RNB’s Religion News Blog Archive

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Here you’ll find quotes, links and blurbs highlighting religion news, cult stories — and anything else we think you might like. May include a dash of opinion and perhaps a touch of humor.

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Are you old enough to remember Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh?

Are you old enough to remember the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh?

Oregon Public Broadcasting, Nov. 21, 2012

In 1981 this spiritual leader from India spent $5.75 million on a remote piece of property in Oregon and invested millions more to build Rajneeshpuram as a spiritual retreat for thousands of his red-frocked followers.1

The East Oregonian recalls

In news clips from the 1980s, Rajneeshees line the road for the Bhagwan’s daily drive-by in a vehicle from his fleet of more than 90 Rolls Royce automobiles. Rancho Rajneesh, as some called it, had its own newspaper, fire department, night club and mall.

The Rajneeshees clashed with locals over land use. The utopian desert commune collapsed after Rajneeshees were convicted of infecting four salad bars with salmonella in The Dalles, the Wasco county seat, in order to hamper voter turnout and swing an election. Other crimes included attempted murder, arson, election fraud and wiretapping. About 10 followers were imprisoned. The Bhagwan was deported for immigration violations.

751 people were poisoned in the 1984 bioterror attack. According to Wikipedia, “The incident was the first and single largest bioterrorist attack in United States history. The attack is one of only two confirmed terrorist uses of biological weapons to harm humans since 1945.”

The Rajneesh had hoped to incapacitate the voting population of the city so that their own candidates would win the local election.

The Rajneesh actually did gain political control of the nearby city of Antelope.

But by 1986 they were all gone.

Oregon Public Broadcasting, which produced the fascinating documentary shown above, says

Twenty-five sannyasins would be convicted of crimes: arson, wiretapping, immigration fraud, election fraud and attempted murder. Ten would serve time in prison.

At the end of it all, Wasco County Judge Bill Hulse predicted (correctly) that somebody would write a book about what had happened there: “The people who read that book,” he said, “will think it’s fiction.”

The East Oregonian reports that

Montana billionaire Dennis Washington bought the seized property for a cool $3.65 million as a destination resort, but ran into zoning problems. The Washington family donated the property to Young Life in 1996 and has continued support with additional donations.

Given Bhagwan’s open disdain for Christianity, it ironic that his former land now is home to the world’s largest Young Life camp — a Christian camp.

Speaking of irony, the paper also writes

When planners couldn’t decide what to do with the Bhagwan’s house, a 1997 range fire decided matters. A finger of the fire raced down the ridge and torched the residence, the only one of 300 Rajneeshpuram buildings to burn.

Born in 1931 as Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Acharya Rajneesh, in the 1960s he changed his name to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and in 1989 to Osho. Though he died in 1990, he still has an international following.2

Want to know more? Rajneeshes in Oregon: The Untold Story, a special report by The Oregonian, is a great place to start. Includes FBI and police reports.

See also:

Seeing a cult through a child’s eyes
Rajneesh Foundation – The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power


  1. They used to be known as Rajneeshees or “Orange People,” because of the orange and later red, maroon and pink clothes they used from 1970 until 1985
  2. Wikipedia entry on Rajneesh

Escaping Polygamy — and Scientology

Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s smash documentary that exposes the Scientology cult to daylight, was HBO’s highest-rated documentary premiere in almost a decade. By popular demand it is going to be back in theaters.

By the way: the documentary has seven Emmy nominations.

“I want to leave and I want to leave now, but I’m scared and don’t know who I can trust.”

That anonymous text message opens LMN’s documentary series Escaping Polygamy.

“This show is not like ‘Sister Wives’ Fox News headlined. It sure isn’t. Rather than sugarcoat polygamy, this series highlights what it is like to be trapped in an insular polygamous group.

The series follows the work of three sisters who left the Kingston clan, a secretive polygamist group based in Salt Lake City, Utah known as the Order, as they help both loved ones and strangers break free of polygamy.

Which Groups Practice Polygamy?
10 Polygamist Wives Who Escaped Unbelievable Abuse

Can Moral Disputes Be Resolved?

From the head-in-the-sand department: Obama’s looking-glass Islamic World.

Reality check: The Religion of Peace