'Washing of the Brain'

A new allegation surfaces in the already strange story of the New Gnostic Church.

Seattle Weekly/May 18, 2005
By Philip Dawdy

Two weeks after publication of details about a little-known Washington church, a new allegation has surfaced against Dr. Barbara Loran, the longtime mistress of church leader James King. In a written statement submitted to the state Department of Health and during an interview with Seattle Weekly, a former patient of Loran's alleges that the naturopath and chiropractor tried to coerce her into contacting King for help with personal issues.

As previously reported by Seattle Weekly (see "The God Life," May 4), King and Loran are the subjects of an investigation by the King County Sheriff's Office for allegedly having sex with a minor and by the Department of Health for allegedly violating medical regulations. Loran has a practice in Bellevue. King's New Gnostic Church, based in the north-central Washington town of Wauconda in Okanogan County, has been active in the Seattle and Spokane areas for more than a decade, according to former followers, who estimate membership at less than 100. Former followers and academics characterize it as a cult.

Loran's intimate relationship with King, who is married, evolved from her church membership, according to former members and Loran's ex-husband.

The new allegation against Loran involves Beth Jeffrey, of Kent, who went to Loran for chiropractic care for back pain following a car accident in 2002. In her statement to health officials and in a separate interview, Jeffrey said her first few appointments with Loran were routine. But Jeffrey says Loran began asking about weight and diet. When Jeffrey resisted the idea of a new diet, she says Loran told her, "Your body tells you all sorts of lies. It does nothing but cloud the issues in your life. It's baggage. Wouldn't it be nice to be free of that?"

Jeffrey says Loran said to her, "I've had similar issues as you. I was depressed at one point. I met this really great guy who helped me through these issues, and I am really free, and I think you should see him." Jeffrey asked if the man was a therapist. "She smiled and laughed and said, 'Not in the conventional sense, but sort of,'" says Jeffrey. "She said his name was James."

Jeffrey says Loran told her that working with King required a weeklong, one- on-one session similar to that described to Seattle Weekly by former church members. Loran referred to the experience as being "processed" and a "washing of the brain," Jeffrey says. Loran gave her a business card for the New Gnostic Church, and on the card, Jeffrey says, was the name James King.

That's when the weird experience turned weirder. Jeffrey says Loran turned the conversation back to diet and weight?and sex. "She said, 'Have you ever been totally dominated by someone and held down and totally used by a really hot guy?'" says Jeffrey. She says Loran continued to press her about having sex and mentioned that it might not happen unless she dieted. Jeffrey told Loran she didn't want to hear any more.

Loran then asked, according to Jeffrey, if Jeffrey would call King. She said no. "Are you afraid he's going to want to have sex with you?" Jeffrey says Loran asked her.

After three hours, Jeffrey says, Loran finally performed a chiropractic adjustment. But as Jeffrey left, Loran continued to suggest that she contact King. Jeffrey says she never did. After reading Seattle Weekly's article about King and Loran, Jeffrey says, she contacted authorities. The Department of Health's Medical Quality Assurance Commission has added Jeffrey's charge to the investigation already under way, according to Lisa Noonan, a program manager with the commission. The commission was investigating Loran for allegedly having sex with patients, moral turpitude, and allowing someone to practice medicine without a license at her clinic. According to former church members, King performed chiropractic adjustments on them at Loran's clinic even though he is not a registered chiropractor in Washington.

The investigation could lead to formal charges by DOH against Loran and King for violating state medical regulations, Noonan says. It is against state medical regulations, for example, for medical practitioners to have sex with a patient.

Separately, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is reviewing the sheriff's department's criminal investigation into allegations that King and Loran had sex with 17-year-old church member Samara Lane. Dan Donohoe, spokesperson for Prosecutor Norm Maleng, says he expects a decision on possible charges to be made within a couple of weeks.

That's not the only criminal investigation King faces. The Okanogan County Sheriff's Office began an investigation of King last week. A spokesperson for the department declined to characterize the scope.

And on May 13, Kurt Benshoof, acting on behalf of Lane, his daughter, filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court against Loran and King, alleging assault and battery and negligence, among other things.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, May 17, Loran requested a restraining order to keep Benshoof from contacting her. King County Superior Court Judge Richard Eadie granted the order. And King and his wife, Terri King, have filed for a restraining order against Benshoof in Okanogan County. A hearing in that case is scheduled for next week.

Through his attorney, King declined to be interviewed for this article. Loran has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

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