Lawsuit filed against Yuba County ‘cult’

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The group says it was “founded fifty years ago on the Fourth Way teachings of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky” and that it embraces “the practical wisdom of all great spiritual traditions, recognizing that all esoteric schools teach the same thing: how to be present to your own life.”

Years after its founding, however, the Fellowship experienced a series of controversial incidents that led to the decline of its wine business and subsequently its membership numbers. Allegations of sexual abuse and end-of-world prophecies that never came to fruition seemed to hurt the perception of the group and its leader.

In the 1980s and 1990s, former members of the Fellowship sued Burton, alleging that he used his position as leader to sexually prey on the young men in the group. Despite other members sharing similar stories, Burton has never been convicted of what was alleged.

As of last week, six individuals have now publicly come forward to file a similar lawsuit against Burton and others associated with the Fellowship. Named in the suit are Burton, the Fellowship of Friends corporation, Renaissance Vineyard and Winery Inc., and several unnamed individuals or “Does.”

According to the suit filed in Yuba County, the plaintiffs claim that they were “sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, harassed, groomed, and/or otherwise attacked during their time” with the Fellowship and under the leadership of Burton.

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