Reporter and investigator Jennings Brown presented the results of three years of tracking members of the California-based Fellowship of Friends group, in which the founder may have abused hundreds of followers.
“They told me about these sex rituals where [the leader] would attempt to have sex with 100 followers in a day. He called them love fests,” Brown was quoted as saying by the Nov. 9 New York Post.
Brown now reveals the full details of his investigation in a series of podcasts titled “Revelations” and in tweets summarizing the story whose centerpiece is the leader, Robert Earl Burton, an 82-year-old American.
In one of his tweets, Brown describes, “Revelations Act 4 is out. The ep includes interviews with men who told me the Fellowship of Friends helped them immigrate to the US where they entered into sexual servitude and participated in non-consensual sex rituals, along with dozens of other members.”
Burton reportedly followed the teachings of Russian philosopher George Gurdjieff according to which it was possible to increase self-awareness, and he adapted them, “preaching that one should immerse oneself in the finer things in life, abolish negative thinking and live in harmony,” describes author Sara Stewart.
The leader would be mentored by “44 angels,” including such historical personalities as Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri, and Benjamin Franklin, who guided the lives of the group’s members.
Part of the donations was used to acquire works of art, mainly European. One part of the collection was auctioned in 1996, consisting of antique Chinese furniture, which raised $11.2 million.
In addition, Brown relates, “One of the most horrifying things I heard was the rule about abortions” and shares the testimony of one of the former members of the group who urged his wife to have an abortion.
“When my wife became pregnant, he [Burton] said that the child should be aborted. His explanation was that the child would be born too soon to be included on the ark,” said “Nathan.”
He added: “And being the fool that I was, I accepted the explanation. It wasn’t my best act here on Earth. My wife didn’t agree to it. It was kind of against her will,” he said, according to the New York Post.
On the other hand, in 1996, another former member, Troy Buzbee, sued Burton accusing him of sexually exploiting him when he was 17. The lawsuit was settled out of court. Not only that, Burton allegedly sexually assaulted Troy’s father, Richard.
Additionally, former CFO Charles Randall reportedly told Brown, “We made up the religion to cover the fact that it was otherwise Robert doing whatever the hell he wanted,” says Randall, who left the Fellowship in 1994, noting that he was disillusioned by allegations of sexual coercion.
Brown estimates his worldwide membership at 1,500 and about 500 at the California headquarters. “Robert is still very active,” Brown says. “Even though he’s getting up there in age, I saw no reason to think his alleged coercive behavior has stopped.”
He also likens the Fellowship of Friends to the NXIVM movement, led by Keith Raniere, who was convicted of sex trafficking, and for forcing women into unwanted intimate relationships. He also branded them with his initials and used them as sex slaves.