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?

No.

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.”

Huh?

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

The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) commonly called the “Hare Krishnas” lost in court again, reports Associated Press.

A judge told the group, which has often been called a “cult,” they cannot wander within municipal airports hawking books.

Instead the court ruled that book sales and solicitations in airports must be restricted to designated booths or boxes.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles International Airport said it’s time “to go back to the boxes.”

However, ISKCON’s lawyer apparently believes that annoying travelers in an airport is a constitutionally protected right and he intends to pursue further litigation.

This court case appears to prove; not much has really changed at Krishna.

In recent years ISKCON has insisted it has “changed,” in an ongoing public relations effort seemingly initiated to offset lawsuits filed against it by children once abused within the group’s boarding schools.

But it appears in the abuse class action lawsuit that is still pending, like its airport litigation, Krishna prefers to pay lawyers rather than seriously seek any meaningful settlement.

ISKCON remains a deeply authoritarian organization. Many of same leaders who ruled over Krishna devotees during its worst period of trouble, which included criminal indictments, are still in positions of power today.

It looks like the Church of Scientology is looking for a handout from the federal government through President Bush’s “faith-based” initiative.

A Scientology minister attended a meeting in Alaska apparently to see if there might be money available for his church, reports the Anchorage Daily News.

But the Scientologist expressed concern that groups, which have experienced “discrimination,” would not receive money. This appears to be Scientology-speak for groups often called “cults”

The Lt. Governor of Alaska assured everyone there that he intends to “define religion broadly.”

Get ready for the lineup.

Controversial groups called “cults” such as the “Moonies,” Krishna and Scientology will likely be lining up to get their slice of the Bush pie.

When President George Bush gave his State of the Union address Tuesday it was reported (“Bush Touts Religion-Based Drug Treatment,” Associated Press, January 29, 2003 by Laura Meckler) that Henry Lozano of Teen Challenge in California, was sitting with the first lady throughout the presentation.

Bush pushed the idea of funding faith-based drug rehab programs with federal money.

But would it be appropriate to include Teen Challenge within such a scheme?

According to Teen Challenge literature its entire approach can be summarized as “Basic Confrontational Evangelism.” And the organization has stated specifically, “The only cure for . . . drug abuse, is Jesus Christ.”

The Teen Challenge program is essentially religious training and indoctrination.

There is nothing wrong with including faith as a meaningful component when confronting drug abuse. And such approaches can be successful.

But should federal money be used to pay for a sectarian cure? This would certainly seem to set a troubling precedent.

Before televangelist Pat Robertson received $500,000 for a pet program through Bush faith-based funding, he pointedly objected to the president’s project.

Robertson previously said such grants would be like opening “Pandora’s Box.” And that once opened would not easily be shut.

How can the federal government decide which theologically based cures should be funded?

Would Scientology’s Narconon drug rehab receive federal money? What about Krishna? They might have a substance abuse solution based upon chanting? Maybe the Raelians have some special cure coming from outer space?

Will the government now be in the business of judging which religion works best?

First the Raelians hand picked Michael Guillen as their “expert” to coordinate DNA testing, which would supposedly prove their cloning claims. Later, Guillen was exposed as Clonaid CEO and Raelian bishop Brigette Boisselier’s “friend.”

Skeptics see Guillen as largely an apologist for paranormal claims. He received a “Pigasus” award (“when pigs fly”) from noted debunker James Randi.

Have the Raelians found another friendly “expert”?

Newsweek recently quoted Susan Palmer, a professor at Dawson College in Montreal and the author of a forthcoming book on the Raelians, in an article about the “cult” called “Spaced Out.”

Palmer described Claude Vorilhon or “Rael,” founder and leader of the Raelians, as a ” a playboy and a sportsman and a social satirist.” And she characterized the group as “benign.”

Palmer is also the author of an article which appeared in the Montreal Gazette titled “No sects – please we’re French.” She essentially attacked the French effort to identify and monitor destructive cults. Palmer prefers the politically correct term “new religious movements” (NRMs).

According to Palmer the “Moonies,” Scientologists, Hare Krishnas and of course the Raelians, are all NRMs. She likes to take her college students on “field trips” to the Hare Krishna temple and to witness Raelian baptisms.

Palmer admits, “If I were a French sociologist…I would be out of a job. I would be called a ‘cult lover.'”

Palmer also has defended an anti-Semitic cult group called the “Twelve Tribes,” which was fined for child labor violations in New York and has been the focus of frequent allegations regarding child abuse.

Professor Palmer appears to be more of a cult apologist than an objective observer or “expert.”

Serious questions have been raised about the research of academics like Palmer.

Benjamin Zablocki a professor of sociology at Rutgers University lamented, “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…in the form of subvention of research expenses, subvention of publications, opportunities to sponsor and attend conferences, or direct fees for services, this money is not insignificant, and its influence on research findings and positions taken on scholarly disputes is largely unknown. This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal.”

How has Professor Palmer’s Raelian research and coming book been funded and/or supported? And what fees, money, expenses and/or sponsorships has she received from groups called “cults”?

Maybe James Randi should consider Susan Palmer for a “Pigasus”?

Henry Ford, founder of the automotive giant, would likely disapprove of his great-grandson’s ideas. Alfred B. Ford, an heir to the auto manufacturing fortune, hopes to establish a “Vatican” for the Hare Krishna “cult” in India, reports Associated Press.

Ford has given the group $10 million dollars to help build the massive complex, which has a projected total cost of $100 million dollars.

Alfred Ford has been a Krishna devotee for more than 25 years.

The Krishna organization is now being sued through a class action lawsuit for more than $400 million in the United States. The former children of Krishna devotees who were horribly abused within its school compounds years ago filed the suit.

And though Krishna leaders have acknowledged the claims as largely valid and based upon fact, they have threatened bankruptcy rather than offer a meaningful settlement to date.

Perhaps the Ford heir should have created a fund for taking care of Krishna’s victims before building them a “Vatican”?

Both the historic Vatican and the one Ford hopes to create have a rocky road ahead regarding child abuse claims.

Since the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995 another band called the Phish seems to have filled the void left behind by the Grateful Dead.

The cult following known as the “Dead heads” that once wandered nomadically from concert to concert devoted to Garcia’s band have been replaced by the “Phish heads.”

Phish concerts are typically sold out far in advance due largely to the phenomenon of their cult following.

For many fans the Phish have taken on an importance usually reserved for religious devotion. Chris Hedges mines this mystery in his article “A Quest for Rapture Leads a ‘Phish Head’ Astray,” recently run in the New York Times.

But one aspect of both the Grateful Dead and “Phish head” phenomenon that has not been reported about is the often well-organized effort by groups called “cults” to recruit amongst the rock bands faithful.

Recognizing the vulnerability of nomadic youth searching for meaning some “cults” seem to think proselytizing at concerts is like “shooting fish in a barrel.”

Or is that “Phish heads” in a barrel?

Some groups called “cults” that once followed the Dead and/or now go Phishing are Krishna, Twelve Tribes and the Chabbad Lubavitch.

So as “Phish heads” continue to follow their beloved band, some might ultimately be caught by another group altogether.

One concert might just be the last for some unlucky “Phish heads,” unless they are later sent out to go Phishing too.

Los Angeles attorney Barry Fisher has made something of a career out of defending the interests of groups called “cults.”

Fisher was recently back in court for the Krishna organization (ISKCON), reports Associated Press.

Apparently a cause for this “activist” is fighting for ISKCON’s right to annoy people in airports. As any frequent flyer knows, Krishna devotees often work air terminals as a place to hawk books and solicit donations.

However, the courts have ruled repeatedly that free speech doesn’t really include soliciting people at LAX, which is not a “public forum” to promote book sales.

But that doesn’t deter Fisher, who historically can’t seem to find a “cult” he won’t defend.

In fact, Barry Fisher once had his expenses paid by the now infamous Japanese cult Aum, to come to its defense in Tokyo, shortly after the cult gassed the city’s subway system killing 12 and sending thousands to hospitals.

What did Mr. Fisher say? He claimed Japanese law enforcement’s response to the horrific attack was somehow an effort, “to crush a religion and deny freedom.”

Right.

Fisher comes with impressive recommendations. The “Cult Awareness Network” (CAN), largely controlled by the Church of Scientology since 1996, recommends him “for information about new religions.” Shortly after the members of “Heaven’s Gate” committed group suicide in 1997 near San Diego, CAN promoted him as a “religious liberty attorney.”

Defending “religious liberty” can be lucrative. Rev. Moon has billions and the Church of Scientology is certainly not poor. And though ISKCON says it may go bankrupt rather than pay damages to children sexually and physically abused within their schools, they seem to have enough cash on hand to cover Fisher.

No doubt Barry Fisher will continue his crusade for “religious liberty.” Probably at least as long as “persecuted” “new religions” can afford to pay his fees and/or expenses.

George Harrison once sang “My Sweet Lord” in honor of Krishna and he donated property to the Hare Krishna group (ISCKON) near London.

But in the end the former Beatle did not leave ISKCON, which has often been called a “cult,” anything from his $150 million dollar estate, reports the Times of India.

The group somehow believed Harrison would leave them $30 million. However, that appears to have been a delusion, perhaps brought on by excessive chanting.

Krishna devotees previously made the bizarre claim that Harrison’s ashes would be spread on the Ganges. This too proved false.

Maybe Harrison, like many disgruntled Catholics who are now cutting back on their donations to the church, was offended by litigation filed against the religious organization?

There is a $400 million dollar class action lawsuit currently moving through the courts, which exposes years of gross sexual and physical abuse suffered by children, at the hands of Krishna devotees.

Krishna Temples seem to prefer bankruptcy, rather than paying damages to the children who were abused. But it is likely that ISKCON’s actual assets far exceed George Harrison’s estate.

Whatever help the former Beatle naively provided ISKCON during his lifetime, he can now rest in peace. ISCKON can no longer use his name or his money to promote their interests.

An excellent editorial appeared in the Edmonton Journal written by Paula Simons regarding the background history of a Canadian “cult” child abuse case.

Lucille Poulin, the leader of the “Four Winds Commune” was convicted on five counts of assault for beating children within her group. Her defense was essentially that “God” told her to do it. However, the court found that invoking the name of God did not protect Poulin’s behavior.

Perhaps more disturbing than Poulin’s destructive delusions is how long it took authorities to take action.

According to records beginning in 1995 social workers knew what was going on—so why did it take so long to stop Poulin? Apparently they tried to protect the children seven years ago, but were frustrated by a judge who turned them away. Later one child died from medical neglect.

Reviewing the pattern of missed opportunities in the Poulin case is not unlike the sad histories of other “cults” that have abused children.

Groups that have been called “cults” such as the “Twelve Tribes,” “Children of God” and the so-called “Krishna Consciousness” movement have all at one time been the focus of child abuse allegations. Yet over and over again, such groups often escape law enforcement.

Child abuse was eventually proven to be rampant within the Waco Davidian sect, but Texas Child Protection workers once gave David Koresh a pass. Later, the testimony of one of Koresh’s young victims before Congress made it chillingly clear how wrong they were.

Krishna is now the defendant in a class action lawsuit filed by its former children who allege horrific acts of physical and sexual abuse.

The “Twelve Tribes,” just like the Poulin group was investigated for child abuse, but a judge also stopped that process and returned more than a hundred children to the group’s Vermont compound. Years later its children have recounted their experiences of abuse.

Former childhood members of the “Children of God” have discussion/support groups to help each other heal and recover from the abuse they experienced. The group’s founder David Berg has been exposed as a pedophile who engaged in incest and preached a doctrine of sexually stimulating children beginning at the age of four.

Another Canadian group “Church of God Restoration” was also recently found guilty concerning the abuse of its children through brutal beatings. But many within the Canadian press seemed to defend the parental prerogative of group members to inflict such punishment. In another case involving the same church in California a child also died due to medical neglect.

“Cult leader” Dwight York now faces more than 200 criminal counts for sexually abusing and exploiting minor children in his group called the “Nuwaubians.” According to the charges filed against him that abuse was apparently ongoing for years.

Arthur Allen Jr., the leader of the group known as the “House of Prayer” just began serving his jail sentence for a child cruelty conviction. Allen actually made such abuse a spectacle by brutally beating children publicly before his flock.

The story of Lucille Poulin is hardly unique. And the blunders made by authorities that allowed her to continue unchecked for so long are not uncommon either. Sadly, within the bureaucratic maze and legal due process of North America many children within “cults” are victimized.

Authorities seem to be reluctant in dealing with abuse within religious groups. Such groups almost always claim that any interference regarding their behavior is somehow “religious persecution.”

The lot of children born or brought into destructive cults like so much baggage is a scandal. Who will protect them? As Paula Simons laments in her editorial for the Edmonton Journal, “So much unnecessary suffering. So many unanswered questions.”

Perhaps the precedents recently set by court cases in both Canada and the United States will help. But it seems that so often, it is too little or too late.