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a241  1318  11 Feb 76
From AP Living Today
Battle of the Cults Bjt 440, Two Takes 790
Wirephoto WX10
Associated Press Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) - The battle of the cults has come to Washington.
    On one side are some parents who claim their children have been
brainwashed by some of the newly organized religious cults.
    On the other side are some young people who claim their First
Amendment right to worship whom they please.
    In separate hotels, the two groups held news conferences to hurl
charges and defend themselves, each claiming to be misunderstood.
    A group of seven parents, arriving in town late Tuesday afternoon,
informally discussed their problem with reporters in a hotel room.
They appeared tired, worried and distraught.
    The young people took out a full page ad in a local newspaper,
rented a fancy reception room, made formal statements behind
microphones and served Danish pastry and coffee. About two dozen of
them were there.
    The parents have formed a group called the Individual Freedom
Foundation, which is based in Ardmore, Pa., and are appealing to
President Ford, Congress and the Justice Department to have the cults
investigated. Twenty-five members of the group marched in front of
the White House Wednesday and talked with individual congressmen.
    Hundreds of these controversial, new religious cults have sprung up
across the country, but the best known and largest are the
Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Children of God
Sect, the Divine Light Mission of the Guru Maharaj Ji, which says it's
not a religion but a way of life, and the Hare Krishna movement.
    Some critics have called the groups ''withdrawal groups,'' because
of their demand for total devotion of converts, many of them in their
teens and early 20s. Critics have also accused them of brainwashing
converts, and parents have had their children kidnaped from the groups
and had them 'deprogramed.''
    Some of the groups, such as Hare Krishna and the Unification Church,
are big businesss, and young, idealistic converts often relinquish
their possessions and live in near poverty to hawk flowers, candles
and candy for the church.
    ''We want to bring to the attention of the nation the horrendous
problem of mind control and brainwashing by these cults,'' said Ben
Roeshman, president of the newly organized foundation and father of a
child who joined one of the cults. ''We want to educate the sitting
duck victims who get involved.''
    Roeshman, who said he didn't want to discuss his child's situation,
claims the cults often encourage the young people to quit school, get
menial jobs to raise money for the group, work long hours and
disassociate from the family. Once under the influence of the cults,
he said, many young people lose all interest and emotional attachment
to anyone but those in the cult.
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$ADV 05
Adv Ams Fri March 5
Religion Today 400 2 takes 750
With Wirephoto
AP Religion Writer
    NEW YORK (AP) - Representatives of the organization of teen-age guru
Maharaj Ji say it is changing its style to tone down the catchy
Eastern ritualism that has given some followers erroneously
superficial impressions.
    ''It kept people from knowing where we're really at,'' says Joe
Anctil, news secretary for the group, with headquarters in Denver,
Colo. ''All they'd see was the trimmings. No doubt it attracted them
but it's empty.''
    Cutting down on the exotic embellishments, he adds, was at the
behest of the young guru himself.
    ''He's doing away with it,'' Anctil says, adding that the emphasis
now is being put on fostering long-time growth in meditative
discipline and service.
    ''A lot of people were just on a trip in the beginning,'' he says.
''They felt they had to be 'hyped', an some didn't stay long enough
to get beyond that. But we've changed as our understanding has
    The asserted change comes amid extensive criticism of various novel
spiritual groups, including that of Maharaj Ji, from ex-members and
parents, but Anctil says the opposition isn't what caused the reforms.
    ''We're maturing,'' he says. ''It's evolution.''
    Anctil and an assistant, Andy Harris, said in an interview that the
group, called Divine Light Mission, is modifying not only its
practices but its exalted claims about the India-born guru, now 18.
    Regarding previous portrayals of him as the one, perfect
manifestation and channel of divinity in this age, a reflection of
Hindu concepts of ''avatars'' of successive periods, Anctil said some
still see him that way, but added:
    ''There's going to be less and less of that. We're throwing that
out. Maharaj Ji never said 'I am the only way.' But it doesn't lessen
the fact that he has inspired many of us. His direction is important.
And there's no question that we love him.''
    In earlier phases of the group, which says it has initiated 50,000
into its ranks in this country since 1971, of whom 15,000 remain
regular contributors, the guru frequently has been hailed as ''Lord of
the Universe.''
    ''We don't say that anymore,'' Anctil said. ''At one time he
couldn't walk into a room without everyone hitting the floor.'' The
prostrating gesture, called ''paranaming'', was questioned by the guru
himself, Anctil said, adding:
    ''A lot aren't hitting the floor anymore.''
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