[Editorial Note: This document is part of a collection of documents on brainwashing and related controversies. For a history of these controversies, and a discussion of the relevance of this document, see the paper by Massimo Introvigne "Liar, Liar": Brainwashing, CESNUR and APA.]


apa American

Advancing psychology as a science, a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare

July 12, 1989

Dr. William D'Antonio
1722 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Bill:

As you requested, I have asked for a review of APA's activities regarding the Molko case. Attached is a report by our executive Associate for Legal Affairs, which summarizes the history of that issue.


Ray D. Fowler, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer


July 11, 1989


TO: Raymond D. Fowler, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer

FROM: Dort S. Bigg, J.D.
Executive Associate
Local Affairs

SUBJECT: Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn.

You have requested that I provide you with a report concerning APA involvement in the Molko case, specifically; the factors which led to APA’s decision to withdraw its name from the brief, APA’s subsequent involvement in examining the issue of “coercive persuasion”, and the accuracy of certain statements made by Dr. Richard Ofshe in a letter to Dr. D’Antonio dated May 17, 1989 as they relate to the forgoing issues. My findings, based upon my review of the entire file, conversations with relevant staff, certain APA Board Members and legal counsel, are as follows:


1) On December 8, 1986, APA received a memo from Donald Bersoff of Ennis, Friedman, & Bersoff, APA’s legal counsel, advising APA of the Molko case on “coercive persuasion” then pending before the California Supreme Court and inquiring whether APA wished to consider entering the case as an amicus.
2) On February 5, 1987, during its winter meeting, the APA Board of Directors voted for APA to participate in the case as an amicus.
3) On February 10, 1987 APA joined with numerous behavioral and social scientists, as individual amici, in submitting a brief in the Molko case.

APA Decision to Withdraw from the Molko Case

At the request of some members of the Association, the Board of Directors, in the spring of 1987, reconsidered its prior decision to participate in the brief and voted, narrowly, to withdraw. That decision was based on (1) the fact that the Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility had not yet received a report from its Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control and (2) calls and letters received by the Board of Directors on both sides of the issue suggesting that the matter would be better resolved after BSERP had acted on the anticipated Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control report.

APA’s decision to withdraw from the case was based on procedural as opposed to substantive concerns. APA never rejected the brief on the ground that it was inaccurate in substance. APA’s brief was not, as Dr. Ofshe asserts, “improperly slipped through the APA’s administrative structure...and filed by the former executive director of APA despite objections by APA’s legal counsel.” (Ofshe letter at pg. 2). The Ofshe statement is inaccurate in that: a) APA’s amicus procedures for entry into a case were followed in the Molko case; b) APA Legal Counsel never recommended against APA involvement and; c) the APA Executive Director did not resign because a brief was filed in the case.

On March 24, 1987, APA filed its motion to withdraw from the case. The motion informed the court that APA had previously convened a Task Force to study “coercive persuasion”. Since the Task Force had not issued its findings at the time the brief was submitted, APA advised the court that “[t]he Board of Directors...believes that it was premature....to endorse the positions taken in the amicus brief prior to completion of the task force study.” The motion went on to say that, “By this action, APA does not mean to suggest endorsement of any views opposed to those set forth in the amicus brief. Nor does APA mean to suggest that it will not ultimately be able to subscribe to the views expressed in the brief.”
The California Supreme Court granted APA’s motion to withdraw as an amicus, although the other signatories to the brief remained as amici.

Subsequent APA Involvement on the Issue of Coercive Persuasion

Following APA’s decision to withdraw its brief, the Singer task force report was scrutinized by a panel of APA’s Board of Social & Ethical Responsibility (BSERP) as well as independent reviewers and found to lack scientific merit and the studies supporting its finding to lack methodological rigor. BSERP reminded the Task Force members that neither the report nor any subsequent version of the report was to be used to imply BSERP or APA support or approval. They were further requested not to distribute or publicize the report without indicating that it was unacceptable to BSERP and was rejected by it.

APA Legal Counsel, Donald Bersoff, subsequently informed the APA Executive Office that the Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn. case was pending before the Supreme Court indicating that APA may wish to consider entry into the case in light of APA’s rejection of the task force findings. A decision was made not to take up the matter of re-entry with the Board because of budget constraints and other pressing business.

Dr. Ofshe’s letter indicates in page 3 of his June 14, 1989 letter, that APA has invited Dr. Singer to participate in a “major” symposium titled “Coercive Psychological Influence: Clinical, Ethical, Cultural, Business and Legal Implications”. This statement is somewhat misleading in that this is not an APA sponsored symposium. Drs. Singer and Dr. Ofshe were invited by Division 1 (one of forty plus APA Divisions) to participate in a Division 1 sponsored symposium. The symposium, like all presentations at our national convention is important, but it is one of many Division 1 sponsored symposia, one of several thousand APA presentations, and one of approximately eighty presentations which are held during that hour on that day of the APA August Convention.

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