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Freedom of Speech Alert!

Warning: This page ain't pretty (yet). But you can probably figure out what's going on.

Sites that have archived Life 1023/11/97

To see for yourself what MSIA is making all the fuss about, see: Sherilyn's site in the UK, which may have favorable copyright laws protecting publishing _Life 102_ on the Web. Richard Bennet's site David Lane's Neural Surfer site. received yet another communication from Leopold, Petrich & Smith, the law firm representing MSIA, John-Roger Hinkins controversial group. In it, Vincent Cox, Esq., accuses us of lying, making defamatory statements, giving professional legal advice, and ends with the explicit threat of legal action on behalf of MSIA.

Amazing the rhetoric these "spiritual types" use.

Let's see. To recap, back in 1995 we asked for and received permission from Peter McWilliams to reprint a tiny segment of his book _Life 102_. The book as a whole is filled with Peter's embarrassing allegations about MSIA, John-Roger, Arianna Huffington, and others. The section we reprinted had only to do with Peter's time in TM!

Last Friday, we received word that MSIA's lawyers wanted the selection taken down because they now held the copyright. I responded on Monday, saying in effect, "sure, please just do us the courtesy of sending me your request in writing."

Who knows what stirred up a hornet's nest, but we're feeling tremendous pressure from the "spiritual organization" MSIA and their lawyers.

This is like deja vu all over again. What, did Michael Flynn and Vincent Cox all go to the same school or something?

John-Roger, here's a chance for you to show what a former Mystical Traveler is really made of.

Call off your legal dogs.

Not only do we not wish you any harm, we're just too damn small to make any difference!


P.S. We have taken down the material until we can research our rights. More information at

Via fax: 310.277.7444 February 28, 1997

Vincent Cox, Esq.
Leopold, Petrich & Smith
2049 Century Park East
Los Angeles, California 90067-3274

John M. Knapp Executive Director 102 South Lake Avenue, Apartment #5
Albany, NY 12208-3350

Dear Mr. Cox:

I have just received and read your letter of 2/26/97. I am dismayed that you, your client, your firm, or all three chose to escalate your language and threats. Frankly, I find them intimidating. I find it difficult to believe that a spiritual organization such as MSIA or a figure on the order of John-Rogers Hinkins would stoop to harassing a tiny nonprofit, such as, or the meager living I am able to provide my family.

Below I've appended a copy of the email I sent you and MSIA staff on Monday. (It appears that you received it, since you used the correct contact information to send today's letter.)

In my cordial email to you, sir, I ask:

"Without reflecting in any way on the rights of any party in this communication, let me assure you that I, as executive director of "trance", and my board, staff, volunteers, and so forth are required by our charter to comply not only with the letter of U.S. intellectual copyright law, but also its spirit.

"To hasten this process, could you please send me a copy of your request? And the contact information of whomever will be handling this request from MSIA?"

To date I have received neither. Nor have I received proof of your client's copyright claim in general or specific.

In your rather unpleasant letter, you go on to accuse me personally of making "a number of statements that are false" publicly, on the Internet.

As a career journalist and the executive director of a nonprofit organization, I personally and as an organization consider your assertions not only unwarranted, but injurious to my livelihood and's mission.

I have appended a copy of my Internet posting that you refer to.

You misquote me when you imply that I claim our website contains any material about MSIA. I make no such assertion whatsoever. Further I make no claim that MSIA acts upon "some wicked self-protective desire to stifle the content of speech." So I fail to see how anything I've written can be misconstrued as "defamatory and false" as you claim.

You go on to assert that you do not believe that I have quoted Mr. McWilliams correctly in his representation of his understanding of the transfer of copyright and prior permission given to literally every one of the thousands of people who read his site before your two parties reached a settlement. Leaving aside for now your career-damaging insinuation that I somehow lied, anyone can read Peter's quote for themselves below, and now at Should it become necessary, naturally I can produce the original email, complete with headers.

I make no advice to anyone in my Internet posting. I do accurately quote correspondence with Peter McWilliams. Is it your contention that I am somehow liable for damages to your client for even quoting Peter, as any journalist would do? Do you realize that at the same time I approached Mr. McWilliams, I tried to contact you and the MSIA staff to receive your understanding of the situation? (You still have failed to respond to date.) So your assertion that I somehow offered legal advice, correct or incorrect, on the nature of your client's copyrights is an extraordinary misunderstanding at best.

Mr. Cox, your sudden and unlooked for pressure has caused me, my board, our staff and volunteers, and not least of all my family severe anguish. It is unlikely that we could withstand a punitive attack from a wealthy plaintiff.

What is most extraordinary, of course, is that I sought your firm and MSIA out to handle this situation amicably. (Your initial contact was with James Martin, who is not even a staff or board member of You also seem to have overlooked our sincere offer "to comply not only with the letter of U.S. intellectual copyright law, but also its spirit."

Accordingly we are removing the sections of "Life 102" from our website, immediately. We will, however, be placing copies of this correspondence in its place along with any appropriate link information on MSIA that we deem appropriate.

This action should not reflect in any way on the rights of any party in this communication. It is the charter policy of to respond to any intellectual property rights or defamation claims in as conservative a manner as possible. We may at our discretion choose to other action in the future.

It is unfortunate that your rhetoric has reached a fever pitch. We offered to comply, we have complied. And in return, my character and the reputation of our organization has been grievously attacked.

MSIA and John-Roger Hinkins represent themselves as spiritual guides. I question whether this kind of legal pressure over such an inconsquential issue can be deemed "spiritual" in any sense of the word.

We at feel bullied.

John M. Knapp

P.S. I have not received "yesterday's letter" that you mention. Please feel free to email, fax, or paper mail a copy.


2/24/97 email to Vincent Cox and MSIA staff

Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 14:23:05 -0500
From: John M. Knapp 
Subject: BOARD-L: Request Information from MSIA Legal Staff
Precedence: bulk

To whom:

One of my editors, Jim Martin, apparently received an email from MSIA's legal staff over the weekend. I have not read the email, but from his description, your legal staff is requesting that we remove a short section of _Life 102_ from our site.

Without reflecting in any way on the rights of any party in this communication, let me assure you that I, as executive director of, and my board, staff, volunteers, and so forth are required by our charter to comply not only with the letter of U.S. intellectual copyright law, but also its spirit.

To hasten this process, could you please send me a copy of your request? And the contact information of whomever will be handling this request from MSIA?

My contact information is:

John M. Knapp
102 South Lake Avenue, Apartment #5
Albany, NY 12208-3350

Thank you for your attention to this detail.


John M. Knapp, executive director, " Beaming 10 megs of unfiltered information daily!" Transcendental Meditation, Rama/Lenz, Chopra, Moon, more! To discuss controversial groups and cult recovery without flaming: email about free email lists. relies solely on "sharefare" contributions of readers like you at

"Freedom of Speech Alert!"

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Lawyers for MSIA -- John-Rogers's controversial offshoot from Eckankar -- have served with a demand to remove a section of Peter McWilliams's book, _Life 102: What to Do When Your Guru Sues You,_ from

It is their contention that the copyright for this book has been ascribed to them by Prelude Press, Peter's private publishing company.

_Life 102_ is Peter's account of his journey into and out of MSIA -- the same organization in which political talkshow darling Arianna Huffington reportedly was ordained a minister. It contains many allegations that John-Rogers Hinkins, Huffington, and others must find undoubtedly embarrassing.

Peter's site is at Reached via email, Peter confirmed that the copyright to _Life 102_ had been transferred to MSIA as part of a settlement between them. Further he wrote us:

"Yes, you do [have reprint permission], and this permission was given before they owned the copyright. Further, I gave full permission to ANYONE to use ANY of my works ANYWHERE on the Internet, as long as they didn't charge for them. I gave this permission before the MSIA copyright transfer. Further, still, I told MSIA that I had done this and the copyright transfer to them could not and would not nullify prior permission I had given for Internet reproduction rights." is a nonprofit Webzine publisher, specializing in psychological freedoms, with publications on Transcendental Meditation, Church of Scientology, The Way International, Rama/Lenz, Moon/Unificationism, and Deepak Chopra.

The MSIA challenge is the third time in 7 months that has been threatened with legal action by groups seeking to stifle unflattering information about their controversial organizations or leaders. To date, each of these claims were found to be without merit and the threatened legal actions were dropped by the controversial groups.

The board and executive director of are in the process of reviewing our rights in the MSIA situation with legal advisors. It is our intention to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of U.S. intellectual property law.

Finally, we received this note from noted Scientology, TM, and Chopra critic Sherilyn last night:

"In the interests of free speech and in direct opposition to this outrageous abuse of the copyright laws of the USA, I have placed a copy of the McWilliams material from TranceNet on my own www site. I have also spent some two hours producing a rough-and-ready ascification of the material, which was held in scanned GIF form on the TranceNet pages.

"No frills. Just gif and plain ascii. Come and get it or point to it. If I have time I'll htmlize later.

"I urge those of good faith in jurisdictions outside the USA to mirror this material.


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