Although the MUFON Inner Circle is announced on MUFON’s website, and there seems to be no attempt to keep the elite organization hidden, very few of the MUFON members I queried had any idea that it existed. It currently is made up of thirteen members, which seems to be more coincidence than design, but that number does seem to have mysterious connotations for some. I don’t believe it significant, only a little bizarre.
The thirteen members, in no particular order are: Jan Harzan, Ed L’Heureux, Jennifer Stein, David MacDonald, John Schuessler, Debbie Ziegelmeyer, Clifford Clift, John Ventre, JZ Knight, Holly Baker, John Grace, Cindy DuPont and Michael Limotta.
Membership is limited to those who have an extra five grand that they can use each year to buy their place in the Inner Circle. That seems to be the only real qualification for membership. According to MUFON, “The Inner Circle status is obtained through a yearly donation of $5,000. Whether you have had a UFO sighting or are just interested in UFOs, you are welcome to join.”
The site then reports, “Inner Circle members provide advisory guidance to MUFON and are included in annual conference calls, attend private functions and cocktail parties during Symposium time, are afforded reserved seating at MUFON events, and much more!”
It is also noted, “You’ll be joining a very select group of UFO enthusiasts who stop at nothing in pursuit of knowledge about the UFO phenomenon and extraterrestrials. You’ll meet other Inner Circle members at MUFON who are kindred spirits and you’ll participate in Inner Circle-ONLY events.”
The benefits, again, according to MUFON, include access to the MUFON Director’s annual conference call and latest UFO reports, access to the MUFON Director’s live annual post symposium review, including speaker’s comments and personal insights shared with MUFON Director one on one, followed by 30-minute live Q&A session with the MUFON Director. An Inner Circle member also receives free admission to the MUFON Symposium each year of donation, special reserved seating for two in MUFON Director’s section during MUFON Symposium, along with photos with the MUFON Director and Keynote Speaker at the MUFON Symposium. There are three LIVE (emphasis on the website) “Closed Door” conference calls with the MUFON Director, soliciting “your input regarding UFO Research and Public Awareness. Director will also share unpublished current UFO cases with information generally unknown by public or Media.” And finally, it includes a lifetime membership to MUFON which includes the MUFON e-Journal.
At first glance, these perks to membership in the Inner Circle don’t seem to be worth the yearly contribution to MUFON coffers. It might be seen as more of a status thing than as a way to make a contribution to UFO research and some of the members have a rather checkered background. The emphasis on “special reserved seating, photos with the Director and Keynote Speakers and the “Closed Door’ conference calls,” seem to smack of elitism, but then is that such a big deal?
And, at siccolinks.website>back_up>index_058, it says, “Members of this elite group provide insight and direction to the course MUFON takes in it’s [sic] daily activities.” That is a point where this Inner Circle becomes important especially as we look at the list of those who are members of the Inner Circle really are.
I’ve already detailed in another post some of the trouble that John Ventre, who had bought his place in the Inner Circle, brought to MUFON as a whole. His racist rant on Facebook in May 2017, his doubling down by suggesting some sort of demonic component to the UFO phenomenon a few days later, and his overall attitude gives rise to questions about the Inner Circle and the only real qualification to join.
I have also learned that while Ventre was removed as the state director for Pennsylvania and Delaware, he has been assigned duties as the state treasurer and the conference coordinator according to Lon Strickler. I had asked Harzan during my radio interview with him if Ventre had been reduced to “journal subscriber,” but meant it more as a joke, not realizing that Harzan didn’t actually answer the question. Instead he said that anyone was allowed to join MUFON and, of course, he hadn’t been removed from the Inner Circle which seemed to me to be more problematic. That suggested that the monetary contribution to MUFON was the important aspect. But then, Ventre is not the only member who has these bizarre and racist beliefs.
J Z Knight is another of those whose membership might be questioned. She is a “New Age Leader,” who channels a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior who apparently participated in the downfall of Atlantis and who endorsed Donald Trump in the last election. (I note here that I would have mentioned if he had endorsed Hillary Clinton.) In March 2011, Knight was on stage addressing hundreds of those interested in what she had to say, which seemed to be nothing more than a drunken rant, according to Susy Buchanan of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Although Knight claimed, or it is suggested the words aren’t hers but rather Ramtha, the Lemurian she channels, he (meaning Ramtha) said, “Fuck God’s chosen people [meaning the Jews]! I think they’ve earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now.”
She, or rather Ramtha, added that Mexicans “breed like rabbits,” all gay men were once Catholic priests and in a strange comment, organic farmers have questionable hygiene. I don’t know what that last means.
Buchanan noted that these remarks would have remained private except that in 2012, they were posted to the web, again according to Buchanan, by Knight’s ex-student Virginia Coverdale and a fellow named David McCarthy. This embarrassed Democratic candidates who had received some $70,000 from Knight, which also suggests that she had enough money to hand over five grand to MUFON on a yearly basis so that she can enter the Inner Circle. To their credit, the candidates returned the donations.
In the article cited above, there was a note I found interesting which was that Knight had been borne Judith Darlene Hampton in 1946 in Roswell, New Mexico. (It seems no matter how hard I try, I can’t get away from Roswell which is the only reason I mention this.)
It is also suggested that Knight owes no apologies to any to those she might have offended during her drunken rant because she employs lapsed Catholics, former Jews, a lesbian and a Mexican-born man in her Inner Circle (but doesn’t seem to employ an organic farmer). Somehow her association with them absolves her of any charges of bigotry or racism. She also claims that the videos used as the basis for Buchanan’s article are heavily edited and that “Coverdale couldn’t keep the man she was after for more than three weeks and hated me for it.”
Much of what Buchanan had to say also has appeared on Wikipedia with a long list of sources that can be accessed for additional confirmation. There are also articles from television stations and newspapers that seem to validate the claims of the racist rants that Buchanan raised.
There are others whose backgrounds and comments aren’t quite so dramatic. David MacDonald, who is also a member of the MUFON Board of Directors as well as a member of the Inner Circle, started the Flamingo Air which was sort of a charter service but it had an added component. For a fee, a couple could hire one of the aircraft so that they might join the “Mile High Club,” and yes, it is exactly what you think it is. Is this egregious? Not really, but then, it isn’t exactly something that an organization that works in the UFO field wants its board members (and former Director) to be doing. In fact, a couple of MUFON members said that they had left the organization when they learned about this. It seems to reflect poorly on the organization, but, of course, not as poorly as some of the other activities.
But note here, while the excursions for the Mile-High Club can be seen as little more than a business profit center, MacDonald is also on the Board of Directors. This would seem to negate the claim made by a few that the Inner Circle has no influence with the daily operations of MUFON. While a single board member who is also in the Inner Circle might not hold much power, remember the Jan Harzan, who is the Executive Director and a board member is also in the Inner Circle.
Harzan, however, when questioned about this, said that the Inner Circle exerted no influence on MUFON. This was merely a profit center, what he termed as a donation level perk and that anyone, regardless of their beliefs, their opinions, or their knowledge of UFOs was free to join. All it took was the five grand and for that they received nothing of consequence and they, just as everyone else, could call the Executive Director to chat with him about UFOs. You can listen to Harzan’s interview here:
But the website said, ““Inner Circle members provide advisory guidance to MUFON and are included in annual conference calls, attend private functions…” which sounds like something more significant than just getting together to chat about UFOs. It sounds as if it is more than just someone handing over that kind of money with no expectation of privilege. You might compare it to major contributors to a political campaign or political party. Those people do expect some sort of quid pro quo for the money.
Add to that, “You’ll meet other Inner Circle members at MUFON who are kindred spirits (they might want to remove this given how some of those kindred spirits speak about others) and you’ll participate in Inner Circle-ONLY events…” We don’t know what those other Inner Circle only events might be, but I suspect it is something more than just a party at someone’s house. And, if you are meeting with Inner Circle members who are either on the Board of Directors or are the Executive Director, you have an opportunity to affect MUFON’s direction simply by having the opportunity to meet, one on one, with the Executive Director who certainly does exert influence on the direction MUFON takes.
Also suggesting something more than a donation level as Harzan repeatedly claimed, and that anyone can call the Executive Director, there are “… three LIVE (emphasis on the website) ‘Closed Door’ conference calls with the MUFON Director, soliciting ‘your input regarding UFO Research and Public Awareness.’’
So, while anyone can call the Executive Director, can everyone expect a return telephone call? And, will the Executive Director be interested in their “advisory guidance?” Claiming that the Inner Circle members exert no influence, but attempting to entice people to join by suggesting there will be influence as the Executive Director is “soliciting” their input is somewhat contradictory. If all this Inner Circle does is contribute money, then why is the Executive Director soliciting their input.
While it seems that many of those who have joined the Inner Circle have the best intentions, supporting an organization they believe to be of some benefit, shouldn’t they be troubled by the attitudes of a couple of their fellow Inner Circle members? The racist rants wouldn’t be tolerated in almost any other arena, but here, they are ignored because those holding those extreme views allegedly have no influence on the organization and have Inner Circle status solely based on the size of their wallets, at least according to Harzan.
But when we look in other directions, political campaigns often return money given by those with extreme views. They don’t want to be associated with people who think in the extreme and have the power to purchase a platform.
And to suggest that this is merely free speech, as Harzan did, is to overlook the real trouble here. Yes, you can say whatever you wish, but there are consequences to some of that free speech, especially when directed in an antagonistic way to a specific group. You simply can’t advocate, indirectly, violence against a group because of skin color, religious belief, ethnicity (which is different from skin color) or other less than objective criterion. I will defend your right to say whatever you wish but I will also note that you must take responsibility for that speech. You can’t dismiss a bigoted, racist point of view simply by calling it free speech.
I will add this. While I am exercising my right to free speech here, I know that I am offending some. Those who toil at the lower levels of MUFON, who believe in what is being done, will be annoyed with what I say here. I don’t mean to offend them. They are sort of caught in the crossfire. I do believe that the facts I have laid out here need to be seen and reviewed. I expect nasty comments to the blog (and for those keeping score at home, attack me personally and the comment will not see the light of day… make an argument against my conclusions here and the like, I’ll be happy to post it… free speech), but I am opening a dialogue about all this and accept the animosity as part of the deal. But you’ll notice that I’m not attacking anyone for being black, Jewish, Mexican, Asian, female or white. I am exposing what I see as a hypocrisy at the top of the MUFON food chain. Harzan even joked about it, saying that he’d remove J Z Knight as a state director, but she wasn’t one. He wasn’t concerned about the image that projected to the rest of the world, which I would have thought would have been one of the more important elements of the discussion.
What it boils down to here is this: is the Inner Circle nothing more than a donation level group, or does it actually have a larger function and influential impact as suggested by the Inner Circle information on the web site? Does it help influence the direction of MUFON or is it just a cash cow created to stroke the egos of a few people who have more dollars than sense? There is a contradiction here which suggests that the Executive Director is not overly concerned with the radical and expressed views of some of these people because they have money. He says, on the one hand, they have no influence, but the web site says they do and if they do, then the leadership owes it to the membership to address these concerns.
(I will note here that the situation seems to change day by day, but there hasn’t been the response from the leadership that you would expect… I found some of the things said by Harzan during my interview to be said more as a joke than anything else, including his seemingly tongue in cheek claim that he had sort of bought his position as Executive Director. MUFON needs real leadership and not lip service.)