by Jim Nintzel
Philip Franchine of The Green Valley News notes that property on and near downtown's Fourth Avenue is getting snatched up by a religious group with UFO tenets—and that has been accused of being a cult:
Why all this activity in Tucson?
“We fully intend to take this message to the entire world,” Lilly said. “While Tumacacori is great for agriculture, Tucson has a large student population and they need a society like we have — that is drug-free, alcohol-free and environmentally conscious.”
Global Community has attracted young people from around the world who seek to learn sustainable farming and ranching techniques, describing itself in a colorful brochure as “a living agricultural/all-volunteer community sharing its resources and the harvest of the land purchased and worked together...”
But the group has drawn plenty of criticism from former members and at least one international cult expert.
The Alliance believes that messengers from space delivered a revelation known as The Urantia Book, which explains the nature of God, creation and man’s purpose. They believe Gabriel has re-established contact with the space beings and will one day reign after a catastrophic war.
Cult expert Rick Ross, who tracks religious groups through his Rick A. Ross Institute, told The Arizona Republic in 2009 that the Alliance is “a personality-driven group. This (Gabriel) is a guy who has a lot of money, and it’s been accumulated through the surrender of assets.”
Ex-followers said members are forced to give up their legal names and shun family outside the group when they join. They said in a 1998 Dateline NBC program that the organization took control of all aspects of their lives, including finances, marriage and divorce. Since then, many more have come forward with similar stories.
“We are a non-profit and rely on the generosity of others,” Lilly told the Green Valley News when asked how the group paid for the buildings. “Members of the community bring their resources. Some have much, some have little. We have been the recipients of grants and receive donations from various supporters.”