A man who joined Florida-based self-help group Gratitude Training for its personal development seminars has filed a lawsuit claiming the group is actually a sexual cult, the Daily Beast reports.
According to the lawsuit, Mark Robbins and his twin children joined Gratitude Training in June to participate in the group’s three-step self improvement program that’s designed to “awaken the planet, maximize joy, and actualize peace.” The Daily Beast notes that the peace comes at the price of $3,585 — the combined costs of the group’s time-consuming sessions (the final one of which takes 200 hours to complete).
After making it through two phases, however, Robbins began to have doubts about the group. The lawsuit alleges he saw Gratitude Training staff bully a woman into an “altered state” and harass a man with early onset Alzheimer’s. He also allegedly witnessed some bizarre sexual rites. Per the Daily Beast:
Robbins claims Gratitude Training knowingly enrolled people with histories of sexual misconduct and that he witnessed those members participating in sexualized rites, “which include group stroking and massaging, lifting members in the air by their buttocks; and skits in which male members wear diapers.”
Robbins claims in his lawsuit that the group cheated him out of time and money, as he worked more than 100 hours for Gratitude Training without pay. He also alleges that one woman “gave so many hours of unpaid service … that she was poverty stricken, and posted on Facebook that she would pose nude for food or money.” And when he left the group, Robbins allegedly received a death threats and a dead rat on his doorstep.
The group’s founder Jo Englesson, it should be noted, denies the allegations and told the Daily Beast that Gratitude Training planned to file a defamation lawsuit against Robbins. She also claims the group is no more a cult than Apple (even though so many people Google “Gratitude Training cult” that the group even added a page to its website about the rumors).
“If it’s a cult in the sense of the cult of Apple, people who like the computer product, then yeah,” Englesson told the Daily Beast. “But it’s not a cult in the way he’s alleging.”