Spiritual Counterfeits Project

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The Spiritual Counterfeits Project (also known as SCP) is a Christian evangelical parachurch organization located in Berkeley, California. Since its inception in the early 1970s, it has been involved in the fields of Christian apologetics and the Christian countercult movement. Its current president is Tal Brooke. In its role as a think tank, SCP has sought to publish evangelically-based analyses of new religious movements, New Age movements, and alternative spiritualities in light of broad cultural trends. SCP has also been at the center of two controversial US lawsuits, one involving church-state issues (Malnak v. Yogi) and the other being a religious defamation case (Lee v. Duddy).


The origins of the SCP are grounded in the Christian counterculture movement (also known as the Jesus Movement or Jesus People) of the late 1960s. In 1968 some staff members of Campus Crusade for Christ conceived of the need to contextualize the Christian message for radical and revolutionary university students. The key figures were Jack Sparks and his wife, Patrick and Karry Matrisciana (also known as Caryl Matrisciana), Fred and Jan Dyson, Weldon and Barbara Hartenburg.[1] In April 1969 Sparks and his colleagues commenced their ministry at the University of California, Berkeley.

The ministry adopted the name Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF) as a challenging counterpart to the politically revolutionary group called the Berkeley Liberation Movement. The CWLF began producing an underground newspaper called Right On. In this newspaper the CWLF staff wrote articles that expressed the Christian message in the language of revolutionary and radical politics.[2] According to Edward Plowman the CWLF had five objectives: "1. Determine the real social problems; try to right them. 2. Relate Christ to the important issues and speak out. 3. Befriend those to be reached. Identify with them. 4. Publish mountains of literature. 5. Get the people together once a week."[3]

The CWLF attracted into its membership Christians and new converts who were interested in its ministry objectives. Among those who were attracted were three men who later collaborated in the formation of the SCP: Brooks Alexander, David Fetcho (who named the ministry), and Bill Squires. Both Alexander and Fetcho were converts to Christianity from the counterculture. Alexander had participated in the psychedelic drug usage of the counterculture, was an initiate of Transcendental Meditation, and lived in the famous Haight-Ashbury community in San Francisco.[4] Fetcho had been involved with the Ananda Marga Yoga Society before converting to Christianity.[5]

CWLF splits[edit]

Sparks and the others formed the New Covenant Apostolic Order, which then became the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) in 1979. In April 1987 the EOC was accepted into full communion with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.[6]

History of SCP[edit]

In 1973 Brooks Alexander and others distributed Christian leaflets at Millennium '73, a festival held at the Houston Astrodome by Guru Maharaj Ji's Divine Light Mission.[7] That same year, Alexander, Fetcho and David Haddon launched a grass-roots campaign to oppose the practice of Transcendental Meditation in US public high schools. In 1975 the SCP was formally incorporated as an "independent Christian nonprofit organization."[8]

The four primary purposes of SCP included:

"1. To research today's spiritual movements and critique them biblically. 2. To equip Christians with the knowledge, analysis, and discernment that will enable them to understand the significance of today's spiritual explosion. 3. To suggest a Christian response which engages the church with all levels of situation. 4. To bring the good news of Jesus Christ and extend a hand of rescue to those in psycho-spiritual bondage."[9]

Transcendental Meditation[edit]

The campaign against Transcendental Meditation (TM) was premised on the grounds that transcendental meditation represented itself as a non-religious activity and was promoted as the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI). The SCP staff maintained that transcendental meditation was not religiously neutral, and that its SCI was based on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Hindu faith. The SCP's Right On newsletter was the first to publish portions of the TM teacher's manual, including details of the Puja ceremony.[10]

The focal point for an anti-Transcendental Meditation campaign was a civil action lawsuit No.76-431 in the US District Court of New Jersey. The lawsuit known as Malnak v. Yogi contested whether transcendental meditation was religious or not, and if the former then it could not be taught in US public high schools. The plaintiffs, which included the SCP, presented evidence to show that the initiatory ceremony of transcendental meditation (known as the puja) was religious in nature and the practice of meditation presented as SCI involved chanting Hindu mantras.[11] SCP's Brooks Alexander and Bill Squires, along with SCP's attorney Michael Woodruff, moved into the Malnak's home and provided research, fund raising, and legal support, respectively.[12]

Justice Curtis Meanor who presided over the case concluded that Transcendental Meditation/SCI are "religious in nature within the context of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and the teaching thereof in the New Jersey public schools is therefore unconstitutional."[13] On February 2, 1979, the Third Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling.[14] The success of this campaign catapulted the SCP into prominence among evangelical Christians in North America and internationally.[15]

Local church controversy[edit]

In 1977 InterVarsity Press released an 80-page booklet by the SCP called The God-Men: Witness Lee and the Local Church. It was updated and released as a full-length book in 1981 as The God-Men: An Inquiry into Witness Lee and the Local Church. The book presented the results of SCP's investigations into the theology and practices of the Local Church. The SCP findings alleged that the Local Church was promulgating heresy. The dispute between the Local Church and the SCP escalated into a lawsuit for defamation that was filed in Oakland, California in December 1980 and known as Lee v. Duddy.[16]

Over a period of four and a half years the pre-trial preparations and depositions, involved expenditure that brought SCP into legal debt with their defense lawyers. The defamation trial was scheduled to commence on March 4, 1985. According to Bill Squires "the lawfirm representing us withdrew from the case" and so the decision was taken to file for a reorganizational bankruptcy in the Bankruptcy Court. Squires states, "that move imposed an immediate stay on the plaintiffs' action against us, thus ending the financial drain of litigation. On that day, SCP, while continuing its larger ministry, officially dropped out of the lawsuit."[17]


  1. ^ Ronald M. Enroth, Edward E. Ericson and C. Breckinridge Peters, The Jesus People: Old-Time Religion in the Age of Aquarius (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1972), p.107.
  2. ^ Donald Heinz, "The Christian World Liberation Front," in The New Religious Consciousness, Charles Y. Glock and Robert N. Bellah, eds., (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 153–54. Also see Enroth, Ericson and Peters, Jesus People, pp. 102–106.
  3. ^ Edward E. Plowman, The Jesus Movement: Accounts of Christian Revolutionaries in Action (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1972), p. 75. ISBN 0-340-16125-6
  4. ^ Brooks Alexander, Reflections of an Ex, revised ed.,(Berkeley: SCP, 1984) (originally published in Right On, September 1973).
  5. ^ David Fetcho, "Last Meditation/Lotus Adept," SCP Journal, 6/1 (Winter 1984), pp. 31–36.
  6. ^ The full story is recounted in Peter E. Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith (Brentwood: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1989). ISBN 0-943497-67-1
  7. ^ David Haddon, "The Houston Report on the Festival of Maharaji," Right On (January 1974).
  8. ^ J. Isamu Yamamoto, "Preface," in SCP Journal, 6/1 (Winter 1984), p. 5.
  9. ^ This statement appears in the SCP Journal, 2/1 (August 1978), p. 2.
  10. ^ DART, JOHN (October 29, 1977). "TM Ruled Religious, Banned in Schools". Los Angeles Times. p. 29. 
  11. ^ Patton, John E. (1976). The Case Against TM in the Schools. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 
  12. ^ Gordon, Sarah Barringer (2010). "Malnak v. Yogi: The New Age and the New Law". In Griffin, Leslie C. Law and Religion: Cases in Context. Austin, TX: Wolters Kluwer. pp. 14–16. 
  13. ^ TM in Court (Berkeley: SCP, 1978), p.74.
  14. ^ Malnak v. Yogi., 440 F. Supp. 1284 (Dist. Court, D. New Jersey 1977).
  15. ^ U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Against TM Movement at the Wayback Machine (archived March 14, 2007), New Religious Movements Up-date 3/2 (July 1979)
  16. ^ Bill Squires, "The Lawsuit in Perspective," SCP Newsletter, 11/4 (November 1986), p.6.
  17. ^ Bill Squires, "The Lawsuit in Perspective," SCP Newsletter, 11/4 (November 1986), p.8.

Further reading[edit]


  • "A Brief History of SCP," SCP Newsletter, 17/1 (April 1992), p. 16
  • "A Brief History of the SCP," (slightly different from the account in SCP Newsletter April 1992)
  • Robert Digitale, "Major Shift at Spiritual Counterfeits Project?" Christianity Today, (January 15, 1990), pp. 53–54.
  • Peter D. Dresser, Research Centers Directory 1988, 12th ed (Detroit: Gale, 1988), p. 1224.
  • Ronald M. Enroth, "Evangelical Orthodox Church vs. Spiritual Counterfeits: New Denomination Debates Critic over Authority," Christianity Today, (August 7, 1981), pp. 33–34.
  • Donald Heinz, "The Christian World Liberation Front," in The New Religious Consciousness, Charles Y. Glock and Robert N. Bellah, eds., (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 143–161. ISBN 0-520-03083-4
  • John A. Saliba, "The Christian Response to the New Religions: A Critical Look at the Spiritual Counterfeits Project," Journal of Ecumenical Studies 18, 3 (Summer 1981), pp. 451–473.
  • Tim Stafford, "The Kingdom of the Cult Watchers," Christianity Today (October 7, 1991), pp. 18–22.

Representative publications[edit]

  • SCP Journal (published since April 1977–)
  • SCP Newsletter (published since February 1975–)
  • Frances Adeney, "The Attractive Cults and how to counter them," HIS magazine, (March 1981), pp. 22–25.
  • Mark Albrecht, "UFOs: The Devil’s Chariots?" Christian Life 40/12 (April 1979),pp. 38–39, 59–60, 62, 65.
  • Mark Albrecht, "Eckankar: A Classic Study of a NRM," New Religious Movements Up-Date 4/4 (December 1980), pp. 36–41.
  • Mark Albrecht, "Gnosticism, Past and Present," New Religious Movements Up-Date 5, 3/4 (December 1981), pp. 19–23.
  • Mark Albrecht, Reincarnation: A Christian Appraisal (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1982).
  • Brooks Alexander, "The Final Threat: Apocalypse, Conspiracy, and Biblical Faith," SCP Newsletter 10/1 (January–February 1984), pp. 1, 6–8, 11–12.
  • Brooks Alexander, "Theology from the Twilight Zone," Christianity Today (September 18, 1987), pp. 22–26.
  • Brooks Alexander, Witchcraft Goes Mainstream (Eugene: Harvest House, 2004). ISBN 0-7369-1221-5
  • Tal Brooke, Lord of the Air: Tales of a Modern Antichrist (Eugene: Harvest House, 1990).
  • Tal Brooke, When The World Will Be As One: The Coming New World Order in the New Age (Eugene: Harvest House, 1989).
  • Robert J. Burrows, "Americans Get Religion in the New Age," Christianity Today, (May 16, 1986), pp. 17–23.
  • David Fetcho, "Disclosing the Unknown God:Evangelism to the New Religions," Update: A Quarterly Journal on New Religious Movements 6, 4 (December 1982), pp. 7–16.
  • David Haddon and Vail Hamilton, TM Wants You! A Christian Response to Transcendental Meditation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976). ISBN 0-8010-4151-1
  • Dean C. Halverson, Crystal Clear: Understanding and Reaching New Agers (Colorado Springs: NAV Press, 1990).
  • Karen Hoyt & J. Isamu Yamamoto, eds., The New Age Rage (Old Tappan: Revell, 1987). ISBN 0-8007-5257-0
  • Michael J. Woodruff, "Religious Freedom and the New Religions," International Review of Mission 57, 268 (October 1978),pp. 468–473.
  • J. Isamu Yamamoto, The Puppet Master: An Inquiry into Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1977). ISBN 0-87784-740-1
  • J. Isamu Yamamoto, Beyond Buddhism (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1982). ISBN 0-87784-990-0

SCP v. Witness Lee/Local Church[edit]

Malnak v. Yogi[edit]

  • Malnak v. Yogi., 440 F. Supp. 1284 (Dist. Court, D. New Jersey 1977).
  • Gordon, Sarah Barringer (2010). "Malnak v. Yogi: The New Age and the New Law". In Griffin, Leslie C. Law and Religion: Cases in Context. Austin, TX: Wolters Kluwer. pp. 11–31. 
  • Patton, John E. (1976). The Case Against TM in the Schools. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 

External links[edit]