I grew up in Yelm, Washington, home to the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (RSE) led by cult leader JZ Knight. To be honest, as a young child growing up in the 80’s around Yelm, I didn’t know too much about the RSE. I don’t recall discussing anything religious or spiritual with my parents, and can recall only going to church a handful of times, and those were only the “traditional” Christian churches. Despite not knowing anything about what the RSE was, everyone in school knew where the RSE was. It was the enormous house hidden behind the white stone wall, with only the top most levels of the house visible as the school bus drove us by. All the stories about the RSE were about how rich JZ Knight was; truth be told, none of us really knew who she was, or what she did to get so rich.
I moved from Yelm to Minnesota when I was a teenager, and almost everything about the RSE dropped from my life. From time to time I would bring her up as something from my hometown, something that no one around me knew about. By this time I had also learned JZ was a channeller someone who claims to host a non-corporeal entity so the otherwise silent and invisible entity can communicate with the physical world (us). To put it another way, she pretends a spirit is speaking using her mouth, and to make you really believe, she talks funny.
Time went on, and as I grew up to an adult I always thought of her as something in my past, a curiosity but nothing more. Then came Facebook, I had liked a Yelm page which posted an editorial from the Yelm newspaper , and there she was, JZ Knight.
The Ramatha School of Enlightenment was suing a Virginia Coverdale over the release of a controversial video in which she insults gays, Catholics, Mexicans, and many other groups. As a member of the Trans* community, these bigoted remarks naturally caught my attention. I would post a link, but JZ has had the vast majority pulled down from the internet. (The videos are still out there, and if you know how to search, you can find them, and if you are internet savvy, I suggest you take a look as they are quite entertaining.)
Apparently when you join the RSE, you are required to sign a confidentiality agreement where, and I’m paraphrasing here, you agree to not release, discuss, or disseminate materials from the RSE without the consent of the RSE. This is not the normal behavior for a religion; however, the RSE does not claim to be a religion, although they do claim religious privilege when it comes to what they believe.
Though Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment is a for-profit school that does not hold itself out as a church or organized religion, the foundation of its teachings are spiritual and center around beliefs in the teachings of Ramtha, a 30,000-year-old warrior spirit channeled by Knight.” RSE
So they want to be treated as a religion when it comes to their beliefs, but want to be JZ Knight Incorporated, a for profit business when it comes to everything else. This is a problem because JZ Knight Inc sells a product to its students. They make a claim of being able to educate and elucidate, and charge you for the special opportunity to learn this secret knowledge. In an injunction discussed below, the RSE describes itself as “engaged in the business of retail sales, seminars, and publishing.” I am not personally aware of any church or religious organization which would describe itself in that manner. Yet, if you realize you’ve been swindled, that the secret knowledge you’ve been promised is a lie, you are not allowed to sue for your money back, because the school then turns around and claims the religious protections guaranteed by the first amendment of the US Constitution. As mentioned above, the court ruled in favor the RSE, claiming the non-disclosure agreement was binding, and covered the videos and materials Ms. Coverdale had disseminated online.
Virginia Coverdale, like most former students of the RSE, has suggested that an investigation into the relationship between Thurston County officials and the RSE should be undertaken. It was in fact, because of this belief of uncovered corruption, that the videos of JZ Knight making bigoted statements was originally released. Under the Public Records Act of Washington State, Ms. Coverdale has now submitted a “request for documents containing correspondence between [Thurston County] and any employee of JZK Inc., Ramtha School of Enlightenment.”
Immediately the RSE sought an injunction against this release claiming it “will clearly not be in the public interest, and will substantially and irreparably damage” the school as well as harming “it’s right to due process of law, its right of free speech, and participation in the political process…”
As I have stated in previous postings, and on the podcast, I am a big fan scientific skepticism, the same rules of evidence apply to Ms. Coverdale’s claim of potential political misdoings, as any other claim. First, who holds the burden of proof? This lies on the those making the claim of possible misdoings by Thurston County officials. Second, if true, would the claim be consistent with our current understanding of reality? Yes, corruption of government officials by giving them favors or cash does is consistent with our current understanding of how the world works. This does not mean the claim is true, it simply means the threshold of evidence is lower than if the claim was an extraordinary one, such as the government officials are actually grey aliens.
So as a scientific skeptic, my opinion is that Ms. Coverdale needs evidence, but if she produces said evidence I’ll believer her…..such as the evidence she has requested from Thurston County. The evidence the Ramtha School of Enlightenment is seeking to keep from becoming public. An important point needs to be made however. The filing of an injunction by the RSE, is not evidence that Ms. Coverdale’s suspicion of political misdoings is correct. There are many alternate hypothesis that are just as reasonable and plausible such as; the RSE has a culture of secrecy they are loath to part with, the RSE is incompetent, the RSE is mean, or the RSE believes everything in their injunction. All of these are potentially just as true as Ms. Coverdale’s assertion, what we need is evidence, and as stated above, the request of Ms. Coverdale may give that evidence.
I’m going to end this already long blog post here. I’ll keep you updated on this case, because as with JZ being my hometown cult leader, its resolution is important to me. I will also go into the teachings of the RSE, and probably channeling in general in further posts. People like JZ Knight raise my ire, she cheats people out of their money, she cheats people out of their dreams, she destroys families, and she’s not alone.