Healing organization files lawsuit against former members

Associated Press/January 15, 2006

Kittery, Maine — A nonprofit that bills itself as a healing organization has filed a new defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit against former members who have described it as a dangerous cult.

The Gentle Wind Project, based in Kittery, filed the suit in York County Superior Court last week after its federal racketeering and defamation lawsuit against a Blue Hill couple was dismissed this month.

The former members, Judy Garvey and her husband, Jim Bergin, maintain a Web site that accuses Gentle Wind of mind control, financial exploitation and performing sexual rituals.

Mary "Moe" Miller, president of Gentle Wind Project, said the lawsuit seeks compensation for "the lives that they have ruined and the business that they have destroyed."

"We plan to pursue this for as long as it takes," she said.

The Gentle Wind Project was founded in the early 1980s, offering various "healing instruments" for free, but suggesting that people making donations starting at $250.

Garvey and Bergin have written articles on their Web site saying that Gentle Wind controlled their lives and took tens of thousands of dollars from them during the 17 years they were members.

Garvey said she was disappointed by the new lawsuit, but that she stands by every word of her story.

"It´s all the truth," she said. "We were there."

After the initial federal lawsuit was filed, Garvey and Bergin filed counterclaims that allege comments on Gentle Wind Internet sites have questioned the couple´s mental health and moral character.

Garvey said the case has become an important test of free speech rights on the Internet.

"We wanted to tell the truth," Garvey said. "We didn´t think they´d sue us because they´re a nonprofit, but they did. They sued a lot of people."

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