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 an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will 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
on official Fellowship publications and websites,
news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wiki project, 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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fellowship claims "copyright infringement and egregious invasion of privacy"

[ed. - This letter, purportedly written by Fellowship attorney David Lubbers (Springfield) to the Fellowship of Friends Board of Directors, was originally posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 20, 2009, but WordPress was forced to remove it due to a challenge from Abraham Goldman, representing The Fellowship of Friends. It has subsequently appeared on many sites across the web.

I am posting this in the Robert Earl Burton blog in two places: November 19, 2007, when the letter was dated, and May 20, 2009, when "black marker" posted the letter on the Fellowship blog, precipitating the Fellowship's complaint.]

The following was re-posted by "X-ray" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 7, 2011:
David Springfield (Lubbers)
A letter from D…d [David Lubbers/Springfield] to the Fellowship Board

1. black marker – May 20, 2009 [original post deleted]

Da..d Spring…ld [David Springfield], Attorney at Law
 November 19, 2007

To All Board Members
of the Fellowship of Friends, Inc.
and [Giovanni Busco], CFO

Re: No Further Legal Representation

Dear Board Members and [Giovanni]

I am not sending this letter because I like writing of these matters or because I want to repeat what has already been stated repeatedly by both Abraham and me. This letter is written because of my professional obligations and my personal obligations to the School. My professional responsibilities require me to send this letter to confirm again that I will provide no further legal services to the Fellowship of Friends, and have stopped working on all ongoing legal matters that I was involved with. This letter also advises you to immediately work with Abraham Goldman and/or other legal counsel to handle the legal work I was involved in and to address other ongoing and/or upcoming legal matters that I will outline in this letter. The recent board activities have been covered in a number of letters and emails by Abraham and me. None of the communications were ever acknowledged or responded to by any board member. As you know, Abraham and I were instructed to stop all legal work.

First, a directive was issued on November 3, 2007, via email, on behalf of Et..n Har..s [Ethan Harris], Chairman of the Board, through Ke.n.dy S.afer [Rose Kennedy Shafer] Vice Chairman of the Board, without explanation, question, or discussion. My emails and letter of November 6, 2007, about this heavy-handed and improper directive were ignored by all board members.

Next, I wrote to Li.da [Linda Tulisso] who ignored my question about what to do about the ongoing legal work but was ignored. After learning about the secret board meeting and illegal vote that took place on or about November 10, 2007, I talked with Li.da [Linda Tulisso] the President in person at her office on November 13, 2007. Linda confirmed the secret vote of the Board (although both W.yne Mo.t [Wayne Mott] and Al.n Sc.wa.tzbe.g [Alan Schwartzberg] lied that no other “crisis team” members voted at the secret Board meeting) and Linda instructed me to suspend all my legal work. I confirmed this in a letter dated November 13, 2007 that has also been copied to all of you. There was no response to this letter from anyone.

On November 18, 2007, I was voted off the Board of Directors. Now, no longer working as attorney, nor being able to act as a member of the Board, I will be unable to assist the Fellowship with any legal work or offer any oversight. All of this occurred after one week of false and contradictory statements by W.yne Mo.t [Wayne Mott], Al.n Sc.wa.tzbe.g [Alan Schwartzberg], Ha.ris [Ethan Harris] and others about the secret board meeting where this was already decided in advance. Only [Greg Holman] acknowledged yesterday that the secret Board meeting was improper and that he wished that matters would have been done openly and correctly.
The failure by almost all of the Board members to even have the decency or honesty to acknowledge a secret Board meeting was held and a secret vote taken (to vote the lawyers off the Board), without any opportunity to address the issues by the persons involved is below the level of school work for any student, let alone a board member with responsibility for our church.

Al.n Sc.warzbe.g’s [Allan Schwartzberg's] refusal to show the minutes of the secret Board meeting, and subsequent refusal to return my many calls and emails, is conduct that is highly irregular for the Secretary of the Corporation and the Board of Directors. To date, I still have not obtained a copy of the “RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS” that I personally saw when both Alan and Wayne in heavy-handed fashion informed Abe and myself, on November 12, 2007, we were voted off the Board.

It is my feeling that what occurred over the last three weeks is a combination of crime, gross carelessness and ignorance of almost all Board members. In my opinion, serious crimes have likely been committed and are possibly continuing to be committed by current members on the Board. This should be addressed immediately. As I wrote about in my letter of November 6, 2007, the requirement of legal compliance and checks and balances within our organization needs urgent attention. The Board has been for some time but a passive “rubber-stamp” board without active or meaningful oversight. This almost complete inaction may create the impression of the Fellowship as a criminal organization that is functioning as the later ego of Robert Burton, involved in a conspiracy to engage in financial, tax and immigration fraud, and perhaps other illegal activities and/or tortuous conduct.
Responding to a call from Mr.Margalli? [or Margolis?] this morning, I gave him my impressions of yesterday’s Board meeting. Mr. Margalli? suggested I write a confirming letter and cover the ongoing legal work that you must all appreciate should be addressed immediately.

This list does not purport to cover all of the areas that need immediate and significant work, and you should immediately consult with Abraham and all other lawyers for the Fellowship.
The legal work I have been involved in covers the following areas:

1. Immigration. Ongoing assessment and evaluations of the needs and requirements of our religious programs/individual’s status and possible need to go back to their country of origin. I will notify Mr. Shusterman of the fact I will be no longer working with him on behalf of the Fellowship. I was also working with a number of individual students who would call with questions in the last months.

2. Financial Compliance. This is critical and should be a top priority. You have knowingly allowed having a system in place where the CFO is made responsible but essentially helpless and without authority. The CFO is not being consulted in important decisions. The Fellowship’s financial activities, in my opinion, could be seen as criminal conspiracy to commit tax fraud and private inurement benefiting Robert and a number of other individuals (including possibly some Board members) and could be considered a fraud on the government. The status as a non profit corporation could well be in serious danger.

3. Investigation/Monitoring of Blog [Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog/GF [Greater Fellowship forum]/PR, etc. Several times this year I have written to Youtube or other websites to have offending material taken off line. This has been largely successful. I also have conducted an investigation into aspects of the Blog and some individuals with the aim to allow us to file suit for defamation and/or invasion of privacy if and when appropriate. I have worked on obtaining PR consultations for which then no funding was purportedly available. (Nic.ol.s Spa.ldi.g [Nicholas Spaulding] who was helping in this area, was threatened by [Ethan Harris] to stop working with Abraham and myself) This area should be a major concern for the Board which has been almost totally unresponsive.

4. It was our diligent monitoring of the blog that put us on notice that’s [Asaf Braverman's] arranged (by Fellowship officers and/or agents) fraudulent marriage to da Ros [Elisabetta da Ros] was being exposed to the world. This finally stimulated action in this area but more is needed. I will no longer monitor the Blogs or any other sites, in any language, and will no longer assist with analysis and efforts to bring these matters into compliance. A lot more needs to be done in this area for many involved.

5. Insurance. We were working on a review of all materials from the Internet and other sources that could constitute a claim (including foreign websites). I wrote about this before as well. Insurance could possibly pay for some of the costs incurred, including legal costs. I will stop all my work on this claim process, including any work on the research into the bad faith claim aspect of the insurance which I wrote about before. TIme may be of the utmost essence. See my letter of November 6, 2007.

6. Other matters: There are outstanding million dollar judgments from the Ming litigation era that will need to be renewed in the next years, if the Fellowship wants to collect on them. I had this calendared for a review in January 2008, 10 years after the first settlements and judgments were obtained. Given the success we have had collecting from various parties, I would consider this an important item to follow up on. I will no longer take any action in this area either.

In short, the overall picture is in my opinion that the Fellowship itself, Robert, and a number of our friends, including several board members and officers, continue to be in potential legal jeopardy and liability.

With the information, according to what I gathered from my investigation, shared by certain former members to various agencies, I cannot envision that there will not be a government investigation and/or lawsuit in the planning/preparation stages with possibly serious consequences for the Fellowship, the Board of Directors, Robert and possibly a number of individual students, including possibly individual Board members.

A fully professional and active compliance team to put matters straight must be created. This team would need to be working daily, hands on, with the supervision and input from professionals. The existing irregularities cannot be hidden from the people that need to help bring us into compliance.
Again, I am no longer acting as the Fellowship’s attorney. Immediate attention is required to the numerous outstanding legal issues facing the Fellowship. You are advised to consult with legal counsel immediately.

Thank you for your time and consideration to these important matters. Do not hesitate to call if you have any questions.

Very truly yours,
Dav.d Spri.gfield [David Springfield]

cc. Robert E. Burton
Abraham [Abraham Goldman], Esq.

[ed. - Below, Ames Gilbert responds to the forced take-down of the "David Springfield" letter, as he calls it, from the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog.]

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 3, 2009:

[Responding to blog page and post number:] # 74-4 (June 2, 2009) So, I am to understand that because some FoF lawyer made a complaint to WordPress, they pulled the first comment on the last page (#1-73) by Black Marker, “in response to a copyright infringement notice”? Did WordPress do this without contacting the moderator? Without verifying that this letter by “David Springfield”, that is, David Lubbers, was already widely circulated and therefore in the public domain? That the letter itself refers to events, such as the bigamous marriages of Asaf Braverman, the illegal inurement and misuse of members’ funds by Robert Burton, the illegal misuse of “religious visas” to procure fresh victims for Burton’s insatiable appetites and as cheap, malleable labor? That the letter itself refers to the activities of the ‘shadow’ Board of Directors, all of whom have been and are appointed by Burton specifically so they will rubberstamp every one of his decisions—the board that for its entire history has abrogated its legal oversight responsibilities to the members of the Fellowship of Friends, to the taxpaying public, and to the IRS? That the letter itself refers to the monitoring of this blog, to scheming and conspiring to attack the contributors to the blog? There is nothing copyrightable about material in the public domain. ‘Copyright’ and ‘public domain’ are mutually exclusive. Not only that, the law specifically refers to the principle of fair use. Quoting the letter, even in its entirety, is fair use in this context. And this is the context: the blog (when it not masquerading as the ‘Nigel Harris Price Show’) has several purposes, one of which is to expose to the general public, to prospective members of the Fellowship of Friends, and to present members of the Fellowship of Friends who have open minds, the moral and legal and spiritual frauds at the heart of the organization. The letter quoted by Black Marker shows as well as any of the testimony gathered so far the extent of the legal and moral fraud, so WordPress can hardly consider it not germane to the issue, purpose and context. Goodness me, is the information that Burton recently took a ‘pay cut’ of $15k (from the official $50k to $35k), and widely publicized amongst the laity to show he was also “making sacrifices”, copyrighted? Is the knowledge that most of his income is off the record and off the books, copyrighted? Is the knowledge that members in the past have received inflated paychecks, paid taxes at a low rate, then written checks to Burton—is knowledge of this tax avoidance scheme copyrighted? Is the knowledge that Burton is the king of inurement—that almost the whole purpose of the Fellowship of Friends and the majority of the income is to support him in the style he has become accustomed to, copyrighted? Is the knowledge that foreign centers pay directly for his expenses abroad so he can avoid reporting that income in the U.S.A., copyrighted? Is knowledge that certain bequests made in cash went unreported as income, copyrighted? I don’t think so, Fellowship lawyers! I could go on and on, and maybe I will… And hey, I invite anyone with expertise on copyright law to set me straight if I am mistaken.

"fofblogmoderator" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 3, 2009:

Hey Ames, I did receive notification from WordPress and they offered me the option of contesting the complaint. The complaint that was lodged was the following; “This is a complaint about copyright infringement and egregious invasion of privacy related to the following blog posting…….” The “plaintiff” went on to state that it was an infringement of attorney-client privacy rights, etc. I don’t know the law and maybe the attorney (plaintiff) doesn’t either. The link to the letter is still active on page 72 from a post by “What The,,,?” at #293. The link takes you to an internet archive website. Does this constitute public domain? Beats me, but I thought it was best to delete post #1 on page 73 (the pasted full text version) and get the blog up and running again. I think if people want to see how far “the letter” can be used as an official testimony to the level of corruption and abuse inside the FOF, then a collection should be taken to hire Mr Green (I believe that was the name of the cult-buster) or someone qualified in this area. I think the letter is extremely damaging and all efforts should be pursued to see if this could be used to finally shed some legal light on the questionable practices inside the FOF. At one point the Sheik set up a paypal account and I sent him money a number of times. I’ve never asked for any contributions to compensate for my time maintaining the blog- nor will I ever. This is the one time I will ask for money. It’s not for me. It’s to give to the lawyer and someone who will volunteer here to act as our liaison/representative between our evidence (the petition, more personal testimonies, records of money given to the FOF and the letter) and our hired attorney. It’s been a long day for me and maybe I’m way off base here. I’d like to hear feedback. It seems that if any truth is going to be discovered about the true nature of the business practices of the FOF, now is the time to try to shed some light. How interesting to know that FOF agents are reading this and pondering how to defend their den of deceit.

"Associated Press" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 5, 2009:
The D@v!d Spr!ugf!eld, mentioned in the offending document, was, prior to studying for and becoming a lawyer (passing the California Bar Exam), the Maître d’ of the Academy (now Galleria Apollo?, or, whatever) for a few years. [maître d': (short for maître d'hôtel, in the original French, literally 'master of the hotel')] That meant that he was the octave leader or manager of the staff that ran Robert’s public and private affairs in his residence and elsewhere. He was also responsible for managing the security (included firearm permits and training) and the motor pool in this scope. At the time he may have been known by a different last name. (Mentioned elsewhere on this blog.) (It was changed legally.) He was the predecessor to Epw@rp S¢hnlten, as Maître d’. This took place in the pre-1998 era – late 1980′s? to early/mid 1990′s – roughly through the time of the Troy/Richard fiasco, the Olivehurst Gospel Assembly, and the Ming furniture collection/museum. (There was also a period of time, during this time, that Robert could not reside in the Academy because a property tax exemption was being claimed for it being a museum. There was the separate residence, called the Ming House, or something like that, owned by Et.n H.rr.s, member of the FoF board, and leased to FoF for this purpose. D@v!d’s scope possibly extended to that property and staff, too.) Therefore, he was intimately familiar with almost everything that would go on behind the scenes in the life of Robert Earl Burton and the Fellowship of Friends – not quite the same relationship as the private secretaries or the legal counsel. It was understandable that he eventually resigned from that position and went to work for Abr.h.m G.ldm.n, Associates; the then legal counsel. His exalted position of confidence dictated that he not be cast about in an adverse fashion, as so many burned-out people from the Fellowship land up. So, the content of that letter is, likewise, understandable and an aspect of the experiences he had had, the oath he had taken (as lawyer), the responsibilities as he saw them, and the conscience that may have arose in the circumstances. (Either that or a queeny flare up.)

D@v!d was a great person to work with, as long as you were on his good side. The Dutch are very diplomatic people and have a keen sense of justice and fairness. (It’s no coincidence that the World Court is in Holland located in the Hague.) But, also, certain circumstances can lead to passive-aggressive behaviours. You would not want to get on the wrong side of certain type persons. Relationship examples have been cited on this blog by the near and dear. And, abuse is a way of life in the Fellowship. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

To be a lawyer, often it requires having a thick skin and often certain strong arm tactics in rather measured implementations. This can be very frustrating.

Now, has this letter surfaced before? The author of this post has checked and double checked and found that it may have been alluded to in the past as in: Abr.h.m G.ldm.n, Associates, was removed as counsel for FoF; but this letter in complete detail is new. Could D@v!d have posted it? That’s possible, but unlikely. He has close family members in FoF and is unlikely to leave FoF. So, you go figure. More likely it might be the work of some disenfranchised current or former FoF board member or other staff that had access to the document. But one never knows. What goes around, comes around. Could have been Robert Earl Burton himself, using it to get rid of more disloyal marginal hangers-on.

Hey, everyone should know that lawyers are well aware of the idea, and use of, ‘you can not unring a bell.’ That’s where a lawyer damn well knows that they can not ask certain questions (in court for instance), that the opposition will object, that the judge will sustain the objection; but meanwhile the question gets put out there and even the witness may give an answer before the objection, sustainment, and the strike from the record, and the jury instruction from the judge to disregard the disallowed sequence of events (read: testimony), but the bell has been rung, which can lead to the ever so small amount of doubt with just one juror. Well D@v!d, the bell has been rung.

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