Introduction


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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fellowship members' latest foray into local politics

Fellowship of Friends President Greg Holman, Fellowship investor Charles Sharp with 5th District Candidate Randy Fletcher
Photo accompanying first article below: Yuba County 5th District Supervisor candidate Randy Fletcher,
with Fellowship of Friends President Greg Holman and Fellowship  investor Charles Sharp.

 [ed. - The political activities of Fellowship of Friends members Steven Dambeck, Charles Sharp, Greg Holman, and Nick Spaulding are drawing attention from observers in Yuba County and beyond.

Long-time Fellowship employee and political operative Nicholas Spaulding is actively engaging in negative campaigning against opponents of candidate Randy Fletcher, who until recently was is in a business partnership with Sharp and Dambeck. As noted below, Spaulding may be assisting District One Supervisor Andy Vasquez's re-election campaign. Andy recently voted in favor of the Fellowship's claim for a $520,000 tax refund from Yuba County. (Still, the Board voted to deny the request.) If it is found that these efforts are the result of an officially-orchestrated campaign and/or involve church assets, they may be violating 501(c)(3) tax exemption rules. (See below.)]

From the IRS Tax Guide for Churches & Religious Organizations:

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.

From YubaFoothills.com, May 14, 2014: New Article Ties Randy Fletcher to Cult


From the Territorial Dispatch, May 5, 2014:

Fellowship Becomes Issue in Political Race
As it has been said many times, “Follow the money trail.” In this case follow the wine trail to Renaissance Vineyard and Winery, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Fellowship of Friends, and there you will find the biggest supporters of Randy Fletcher, candidate for supervisor in the 5th district.

Do you remember all of the lawsuits that have been brought against the Fellowship and Robert Earl Burton? Do you remember what they were about? Please take the time to Google them or go to robertearlburton.blogspot.com.

According to this cult, all of us are walking dead people. Why do they want to get involved with us dead folks now, and what is their motivation to get a supervisor in their back pocket?

Is it possibly because of events occurring around 2012 when the Fellowship lost most of their paying members? Prior to this time, their leader forbid them to get involved politically. The word is they had a meeting and decided to start reaching out to the community. Do they have a strategy? Why did they start getting members to register to vote (those who are legal)? We wonder why they began sending certain members out to schmooze with politicians and worm their way into local politics. Some are writing articles to discredit the incumbent candidate and other candidates. Some of these were going to the Republican Party Central Committee meetings and interrupting spouting out their agendas.

Was part of their strategy to put fear into people that the government was going to control their property rights and a lot of other rhetoric? Some of our citizens have bought into this nonsense and have taken the Kool-Aid. Folks, in case you haven’t taken a look at cults and how they operate, just one of their strategies is to put fear into people, brain wash them, schmooze them until they drain their life and finances.

Some of the Fellowship’s well known members are Charles Sharp, Nick Spaulding, Greg Holman, and Steve Dambeck. In an article in the April 30th edition of the Appeal Democrat, Sharp admits his business relationship with candidate Randy Fletcher. Nick Spaulding continues to write articles in the TD about Hal Stocker. Nick has attached himself to 1st district Supervisor Andy Vasquez. Where you see Andy, you will see Nick. Vasquez recently voted, not once, but twice to give tax money paid to Yuba County back to the Fellowship. Greg Holman seems to control the Alcouffe Center in Oregon House as do many of the Fellowship members. Dambeck has made it to the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce where his status will surely provide benefit to his partner Randy Fletcher and the Fellowship.

With one supervisor, Vasquez, seemingly in the Fellowships’ embrace, adding Fletcher as an ally seems to forward the cults’ objectives. A former cult member says “The Fellowship of Friends’ tentacles reach into every non-profit in the North Yuba area. The cult has long sought to exploit any channel of public funding available. In this endeavor, a sympathetic supervisor can be an important ally and valuable asset.”

The husband and wife that solicited Randy Fletcher to run are now considered hypocrites by the community. What happened to their conservative family values and government by the people points of view?

Folks, please verify this for yourself and let us stop the tentacles from choking the life out of this community. Protect our youth and innocent people and pray that we don’t wind up with another supervisor that is beholding to the Fellowship of Friends.

Louise Reid
Brownsville, CA
[ed. - See also: Territorial Dispatch Article Ties Randy Fletcher to the Cult :( ]


From Salem-News.com (May-10-2014 23:09)

Randy Fletcher Yuba County District 5 Supervisor Candidate Linked to Cult


It has been my experience that when a candidate dodges a question or interview that there is something their [sic] hiding.

(SACRAMENTO) - These past few months of March-May are exciting times for a candidate running for office. It's a chance to get out and explore the community and hear from the people who live there.

In Yuba County, there are four candidates competing for the District 5 Supervisor seat held by long time incumbent Hal Stocker.

However, out of the competing candidates, only one has recently been accused of being tied to a religious cult located in the Yuba Foothills called the Fellowship of Friends.

Recently, in an opinion column article of the Territorial Dispatch, a woman named Liouse [sic] Reid wrote a piece exposing candidate Randy Fletcher as the golden boy of the Fellowship of Friends.

She claimed that the cult was looking to expand it's grasp of local politics and a Supervisor on its side would be a strong ally.

Initially, after reading the opinion article, I admit I was skeptical. But the investigative reporter inside me wanted answers. On Wednesday, May 7th 2014, I contacted Randy Fletcher's office to see about interviewing him on a variety of subjects. My phone call was returned by Crystal Martin who said she was Randy's campaign manager.

Continue reading at: Salem-News.com (May-10-2014 23:09)

From YubaFoothills.com, May 7, 2014: Randy Fletcher Tied to Cult 

[ed. - The letter below references the numerous Fellowship landholders pressing to subdivide and develop their properties. Nick Spaulding has for years been campaigning to kill any legislation the would restrict such development, and Fletcher apparently supports this. In conjunction with these efforts is Randy Fletcher's campaign to bring more water to the community (via the New York Flat Dam Project that Fletcher is promoting.) ]

From Appeal-Democrat, May 23, 2014:
Letter: Re: Hal Stocker

How do know you what to believe when it comes to our candidates for supervisor 5th District? Look to the agenda of his/her biggest supporters/backers. It is my opinion that Randy Fletcher's supporters are two entities most interested in changing the land use criteria of the foothills.

Renaissance Winery, et al, and Soper Wheeler want to develop large areas of rural land into housing development.

Do we really want this quiet and peaceful area to change with all that these developments will bring? Vote to protect our rural open spaces, and the natural beauty of the foothills. Do we really want to be as busy and crowded as Grass Valley, even Penn Valley? Remember why you chose this area.

Vote for the one that you can trust to keep his word about preserving our rural community, Hal Stocker.

Donna Corson

Dobbins

Posted on eTerritorialDispatch.com, May 19, 2014:
If Randy Fletcher is being groomed by Fellowship of Friends members to do Robert Burton and the Fellowship’s bidding, it is quite possible Randy is not even aware of the fact. (This, despite Randy's close ties with Steven Dambeck and Charles Sharp through their North Fork Yuba River business partnership, and through the mutual promotion of their other business interests.)

Randy would be just one of the latest in a long line of people lured and deceived by Burton and his agents. To date, an estimated 15,000 spiritual seekers have joined, and then left, the Fellowship of Friends, choosing to walk away despite Burton’s repeated warnings that to leave his “church” would doom them to “a fate worse than death.” (Seriously, those are his words.) Most eventually realized Burton had deceived them, and that his “church” was a scam. (The Fellowship currently numbers approximately 1,500 members worldwide, with roughly one-third of those in and around Oregon House, CA.)

Though Fellowship of Friends President Greg Holman directly serves founder Burton, and despite the outward appearances, it is conceivable that behind the political efforts of Holman, Dambeck, Sharp, and Spaulding there is absolutely no hidden Fellowship agenda. It’s difficult to believe, but possible.
Among those with first-hand experience in the Fellowship, a natural skepticism arises from a 44-year history of Fellowship secrecy and, frankly, lies perpetrated by Burton. (For example, it was only after twenty years of claiming celibacy, while all the while abusing male heterosexual followers, that Burton admitted having “consensual” sexual relationships with followers – hundreds of them. For decades, the secret was kept from the vast majority of his flock. Only after a lawsuit brought Burton's secret sex life to the front pages of newspapers did Burton acknowledge his lie. And even then, the reclusive and cowardly Burton could not publicly confess his deception, but had his ministers announce it to the assembled congregation. It is reported that Steven Dambeck, one of those who had engaged in the secretive “consensual” affairs, led that meeting.)

The list of charges against Burton is long, and well-documented. His behaviors have precipitated lawsuits. Legal settlements involved insurance payouts and the liquidation of assets, resulting in severe financial hardships for the Fellowship in general and its membership in particular. But by all accounts, Burton has never been held to account for his alleged crimes. Our Constitution and legal system affords a “church” every protection and benefit of the doubt. (Witness the difficulties victims of abuse in the Catholic church, the Protestant church, and the Church of Scientology have had trying to hold their abusers accountable.) Very early on, Burton, like L. Ron Hubbard before him, recognized the legal and tax benefits of declaring his spiritual advice racket a “church.” Ever since, the citizens of Yuba County (and beyond) have subsidized Burton’s enterprise.

The Fellowship of Friends is first and foremost a business that, since 1970, has served Robert Burton's greed and lust. Burton is a deluded charlatan, and this can be demonstrated through his own words and deeds. Thus, we have Burton's most devoted followers continually urging us to “pay no attention to that man (or cult) behind the curtain.” They would hate to have such a lucrative scheme come crashing down.

Tim Campion
Santa Rosa, CA

"Mick" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 12, 2014:
Circa 1978 Fellowship members were asked to register & vote for Charlie Parker for County Supervisor. With their help he won, though he proved to be kind of a dud and nothing much happened.

The Fellowship has a long history of ignoring the community and the rules for civil behavior. They closed off Dixon Hill Road to the public which traverses their property for a couple of miles from North to South. My research indicates that the Right-of-Way for this roadway remains in effect until formally abandoned. (If the County were to vacate their interest there is a lengthy procedure to be followed and normally the County would be compensated.) Their massive earth moving for terracing the defunct vineyard caused a great deal of erosion and the state had to step in to enforce some mitigation and clean up efforts. They built their “Theatron” without permits. They continue to lavishly & wastefully spend huge amounts of money on landscaping, objects d’ art, lawyers and the finest jewels, trinkets, clothing & “companionship” for their (make no mistake) absolute leader Robert Burton.
Since this was a recent issue with the Board of Supervisors it would be appropriate to ask Randy Fletcher if he would vote in favor of returning some of their property tax dollars.

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 19, 2014:
183. Mick [referring to above]

I believe that was the first time I ever voted, Mick. (I sure wasn’t interested in local politics.) We thought it was pretty funny that, with the Fellowship’s few hundred votes in and around Oregon House, we could determine the outcome of an election.

In retrospect, it was likely illegal.

"Mick" added on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 13, 2014:
I wonder if the “book liberating octave” [project] is still in operation, wherein books are stolen from public libraries. These folks are not upright citizens. Librarians beware. [ed. - Mick refers to a early project involving petty crime, when the Fellowship was "assembling" its own library. Remember, if not for the efforts by Fellowship members to move these things to Apollo for safe-keeping, all these works would eventually be destroyed during the Fall of California or Armageddon. Truly, it was in posterity's best interest.]

From the IRS:
The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations
Under the Internal Revenue Code, [italics added]all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

 On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

Nick Spaulding wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 22, 2014:
Tim: see IRS documents & regulations: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/rr2007-41.pdf see page 1422 “situation 5″ There is plenty of latitude for acceptable and allowable activity well within the law.
Nick Spaulding Letter to the Editor, Territorial Dispatch, April 20, 2014
Charles Sharp Letter to the Editor, Territorial Dispatch, March 31, 2014
 [ed. - See also:  Is the non-profit North Yuba Grown engaging in political activism? on this blog.]

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