Kashi Ashram

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Kashi Ashram, founded in 1976, was established by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati (born Joyce Green). Years later, the founder was found at the center of serious accusations surrounding marriage and its youngest members – the founder’s name was even placed on birth certificates of infants outside her family. She also made one of her daughters marry a man against their will and assaulted anyone who didn’t do what she said.

Word of Faith Fellowship

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The Word of Faith Fellowship are known to follow many rules, like asking what their college major will be, and if they didn’t follow these rules then they would have severe mental and physical torment. Known as ‘blasting’, members were allegedly punished for their sexual orientation, impure thoughts, acting out at school and more. To this day, it continues to run.

The Nuwaubian Nation

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When Dwight York, A.K.A. Malachi Z. York, founded The Nuwaubian Nation in New York, his followers were instructed to give up material possessions and were expected to raise a certain amount of money, or would face physical punishment. He was then arrested for 100 counts of mistreating young people and was sentenced to 135 years in prison, but his followers still keep his organisation alive.

The Nation of Yahweh

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Yahweh ben Yahweh created a religious movement that became the source of serious acts of violence. The group was criticized for promoting violent Black supremacist ideals and multiple incidents suggested that members were taking lives. Those who wanted to leave the group were threatened with violence or even death. In 1991, the leader faced jail time for 14 murders, however the group still runs now.

The Church of Bible Understanding

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Founder Robert Traill pushed for followers to completely disconnect from their old lives. Members were then expected to give the majority of their earnings to The Church, however these members would then live in over-crowded and pest-filled places. The organization was then criticized for running orphanages that subjected young children to horrible conditions – even though Traill has died, the group continues.

The Rajneesh Movement [aka Osho]

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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh founded his movement in the late ’60s in India after he decided to dismiss established religions and would instead focus on freethought and meditation. He was interested in communist literature, which influenced his teachings, and they eventually moved to Oregon to grow further. To gain political influence, the movement committed crimes such as mass local salmonella poisoning and attempted assassinations. He was then deported back to India in 1985, and the organisation runs even now.

Twelve Tribes


Founded in Tennessee, the Twelve Tribes aspire to recreate the original Christian church as depicted in the Book of Acts. However, they exert authoritarian control over its followers’ lives, and promotes strict corporal punishment, which led to child abuse. Followers are also told that Jews are cursed for murdering Jesus, gay people should die, and that Black people are naturally servants to White people. Secretly, the tribe still runs.

The Family International

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The Family International was founded in 1968 by David Berg, and was immediately deemed as controversial. It used sex to lure potential members, and would draw their beliefs from the Bible, but specifically emphasise ‘Loving Jesus’, which is done through sexual interactions. There are many accusations of child mistreatment, however they are established in 70 countries and are still running to this day as an online community.


Credit: U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York via Courthouse News

In 1998, Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman founded NXIVM which started as a self-help group. In 2017, an investigation was made into a sub-group of the group where women, branded with Raniere’s initials, were on rotation with having relations with the founder and members. And in 2018, charges were placed on Raniere and 5 members for numerous crimes like extortion and sex trafficking. He was sentenced to 120 years in prison, but the group still remains.

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

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When the LDS church opted to renounce the practice of polygamy, a fundamentalists spec was formed. Those who wished to continue this practice branched off, remaining Mormon but on their own terms. Polygamy remains illegal, however in 1953 an FLDS community was arrested and most had their children taken from them. And in 2008, CPS was made of allegations of abuse and over 400 children were taken away from their parents. Leader Warren Jeffs has remained his position despite being in prison for life.