The Gentle Wind Project, which for 22 years has distributed “healing instruments” built on designs adherents claim were transmitted from the “spirit world,” has been sued by the Maine Attorney General’s Office for allegedly violating the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
According to the suit, which was filed June 29 in York County Superior Court, the nonprofit group has made false claims about its products, which range from small laminated cards to hockey puck-like discs the group says will treat everything from alcoholism to paralysis. The group claims the devices have been put through rigorous scientific testing and have been proven effective in hospital settings.
Instead, according to the complaint signed by Attorney General Steven Rowe, there was no scientific testing, and the medical professionals who endorsed the products had undisclosed financial relationships with the Kittery-based group.
The defendants, five members of the Gentle Wind board and their bookkeeper, have been charged with violating the laws regulating charitable organizations. They could be fined as well as forced to pay sales tax that was never collected on millions of dollars worth of transactions.
Gentle Wind’s president, Mary Miller, did not return a phone call seeking comment about the case. She is one of the defendants, along with John “Tubby” Miller who, according to the complaint, directs the manufacture of the healing instruments and writes the descriptions of them in the group’s literature.
The state’s suit marks Gentle Wind’s latest appearance in the legal arena. In 2003, the organization sued former members Judy Garvey and her husband, Jim Bergin, of Blue Hill for defamation after the couple published autobiographical essays about their 17 years in the Gentle Wind Project, which they compared to a “mind-control cult.”
The couple claimed that they had been exploited financially and let group leaders control every aspect of their lives. Garvey said she was involved in “sexual rituals” that she was told were necessary to create the healing instruments.
A suit against the couple and the operators of some Web sites that published their work was dismissed from federal court by U.S. District Judge Gene Carter in January. The suit was filed again in state court and is scheduled to go to trial in October or November.
The attorney general’s complaint will not directly affect the pending lawsuit, said Bergin and Garvey’s lawyer, Jerroll Crouter of Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon. However, many of the statements the couple will have to defend in court have now been made by state authorities, which their lawyer said vindicates their position.
“The state is alleging that Gentle Wind Project (officials) are acting deceptively regarding their healing instruments, and that’s exactly the same claims that Bergin and Garvey have been making on their Web site,” he said.
According to the Gentle Wind Web site, each human is surrounded by a web of energy. It is oval in shape, 8 to 10 feet tall and made up of 32 layers. “Over 90 percent of the world’s population is missing between 10 to 15 layers,” the Web site claims. Human technology cannot heal the broken energy, according to the group. The healing instruments are effective, they say, and they can solve “most of the problems found in humanity.”
The state’s lawsuit seeks to stop Gentle Wind from making claims about the products, pay uncollected sales tax and permanently bar all the defendants from serving on the board of any charitable organization.
The suit also seeks control of Gentle Wind’s property, including homes in New Hampshire and Florida, and would force it to pay restitution to any customer who purchased a healing instrument.
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