Chicago Tribune

March 20, 1988

By Wes Smith

Behind an unmarked door, three women work in a two-room office in a Chicago suburb. Mail is retrieved from an anonymous post office box. The telephone is listed to another address. In spite of the secretive nature of this place, the phone rings frequently, more than 2,000 times a year. The callers often speak with urgency. - A mother from a Southern state says her daughter has suddenly decided to quit medical school and leave the country to join a group "that knows the truth." - A Chicago secretary seeks information on a business management firm that she believes is linked to the Scientology movement. - A social worker in Ohio asks for literature on Satanism. A child under his care has exhibited signs of involvement. - A detective with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police asks for any information available on a suspicious-sounding "humanitarian group" that is trying to buy a large parcel of land in his area. The callers have dialed 312-267-7777 - the number to the national headquarters of the Cult Awareness Network, a low-profile and nonprofit organization that gathers information on "destructive" cults, those that allegedly employ mind control techniques, coercion and unethical or illegal practices. The nearly 10-year-old network serves as a warehouse of information for people who often fear what they might learn when they call, according to Cynthia Kisser, executive director. It has 50 affiliates in 25 states and its files contain profiles, membership lists and even tax returns of more than 1,000 cults and suspected cults. Kisser said she regrets the melodrama of the network's undisclosed address, untraceable phone and unmarked door, but her small volunteer organization is not without its ardent detractors. The Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon has accused the Cult Awareness Network of "spreading fear." John T. Biermans, national spokesman for the Unification Church, said the Cult Awareness Network has unfairly labeled the church as a cult based on rumors and testimony from former church members. "You wouldn't want your ex-wife telling people about you, would you? If you rely on these people for information, then you are missing something. To assume they have all the information is simply unfair," Biermans said. The Unification Church has been joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Council of Churches in campaigning against the network's ongoing efforts to create a National Cult Awareness Week by congressional resolution. The ACLU, the Unification Church and others believe the Cult Awareness Network treads on the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and speech, their spokesmen said. But those who support the network say it provides a valuable service in tracking the activities of religious, political, self-help and commercial cults. The Cult Awareness Network was formed from disparate groups around the nation following the Jonestown tragedy of Rev. Jim Jones' People's Temple in Guyana. Those groups, composed mostly of the families of cult members or former cult members themselves, now make up a national network with affiliates in Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Australia and New Zealand. "When Jonestown happened, the independent groups said it was the ultimate realization of the potential threat of dangerous cults," Kisser said. Funded by donations-it operated on a $100,000 budget last year-the Cult Awareness Network serves as an information center for the families of cult members, law enforcement agencies, the news media and anyone else seeking information on cult activities, Kisser said. The network does not, as members of the Unification Church and other critics charge, get involved in the abduction and deprogramming of cult members, nor is it anti-Christian, she said. Kisser did acknowledge, however, that the network's list of experts on various cults does include individuals who have been involved in deprogramming and that families have sometimes learned of those services after being referred by the network. "We don't recommend or encourage involvement in anything illegal and we do not do any deprogramming," Kisser said. "We are constantly accused by cults of victimizing families, but we simply refer people to appropriate organizations such as law enforcement, therapists, mental health counselors and so on." Chicago Gang Crimes Detective Jerry Simandl, who specializes in crimes involving ritualistic groups, has spoken in seminars sponsored by the network and has investigated cases referred by the group. "We have worked very closely with them in educating people on ritualistic criminal activity, and I have found them to be very dedicated people," he said of the Cult Awareness Network. Criticism of the network has reached a fever pitch in Washington, D.C., in recent weeks as Cult Awareness supporters have lobbied congressmen to support its resolution recognizing the Nov. 18 anniversary of the 1978 Jonestown murder-suicide of 913 followers of Jim Jones and declaring a National Cult Awareness Week on Nov. 13-19, 1988. The ACLU sent letters protesting the resolution to every congressman last week and several experts scheduled to speak at a Cult Awareness Network informational session for legislative aides this weekend received threats, Kisser said. Barry W. Lynn, legislative counsel with the ACLU in Washington, has led that group's opposition. Lynn said the ACLU has found itself in interesting company in fighting the resolution. "I've been getting calls from Scientologists, witches and the Unification Church - all seeking to derail this issue," he said. The ACLU opposes the resolution on the grounds that Congress is forbidden by the Constitution from restricting religious freedoms, Lynn said. "You cannot read this resolution and think this is anything but an official criticism about certain kinds of religious groups," Lynn said. "If the Cult Awareness Network wants to make adverse comments about people's religious beliefs that is fine, but they should not be enlisting Congress in the denunciation." U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D., Calif.) sponsored the resolution in October to create the Cult Awareness Week in order to publicize the danger of cults and their increasing numbers, a spokesman said. The date was selected to commemorate the Jonestown massacre in which Lantos' predecessor, Rep. Leo J. Ryan, was shot to death and 930 others-most of them members of Jones' People's Temple cult-also died from shooting or poisoning. The resolution needs 268 signatures-half the membership of Congress-to win approval. So far only 40 signatures have been obtained. The effort has been thwarted by a deluge of protests to congressmen from organizations opposed to it, according to Kisser. Network members have claimed that some of those opposing groups are "fronts" for cults. The Unification Church, in particular, has made many inroads into politics by hosting programs under names not linked to it, and it allots a large amount of money to candidates, Kisser said. Last August, a lobbying group that persuaded some Chicago-area politicians and civic leaders to become active members was discovered, to the embarrassment of those politicians and civic leaders, to be an arm of the Unification Church. That group, the American Constitution Committee, is an offshoot of CAUSA International, which was founded by Rev. Moon to fight communism and revive moral standards through church unity, according to Michael Jenkins, regional director of the American Constitution Committee. Some of the letters sent to congressmen criticizing the Cult Awareness Network were written on the letterhead of a group called the "Voice of Freedom." Telephone callers condemning the resolution have identified themselves as members of the "Coalition for Religious Freedom." Both groups are suspected to be fronts for larger cults, Kisser said. "They have sent letters with all kinds of outlandish statements claiming that the network is an 'anti-religious hate group' and that it has engaged in physical attacks against Roman Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Mormons and others," said Patricia Ryan, a Washington lobbyist and member of the Cult Awareness Network. "I've been involved in politics since childhood, and I have never seen anything like this," she said. "It just goes to show there is a need for the network, especially if the cults are this afraid of us." Ryan, 34, speaks from the heart when she talks about the dangers of cults. She is the daughter of the late Rep. Ryan, who was shot as he attempted to help a cult member escape. Another family member, Shannon Ryan, 36, joined Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh's cult in Oregon in 1980 before he was ordered out of the U.S. in 1985. Shannon Ryan lives in San Diego but still follows the group's teachings, her sister said. "I've been hit as much as anybody by dangerous cults, sort of a double-whammy," said Patricia Ryan, who has been described by members of the Unification Church as "a fanatic." "When my father went to Guyana to help the families of his constituents, there was no source of information like the network," she said. "We are trying to make Congress aware that there is still a cult problem in this country." Cults prey successfully on all kinds of people, not just the spiritually or emotionally weak, Kisser said. "People don't realize how often they come into contact with cults in their daily lives," Kisser said. "There are so many cults now, they are less visible, but more prolific, like the threads in a tapestry." Cult members are lured to the web under the pretense of learning more about the Bible, losing weight or helping humanity, and then fall prey to mind-control techniques, Kisser said. "We are not a nation of lost sheep, but people are vulnerable. These techniques prey on our needs for approval, our need for food, or our sex drives." Cults use those needs to establish control of their members, to wipe out their previous lives and make them dependent on the cult, she said. They employ methods learned in prisoner-of-war camps in World War II, in research done for Josef Stalin by Ivan Pavlov and techniques developed by the Chinese Communists in their thought-control schools, Kisser said. "We don't see torture used to gain control anymore, it is now all soft music and velvet gloves-techniques that can be learned at the local library," she said. "Jim Jones had an excellent library on mind control at his Jonestown home." Back to CAN Mirror Page Index

Holy Wars:A Mother's fight with a Bellevue church

Eastside Week
February 9, 1994

By John Colwell

Under the Influence? A desperate mother had her son kidnapped to destroy his loyalty to a Bellevue church. After three years, two lawsuits, and a Geraldo episode, this family feud has become a pawn in a bigger, even nastier conflict. Jason Scott knew his mother was not to be trusted. She had steeped off the godly path, arranging the capture and conversion of his younger brothers. Jason remained safe from her, so long as his pastor was near. But one winter day three years ago, when his brother asked for some help moving carpet scraps, the amiable teen-ager dropped his guard and drove right over to his mother's Kirkland house. Three men jumped the 18-year-old in the driveway. He was cuffed and dragged through the house to a waiting van. "I was headfirst, on my back, going downstairs," 6-fot-plus, 200-pound Jason later told police. "He was praying in tongues and calling me the devil," his mother says. The mother, Kathy Tonkin, paid the men thousands of dollars to kidnap her son and wrest control of his mind from the pastor of a fundamentalist Bellevue church. She calls it a cult; she says her boy was brainwashed. That's why he was taken to a secure beach house in Grays Harbor County, where he was to be "deprogrammed." The youth, however, escaped and called police. Rick Ross, a veteran deprogrammer out of Arizona who was catapulted into the national spotlight during the Waco reckoning, had hired on to help retrieve Jason, mind and body, from the influence of Life Tabernacle Church in Bellevue. With scores of successful conversions to his credit, including those of Jason's younger brothers, Ross was prepared. But Ross never knew how difficult this deprogramming would become. As soon as Jason found a lax moment to flee his captors and call police, Ross and the abductors found themselves open to criminal prosecution, though it took more than two years for felony kidnapping charges to be filed against them. (Jason stopped short of pressing charges against his mother.) The trial took place last month in Montesano, the county seat of Grays Harbor County. But even after their airing in court, the issues behind Jason's kidnapping are hardly on their way to being resolved. During the three years between the teen's abduction and the trial, the case united strange bedfellows, taking on bizarre twists and developing intricate subplots. Each side of this family feud has become a cause celebre between bigger, more powerful rivals who show no signs of ending their longtime war. Still reeling, Jason is caught in the middle. On the one side is Ross, and on the other, the Church of Scientology, a secretive and powerful organization that has resisted the definition of "cult," but which nonetheless has an interest in discrediting those deprogrammers who accuse it of being a cult. Even though Scientologists' religious beliefs are not at all compatible with the Life Tabernacle church's, Scientologists early on realized that they could help Jason make powerful legal arguments for his rights as an adult to practice his religion. They sought Jason out, to help him bring his case against Ross. With freedom of religion pitted against the supposed danger of cults, the ramifications of a case like Jason's found deep-seated public appeal. Well before going to court, players in the local drama aired their issues on Geraldo, and Sally Jessy Raphael. But these holy wars, where private lives and minds are on the front line, leave a profoundly personal carnage. Not only is Jason now pitted against his mother and brothers, all of whom left the same church, but his life is a mess. He lost his job, his wife is expecting a baby in April, but he no longer lives with her. Torn between his siblings and salvation, the affable, impressionable, confused young man became a pawn in a larger, nastier conflict - that between a big-league religious organization and its foes. Walk into Bellevue's Life Tabernacle church during a weekday or weekend service and you'll find more friends than seems possible. Endless smiles, handshakes, and questions greet a newcomer to the windowless chapel of the small church. The affection bestowed on a visitor is no less than intense. "What's your name?" "How did you find us?" "Where do you live?" "Are you going to come back?" "What's your phone number?" But make no mistake, Life Tabernacle Church is a strict hierarchy, with pastor Harold Kern at the top. Kern is the shepherd of a Shepherding sect; he and his followers avowedly believe that God delegates authority to Kern in controlling his flock. "Don't you ever, ever get yourself in the position that you rail against the man of God," Kern preached at a Sunday sermon taped in September 1989. "Don't you ever, ever allow yourself to get into a position that you begin to criticize the man of God… If you have a heart to do the will of God and what's right, you're gonna love authority and love submission, because it is of God. Amen." As United Pentecostals, Life Tabernacle's members adhere to the idea of "Oneness," which rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. The Oneness doctrine allows for only one God, Jesus. To orthodox Christians, this belief is unacceptable. Oneness Pentecostals also believe only they are going to heaven, that others are not saved. Someone who leaves the church, forgoing salvation, as Tonkin did, is a "backslider" who has made a mistake and needs to be prayed for. Tonkin's children, while still in the church, angrily denounce her as such. Twenty years ago, in search of virgin territory in which to start their own church, Harold and Pamela Kern had come from California's Central Valley to the Northwest. Kern started a construction company to subsidize the United Pentecostal church he built in a wooded area along Newport Way, in Bellevue's Eastgate area. After eight years they started Christian Life Academy, a school. Two more years and the church was self-sustaining. Today there are about 175 members in the church, with 40 students in the school. There is a daycare with non-church employees. The sense of love, belonging, and family at Life Tabernacle very much appealed to Kathy Tonkin when she first joined the church in 1989. Her history, by her own admission, has been troubled. The daughter of the wealthy owner of a major restaurant chain, she has never managed, by choice or fate, to lead a simple life. She has eight children by four husbands. Her second husband, the father of the youngest son to undergo deprogramming, died in an electrical accident, an event which she says started her "spiritual pursuit." (Most recently she married and moved to Arizona with Mark Workman, one of the men she hired to abduct Jason. They had a baby girl. Now they are divorced. She remains in Arizona.) After attending churches in Seattle, Kirkland, and Woodinville, Tonkin heard about Life Tabernacle. Her third marriage was failing, and Jason, by his own account, was getting high and drinking. Tonkin was looking for answers. A window washer she hired told her about a "wonderful pastor" named Harold Kern. Tonkin joined the church, enrolling her sons - Matthew, 11, Thysen, 15, and Jason, 17 - in the church school. As newcomers to the United Pentecostal church, the family was engulfed with flattery and, Tonkin says, "love bombing," a phrase coined to describe a disarming stage of induction. Soon, Tonkin says, all were immersed in the conservative, ebullient, fundamentalist environment, where they were expected to meet a strict dress code, or "holiness standard," which for women dictates that skirts be low, necklines high, and hair long (only single women can wear their hair down). Women could not expose their arms. "Women do not wear men's apparel - based on the Scripture - God hates that," Kern says. Church ritual mandates "running the aisles" in a religious fervor, speaking in tongues, and submitting to the strict authority of Kern. Tonkin eventually grew disenchanted with the church's overbearing nature; she resented the constant threat of going to hell. She says she resented Kern's family living in a large house, driving new cars, and taking ski vacations from an income drawn on church member's tithing's. (Tonkin says she gave $8,000 to the church in one year.) The flock followed the shepherd so diligently, Tonkin says, that Kern sought refuge one night a week in a hotel room, where he found peace and quiet. His wife was frustrated by followers so dependent they called "to ask what kind of toothpaste to use," Tonkin says. Her boys grew fond of the church and school, Tonkin admits, yet all of them - herself included - took on attitudes she considers close-minded. "As a member, you see things through critical glasses," she says. Her boys frowned upon children wearing jewelry, makeup, or short skirts. "We'd say, 'We feel bad for them, because they're going to hell,'" Tonkin recalls. "The school marms would call them 'sinner kids.'" When Tonkin wore a T-shirt outside the house, she claims her boys reported her behavior to Kern. "They had to repent if they saw a TV in the mall," Tonkin says. "They learned they had to love Jesus more than anything. It was Jesus or me." Tonkin left the church, her boys continued to attend. Jason went to live with the Kerns. Matthew and Thysen would stay with relatives or church members. "Anytime somebody marries the wrong daughter, you get rid of them," Kern preached in 1989. "I mean, it's just the way it is. Anybody, somebody doesn't line up, you just pull out some hair here, slap somebody there. Amen. You say, oh, now we got the Holy Ghost. That's right, you're supposed to have the Holy Ghost. But it's them that don't have it or don't have very much of it are the ones you gotta slap. Hallelujah… "And before long you get a reputation. Hallelujah. I don't think we've got that kind of reputation, but I'd rather be known for doing right and upholding the standards of truth than to be known for being a compromiser. Wouldn't you?" Kathy needed help, she was absolutely terrified," says Shirley Landa, a local authority on cults and mind control who counsels former cult members. Landa says Tonkin was referred to her through the emergency telephone Crisis Line. "Kathy had on a pair of pants for the first time," Landa recalls. "She was terrified of putting on makeup. She was terrified of going to hell, of losing her children." It was this fear, Tonkin says, that prompted her to call Rick Ross in Arizona. (Landa, co-founder and former president of the Cult Awareness Network, a Chicago-based organization that is the most active and widely known anti-cult group in the country, made the referral.) With her house as equity, Tonkin received a large loan from her father, using it to fund the deprogrammings. Her father's wealth, she says, is one reason Kern fought to keep her family in the church. Kern dismisses Tonkin's recollections as entirely self-serving. Kern says Tonkin was carefully preparing the foundation for a million-dollar civil suit against Life Tabernacle, that Ross promised to make her rich by deprogramming - or, in this case, programming - the younger boys in supporting the claims of kidnapping and child abuse against the well-insured church. Tonkin said she is not going to file suit, but did consider it. "I wanted my money back for the deprogrammings," she says. "Kathy's from a rough background," says Kern, who portrays her as the faltering mother of a "dysfunctional family" who came to Life Tabernacle seeking escape from drug use, bad credit, and a bad marriage that ended during her stint as a member of the church. He and his wife tried to help her, Kern says, but she was lost to the great enticements of Ross. Anger between Kern and Tonkin obviously runs deep. But Tonkin says that a major catalyst in her move to get her boys out of the church relates to the alleged sexual molestation of her son Thysen. According to court papers filed in Montesano in Ross' defense, Tonkin and her son were prepared to testify that a man he'd met through the church had sexually abused him. Though never called on to testify about him, Tonkin spoke to an Arizona newspaper, which published her account of the man having slept "in one of her minor son's rooms." Even Jason reportedly discussed the alleged abuse with one of his Scientology handlers, according to a signed declaration filed with the court in the Montesano kidnapping proceedings. When Matthew and Thysen joined Ross in May 1993 as guests on the Geraldo show, they further discussed the allegations. The title of the episode, which appeared at the height of the Waco hoopla, was "Child-Killing Cults: Investigating the next Waco," a name Kern takes issue with. (No one from the show ever called him, Kern says.) Kirkland police say that the case remains under investigation, though no charges have been filed, according to Detective Pat Haster of the Kirkland Police Department. Tonkin says Kern failed to act on her complaints about possible molestation, a claim Kern denies. Tonkin, increasingly desperate, turned to Ross, who felt that the allegations of sexual abuse bolstered the case that his services were needed. In 1990, Ross agreed to deprogram all three boys, starting with the younger two. Matthew's grandmother employed a ruse to trap the pair in her Kirkland house, where Ross and his comrades waited. The boys spent six days under Ross' control. Though the boys were minors with their mother in attendance, their seclusion put Kern and his flock into a frenzy. When church members found out where the boys were, they started calling at any hour, driving back and forth near the house, and peering in the windows. They repeatedly reported child abuse to the Kirkland police, called Child Protection Services, and accused Tonkin of beating, starving, using psychedelic lights on , and drugging her sons, according to court documents filed to obtain an anti-harassment order against Kern and the church members. "We endeavored to get some relief for them," says Kern. "They were using brainwashing procedures on a 16-year-old boy held captive by three strange men. We know that brainwashing works… We knew Thysen would be broken by the fourth day if we didn't get him out." Kirkland police officer Keith Ikeda visited the house, talked to the boys, and reported no evidence of these allegations. Church members maintained surveillance from the public street, circumventing the court order. Jason reportedly rallied dozens of young men from Lake Washington High School to gather on the property and chant, "We want Thysen!" Jason, however, would not enter the house without Kern. Thysen, now 20, is living with his grandparents in Eastern Washington and is enrolled in college. Matthew, 15, is attending preparatory school in Arizona. Kern discounts accusations that he leads a cult, or that his followers may be victims. He says he simply runs a conservative, fundamentalist church. "We have a lot of friends in the community, a lot of backing," he says. "Ross loves to paint a picture of the church as a terrible group of people." Kern talked and argued with Ross during the deprogramming of Thysen and Matthew. He left convinced Ross is "not a food theological debater." "He is a guy who works to get rich; he's in it for the money," Kern says. Ross disputed this allegation by releasing his tax returns to the press and challenging Kern to do the same. Ross' reported income for each of the three years from 1990-1992 averages out to about $25,000 per year based on his tax returns. Kern claims Tonkin paid Ross that much just to deprogram her three boys, a charge Ross calls ludicrous. Though neither he nor Tonkin discuss his fee, they say it is far less than she paid in annual tithing's to Kern and his church. By the time Jason's day came, he was prepared for it. He had learned from Kern what to expect. He had been living with Kern for several months, and a friend of Kern's familiar with the process coached Jason on deprogramming technique. Even Thysen, who had been at a post-cult rehabilitation center in Ohio, told Jason about his experiences with deprogramming. Three hours after he was abducted from his mother's home, Jason found himself restrained in the shower of a luxurious beach house as Ocean Shores, according to police reports. An intensive attempt at deprogramming followed. Jason's mother and his brother Thysen joined Ross and the other men in monitoring Jason's every move. Ross challenged the church's and Jason's theology, showing the teen-ager videos about cults, one featuring an admittedly crooked evangelist counting money after a revival. His family showered him with attention. He got full meals and played ping-pong with Thysen. It took three days before Jason broke into tears, sobbing to his mother. But in loyalty to his church, his pastor, and what he described as his own beliefs, Jason claimed he feigned emotional collapse, Tonkin thought she had gotten through to her "little boy," but last summer he called her - from his pastor's house - and said it was a fake, he was "praying through" the whole time. "I put on a big show so I could get out of there," Jason told police. "They thought they cracked me when I burst out in tears. I told my mother I was sorry and that I loved her." She bought it. "I wanted to show I loved him," says Tonkin, explaining why she rented the $1,200-per-week beach house at Ocean Shores where Jason was confined. "I didn't want a dumpy hotel room. I got Jason's favorite foods, presents. He had the master suite. [With Jacuzzi and television, which the church forbids members to watch.] It was beautiful. I thought we could walk on the beach." Shortly after Jason's apparent breakdown, the whole group went out for a celebratory dinner. Once in the restaurant, Jason excused himself to go to the bathroom, left the restaurant an called police. Tonkin was crushed. Jason was the last link to the church. Kern and several carloads of church members went out to Ocean Shores to bring Jason back into the fold. Tonkin believes that Jason's deprogramming failed, in part, because, unlike his brothers, he now has blood ties to the church. In the spring of 1992, Jason married a devoted church woman who will soon bear his child. If Jason leaves the church, Tonkin claims, he will lose Kathleen, unless she leaves as well. "You have to marry within the church," Tonkin says, claiming that another woman at Life Tabernacle left her husband because he wanted her out of the church. "Jason's always in my prayers," she says. "I love him so much." "I'm real happy," Jason said early last October. But, he added, "I've got a lot of anger and fear. Sometimes I'm afraid to go home." Jason says he has gone to counselors and doctors to contend with all he has been through. The last few years of his life have been a "big soap opera," Jason says. The opera is not over yet. He got a job at a Redmond lumberyard, but on Oct. 19, 1993, he lost it. Jason, who will turn 22 in April, is now working as a window washer. During 11 years of deprogrammings, Ross says charges in the Jason Scott case were the first filed against him. He remains convinced the suit was the direct result of Scientology's influence on Grays Harbor prosecutors, whom he intends to sue for malicious prosecution. "They [the Scientologists] are against me," Ross says, "because deprogramming works." Witnesses to his work - he has deprogrammed hundreds of people - say the 41-year-old deprogrammer is logical, knows the Bible well, and has the patience to spend days on end at his work. Where his foes may be fiery orators, Ross portrays himself as completely calm and even-tempered. He tries to come off as objective in the face of partisan, passionate opponents. But in fact, his beliefs are just as strong. Jason's case riles him; not because he failed to deprogram him, but because he believes that Scientologists are using Jason to get him and his profession. As coordinator of a Jewish prisoner program and advisor to the Arizona Department of Corrections in the early '80s, Ross monitored the different religions in the prison system. He used his expertise to become a private consultant. After seven years as a deprogrammer, or, as he now prefers, "exit-counselor," Ross fell into the national spotlight. His deprogrammings of Branch Davidian members before the Waco tragedy brought him to the attention of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms when they sought to understand David Koresh. He told agents that a former Davidian described a cache of arms lying ready in the Waco compound. CBS News brought him on as a consultant, and his notoriety grew. As Waco waned, Ross had been interviewed or quoted by dozens of major television networks, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. By the time Ross and Jason's younger brothers reached Geraldo, Mr. Rivera billed him as "perhaps the most renowned expert on cults and cult deprogramming." He became a bigger target for groups like Scientology. Just as Ross is widely considered a leading deprogrammer, the Church of Scientology is considered by some to be one of the country's leading cults. Its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, advocated the rigorous pursuit of all enemies, and Scientology continues his persistent campaigns. A controversial society, most visible as the vendor of "Dianetics," the self-help tract pitched on late-night TV, Scientology has thousands of members and $400 million in assets, according to the IRS. (They claim 500 "extremely active" members in Washington state.) Ross says he never deprogrammed a Scientologist or had any dealings with them. But Ross' affiliation with the Cult Awareness Network, the leading anti-cult group and a longtime rival of Scientology, puts him high on the list of Scientology's list of enemies. From first word of Ross' arrest, attorneys from a Los Angeles law firm retained by the Scientologists contacted Jason and took control of his case, encouraging him to speak out against deprogrammers while they lobbied local prosecutors to file charges against Ross. They published a "Testimony of Jason Scott," a press release expanding upon his statements to police. And Scientologists spirited Jason - a teen-ager who lived at home until his family's church conflict - on a national tour of confrontations with deprogrammers and their supporters, especially anyone associated with the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). Jason was impressed and immersed. IN February 1991, when Grays Harbor deputy prosecuting attorney Joseph Wheeler signed the kidnapping charges against Ross and his cohorts, Scientology officials took note. Bowles & Moxon, a Los Angeles law firm retained by the Scientologists, contracted Jason to volunteer their services. They began petitioning Wheeler to press charges against Ross. Wheeler seemed to have a strong case from the beginning. Ocean Shores detectives provided him with Jason's detailed account of the abduction, as well as handcuffs, duct tape, heavy straps, deprogramming materials, Ross' phone book, and other evidence of a crime in the beach house. But Ross and Tonkin think Wheeler, faced with a mother protecting her son from what some might see as a cultlike church, initially declined to press a case unlikely to sway a jury. They claim he eventually succumbed to intense pressure from Scientology attorneys. "I just wanted to be cautious and prudent and make the best decision," says Wheeler, who discounts the extent of Scientology's involvement in developing his case. It took Wheeler two and a half years, but he eventually restated charges against Ross and the others, five months before the statute of limitations expired. Wheeler said that not until August 1993, after arraigning Ross, did he hear anything from Scientology. In fact, according to letters obtained by Ross' attorney, he was contacted regularly by one of their attorneys before January 1993, at least eight months earlier. A January 11, 1993 letter to "Mr. Wheeler" from Scientology attorney Marcello Di Mauro is somewhat formal, but a letter of June 2, 1993, Di Mauro writes: "Dear Joe, I have some very good new for you…," going on to describe the conviction of a deprogrammer in Virginia and attendant media coverage. "This looks like an excellent opportunity to push forward with the Rick Ross prosecution," he wrote. "Cases languish," Di Mauro says about the correspondence. "Most DA's offices are overloaded. It's my experience, after 20 years, that the squeaky wheel gets the grease." What appears at first face an "insignificant crime," Di Mauro says, has constitutional ramifications for freedom of religion. "You can't just kidnap adult people because you disagree with their beliefs." The Scientologists have often gone to court to protect what they see as attacks on their ability to practice their faith. In 1987-88, for example, Scientology pumped $30 million into legal fees, according to IRS records released last year and reported in The New York Times after the IRS granted the church federal tax-free status. An official from CAN says Scientology has taken CAN to court 56 times in less than three years, mostly to allow Scientologists access to CAN conferences. While much of the dispute between Ross and Scientology was playing itself out in the legal forum, some of it was spilling over into direct confrontations at CAN meeting around the country. Just as Jason was enlisted to aid the Scientologists against Ross, Thysen Scott was brought into the CAN fold. Both boys traveled away from home to testify for their warring fractions. In the end, the conflict became terribly personal, as the two young brothers clashed at a CAN meeting in Oregon, where Jason reportedly managed to keep Thysen from speaking. And to complicate matters further, a man who says he is a disgruntled Scientologist emerged to help Ross fight his foes. Like a double agent, Gary Scarff first accompanied Jason on a mission to disrupt CAN meetings, then defected to the anti-Scientology camp. Later, in a declaration filed with the court in the Montesano kidnapping proceedings, he gave his account of his own and Jason's role in the Scientologists' war with Ross and CAN. In November 1991, Ross attended a CAN conference in Oklahoma City. Scientologists also came to town, with Jason and Scarff. Ross says he received a death threat over the phone. In his declaration, Scarff takes credit for that call. "While Jason Scott was physically present in our hotel room, I under the direction of my superior…telephoned Rick Ross in his room and threatened to kill him," Scarff says in the signed declaration. Scarff alleges in his declaration that he "acted as an agent for the Church of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs in covert operations directed against the Cult Awareness Network for a number of years while a longtime member of the Church of Scientology." A Scientology official in Los Angeles says Scarff is a fabricator who attempted to infiltrate Scientology, presenting himself as a former deprogrammer willing to speak out against CAN. "Scientology wouldn't have Gary Scarff acting as a representative of Scientology in any circumstances," says Glenn Barton, director of religious affairs for the Church of Scientology International. Barton also says that Scarff was never a practicing Scientologist, though he worked with the organization. As for the alleged death threat: "Total lies," says Barton. In the declaration, Scarff also claims that Scientologists brought Jason to the Oklahoma conference to "confront and ridicule" Rick Ross. "I observed Jason Scott giving different individuals varied interpretations of what occurred in his deprogramming by Rick Ross," Scarff says in the declaration. Scarff also claims in that document that a Scientology official "prodded Jason to embellish his story so he would be seen as a 'victim' of a malicious crime." In the declaration, Scarff went on to say, "Jason claimed initially, that no physical violence occurred. However, after coaching…Jason reported the physical violence, torture, and mental abuse he endured at the hands of Rick Ross." Scarff says in the declaration that he joined Jason and Harold Kern in cooperating with a Scientology scheme to disrupt a public cult education forum in McMinnville, Oregon, where Thysen was set to speak in favor of Ross. Both Scarff and Jason verbally disrupted the event, according to the declaration, prompting a man to threaten to eject Jason causing Thysen's appearance to be canceled. (Though aligned against Ross, Scientologists and Kern are entirely incompatible in their beliefs. The Oneness doctrine of Life Tabernacle makes no provision for extraterrestrial entities like Xenu and the Thetans, both key factors in Church of Scientology scripture.) After the McMinnville meeting, Scarff says he accompanied Jason back home. "During our five-hour road trip to Seattle," Scarff says in the declaration, "Jason and I discussed many personal issues affecting him, including the persistent and unwanted pressure he was receiving from Scientology officials wanting him to demand Grays Harbor County prosecutors to reinstate criminal charges against Rick Ross. Jason expressed very clearly, at that the time, he wished to put his deprogramming behind him, and seek some mental, financial, and familial stability in his life… Jason, however, expressed fears of losing his friendships with Scientology officials if he did not follow through on their directives." "Jason Scott advised me in Oklahoma City," Scarff says in the declaration, "that Scientology officials sought to have Jason embellish his story to include charges that Rick Ross had sexually abused him during the deprogramming. Jason was adamant in refusing to do this, citing his personal displeasure of events surrounding the sexual abuse of Thysen [sic] Scott…" Barton counters these accusations, saying that the Scientologists were simply aiding Jason in the mutual effort to protect freedom of religion and "helping Jason to handle emotional baggage from his kidnap and torture." He also says, "Jason was very anxious about it. He was very upset. His rights as an adult were abrogated." Rick Ross went on trial in Montesano for felony unlawful imprisonment early this year. On January 18, after a week-long trial, the jury took two hours to acquit him, while his accomplices in the kidnapping pled guilty to lesser charges. Ross leapt from his chair and thanked each juror. With uncharacteristic emotion, he turned to the courtroom gallery and addressed observers including Jason, his pastor, and others openly hostile toward him. A reporter from the Aberdeen Daily World caught his words: "If you can't beat me with a rigged courtroom, a corrupt prosecution, and a judge who granted every one of your motions, you can never beat me!" Ross exclaimed. But, Ross still has some sympathy for Jason. "I think Jason sold his soul to the Church of Scientology," says Ross. He says he pities Jason, who, as a gullible young man, will drop hard when Scientology is through with him. "Jason should get a life, get a job, and stop living off this case," says Ross. "The ride is over." Hardly. Four days before Ross' acquittal, a civil suit was filed in Seattle's US District Court on behalf of Jason Scott. Jason's lawyers are the same ones who helped him press his kidnapping case. They are also retained in other litigation by the Church of Scientology. Named in a suit as violators of Jason's civil rights are Ross, the three kidnappers, and CAN. Jason's attorneys undoubtedly will cite several civil cases in which targets of deprogramming recovered damages against their abductors, guaranteeing that the holy war Ross set off when he first agreed to kidnap Jason is likely to continue for a long, long time. Back to CAN Mirror Page Index

Spreading the word on cults - Barrington-based network readily shares its knowledge of 'controversial' groups

Chicago Tribune

Sunday, January 29, 1995

By Annie Gowen

On that blustery day last October, calls began streaming into the
Cult Awareness Network's threadbare office, hidden away in a
nondescript building in Barrington.

Just hours before, 48 members of a mysterious religious sect had
been found dead after an apparent mass murder/suicide in
Switzerland. The staff warmed up the fax machine-a machine that,
because of the sheer volume of paper it would consume during the
day, would soon be declared obsolete and replaced-and braced for
the onslaught.

By the end of the day, the Cult Awareness Network's staff had
fielded inquiries from media outlets and concerned citizens from
all over the world, including Switzerland, England, France, Canada
and the United States. It also had sent out pages of documents,
case histories and newspaper reports on the Order of the Solar
Temple, the apocalyptic organization led by Luc Jouret, which the
network had been tracking for months.

"That whole day is a blur," remembers executive director Cynthia
Kisser of Wonder Lake, who found herself frantically borrowing a
colleague's blazer for the evening's capper-an appearance to
discuss the tragedy on ABC-TV's "Nightline."

These days, when cult-related news breaks-whether the Solar Temple
massacre or the siege of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco,
Texas-the Cult Awareness Network can be counted on to be in the
thick of it. The grass-roots organization, arguably the most
prominent anti-cult group in the country, fields some 20,000
inquiries a year and maintains some 1,200 case files on
"controversial" groups, from the Church of Scientology to Campus
Crusade for Christ, according to Kisser.

"There's not a major breaking news story with cult dimensions we
don't get calls about," Kisser says.

The network, based in Barrington but actually a loosely organized
group of 18 affiliate chapters throughout the country, grew out of
public tumult after the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana, where
913 followers of Jim Jones died after drinking a cyanide-laced
fruit-flavored drink.

What began as a network of concerned parents has mushroomed into a
wide-reaching national organization that is often the first place
parents and other family members turn if a relative joins a cult.

"Information is power," Kisser says, sitting down for a recent
interview in the organization's quiet office. She is wearing a
jeweled pin on her sweatshirt, a gift from a woman who Kisser says
rediscovered her artistic skills after leaving a Far Eastern cult
with Cult Awareness' help.

"The more you gather information, you feel on stronger ground
asking (the cult member) to reconsider, or to search out
information on their own," she explains.

"Most people don't understand the cult phenomenon until it happens
in their family," says William Rehling, a former Cook County
assistant state's attorney and the president of the Cult Awareness
Network board.

When it happens, most want to become experts - fast.

"It was a relief to find CAN," says Sarah DeOpsomer of Barrington,
who is now a Cult Awareness staff member. She initially contacted
the group while trying to help her sister-in-law part ways with the
controversial religious group Way International.

"Here is an organization that knew what I was talking about,
without me having to explain it over and over," she says.

CAN was originally made up of a number of parents' groups formed
during the 1970s to respond to the flood of new religions-Eastern
and otherwise, some legitimate, others not. Now, however,
professionals of every stripe dominate its nationwide membership;
they range from law enforcement officials to lawyers to therapists.

CAN is now the only secular clearinghouse of cult-related
information in the country. In addition to its always ringing
hotline, the group provides families or law-enforcement personnel
with newspaper clippings, reference materials and even tax returns
on many groups, including some that have employed mind-control
techniques or been involved in illegal activity.

Throughout its 16-year history, the group has been so passionately
outspoken of the danger of destructive cults-"rabidly emotional" is
the way one CAN ally describes the group-that the network has found
itself the frequent target of critics. They charge that the Cult
Awareness Network is made up of anti-religious agitators who back
disreputable "deprogrammers," kind of counselors-for-hire who make
their living "deprogramming" religious sect members, often at the
request of the family. ("Exit counselor" is the more polite term.)

"Yeah, they're biased, but they're biased toward groups they feel
are harmful or destructive," says Ronald Enroth, a sociology
professor at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the
author of several books on cults and abusive religions. "There's no
other organization like them. Basically, I think the most positive
thing they do is provide information on religious groups that are
controversial, so parents can call up and ask, 'It's strange, it's
new, my kid's involved, what can you tell me about it?'"

Some see things differently.

"CAN and other groups and individuals in the anti-cult movement are
a destructive cult themselves," says Rev. Dean Kelley, the
counselor on religious liberty for the National Council of
Churches, a national organization of Protestant, Orthodox and
Anglican mainline churches based in New York City. "They do not
understand much about the nature of religions, and particularly new
religious movements."

It's called the Cult Wars, the often antagonistic debate between
so-called "anti-cult" groups like CAN and those advocates of "new
religions" like Kelley.

And it can get ugly. Currently, for example, Kisser has filed a
libel suit against the Church of Scientology, the Unification
Church, and the Lyndon LaRouche political organization for making
allegedly defamatory comments about her in their various
publications, including a Unification Church claim that she
"confessed" to once working as a topless dancer. Kisser denies that

As Kelley says: "If you reflect upon the long history of antagonism
between religious groups and the anti-cult movement, of which the
CAN is a relatively recent arrival, and the vicious barbs and
arrows they have been slinging at each other for 20 years, you know
what I mean by the Cult Wars."

Perhaps most spurious, at least to the Cult Awareness Network, is
the charge that the group has advocated involuntary deprogramming,
which involves kidnapping, a felony. It's an accusation officials

"The deprogrammers operate as independent entrepreneurs, but they
are part of the CAN network," explains J. Gordon Melton, a
researcher in the department of religious studies at the University
of California-Santa Barbara. "CAN serves as a conduit between the
parents and deprogrammers. Overwhelmingly, this is what they do."

Court documents in the recent case involving Galen Kelly, a New
York deprogrammer accused of kidnapping a Washington, D.C., woman
(he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge), revealed financial records
that showed CAN had kept Kelly on a $1,500 retainer for several

"He never did do deprogramming for us," Kisser says. "He did
security work."

Cult Awareness does, however, provide referrals to so-called "exit
counselors," professionals trained in legal, voluntary
deprogramming-but usually, Kisser stresses, as a last resort.

"Just finding a deprogrammer is a short-sighted approach to the
problem," she says.

Helping a family member leave a cult requires the efforts of the
entire family and, often, she says, extensive therapy.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, a multimillion-dollar
empire built by the late L. Ron Hubbard of "Dianetics" fame, has
opposed CAN at every turn, particularly after Kisser was featured
prominently in a devastating 1991 Time magazine cover story that
labeled Scientology "The Cult of Greed."

"Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most
classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative
cult the country has ever seen. No cult extracts more money from
its members," Kisser said in the article.

Litigious is right. Since then, relations between the network and
the Church of Scientology-which had never been good, especially
given that Scientology members were fond of picketing and
disrupting CAN's annual conferences-have deteriorated in a morass
of lawsuits and countersuits.

Various members of the Church of Scientology have filed more than
50 lawsuits throughout the country against the Cult Awareness
Network, nearly all of which have been dismissed. A few of these
remain unresolved. (CAN also was recently named in a $40 million
libel suit filed by Landmark Education Corp., a San Francisco
program that is an outgrowth of the self-improvement program known
as est.)

"Basically, (CAN is) attacking any religion that is small enough
and new enough not to fight back," says Glenn Barton, a spokesman
for the Church of Scientology. "We have fought back."

Because of the lawsuits, Kisser now takes pains to avoid labeling
groups "cults."

"It's really not our position to say whether a group is or is not
a cult," she says. "That raises the question of arbitrariness."

Those who have been helped by CAN are vociferous in their praise of
the organization.

"They are wonderful, kind and generous people," says a Chicago
doctor who extricated his 22-year-old daughter from the Rev. Sun
Myung Moon's Unification Church in September 1993. "Anyone who
would use smear tactics against them is wrong."

The doctor, who asked that his name not be used, turned to the Cult
Awareness Network as "the starting point," after his daughter was
recruited into the collegiate arm of the Unification Church while
at school at New York University.

The low point, he says, was when his daughter, who had been tapped
to be a Unification Church recruiter herself, telephoned one night
to announce her course schedule for the next year.

"It was for four public speaking classes and one class in Korean,"
he says. "It seems funny now, but at the time it was tragic."

The doctor turned to a professional exit counselor, the author of
one of the books to which CAN had referred him.

The counselor, he says, "really helped. I see that person as a
great savior in our family." His daughter is now back at NYU, out
of the organization and doing well, he says.

Cult Awareness' small paid staff-five people, including Kisser,
hears such stories daily. Sometimes, they say, they just try to
serve as a sounding board for family members who need to talk about
their situation.

The most poignant calls, DeOpsomer says, are from parents who have
completely lost track of their son or daughter.

"The most tragic phone calls are when they don't know where
somebody is," DeOpsomer says. "I've had families say, 'The last I
heard ...,' or, 'I had a P.O. box ...' That's the hardest."

"I feel it is a kind of special ministry," says Mt. Prospect
resident Marty Butz, a religious scholar and former cult member,
who now helps staff the CAN hotline.

The Barrington office is brimming with piles of newspaper clippings
and a variety of books on cults ("Combatting Cult Mind Control," is
one title).

For security reasons, the group does not publicize its exact
address. Calls to the Barrington organization are sent through a
relay station from the 312 area code. (CAN was originally located
in Chicago and has kept the 312 number to maintain a Chicago

Although Kisser says she has never felt afraid for her life, she
does feel that "they've tried to come after me in terms of trying
to harm my reputation."

The lawsuits have taken a financial toll on the not-for-profit
organization. CAN has an operating budget of $300,000 annually,
which it raises mostly through donations, sales of resource books
and tapes, and processing fees for informational packets. Although
CAN officials decline to say how much they've spent on legal fees,
the amount runs into the tens of thousands of dollars, Kisser say.

"It's been a huge problem for us," Kisser says. "Easily you could
say it's put our programs, in terms of expansion and outreach, back
by at least 5 to 10 years."

"If we were to close, or to get closed down by the litigation," she
continues, "it would be a real loss to the public.

"We're the only national organization that does this. Where else
would they go?"

The Cult Awareness Network can be reached at 312-267-7777.
Back to
CAN Mirror Page Index

Cult Fighters' Future in Doubt

Los Angeles Times

01 July 1996

Plagued by numerous lawsuits from religious groups and fighting a
$1.1-million judgment against it, the Cult Awareness Network has filed
for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

"How we will operate or if we will continue to operate in the short
term, I don't know," said Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the
12-year-old organization, known for its aggressive campaigns against
groups it considers to be harmful cults.

Critics have questioned the network's tactics, particularly its
relationship to professional "deprogrammers" who use forceful methods
to persuade individuals to leave cults or religious groups.

The network does no deprogramming itself, but offers information to
people seeking to retrieve friends or family members, links them to
deprogrammers and operates support groups for former cult members.

The Cult Awareness Network has frequently locked horns with such
groups as the Unification Church and the Church of Scientology.
Scientologists have sued the network about 50 times since 1991.

Kisser said the Cult Awareness Network's financial difficulties are
the result of a September 1995 verdict in which the organization was
ordered to pay $1.1 million to a man who claimed that the network
helped his mother wrest him from his church.

A jury awarded Jason Scott of Bellevue, Wash., more than $4 million in
damages after finding that there was a conspiracy to deprive him of
his civil rights when his mother sought to have him deprogrammed of
his religious beliefs. Scott was a member of a conservative
Pentecostal church that his mother believed was manipulative and

Defendants in the case included the Cult Awareness Network,
deprogrammer Rick Ross of Tucson and his two assistants.

"The Scott case virtually brought deprogramming to a halt in this
country," said religion scholar J. Gordon Melton, head of the
Institute for the Study of American Religion at UC Santa Barbara.
"What this judgment does . . . is cut the communication lines that
allow deprogramming to go forward."


The Cult Awareness Network's appeal in that case is pending in the
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but organization officials say a
ruling on the appeal will probably not come in time to keep the group
from shutting down.

The group had originally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, asking for
time to reorganize its finances without the threat of lawsuits from

But Kendrick Moxon, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented Scott in the
Washington state case, filed a motion in Bankruptcy Court seeking the
dismissal of the group's Chapter 11 reorganization plan, and that
motion was granted last week.

"They had a Chapter 11 plan that they were trying to push through that
was going to basically result in Mr. Scott getting less than 1% of his
judgment," said attorney Laurie Bartilson, who worked with Moxon in
the Scott case.

Bartilson said she expects the group to be forced to close.

Moxon, who has represented the Church of Scientology in numerous
cases, said in a statement released by the church that he considers
the Cult Awareness Network "a hate group that promoted religious

The Cult Awareness Network's Kisser said the group is trying to
protect its assets by filing for bankruptcy.

"We are privy to confidential information about thousands of people,"
she said. "In order to make sure that we were properly representing
the constitutional rights of our members, our donors and the families
that have called us . . . we felt that we needed to go under the
protection of Chapter 7."

Back to CAN Mirror Page Index

Anti-Cult Group: Foe Ruined Us

Suit says Scientologists misused legal process.

The National Law Journal

July 29, 1996

By Andrew Blum

National Law Journal Staff Reporter

ALTHOUGH THEIR DAYS of fighting in courthouses and the media appear to be winding down, the Cult Awareness Network, or CAN, and the Church of Scientology remain locked in a battle over allegations that CAN fell victim to a Scientology-sponsored litigation campaign designed to destroy the Scientologists' foe. CAN was ordered to liquidate under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code June 20 when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Barliant, of the Northern District of Illinois, converted CAN's Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 after the network could not devise a satisfactory reorganization plan. The group filed for Chapter 11 last October after losing a $1.1 million verdict in a case in which it was charged with a role in the kidnapping of a Seattle member of a Pentecostal church. The plaintiff was represented by Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon. In re: Cult Awareness Network, debtor, 95B 22133. [NLJ, July 8.] Although largely a shell with assets to be sold to satisfy creditors, CAN continues to litigate against the church. In Illinois state court, CAN alleged that Scientologists filed at least 24 "baseless lawsuits" to drive CAN out of business. It lost in the lower courts and is asking for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. Motions in the latest phase of the case were filed in May and June. Cult Awareness Network v. Church of Scientology International, 80868. Driven Into Bankruptcy? CAN is represented pro bono by Chicago's Mayer, Brown & Platt. The firm's James C. Schroeder declined to comment. But in court documents, CAN claimed that the church, its Illinois affiliate and Bowles & Moxon, the church's Los Angeles law firm, "conspired to file and prosecute" CAN and its affiliates and "instigated, assisted, and financed individual Scientologists who participated in the respondents' scheme" to drive CAN into bankruptcy. And, court papers added, the purpose of the Scientologists' suits was "not to recover on any legitimate legal claims, but rather to harass and intimidate CAN, to suppress CAN's legitimate public education activities, and to bring about CAN's ultimate demise." In seeking to have the appeal heard, CAN said the Illinois Supreme Court should grant leave "to restore the vitality of a long-established tort that vindicates the integrity of the judicial system against those who would harness the courts in the service of improper purposes." Church attorney Eric M. Lieberman, of New York's Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman P.C., said it would be inappropriate to grant leave to appeal because there is no basis for revisiting the issue. He said CAN's claims of conspiracy are meritless and noted that in some of the cases it complained of, CAN had sought sanctions but had lost. Mr. Lieberman said that the Scientologist suits were coordinated but that this was done to address a similar group of violations of law by CAN--discriminating against Scientologists by not allowing them to be CAN members. He denied that there was a plan to destroy CAN through litigation. Back to
CAN Mirror Page Index

Anti-Cult Group Dismembered As Former Foes Buy Its Assets

Network Forced Into Bankruptcy After Long Legal Battle

The Washington Post

01 December 1996; Page A01

By Laurie Goodstein

Washington Post Staff Writer

BARRINGTON, Ill. -- For 20 years, the Cult Awareness Network ran the nation's best-known hot line for parents who grew distraught when an unconventional religious group they neither trusted nor understood suddenly won the allegiance of their children. From its offices here in a Chicago suburb, the network (known as CAN) answered more than 350 telephone inquiries a week, counseled relatives at conferences attended by thousands, and gave news interviews to everyone from small-town daily newspapers to "Nightline." As CAN's influence rose, so did the ire of its foes, who were furious at being depicted as dangerous cults. In particular, Church of Scientology members fought CAN with a barrage of lawsuits. One high-stakes suit, handled by a lawyer who has frequently represented the church, succeeded, and a jury ordered CAN to pay as much as $1.8 million. The group filed for bankruptcy. Now CAN's assets are up for sale, and last week its name, logo, Post Office box and telephone number were finally sold to the highest bidder: a Los Angeles lawyer named Steven L. Hayes, who is a Scientologist. Hayes says he is working with a group of people "united in their distaste for CAN" who plan to reopen the group so it "disseminates the truth about all religions." "It kind of boggles the mind," said David Bardin, an attorney who has represented CAN in Washington. "People will still pick up the CAN name in a library book and call saying, `My daughter has joined the Church of Scientology.' And your friendly CAN receptionist is someone who works for Scientology." It is a turn of events applauded by the Church of Scientology, whose literature calls CAN "a hate group in the tradition of the KKK and the neo-Nazis." The Rev. Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, said in an interview: "I just don't think a hate organization has a right to operate in America with impunity, and obviously the courts feel the same way." Hostile takeovers are nothing new in the corporate world, but this is an exceptional tale of the hostile takeover of a nonprofit organization. The anti-cult advocacy group is gradually being dismembered and absorbed by its adversaries, who attorneys say have deftly outmaneuvered CAN in the courts. CAN's fate also highlights the crippled state of what was once a prominent nationwide movement that for years kept America's unorthodox religious groups on the defensive. For years CAN's charges of cult mind-control and brainwashing helped shape the public's impressions of groups like Scientology, the Unification Church, the Hare Krishnas, Boston Church of Christ, Transcendental Meditation and others. But with each passing decade, these religious groups have become increasingly mainstream and even institutionalized -- opening new houses of worship, buying universities and other properties, attending interfaith events. Now it is the anti-cult camp that no longer has an institution of its own. Next up for auction could be 270 boxes of CAN files that former staffers say are stuffed with confidential information about current and former cult members, efforts to extricate them and private testimonies of anguish and abuse. Kendrick L. Moxon, the lawyer who has frequently represented Scientologists, is actively pursuing a purchase of these files, says the trustee handling the bankruptcy. "The fear [is] that this list of information could be bought by the highest bidder," said Bob Grosswald, a Long Island dental supply salesman who contacted CAN when his son joined the Church of Scientology. "And could only be used to harass people, to make people feel uncomfortable, and to further damage the relationships people have to family members still inside these cults. How a court could even consider selling such a thing is beyond me." The modern anti-cult movement was born in the 1960s when American youth were experimenting with Eastern religions and alternative spirituality. The Citizens Freedom Foundation, CAN's predecessor, became a nonprofit group in 1978, the year that 913 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones died in a mass suicide at the People's Temple compound in Guyana. In 1986 the group changed its name to CAN. The next year, Cynthia Kisser, who had turned to CAN when her younger sister joined an obscure Bible-based group, was named executive director. From its suite on the ground floor of a Tudor-style building it shared with a few accountants, CAN took telephone inquiries from around the world about hundreds of controversial groups. Every request for help, whether from a relative or reporter, a congressman or police officer, was logged and filed. Aside from Satanic groups, more callers asked about Scientology than about any other group, according to a 1992 telephone log that CAN supplied to Congressional Quarterly. But CAN did not just supply information. It also gave some parents references to self-styled "deprogrammers," whom CAN maintained were skilled at extricating devotees from cults by systematically challenging cult teachings and undermining beliefs. But there were repeated cases of deprogrammers convicted for using force or other criminal means to wrest their targets away from the cults. The CAN board articulated a policy advocating only "legal methods" of deprogramming, but the stigma of associating with criminals left CAN vulnerable to its detractors. The Scientology magazine Freedom last year devoted a special issue to CAN, headlined: "The serpent of hatred, intolerance, violence and death." An inside story called CAN's executive director Kisser "the mother of the serpent" and purported to expose her past as a topless dancer, which she has denied. The magazine highlighted alleged deprogramming excesses and quoted scholars defending new religions such as Scientology. "The time has come to do something about the Cult Awareness Network and its anti-religious crusade," Freedom concluded. "This organization has plagued the American people for too long." Beginning in 1991, CAN and its local affiliates and staff were hit with a series of lawsuits filed by several dozen members of the Church of Scientology and others. In one week in 1992, Scientologists filed 12 suits against CAN, Kisser said. "I'd open the door, a process server would hand me a suit, I'd say thank you, close the door, fax it to the attorney," said Kisser, a thin, intense woman who speaks at a machine-gun clip. "Then another knock would come on the door. It was ridiculous." Most of the suits were civil rights claims, according to attorneys on both sides. People who identified themselves in the lawsuits as Scientologists alleged that the group denied them membership or participation in CAN conferences. Others sued because CAN would not allow them to volunteer in its national office here. Some self-identified Scientologists sued after they attempted to form local CAN chapters and use the CAN letterhead, and the national CAN office refused to recognize them. Kisser said many of these were "cookie-cutter lawsuits," in which only the plaintiff's name was changed. Moxon, whose law firm filed many of the suits against CAN, said: "What would you do if you had a religious belief and somebody was intentionally trying to destroy your church and destroy your belief and destroy your family? I'm a lawyer. People hired me to go to court and vindicate their rights. What could they be expected to do when there's somebody out there who's bent on destroying them?" Many of these lawsuits were dismissed, but CAN was cannibalizing its $300,000 annual budget to defend itself, and the five-member staff, only one of whom worked full time, grew increasingly absorbed by the litigation, Kisser said. What's more, she said, CAN's insurance carrier refused to renew its policy because of all the lawsuits, and no other insurer would agree to cover the group. CAN struck back in 1994 with a counter-suit against the Church of Scientology, 11 individual Scientologists and the Los Angeles law firm of Bowles and Moxon. The group's "malicious harassment" suit alleged that the Church of Scientology orchestrated the filing of 45 unfounded and frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to drive CAN into bankruptcy. CAN's suit was dismissed by the Cook County Circuit Court, but an appeal is pending in the Illinois Supreme Court. The lawsuit that succeeded in driving CAN into bankruptcy involved an 18-year-old from Bellevue, Wash., named Jason Scott. In 1991, Scott's mother hired a "cult deprogrammer" and two assistants in an attempt to get him to renounce his membership in the Life Tabernacle Church, a Pentecostal group. Scott alleged in the suit that he was kidnapped for five days at a beach house, handcuffed, gagged with tape and forced to watch videotapes about religious cults. Scott feigned conversion, and when his deprogrammers took him to a restaurant, he ran off and went to police. In late 1993, the county prosecutor brought charges against the deprogrammer, who was acquitted. But the case lived on in civil court. The lawyer who took the case on Scott's behalf was Moxon, a Scientologist and a frequent attorney for the church in high-profile cases, who has been sued by CAN for allegedly filing malicious lawsuits. This time, Scott sued not only the deprogrammer and his two assistants, but also CAN. Scott maintained the woman who referred his mother to the deprogrammer did so as a local CAN volunteer. The Scott case essentially put the anti-cult movement on trial. Testifying for the prosecution, Anson Shupe, a sociologist at Indiana-Purdue University, told the jury that CAN's persecution of Scientology was born of the same irrational bigotry that Americans earlier directed toward Baptists, Methodists, Irish Catholics, Jews and Mormons. "Are you saying the anti-cult movement is a cult?" Moxon asked. "It has aspects of it, yes," Shupe replied. A jury found all the defendants liable and awarded Scott more than $4 million in damages. CAN was ordered to pay as much as $1.8 million; the group has appealed. Paul Lawrence, an attorney for CAN, acknowledges that Scott suffered an "unfortunate" deprogramming attempt. But CAN "did not deserve to be swept up" in the case because the volunteer who referred Scott's mother to the deprogrammer did so without CAN's knowledge, he said. "It is extremely unusual for a nonprofit organization to be hit with punitive damages based on the actions of a volunteer member," said Lawrence, who is president of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington state. "This is a dangerous precedent for a wide range of nonprofit associations. . . . Most nonprofits have tens or thousands of members out there acting in a way that the nonprofits can't hope to monitor." Several nonprofit groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case. In the meantime, CAN filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 1995, hoping to develop a reorganization plan that would allow it to keep operating while pursuing the appeal. CAN's main creditor is Jason Scott. Moxon, Scott's lawyer, contested CAN's plan in bankruptcy court, and the judge refused to approve it. In an attempt to protect its assets, CAN filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last June, which meant that it transferred control of its assets to an independent trustee. The trustee is Philip R. Martino, a plain-speaking Chicago attorney. "CAN doesn't exist," Martino said in an interview. "Whatever power CAN had is now mine." The CAN staffers were last in their office here on June 22, when Martino phoned to say he was coming over. He brought a locksmith who changed the locks. He told the staff to take only their personal belongings and leave. Kisser took photographs of her son and her collection of turtle statues given to her over the years by supporters as a reminder to "go slow and stick your neck out." She was not allowed to remove her nine appointment diaries; Martino considered them CAN assets. Martino sold CAN's name and logo, telephone number and P.O. box -- the essence of its identity -- along with CAN's office furniture and computers (stripped of their hard drives) for $20,000. CAN tried to contest the sale, but dropped the attempt this week after the judge required the group to post a $30,000 bond first. Martino says he put CAN's name-brand assets on the auction block only because Kisser herself asked to buy them. Her highest bid was $19,000. "I have an asset to sell. It's a name," Martino said. "I sell it to the highest bidder. What the bidder does with it is not my concern. It can't be my concern. Congress didn't make it my concern. And if I made it my concern, I would be rewriting the bankruptcy law." The attorney who bought CAN's identity, Steven Hayes, said in an interview that he represents a group of several people he cannot name without "permission." He said they put up money of their own and money "from this country and other places." Hayes said he is a Scientologist, not an employee of the Church of Scientology. Hayes also had sued CAN in the early 1990s on behalf of several Scientologists who wanted to attend CAN's national conference, according to CAN attorneys. Hays said his group intends to revamp CAN so that "religions that have been attacked in the past would have an opportunity to at least show what they believe the truth to be." The anti-cult movement has now turned to the Internet to share information. A small meeting of anti-cult activists gathered at a Newark hotel earlier this month to discuss how best to carry on the cause, but the meeting was marred when a coterie of Scientologists showed up uninvited, several participants say. Cynthia Kisser is suing the Church of Scientology for libel. She says she was never a topless dancer. Scientologist Jentzsch, for his part, says that Kisser is "in the business of spreading the bubonic plague, and she feels bad that someone stopped her." Little remains of CAN now but 600 feet worth of files. CAN's trustee, Martino, says that Moxon has already mentioned his interest in bidding for those. Martino said he won't sell the files until names and personal information are removed, a process that he estimates will cost about $50,000, to be paid by the buyer. People who were heavily involved with CAN could ask to have their names removed, Martino said. "Scientology will pay anything to get their hands on those files," said Robert Vaughan Young, a former Scientologist who served as a church spokesman for 20 years before he quit and became a church critic. "We always figured that CAN was the nexus for all the rest of the problems [Scientology had]," he said. "So the idea of getting the files is similar to the KGB being able to buy the files of the CIA." @CAPTION: Former Cult Awareness Network executive director Cynthia Kisser is suing the Church of Scientology for libel. Back to CAN Mirror Page Index

Patrons of anti-cult group fear sale of files

Sun Times

06 December 1996

By John Carpenter

Suburban Reporter

Thousands of people who called the Cult Awareness Network over the past several years now face the possibility that files of their dealings with the group could be sold. One, an elderly Chicago resident, said she is afraid disclosure of her dealings with the network could jeopardize her relationship with her grandchildren, whose father, her son-in-law, still is involved in a "cult." The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said her 16-year-old daughter left to join a religious group 12 years ago. The woman called the Cult Awareness Network, once based in northwest suburban Barrington, which she said offered moral support as well as advice about how to deal with the situation, though nothing succeeded in persuading the daughter to leave. Six years later the daughter left the religious group on her own. But her husband and their other children are still members. Now the woman is afraid files about her involvement with Cult Awareness Network could be sold to the highest bidder, perhaps the very group to which her daughter once belonged. It's all part of complicated bankruptcy proceedings for the organization, which some say was a savior against cults but others call a "hate group" against religious freedom. The woman's concern is at the heart of the question of how--if at all--more than 200 boxes of files should be distributed. The debate will be played out in federal bankruptcy court. "People are afraid of harassment," said Cynthia Kisser, the network's founder. "People who have committed crimes don't want them to be revealed," countered Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the man who won the lawsuit that threw the network into bankruptcy. The Cult Awareness Network purportedly offered help to people who believed loved ones or friends were involved with cults. But it also drew fire from religious groups, most notably members of the Church of Scientology, who felt their organizations were unfairly tarred with the epithet "cult." Although several lawsuits were filed by Scientologists, the network was finally brought down by a suit in which Jason Scott, a Washington man involved in a Christian group, said he was kidnapped by "deprogrammers." The $1.8 million award forced the organization into bankruptcy. Now, in the course of liquidating the assets to pay off creditors, the Cult Awareness Network name has been sold to a Los Angeles attorney who is a Scientologist. The attorney, Steven L. Hayes, has said the network will operate under the same name but will distribute "the truth about all religions." As for the files, Moxon said he had been contacted by other groups that had been targeted as cults. Moxon said he has told those groups they can pursue the purchase of the files, most likely with the names in them deleted. But Ben Hyink, attorney for the Cult Awareness Network, said he does not believe that offers enough protection. Another possibility is that Scott could reach a settlement that would preclude the sale of the files. Back to CAN Mirror Page Index

What's $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies?

Stunning settlement frees cult deprogrammer Rick Ross from almost all of $3 million judgment

Phoenix New Times

19 December 1996

By Tony Ortega

In 1995, a jury awarded Jason Scott $5 million, ruling that his civil rights had been violated during an involuntary "deprogramming" by Rick Ross, a Phoenix resident and well-known cult expert. That judgment eventually forced Ross into bankruptcy court, put an anticult group out of business and made national news. Last week, however, the case made a sudden and surprising about-face. Scott and Ross reached a settlement that requires the deprogrammer to pay Scott not $3 million--his share of the judgment--but a mere $5,000. As part of the agreement, Ross will also give Scott 200 hours of professional services, free of charge. Meanwhile, Scott has reunited with his mother, who hired Ross to do the deprogramming, and has fired his attorney, Kendrick Moxon, a member of the Church of Scientology, which has a history of opposing Ross. Scott's new attorney is Graham Berry, who is well-known for his role in litigation against the Church of Scientology. The sudden settlement and lawyer-swap is just the latest twist in a hotly contested case full of clashing allegations by anticult activists and representatives of Scientology. The case springs from a 1990 incident in which three men grabbed 18-year-old Scott, handcuffed him, put duct tape over his mouth and stuffed him into a van. Looking on were Rick Ross and Kathy Tonkin, Scott's mother. Tonkin had asked Ross to perform the involuntary deprogramming of Scott after Ross had persuaded her two younger sons to leave a Bellevue, Washington, Pentecostal church. Tonkin had asked her entire family to attend the church but later left. [insert] The settlement equires Phoenix cult expert Rick Ross to pay Jason Scott a mere $5,000. [end insert] Scott was taken by Ross' "security"men to a beach house and held against his will for days as Ross tried to convince him that his church was a destructive cult. Eventually, Scott escaped, and criminal charges were brought against Ross and the three men. All four were acquitted in 1994. A year later, however, a civil-court jury in Seattle found that Ross, his three accomplices and the Cult Awareness Network had violated Scott's civil rights, and ordered them to pay Scott $5 million. The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was included as a defendant in that lawsuit because a former member of the network, which acts as a clearinghouse for cult information, had referred Tonkin to Ross. CAN's share of the civil penalty--more than $1 million--forced the Chicago-based organization into bankruptcy. The Washington Post recently reported that CAN's assets--everything but its confidential files--had been sold by the bankruptcy estate for $20,000. The purchaser was Steven Hayes, a Scientologist attorney whose partner, Timothy Bowles, once shared offices with Kendrick Moxon. But that asset sale seems to have sparked the settlement between Ross and Scott--a settlement that is unlikely to please the Church of Scientology. Kathy Tonkin has repeatedly claimed that her son pursued his lawsuit against Rick Ross and CAN only at the urging of his Scientologist attorney, Moxon. (Moxon insists Scott came to him for help.) Scott and his mother reunited several weeks ago, and she persuaded him to contact Ross to work out a settlement. As the settlement was being negotiated, the sale of CAN property became public. "When he became aware that the CAN asset sale was occurring without seeing any benefit himself, [Scott] began to wonder if Mr. Moxon's interests were different than his own. And that thought was confirmed when he read the Washington Post article", says Graham Berry, Scott's new attorney. "The Church of Scientology has had a long-standing campaign to destroy the Cult Awareness Network. It was in the interests of Mr. Moxon's major client, the Church of Scientology, to destroy CAN totally and to do what has occurred. It was not in Jason Scott's interest at all." Scott has not just fired an attorney with ties to Scientology; he has hired an attorney with a history of opposing that church. "In my very first conversation with Jason," Berry says, "within the first minute of that conversation, I advised Jason that he was talking to someone Kendrick Moxon would consider his archenemy. Jason understood that and continued to talk to me for nearly an hour. I also disclosed to Jason that I have a long history of litigation against the Church of Scientology which considers me to be one of its major enemies, and that I have acquaintances in CAN and who represent CAN. As a result, I not only insisted on a very comprehensive retainer agreement, but insisted that he receive independent legal advice before he retained me." Berry suggested that his new client may take legal action over the handling of the bankruptcy case. "I have put both the trustee in bankruptcy and Mr. Moxon on notice of a possible lawsuit by Jason Scott for what has been done." Moxon counters with claims that Jason Scott has been coerced into firing him. "Jason Scott was kidnaped by these people. He was deprogrammed. I think he's being held prisoner," Moxon says, but he admits that he has no proof that Scott is being coerced or imprisoned. He also claimed not to know where Scott was being "held."However, Moxon knew enough, apparently, to show up at the home of Kathy Tonkin in Lake Montezuma December 6 where Jason Scott is presently staying. Accompanied by a Yavapai County sheriff's deputy, Moxon served subpoenas on Tonkin and Scott and engaged in a heated discussion with them. The sheriff's office confirms that, at Tonkin's request, Moxon was then escorted by the deputy from her property. Berry says that Scott talked briefly to the Washington Post last week to make it clear he has not been kidnaped or coerced. Scott is not making futher comment to media inquiries, Berry says. "Mr. Moxon has refused to turn over any [of Scott's legal] files and has filed a motion in the federal district court in the state of Washington requesting a hearing on whether or not Jason Scott is being held captive and is acting against his will," Berry says. (On December 5, the federal court refused to consider Moxon's motion.) "I, in the meantime, have filed a complaint with the California state bar, asking the state bar to intervene on the question of turning over the files to me. And I'm also urging the state bar to turn the matter over to the U.S. attorney for further investigation." Ross expresses relief that the case has been settled, but acknowledges that his own carelessness with the settlement has produced problems. "I shared the agreement with a friend who apparently leaked it, and it ended up in the hands of the Washington Post," he says. The premature announcement of the settlement, Berry says, made Scott so angry he may ask Ross to renegotiate terms. Berry refused to say what services Ross would provide to Scott under the agreement. But, the lawyer said, it would be a mistake to assume that Scott's decision to make use of Ross' time was a vindication of Ross or his deprogramming methods. Back to CAN Mirror Page Index

Plaintiff Shifts Stance on Anti-Cult Group

Scientology-Linked Lawyer Is Dismissed in Move That May Keep Network Running

The Washington Post
Monday, December 23 1996; Page A04

By Laurie Goodstein
Washington Post Staff Writer

The young man whose lawsuit has pushed the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy has done an about-face and is no longer moving toward putting the group out of business. He has abruptly dismissed his lawyer, a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, the anti-cult group's nemesis, and hired an attorney who has battled the church in the past. The sudden shift by Jason Scott, 24, has raised the possibility that the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) will be able to emerge from bankruptcy and resume its work. The group is a once-influential clearinghouse that for two decades counseled families and others to beware of new and unconventional religions. The gradual dismemberment of CAN in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, reported earlier this month by The Washington Post, has shaken some nonprofit organizations whose work involves taking controversial stands against powerful interests that they fear can afford to sue them into silence. CAN declared bankruptcy after Scott won a $1.8 million lawsuit against the group. His previous attorney, Kendrick Moxon, often represents the Church of Scientology. By contrast, Scott's new lawyer, Graham Berry, has assisted CAN members in the past. Berry says he will seek a cash settlement that would allow CAN to keep its files and return to its original mission. The CAN name, logo and telephone number were sold in Bankruptcy Court last month to a member of the Church of Scientology, whose members are also trying to buy the extensive files that CAN kept on Scientology and other groups. CAN's telephone hot line in Chicago, dormant for six months, is operating again. The people answering have been instructed to tell callers that CAN has been "taken over" by "a new corporation," but "we would be happy to help you with information about religious groups you have an interest in," said Steven L. Hayes, the Los Angeles attorney and Scientologist who bought the rights to use CAN's phone number. CAN has filed an appeal objecting to the sale of its name and phone. The key, if unwitting, figure in this saga is Scott, of Bellevue, Wash. In 1991, at the age of 18, Scott was kidnapped and held in an isolated beach house for five days by a "deprogrammer" and two assistants in an attempt to persuade him to renounce his loyalty to the United Pentecostal Church International. "Jason Scott has no interest in being part of Scientology's campaign against the Cult Awareness Network," said Berry, Scott's new attorney. "His only concern is to be compensated for what happened to him." Scott's former attorney, Moxon, has filed emergency motions in two states alleging that Scott has been coerced by CAN supporters to switch attorneys and settle for far less money than he won in court. "He's really been abused by CAN and disgustingly abused by this guy Berry," Moxon said. The legal battle began when Scott successfully sued the deprogrammers and CAN in Seattle. CAN was sued because Scott's mother had hired the deprogrammer, Rick Ross, after a referral by a CAN volunteer. A jury awarded Scott more than $5 million in October 1995; CAN owed Scott as much as $1.8 million, while Ross owed as much as $3.4 million. The attorney who represented Scott in the lawsuit was Moxon, a longtime Scientologist prominent in the church. For many years the Church of Scientology has denounced CAN and the activities of deprogrammers. Scott later left the Pentecostal church of his own accord, though his wife and two daughters are still members, according to several acquaintances. For some time Scott worked cleaning houses and carpets while waiting to collect his judgment, but lately has been unemployed. But Moxon says that Scott "hasn't collected anything" because both CAN and Ross declared bankruptcy. Before declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy, CAN had offered to pay Scott $19,000, but Moxon said in an interview that he and other creditors rejected the sum because it was "a complete rip-off of Jason." When CAN went bankrupt it was taken over by a trustee, who is selling the group's assets piece by piece. As a nonprofit organization, CAN had few assets besides its files, its name and logo, as well as a few lawsuits it hopes to win, including one in Illinois state supreme court filed against the Church of Scientolgy and Moxon's law firm accusing them of malicious harassment. According to CAN's bankruptcy trustee, Phillip Martino, Moxon has said he represents people who want to buy not only CAN's files, but also its pending lawsuits. Moxon has spoken with leaders of several other new religious movements -- the kinds of groups that CAN considered cults -- asking for pledges of money to help purchase CAN's files, according to a knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified. "What they were really interested in was the files," this person said. Moxon confirmed that he had done so because he suspects that "there's smoking guns in the files" about improper conduct by deprogrammers and by CAN. But the Church of Scientology had no particular interest in obtaining the files, Moxon said, because he has seen them "and maybe 5 percent of them concern Scientology." CAN's files -- which fill 270 boxes -- range from newspaper clippings to confidential notes about families who sought CAN's help to find children who had joined cults, said Cynthia Kisser, CAN's former executive director. The Church of Scientology accuses CAN of being heavily involved in forcible deprogramming, but Kisser said that CAN had a policy against "involuntary deprogrammings" such as Scott's. In his extraordinary turnaround this month, Scott decided to reconcile with his mother and with the deprogrammer who kidnapped him. Scott and Rick Ross signed a settlement agreement on Dec. 2, entitling Scott to $5,000 and 200 hours of Ross's time "as an expert consultant and intervention specialist," according to the confidential settlement agreement. Ross said that "Jason felt he was being used, that this whole battle with CAN was not his battle . . . and he wanted to collect a settlement and get on with his life." Ross said he paid Scott the $5,000 that day. The next day, Scott fired his attorney, Moxon, according to court documents filed in the case. In Moxon's place, he retained on a pro bono basis Berry, a Los Angeles attorney well known for litigating against the Church of Scientology. Berry said he wants to negotiate a settlement in which CAN would provide Scott with "some immediate money and further installments over a period of time" and allow CAN to continue operating in order to "generate" funds to pay Scott. Berry says this is preferable to having CAN in bankruptcy. But Moxon disputes the notion that Berry can help save CAN from bankruptcy. "They're gone," he said. "CAN's over. They declared bankruptcy. They said 'liquidate us.' " Scott made his dramatic turnaround because in recent months he had become disenchanted with his former lawyer, Berry said, and felt that Moxon wasn't communicating adequately with him, allegations that Moxon denies. Scott was not aware of the Scientologists' interest in buying CAN's name and files until he read a Dec. 1 story in The Washington Post, Berry said. Scott, he said, was also frustrated because he had not yet seen any of his settlement money. But Moxon, in court papers, asserts that Scott is a victim of "foul play." It appears that Scott is "again the victim of a deprogramming," Moxon said in the court papers filed in Arizona, home to both Ross and Scott's mother. Moxon is asking the court to rescind the $5,000 settlement between Ross and Scott. Meanwhile, Moxon is asking a court in Seattle to appoint a "guardian" for Scott, whom Moxon asserts is incapacitated. For his part, Scott said in a brief telephone interview, "I want to let everyone know I'm fine, safe, very happy and making my own decisions now." His attorney advised him not to answer further questions. © Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company Back to CAN Mirror Page Index

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