Portland, Maine -- A Kittery-based group that claimed to promote spiritual healing and sold objects it characterized as "healing instruments" has agreed to drop a defamation lawsuit against a Blue Hill couple who compared it to a "mind control cult."
The agreement calls for The Gentle Wind Project to drop its claims against Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey and reimburse them for donations they made to the organization over the 17-year period in which they were members.
The couple had published online critiques of Gentle Wind, saying it came to dominate all aspects of their lives. The articles led to more than three years of litigation as John "Tubby" Miller, who ran Gentle Wind, claimed that the bad publicity damaged its ability to raise money.
While the case was pending, the Maine Attorney General's Office sued Gentle Wind for false claims and fraud. In a settlement reached last summer, the organization agreed to pay fines and to stop making claims about healing instruments resembling cards and hockey pucks that purportedly could cure physical and emotional damage caused by illnesses ranging from alcoholism to paralysis.
The Miller family sued Bergin, Garvey and operators of Internet sites that published their work. After the case was thrown out of federal court last year, the Millers filed the lawsuit in state court in York County.
The Millers could not be reached for comment Thursday on the settlement with Bergin and Garvey, but the couple released a statement celebrating the outcome.
"We had a right to tell our stories of 17 years as followers of the Gentle Wind Project," they wrote. "(Those rights) are all too often threatened when an individual or organization with deep pockets can use the civil legal process to silence whistle blowers."