FLAGSTAFF — Self-help guru James Arthur Ray, charged with manslaughter for the Sedona sweat lodge deaths of three people, is taking his motivational messages to the Internet.
In a video posted online this week, Ray said he's unable to produce live events but still has a deep desire and passion to make a difference and help people in any way he can. He invites people to join him online at least once a week.
"I'd like to be able to provide that value to you in this way, as my gift to you," Ray said. "Just to share with you some tools and techniques, some insight, some knowledge, some ways in which you can deal with challenges in your own life, some ways in which you can design and really achieve the life you deserve."
Ray has been absent from the self-help circuit since last year, the result of a sweat lodge ceremony he led in October that turned deadly. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter. His attorneys have said his Carlsbad, Calif.-based company, James Ray International, isn't' bringing in revenue and that Ray is broke.
The idea of regular video posts from Ray excited his supporters, who have been holding conference calls and meeting to discuss his teachings. But families of the deceased and some of the injured said it's offensive.
The mother of Kirby Brown, one of the deceased, said Wednesday that her family is concerned that if Ray continues to attempt to lead people that others will be harmed.
"Let us not forget that people have suffered permanent injuries and have died after trusting and following Mr. Ray's teachings," Virginia Brown said in a statement. "We do not want one single additional person to be hurt when they are honestly seeking truth and attempting to improve their life."
Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, and Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., were pronounced dead following the two-hour sweat lodge ceremony. Eighteen people were hospitalized. Others reported having no problems.
A day after he was released from jail on bond in late February, Ray began posting messages online in an effort to reach out to supporters and now is offering his teachings in a way they're not used to but nonetheless embrace.
Alyssa LeBlanc, 26, of Los Angeles, said she saw a link to the video on Ray's Facebook page. She contends his teachings have become stronger since Ray hasn't been holding seminars.
"James' teaching is so important. It excites me that he cares so much about people that even though he's not making money from it or has his company, he still wants to help the people," said LeBlanc, who attended Ray's events held before and after the sweat lodge. "That's what he does in life."
Prosecutors have sought a gag order that would prevent Ray, any staff he has and his attorneys from speaking about the case. The request also would cover Ray's Web site and blogs, but a judge has yet to rule on it.
Ray's trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 31. Prosecutors contend Ray recklessly crammed more than 50 people inside the 415-square-foot sweat lodge, a ceremony commonly used by American Indian tribes to cleanse the body. His attorneys contend the deaths were an accident.
Ted Schmidt, an attorney for one of the participants who was hospitalized, said it's apparent that Ray is trying to not completely lose touch with people, but his actions are contradictory to his teachings.
"He's now coming back on and trying to revitalize his program but he's never reconciled the basic principle of his teachings, which is to take responsibility and accountability for his actions," he said.