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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

October 31, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Ramtha school sues former student over release of embarrassing videos

The Ramtha School of Enlightenment is suing a former student for publicizing videos of channeler JZ Knight making derogatory comments about Mexicans, Catholics, gays and others.

The lawsuit, filed this week in Thurston County Superior Court, accuses former student Virginia Coverdale of violating written agreements she signed at the school forbidding the dissemination of Ramtha-related materials.

The videos caused an embarrassing stir for the Ramtha school and prompted the state Democratic Party and other local Democratic politicians to announce they’d donate the thousands in political contributions they’d received from Knight.

Knight made her controversial and profanity-laced comments in one of her famous sessions in which she claims to channel “Ramtha” — a 35,000-year-old warrior. She founded an 80-acre school in Yelm, Thurston County, in 1988 and has thousands of devotees.

Coverdale, who says she split with the Ramtha school about a year ago, helped publicize the videos with the help of the conservative Olympia think tank, the Freedom Foundation. In an interview, she said she received the materials from an anonymous source in the mail.

Attorneys for Knight are seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting Coverdale, and other unnamed former students, from distributing additional videos. A hearing on the restraining order is scheduled for Thursday.

Andrea McNeely, an attorney for Knight, said the Ramtha school is a private, for-profit business and is acting to protect its property rights, noting the videos were intended for the internal use of students who had paid for courses at the school. (The lawsuit also goes after a group of other, unnamed former Ramtha students who have formed an online support group.)

“There is no intent whatsoever to affect or in any way limit free speech. It’s just the use of the videos in that speech that we think crosses the line here,” McNeely said.

Coverdale said she did not believe the documents she signed at the school should halt her from exposing Knight’s views. “You cannot use a waiver to sign away your (free speech) rights,” she said.

As an addendum to all this: the state Republican Party is now pointing out that Democrats essentially used an accounting trick so that giving away the $70,000 it received from Knight would not be so painful. The Olympian’s Brad Shannon has a rundown of the spat at the end of this article.

Comments | More in homepage, Politics Northwest | Topics: lawsuit, Ramtha, State Democratic Party


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