She says a small group of members wrote to him around 1985 asking him to stop exploiting men after the allegations came to light, but claims their concerns fell on deaf ears.
“They said, you’ve got to stop this behavior. Ultimately they all left, because his behavior did not stop,” she claimed to The Sun.
“I’m in that group. But I would like them to clean up their act around these issues, absolutely.
“Call out that behavior and let the group try to heal and go back to what was really good.”
She said her late husband was “shocked” by the allegations from past members and “it took a few years for it to sink in”, insisting he himself wasn’t seduced by Burton.
But she claims the were both “under his sway” over the years.
Unlike many members, who live at the main headquarters, a 1200-acre plot of land called Apollo in Oregon House, she has her own property elsewhere.
“I have friends that have places up there, so I visit them. And my husband is buried there, which is really the main reason [why I stay in the group],” she went on.
She added that she had heard of the Google lawsuit but that it was “a bit complicated” and she was unaware of the claims brought by Kevin Lloyd, who also wrote a medium essay about his alleged experiences.
The member admitted she has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Fellowship but insists it has still helped her a lot on her own religious journey.
Burton studied the teachings of Russian philosopher George Gurdjieff, who focused on heightened self-awareness, which the woman says has given her comfort throughout her life.
She remains a member, paying an undisclosed annual fee, and says the community feels like family, despite its bad reputation.
“People became classical musicians, and excellent craft workers. My husband lived a refined life,” she said, noting there are millions of dollars worth of artwork and antiques at the compound, which also hosts events and lavish dinners.
“He was a lover of ballet and opera, world travel and art, there were a lot of wonderful experiences that people had in that, absolutely.”
“But, you know, bad behavior is bad behavior, there is no excuse for it.
“At this point, I feel like he’s [Burton] pretty harmless sexually. I mean, he’s 83 or something. But for the health of the spiritual community, it should be called out.
“I have asked people what’s going to happen when he dies because he’s like the glue that has held it all together, at least all these years. And they say, ‘Well, there’s a succession plan and you know, we’ll see’.”
Lloyd also claimed in his medium essay that he was told members were forced to have abortions, which echoed what ex-followers told Brown in his podcast.
The previous suit settled by Burton in the 1990s was brought by ex-member Troy Buzbee, who asked for $5million in damages, claiming he was assaulted from the age of 17.
He alleged in court documents Burton brainwashed members into a state of “absolute submission,” allowing him to feed a “voracious appetite for sexual perversion.”
According to Brown’s podcast, Burton had previously sexually assaulted Troy’s father, Richard Buzbee, who wrote to fellow members to warn them of the alleged behavior.
The Sun has reached out to Troy and Richard Buzbee for comment, but did not hear back.
‘Google cult leader gives chilling warning to betrayers’, member claims Source link ‘Google cult leader gives chilling warning to betrayers’, member claims