Another Legal Blow Against the Old Cult Awareness Network (CAN)

On April 8, 1998 the United States Court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit in SanFrancisco upheld the first degree verdict against the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) -- the largest U.S. anticult organization -- in the Jason Scott case, involving the deprogramming of a young Pentecostal. CAN was required to pay Scott $875,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages plus interest from 1995. The Court of Appeal confirmed CAN's responsibility in the organization of "involuntary" deprogramming and stated that CAN members routinely referred people to deprogrammers. The full text of the decision is available on this CESNUR Web page.

In 1995, following the first degree verdict, CAN filed for bankruptcy and its name and telephone number were purchased by the Foundation for Religious Freedom, a coalition of religious liberty activists including among the most active members some dedicated Scientologists. The "old" CAN objected to the sale, claiming that its name has been sold to a "cult" (i.e. Scientology) and was being used for "unscrupulous purposes". However, it lost first before the bankruptcy court and then before the district court. On July 30, 1998 the "old" CAN has experienced a third defeat, as the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed the district court's decision, thus leaving CAN's name and trademarks in possession of the "new" CAN.

On Monday March 22, 1999 Reuters posted the following report:

Supreme Court Denies Appeal By Anti-Cult Group

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal by an anti-cult group that has been held liable for abducting a Pentecostal Christian church member in a bid to ``deprogram'' him.

The high court without any comment or dissent let stand a ruling that upheld the award of $1 million in punitive damages and $875,000 in actual damages against the Cult Awareness Network in the case of Jason Scott.

Scott was awarded the damages in 1995 by a federal court in Seattle that found his civil rights had been violated during the attempt to "deprogram'' him of his Pentecostal beliefs.

According to testimony at the trial, Scott was abducted by three men, bound, gagged and blindfolded, and held for five days.

Rick Ross, one of the defendants and a ``deprogrammer'' who was hired by Scott's mother, tried to get Scott to renounce his membership of the Life Tabernacle Church, a branch of the United Pentecostal Church International. Scott escaped after pretending to renounce his beliefs.

The anti-cult group was held responsible for the act of one of its unpaid volunteers, who referred Ross to Scott's mother.

A federal appeals court upheld the damage award last year.

In its Supreme Court appeal, lawyers for the anti-cult group said, "A decision that silences the message of an advocacy organization has serious nationwide consequences.''

But attorneys for Scott urged the Supreme Court to deny the appeal, dismissing the anti-cult group's argument as "factually and legally without merit.''

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