Author Steven Hassan, who writes and speaks about groups called “cults,” has a personal history of cult involvement. Hassan was in the Unification Church (“Moonies”) founded by Sun Myung Moon for two years in the 1970s. And his origin story includes a dramatic “deprogramming” intervention arranged by his parents.

However, it seems some of that story has been obscured or may have been somewhat changed over the years.

According to James and Marcia Rudin, authors of the book “Prison or Paradise: The New Religious Cults” (1980 Fortress Press page 37), “Steve [was] bitter when he [remembered] how quickly the church deserted him after an automobile accident.” The authors recount how “Steve fully expected the ‘Family’ to assist him in his recovery, but instead the Unification Church leaders contacted Steve’s sister and parents and informed them of the accident.” Hassan stated, “The Moonies couldn’t get rid of me fast enough.” And it was “during the long period of recuperation he was deprogrammed.”

So, it appears that at the time of his deprogramming Steven Hassan was no longer a member of the Unification Church and was already apparently disillusioned with the organization.

Hassan who once studied creative writing seems to have embellished, exaggerated and/or spun his deprogramming story over the years.

Steve Hassan with his latest book

For example, Slate reported (2021) that Hassan had supposedly dark and violent thoughts during his deprogramming that reflected his fanatical commitment. They quote Hassan stating, “While it might seem hard to believe, my first impulse was to kill my father by reaching over and snapping his neck,” Hassan reportedly wrote, “As a member, I had been told many times that it was better to die or kill than to leave the church.”

But these expressions of extreme and violent commitment don’t exactly line up with the sentiments expressed within the book by the Rudins published in 1980. Rather, it seems that Hassan was predisposed to leave the church after it dumped him and he became bitterly disillusioned.

Another interesting contradiction is that Hassan apparently told the Rudins that he was “a former Unification Church high official who was a national leader at CARP” (Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles).

But the Rudins also write that “he rammed his car into the back of a truck on the Baltimore Beltway after seventy-two continuous hours of fund raising” (“Prison or Paradise: The New Religious Cults” page 38).

Why was a “high official” and “national leader” within the Unification Church relegated to such menial work? Grueling hours of fund raising is most often delegated to regular members within fund raising teams and not prominent national leaders.

CultNews has reported in the past concerning Steven Hassan’s penchant for embellishing his personal and professional history, such as falsely claiming to be an instructor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Law School.

Bronze Israeli gift souvenir

Hassan has also claimed to be the recipient of the “Jerusalem Gold Medal” presented to him by the State of Israel. However, no such award exists and he was simply give a token souvenir by an Israeli official, which anyone could buy easily at a gift shop in Israel or pick up on eBay.

By the way, CultNews was given the same gift by the same Israeli official, and it’s bronze not gold, and never considered an “award.” Yet Hassan still makes the bogus claim of receiving this souvenir gift under the heading “Honors & awards” at his LinkedIn account and CV.

Another interesting, but somewhat bizarre aspect of Steven Hassan’s self-portrayal, is his use of filters for his online videos. Such filtering is often done by celebrities like Madonna, but has been criticized as inauthentic. Hassan, who is certainly not a celebrity like Madonna and wants to be regarded seriously as an expert, nevertheless masks himself through filtering technology. Here he is unfiltered, which is rarely seen, and here he is in a more common filtered image.

In this age of creative histories, contrived facades, masks and lying political figures like George Santos, it’s important to check if the claims being made are real or imagined.

George Santos

It must be noted that Steven Hassan was admonished for unethical conduct by his licensing board according to court records. Hassan’s licensing board specifically cited the ACA (American Counseling Association) ethical code violation of “failing to respect the dignity and promote the welfare of clients.”

Some people seem to think that bringing up such discrepancies and exaggerations is “petty” and/or not relevant. Hassan fans have periodically contacted CultNews and expressed such sentiments. Often saying, “What difference does it make” or “Why raise questions about such small details”? They say because Steven Hassan is fighting destructive cults, he must therefore be given some sort of pass and/or special consideration.

However, one of the primary issues concerning destructive cults is deceptive practices. That such groups and movements are inherently dishonest and trick people through deliberate lies and misrepresentations to become involved and stay. That destructive cults are unethical.

If we are to objectively define destructive cults by such behavioral criteria that same criterion must be applied to everyone equally on both sides of the issue, even those who say they are endeavoring to expose destructive cults and help cult victims.