One of the approaches used at times to “deprogram” cult members is an examination of the leader’s claims within a broader historical context.

For example, David Koresh claimed he was “The Lamb of God,” but within its biblical context did this claim make any sense?

Christian scholars readily recognize that Jesus is “The Lamb of God” according to the New Testament.

But cult leaders often program their followers through distortions and twists of religious scriptures.

Unraveling such a cult program may often include working with a clergy person or someone knowledgeable about the scriptures that have been used to empower the leader and exercise control.

It seems the government of Saudi Arabia understands this principle. They have decided to do their own form of “deprogramming,” in an effort to solicit information from incarcerated terrorists and apparent followers of Osama bin Laden.

Islamic clerics are now working with prisoners to point out how far they may have strayed from basic Moslem teachings. By untwisting the Koran they hope to eventually “deprogram” the terrorists who might then provide helpful information, reports Newsday.

The FBI is observing this approach apparently with some interest.

One Saudi official stated, “It can be effective.”

Though a Saudi professor of religious studies observed that some of the terrorists “have been brainwashed to a point of no return.”

A Baltimore prosecutor has requested that a “cult” member be “deprogrammed” as a condition for probation, reports the Baltimore Sun.

The subject for this proposed “deprogramming” has already entered a guilty plea to a murder conspiracy charge this week and may be released from custody soon.

But the public defender representing the “cult” member says, “Let’s wait for the psychological evaluation.”

The sensational criminal case has received substantial news coverage in Baltimore and included two other defendants, who likewise entered into plea agreements with prosecutors.

Also charged and in jail is the “cult” leader Scott Caruthers who once led “BDX,” a strange sci-fi group that claimed cats could communicate with space aliens.

It seems another member of BDX was already “deprogrammed” shortly after being arrested and is expected to testify against Caruthers for the prosecution.

However, despite the guilty plea of his codefendants, Caruthers apparently thinks that a jury trial will vindicate him.

Will he claim it was all really a cat conspiracy?

Deprogramming may disabuse “cult victims” of undue influence, but it’s doubtful that such an intervention would help a “cult leader” like Caruthers.

After all, such a person would not be the victim of alleged “brainwashing,” but rather its originator.

Apparently “cult apologists” are concerned about the Elizabeth Smart case. They seem to feel a need to dismiss any claims that the kidnap victim was “brainwashed.”

Veteran cult defenders James Richardson, H. Newton Malony and Nancy Ammerman, have all been quoted concerning the case.

Dick Anthony, another “cult apologist,” more recently weighed in.

The mainstream media apparently overlooked Anthony, who describes himself as a “forensic psychologist,” so he found another outlet for his opinions.

His commentary about Elizabeth Smart is now posted on the website CESNUR (“Center for Studies on New Religons”), run by Massimo Introvigne.

Introvigne is an interesting character and reportedly connected to a group that has been called a “cult.” The organization is named “Tradition, Family and Property” (TFP). Not surprisingly, Introvigne seems to be personally offended by the “C” word (“cult”) and the “B” word (“brainwashing”).

Within his treatise Anthony laments how the “proponents of brainwashing theory” are misleading the public by “asserting that Elizabeth Smart was brainwashed.”

According to Anthony that “theory” was “formulated by the American CIA as a propaganda device.”

Hmmm, was Elizabeth then somehow the most recent victim of a CIA conspiracy?


Anthony speculates that due to Elizabeth’s “strict Mormon upbringing…[she] may actually have been predisposed to accepting the stern religious authority of the self-appointed prophet Brian David Mitchell.”

Does this mean the Mormon Church and/or her family not only somehow predisposed Elizabeth to embrace the bizarre beliefs of others without question, but also to not seek help or identify herself to authorities when kidnapped?

Anthony seems to think so.

He says, “Such offbeat theological worldviews allegedly primarily attract conversions from rebellious young persons from Mormon backgrounds.”

Despite his self-proclaimed title of “forensic psychologist,” Anthony doesn’t offer any factual “forensic” evidence. And he doesn’t really explain Elizabeth’s strange behavior. Instead, everything is attributed to her “totalistic personality,” which was apparently just waiting to be Mitchell’s next “conversion.”

The good doctor is less kind to 70s cult kidnap victim Patricia Hearst.

Anthony says, “There is good reason to think that her involvement in SLA [Symbionese Liberation Army] crimes was based upon a real conversion.”

He does admit Hearst was exposed to “indoctrination.”

But just like Elizabeth, Anthony claims the then 19-year-old Patty Hearst’s capitulation to her captors, was all about “the interaction of her pre-existing totalistic personality.”

Anthony gets a bit nasty bashing Hearst as a “rebellious” teenager who “…took psychedelic drugs” and was “dualistically divided between corrupt mainstream people and good counter-culture people and down-trodden minorities.”

Uh huh.

He concludes, “Hearst fit the profile of an ‘individual totalist’ prone to seeking for a totalitarian counter-cultural worldview.”


Apparently, the SLA really didn’t need to violently abduct Hearst at gunpoint from her college campus or imprison the girl for months in a closet and brutally beat her. She was ready to accept their beliefs willingly, and all they needed to do was proselytize a bit to produce a “real conversion.”

Likewise, Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping, months of confinement and her assault, did not contribute to her “brainwashing”—it’s that old “totalistic personality” ready for a “real conversion” once again.

In his latest foray in the realm of “forensic psychology” Anthony cites the “research” of a relatively small group of academics that share his views about “cults.”

He mentions the work of Stuart Wright, “Jim” James Richardson, Eileen Barker, H. Newton Maloney, Anson Shupe, David Bromley and Gordon Melton and of course his sponsor Massimo Introvigne.

However, all these “academics” are within the world of “cult apologists.”

In fact, Bromley, Melton, Maloney, Richardson and Wright have all been recommended as “religious resources” by the Church of Scientology.

Melton and Barker were funded by “cults” to produce books.

Anson Shupe was paid hefty fees by Scientology lawyers to become their “expert witness” about the “anti-cult movement.”

Benjamin Zablocki, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University put it succinctly when he said, “The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied… This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal. I do think there needs to be some more public accounting of where the money is coming from and what safeguards have been taken to assure that this money is not interfering with scientific objectivity.”

This brings us back to Dick Anthony.

Last year Anthony made $21,000.00 consulting on one civil case alone, without even appearing in court.

That case involved a wrongful death claim filed against Jehovah’s Witnesses and a “Bethelite” (full-time ministry worker) named Jordon Johnson in Connecticut, by John J. Coughlin, Jr., Administrator of the Estate of his mother Frances S. Coughlin .

Johnson killed Francis Coughlin in an automobile accident and was criminally convicted for manslaughter.

The Coughlin family sued both Johnson and the organization that controlled him, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, commonly called Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Dick Anthony was hired by the Watchtower Society as an “expert,” to assist them in their defense. And in the process was deposed under oath on October 11, 2002.

The man, who prides himself as a “scholar” and “academic” actually admitted that he hasn’t worked within an institution of higher learning (i.e. a university or college) for more than twenty years.

So how does Dick Anthony support himself?

He is “self-employed.” The name of his business is simply, “Dick Anthony, Ph.D.”

What does Dick Anthony Ph.D. do?

Dr. Anthony explains, “Probably two-thirds of my time to three-quarters of my time is spent writing for publication, and probably a quarter of my time to a third of my time is involved with participating in legal cases.”

Anthony’s writings are most often connected to defending “cults,” attacking the so-called “anti-cult movement” and/or the “proponents of the brainwashing theory.”

His work on “legal cases,” is as an “expert” hired by “cults,” or somehow as a “expert witness” in a related area of interest.

What this admission by Anthony means, is that he can easily be seen as a full-time professional “cult apologist,” who has no other means of meaningful income.

How much does he get paid?

Anthony stated for the record, “My fee for reviewing materials in my office is $350 an hour. And my fee for work outside my office is a flat fee of $3,500 a day plus expenses.”

Anthony admitted that he collected “$21,000” on the Coughlin/Watchtower Society case alone. And that was without even appearing in court.

For his deposition of only a few hours, he was paid “$3,500.”

Who else besides Jehovah’s Witnesses is willing to pay such substantial fees?

Anthony listed some of his clients for the record. That list included the “Unification Church, the Hare Krishna movement…The Way International [and] Church of Scientology.”

All of these groups have been called “cults.”

But Dr. Anthony doesn’t like the “C” word, he prefers “nontraditional religions.”

On his list of “nontraditional religions” are the Branch Davidians, Unification Church and he says, “In the United States, the Catholic Church, well it’s definitely the largest nontraditional religion.”

Dr. Anthony belongs to a “nontraditional religion” himself.

Explaining his own background Anthony stated, “I’m a follower of Meher Baba” and a member of the “Meher Baba Lovers of Northern California.”

According to Jeffrey Hadden, a fellow “cult apologist” who is now deceased, Meher Baba and his followers believe that he was the “God incarnate” and the Avatar of the ‘dark or iron’ age, also called the Kali Yuga.”

Baba died in 1969. Gordon Melton says, “By loving Baba, Baba lovers can learn to love others. In the highest, most intense, state of love, Divine Love, the distinction between the lover and the beloved ceases and one attains union with God.”

Sound like a personality-driven group that would be perceived by many as a “cult”? Anthony would of course prefer the description “nontraditional religion.”

The good doctor calls himself a “forensic psychologist,” which supposedly means the application of medical facts to legal problems.

So what facts does Dick Anthony apply to resolve the legal cases he is paid to testify and/or consult about?

When asked what specific research he relied upon regarding the Coughlin case against Jehovah’s Witnesses Anthony replied that he would largely rely upon “a range of materials provided me by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Did Dick Anthony have any experience as a psychologist helping Witnesses, “None as far as I know,” he said.

Anthony also openly admitted he had done no formal research or published any paper about Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So what facts or direct working experience would be applied or used as the basis for rendering his expert opinion?

Anthony said he would base his opinion largely on a “general knowledge of the sociology and psychology of religion.”

When pressed repeatedly during the deposition for something more specific and scientific Anthony cited, “The research of Rodney Stark…generally considered to be probably the leading expert on sects and cults.”

Stark like Anthony has received money from “cults” and has often been called an “apologist.” He is not “generally considered” a “leading expert” on the subject cited either.

Anthony later said he would rely on an article by his old friend “James Richardson [though he couldn’t remember the title]…and…several articles by Catherine Wah [correct name actually Carolyn Wah].”

Carolyn Wah was the in-house attorney assigned to defend Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Coughlin case and a long-time “Bethelite” herself, working full-time at Watchtower headquarters.

Interestingly, it was Richardson who Anthony later admitted had referred him to the Witnesses for the job.

During his deposition Dick Anthony cited other legal cases he was working on at the time.

He claimed to be “a witness for the prosecution” in the criminal case against Winnfred Wright. Anthony said some of Wright’s followers were “claiming that they are innocent because they were brainwashed.”

This criminal case involved the starvation death of a 19-month-old boy.

Described as a “cult” by Associated Press, Anthony called the criminally destructive group a “little family.”

Apparently the judge didn’t agree with Anthony’s expert opinion. He ordered one of Wright’s followers released for “cult deprogramming” so she could “enter a treatment clinic for former cult members,” reported the Marin News.

Wright received the maximum sentence allowed.

Anthony also said he was advising “the Church of Scientology in Ireland…in Dublin.”

This is clearly a reference to a lawsuit filed against Scientology by Mary Johnson, a former Irish member who alleged “psychological and psychiatric injuries.” Anthony said, “I’ve had a number of conversations with [Scientology] about that.”

But despite those “conversations” Scientology decided pay off Johnson. And costs alone ran them more than a million.

And what about the Coughlin case?

After paying Anthony $21,000 in fees and on the first day of trial, the Jehovah’s Witnesses opted to settle too. They cut a check to the plaintiff for more than $1.5 million dollars. This was historically the largest settlement ever paid by the organization, which has been around for more than a century.

It seems Dr. Anthony doesn’t have a very good track record in the recent legal cases he has consulted on.

Perhaps Anthony himself explained this best during his deposition when he said, “It is the nature of pseudo-science…to pretend to certainty in interpreting situations where such certainty cannot possibly be based upon scientific knowledge. Such false claims of certain knowledge in the absence of a clear factual foundation for that knowledge are more characteristic of totalistic ideology than of genuine science.”

Indeed. So who really has a “totalistic personality” after all?

Dick Anthony seems not only a “pretend[er],” but as can be seen through the Coughlin case, he actually offers no directly applicable “scientific knowledge” or “clear factual foundation” to form his opinions.

Instead of applying medical facts and/or “genuine science” to resolve legal problems, this “forensic psychologist” seems to offer only “pseudo-science,” in an effort to please the “nontraditional religions,” who are paying clients and represent his predominant source of income.

Despite Anthony’s repeated failures he is still being paid $3,500 per day, which is not bad, or is it?

Note: Copies of the Dick Anthony deposition are available for an $18.00 tax-deductible donation to The Ross Institute

A man who recruited former members of Amish sects to become his followers was sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a minor child, reports the Holland Sentinel.

Wilbur Eash 50 claimed he had “supernatural powers,” but relied upon the power of influence over his followers to target and prey upon children. The leader reportedly sexually abused three boys.

In 1990 Eash and his group drew publicity when an Amish family hired a “deprogrammer” in an effort to free one woman from the cult leader’s control. That effort failed.

At the time other groups called “cults” launched a nationwide campaign to discredit the deprogrammer Ted Patrick, falsely claiming he had attacked the Amish and their beliefs.

However, Eash’s followers were clearly only former Amish and not in any way affiliated with a recognized Amish sect.

Now Eash is no cause for press releases claiming he is somehow a victim of “religious intolerance” and/or “persecution.” And it is obvious that the family’s fears about his character and conduct more than a decade ago were justified.

When sentencing Eash the judge sternly said, “At least while you’re down there (in prison), you won’t harm any other little boys.”

The sexual predator may be 65 upon release. It is doubtful he can effectively run his “cult” from a prison cell.

An old “Moonie brainwashing camp” was sold by the Unification Church of Rev. Moon in northern California, reports The Press Democrat.

The church led by the self-proclaimed “messiah” sold Aetna Springs resort, in a deal last month to a developer. The isolated site was once used to indoctrinate recruits through a process many see as “brainwashing.”

Attorney Ford Green was once held in Boonville a similar retreat. He said, “Aetna Springs for years was one of the Moonie brainwashing camps.” Ford says such camps are “pretty tough to leave,” adding, “I’m sure that was the desirable feature of the Aetna location — its isolation.”

The developer who bought Aetna Springs plans to turn it into a four-star resort.

Green said, “To have one less public health hazard in Napa County can’t be anything but good.”

Rev. Moon once spent time in a North Korean prisoner camp. Some say he may have learned about many of the techniques later used to “brainwash” recruits at his own camps largely through that experience.

Robert Jay Lifton, a noted psychiatrist, described those techniques in his book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism,” first published in 1961. The book would later be used as a means of explaining cult “brainwashing” to members during “deprogramming.”

Rev. Moon has become a powerful political figure in Washington since the days Aetna Springs was a thriving “Moonie” camp. He now owns the Washington Times newspaper, United Press International wire service and has close ties to the Bush family.

In an unusual twist two cult members in California have requested “deprogramming,” reports the Marin News.

Both women were followers of Winifred Wright, a leader that once controlled four women and their twelve children in a type of family cult located in a house near San Francisco.

The women and children endured reportedly horrific abuse. One child died from complications brought about by rickets, an illness that is a direct result of malnutrition.

Wright and two of the mothers were found guilty of criminal charges in court. Sentencing will take place later this month.

But the two women convicted now want treatment at Wellspring Retreat, a noted rehabilitation center for former cult members.

Wellspring does not actually “deprogram” cult members, but rather offers a focused program for recovery in a residential setting. The retreat is a licensed mental health facility in Ohio.

It is sad that these women and/or their families did not seek help earlier. Perhaps intervention long ago might have effectively ended the abuse and avoided a needless death.

But like so many cults, the Wright Family only received meaningful attention and intervention after a terrible tragedy.

In a tacit acknowledgement that the women were “brainwashed” by Wright, the judge has already granted one mother temporary release to attend Wellspring.

Ayn Rand only wrote two books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and died more than twenty years ago. But her idiosyncratic philosophy called “Objectivism” lives on and seems to perennially draw a renewed cult following amongst many college students.

Rand’s books still sell 300,000 copies annually.

However, when Modern Library surveyed publishers for its top 100 books of the 20th Century, Rand wasn’t even mentioned. But when they asked everyday readers to make their picks she came in number one, reports the Baltimore Sun.

Interestingly, sci-fi writer and founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard had three books in the top ten of that same popular listing.

What does this mean? Did the publishers somehow neglect or ignore the genius of these authors?

Some might conclude that the pop picks only reflected the devotion and organized efforts of those obsessed with their personal favorites.

Author of the Sun article and Pulitzer Prize winner Ray Jenkins points out the dark side of Rand. This includes, “megalomania,” self-centered indulgences and a humorless, dogmatic driven nature.

Does this sound familiar?

Is it possible that Ayn Rand actually had more in common with purported “cult leader” L. Ron Hubbard, than authors like Hemmingway or Joyce?

Wait a minute. No one is “deprogramming” Rand’s rapt readers.

But it’s interesting to note the parallels between “cults” and some aspects of Rand and her erstwhile acolytes.

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo caused a scandal when he married a follower of Rev. Moon in a mass wedding officiated by the “cult leader.” It is unclear if that marriage was ever consummated.

But after more than a year of rehabilitation and maybe some “deprogramming” the prelate is back in action. He renounced his marriage and explained that he might have been “brainwashed.”

Ironically his former “Moonie” bride claimed it was the Catholic Church who “brainwashed” her husband and is now controlling him through undue influence.

It is somewhat bizarre that the Unification Church, so often accused of “brainwashing,” would now be willing to offer this as an explanation for the bishop’s change of heart. Rev. Moon and his apologists have often said there is no such thing as “cult brainwashing.”

Apparently when someone rejects them, such a position can be revised.

Milingo is now approved to resume his clerical duties. He recently led his first mass in some time, reports Reuters.

Looking back over the curious saga of the bishop and the “cult,” it seems what started as a clever propaganda ploy ultimately backfired on the Unification Church. They not only lost the bishop, but “lost face” too.

Instead of getting good press for the Rev. Moon, Milingo’s story proved once again that the church often engages in strange behavior. However, it’s doubtful that its would-be “messiah” will mend his ways.

More likely is that Bishop Milingo has learned something about the world of cults through his painful personal experience. And perhaps the Pope and his Curia have come to realize that even a bishop can be vulnerable to “mind control.”

The “International Church of Christ,” has often been called a “cult.” The group was founded by Kip McKean in the Boston area of New England, but quickly spread to old England as well. Its membership went from a mere dozen in 1978 to more than 100,000 in twenty years, though now its numbers appear to be slipping.

Damian Thompson, an English journalist spent a week with the group to make a documentary and said, ” I did not get the impression that they were a sinister group,” reports The Times. Maybe Mr. Thompson should have stayed longer.

In the United States and around the world Kip McKean’s “International Church of Christ” has received perhaps more bad press than any other group called a “cult,” with the possible exception of Scientology.

These reports have included suicides seemingly linked to the group and its influence, the “deprogramming” of members and its expulsion from numerous college and university campuses.

A troubling issue has also been the lack of detailed disclosure regarding the total compensation received by some of the ICC’s top leaders. ICC founder Kip McKean is a resident of an exclusive gated California community. He calls a half –million-dollar condo home. Mr. McKean recently went on a “sabbatical,” presumably with pay.

Whatever the “politically correct” description is for this “new religious movement,” it has apparently hurt many participants. And its attrition rate has continued to climb in recent years. There now may be more former ICC members than current ones.

The ICC requires each candidate for baptism to “count the cost” before becoming a “disciple” and officially entering the group through ritual immersion. But shouldn’t the real question be what cost those who left personally paid?

Holland, Michigan police arrested a man for child molestation, reports the Holland Sentinel. The man, identified only as “Eash,” was the “counselor” or “leader” of a small group composed of former Amish. Eash himself is a former member of an Amish community. A report filed at court in Holland described the man as a “cult leader.”

Allegedly Eash used his position of authority in the group to sexually exploit a 14-year-old boy.

The small “cult” has a history of notoriety. In 1990 Ted Patrick, a well known “cult deprogrammer,” assisted an Amish family in rescuing their daughter from Eash’s control. The story of that intervention effort was reported in the LA Times. More than a decade later it now appears that the family’s fears were justified.