The Waco Tribune Herald concluded its nine-part series today with an article entitled, “Prophesying about Waco.”

The newspaper was seemingly taking a swing at foretelling the future, but not in any biblical sense. The article focused on the future of Waco, in an effort to burnish the image of the Texas town.

Baylor University is spending more than a $100 million dollars to expand its presence in Waco and some civic leaders hope that President George W. Bush might decide to build his presidential library there.

The series explored the town and its mood more than it delved into the facts about the Branch Davidians, at times it read like a brochure put out by the Waco Chamber of Commerce.

Ten years ago things were quite different.

Waco Tribune reporters Darlene McCormick and Mark Englund, who are no longer on staff at the newspaper, dug deep to produce an in-depth investigative series titled “The Sinful Messiah.”

If not for politics the two journalists might have picked up a Pulitzer.

That was then, and this is now.

Hard reporting seems to be the last thing anyone wants in Waco these days. What the Texas town is intent upon, is distancing itself from the cult led by David Koresh.

One civic booster even went so far as to point out that the cult standoff “happened outside of Waco.” And then offered these prophetic words, “I think we’ve got about as bright a future as we ever had.”


A Baylor professor chimed in, “Time has a wonderful way of curing things…My guess is that as time passes, the name ‘Waco’ – so indelibly marked in the minds of most Americans for a time [regarding the cult standoff] – will begin to fade.”

Well, Baylor certainly hopes so.

But the Waco Davidian tragedy was the second longest standoff in American history. And it is highly unlikely that it will “fade” anytime soon, despite the “prophesying.”

In fact it seems like some folks in Waco would rather ignore history altogether.

The paper appeared anxious not to anger anti-government conspiracy types. In a seeming bow to the fringe it reported a fire of “much-debated origin” ended the lives of the Davidians.

However, this ignores the facts as established by two congressional inquiries, an independent investigation and the verdict of both judge and jury in a civil trial.

The overwhelming evidence has conclusively proven that Koresh ordered the fire set.

In the final paragraphs of the recent Tribune series Baylor sociologist Larry Lyon offered his evaluation of the standoff’s enduring legacy.

He claimed, “It no longer means religious fanaticism. Now it’s a place where the government overreached.”

Perhaps this thinking is popular in Waco, essentially blaming the tragedy on outsiders. But the professor must be in an academic isolation tank.

Maybe he thinks the mass suicide at Jonestown was also the government’s fault, for not requiring that all Kool-Aide packages state, “Do not mix with cyanide.”

Kerri Jewell was only a child a decade ago, but her memory is more deeply etched that the professor’s. This is because she once lived in the cult compound.

Jewell said in a recent interview, “At some point we were going to have to die for him [David Koresh]. I didn’t expect to live past 12.”

Due to a bitter custody fight Kerri Jewell was not in the compound at the time of the standoff. Her mother was and she died in the fire.

ABC reported Davidian kids were taught “there were only two types of people: ‘good’ people who were inside the cult, and ‘bad’ people who were everyone else.”

Some Davidians still around Waco make it clear they feel the same. One told the Tribune there was still hope for the town though.

Clive Doyle said, “I believe God wants to save Waco, and I believe God works every day to change the minds of the people in Waco.”


Another Davidian put it less tactfully, “When David [Koresh] comes back, there’s going to be an earthquake so bad that Lake Waco, the shore, is going to drop 15 feet. When it does that, there’s going to be a flood here like you never seen.”

Now there’s some old time “prophesying.”

Waco will continue to be largely remembered as the place where a destructive cult chose to end its days.

And contrary to what Lyon concludes, Waco and other cult tragedies since, have proven the government rather than worrying about “overreaching,” often must take decisive action.

In 1995 Aum gassed Tokyo’s subways, sending thousands to hospitals and killing twelve. Next came the Solar Temple suicide in Switzerland, which initially claimed the lives of 74.

Americans were shocked in 1997 when 39 “Heaven’s Gate” cult members committed mass-suicide near San Diego. And the government had no interest in the group.

Criminal arrests and prosecutions in recent years, reflect law enforcement’s growing reach into the world of groups called “cults.”

A few examples include the Nuwaubians and House of Prayer in Georgia, the Church of God Restoration in Canada and California, the R.G. Stair’s Overcomers Ministry in North Carolina, the General Assembly Church of the First Born in Colorado and Polygamist groups in Utah and Arizona.

Since anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City murdering 168, with “Remember Waco” as his battle cry, the FBI has busted and put away many so-called “militia” members for weapons violations.

It is doubtful that Koresh would be able to stockpile illegal weapons today as easily as he did in 1992-93.

The FBI has learned to identify and deal with fanatics more effectively. The Freeman standoff in Montana, which ended peacefully, proved this.

But the Freemen were not the Davidians, with a leader comparable to Koresh. It is doubtful that the Waco standoff could have ended any way, other than the one chosen by the cult leader.

In the final analysis this is the greatest lesson of Waco.

Destructive cult leaders are often psychopaths capable of horrific acts. Cult followers frequently abdicate any meaningful autonomy in favor of total dependence upon their leaders. And they then rely upon the judgement of someone else that may be mad.

This can be a formula for disaster. Waco is proof of that.

David Koresh fathered most of the 25 children that died in the suicidal fire set by the Davidians ten years ago today.

But three Koresh children did not perish. All boys, they are now teenagers.

Two brothers live in Hawaii, while another resides in Southern California.

The tenth anniversary of the Waco Davidian standoff has generated some curiosity and press coverage. Reporters for interviews located the three boys and their families.

The Hawaiian boys are the sons of Dana Okimoto, who was one of Koresh’s “20 wives.” Okimoto now sees her Davidian involvement as “another life,” apart from her current existence. Her sons never knew their father, reports Hawaii

Koresh’s son in California was taken out of the compound as a baby before the standoff began and brought back to his mother Robyn Bunds. She still suffers psychologically from abuse experienced while a Davidian, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Bunds and her son would not speak with reporters, but her father did. He said his grandson also never knew his father. And added, “I didn’t like Koresh. He was too arrogant for me.”

This seems like an accurate appraisal of the man who once claimed he was both the savior of humanity and the “Lamb of God.”

Okimoto seems disillusioned with organized religion and says she no longer attends church. “I was young and idealistic and I had a very black-and-white view of the world,” she explained.

Some have observed that this Davidian “black-and-white” mindset was the result of “brainwashing.” Okimoto says her subsequent work as a psychiatric nurse helped her alleviate the after-effects.

Very few of Koresh’s former followers that survived the standoff remain faithful. Some still cling to the notion that the dead leader will somehow return to fulfill his failed prophecies. But only a mere handful ever meet for religious services.

Like so many cults historically, without the personality that drove and defined their group, they have fallen apart.

David Koresh’s once dreamt of re-establishing the “Throne of David” through a dynasty carried forward by his many children.

But the few that remain don’t consider that delusion seriously and have no memories of their father.

To his remaining children the cult leader’s legacy is something strange and approached with mixed emotions.

One son in Hawaii said, “Sometimes I think he’s this nice guy and sometimes I think he’s this big freak. My mind keeps shifting on images of him.”

However, history’s view of David Koresh is far less ambivalent. The apparent psychopath, who led his followers to destruction and death, carved out a distinct niche for himself historically.

But it is not amongst a pantheon biblical heroes.

Instead, it is alongside a cult villains such as Jim Jones and Charles Manson.

No doubt his progeny will struggle with that image for a lifetime.

It has been a decade since the Waco Davidian standoff, but old conspiracy theories die hard.

Of course the few remaining diehard Davidians, which numbered five at a recent religious service, are still loyal to their selective memory of David Koresh and events at Waco.

But why do some journalists persist in groundless anti-government conspiracy theories and Davidian yarns?

A British reporter recently wrote just such fiction, but tries to pass it off as objective reporting instead, within the Independent Sunday.

The following statements were related as fact-based reportage:

“Whether the fire that consumed 76 men, women and children (24 of them British), including Koresh, on 19 April 1993 was started by the Davidians or federal agents remains in question.”

Ignored, is that numerous investigations have repeatedly verified through testimony and physical evidence that there is no “question.”

The fire was deliberately started by Davidians and ordered by Koresh.

This was proven by aerial infrared photography, audio recordings of Davidians discussing the fire and the residue of an accelerant found at the site.

Get ready for another whopper.

“The Davidians raised money by purchasing arms and selling them at gun fairs, a legal activity. Most of the weapons found at Mount Carmel were boxed for sale.”

A huge arsenal was recovered from the compound and it was clear that Koresh was stockpiling for Armageddon, not planning a “sale.”

The reporter offers a now discredited documentary without qualification, which somehow proves what went wrong at Waco.

But what was proven is that the FBI use of pyrotechnics cited in this film did not ignite the fire and fell harmlessly outside the wooden walls near concrete construction.

The reporter quotes Koresh’s lawyer who “was appalled by the lazy characterization of the Davidians as a cult, and their flimsy center as an ‘armed compound.'”

However, anyone who witnessed the initial barrage of gunfire directed against ATF agents, knows it was an “armed compound” that overwhelmed and ultimately murdered four federal officers.

And obviously it was the mindset of a “cult” that kept the Davidians within the compound for 51 days and cemented their loyalty to Koresh as the so-called “Sinful Messiah,” even if that meant death.

The journalist states, “Of the string of prophets and visionaries who had lead the [Davidians], Koresh was the most charismatic, and disillusioned Seventh Day Adventists flocked to him.”

This is hardly historically accurate.

The Davidian movement outside Waco peaked in its early days under founder Victor Houteff and Seventh Day Adventists never “flocked” to the compound to follow Koresh.

Despite constant proselytizing, David Koresh actually gained very few converts.

According to the reporter former Davidian Mark Breault is somehow an example of “betrayal.”

But it was largely Breault’s alleged “betrayal” that saved the life of Kerri Jewell, a teenager freed from the cult compound through a custody battle.

Later at 14 Jewell testified before Congress that Koresh sexually molested her at the age of 10.

In fact the depth of Koresh’s depravity is barely examined in the article.

It seemingly suffices to summarize; “Koresh was flawed.” Though the reporter allows that he likely fathered 17 children, many with teenage girls, all who perished in the fire.


The term most commonly applied to someone with this particular predilection is “pedophile.”

However, Koresh’s mother Bonnie Haldeman is given ample space to hold forth about her son the sexual predator.

She says, “David was so cute…I can see his smiling face, those dimples.”

Haldeman apparently thinks it’s important to point out that despite her son’s messianic claims she “certainly wasn’t Mary. It certainly wasn’t a virgin birth.”

Thanks for setting that straight.

And the mother, who still seems to be milking her brief moment in the media spotlight, glosses over the obvious truth about her son.

He was clearly a criminal psychopath, but let’s not forget a “cute” one.

Well, even though Haldeman is not the “Virgin Mary,” she is still a mother.

But what’s the reporter’s excuse for ignoring many of the facts about Waco?

It seems some European, Arab and extremely liberal journalists often exhibit the same sort of bias when reporting about Iraq.

Never mind that Saddam is or was a psychopath and that the Iraqi people suffered through an era of evil tyranny. Instead, what’s important is that the United States government is somehow “bad,” “negligent” and/or “criminal.”

Does such a bias at least partially explain the mythological aspects of the British reporter’s recent article about Waco?

If so, that prejudice is perhaps more pathetic than the final few still clinging to David Koresh through their strange imaginings.

After all we expect “journalists” to report the facts, instead of engaging in story telling based upon the fantasies embraced by true believers.

Children in cults often suffer, but unlike adults were never really recruited and have no power to change their circumstances. This is sadly reflected in a recent article about the Branch Davidian children.

The child survivors of the Davidian tragedy offered a frequently ambivalent mix of remarks to the Waco Tribune-Herald about life in the cult and their current feelings about that experience.

Many are still haunted by memories of the compound, Koresh’s past control over their families and the tragic outcome of the standoff.

Describing life in the cult one explained, “We felt like prisoners sometimes. … We started feeling kind of trapped.” But reflecting an ambivalence that seems typical for many cult children added, “I think I had a semblance of happiness. It was also a small hell.”

Some of the surviving children are strongly influenced by their parents continued devotion to the memory of David Koresh. Many Davidian families continue to blame the government for the standoff and refuse to recognize the destructive nature and historical role of the “sinful messiah.”

One Daividian child caught in the middle said, “A lot want me to say [Koresh] was who he said he was. I can’t say that. I can’t say he was or wasn’t a fake.”

Others appear less conflicted.

“Mostly, I avoided [Koresh],” another said, who resented the control the leader had over every aspect of life within the cult compound.

Another that escaped before the standoff advised, “I didn’t want to go back into that situation of being dominated totally.”

A psychiatrist, who examined many of the surviving Davidian children explained, “The environment was much more malignant than it was abusive. It was a subtle and persistent twisting of beliefs rather than an assaultive attack on a person.”

Koresh was also a pedophile who sexually abused girls. DNA tests have definitively proven he fathered the children that perished in the final fire. One Koresh mother gave birth at 14. Another teenager testified before congress that the cult leader molested her at age 10.

However, despite all these abuses the simplicity and clarity of cult life could be comforting. There were no loose ends or perplexing choices; everything was decided upon by the leader.

Reflecting this side of Davidian life one childhood survivor stated,”Now I wish I was back there. I wouldn’t have to worry about everything like I do now. Now, there’s just so many problems.”

Others are more disillusioned. One cynically remarked, “I’m never going to go to church again.”

It is a sad fact that most children raised in cults, that eventually leave or escape, won’t receive professional counseling or assistance to sort through their past.

Instead, the overwhelming majority will struggle with frequently debilitating emotional and psychological residual effects, for the rest of their lives.

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

Corporate “cult” themes have become hot topics within such recent books as Corporate Cults: The Insidious Lure of the All-Consuming Organization by Dave Arnott and The Power of Cult Branding by Matthew W. Ragas and Bolivar J. Bueno.

Now a new book by a famous former Enron employee raises the issue provocatively once again.

Sharon Watkins author of Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron discusses her experience within the failed corporation bluntly, reports USA Today.

Watkins writes that CEO Jeff Skilling was “A very cult-like leader, like David Koresh (of the Branch Davidian sect in Texas). Except Koresh burned with the building, while Skilling slipped out the backdoor.”

Interesting. Does what Watkins say bear further comparisons?

Can a corporate “cult leader” be much like the more conventional type?

Some greedy CEOs like Skilling may possess little if any conscience, lack meaningful accountability and promote a “we vs. they” mentality regarding their critics.

And such a CEO might largely control information and the environment within a corporate culture consumed with a kind of insider’s jargon filled with thought-terminating cliches.

It looks like many Enron employees were so caught up in that corporate culture, they not only lost their way morally, but also it seems some of their capacity for critical thinking.

Sound like “brainwashing”?

No, that couldn’t be, could it?

Another “cult apologist” has surfaced through the news coverage of Elizabeth Smart.

Nancy Ammerman of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research previously has spoken about the Branch Davidians.

In 1993 Ammerman claimed within a published report that the FBI was negligent because they didn’t listen to her fellow apologists James Tabor and Phillip Arnold. Both men have been recommended as “religious resources” by the Church of Scientology, which has often been called a “cult.”

Ammerman’s work regarding the Davidian standoff was lauded by Scientology through a full-page article within its own “Freedom Magazine.” And she has admitted that “various political and lobbying groups” influenced her view of that cult tragedy.

The professor’s report about the FBI was later included in a book titled “Armageddon in Waco,” which also contains the work of scholars historically associated with and/or supported by groups called “cults.”

Ammerman observed that “If [Elizabeth Smart] was a devout religious person, and [her captor] wanted to play on those religious sentiments, it’s plausible, just plausible, that she could have understood this to be some sort of religious experience,” reports the Palm Beach Post.

Is a violent kidnapping, rape and imprisonment now somehow to be categorized within the realm of “religious experience”?

Here it seems Ammerman is avoiding the “B” word (“brainwashing“), in an attempt to offer some sort of alternative “religious” explanation.

But isn’t there a more obvious and plausible understanding, which is more consistent with the established facts?

Elizabeth was initially isolated for months. This began when the 14-year-old girl was first held in a boarded up hole at a relatively remote campsite. This is not unlike what happened to cult kidnap victim Patty Hearst in 1974, when she was first confined within a closet by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Elizabeth like Hearst was brutally raped, terrorized and effectively cut off from the outside world. This made Mitchell’s process of coercive persuasion not only possible, but also enabled its eventual success. Mitchell then simply solidified his undue influence.

Elizabeth became “Augustine.” And though she had numerous opportunities to escape and/or identify herself to authorities, she did not do so. Instead, for months “Augustine” passively followed her captors, Mitchell and/or Barzee.

Her actions cannot simply be explained away by her “religious experience,” or written off as just the effects of trauma and the “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Ammerman also said, “I suppose he also could have played off of a child’s desire to be obedient to an adult.”

This is a common sense observation almost anyone might make about adult authority.

But attempting to explain Mitchell’s undue influence over the child by linking it to her religious background sounds a bit like “victim bashing.”

Such a conclusion seemingly supposes that if Elizabeth and/or her family were not Mormons, Mitchell an excommunicated Mormon, might not have been so successful.

However, Mitchell’s bizarre religious “Manifesto,” an odd hodge-podge of beliefs taken from many sources, has little meaningful similarity to the Mormon Church Elizabeth attended.

Mitchell may have claimed to be a “prophet,” but Elizabeth must have known through her religious training, that the only prophets accepted by Mormons are those that are acknowledged by their church.

Accordingly, despite Mitchell’s claims, only the current church president could be seen by Elizabeth as a living prophet today.

In actuality Elizabeth’s “religious experience” can be seen more readily as an obstacle for Mitchell to overcome, rather than a common premise or bond that empowered him.

Again, Patty Hearst like Elizabeth Smart had no apparent common bond with her captors. Hearst was not a campus radical and/or left wing political activist. And the Hearst family were conservative and Republican.

But Patricia Hearst nevertheless, due to the process she was subjected to through her confinement, isolation and treatment, succumbed to her captors and became “Tania,” a revolutionary Marxist.

A cursory review of other cult victims in groups like Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, Solar Temple, Aum of Japan and “Heaven’s Gate,” demonstrates a diversity of backgrounds and frequently that personal histories are not in harmony with the cult’s beliefs.

Any attempt to simplistically categorize cult victims seems more like denial than serious examination.

Such claims as, their common “religious” background and/or religious devotion, made the victim vulnerable, appears to surmise that this somehow can’t be done effectively or as easily to secular or less devout people.

And let’s not forget that Elizabeth was abducted not recruited.

Research indicates that almost anyone may succumb to the extreme environmental control and pressures imposed by someone like Mitchell, and almost certainly a 14-year-old child held prisoner.

Perhaps rather than engaging in specious and/or simplistic explanations, Ammerman should have explored the unique circumstances, but common characteristics that define destructive cult indoctrination, often described as “thought reform.”

Many Davidian followers of David Koresh remain in denial a decade after their “sinful messiah’s” demise.

Despite failed prophecies and an end Koresh did not predict, some still expect a “resurrection,” which would allow the cult leader to somehow fulfill his supposed supernatural role.

Davidian Catherine Matteson now 87 is still waiting. She claims, “Things are going to change soon. He is going to return. He is going to be resurrected,” reports the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Matteson insists her one-time leader was the “last prophet” and that he knew “God’s mind.”

But Koresh’s explicit prophecies long ago expired. And the judgement that he claimed would immediately follow his death never came.

However, this doesn’t deter determined Davidians, who have invested their lives into the now essentially defunct group. Many lost family members and it’s difficult if not impossible for them to face that such a loss was for nothing.

Davidian Clive Doyle still lives near Waco and is waiting devotedly for the return of the man responsible for the death of his 18-year-old daughter.

Doyle like Matteson clings to a belief in a coming Koresh resurrection, hoping his lost daughter will also return to life. He says, “There will be a resurrection, and those of us who died in the past will be brought back,” quoted the Dallas Morning News.

Ironically Doyle himself may have been personally involved in the fire that took his daughter’s life.

Davidians who spread fuel oil and ignited it at three different locations started the fire. This was recorded by infrared aerial photography and additionally substantiated by audio recordings recovered through bugging devices within the compound.

According to court testimony Doyle had traces of fuel on his clothes after he escaped. But the loyal Davidian refuses to accept what happened. And says instead, “I’m not ashamed of who I am and what I’ve been.”

But shouldn’t Davidians like Doyle be ashamed of David Koresh?

The cult leader was certainly a criminal and sexual predator. Some Davidians even cooperated with the purported pedophile, at times providing him with their own children for his sexual gratification.

How do Davidians today deal with such facts?

Koresh’s once estranged mother Bonnie Haldeman now seems to be a true believer. She attempts to explain away her son’s sexual abuse of women and children by claiming it was somehow “justified by scripture.”

Haldeman says, “He showed it to us…We had studies and studies and studies and had to accept that.”

But weren’t those “studies” just “brainwashing“?

DNA evidence has firmly established Koresh fathered at least one child with a minor and the testimony of a teenager established that he molested children as young as ten.

Doyle makes it clear that Koresh’s “Golden Rule” regarding his behavior was essentially, “My way or the highway.”

He states, “We have had to wrestle with that, but we got to where we accepted it as God’s instruction. If people couldn’t accept it, they walked away.”

Bonnie Haldeman also believes her son was a benign influence and a kind man. She told a reporter, “David didn’t have a mean bone in his body. David did not believe in murder,” reports Associated Press.

McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch sees things differently. He negotiated a cease-fire with the Davidians and says, “There was no religion as you and I understand it. He was using religion to stir up hate against the federal government. He preached if you die fighting the beast, you’ll be immediately translated to heaven.”

But Davidian Sheila Martin who lost her husband and four children in the standoff insists, “We could see the logic in all these things.”

Former ATF spokesman Jack Killorin concluded, “It’s not surprising that Osama bin Laden could employ people to commit suicide and fly planes into buildings. … Waco is a monument to our understanding that such things can and will happen,” reports the Dallas Morning News.

Not only the Davidians lost loved ones in the 1993 raid and subsequent standoff. Four BATF officers were killed.

Jane McKeehan the mother of one of those officers says of Koresh and his followers, “They were wrong. They were breaking the law.”

But Clive Doyle doesn’t see it that way and probably never will. He claims, “People died here for what they believed in, so for those of us who are living, it would be a dishonor to their memory to give it up.”

No doubt Daividians died for something they sincerely believed in, but as Killorin observed so did the followers of Osama bin Laden on September 11th.

Doyle commented that the Davidian compound today is “like a magnet for would-be prophets…poor deluded souls.”

Expect the remaining Davidian diehards to soldier on much like al Qaeda, “poor deluded souls,” invested so deeply in their delusion that as Doyle says, they will never “give it up.”

Catherine Wessinger, a religious studies professor that has been called a “cult apologist,” offers her analysis of another so-called “new religious movement.”

This time it’s David Koresh’s Branch Davidians.

It seems Wessinger can be depended upon for an apology no matter how bizarre and/or destructive the cult.

Today in the Waco Tribune-Herald’s second installment of its nine part series about the Branch Davidians she once again offers her unique spin on a cult’s demise.

What does Wessinger make out of the Davidian cult tragedy?

Well, she says it was largely about “the militarization of law enforcement and the problems … and abuse that arise from such militarization.”


Apparently this college professor doesn’t wish to acknowledge the implications of a purported “psychopath” leading a cult group.

Wessinger admits, “I’m not trained in psychology so I don’t articulate those opinions…I’m sure he [Koresh] had some psychological issues.”

What an understatement.

Wessinger offers her usual apologetic spin. She has previously attempted to explain away cult tragedies such as Heaven’s Gate and Jonestown.

Wessinger once said, “If Jones and his community had succeeded in creating their Promised Land, they would still be here. But due to the attacks and investigations they endured, they opted for the Gnostic view that devalued this world.”

Again, no meaningful blame is placed upon the deeply disturbed cult leader and the inherent destructive dynamics of his control over the group.

Apparently almost any cult and/or cult leader’s behavior may be largely excused according to Wessinger’s reasoning under the general heading of “persecution.”

The professor’s new book is titled “Millennialism, Persecution and Violence: Historical Cases (Religion and Politics).”

Wessinger’s conclusions about the Branch Davidians within this context come as no surprise.

The supposed scholar says, “Koresh would have emerged from the compound peacefully, as promised, once he completed his work inside interpreting the Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation. To have come out earlier, she says, “might have compromised Koresh’s need to conform to strict biblical prophecy.”

Obviously such a conclusion strains credulity and ignores the facts.

Koresh broke the law, failed to comply with a warrant, murdered federal officers and then refused to surrender for 51 days, despite the repeated pleas and guarantees of law enforcement. In the end he chose instead to kill himself and all his followers within the compound.

The cult leader’s behavior had little if anything to do with “biblical prophecy” and his “work” was really more about criminal violations of gun laws and sexual abuse than the “Book of Revelation.”

However, “apologists” like Wessinger apparently ignore such facts in favor of speculation based upon specious, but supposedly “politically correct” views, instead of reality.

Ten years ago the Waco Tribune-Herald began a three-part series called “The Sinful Messiah” about a then obscure cult known as the Branch-Davidians led by Vernon Howell, later known to the world as David Koresh.

The first part of that series appeared February 23, 1993, the same day the BATF came to the cult compound to serve a warrant.

But rather than cooperate with authorities Koresh chose to arm his followers for resistance. The ensuing gun battle ended with four federal agents and five Davidians dead. Many more were wounded.

The 51-day standoff that followed tragically concluded in a horrific fire ordered by Koresh, which consumed the lives of his remaining followers, including their children.

Beginning Sunday the Waco Tribune-Herald launched a new series. This time it will not cover the “Sinful Messiah,” but examine the legacy of the historical event that forever changed Waco.

How did it affect the town in Texas, the nation, society and those involved? What lessons were learned from this tragedy of cult devotion to a purported “psychopath“?

Interestingly, Stuart Wright a long-time cult apologist who has been recommended as a resource by the Church of Scientology was quoted within the first Tribune-Herald installment.

Wright testified before congress regarding the standoff and used that opportunity to essentially advance his own agenda concerning the supposed “persecution” of cults.

Wright seems dissatisfied with the results of two congressional investigations, a civil suit and the independent Danforth inquiry. Though millions have been spent to document the facts about the standoff he cryptically said, “I’m not sure the evidence was ever looked at in an objective light.”

Wright edited his own version of events titled “Armageddon in Waco.” This book is a collection of writings largely from other like-minded cult apologists such as David Bromley, James Richardson, Anson Shupe, James Lewis, Anthony Robbins and Edward Gaffney.

One entry within the book is by Nancy Ammerman, once lauded in a full-page article within Scientology’s “Freedom Magazine.”

Many of these academics have received cash from groups called “cults.” This includes grants for “research,” payments for court testimony and/or expenses for trips and conferences.

The objectivity and observations of such specious scholars should be suspect.

Benjamin Zablocki, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University 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…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…This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal.

The physical evidence and facts now well established about the Branch-Davidian standoff failed to support the opinions of cult apologists or anti-government conspiracy theorists.

Instead, the only “persecution” that took place was the way David Koresh treated his followers, frequently targeting women and children for sexual abuse.

And the “Armageddon” that ultimately occurred outside Waco was the creation of a criminal cult leader, conceived in his twisted mind as a self-fulfilling prophecy.