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McKayla Maroney Defends Controversial Church: "I Am Not in a Cult."

The gymnast is involved with an organization called the Church of the Master Angels.

McKayla Maroney has been through a lot in her 25 years. The world got to know her at the 2012 London Olympics, where she won a team gold medal in gymnastics and became a meme for her "unimpressed" face after winning the individual silver in vault. But, while these seemingly happy moments were occurring, she and many other gymnasts were being abused by team doctor Larry Nassar, who is now serving a life sentence in prison. Maroney has been open about the abuse and about other hardships she's faced. Yet, there have been rumors about one aspect of her life that she's yet to speak about until now: the idea that Maroney is in a cult.

In a new interview with Elle, Maroney commented on the claim and her involvement with the Church of the Master Angels (CMA). She said that she is "not in a cult," but noted that the organization has helped her. Read on to find out more.

RELATED: McKayla Maroney Became an Olympic Icon a Decade Ago. See Her Now.

Maroney's involvement with CMA was reported earlier this year.

In March 2021, The Daily Beast reported on Maroney's involvement with CMA. She was wearing a CMA necklace in a photo posted to her Instagram account and had reportedly appeared on the podcast Let's Get Meta in February 2020 in which she spoke about her involvement with CMA. She also reportedly signed a statement praising CMA leader Master John Douglas, known as Master John.

CMA was formed in 2017 and charges for its courses.

McKayla Maroney at the Twila True Fine Jewelry & Watches Annual Tropical Summer Soiree in August 2021
JC Olivera/Getty Images

On its website, CMA is described as a "unitary, non-denominational, faith-based community Church open to all seekers of truth, cosmic awareness and soul-realization." The Daily Beast reported that participants can pay for courses, which can cost as much as $10,000 and that necklaces like Maroney's can cost as much as $2,000. Testimonials on the CMA site include people claiming they were healed from everything from anxiety to HIV to Lyme disease. The Daily Beast reported that, according to a cult expert, CMA shows some warning signs of an emerging cult. A statement from the CMA Board of Directors on its website begins, "We are anti-cult."

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Maroney says that CMA offered her relief.

Kyla Ross, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Weiber, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2012
lev radin /

In the Elle interview, Maroney talked about her participation in CMA and said that she has attended a few events. She said that Master John helped her feel "immediate" relief from the hardships she'd been through. In addition to surviving Nassar's abuse, Maroney also struggled with disordered eating and lost her father as a result of an unsupervised opioid detox in 2019, which she spoke about with Elle. "If you want to go to a healer, go to a healer. If you like psychics, whatever, do that. At the end of the day, it's my choice," Maroney told the magazine.

She pushed back hard against the claim that she's in a cult.

Speaking about the Daily Beast report in particular, Maroney told Elle, "All my friends were like, 'Wait, this is so crazy. You're in a cult?' I've always believed in God and more than just myself. But I'm not religious; I am not in a cult. None of it is true. The article just attacked me over a necklace that I had been wearing. I do meditation and pray, but there's nothing weird that I do."

Maroney told Elle that she hasn't gone to a workshop with CMA since the start of the pandemic but continues to wear the necklace, which she sees as a form of protection. "There are dark people and darker energies that see you and don't wish you well," she explained. "I like to feel like I'm protected in some way."

RELATED: McKayla Maroney Says She Hated the Way the Media Portrayed Her After Abuse.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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