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The Florida Bar

Minister’s Naked Cult Ritual Sparks off Legal Debate

A minister in Wauconda, IL. directed his female followers at a small house to go into a back room and remove their clothes. He became naked with them in one-on-one sessions, asked them to touch his body, and touched theirs. He described them as prayer sessions.

What is alleged to have taken place in that small house over a number of months would start a criminal investigation in one county, spur civil litigation in two other counties, and re-open the age old legal debate on what is a cult.

Minister Philip Livingston, who testified in this case in Kane County, said that he had conducted the naked ritual repeatedly and called it “light therapy”. He claims that the ritual helped cure everything from yeast infections to drug addiction. He argued it was performed only with consenting adults who were a part of the Light of the World Ministries, a donor-funded outfit. However, one of the participants testified about the involvement of a teenage girl as well.

The unique case throws some light on the evolution of such fringe church groups, and also reveals the difficulties of the law enforcement agencies to know when such groups may be crossing the line of the law. Livingston’s supporters have meanwhile insisted that he is an earnest minister who has committed no wrong.

A Kane County judge ordered this summer that three children be kept at a distance from Livingston and his church. This occurred after the Wauconda police started a criminal probe into the activities of Livingston’s church. Livingston has also received orders to keep away from a one-time follower who alleged child endangerment at the church, which eventually led to the latest legal rounds.

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Since then, a Cook County judge has ordered Livingston, his wife, and his top assistant to stay away from the one-time follower whose allegations of child endangerment sparked the latest legal rounds.

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