Leader of fatal Arizona sweat lodge speaks out

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A motivational speaker who led a sweat lodge ceremony in Arizona that turned deadly said he feels horrible about what happened but declined to comment on whether he was responsible for the deaths.

In his first interview about the incident, James Arthur Ray instead refers to letters drafted by his attorneys that state he was not criminally negligent. His comments were made to New York Magazine for a story published Sunday and later confirmed by his representatives.

Authorities in central Arizona’s Yavapai County have focused a homicide investigation on Ray, though no charges have been filed. Many participants have said Ray could have done more to ensure their safety.

Ray countered that he wasn’t aware that anyone was experiencing medical problems until the ceremony concluded, though many participants said he ignored pleas for help inside the sweat lodge.

Ray has made millions of dollars by persuading people his words will lead them to spiritual and financial wealth. In late October, he canceled his appearances amid criticism from the sweat lodge survivors and others.

– Source / Full Story: Leader of fatal Arizona sweat lodge speaks out, Associated Press via the Washington Post, Jan. 25, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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This post was last updated: Jan. 26, 2010