Alaya Rahm's Lawsuit vs Sathya Sai Society of America
Joint Statement by the International JuST Group and the Rahm family
Date: July 16, 2006At considerable personal sacrifice to himself and family, Alaya Rahm, 27, filed a civil lawsuit against California leaders of the Sathya Sai Society of America, who include the world chairman of Sathya Sai Baba’s organization, Dr Michael Goldstein. The case was heard by Judge John M. Watson of the Superior Court, County of Orange, California, on April 28th, 2006.
Substantive evidence was about to be called in court to support Alaya Rahm’s case, for which the Judge had allotted five weeks. However, his attorney, William Brelsford Esq., seeing formidable legal obstacles set by the defendants, and also working against a statute of limitations deadline, advised Alaya Rahm to self-dismiss the case. Along with other difficulties encountered, his attorney has explained, June 29th, 2006, to Alaya Rahm and his family:
“We were successful at the demurrer stage in establishing that a duty would be owed by the Society in the event they sponsored and/or endorsed the trips that Alaya went on when he was abused by Sai Baba. As it turns out, the Society is not the "hub" of all of Sai Baba's corporate activities. Rather, the Society, pursuant to declarations under penalty of perjury, confirmed they are a bookstore...nothing more. Accordingly, we do not have the necessary factual requirements to establish liability on the Society/Book center.”
No court found Alaya's allegations to be false. Simply, the suit could not continue on a technicality, and the claims of sexual abuse stand irrefutably true, just as before. The Sathya Sai Organization could take legal cover behind its bookstore. This is a very different situation to that being depicted in the systematic disinformation being spread throughout the Sai movement; for example, by those connected with its official international broadcast wing Radio Sai.
Among others ready to testify to the court was the former Mrs Diane Payne - USA. Hislop mentioned her in the letters he wanted kept secret that describe her having written to him alleging Sai Baba’s sexual abuse of her then teenage son in the 1970’s. Her child was then a student at Sai Baba’s College at Whitefield, near Bangalore. Again because important depositions were not able to be heard in court, Mark Roche, who formerly had long-term close ties with the most important leaders of the Sai Organization in the USA, was unable to testify. He appeared in the BBC television documentary ‘The Secret Swami’ (2004): In his BBC interview, Mr Roche spoke of Sai Baba’s forcing oral sex on him in 1976 when Roche was very young. He was also prepared to state under oath that he had told Sai Baba’s foremost overseas leader, Dr John Hislop, well before 1980, that Sai Baba had sexually abused him. These incidents occurred when Dr Hislop was the head of the Sai Organization in the USA. The Rahm family has stated:
"In the Hislop letters, the director Michael Goldstein was one of those called to consider the Payne sexual abuse matter. When our family met with Michael Goldstein in North-west Arkansas in September 1999 to confide in him the story of Alaya's abuse by Sai Baba, Michael Goldstein told us that he had never heard anything like this before. That was over twenty years after the Hislop letters, which we now know prove he was lying."
The Sathya Sai Organization has set itself up to avoid legal accountability and full public scrutiny. There is no legal entity in the United States against which a lawsuit demanding responsibility of Goldstein and other key directors of the Sathya Sai Society of America can be brought. The Organization’s leaders will not truly investigate or let the lower echelon leadership and the rank-and-file members know the nature and seriousness of the accusations against Sai Baba. These go well beyond sexual abuse of young males and include complicity in gigantic and wrongful deployment of funds garnered worldwide, and a cover-up of several killings in Sai Baba’s bedroom in June 6, 1993. The leaders will not even answer letters from complainants who have held high office in the Sai Organization, which have often been returned unopened. Such unaccountability and authoritarian secrecy is the Sai Organization leadership’s rigidly enforced rule. In the case Alaya Rahm brought against them, the directors presented a witness - Lewis Kreydick, a US citizen and staunch Sai devotee who often lives near Sai Baba. Kreydick is so obviously prejudiced in favor of Sai Baba that his mostly conjectural ‘testimony’ was without probity. For example, it could easily be contested by expert psychologists who can readily explain why an abuse survivor can produce the sort of smiles that Kreydick describes of Alaya after the period in which he (Alaya) spoke of Sai Baba’s sexually abusing him many times. Moreover, his parents have stated:
“Sai Baba also threatened Alaya repeatedly that if he ever told anyone what Swami was doing, Sai Baba would use his powers to cause an accident to Alaya and would also never talk to his parents again. Naturally, if Alaya couldn't tell his parents, why would he mention anything to Kreydick, who Sai Baba himself once removed from the Rahms’ visiting group? Sai Baba told us that Kreydick was spreading stories about our family and that we should not associate with him any longer. Sai Baba later banned Kreydick from the Ashram."
Compelling evidence could have been brought that Alaya’s case was but one of many cases of sexual abuse against citizens of the USA and other countries where Sai Baba is described as using threats and bribes. A number of sexual abuse professionals whom JuST has consulted have told us that emotional bribery and blackmail are common stratagems in the repertoire of sexual abusers. Such duress would be frightening enough for an adult, but what of mere boys in their teens!? What of those many who have been raised from birth as Sai devotees?
Because of the legalistic stumbling blocks, compelling testimony could not be presented. For example, evidence of:
· dereliction of duty of care by leaders of the Sathya Sai Organization
· from other families and individuals who allege sexual abuse by Sathya Sai Baba
What is more, hostile ploys in court by the Society’s lawyers and Lewis Kreydick to cast Alaya and Marisa Rahm (his mother) in a false, negative light have, most unjustly, remained undefended because of the sudden termination of the case.
Leading office-bearers who have attempted to expose the truth are always closed out of the Sathya Sai Organization. Therefore, lower echelon and rank-and-file members cannot deliberate on the facts. Sai Baba has lied about former devotees who now expose him, and his leaders know that. He has called them “Judases”, “demons", and has falsely and without giving a shred of evidence accused them of opposing him for money. When the Rahms took their story to Dr Goldstein, in September 1999, he was, they say, shocked and shaken, telling them, "Faith has got to be restored and words will not be enough." Promising to speak to Sai Baba, Goldstein asked the Rahms to keep the matter secret in the meantime. On his return, Goldstein said that Sai Baba replied, "Swami is pure" and "If you want to fight with people in the gutter, you also have to go into the gutter. Don't."
But the Rahms are not gutter people. Nor were they fighting. Goldstein and the leaders of the Sathya Sai Organization have breached the time-honored ethic in investigation of serious allegations that one does not rely, alone, on the word of an accused perpetrator. What indeed might a law case, allowed to run its course, reveal about this Organization?
It seems impossible to approach Sai Baba legally from abroad - not to mention the obstacles to bringing him to justice within India itself, where Supreme and High Court judges, government ministers and power brokers from many sections of Indian society are his devotees. Continuous efforts are made by the Sathya Sai Organization to cover up for its founder and to protect its own name. In regard to attempts to pursue Sathya Sai Baba by some means from outside India, William Brelsford (Alaya Rahm’s attorney) has explained:
“The lawsuit against Sai Baba (individually) was dropped because the judge indicated in the initial court appearance that he did not wish to see us pursue a case against an out- of-country defendant that is not a signatory to the Hague Treaty. Sai Baba lives in India. California does not have reciprocal jurisdiction rights against an out-of-country defendant and we cannot utilize California state subpoena powers against an out-of- country defendant not subject to the powers of the Hague Treaty without pursuing the Letters Rogatory process. That process takes several years to complete and there is no guarantee Sai Baba would even respond to service of a subpoena once a subpoena was served. Which complicates matters even more. And given Sai Baba's age, there is no guarantee he would even be alive at the time we finally could have perfected service of a complaint, let alone a deposition subpoena.”
Where they can, cults typically head off law cases on the basis of legal technicality. Sai Baba’s organization dares not face public examination. In countries in all the Sai Organization ‘regions’, its prominent leaders were instructed to ensure the Organization was not registered in a way that would render it legally or financially liable. One point which exemplifies this policy is seen in The Sathya Sai Organization Charter Section (E) CENTRES (6) Rules and Regulations: “The Centre/Group will not ordinarily be registered under the local law relating to registration of societies, if such registration is not mandatory.” (p.24).
In the late 1980s, overseas Sai Organizations and their Centers were instructed not to own or buy any property in the name of the Organization, but where necessary to let or borrow premises. The only properties and assets were to be in India, in the name of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, whose overall authority rests in Sai Baba himself!
The executives, research and legal staffs of major organizations have accepted the credibility of many witnesses from the USA and countries around the world (including those with sworn affidavits) who accuse Sathya Sai Baba of male sexual abuse over many years. These bodies include UNESCO (Paris), the US State Department, the BBC (“The Secret Swami”), AZUL TV (Argentina, “Zona de Investigación”), DR (Danish Broadcasting, “Seduced” - re-titled as “Seduced By Sai Baba” by Australia’s SBS - which, like DR, withstood Sai Organization threats to sue), and ABC Radio (Australia). Print media have likewise have accepted the credibility of former devotees and rejected Sai Organization attempts to kill the stories – e.g., India Today, The Times of London, The Daily Telegraph, Salon.com, and many other newspapers in Scandinavia, Europe, Canada, and Australia.
The Sathya Sai Organization – which, like Sai Baba, claims to uphold the truth - continually bluffs with its threats but quickly retreats when a corporation stands up to it, like the BBC, Danish broadcaster DR, Canada's CBC, Australia's SBS, India Today, and others. (Click here for example1 and example 2).
Those who know Alaya and his family are satisfied that they have told the truth. Indeed, the penalty for lying to a court in the USA, a legal system which Alaya Rahm was every bit prepared to face, is severe! The Society - or, to call things by their right name, the Sathya Sai Organization - did not and dares not face the challenge of a public examination of the case. Except, of course, in situations where it is forced into damage control.
Al Rahm says: “Alaya was seriously sexually abused by Sai Baba, who expected him to sustain a game of lies”.
Compelling accounts of individuals from many countries and investigative documentation by former devotees and some of the world’s leading media attest that Sai Baba has sexually molested boys and young men for over 30 years. Indeed, much of the international testimony, including sworn statements, could not be aired within obvious broadcast or print media limitations. Claims that these media are ‘sensationalistic’ are grossly untrue. These have been made by Sai Organization heads like Indulal Shah (formerly world head of the Organization), Dr. G. Venkataraman (Deputy Chairman of the ruling world body ‘The Prashanti Council’ chaired by Dr. Michael Goldstein and head of Radio Sai, the official international radio broadcaster) and other prominent Sai Baba apologists. As early as 1980, Dr John Hislop gathered Goldstein and the other directors to discuss the allegations by devotees. At that time as well, he accused an innocent mother and her abused teenage son of lying. Because of the technicality that closed the case, this is but one of the vital issues that it was not possible to air in court. Alaya Rahm’s attorney would have been able to demonstrate, under witness oath, that the Hislop letters - very damaging to the Sai Organization - are fully verifiable. Yet another strong witness standing by to verify these letters was Dr Timothy Conway, of Santa Barbara, USA, a former respected leader in the Sai Organization. It is a veracity which the Society’s directors could not, under oath (unless they perjured themselves) deny, for they were indeed among the recipients of these letters.
Al Rahm states: “The leaders covered up then and are covering up now. Dr Goldstein Dr William Harvey, Berniece Mead, Robert Bozzani and their attorneys are fully aware of the seriousness of the many sexual abuse allegations”.
On the Internet and elsewhere, some persons - who dare not stand forth as Alaya and other Sai Baba abuse survivors have done - dishonestly set about trying to discredit people who were much respected when Sai devotees. Alaya Rahm’s father, Al, for example, was one of five regional officers in ‘Region 10’ of the Sathya Sai Baba Organization of the United States. He and his family received over fifty interviews (combined) with Sai Baba. On several occasions, they performed music and sang in the Puttaparthi Mandir, which is the foremost temple for millions of Sai Baba’s followers, and have also performed in official Sai Centers throughout the USA, and in those of many countries. He started the first Sai School in the United States at the personal direction of Sai Baba during interviews that took place in 1997. This is a 501c3 non-profit institution named the School of Human Values of which Berniece Mead (mentioned above) was one of the officers. Al Rahm has told JuST that, when he:
“… called the officers to discuss the newly found sexual abuse information of Alaya Rahm, Berniece chose to resign instead of attend the meeting and face up to the allegations saying, ‘It’s always about something sexual’. Is this the kind of care that the head of the Sathya Sai Baba Organization’s children’s division (called “Education in Human Values” or “EHV”) should have?”
It most assuredly is not, and this typical case of dereliction of duty of care among Sai Baba’s foremost leaders should concern the wider public too which is the target of the Sai Organization, with its multi-million dollar project setting up schools in different countries. With its EHV program it seeks to get into the schools of the world but without disclosing its Sai Baba-oriented agenda - the guru who says that he will rule the world before AD 2022.
That Alaya Rahm withdrew his case reflects on certain Sathya Sai Organization leaders and their bad faith, not on him. Rather, he and his very supportive family who sacrificed so much through many years for Sai Baba and his Organization have had the courage, in the hope of saving other children from sexual abuse, to come forward in a United States court of law and to redouble their efforts to let the public know the truth.