Moiya O’Brien, Kelli Vallis, SWARA And NineMSN A Current Affair
On February 2nd 2009, a 4½ minute segment aired on NineMSN – A Current Affair in Australia accusing the well respected and esteemed Moiya O’Brien and SWARA (i.e., “Sunshine Welfare And Remedial Association”) of being cover-ups for a Sai Baba “underground cult movement”. The following is a complete transcript to the NineMSN program with additional responses by Joe Moreno:
Infiltrating a Cult
February 2, 2009: Exclusive footage behind the scenes of an underground cult movement.
Channel: ACA (A Current Affair) NineMSN
Tracy Grimshaw: Well it was founded as a Government run center for disabled people to learn life skills, now it’s accused of being a front for a bizarre religious cult that started in India.
RESPONSE: Dorothy and Moiya O’Brien (aka “The Pink Twins”) started SWARA in 1975 and have received national recognition, honors and awards in Australia for their dedicated and selfless service to individuals with developmental disabilities (Refs: 01 – 02). Despite vast publicity and SWARA’s open-door policy, the only person in the past 33 years who has accused SWARA of being a “front for a bizarre religious cult” is Kelli Vallis, a disgruntled former employee of SWARA who was also a devotee of the Indian Guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba! In the 8+ years that Kelli Vallis was affiliated with SWARA, she never once voiced any concerns about Moiya O’Brien, SWARA, “cults” or Sathya Sai Baba. Kelli Vallis’ complaints surfaced only after she was dismissed from her position at SWARA.
ACA – NineMSN – A Current Affair: (Confrontation scene with Kelli Vallis shouting “hurry up…hurry up…we have physical violence towards people with a disability”.)
RESPONSE: Kelli Vallis actually initiated this confrontation by recklessly instructing disabled individuals to disobey the warnings of security officers. Kelli Vallis also recklessly encouraged disabled individuals to raid the SWARA compound. After these disabled individuals disobeyed the security officer’s warnings and raided the SWARA compound, Kelly Vallis raised a huge wail when the security officers were forced to maintain order.
Instead of addressing Kelli Vallis’ reckless endangerment and exploitation of disabled individuals for cheap publicity, A Current Affair had the audacity to blame the SWARA committee for hiring security guards to protect the premise from an obviously disgruntled and aggressive ex-employee.
It is also significant to note that NineMSN – A Current Affair purposely withheld the fact that the SWARA clients were on their summer holiday (they observe the same holidays as the schools) and had no reason to be at the SWARA compound at the time of their protest (as the compound was closed to them due to the summer holiday).
If Kelli Vallis truly believed that SWARA was a “front for a bizarre religious cult”, why did she return to the “cult compound” and complain about not being allowed back in? Why did Kelli Vallis purposely suppress the fact that she was a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba?
Chris Allen: Is this a cult?
Kelli Vallis: Absolutely. If you look up the definition of a cult, you will find that they fit almost all the criteria of a cult and their behavior, more importantly their behavior, is very cult-like.
RESPONSE: At no time did Chris Allen question Kelli Vallis’ involvement with the alleged “cult”. Kelli Vallis was an ardent devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, visited the guru in India and even sang in the choir at the guru’s ashram. The ACA program made it appear as if Kelli Vallis was a non-cult member who innocently uncovered secret information about “cult” activities at SWARA and attempted to bring public recognition to these secretive “cult” activities. However, Kelli Vallis belonged to the very same “cult” she criticized and thereby possessed and promoted all the alleged “cult” behaviors she erroneously attributed to SWARA and Moiya.
ACA – NineMSN – A Current Affair: (Confrontation scene with Kelli Vallis shouting “Security guards are manhandling our clients and they are physically abusing them”.)
Chris Allen: Ugly scenes as disable people are locked out of a center built for them by the Queensland Government.
Kelli Vallis: They are disgraceful people. They’ve taken away their rights and now they’ve actually physically abused them.
Chris Allen: Kelli Vallis is the manger of the center, or was, until the committee which runs it sacked her after she led this protest.
Kelli Vallis: They have been taken over by a cult.
Chris Allen: This is government funded?
Kelli Vallis: It absolutely is.
RESPONSE: Chris Allen is being disingenuous when he claimed that disabled people were “locked out” of SWARA. The SWARA clients were on their summer holiday (they observe the same holidays as the schools) and had no reason to be at the SWARA compound at the time of their protest (as the compound was closed to them due to the summer holiday).
Once again, Kelli Vallis initiated this confrontation by recklessly instructing disabled individuals to disobey the warnings of security officers and by recklessly encouraging disabled individuals to raid the SWARA compound.
After instigating this confrontation, Kelli Vallis went around screaming in the camera mikes that the security officers were physically abusing the disabled individuals.
Kelli Vallis organized a protest outside the Sunshine Welfare & Remedial Association (SWARA) compound and instructed a group of disabled individuals to chant various slogans and wave posters and banners that read:
- “Hear us. Help Us. Free Us.”
- “Freedom + Our Rights”
- “Current Law Does Not Protect Disables”
- “Only 1 Outcome – Sai Baba Cult Out – New Committee In”
The repetitive chants and the large posters and banners (which obviously required a great deal of preparation) strongly suggest that the disabled individuals were instructed, indoctrinated, prepped and influenced with Anti-Sai-Baba messages and Anti-Sai-Baba information. The protest was a planned publicity stunt and Kelli Vallis even had NineMSN – A Current Affair film the event.
If the Sai Baba movement was truly a dangerous “cult”, why did Kelli Vallis belong to it in the first place? Why did Kelli Vallis withhold this relevant information from Chris Allen? Did Kelli Vallis attempt to convert SWARA clients to the Sai Movement when she worked there as a Sai devotee? Why did Kelli Vallis make her “cult” accusations only after she was dismissed from her position at SWARA?
Moyia O’Brien: That is completely ridiculous. That is not true. The Sai Baba Organisation is not a cult, it is not even a religion. It is a service group.
RESPONSE: Moiya O’Brien’s statement about the Sathya Sai Seva Organisation is accurate.
The Satya Sai Organisation is a multi-faith spiritual Organisation that focuses on selfless service and volunteer work for the poor, needy and/or disadvantaged in society. All major religions are acknowledged and respected within the Organisation (as evidenced by their logo). Members strive to uphold five basic human values: Truth, Love, Peace, Right Action and Non-Violence. Their motto is: “Love All – Serve All”. The Organisation’s activities are not meant or intended for conversion, publicity or fund-raising.
The Sathya Sai Seva Organisation has championed various charitable and humanitarian causes in different parts of the world.
Putting into practice the tenets of the Seva Organisation, Sathya Sai Baba built two Super Specialty Hospitals that provide major operations and medical care free of cost to India’s poor and those in need. Sathya Sai Baba’s Super Specialty Hospitals have received national and international recognition (Refs: 01 – 02 – 03 – 03 – 04 – 05).
Putting into practice the tenets of the Seva Organisation, Sathya Sai Baba funded several major drinking water projects in India. The first drinking water project (completed in 1996) supplies water to 1.2 million people in 730 villages in the drought-prone Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh. The second drinking water project, completed in 2004, supplies water to Chennai (formerly known as Madras) through a rebuilt waterway named “Sathya Sai Ganga Canal”. The Chennai water drinking project was praised by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi. Karunanidhi said that although he is an atheist, he differentiated between good spiritual leaders like Sathya Sai Baba and fake godmen. The third drinking water project, expected to be completed in April 2006, would supply water from the Godavari River to half a million people living in five hundred villages in East and West Godavari Districts. Other completed water projects include the Medak District Project benefiting 450,000 people in 179 villages and the Mahbubnagar District Project benefiting 350,000 people in 141 villages. In January 2007, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust revealed that it would undertake another drinking water project in Latur, Maharashtra (Refs: 01 – 02 – 03 – 04).
The Sathya Sai University (which provides free education up to the PhD level) is a prestigious educational facility that has twice received the highest grade by the NAAC – National Assessment and Accreditation Council (Ref). Sathya Sai Baba’s educational facilities have been praised for their excellence by:
- Sri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (Former Vice President of India)
- Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam (Former President of India)
- Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Former Prime Minister of India)
- Rt. Hon. Anerood Jugnauth (Prime Minister of Mauritius)
- Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma (Former President of India)
- Sri P V Narasimha Rao (Former Prime Minister of India)
- Sri R Venkatraman (Former President of India)
Sathya Sai Baba has also been praised by numerous other well educated and well respected individuals (Ref) and even the GuruBusters Documentary (which was highly critical of the guru) conceded that Sathya Sai Baba’s followers comprise much of India’s intellectual elite. Consequently, Sathya Sai Baba and his movement cannot be casually dismissed as a “bizarre religious cult”.
Chris Allen: Moiya O’Brien is Chairman of the committee which runs the center. She’s also a devotee of Sai Baba, the Indian mystic who claims to be a god.
Moyia O’Brien: I am convinced he is part of God. He’s part of who we are. But he is perhaps a bigger part than what we are.
RESPONSE: This section is accurate.
Chris Allen: Skeptics say Sai Baba is also a big fraud. He claims to produce magic dust and jewels from thin air. But look closely and you can see the ash comes from pellets he crushes between his fingers. And the jewels he conjures up are just sleight of hand. Here he produces a necklace. Look again and you’ll see the fumble under the box. While never convicted of a criminal offence, there have been allegations of murder, fraud and sexual abuse of children. At one stage, the US Government issued a warning about visiting his ashram in Southern India. But that hasn’t stopped millions from believing in Sai Baba, including Moiya O’Brien.
RESPONSE: A Current Affair made several inaccurate and misleading claims about Sathya Sai Baba and full responses are required:
Any materialization associated with Sathya Sai Baba’s physical form will be inextricably tied to doubt as magicians are able to duplicate them. However, what magicians have not been able to duplicate are the world-wide cures, healings, visions, dreams, manifestations and materializations typically associated with the name and form of Sathya Sai Baba.
There are literally thousands of international stories and first-hand accounts attesting to paranormal experiences with Sathya Sai Baba.
As a matter of fact, even Barry Pittard (an Australian critic and ex-follower of the guru) still believes to this day (after his defection) that Sathya Sai Baba possesses genuine paranormal powers (Ref).
The following links provide pictures to these international manifestations and materializations that occur in the privacy of devotee’s homes all around the world (thousands of miles away from Sathya Sai Baba’s physical form):
- Manifestations At Sai Sruti Temple in Harrow, Middlesex, UK
- Vibhuti Manifestation in a Devotee’s House in London
- World-Wide Manifestations On Sathya Sai Baba’s Pictures
- Vibuthi Manfestations In Bali, Indonesia
- Manifestations In Colusa, California
- Manifestations At Sri Ragnapatnam, Mysore, India
- Amazing Vibuthi & Rudraksha Manifestations From Baba’s Picture
Sathya Sai Baba often trivializes these manifestations, referring to them as his “calling cards”. The guru claims that his real power and real miracle can be found in his love, which has the power to transform, illumine, unite and heal.
Video Alleging Sleight Of Hand:
PhD Erlendur Haraldsson stated in his book “Modern Miracles” that he and his associates carried out a careful analysis of the video shown on NineMSN – A Current Affair (which was originally released by the Deccan Chronicle) alleging trickery, sleight of hand and fraud against Sathya Sai Baba:
- Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson: “The quality and resolution of the tape leaves much to be desired and limits the inferences that can be drawn from it. Dr. Wiseman took the videotape to a company which specialises in investigating corporate fraud. This company possesses some of the world’s best equipment designed to enhance poor quality videotape. The technician kindly offered to enhance the videotape in question. The videotape was run through a real time Snell & Wilcox Kudos Noise Reducer. The machine carries out three operations. First, it removes via recursive filters the random noise on the tape caused by repeated copying. Second, it improves the graininess of the video by median filters and finally enhances any edges on the video through edge enhancement filters. After all this the video is certainly easier to watch, and did not contain much of the random noise present on the copy provided by the Deccan Chronicle. However, the resulting tape still did not reveal further information about the incident. In short, the reason for Sai Baba’s hand movements still appears unclear and is open for various interpretations, but the tape contained no firm evidence of fraud. The company also analysed several still frames taken from the video. These were scanned into a computer and run through an Improve image processing system (developed by the Home Office in Britain). Again, the images were enhanced via median filters and certain areas of the frames were enlarged. The resulting photographs show the crucial moment as Sai Baba’s hands touch under the memento, but do not reveal any further information.”
(Modern Miracles; Chapter 31: Public Reaction; pp 295 – 301)
Therefore, despite the subjective conclusions drawn by A Current Affair, they simply cannot argue with the objective results obtained by the analysis. The allegation of trickery, sleight of hand and fraud in the fuzzy video provided by ACA is completely unfounded. Needless to say, had ACA actually done some remedial research, they would have discovered this widely available and easily obtainable information.
Accusations Of Murder, Fraud & Child Molestation:
A thorough, detailed and full response has been provided in an article entitled: The Sathya Sai Baba “Sex Scandal” Myth. The accusations of “murder”, “fraud” and “child molestation” are made exclusively by critics, skeptics and ex-devotees. There are no credible, verifiable or legal documents, sources or references to substantiate the absurd, erroneous and false accusations of “murder”, “fraud” and “child molestation”. These accusations are based entirely on conspiracies, speculations, gossips and rumors. Sathya Sai Baba has never (ever) been charged with any crime and no one has ever filed a basic police complaint or court case against him in India for any alleged improprieties.
The US State Department Travel Advisory:
ACA incorrectly stated that the “US Government” issued a warning about visiting Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in Southern India. This amounts to nothing more than a total embellishment of known fact. Apparently NineMSN – A Current Affair cannot differentiate between the U.S. Government and a Consular Information Travel Sheet For India webpage. Ex-Devotees have openly boasted:
- That they were responsible for an indirect warning that appeared on the USA Consular Information Travel Sheet For India webpage (which did not mention Sathya Sai Baba by name).
- That Barry Pittard was responsible for an indirect warning that appeared on the Australian Consular Information Travel Sheet For India webpage (which made wide-ranging statements about cults in India).
- Failed to get Britain to issue a similar warning and encouraged Ex-Devotees to e-bomb the embassy with complaints.
As of July 17th 2007, the US State Department Bureau Of Consular Affairs REMOVED all indirect references to Sathya Sai Baba from their official website (Reference).
The truth is finally prevailing and the gutter tactics and smear campaigns waged by Ex-Devotees are finally reaching the ears of high ranking individuals and relevant organizations all around the world. For example, Barry Pittard (an Australian ex-devotee and main spokesperson for the Anti-Sai Movement) wholly distorted the former indirect warning and claimed it confirmed “pedophile accusations” against Sathya Sai Baba (Ref), a gutter, total and malicious untruth.
These types of bold-faced lies and dishonest behaviors should raise serious questions about the integrity and credibility of critics and skeptics of Sai Baba. Instead of focusing on these verifiable facts, NineMSN – A Current Affair chose to focus on rumors, gossips and propaganda from Ex-Devotees.
Moyia O’Brien (taken from a video at a Sai Center): Sai Ram. Life is beautiful with Baba. We are all beautiful because he is changing us.
Chris Allen: Moiya is so devoted, she’s become a sort of Sai Baba elder in Australia.
Moyia O’Brien (taken from a video at a Sai Center): How could you not love him? Baba I love you, love and adore you.
RESPONSE: It is true that Moiya O’Brien’s decades-long selfless service to people with developmental disabilities has made her an icon among Sai devotees and non-devotees alike. It is no secret that Moiya O’Brien has been inspired and uplifted by the love, teachings and example of Sathya Sai Baba. Unlike Kelli Vallis, Moiya O’Brien has never made any attempt to withhold or suppress information about her involvement with Sathya Sai Baba.
Kelli Vallis: People who come here don’t make the choice to be involved in a belief system about an Indian guru who they believe is God incarnate.
Chris Allen: Kelli says five of the seven member committee which runs the center are Sai Baba and that Moiya O’Brien has allowed the group to use the center for prayer meetings.
Kelli Vallis: They have complete control over our service.
RESPONSE: Once again, Kelli Vallis is portrayed as a non-cult member who was shocked, concerned and outraged when she discovered that SWARA and Moiya were allegedly engaging in secretive “cult” activities. Nevertheless, Kelli Vallis was fully aware that Moiya was a Sai devotee because she was one herself! Kelli Valis thereby implicates herself as engaging in secretive “cult” activities because she was a devotee of Sai Baba during the time she worked at SWARA.
Chris Allen: (speaking to developmentally challenged man) Do they try and recruit you, ask you to join up?
Steve (developmentally challenged man): Yeah they did but I said no way.
Chris Allen: Disabled kinds like Steve and Michelle say they’ve been pressured to join up.
Michelle (developmentally challenged woman): Yes they have tried but I’ve just stood my ground and said no it’s not for me.
Moyia O’Brien: That is completely untrue. We have never discussed Sai Baba.
RESPONSE: Why is that in 33 years no one (including clients, parents, guardians, therapists, case managers, visitors, media agencies, etc.) has ever come forward alleging that SWARA was secretly recruiting disabled individuals into a “cult” or feeding them questionable information about a religious teacher in India? These allegations surfaced only after Kelli Vallis was dismissed from her job at SWARA and only after she instructed, indoctrinated, prepped and influenced disabled individuals with Anti-Sai-Baba messages and Anti-Sai-Baba information (as evidenced in the protest). Therefore, the claims made by Steve and Michelle are highly suspect.
NineMSN – A Current Affair did not devote even one minute to the accomplishments and successes of SWARA over the course of three decades. Rather, NineMSN – A Current Affair opted for sleaze and attempted to destroy the reputation, trivialize the hard work and tarnish the selfless service of SWARA and Moiya O’Brien with their biased broadcast. This type of sub-standard and sensationalistic journalism is reprehensible.
Chris Allen: There is evidence that the cult wants to take over this center. This email was found by staff here last week. It’s from Sai Baba members saying they’d like to turn this place into an Ashram like their place of worship in India. It even suggests that they were pink and white to add to the atmosphere.
RESPONSE: What NineMSN – A Current Affair failed to mention is that the Sunshine Welfare and Remedial Association Inc. (SWARA) moved from their old location in Spring Hill to a new location in Dutton Park. As a result, the old SWARA building would no longer be used for SWARA activities. The old building was the one referred to in the email. Of course, NineMSN – A Current Affair did not reveal this relevant information and apparently chose to mislead their viewers with incomplete information.
Moiya O’Brien (switching back to the cult accusation): I completely deny it.
Chris Allen: But you must appreciate that people are going to say this looks like a cult, smells like a cult, it must be a cult.
Moiya O’Brien: Yeah, but it is not necessarily said.
RESPONSE: The word “cult” has many meanings (mostly pejorative) and can be used to describe any group devoted to art, music, writing, fiction, fashion, religion, politics, business, hobbies, places, objects, etc. Anthropologists and sociologists generally agree that there is no unambiguous definition for the word “cult”. In a religious sense, the word “cult” usually refers to exploitive religious or spiritual groups distinguished by excessive member control and that are illegally abusive or destructive. There is simply no proof that SWARA or Moiya O’Brien exploited, controlled, abused or recruited any clients on behalf of the Sathya Sai Organisation.
Chris Allen: Even sadder the sight of disabled clients being manhandled by security guards hired by the committee to keep them out.
Kelli Vallis: These people are not to be left in charge or responsible of this organization or the welfare of these people. It’s just disgraceful.
RESPONSE: NineMSN – A Current Affair returned to the very same footage they showed at the beginning of their broadcast. Chris Allen is being disingenuous when he claimed that the security guards were “hired by the committee to keep them (disable individuals) out”. Once again, the SWARA clients were on their summer holiday (they observe the same holidays as the schools) and had no reason to be at the SWARA compound at the time of their protest (as the compound was closed to them due to the summer holiday).
The clients would not have been “manhandled” had they not disobeyed the warnings of security officers and had they not been encouraged to raid the SWARA compound.
It is disgraceful that Chris Allen and Kelli Vallis exploited disabled individuals by using them as ploys to incite the security guards into action. After inciting the security guards, the footage was used to evoke sympathy from viewers and cast a negative light on SWARA.
Tracy Grimshaw: And in a statement sent to A Current Affair, the Department of Communities and Disability Services Queensland said it’s now investigating complaints made against that center. We will let you know the outcome.
Needless to say, Barry Pittard and Robert Priddy (both vocal defamers and caustic critics of Sathya Sai Baba) knew about the NineMSN – A Current Affair programme before it aired and knew additional details about the protest that were not shown in the broadcast, thus proving their involvement with the program. Therefore, it most certainly appears that Barry Pittard (an ex-devotee well known for his highly questionable past and incitement of Islamic terrorists) was directly involved in behind-the-scenes collaboration with NineMSN – A Current Affair and Kelli Vallis.
Needless to say, all of the negative media against Sai Baba was the result of critic’s behind-the-scenes subterfuge, unremitting propaganda and “e-bombing campaigns”. Critics even boasted on Anti-Sai websites how they were responsible for and involved with various negative media exposures against Sathya Sai Baba. This holds true for The Secret Swami, The Divine Downfall Interview, The Seduced Program, The Unesco Withdrawal, The U.S. State Dept. Warning, The Guardian Article By Paul Lewis, Michelle Goldberg’s Salon.com Article, India Today and now holds true for the 4½ minute NineMSN – A Current Affair broadcast that aired in Australia.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article belong solely to Joe Moreno (a Pro-Sai Activist) who is: 1) Not affiliated with SWARA; 2) Not affiliated with Moyia O’Brien; 3) Not affiliated with the Sathya Sai Organisation; 4) Not affiliated with any Sathya Sai Baba center; and 5) Not affiliated with any Sathya Sai Baba group.