Presented in reverse chronology, this history stretches from the present back to the Fellowship's 1970 founding, and beyond.
(See "Blog Archive" in the sidebar below.) It draws from many sources, including The Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the former Fellowship of Friends wiki project, cult education and awareness sites, news archives, and from the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

The portrait that emerges stands in stark contrast to sanitized versions presented on the Fellowship's array of
alluring websites, and on derivative sites created by Burton's now-estranged
disciple, Asaf Braverman.

Saturday, June 9, 1984

'Friends' Chief Sued In Sex, Funds Charges

Appeal-Democrat, June 9, 1984

The head of the Fellowship of Friends is accused in a lawsuit filed by a former director of the organization of being a sexual pervert who has used his position to prey on young, male members and to milk the organization's coffers for his own benefit.

And the suit charges that Fellowship leader Robert Burton has developed a paranoid "psychological set" resembling "the murderous teachings of Jonestown."

Former Fellowship director Samuel L. Sanders seeks a court order prohibiting Burton from "participating in perverted sexual conduct" with members without first informing them in writing "that such perverted sexual activities have no relationship with The Fourth Way or philosophies" of the Fellowship.

Sanders also asks the court to prohibit Burton and Fellowship directors from entering into any financial transactions without first informing the membership and obtaining approval of a majority of the board of directors. In addition, he seeks $2.5 million punitive damages and $250,000 general and special damages.

Named defendants in the suit filed in Yuba County Superior Court are Burton and Fellowship directors Miles Barth, Frank Annis, Gerard [sic] Haven, Helga Ruth Mueller, Abraham Goldman, Charles Frank, Charles Randall and Clair Bowen, and 50 John Does.

The Fellowship of Friends is a philosophical-religious organization headquartered in Oregon House, where it owns more than 1,000 acres of land and operates a vineyard and winery. It has more than 1,500 active members, according to the suit filed by Sanders.

According to the suit, Sanders joined the Fellowship in Los Angeles in 1975 and devoted "thousands of hours of his time without compensation...made money donations...exceeding $100,000, and expended
additional of his an amount exceeding $50,000."

It was not until last November, according to the complaint, that Sanders "was reliably informed for the first time that Burton was a sexual pervert and was unlawfully preying upon and doing injury to young men who were members of the defendant corporation."

Sanders was "reliably informed," according to the complaint, that Burton "was and had been from the onset of the formation of the defendant corporation, using his god-figure role as teacher, as well as the philosophical, emotional and intellectual aspects of The Fourth Way, in a manner calculated to gain absolute dominion and control over the victims of his perverted sexual appetites."

The complaint alleges, "That a number of young men who had been forcefully and unlawfully seduced by Burton had suffered serious, and in some cases irreparable, mental and physical damage..."

Sanders learned, according to the complaint, that several Fellowship members, both male and female, "were not only aware of Burton's ongoing acts of unlawful perversion, they were actually aiding and abetting such activities by (1) recruiting likely candidates therefor and (2) secretly conspiring with Burton to use the philosophies and instrumentalities of (the Fellowship) to further and encourage those activities."

The complaint says Saunders brought his allegations before Fellowship directors March 4 and "was astounded to learn for the first time that several members of the board of directors had known of Burton's sexual activities and conquests within the membership...for a significant period of time and had actually aided and abetted such acts."

Sanders also was "astounded to learn," according to the complaint, that other Fellowship directors "formed a unanimous coalition supporting the status quo and thereby in effect endorsing and ratifying Burton's past and supposedly future sexual forays among the young male members of the organization."

The board adopted a resolution stating "that the Founding Minister be informed by the President that the board is reviewing his personal relationships, that any such relationships be consensual and that the Board is considering the formal discussion of the Founding Minister's personal relationships within the general membership of the Church," according to the complaint.

Shortly thereafter, Sanders was [released?] out of the organization by Burton, and the action was ratified by the Fellowship's ministerial committee March 18, according to the complaint.

The complaint charges Burton "and his co-conspirators" with concocting a scheme to:

"a. Use and abuse the fiduciary relationship between the defendant Burton and the defendant corporation on the one hand and the members and contributors to the defendant corporation on the other hand for their personal unlawful gain, and

"b. To use and abuse the fiduciary relationship existing between the defendant Burton, as founding minister, and selective members of the defendant corporation for the express purpose and intent of performing unlawful and perverted sexual acts upon the persons of said members."

"In recent days," according to the complaint, "and under the guise that financial, political, and social Armageddon is imminent throughout the world, the defendants without the advice, consent or knowledge of the membership...have been liquidating, diverting and secreting the income and assets of the defendant corporation in a manner calculated to deny its members access to or use of said diverted assets and to deny its creditors just compensation for the debts of defendant corporation.

"This course of conduct has as its calculated objective the enrichment of Burton and some or all of the other individual defendants named herein," the complaint alleges.

"In recent days," the complaint alleges, "Burton has developed a psychological set, as a direct and proximate result of his personal evolution in the dissemination of the false and fraudulent premises upon which he has constructed and operated the defendant a paranoic level closely identified with the murderous teachings of 'Jonestown', expecting and insisting that the 'true' membership of the Fellowship blindly follow and adhere to his self destructive beliefs."

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