Photo from Flickr, by Puck90
The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is one of the largest and most widely acclaimed no-kill animal shelters on the planet. Currently almost 2,000 cats, dogs and other rescued companion animals live safely and peacefully on its 37,000-thousand-acre rocky desert spread outside the town of Kanab, Utah. The Best Friends sanctuary has a long list of celebrity supporters, who’ve helped raise its profile and boost its fundraising efforts to impressive levels.
The men and women who volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary are compassionate idealists. And the same can presumably be said of its paid staff members and management, a small number of who have been with the sanctuary since its founding in 1991.
But this prestigious animal shelter is sheltering more than just abandoned dogs and cats. It is also sheltering a shocking secret. At one time, the original founders of the sanctuary all belonged to an eccentric religious organization known as “The Foundation”, which itself was descended from a free-wheeling quasi-Satanic cult known as The Process Church of the Final Judgment, or the Process Church for short.
This is not an association most would expect to find. Satanism and animal sacrifice, maybe. But Satanism and animal welfare?
Satanism, Charles Manson and the Swinging Sixties
The Process Church was formed in 1963 by two ex-Scientologists who sought to emulate L. Ron Hubbard’s example by launching their own alternative religion. According to Process theology good and evil were arbitrary categories, and consequently Satan was every bit as worthy of admiration and respect as Jesus or the God of the Bible.
The Process Church rose to prominence in the mid-to-late 1960s, in the flower-child-dominated Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. The Church’s leaders took advantage of the tripped-out, anything-goes experimentalism that prevailed in youth culture during that tumultuous time in American history, fully embracing the Satanic aspects of their faith as a way to stand out from the crowd.
One person who noticed the Process Church – and was impressed by what he saw - was Charles Manson. How deeply involved in their affairs he became is unclear, but even after he’d been arrested and charged with murder for his role in the Tate-LaBianca killings Manson was still in contact with Church representatives, who visited him in prison while he was waiting to stand trial.
Sam I Am?
In the early 1970 the Process Church split up into factions. One of these groups explicitly rejected Process theology and adopted the “Foundation” name to signify their shift in direction. It was this group that embraced animal welfare as their life’s mission, eventually moving to Utah to practice their religion and start the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
But one off-shoot of the old cult went in a very different direction. Calling itself “The Children”, this mysterious group (which may or may not still exist) was identified by author Maury Terry in his runaway best-seller The Ultimate Evil as the true perpetrators of the Son of Sam serial killings that traumatized New York City in 1976-77. David Berkowitz was just one member of this homicidal cult, but he became a convenient scapegoat for authorities who wanted to make the Son of Sam case go away as quickly as possible.
Best Friends or Worst Enemies?
Because of the Process Church’s association with Charles Manson and the Son of Sam murders, some have accused the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary of being nothing more than a front for a murderous Satanic cult. However, this charge appears to be false and based entirely on guilt-by-association. The vast majority of those involved in the operation of the sanctuary have no connection to the religious group that founded it, let alone its Satanic forerunner.
The Process Church did attract some sinister and murderous characters over the course of its existence. But there is no evidence to suggest any of them are involved in the day-to-day activities of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Those who accuse the sanctuary of being a front for Satanism are playing free and loose with the facts, unfairly slandering kind-hearted people who’ve helped thousands of neglected and abused animals find safety and happiness for the first time in their lives.