By Matt SmithEver since Gavin Newsom attended a Scientology fund-raising event with his girlfriend last year, analysts have wondered: would San Francisco’s mayor unfairly favor the cult established by L. Ron Hubbard?
Earlier this month Newsom proved such skeptics wrong. He's shown himself to be an equal-opportunity cult coddler by declaring Sept. 7 “Ilchee Lee Day in San Francisco.”
In so doing, Newsom put the official San Francisco seal of approval on a man newspapers, television reports and cult watch groups describe as ...
the leader of a possibly dangerous cult.
Lee is the Korean leader of Dahn, a yoga and holistic health organization that sells workshops and retreats teaching a technique called “brain respiration.” News reports and cult-watchers have called Ilchee a cult leader, saying his organization has used the concept of “brain eduction” to lure victims into spending their savings on pricey classes and retreats. According to a New York Post report, one patron’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2005 after a patron of Lee’s Dahnhak yoga and holistic-health movement was allegedly made to walk herself to death in the Arizona desert.
“The suit calls Dahnhak a cult and alleges that it drugged (Julia) Siverls, loaded her backpack with 40 pounds of rocks, gave her little food or water, then took her on a hike up Casner Mountain, near Sedona, Ariz.,” the Post reported.
According to Rick Ross, director of the anti-cult group Rick A. Ross Institute, various news sources "have described Lee’s so-called brain education,’ as more like ‘brainwashing’ and ‘mind control.’ One former Dahn student in Las Vegas told a local TV news team, “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I felt like I was drugged.” She was later hospitalized for three days. Her treating physician told a reporter that she was mentally abused and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.”
Lee seems to be following the footsteps of fellow South Korean and purported cult leader Sun Myung Moon. Or maybe Lee's the next L. Ron Hubbard, messiah of Newsom’s former Scientologist paramour Sofia Milos.
According to Ross, “Lee now controls millions of dollars in real estate holdings, including the Sedona, Arizona retreat where client Julia Siverls died, and another retreat property recently purchased in Ellenville, New York.”
There are reportedly 147 Dahn Centers in the United States with 50,000 members, with another 400 branches and 150,000 members outside the U.S.
According to Ross, the organization’s methods involve recruiting new workers, or “little masters” who serve the “Grand Master Lee.” Like in other cults, family members have complained that those workers become increasingly isolated and difficult to contact. Some families have attempted interventions, or so called deprogramming to get people out of the cult. The group’s ‘Brain Education System Training’ seminars, meanwhile, more resemble brainwashing than physical exercise, according to personal accounts in news reports cited by Ross.
Newsom, however, seems to see Lee in a kinder light. Indeed, the fulsome language of his proclamation suggest a believer’s enthusiasm.
“As founder and president of the International Brain Education Association, Ilchee Lee has developed the Brain Education System Training (BEST), which is taught in five San Francisco Bay Area locations; and
Whereas, BEST is reaching educators, students, parents, and other citizens in San Francisco and the Bay Area to promote their health and overall well-being; and
Whereas Ilchi Lee continues to share his philosophy and training techniques in the fields of education, healthcare, business, and government, and his innovative methods are impacting thousands of people throughout the world; now
Therefore it be Resolved that I, Gavin Newsom,
Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, do hereby proclaim September 7, 2007 as… ILCHEE LEE DAY in San Francisco
Jason Chan, who handles proclamation requests for the mayor’s office of neighborhood services, couldn’t be reached by press time.
We'd hoped Chan would reveal which messianic, allegedly dangerous cult leader Newsom might honor next.