By Rick Alan Ross

Recently a video from the 1980s of Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was released online. It features Thomas talking about her involvement in a cultic seminar-selling company called Lifespring, which was eventually sued out of existence. Thomas was one of the many victims of Lifespring.

Ginni and Clarence Thomas

The video shows Ginni Thomas as a young woman painfully recounting her experience with Lifespring in a support group for ex-members of cults. Thomas talks about her personal struggle to move on with her life.

Former cult member and author Steven Hassan apparently facilitated this support group and somehow had access to the 36-year-old video. He released the video on Twitter proclaiming, “I knew Ginni Thomas. Ginni Thomas was in a cult (the large group awareness training cult, Lifespring). Here she is in 1989 [actually 1986] speaking at an event I hosted for former members. Until today, almost NO one has seen this video.”

After releasing the video Hassan later speculated, “Sadly, the people who helped deprogram Ginni were also apparently involved in right-wing causes. As is the case with SO many former members, she was overly susceptible and went from one cult to another (The Cult of Trump),” [sic].

Thomas was reportedly “deprogrammed” by respected exit-counselor Kevin Garvey. Garvey, who passed away some years ago, never influenced Thomas to change her political views. Quoted in the Washington Post he simply said, “I got a phone call from her asking for help,” Garvey then met with Ginni Thomas (1984) for eight hours at a diner in Georgetown. And he “left feeling satisfied that the young woman would be all right.”

Kevin Garvey had no interest in Thomas’ political beliefs and consistent with his professional ethics, only focused on her concerns about Lifespring, and nothing else. And it must be noted that Steven Hassan has a troubled professional history of client complaints and was admonished by his licensing board for misconduct.

By way of historical background, Ginni Thomas grew up in Nebraska raised by Republican parents. Thomas herself is a lifelong Republican and supporter of conservative causes. Her politics were not changed either by Lifespring or her process of leaving Lifespring.

Before marrying Clarence Thomas (1987) and becoming involved in Lifespring, Ginni Thomas graduated law school (1983) and worked in Washington D.C. for Nebraska Republican Congressman Hal Daub (1981-1983). Later, she consistently continued her conservative commitment, which included opposing equal pay for women and later (2000) working at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.

Many people disagree with Ginni Thomas’ politics, but that’s no excuse for using her pain and suffering through Lifespring to excoriate her.

Ginni Thomas’ was deceptively preyed upon and victimized by a destructive cult-like organization. This must not be used to shame or blame her in any way. A former cult member like Steven Hassan who says he empathizes with cult victims knows this. What is shameful is trading on Ginni Thomas’ personal history and suffering, shared intimately at a support group, and using it as “click bait” for self-promotion, because she is now trending in the news. And doing so is not only a betrayal of Ms. Thomas’ trust, but more importantly an ethical breach for any helping professional that claims to care about cult victims.

What is the message this video release sends about a notable public figure or anyone else for that matter, coming forward to share their personal experience?

Does it discourage or encourage others to come forward like Ginni Thomas?

Ginni Thomas wanted to help people. She said in the video, “I want to expose Lifespring, I want to keep other people from going through that experience.”

Is this the way we want to respond to someone who has suffered through such an experience and wanted to help others?

Does the release of this video encourage cult victims to come forward, either in an effort to help others and/or seeking solace and understanding through a support group, with people who can share about similar situations?

There is currently far too much politicizing of the word “cult.”

Today factions on the political right and left use the word “cult” as an invective to denigrate and demonize political opponents.

Now, with total disregard of the historical facts, Ginni Thomas is being shamed publicly and branded as “brainwashed,” despite the fact that her political beliefs were neither changed by Lifespring, nor by leaving Lifespring.

Finally, it may be sensational and garner attention, but Thomas’ sad experience with a cult-like group, before her marriage to Clarence Thomas, must not be politicized and cannot ethically be used as an indictment.

Exploiting the painful “cult” experience of Ginni Thomas is wrong.

Note: Destructive cults have been similarly defined by cult experts historically over the years. Frequently these definitions intersect on three primary core characteristics that form the nucleus for the definition of a destructive cult. These three criteria were first established by psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton when he published his findings (1981) at Harvard University in a paper titled “Cult Formation.” These three core characteristics are (1) The single most salient feature of a destructive cult is an absolute authoritarian and totalitarian leader, often charismatic, who becomes an object of worship and is the defining element and driving force of the group. (2) The leader and group use coercive persuasion and thought reform techniques to gain undue influence over group members. (3) Having gained undue influence the leader and group manipulate the members to exploit them and do harm. This varies by degree from group to group, with some groups being much more destructive than others.

By Brian Birmingham

The Moorish Science Temple of America is this country’s first and oldest so-called “Black nationalist” organization, as well as this country’s first and oldest “Black Muslim” organization. It was founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1913, by a man named Noble Drew Ali.

Noble Drew Ali called himself God’s prophet, and he presented a book which he said was given to him by an Egyptian high priest. This book is called the Circle Seven Koran. Ali said that he was the reincarnation of Jesus, as well as Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad. He also claimed that the Black nationalist and separatist Marcus Garvey was his John the Baptist, the person who “prepared the way” for him.

This description of Marcus Garvey is stated within Chapter 48:1-3 of the Circle Seven Koran, which is the holy book of the Moorish Science Temple of America.

Noble Drew Ali apparently took some of the ideas and teachings of Marcus Garvey and others to create a religion and write religious texts. Ali then presented himself as God’s prophet to the United States of America.

Noble Drew Ali is an important American historical figure. He was the first leader of a Black nationalist group in American history.

Noble Drew Ali

Ali played the pivotal role in establishing the Moorish Science Temple of America. And without Ali there would never could have been an Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam or a Louis Farrakhan.

The Nation of Islam is essentially a splinter group that broke away from the Moorish Science Temple of America in 1930, after the death of Noble Drew Ali in 1929.

Frank Cherry first started to preach an early version of what are now called the “Black Hebrew” beliefs in the late 19th Century. But it was Noble Drew Ali who first explained that Islam was the true religion of the “Asiatic,” which is a word he used instead of “Black” or “Negro” regarding African Americans.

This Summer I interviewed Sheikh Ra Saadi El, who is the Supreme Grand Sheikh and Chief of Ministers for the Moorish Science Temple of America. He is the leader and Executive Ruler of a Moorish American group, which is descended directly from Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temple.

More about Sheikh Ra Saadi El can be found here.

The complete interview is here.

We talked about Rise of the Moors, a group that was in the news in recent months. Rise of the Moors claims to be related to the historical Moorish Science Temple and also seems to borrow its ideas in part from the notorious Nuwaubians.

Within the context of my interview with Sheikh Ra Saadi El we discussed the general history, belief and practices of the Moorish Science Temple and the teachings of Noble Drew Ali.

Noble Drew Ali was the first person to preach that “Black people” are not “Black,” but rather Moorish, the descendants of the Moors and therefore are “Moorish” by nationality.

It seems to me that in religious and sociological terms, the Moorish Science Temple of America, with its lineage going back to Noble Drew Ali, has evolved into an Islamic sect, rather than simply staying an idiosyncratic personality cult, defined by its founder.

The Moorish Science Temple does have its own unique prophet Noble Drew Ali and book, Circle Seven Koran, its own prayers, rituals, Holy Days, mode of dress, dietary restrictions, style of worship and other religious trappings. But unlike many other Black Muslim groups, it is not a racist or an identity supremacist organization.

In its early days, the Moorish Science Temple fit two of the core characteristics described by Dr. Robert Jay Lifton is his paper published at Harvard titled “Cult Formation.”

Lifton wrote, “Certain psychological themes which recur in these various historical contexts also arise in the study of cults. Cults can be identified by three characteristics:

1. a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;

2. a process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform.”

But the third characteristic cited by Lifton necessary for a cult to be considered destructive is evidence that there has been “economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.”

Based upon what I have learned neither Noble Drew Ali or the Moorish Science Temple have hurt or exploited people within their sphere of influence. Perhaps the organization might be considered a benign cult. It did come into being through a charismatic leader that arguably became and object of worship based upon his particular religious claims and there was intense indoctrination that may have led to undue influence regarding the recruitment and retention of members. But Ali and the movement he began have never used that influence to exploit or abuse anyone.

I could not find any record of harm done to anyone by Noble Drew Ali, the Moorish Science Temple, or even allegations of abuse or exploitation.

In fact, the Moorish Science Temple of America has nothing whatsoever to do with extremist groups like “Rise of the Moors,” the so-called “Nuwaubian Nation of Moors,” or any other groups that use the name “Moors,” which are known to promote racist or supremacist ideology. And as an institution, or more properly a movement of historically linked institutions, as there are three Moorish American groups claiming to be historically descended from Noble Drew Ali’s original organization, they have virtually no history of bad press, major scandal, or public reports of abuse or exploitation.

Regardless of whether one believes that Noble Drew Ali was a prophet of God or not, no one can deny that he was and is one of the most important religious leaders of the 20th century, who left behind a legacy of peaceful practice.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

Brian Birmingham interviews Jitarth Jadeja

BB: How long were you involved?

JJ: I was a full fledged QAnon believer from January 2018 to June 2019, so 1.5 years.

BB: Why did you stop?

JJ: There’s no single answer to this. First of all, my circumstances changed, I was diagnosed and received medication for Bipolar-2 which in combination with my ADHD treatment shifted my mindset. This was followed by a reduction in my social isolation because of my chaotic mental state.

This then led me to question a few things I had previously accepted without consideration. But it was also inconsistencies within Q’s own rules that they had set out. It started with a piece by Mike Rothschild discussing the sealed indictments Q touted. Which snowballed into eventually coming across a video debunking the last and most significant Q proof I had which was the ‘tip top tippy top shape’ phrase used by Donald Trump.

BB: Did you believe in other things labeled conspiracy theories before QAnon? What were those other conspiracy theories?

JJ: When I found Q I was deep into a conspiracy rabbit hole. That fall really started with Trump’s election and spiraled quickly into Pizza-gate and interdimensional aliens amongst many others.

BB: What do you think now about those conspiracy theories?

JJ: I hate conspiracies. I don’t even want to discuss them; I can’t stand any of them and looking back they’re so idiotic and complicated with bigger more grandiose conspiracies needed to explain initial conspiracies. I hate that.

BB: What drew you into the world of conspiracy theories?

JJ: I needed to feel special, I wanted answers, I wanted to mean something, be significant in some way, to know that despite being a consummate failure in every aspect of my life from career, education and relationships, that there was still some way I could not feel like someone on the lowest rung of the social hierarchy that I was.

BB: Do you think there is a type of person drawn to conspiracy theories?

JJ: I don’t know, I don’t think so, there’s correlation factors like say mental health or social isolation but these are correlations. The overwhelming majority of people with mental health issues don’t fall into QAnon. Ditto with social isolation. Just because they were factors for me doesn’t mean they would be for anyone else so it’s not possible to build an archetype of such a person with any certainty.

BB: Do you think Info Wars and Alex Jones is a scam?

JJ: No. I think he genuinely believes in what he says. He’s even been correct about a few things such as Bohemian Grove [sic]. And even his products that he sells, maybe it’s just placebo but they do work as advertised so no I don’t think it’s a grift. I think he’s connecting dots and making assumptions where he shouldn’t.

No one is more indoctrinated than the indoctrinator.

BB: Have you lost money through believing in conspiracy theories?

JJ: Not really but then I never had money to begin with or I’m sure I would have. I lost time, which is something you can’t buy.

BB: How do you think believing in conspiracy theories hurts people?

JJ: I think when you perceive the world that is so juxtaposed to the one that others see, not slightly, not a small shift, but almost completely opposite it changes your behavior and your actions. That is the real damage of such conspiracy theories, it’s not the beliefs really, it’s the behavioral change that occurs.

BB: What advice would you give to people caught up in conspiracy theories right now? What do you think they must consider? Why?

JJ: You must always genuinely consider the fact that you could be wrong. If you are sure you’re not wrong, then you have a problem.

BB: What advice would you give to someone that has a family member or friend caught up in conspiracy theories?

JJ: I wouldn’t know, it depends on the person, their actions and behaviors. Some I would say to focus on their change as a person and remind them that their beliefs are not an excuse to behave badly towards others.

To others I would say distract them, get them a hobby, find a way to get them to spend less time-consuming conspiracy related media.

And to others I would say run, run as far as you can, as quickly as you can, the person you knew is dead, they are gone and they are never coming back.

BB: Do you think QAnon will ever end? Will it go on indefinitely?

JJ: Everything ends, of course it will end. As long as Trump is around and in the picture it won’t though and before it ends, ironically there will almost be a personal reckoning, a “great awakening” of a different kind that will need to be grappled with. There will be fallout, people will get hurt, people will hurt themselves, hurt others, that cannot be stopped. We’ve crossed the Rubicon, there’s too many people in it now.

BB: Why do you think people often hop from one conspiracy theory to another?

JJ: It’s almost like a drug, the first time you read something that makes your head explode released a massive amount of dopamine. It’s like people keep needing that hit, that mind blowing effect and keep looking for it with other conspiracies. But at the same time, they need a bigger and bigger hit so they find bigger and bigger conspiracies.

BB: Do you think that you are done with the world of conspiracy theories? Why?

JJ: 100%

I hate them, I hate them all, from Epstein to UFOs, I don’t care, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to know about it, I don’t want anything to do with it.

BB: Did believing in conspiracy theories make you happy? Did it make you sad? Anxious and paranoid?

JJ: It made me all of that and more. It gave me hope that somehow, we could build a better future for all of humanity of we just ousted the bad guys. It also made me sad that people couldn’t see the truth I could. I was agitated, anxious, paranoid, aggressive and almost manic in my behaviors. I couldn’t talk about anything else to anyone, it was like being possessed.

BB: Is it healthy to believe in conspiracy theories or can it lead to extreme paranoia and anxiety?

JJ: I don’t know what that means to “be healthy,” I don’t think you can proscribe such a description to a belief. Beliefs are irrelevant, it’s the behavior that changes that is either healthy or unhealthy. You can believe anything you want but it’s your actions that come after which is what does damage. Why does one person who believes the same thing as another, not behave in the same way? End

Note: Jitarth Jadeja is a former follower of QAnon who now speaks out against the movement. Brian Birmingham is a cult researcher and graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology.

By Brian Birmingham

I once knew an older gentleman who lived near Mobile, Alabama. He called himself a “Christian” and he refused to read or study from any Bible other than a King James Version. He was retired, and he studied the Bible every day for hours. He was friendly and generous. We became Bible study partners and friends.

After weeks of study together, he began to share some of his personal beliefs and opinions.

That’s when it became evident that he was a racist.

But all of his racism was justified through interpretations of the King James Bible.

“Everything” he said was somehow explicitly spelled out and justified biblically, he claimed.

First there is the “Curse of Cain” (Genesis 4:15), which he interpreted as a premise for black slavery and servitude. Then he claimed that Acts 17:26 laid the foundation for biblically mandated segregation. He later told me that that Jeremiah 23:25 was the basis for denouncing Martin Luther King, Jr. as a “false prophet.”

He rejected all my arguments and insisted that “God” had commanded that the races must live separately and that black people specifically must be subservient to white people.

Within the world of “cults” these same racist sentiments are expressed by certain groups, who also insist that such pronouncements are solely based upon “God’s Word” in the Bible.

There is a group called “Twelve Tribes,” founded by Eugene Delbert Spriggs, that preaches Biblical justifications for holding racist beliefs. But Spriggs simply copied his teachings from other racists.

We often call groups that harbor such sentiments “White Supremacists.”

Now on the other hand what many don’t know is that there are also Black Supremacists.

The Ku Klux Klan marching on parade.

Black Supremacists often manipulate the bible too, much like the Ku Klux Klan and my old white racist friend from Alabama. The only difference is, which race is considered preeminent.

For example, the so-called “Black Hebrews” or “Black Israelite” movement, which includes “Israelites United in Christ” (IUIC) led by Nathaniel Ray of New York, also known as “Nathanyel Ben Israel.”

The IUIC represents just one faction, within the larger context of Black Hebrew or Black Israelite movement. But in many ways the IUIC is not unlike the Klan concerning their insistence upon ordained racial superiority.

By the way, the IUIC is hardly original. Just like the Twelve Tribes its beliefs are largely derived from earlier groups such as the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK), which is arguably even more militant.

Would Martin Luther King be considered a “false prophet” by such groups due to his philosophy of non-violence and peaceful resistance?

Years after my studies with the man from Alabama I came across a street preacher on a sunny Spring Day in downtown Dallas. He was accompanied by several supporters. The preacher blasted his message through a bullhorn, while his companions passed out flyers to pedestrians. They wore dark, tunic-like uniforms. Some had headpieces and they all carried Bibles. They were Black Israelites.

I stopped to listen and read one of their flyers. It was published by Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK). The message was hardcore Black Supremacist doctrine. All about how African Americans, and other people of color, are the true descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. How Christianity is a “false religion” and white people are “devils.”

Hate speech is still free speech in America. And the ISUPK preacher shared a racist and anti-Semitic message based upon a twisted interpretation of the Bible.

Were they so different from the Klan or the White Supremist Christian Identity Movement or any other supposedly Bible-based hate group?

Scripture twisting, after all, is characteristically done by both.

Black Israelites preaching

FYI — The Anti-Defamation League provides a very good history of ISUPK and related groups on its website, in an article titled “Extremist Sects Within the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement.” It explains how the ISUPK and IUIC have the same ideological roots, beginning with a preacher named Frank Cherry.

I stood and listened to that street preacher, which apparently drew his attention. He said, “If you are truly sorry for all the evil done by white people, bow down and kiss my boot.” He explained, “Talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words. Humble yourself before this descendent of slaves that your ancestors tormented and exploited. Kiss my boot.”

So, I did it.

All the Black Israelites clapped as I rose to my feet and shook the hand of the preacher, who seemed genuinely surprised.

I was interested in his reaction and how my act of contrition might affect him.

Would this change his opinion of me or about white people?

“I didn’t think you would do it,” he said.

And then he put his arm around my shoulder like a friend.

Then he said, “After the race war, which is coming, I will make sure that you are a well-treated slave.”

We talked for a while after that, but he never really changed his mind about me or white people. There was nothing I could do or say to persuade him. He was just
as rigid as my old white Bible study partner.

Today there are many hate groups online recruiting new members. Some have been banned on social media, while others have not.

YouTube has policies concerning hate speech.

However, groups like the IUIC, led by Nathaniel Ray, operate with impunity, using social media to spread hate, recruit and raise money. The IUIC is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok and uses the app Clubhouse.

Nathaniel Ray IUIC

See the IUIC YouTube channel and the many indoctrination videos available there. For example, the one titled, “Let’s talk Israel United in Christ” by IUIC founder Nathaniel Ray. Ray explicitly calls whites and Jews the “Devil” at the 14-minute mark.

Ray provides a very concise explanation of the basic beliefs of the IUIC. He says that European Jews are “Edomites” and are themselves the “Devil.”

I have no regrets about my brief encounter with the ISUPK or boot kissing. It helped bring some clarity about the nature of all hate groups and how rigidly they hold onto their hate, whether someone kisses their boot or whatever.

When someone has hate in their heart it’s hard to change them. They see the world in black and white, “us vs. them.” And this distinction isn’t about race, it’s about the dichotomy and limits of their thinking and the rigidity of their mindset.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

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By Brian Birmingham

A group called “Rise of the Moors,” founded by Jahmal Latimer, received quite a bit of media attention recently. On July 3rd Latimer led ten followers on a march through Wakefield, Massachusetts. The group was heavily armed.

After a standoff with local police, which lasted for several hours, Latimer and his men were all arrested.

The entire incident was livestreamed by Latimer on his YouTube channel, which is now blocked.

Was this all just a publicity stunt to garner attention and gain subscribers on YouTube?


So, who or what is the “Rise of the Moors” and what do they believe?

Jahmal Latimer

A closer look at the group reveals that Jahmal Latimer is hardly an original thinker. In fact, Rise of the Moors appears to be a combination of ideas primarily lifted from two sources.

First, the Moorish Science Temple of America, founded by Noble Drew Ali in 1913.

Second, the so-called “Sovereign Citizen Movement,” which is a disparate and loosely organized conglomeration of anti-government extremists, typified by the likes of Kent Hovind.

The Moorish Science Temple is historically significant. It is the first Black Muslim movement in the United States. Notably Wallace Fard Muhammad, who is responsible for the formation of the Nation of Islam, was once a member of the Moorish Science Temple. It was the first group to promote the idea of Black Nationalism. The idea that African-Americans must begin to build their own physical nation according to Marcus Garvey. At its most extreme Black Nationalism contends that African-Americans are not actually citizens of the United States and therefore not subject to its laws and taxes.

When Jahmal Latimer livestreamed part of his group’s confrontation with Massachusetts police on YouTube he claimed that he had done nothing wrong. Latimer said the police need not be alarmed by the presence of several heavily armed men dressed in tactical gear marching along the side of the highway. At five minutes and thirty seconds into this video, which is titled “Peaceful,” he says that he took a vow as a Marine, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Latimer then goes on to define “enemy” as any person who would go against the rulings of Federal Courts regarding laws passed by Congress. Latimer then invokes the Second Amendment and precedents supposedly set by certain cases decided by the Supreme Court, to substantiate his claim that the group is doing nothing wrong in possessing weapons and ammunition.

But upon further analysis Jahmal Latimer’s claims make little if any sense.

He claims to be a sovereign citizen of a Moorish Nation, which is not subject to United States law or authority.

So, on one hand Latimer invokes his duty as a veteran to support and defend the Constitution, but on the other hand he claims that he is a sovereign citizen and member of a Moorish nation and therefore not subject to United States law.

Jahmal Latimer is trying to hold two conflicting set of beliefs simultaneously.

Latimer can’t have it both ways, and the thought process he exhibits in his video is incoherent, muddled and ultimately at best delusional.

Rise of the Moors does not now seem intent upon violence.

Latimer and his followers did not fire their weapons to resist arrest and no one was injured.

The group’s teachings seem to be a type of “stew’” cooked up by Latimer including ingredients derived from Moorish Science, Sovereign Citizen ideology, brought to a simmer as some sort of poorly conceived “militia.” There is also a whiff of the Black Hebrew movement present, despite the Moors label Latimer has chosen.

Jahmal Latimer, like many “cult leaders” today, concocted the recipe for his stew by copying the ideas of others.

For example, cult leader Keith Raniere, who copied Scientology, Ayn Rand, Amway and Landmark Education to come up with NXIVM.

Is Rise of the Moors a potent threat, or even a threat at all?

Maybe not.

Instead, this may be about a deeply delusional man with a desperate need for attention?


By Brian Birmingham

Slate recently reported about Steve Hassan’s “crusade” against what he calls the “Cult of Trump.”

However, the article at times calls into question Hassan’s claims and expertise concerning his determination of what exactly constitutes a “cult.” It also states, “some wonder if he’s gone too far.”

Slate concludes that Hassan, who is a former “Moonie” or follower of Rev. Moon’s Unification Church, was once on a mission to save the world for Reverend Moon. But now it appears, after leaving the Moonies through deprogramming he has now switched to a new crusade.

Almost half a century has passed since Hassan’s exit from the Moon cult, but he is still on a mission to save the world.

This time instead of saving the world for Reverend Moon in the name of “world peace and unification” Hassan is on much more personal self-promotional mission of his own. His crusade now is to deliver “Freedom of Mind” to those unfortunates victimized by Donald Trump.

Slate reports that “self-promotion leaks into his sermons. He sometimes sounds as eager to publicize himself (‘I scratch my head why everyone who cares hasn’t read The Cult of Trump book?’ he tweeted recently in response to a CNN segment on Trump and the Republican Party).”

Steve Hassan

According to Steve Hassan apparently almost anyone that doesn’t see things according to his political and social perspective must be a “victim” of “undue influence” and in need of “deprogramming.” Then they will be persuaded to see the world properly per his point of view.

Please keep in mind that Slate is one of the most liberal media outlets in America and certainly no friend of Donald Trump.

Even though the Slate piece was respectful, it was not always exactly complimentary concerning Steve Hassan and his work.

Slate reported that “Hassan’s definition of cult-like behavior can seem particularly wide-ranging.” For example, he seems to imply that British royal family might be a bit like a cult. Referring to the royal family’s treatment of Meghan Markle, Hassan wrote on his blog, “Any organization willing to maintain its public image by sacrificing the well-being of its members relies on many of the same psychological theories and tactics used by authoritarian cults.”

Does this mean that Steve Hassan thinks Queen Elizabeth II is a “cult leader” and the royal family might be a family cult?

If so, why?

If not, why not?

It seems Hassan is projecting and seeking validation from others.

Even his “mentor,” attorney and expert witness Alan Scheflin, doesn’t appear to take Steve’s perspective very seriously.

Scheflin told Slate, “I would say that Steve has a tendency in some ways to see everything as undue influence because he’s primed to see it that way. I feel that he’s still the victim of the cult. I think that one of the things that happens when you come out of a cult is you have tremendous distrust. You have to become the center of your own universe,” Scheflin concluded.

Interestingly, Alan Scheflin, who Steve has worked with and who he says mentored him, also did not think Hassan would make a good expert witness in court.

“I don’t know that’s the best forum for Steve,” Scheflin said. “I see him as a media person,” he concluded.

Apparently, Hassan has aspirations to be a recognized court expert, but Scheflin seems to think he should stick with the role of a talking head on TV.

Steve Hassan did testify once decades ago in a Boston custody battle (Kendall v. Kendall 1996).

However, according the court record, “the judge specifically stated that she did not rely on Dr. Hassan’s testimony in making her ruling.”

The Slate article also seemingly categorizes Steve Hassan as something of an “ambulance chaser” pursuing clients.

QAnon Shaman

Slate reports, “Hassan hopes to establish his BITE model as a way of evaluating undue influence in the legal system. He thinks he could be an expert witness for the defense of some of the [January 6th] insurrectionists, particularly given that one of the lawyers compared the insurrectionists to ‘followers of Jim Jones’ while another referred to Trump as a ‘cult leader.’ Hassan said he offered on Twitter a few months ago to talk with Jacob Chansley, the insurrectionist known for wearing a fur helmet and horns, but did not receive a reply.”

So, Steve tried to hook up with so-called “QAnon Shaman”?

In many ways Steve Hassan operates like a cult leader himself. He inhabits a solipsistic cognitive universe in which his decidedly liberal bias and political opinions become repeatedly confused with objective reality. Those that reject him may be labeled victims of “mind control.”

Apparently, Steve is now a type of self-styled guru, leading his flock of “Freedom of Mind” supporters or what can be seen as a “cult following.”

The late Dr. Cathleen Mann, who testified successfully in numerous proceedings across the United States as a judicially qualified court forensic expert called Steve Hassan’s teachings simply “Hassanology.”

Specifically Mann wrote, “This composite philosophical approach as now devised by Mr. Hassan might be called ‘Hassanology’. In the world of cults Hassanology essentially depicts Steve Hassan as the ultimate savior. He is a hammer, and there is an ever-expanding list of groups to be seen as nails. As they say, ‘When you are a hammer everything looks like a nail.’ Of course, this might once again simply reflect a convenient marketing strategy.”

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas, Texas and was once a member of the Trinity Foundation community. He later worked for Steven Hassan at Freedom of Mind.

By Brian Birmingham

I am a former member of an abusive authoritarian group, or “cult.”

As a teenager I was placed, by my parents, in a “troubled teens” program,” which is now defunct. The program was not religious, but it did use behavioral modification techniques and employed coercive persuasion to gain undue influence over its participants. The stated objective was to mold us into adults that would stay sober and adhere to the program’s principles.

In my opinion this was a generally toxic and harmful program. It took me almost fifteen years to begin to recognize the harm that occurred there. This program included confrontational and humiliating pseudo-therapies. Instead of helping people the program hurt me and the other teens subjected to it.

As an adult in my 30s I read Steve Hassan’s book “Combatting Cult Mind Control.” At that time, I was involved in yet another authoritarian organization called a “cult” in Dallas, Texas. After leaving this group, known as the Trinity Foundation, in August of 2006, someone recommended Steve Hassan’s book to me.

This is when I learned about what Steve Hassan calls the BITE model of mind control.

Reading the book was helpful in processing what had happened to me. Subsequently, I experienced a period of intense self-examination and went through a recovery program at a place called Meadow Haven, in Lakeville, Massachusetts. While at Meadow Haven I unraveled the effects of the program for troubled teens as well as my other cultic experience. I was also diagnosed as being within the autism spectrum. I was finally diagnosed definitively with Asperger’s syndrome. Learning this helped me to better understand my life and introverted nature.

The combination of undiagnosed autism and the trauma of going through an abusive authoritarian group as a teen profoundly affected my life and made me vulnerable.

Steve Hassan

In July of 2010 I was introduced to Steve Hassan by a mutual friend at a conference about cults. At the time I lived in the Boston area not far from him. Steve gave me his business card and told me to contact him when I got back to Boston. I did and he offered me a job at Freedom of Mind (FOM). I became his research assistant, performing various tasks for FOM for almost three years. I quit in 2013, which ended my association with Steve Hassan.

Today, I see and understand Steve in a whole new light and want to share those insights. I feel that he often exploits fragile former cult members for his own personal benefit.

In the early stages of my recovery Steve’s BITE model introduced me to psychological concepts which I’d never known about before. The ideas in his first book “Combating Cult Mind Control” helped me realize, that contrary to what I’d believed about myself for so long, it was not so much a matter of what was wrong with me, but rather what was done to me that was wrong.

There are different types of cults. They are not all religious in nature.

Steve Hassan, through his work, taught me these things.

But I now know that Steve did not originate the ideas he wrote about. Instead, his BITE model is derivative and the relabeled ideas of others. Steve simply rebranded those ideas and he presents them essentially as his own without meaningful detailed attribution. This seems to me to be dishonest and deliberately misleading.

The BITE model is actually a composite of the work and original research of psychologist Margaret Singer, communication experts Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, and psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton.

Let me spell this out specifically.

B,” for behavior control, is based upon the work of Lifton and Singer, accomplished decades before Steve’s first book was published.

I,” for information control, is predicated upon what Conway and Siegelman first identified as “information disease” within their book “Snapping” published in 1978.

T,” for the control of thinking, is derived from Lifton’s book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” published in 1961.

E,” for emotional control, also is based upon the previous work of Conway and Siegelman in their book “Holy Terror” published in 1982.

Steve Hassan did not identify or originate these specific principles of understanding and identifying how authoritarian groups and leaders dominate and control people. He merely studied them, collected and copied them and then rebranded them for himself. Steve presents the BITE model as his own, but it is not his original thought, even though he attempts to pass it off as such to the public.

Steve is very good at marketing and sales and he’s managed to make a lot of money from his books, cult interventions and consulting work. He is certainly a wealthy man. But the BITE model, which he promotes as the foundation for his work was never really his own original work. Steve just cobbled it together as a marketing ploy based upon the work of others. And to claim otherwise is academically dishonest and inherently wrong.

The BITE model in my opinion is also deeply flawed, at least in the way Steve loosely applies it. For anyone with an agenda it is fairly easy to use it to indict almost any group or person you don’t like.

For example, someone who doesn’t like Christians could use the BITE model to indict Jesus by selectively going through the New Testament to prove that Jesus was a “cult leader.” Or use the BITE model to do the same thing with the words of Paul.

Moreover, a person with a political or social bias can use the BITE model to frame a politician as a “cult leader” or call a political party a “cult.”

And someone manipulating this same BITE model can then claim that all those who disagree with him are somehow the “victims” of “mind control.”

This can also be seen as an effective marketing scheme to sell your services to “deprogram” all those perceived “victims.”

In my opinion this turns “Freedom of Mind” fairly upside down into a state of mind based upon a selective worldview and specific ideas that conform to those of what Steve Hassan thinks is acceptable.

Steve Hassan in his book “The Cult of Trump” contends that Donald Trump supporters don’t REALLY like Donald Trump, but are somehow instead the victims of “thought reform techniques” employed by the former president. And anyone that isn’t being so manipulated must be a bad person with racist or anti-Semitic sentiments. Or perhaps they may be psychologically or intellectually impaired.

It is important to recognize that cult experts don’t universally endorse Steve’s notions about Donald Trump and his supporters. Robert Jay Lifton noted, “Trump is not totalistic like [Shoko Asahara] the leader of [the Japanese cult] Aum Shinrikyo.” Michael Langone, Executive Director of the International Cultic Studies Association stated, “I can understand why people don’t like Trump,” However, Langone concluded “But to jump from not liking Trump to Trump as cult leader, I think, is a bit of a leap.”

Steve seems to think it’s his job to straighten everyone out so that they truly have genuine “freedom of mind” (pages 7, and 216 “The Cult of Trump”).

But here is the problem. What really is “freedom of mind” according to Steve Hassan?

It seems to me that when someone has such freedom Steve surmises that they will then pretty much see and interact with the world just like he does.

In his book Steve implies that authentically liberated minds will see the world just like him.

Is Steve trying to clone himself and become some sort of guru determining what is the right and wrong way to think and feel?

Isn’t that the typical behavior of a “cult leader”?

On page 231 of his book Steve suggests that we might need a new set of commandments in addition to the original Ten Commandments.

Steve writes, “People consensually abide by rules for the common good. That is also true of our social behavior–the Ten Commandments were established thousands of years ago as a mechanism for helping people get along in groups. They were also established as a form of social control, with their focus on worshiping ‘the one true God’. What we may need now are commandments that guide our ethical behavior as citizens, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, or sexual or religious preference.”

Who will write these new commandments?

Will Steve be our new Moses?

Will Steve’s new commandments replace or supplement the existing ones?

Don’t we have enough commandments already?

​Steve apparently wants something new that reflects his own worldview. All of this seems somewhat reminiscent of what Robert Jay Lifton calls a “Sacred Science.”

Lifton writes, “The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. This sacredness is evident in the prohibition (whether or not explicit) against the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word itself. While thus transcending ordinary concerns of logic, however, the milieu at the same time makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute ‘scientific’ precision. Thus, the ultimate moral vision becomes an ultimate science; and the man who dares to criticize it, or to harbor even unspoken alternative ideas, becomes not only immoral and irreverent, but also ‘unscientific.’ In this way, the philosopher kings of modern ideological totalism reinforce their authority by claiming to share in the rich and respected heritage of natural science.”

For most of 2005, I was in Baghdad serving as a medic in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a medic, from time to time I was called upon to participate in patrols outside of our base perimeter. One day while patrolling, we had dismounted from our vehicles and were walking through a neighborhood. At one point, we stopped to take a rest. There was a group of young Iraqi boys playing soccer in a vacant lot across the street. The soccer ball was kicked into our midst. A little kid about ten or twelve years old asked our permission to retrieve the ball. We said yes, and then when he got the ball, I asked him if the people in his neighborhood liked the Americans. He said “No”. I asked, “Why not?” He said, “Because you’re all Jews” in a very matter-of-fact way, and ran off. All this child knew about America and the people who live there was what he learned from Saddam Hussein’s propaganda, and the anti-American, anti-Semitic culture in which he was raised. In a way, the boy lived in a type of bubble, from which he derived a distorted view of America and Americans.

Steve Hassan comes across as someone living in a bubble of his own. Just like the Iraqi kid I met in Baghdad, with his distorted view of America and Americans. Steve has his own ideological echo chamber that he inhabits and others that entertain alternative ideas and different views are summarily dismissed or labeled negatively.

“The Cult of Trump”​ also appears to dismiss or disregard that alternative ideas have a right to exist. This can be seen as a reflection of what Lifton calls the “dispensing of existence.”

Lifton writes, “Are not men presumptuous to appoint themselves the dispensers of human existence? Surely this is a flagrant expression of what the Greeks called hubris, of arrogant man making himself God. Yet one underlying assumption makes this arrogance mandatory: the conviction that there is just one path to true existence, just one valid mode of being, and that all others are perforce invalid and false. Totalists thus feel themselves compelled to destroy all possibilities of false existence as a means of furthering the great plan of true existence to which they are committed.”

Steve’s book raises some larger questions that need to be asked by its readers, which are applicable to everyone.

Is there such a thing as objective truth or must everything be based upon the bias of the believer?

Don’t we all need to be fact based and objective regardless of our political bias and world view and not allow our subjective sentiments cause us to negatively label others?

Isn’t hard objective evidence preferable to politicized characterizations like those within Steve’s often polemical book “The Cult of Trump”?

And finally, is it really useful to politicize the word “cult” turning it into a derisive pejorative label used to dismiss the existence of alternative political ideas?

In my opinion politicizing the word “cult” in this way serves no useful or factual purpose, but rather portrays a deeply distorted view of politics in America today.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas, Texas and was once a member of the Trinity Foundation community. He later worked for Steven Hassan at Freedom of Mind.

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By Brian Birmingham

Following my interview with Sawyer, a former member of the Heaven’s Gate cult, I interviewed a man named Steven Hill, who is also a former member of Heaven’s Gate.

Steven Hill was the husband of Yvonne McCurdy-Hill (known as Dvvody in the group). Yvonne McCurdy-Hill and her husband joined Heaven’s Gate together in the fall of 1996. Steven Hill left the group after just one month. But the cult destroyed his family and scarred Hill’s life forever.

His wife Yvonne remained with the group and ultimately died with them. She was identified as one of the thirty-nine bodies found March of 1997 inside a Rancho Sante Fe mansion, which was the cult’s last home.

At the time of her death, Yvonne McCurdy-Hill was the most junior member of the group. She spent a little less than six months as a cult member.

There were two questions I wanted to ask Steven Hill.

First, could he corroborate what Sawyer said about minor children recruited and hidden by the group back in the 1970s.

Second, did he have any idea that the group was planning on dying together to make their “exit” to “The Next Level”? And if he DID know what they were planning, why didn’t he try to stop them?

Steven Hill’s answers to these questions is revealing.

He concurs that minor children were included within the group during the 1970s and that they were hidden. Hill totally corroborated Sawyer’s account.

Hill also said that while he was a member of Heaven’s Gate, he spent a lot of time reading in the group’s library. Apparently, cult leader Marshall Applewhite liked to collect any media reports about the group over the years. Hill saw old news clippings about Ti (aka Bonnie Nettles) and Do (aka Marshall Applewhite), which included magazine articles, old flyers advertising meetings the group held and various other media that Applewhite collected. It seems that every time the cult or its leaders were somehow mentioned in the news Marshall Applewhite added it to his archives. Within the group’s growing library were books about UFOs, channeling, and various other New Age-type topics. Hill specifically came across news articles that reported minor children ran away from home to join the cult and that they were subsequently hidden by the group from the authorities and their families.

Steven Hill and his wife left their newborn twin daughters behind with family when they abandoned their old lives to join the cult. Yvonne McCurdy-Hill was suffering from postpartum depression at the time she moved in with the group at Rancho Santa Fe. Hill was later asked to leave the group due to an illness. Mrs. Hill wanted to leave too. But she learned from her mother that her twins would never be returned to her custody. She ultimately concluded that without her children there was nothing meaningful left for her outside of the group.

Chuck Shramek then released the first image of the so-called “companion,” which was somehow supposedly trailing the Hale-Bopp comet, through Art Bell’s radio show.

Marshall Applewhite

When Applewhite learned about the “companion” he surmised that it was “marker,” a sign that he had been waiting for to begin the planning for the “exit,” which would take place four months later.

The deaths of the members of Heaven’s Gate were the largest mass suicide ever on United States soil.

Steven Hill was probably out of the group by the time the “companion” to the Hale-Bopp comet was widely known about publicly.

Hill said that he was monitoring the group’s website when he saw the “RED ALERT” warning, which began flashing in early 1997.

But he had no idea that the group was planning to die together.

Hill instead expected his wife to come home.

When Steven Hill learned about a mass suicide in California and realized that his wife was among the dead, his life was shattered.

And to this day Hill has no relationship whatsoever with the twin daughters, left behind when he and his wife joined the doomsday cult known as “Heaven’s Gate.”

By Brian Birmingham

In an effort to let Ole Anthony explain himself here is an excerpt from a “Primetime Live” interview he did with Dianne Sawyer November 21, 1991. Here Anthony discusses with Sawyer the problems he sees inherently with TV ministries.

Ole Anthony: “The longing of a man’s heart is for community, for a sense of being able to lay down his life for something important. That can’t happen with a television tube.”

Diane Sawyer: “But there are people who come forward and say, ‘I got a miracle because of, what, because of the money I gave, because I watched, I did get a miracle.’”

Ole: “Did you ever see ‘The Wizard of Oz?’ Dorothy got her heart’s desire, the tin man received his heart’s desire, the lion received his heart’s desire, and the Tin Man received his heart’s desire, even though the Wizard was a charlatan. Why? The God of the Universe was already resident within them, he just had to be let out!”

Diane Sawyer: “So, what do you say to the person sitting at home, watching?”

Ole: “Let’s open your eyes, and look at the need around you. Give to that need instead of to some faraway evangelist that’s talking you into playing a heavenly lottery, or a heavenly slot machine.”

Diane Sawyer: “And they’ll get those miracles they want?”

Ole Anthony

Ole (interrupting): -They’ll get all the miracles that are promised. They’ll get a hundredfold blessing returned unto them.”

That was Ole Anthony some thirty years ago. Ole Anthony died last week at the age 82.

It has been said that no bad person has all bad qualities, and no good person has all good qualities.

Everybody, all of us, has a mixture of what can be seen as perhaps saintly and conversely diabolical attributes.

And so, it was with Ole Anthony, founder and elder of the Trinity Foundation, of Dallas, Texas.

Trinity Foundation is best known for its work in monitoring and exposing various “televangelist” ministries. In doing so, Trinity Foundation and Ole Anthony probably did some good.

However, former members of Trinity Foundation have also spoken and written of a “dark side” to Ole Anthony and the Trinity Foundation. Trinity Foundation has been described by some as a “cult”.

Ole Anthony also lied extensively about his background. He has claimed that he was (before founding Trinity Foundation in 1972) a broadcaster, a spy, a wealthy industrialist, a political strategist and candidate. In fact, he was none of those things.

Trinity Foundation has been described by former members as employing a number of cult-like, abusive practices. For example, notorious “hot seat” confrontational group encounter sessions, which broke down members’ personal boundaries and fostered an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. Though this practice ended in the early 1990s.

Ole Anthony taught that everything in ones’ natural mind was an enemy of God, and that ones’ mind is actually the Antichrist. And according to Anthony unless one is living in community one cannot become free of one’s Antichrist nature.

If that is true, why then would anyone listen to Ole Anthony? After all, these ideas were all products of his own mind.

But Ole Anthony believed that he had discovered things, some spiritual truths, which other Christians had somehow missed for the last 2,000 years.

However, Ole Anthony was hardly an original thinker.

Many of the founders and leaders of controversial Bible-based groups, some called “cults,” believed that they too were totally unique and special.

Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS (Mormon) church taught that he was the latter-day prophet of “the restored Gospel.”

Gene Spriggs, founder of the so-called “Twelve Tribes” communities, taught that the Holy Spirit had been absent from the face of the Earth until he founded a truly authentic community.

Sun Myung Moon taught the same thing about his supposedly unique Unification church. Moon went so far as to claim to be the Second Coming of Christ.

There are so many examples of various Bible-based thinkers that taught, whether implicitly or explicitly, that they’d figured something out that nobody had every really understood before for 2,000 years.

Ole Anthony was yet another self-proclaimed latter-day prophet, and in many ways, not unlike Moon, Spriggs, and all the rest.

What then is the legacy of Ole Anthony?

Trinity Foundation served to highlight the excesses and frauds of various radio and TV preachers and their ministries. This served the public good.

But behind his good work, and largely unknown to the general public, Ole Anthony held an inordinate amount of power and control over the lives of his followers within the Trinity Foundation. He’d deny his disciples permission to marry. And he ruled through fear and intimidation. Anthony often punished those who would dare to question him or his authority.

Those who focus only on what Ole Anthony did through his well-publicized activities regarding unscrupulous evangelical ministries, may be unaware of the issues surrounding accountability concerning his own behavior, and the authoritarian way in which he ran Trinity Foundation.

For all of Ole Anthony’s preaching about accountability he himself was accountable to no one. And in many ways the personality-driven Trinity Foundation existed to support Anthony’s own pretentious posturing and narcissistic needs.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas, Texas and was once a member of the Trinity Foundation community.

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By Brian Birmingham

On the evening of Monday, April 5, 2021 I had the opportunity of being able to interview, at length, a man called Sawyer. Sawyer is an original member of the notorious group that eventually came to be known as “Heaven’s Gate”.

Heaven’s Gate, led by Marshall Applewhite is remembered due to an Applewhite inspired mass suicide, which occurred in March of 1997. Thirty-nine members of the group, including its founder Applewhite, killed themselves in a supposed attempt to to ascend to a new state of being Applewhite called “The Next Level”.

The interview with Sawyer was over four and a half hours in length. Not much was discussed, that was not generally known to the public before. Sawyer remains a deeply committed follower, despite the group’s demise.


Sawyer spoke at length about how he met the group, his history with them, how he came to leave the group after eighteen years and everything in between.

But there is one thing about which Sawyer spoke, that as far as I know, has never been revealed to anyone before. That is, Sawyer describes certain minors, teenagers who he claims were knowingly allowed to camp with the group and according to him, were allowed “special contact” with their caregivers that remained outside of the group, in order to reassure those caregivers that their minor loved ones were safe.

Sawyer mentions one minor, that he says left foster care at the age of 16 to join the group. She left the group as an adult some years later.

Everyone else of legal age, other than the minor children, Sawyer says, was cut off from their families of origin, except for these minor children.

These children, who joined the group in the late 1970s were allowed to contact their families.

Sawyer also described how the group’s camps in the early years of its history, before they occupied a fixed residence, were designed to avoid detection and discourage surveillance. It seems that either from land or through aerial reconnaissance the group was effectively camouflaged to obscure recognition.

Marshall Applewhite

Sawyer said the Applewhite also ordered that guards be placed around the perimeter of the camp, so that the group could be easily alerted if anyone attempted approaching them. This would give them time to hide. Applewhite did not want an accurate count indicating the size of the group, to be successfully made.

I contacted another Heaven’s Gate survivor, Frank Lyford, to corroborate Sawyer’s account of minor children in Heaven’s Gate. Lyford neither confirmed nor denied what Sawyer had told me; Lyford did not reply to my message at all.

If what Sawyer said is true concerning the children, it certainly casts a new light on Applewhite and his followers. And it’s an even darker more sinister image of the group than ever before. It seems that recruiting and hiding kids, teenagers, was not a problem for Marshall Applewhite.

It seems that this part of the group’s dark history has never been exposed and revealed to the public before today.

The possibility that a doomsday suicide cult once recruited minor children is deeply disturbing.