RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) - A cult called Emissaries of Divine Light made one of its members work for free and pay monthly fees to live in her own home, and now is trying to sell the property out from under her, she claims in court.
The cult encouraged the married woman to have sex with its leaders and to participate in threesomes, to "purify herself" and "'handle and protect' the man's spiritual expression," according to the complaint.
Linda Grindstaff sued Emissaries of Divine Light (EDL), a "global spiritual network," on claims of breach of contract, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional stress.
The mission of the cult, which began in 1932, is to "assist in the spiritual regeneration of humanity under the inspiration of the spirit of God," according to the lawsuit.
Grindstaff, who had inheritance money, claims she helped the cult buy a campus in Glen Ivy, Calif. by providing $50,000, one-half of the down payment. She hoped to make a profit, as the network leased a natural mineral springs and spa on the property to Glen Ivy Hot Springs, a popular destination in Southern California, she says in the complaint.
Grindstaff later spent $150,000 to build her own house on the Glen Ivy property and was told she would be able to live there unconditionally for the rest of her life and have full use of the amenities, including fruit trees, horse stables, and the Glen Ivy Hot Springs, the complaint states.
It took Emissaries more than three years to complete the home because they were using Grindstaff's money for their expenses, she claims. Grindstaff also had to pay $48,000 for "upgrades," such as bathtubs, toilets and a stove, and bought a mobile home to live in while she waited for her home to be finished, the lawsuit states.
Despite Grindstaff's requests that the oral agreement regarding the purchase of her house be put in writing, she was also told that Emissaries "could not be bothered with such paperwork for the benefit of its members" and that it could lose its status as a nonprofit corporation if it did so, the complaint states.
After Grindstaff paid the money for her house, she was asked by John Gray, the then-president of the board of directors, "when she was 'getting on the community work schedule and going to work.' Grindstaff was completely taken aback and shocked as this was never mentioned as a term of the agreement, but EDL and EDL CA already had her money. Gray said, 'What did you think you were going to do when you came to live here?'" the complaint states.
Grindstaff says she began working six days a week, 7½ hours per day - mostly as a kitchen worker or doing laundry for the single men and cleaning bathrooms. She was not paid because she was told "she had enough money already," she says.
Grindstaff was told "that she was 'volunteering' for the good of the whole, but in her own experience she felt she was being forced into slavery, expected to work as long hours as those who were employed and had their room and board paid for as well as receiving a stipend. She received nothing and could not come and go as a 'volunteer' would expect to be able to do," the complaint states.