Inside the ‘love fest’ cult that’s allegedly infiltrated Google headquarters

New York Post/June 23, 2022

Google has been infiltrated by a “destructive” California cult led by a “pedophilic” leader, according to a lawsuit.

Former Google video producer and whistleblower Kevin Lloyd is suing the technology giant, alleging that he was fired after he began complaining that his bosses at Google Developer Studio, where he worked in Mountain View, Calif., were stacking the division with members of the Fellowship of Friends.

Past members of the group, which was registered as a religious organization with the IRS in 1971 and is based at a sprawling compound in Northern California, have accused its longtime leader Robert Earl Burton of sexual abuse and misconduct, according to “Revelations,” a six-part podcast series on Spotify released last year. Two lawsuits related to these accusations and filed by ex-members, in 1984 and 1996, were settled out of court.

In the early 1970s, Burton preached that members needed to immerse themselves in high art, such as opera and literature, in order to get rid of negative thinking. He relied on “44 Angels” — who included the spirits of historical figures such as William Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin and Italian poet Dante Alighieri — to lead him in enlightenment.

“[Former members] told me about these sex rituals where [the leader] would attempt to have sex with 100 followers in a day. He called them love fests,” the podcast’s investigative reporter Jennings Brown told The Post last year.

“There are online support groups for former Fellowship of Friends members to help them process the trauma endured during their membership, as well as problems that arise after leaving,” according to Lloyd’s lawsuit filed in California Superior Court in August.

According to the lawsuit, Lloyd, 34, began working for the Google Developer Studio in August 2017, hired through Advanced Systems Group, a technology support services firm which he is also suing in the same filing.

In his court filings, Lloyd alleges that soon after being employed, he noticed that his bosses at Google exclusively promoted members of the cult, all of whom lived in and around the group’s 1,200-acre headquarters, known as Apollo, in Oregon House, Calif., north of Sacramento. At least 12 of the 25 employees in Lloyd’s division were members of the cult, the lawsuit claims.

One of Lloyd’s supervisors, Peter Lubbers, is allegedly a member of the Fellowship of Friends, according to the lawsuit. On numerous occasions, Lubbers, the director of the Google Development Studio, hired his son to work as a DJ at Google corporate events; another of Lubbers’ sons was hired as a freelance video producer, while his wife was also put on the Google payroll, Lloyd’s court filings allege.

“Mr. Lubbers gained status and praise relative to the increase of money flowing to the Fellowship through his efforts at Google that put (and kept) other Fellowship members — directly or indirectly — on Google’s payroll,” according to the lawsuit.

Members of the Fellowship are typically required to give 10 percent of their monthly earnings to the organization, which boasts up to 1,500 members, per the podcast.

Google even purchased wine, the lawsuit claims, from the Grant Marie Winery, an allegedly cult-affiliated vineyard run by a Fellowship member in Oregon House.

Lloyd’s lawsuit also alleges that employees at the Google Development Studio who did not belong to the cult were treated with disdain.

“Anyone outside of the Fellowship is seen as somehow inferior and at times adversarial,” the lawsuit says. “Those that express serious concerns, criticism or question the group may be eventually perceived as enemies.”

A supervisor at Google Development Studio, who used homophobic slurs against an employee and openly spoke about that employee being “useless,” was not reprimanded although the employee was fired, according to the lawsuit.

“Plaintiff’s preliminary research into Oregon House and the Fellowship of Friends described the Fellowship as a destructive cult, with a pedophilic leader
who makes false prophecies about the end of the world,” the lawsuit claims. “Plaintiff became alarmed that Google was involved with and/or financially supporting such an organization.”

Lloyd, who developed chest pains and other stress-related maladies while working at Google, was worried that local events he produced “could somehow be used to funnel money back into the Fellowship of Friends,” according to court papers.

After complaining about his co-workers’ and supervisors’ close ties to the cult, Lloyd was fired in February 2021 by ASG, according to the lawsuit.

“All that was needed for the GDS department to get rid of troublesome ‘vendor’ such as plaintiff was to tell ASG that the particular ‘vendor’ was no longer needed,” the lawsuit claims. “In plaintiff’s case, once upper GDS management had decided to get rid of him and at their direction, ASG summarily terminated plaintiff’s employment without providing any legitimate business reasons. Or any reasons whatsoever.”

Founded in 1970 by Burton, who is known as “our beloved teacher” to members, the Fellowship of Friends first came under fire in 1984 when a former member filed a $2.75 million lawsuit claiming that young men who joined the group “had been forcefully and unlawfully seduced by Burton.” In 1996, another former member accused Burton of sexual misconduct while the member was a minor. Both of the lawsuits were settled out of court, according to the New York Times.

In the past, the group was also investigated by immigration officials for allegedly bringing foreign recruits into the US on religious visas, then forcing them into sexual slavery, according to the “Revelations” podcast. No charges were ever brought.

Burton founded the group on the principle that it was “available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening.” He has said he considers women “inferior” and frowns upon childbirth. The former San Francisco Bay Area school teacher studied the teachings of a self-help movement called The Fourth Way, founded by Greek Armenian philosopher George Gurdjieff, who advocated methods, including sacred dances, for bringing about more self-awareness.

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“How to describe a conscious teacher? He does what no one else will or can do — teaching the most unpopular of all truths: that our illusory sense of ‘I’ must die,” reads the bio for Burton, a white-haired guru now in his 80s, on his website, which says that Burton lives at Apollo with 500 of his followers. Other followers are spread out in more than 80 cities around the world, but meet regularly for “spiritual gatherings,” the website details.

Burton has encouraged his followers to buy art and place it in his “Galleria” at the group’s compound. In 1996, the Fellowship’s collection of antique Chinese furniture sold for $11.2 million at a Christie’s auction.

Requests for comment from Google and Lloyd were not returned. The Fellowship of Friends did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.

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