Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970. Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and most recently the October 2018 "Fall of California Redux.")

But according to Burton, Armageddon still looms in our future and when it finally arrives, non-believers shall perish, while through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (recently expanded to 81 angels, including himself and his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers shall be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws from official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the Internet Archive, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, the (ill-fated 2007) Fellowship of Friends Wikipedia page, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship. Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Jeopardizing Tax-Exempt Status"

Posted by "Associated Press" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
[ed. - Bolds added by poster]

All IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religious organizations, must abide by certain rules:

■ their net earnings may not inure to any private shareholder or individual,

■ they must not provide a substantial benefit to private interests,

■ they must not devote a substantial part of their activities to attempting to influence legislation,

■ they must not participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, and

■ the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

Inurement and Private Benefit

Inurement to Insiders

Churches and religious organizations, like all exempt organizations under IRC section 501(c)(3), are prohibited from engaging in activities that result in inurement of the church’s or organization’s income or assets to insiders (i.e., persons having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization). Insiders could include the minister, church board members, officers, and in certain circumstances, employees. Examples of prohibited inurement include the payment of dividends, the payment of unreasonable compensation to insiders, and transferring property to insiders for less than fair market value. The prohibition against inurement to insiders is absolute; therefore, any amount of inurement is, potentially, grounds for loss of tax-exempt status. In addition, the insider involved may be subject to excise tax. See the following section on Excess benefit transactions. Note that prohibited inurement does not include reasonable payments for services rendered, payments that further tax-exempt purposes, or payments made for the fair market value of real or personal property.

Excess benefit transactions. In cases where an IRC section 501(c)(3) organization provides an excess economic benefit to an insider, both the organization and the insider have engaged in an excess benefit transaction. The IRS may impose an excise tax on any insider who improperly benefits from an excess benefit transaction, as well as on organization managers who participate in such a transaction knowing that it is improper. An insider who benefits from an excess benefit transaction is also required to return the excess benefits to the organization.

Detailed rules on excess benefit transactions are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 26,
sections 53.4958-0 through 53.4958-8.

Private Benefit

An IRC section 501(c)(3) organization’s activities must be directed exclusively toward charitable, educational, religious, or other exempt purposes. Such an organization’s activities may not serve the private interests of any individual or organization. Rather, beneficiaries of an organization’s activities must be recognized objects of charity (such as the poor or the distressed) or the community at large (for example, through the conduct of religious services or the promotion of religion). Private benefit is different from inurement to insiders. Private benefit may occur even if the persons benefited are not insiders. Also, private benefit must be substantial in order to jeopardize tax-exempt status.

Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT)

Net Income Subject to the UBIT

Churches and religious organizations, like other tax exempt organizations, may engage in income-producing activities unrelated to their tax-exempt purposes, as long as the unrelated activities are not a substantial part of the organization’s activities. However, the net income from such activities will be subject to the UBIT if the following three conditions are met:

■ the activity constitutes a trade or business,

■ the trade or business is regularly carried on, and

■ the trade or business is not substantially related to the organization’s exempt purpose. (The fact that the organization uses the income to further its charitable or religious purposes does not make the activity substantially related to its exempt purposes.)

Exceptions to UBIT

Even if an activity meets the above three criteria, the income may not be subject to tax if it meets one of the
following exceptions: (a) substantially all of the work in operating the trade or business is performed by volunteers;

(b) the activity is conducted by the organization primarily for the convenience of its members; or (c) the trade or business involves the selling of merchandise substantially all of which was donated.

In general, rents from real property, royalties, capital gains, and interest and dividends are not subject to the unrelated business income tax unless financed with borrowed money.

Examples of Unrelated Trade or Business Activities

Unrelated trade or business activities vary depending on types of activities, as shown below.


Many tax-exempt organizations sell advertising in their publications or other forms of public communication.
Generally, income from the sale of advertising is unrelated trade or business income. This may include the sale of advertising space in weekly bulletins, magazines or journals, or on church or religious organization Web sites.


Most forms of gaming, if regularly carried on, may be considered the conduct of an unrelated trade or business. This can include the sale of pull-tabs and raffles. Income derived from bingo games may be eligible for a special tax exception (in addition to the exception regarding uncompensated volunteer labor covered above), if the following conditions are met: (a) the bingo game is the traditional type of bingo (as opposed to instant bingo, a variation of pull-tabs); (b) the conduct of the bingo game is not an activity carried out by for-profit organizations in the local area; and (c) the operation of the bingo game does not violate any state or local law.

Sale of merchandise and publications

The sale of merchandise and publications (including the actual publication of materials) can be considered the conduct of an unrelated trade or business if the items involved do not have a substantial relationship to the exempt purposes of the organization.

Rental income

Generally, income derived from the rental of real property and incidental personal property is excluded from unrelated business income. However, there are certain situations in which rental income may be unrelated business taxable income:

■ if a church rents out property on which there is debt outstanding (for example, a mortgage note), the rental income may constitute unrelated debt-financed income subject to UBIT. (However, if a church or convention or association of churches acquires debt-financed land for use in its exempt purposes within 15 years of the time of acquisition, then income from the rental of the land may not constitute unrelated business income.),

■ if personal services are rendered in connection with the rental, then the income may be unrelated business taxable income, or

■ if a church charges for the use of the parking lot, the income may be unrelated business taxable income.

Parking lots

If a church owns a parking lot that is used by church members and visitors while attending church services, any parking fee paid to the church would not be subject to UBIT. However, if a church operates a parking lot that is used by members of the general public, parking fees would be taxable, as this activity would not be substantially related to the church’s exempt purpose, and parking fees are not treated as rent from real property. If the church enters into a lease with a third party who operates the church’s parking lot and pays rent to the church, such payments would not be subject to tax, as they would constitute rent from real property.

Whether an income-producing activity is an unrelated trade or business activity depends on all the facts and circumstances. For more information, see IRS Publication 598, Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations.

Special Rules for Compensation of Ministers

Withholding Income Tax for Ministers

Unlike other exempt organizations or businesses, a church is not required to withhold income tax from the compensation that it pays to its duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed ministers for performing services in the exercise of their ministry. An employee minister may, however, enter into a voluntary withholding agreement with the church by completing IRS Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. A church should report compensation paid to a minister on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, if the minister is an employee, or on IRS Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, if the minister is an independent contractor.

Parsonage or Housing Allowances

Generally, a minister’s gross income does not include the fair rental value of a home (parsonage) provided, or a housing allowance paid, as part of the minister’s compensation for services performed that are ordinarily the duties of a minister.

A minister who is furnished a parsonage may exclude from income the fair rental value of the parsonage, including utilities. However, the amount excluded cannot be more than the reasonable pay for the minister’s services.

A minister who receives a housing allowance may exclude the allowance from gross income to the extent it is used to pay expenses in providing a home. Generally, those expenses include rent, mortgage payments, utilities, repairs, and other expenses directly relating to providing a home. If a minister owns a home, the amount excluded from the minister’s gross income as a housing allowance is limited to the least of the following: (a) the amount actually used to provide a home; (b) the amount officially designated as a housing allowance; or (c) the fair rental value of the home. The minister’s church or other qualified organization must designate the housing allowance pursuant to official action taken in advance of the payment. If a minister is employed and paid by a local congregation, a designation by a national church agency will not be effective. The local congregation must make the designation. A national church agency may make an effective designation for ministers it directly employs. If none of the minister’s salary has been officially designated as a housing allowance, the full salary must be included in gross income.

The fair rental value of a parsonage or housing allowance is excludable from income only for income tax purposes. These amounts are not excluded in determining the minister’s net earnings from self-employment for Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) tax purposes.

Retired ministers who receive either a parsonage or housing allowance are not required to include such amounts for SECA tax purposes.

As mentioned above, a minister who receives a parsonage or rental allowance excludes that amount from his income. The portion of expenses allocable to the excludable amount is not deductible. This limitation, however, does not apply to interest on a home mortgage or real estate taxes, nor to the calculation of net earnings from self-employment for SECA tax purposes.

IRS Publication 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers, has a detailed example of the tax treatment for a housing allowance and the related limitations on deductions. IRS Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, has information on particular types
of income for ministers.

Special Rules Limiting IRS Authority to Audit a Church

Tax Inquiries and Examinations of Churches

Congress has imposed special limitations, found in IRC section 7611, on how and when the IRS may conduct civil tax inquiries and examinations of churches. The IRS may only initiate a church tax inquiry if the Director, Exempt Organizations, Examinations reasonably believes, based on a written statement of the facts and circumstances, that the organization: (a) may not qualify for the exemption; or (b) may not be paying tax on an unrelated business or other taxable activity.

Restrictions on Church Inquiries and Examinations

Restrictions on church inquiries and examinations apply only to churches (including organizations claiming to be churches if such status has not been recognized by IRS) and conventions or associations of churches. They do not apply to related persons or organizations. Thus, for example, the rules do not apply to schools that, although operated by a church, are organized as separate legal entities. Similarly, the rules do not apply to integrated auxiliaries of a church.

Restrictions on church inquiries and examinations do not apply to all church inquiries by the IRS. The most common exception relates to routine requests for information. For example, IRS requests for information from churches about filing of returns, compliance with income or Social Security and Medicare tax withholding requirements, supplemental information needed to process returns or applications, and other similar inquiries are not covered by the special church audit rules.

Restrictions on church inquiries and examinations do not apply to criminal investigations or to investigations of the tax liability of any person connected with the church, e.g., a contributor or minister.

The procedures of IRC section 7611 will be used in initiating and conducting any inquiry or examination into whether an excess benefit transaction (as that term is used in IRC section 4958) has occurred between a church and an insider.

Audit Process

The following is the sequence of the audit process.

1. If the reasonable belief requirement is met, the IRS must begin an inquiry by providing a church with written notice containing an explanation of its concerns.

2. The church is allowed a reasonable period in which to respond by furnishing a written explanation to alleviate IRS concerns.

3. If the church fails to respond within the required time, or if its response is not sufficient to alleviate IRS concerns, the IRS may, generally within 90 days, issue a second notice, informing the church of the need to examine its books and records.

4. After issuance of a second notice, but before commencement of an examination of its books and records, the church may request a conference with an IRS official to discuss IRS concerns. The second notice will contain a copy of all documents collected or prepared by the IRS for use in the examination and subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, as supplemented by IRC section 6103 relating to disclosure and confidentiality of tax return information.

5. Generally, examination of a church’s books and records must be completed within two years from the date of the second notice from the IRS.

If at any time during the inquiry process the church supplies information sufficient to alleviate the concerns of the IRS, the matter will be closed without examination of the church’s books and records. There are additional safeguards for the protection of churches under IRC section 7611. For example, the IRS cannot begin a subsequent examination of a church for a five-year period unless the previous examination resulted in a revocation, notice of deficiency of assessment, or a request for a significant change in church operations, including a significant change in accounting practices.

Download IRS publications and forms at:
or order free through the IRS at:
(800) 829-3676.

"Wouldn't you like to know" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 24, 2007:

Image link [no longer valid] is to image: Fellowship of Friends Donation Slip 2006

What responsibilities accompany 501(c)(3) status?

While conferring benefits on 501(c)(3) organizations, federal tax law also imposes responsibilities on organizations receiving that status.


Section 501(c)(3) organizations are required to keep books and records detailing all activities, both financial and nonfinancial. Financial information, particularly information on its sources of support (contributions, grants, sponsorships, and other sources of revenue) is crucial to determining an organization’s private foundation status. See Publication 4221, Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations, Publication 557, and the instructions to Forms 990, 990-EZ, and 990-PF for more information.

Filing Requirements

Annual Information Returns – Organizations recognized as tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRC may be required to file an annual information return: Form 990, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990-PF along with Schedules A and B. Certain categories of organizations are excepted from filing Form 990 or Form 990-EZ including churches and very small organizations. See the instructions with each of these forms for more information.

Unrelated Business Income Tax – In addition to filing Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF, an exempt organization must file Form 990-T if it has $1,000 or more of gross receipts from an unrelated trade or business during the year. The organization must make quarterly payments of estimated tax on unrelated business income if it expects its tax for the year to be $500 or more. The organization may use Form 990-W to help calculate the amount of estimated payments required. In general, the tax is imposed on income from a regularly carried-on trade or business that does not further the organization’s exempt purposes (other than by providing funds). See Publication 598, Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations, and the Form 990-T instructions for more information.

Disclosure Requirements

Public Inspection of Exemption Applications and Annual Information Returns – Section 501(c)(3) organizations must make their application (Form 1023) and the three most recent annual returns (Form 990 or Form 990-EZ) available to the public, upon request and without charge (except for a reasonable charge for copying). The IRS also makes these documents available for public inspection and copying. Private foundation returns (Form 990- PF) filed on or after March 13, 2000, are subject to the same disclosure rules. These documents must be made available at the organization’s principal office during regular business hours. Upon request, an organization must furnish copies of the application and the three most recent annual returns. The requests may be made in person or in writing. See Publication 557 for more information.

Charitable Contributions— Substantiation and Disclosure

Organizations that are tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRC must meet certain requirements for documenting charitable contributions. The federal tax law imposes two general disclosure rules: 1) a donor must obtain a written acknowledgment from a charity for any single contribution of $250 or more before the donor can claim a charitable contribution on his/her federal income tax return; 2) a charitable organization must provide a written disclosure to a donor who makes a payment in excess of $75 partly as a contribution and partly for goods and services provided by the organization. See Publication 1771, Charitable Contributions – Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements, for more information.

Exemption Requirements

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual.

The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and the preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

To be organized exclusively for a charitable purpose, the organization must be a corporation, community chest, fund, or foundation. A charitable trust is a fund or foundation and will qualify. However, an individual will not qualify. The organizing documents must limit the organization’s purposes to exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) and must not expressly empower it to engage, other than as an insubstantial part of its activities, in activities that are not in furtherance of one or more of those purposes. This requirement may be met if the purposes stated in the organizing documents are limited in some way by reference to section 501(c)(3). In addition, an organization’s assets must be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose. This means that if an organization dissolves, its assets must be distributed for an exempt purpose, to the federal government, or to a state or local government for a public purpose. To establish that an organization’s assets will be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose, its organizing documents should contain a provision insuring their distribution for an exempt purpose in the event of dissolution. Although reliance may be placed upon state law to establish permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes, an organization’s application can be processed by the IRS more rapidly if its organizing documents include a provision insuring permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes. For examples of provisions that meet these requirements, see Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization.

An organization will be regarded as operated exclusively for one or more exempt purposes only if it engages primarily in activities that accomplish exempt purposes specified in section 501(c)(3). An organization will not be so regarded if more than an insubstantial part of its activities does not further an exempt purpose. For more information concerning types of charitable organizations and their activities, see Publication 557.

The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator’s family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests. No part of a section 501(c)(3) organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. A private shareholder or individual is a person having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.

Wouldn’t you like to know?

Old Fellowship wrote in the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Re: financial impropriety

I’m not even sure if it is literally legal in California to REQUIRE church members to meet certain “donation” minimums. It may even go against 501-c-3 Federal regulations? And, of course, we all know that if those minimums are not met the members are ejected from the church – and shunned. This alone may be a big point – and may go to the heart of the Fellowship of Friends non-profit status.

As to private inurement (and fraud) – on information and belief – there may have been and seems likely that there were a number of strange real estate transactions beginning perhaps in the late 80s / early 90s – possibly reversed recently – whereby members (some or all who could not afford this) “bought” houses in their own names essentially for Robert Burton’s private use. In at least one case, a student on salary was offered to have his salary raised to pay for the cost of the monthly mortgage. The down payments were to come from somewhere else – but I believe from the Fellowship somehow.

In other words, non-profit non-taxed donation revenues being diverted in a hidden manner for the private use by Robert Burton – as he would take his boys to these spots for “relaxation and recreation.”

By the way, this model (in the abstract) is ONE of the main kinds of ways that Robert Burton oversaw and directed the fraudulent schemes that literally permeate the financial landscape of the Fellowship of Friends. I’m wondering if RICO statutes apply given the systemic nature of the various frauds including likely immigration violations, sham marriages, financial frauds – all operating across national boundaries – and with likely money stashes outside of the U.S.

In any case, back to the real estate, the two geographical areas where this may have occurred (that I heard about) in California were Graeagle (Plumas County – county seat Quincy) and Palm Springs area (Riverside County – county seat Riverside). And there may have been others, including outside of California – I would think Europe (but have no knowledge, perhaps others do).

It might be a little difficult to verify – as one would have to know the names of students and do the sleuthing, but these transactions and possible reversals would be a matter of public record. There may collective memory – meaning some of the students here may know more about this and might shed more light on the blog or to the Reporter ? It would also be interesting and characteristic that if the transactions related to these houses essentially purchased with non-profit monies were later reversed (or sold) for profit with the proceeds including profit finding their way quietly back to Robert Burton. The fraud squared.

At one point, a church member made a big score on a drug deal ($1M?) and was hiding from other drug dealers who apparently wanted to kill him. He hid on one of the properties near the Fellowship Property. To my memory, Robert allowed this – but asked for a donation based on the a percentage of the score.

Also, at one point – again on information and belief – Abraham Goldman – the person who became and may still be the main Fellowship of Friend’s lawyer (and who at one point for a time lost his ability to practice in California due to ethical infractions I believe) – administered a secret off-the-books fund from solicited student donations – whose primary role was to buy Robert Burton gifts or otherwise go to Robert Burton-directed projects. This was a long way back – does it still exist?

Posted by "Traveler" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:

K_r_n J_hnst_n

Date: 8.12.2004 19:45
Subject: [Students] A Dedicated Amount?

Dear Friends,

This email is to all of us, but in this case, let us separate ourselves in terms of the amount of income the Gods currently allow us to earn or that we are simply given each month to put to use at this time in our lives. For this division amoung the groups of us, there is no “life” connotation of what this means; only that for now, the Gods arranged our plays such that we have this current income.

Let us also surmise that Robert wishes us gradually to take over the building of our city (although he would continue to direct it), so that he would not have to have fund-raising events in order to “pay” for the building of Apollo, but he would be able to use the funds that he raises exactly as he wished because we had taken over the responsibility of paying for the building of our city ourselves.

For this to happen and slowly, slowly, through the auctions, it is already in the process of happening, we would need some of those with the higher levels of income at this time, to commit to themselves to spend a certain greater amount on each auction in order for us to make our goals. For example, if our total auction goal for this holiday is $188,000, how much would I as an individual need to commit? How much could I personally pay of that total amount?

If, going down in income, we each commit to that amount, even those on salary (a prize drawing ticket and one “give a gift, buy a gift”, for example), we could perhaps take over this responsibility from Robert. I am certain that we can do it if we realize we are helping him meet his task to build our city. It is even becoming very enjoyable as the beauty begins to surround us.

Can more of us come to the auctions with this in mind? I say, more of us, because many of you are already doing this.

Thank you for reading this and for thinking on what more personally each can contribute if we set our minds to it?

See you this Sunday, December 12th after the meeting for our Holiday Auction. We invite you all to come, even if you have failed to bid a hundred times. Come again, come!

Best in presence,
K_r_n J_hnst_n for the auction team

“May the glory of the two worlds stay with you”
- Rumi

[ed. - The following is a response to Sacramento Bee reporter Todd Milbourn's request for information about financial improprieties in the Fellowship of Friends.]

"Abigail" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 3, 2007:
Hooray! I can post again. In the excluded interim I sent this to Todd Milbourn, the reporter at the Sacramento Bee, in hopes that it might help in his research. Of course any documenting is extremely problematic. I hope many others are posting directly to Milbourn’s e-mail:

Money in the Fellowship

• Teaching payments: 10% of gross salary, or minimum amount, which depends on the country and situation. In the U.S. about $125.

• Monthly donations according to situation, i.e. reductions for unemployed, students, mothers at home with children, etc. The standard donation would be about $250 in the U.S.

• Seasonal donations, spring, fall, and Christmas. Spring and fall donations are $750 each in the U.S., less in depressed economies.

The above payments are obligatory; any member not able to make these three payments will be removed from membership. In addition to the required payments there are constant pressures to participate in the following money-making activities and events:

• Auctions are held several times a year at holidays when the maximum number of students are visiting the property in Oregon House (currently named Isis). Before each auction, members are pressured to donate items of value such as jewelry, art objects, silver and porcelain, etc. to be auctioned. In addition various services, such as lectures on subjects of general interest, home and garden care, musical performances, etc. are donated. The large-ticket items are events in which the Teacher, Burton, comes to individual homes for teaching events such as lunches, dinners, teas. These are sold for thousands of dollars, as much as eight to ten thousand for large events. Auctions usually bring in $100,000 or more.

• Meetings with the teacher, and sometimes with his designated “inner circle” members, cost varying amounts. Seats for Sunday morning meetings are priced according to the rows they are in, front row about $200, second row $125, others $75. Prices for standing are $50 each. If a designated subordinate leads the meeting, prices are lower.

• Teaching events with the teacher (or, again, a designated subordinate) go on non-stop, sometimes two or three each day, more on weekends when there are visitors. Considerable invention and creativity goes into these events, which are held on mountain tops, in various gardens (of which there are many on the property), or on islands in the lakes—with guests ferried to the tables in boats. Prices for these dining events vary according to many factors such as the number of participants (as many as 70 at table for large seatings), the nature of the occasion (New Year’s Eve dinner is $1,000 per plate) and so forth. The least expensive dining event would be a weekday breakfast for about $125.

• Frequent solicitations are made for special gifts for the teacher. Sometimes the money (suggested amounts) is simply to be placed in a “lovely card” and sent to him as a gift for birthdays or holidays. Other times an expensive item, for example of jewelry or art objects, will have been selected and the members asked to pay for it. Also the purpose of the money to be sent may be for various building projects (most of these are never in fact completed).

• Performances of ballet and classical music are presented frequently. The ticket prices are comparable to professional performances in major cultural centers of the world. The quality of the performances is not.

• Very elaborate and expensive events are arranged about three times a year, with lavish preparations. In the spring and fall of recent years these have included trips to various locations in Europe and Middle East and include Nile Cruises, 5 star hotels, luxurious restaurants, and so forth. The package prices of these tours are in considerable excess of what an individual independent traveler would pay. In the summers the big blow out has been held at Isis where students have been asked to donate space to visitors arriving from other countries or elsewhere in the U.S. The visitors are then charged for their accommodations.

• In all of the above instances, probably the greatest dollar value donation is in the form of labor. For each breakfast, lunch, tea, reception, or dinner, a small army of workers volunteers to cook, wash dishes, scrub pots, set up and serve and then clear tables. In recent years it has been necessary to “pay” these volunteers with vouchers that can then be used to attend specially designated events. In addition, the landscaping and building projects, the basic food services and maintenance work are done by workers earning about $400 per month for working very long hours each week.

This is, I am sure, only a partial list. The methods of extracting money from the membership of the Fellowship are truly a marvel of inventiveness and variety. Some other parts of this mosaic are being volunteered currently on the WordPress blog. Where does the money go? What accounting of it is made? I suspect there is little available in the way of anything that could be obtained without a court order, and I also suspect that not much would show up even with one. The money simply goes to Burton and he spends it. He is a compulsive shopper with appallingly bad but very expensive tastes.

I don’t know how these things could be “documented” other than with the testimony of present and former members, all of whom are, or have been for many years, participants in the process—and many of whom would be willing, indeed eager, to be quoted.

I would only add that the financial abuses, quite astonishing as they are, are the least of the abuses.

"Joseph G" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 3, 2007:
Across The River #499 [blogger and  post number - regarding the Investigation Petition]

Nice work. I made a few tweaks on paragraphs #2 and 3 to improve accuracy:

There are about 15,000 former members worldwide, and current membership is estimated at 1600. The influence of this church is documented to have had damaging results on the lives of many members, leaving them in a state of poor physical or mental health, financial ruin and moral confusion.

Over the last 37 years, the property belonging to the Fellowship of Friends, including the vineyard and commercial winery producing Renaissance wines, has in part been developed and maintained by the labor of members who are in this country with religious visas. This fact has been intentionally hidden from authorities. Workers are required to donate back to the church the largest portion of their salary, leaving an average monthly living wage of about $460.00.

No comments:

Post a Comment