CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

CAN, We Hardly Knew Ye: Sex, Drugs, Deprogrammers’ Kickbacks, and Corporate Crime in the (old) Cult Awareness Network


by Anson Shupe, Susan E. Darnell

A paper presented at the 2000 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Houston, Texas. October 21.

CESNUR’s NOTE: As usual, the opinions of this paper are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by CESNUR or its directors. This paper was presented at the SSSR annual meeting 2000, one of the most important scholarly meetings in the world in the field of sociology of religion, and generated a crucial discussion on important topics; we believe that it is appropriate to make it available to a wider public. The reader with some experience in this field would, of course, know that Anson Shupe is one of the most well-known sociologists of religion in the United States. Susan E. Darnell manages a multimillion dollar credit union and is an expert in financial records. We will publish additional documents as soon as they will become available. In order to read the endnotes, click on their reference numbers. In order to access the enclosed documents, click on the sentence referring to them.

AUTHORS’ CAVEAT: This conference paper presents controversial evidence that is only part of a larger scholarly work on the subject. Assertions and conclusions made here rely on contained as well as uncited evidence not currently archived for many scholars. Eventually such data will be. For obvious reasons of length this work-in-progress does not refer to all existing data in its endnotes.


On October 23, 1996 at 9:30 AM the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), a Chicago-based national anticult organization claiming to be purely a tax-exempt informational clearinghouse on new religions, closed its doors amid bankruptcy proceedings and its assets were auctioned off [see Document 1: Sale of CAN name]. The precipitating, but not lone, event that hastened its demise was a civil suit brought against both CAN and a trio of coercive deprogrammers who unsuccessfully tried to remove a legal adult, Mr. Jason Scott, from a United Pentecostal congregation. Scott was violently abducted, physically abused, and forcibly detained at a remote Washington State location for almost a week. While CAN was meanwhile suffering many other lawsuits for alleged deprivation of the civil rights of members of minority religions, the Scott case became its Waterloo.

The jury was quite clear in its decision [see Document 2] to award compensatory and punitive damages to Scott. [1] CAN’s primary activity, this case and others have revealed, was to provide false and/or inflammatory opinion in the guise of "information" about minority religions to the media and other inquires. All or virtually all such "information" was derogatory, consistent with CAN’s goals of "educating" the public that various new religious movements (NRMs) are "destructive cults," that all of the members thereof are "cult victims," are "brainwashed," and are therefore at risk, possibly needing "rescue." The jury’s decision, under the definitions provided in Washington law, was that CAN was truly an organized hate campaign. CAN described its activities in a euphemistic manner to make its activities seem less outrageous from a civil liberties perspective. The reason CAN ever became involved in the Scott lawsuit was that, consistent with its organizational pattern, it served as a conduit for referrals to coercive deprogrammers (later termed by CAN "exit counselors") who would, for a fee, abduct and during detention harangue family members into religious apostasy.

In a curt note to the defendants who tried to appeal the verdict [Document 3], including self-proclaimed Bible-based "cult expert" Rick Ross, who had thoroughly botched the Jason Scott deprogramming, United States District Judge John C. Coughenour concluded:

Finally, the court notes each of the defendants’ seeming incapability of appreciating the maliciousness of their conduct towards Mr. Scott. Rather, throughout the entire course of this litigation, they have attempted to portray themselves as victims of Mr. Scott’s counsel’s alleged agenda. Thus, the large award given by the jury against both CAN and Mr. Ross seems reasonably necessary to enforce the jury’s determination on the oppressiveness of the defendants’ actions and deter similar conduct in the future. [2]

In this paper we do not rehash the Scott case, which was entangled in legal minutiae and appeals, nor do we chronicle the last days of CAN as it struggled frantically with a bankruptcy court to prevent its records and files from becoming public [see Document 4]. Instead, based primarily on the latter sources we present new evidence that CAN indeed illustrated the three levels of malfeasance recognized by criminologists:

  1. street crime -- direct, physical tactics of assaulting others (or their property) for personal gain.
  2. white collar crime -- insiders misappropriating or stealing from the organization’s resources for their own enrichment.
  3. corporate crime -- performance of illegal, harmful criminal behavior as standard operating policy for administrators.

The second two levels are known in sociology as types of elite deviance [3], and that constitutes the thrust of our argument: CAN was a corporate criminal scheme involving (at times in its referred deprogrammings) illegal drug usage, conspiring to violate civil liberties, and sexual assault/harassment in the name of "counseling."

Our purpose is to shed new light on a highly visible, late twentieth century counter social movement with ostensibly humanitarian intentions, to extend sociological/historical understanding of the cult-anticult controversy that has preoccupied the attention of many scholars, and to encourage criminologists’ further interest in matters usually taken up by sociologists of religion.


One of us (Shupe) has followed the anticult movement (ACM) since the mid-1970s (its literature, its leadership, its various organizational structures), backtracked through interviews and documents to its inception and founders in the early 1970s, and monitored its development both in the United States and abroad. He has analyzed the ACM repeatedly during the past quarter century and even solicited self-analyses of their participation by ACM activists. [4]

One of us (Darnell) manages a multimillion dollar credit union and has the necessary acumen to decipher organizational financial records (ledgers, disbursements, audits, etc.). This expertise became important when in the late 1990s we obtained, following a purchase from CAN’s bankruptcy trustee [see Document 5], access to approximately 400 boxes of records once owned by CAN. Of these, 32 boxes include CAN’s financial records, from canceled checks to deposit slips to internal and external audits. While we have substantial evidence that some records were deliberately destroyed before the court seized the documents, enough remain to point to financial irregularities in CAN [see also Document 6: Samples of redacted Board minutes].

These are the sources of the generalizations presented here, with select endnotes following our text. A more extensive analysis is underway and is planned for publication [5]. (See Appendix D)


A Brief Overview of the Anticult Movement

And the Emergence of CAN

Elsewhere one of us has presented a detailed historical/organizational analysis of the ACM up to the end of the 1970s. [6] The chronicle is basically one of regional grassroots "mom-and-pop" groups’ struggles to (1) acquire sufficient financial stability to allow them to spread their message of "destructive cults" subverting American society, (2) maintain a shifting membership base together long enough to lobby, publicize, and mobilize opposition to NRMs, and (3) establish a national unified organizational prominence with political clout. There were a number of false (i.e., unsuccessful) starts, but by the mid-1980s there were two prominent national-level groups -- the Cult Awareness Network and the American Family Foundation. [7] In the beginning (i.e., the early 1970s) most ACM groups’ membership consisted of senior family members distraught at their offsprings’/junior relatives’ deviant religious choices. Over time, however, the mantle of ACM activism and leadership passed to degreed behavioral science moral entrepreneurs who made ACM involvement an important, and sometimes lucrative, part of their careers. [8]

The extent to which either CAN or its "sister" social movement organization, the American Family Foundation, have been "hate groups" as defined either by Washington state law or by the racial/ethnic criteria in sociology is open to debate. [9] [see also Document 7: sample of CAN’s literature] (AFF began in the late 1970s as a local chapter of CAN.) Certainly both ACM groups have presented slanted, stereotypical images and language that has inflamed persons to perform extreme actions. Certainly also both CAN and AFF have at least promoted a professional veneer which, at the popular level, appears more scientific than hateful. This apparent "normalization" of their ire against NRMs is a modern trend for hate groups, according to one author:

...the hate movement in the United States has taken on a new, modern face. The strength of the contemporary hate movement is grounded in its ability to repackage its message in ways that make it more palatable, and in its ability to exploit the points of intersection between itself and prevailing ideological canons. In short, the hate movement is attempting to move itself into the mainstream of United States culture and politics. [10]

So it was for CAN until its bankruptcy in 1996. CAN was a literal offshoot of the earlier tax-exempt Citizens Freedom Foundation - Information Services [see Document 8], itself another development from the even earlier Citizens Freedom Foundation (CFF) which was at one time the nation’s largest ACM group. CAN proclaimed itself to be an informational clearing house for facts about NRMs. At the same time it was aggressive in promoting a "mind control" model of NRM membership though its representatives (at least publicly) righteously denied any involvement in coercive deprogrammings. In the remainder of this paper we turn to evidence (in admittedly abbreviated conference paper form) suggesting a rather different evaluation of CAN’s operations and purposes.

The Transition from CFF to CAN

Deprogramming (referring to the pseudo-therapy in which the member of an unpopular or controversial religion is abducted, involuntarily detained, and repeatedly demeaned/harangued/harassed/threatened by individuals, usually paid by that person’s family, until that person recants the faith system) has become a term in popular culture. Recently, given the unsavory reputations of many deprogrammers [see Document 9; see also Document 10 on Ted Patrick’s criminal conviction, and Document 11 on Rick Ross and his criminal convictions], they have adopted new euphemisms for their roles, such as "interventionists" and "exit counselors." Unfortunately these terms muddy the water. Such terms may legitimately apply to voluntary discussions among NRM members and their families guided by a trained counselor or simply become a linguistic dodge used by coercive deprogrammers. But the presupposition is still there in the new terminology: the purpose of the activity is to "exit" members from their associations in non-approved religions and which affiliations call for intervention, exit, or deprogramming, not tolerance or acceptance.

Examples of deprogramming, some given national attention and others more local, are legion. We certainly do not have the space here to provide legal, media, and anecdotal-narrative data on even a modest fraction of such cases. However, to give readers a flavor of several well known cases, we provide a sampler of six deprogrammings in Appendix A.

It is worth examining several pieces of information on CAN’s predecessor, CFF, and the brief period of CFF’s transition into CAN since any changes made were plainly cosmetic and, more importantly, CAN continued CFF corporate crime policy of facilitating and even encouraging street crime (coercive deprogrammings).

CFF and CFF-IS had close but at times ambivalent relations to deprogrammers. Early CFF brochures [see Document 12] admired the coercive practice as a necessary, even heroic evil and endorsed it: later CFF and CAN disassociated the organizations from deprogramming at least on paper. Both groups, however, served as conduits for referrals to deprogrammers.

Kent E. Vaughn, a member of the CFF board of directors from 1983-84 and certainly no "cult apologist" (having two adult daughters involved with The Way International), recalls gaining a definite sense that CFF (shortly before it became CAN in the mid-1980s) had a Janus-like public persona very different from its real operations [see Document 13]. He was made particularly uneasy by deprogrammers’ regular contact with CFF officers:

I was involved in many discussions with other board members about the name change [to CAN]. I believe the general consensus of the board was to change the name to avoid negative references to the organization caused by the arrest of deprogrammers, such as Ted Patrick. Patrick had been affiliated with CFF since it was first started. [11]

One of those CFF officers was Shirley Landa, CFF president, who participated in a deprogramming.

Vaughn found his fellow board members turned deaf ears to his unease, and he began to feel cut off from the decisions made by the organizational leadership. He was disturbed by CFF’s apparent right-wing partisanship and the casual, even irresponsible spending of scarce monies. He also made the board itself uneasy [see Document 13] when he brought up the subject of some sort of ethical rein to hold deprogrammers accountable:

At the July 16-17, 1984 New York City board meeting, I got the subject of ethics in counseling put on the agenda. Although I was not fully appraised of CFF-CAN’s activities, I had heard and seen enough to realize that CFF-CAN was connected to involuntary deprogrammers, and that this issue need to be dealt with. I began the discussion by talking about deprogrammers who were taking large amounts of money from the families of cult members, and using violent methods to accomplish the deprogrammings. I told the board that I felt this was very wrong and that we needed to do something about it. After I completed my comments, only I --- H ---- made a comment that supported my position. The rest of the board remained silent. I was aware of deprogrammings, both voluntary and involuntary, that were taking place across the country. I knew the other board members were also aware of these matters. As far as I was aware, there were never any "official" discussions about these issues at prior board meetings. This upset me greatly, and I felt it was a further indicator that there were things going on within the board that I did not know of. [12]

Vaughn also observed the familiarity with which known coercive deprogrammers "made the rounds" of CFF-CAN conventions, speaking and advertising their services:

I recall that on several occasions at our annual conferences, would see persons who I knew were active involuntary deprogrammers meeting in small groups with other board members and affiliates. These meetings usually took place during the breaks at the conferences, and were often held at a corner table in the lounge at whatever hotel were using. It appeared to me that these activities were deprogrammings of some type being planned. I concluded that the rest of the board members chose to ignore this activity, or pretend that it wasn’t happening, because it was a legally and ethically sensitive issue. [13]

Vaughn persisted in raising such issues, was warned by a CFF-CAN member that his membership on the board was really a "set up" (his words), and was advised by this person: "After several discussions, she warned me that my life could be in danger if I continued to pursue my investigations into the activities of the board." [14] This warning was given to him twice.

After serving a year and a half of his two-year term on CFF’s board, Vaughn resigned in frustration: "I concluded that anyone who went against the ‘inner clique’ agreements within CAN would be shunned or ostracized." [15]

In fact, as early as 1980 CFF-IS was troubled internally by its relationship to deprogrammers. Wrote former executive director John Sweeney to several ACM activists:

Scarcely a week goes by without some parent calling and complaining about a deprogrammer. They did not counsel. They did not show up. They overcharged. etc. etc. etc. CFF-IS is an educational foundation. We try to help parents and still educate the public. Deprogramming is not one of our services. Yet we all realize that we are involved in this area of great concern to our members. So like it or not, a problem with deprogramming is a CFF-IS problem. [16] [see Document 14]

That problem continued. Sweeney was dissuaded by CFF’s lawyer (who must have had some idea of how rapaciously some deprogrammers were behaving) from pursuing an ethical code of behavior for deprogrammers. Sweeney got no further on this count that did Vaughn several years later. The CFF board also rejected the idea. However, Sweeney reports he was greatly disturbed by what he styled (his words) "Quick Pay" methods and maintained that CFF "should not support the money grabbing, amateur kooks that claim to want to help parents but end up ripping them off for thousands of dollars." [17]

On April 29, 1980 Sweeney wrote to another ACM activist:

We have to continue to stress pre-education as the best antidote to destructive cults. We cannot get in bed with the deprogrammers UNLESS we control the actions of these deprogrammers. [18]

Sweeney once had a plan to ride herd on the deprogrammers’ worst excesses and simultaneously gain legitimacy for the practice. He wanted to establish an accredited deprogramming facility accepted in both legal and medical worlds, "a facility so renowned that no judge would hesitate issuing an order to have a cultist remanded to that center for a number of weeks. ...At least we would make deprogramming and rehab so legitimate that Blue Cross would pick up the bulk of the tab." [19] Jokingly, he wrote in a letter to a CFF friend named Allan (n.d.):

On the surface CFF is not involved in deprogramming. Yet if you eliminated every CFF member who had been involved in deprogramming or rehab or rescue work you and I would be the only CFF members left."

Finally, like Vaughn, Sweeney quit CFF in disgust. Recalling the circumstances of his resignation, he made mention of another disturbing pattern in CFF-endorsed activities: "Many deprogrammers had sex with their victims and used drugs during the deprogrammings." [20] (More on these actions later.)

Corporate Crime as CAN Policy

The remainder of this paper examines several areas of CAN practice and policies, based on testimonies of its own operatives as well as other sources, to support the contention that CAN regularly and knowingly participated in criminal activities.

Regular Referrals of Inquiries to Coercive Deprogrammers

Much has been made in depositions and court appearances by CAN officials that the organization in no way promoted coercive deprogrammings. Pious denials and rather apparent dodging of the issue seem to have been the standard strategy when confronted under oath by attorneys suspecting otherwise. Consider, for example, the circumlocution provided by Cynthia Kisser, last executive director of CAN, in a 1994 deposition while being questioned:

Q.Have you, in the context of your work for CAN, haven’t you met with and worked with persons that were convicted of crimes?

A.Not that I recall, no.

Q.Rick Ross? [Ross is a convicted jewel thief and violent deprogrammer.]

A.I never met him in my capacity as any kind of a CAN person.

Q.You’ve never talked to Rick Ross in your capacity as Executive Director of CAN?

A.I have talked to him as opposed to meet with him in my function as a CAN official. There is a major difference here in the shading of the words which ---

Q.?Well ---?

A.--- which I detect in your question, counselor.

Q.No, there isn’t a major difference. The major difference is a semantic attempt to evade answering the question.

Mr. Beal [Kisser’s attorney]: Mr. Moxon, if you will ask straightforward and simple questions --- Mr. Moxon: What I want is for her to give a straightforward and simple answer. What’s happening here is gross evasion.

Mr. Beal: That’s absolutely untrue.

Mr. Moxon: What we’re going to do is seek our costs and fees from this waste of time and destruction of the court’s time. The witness has been doing it throughout this deposition.

[The deposition continued after attorneys’ discussion.]

Mr. Beal: Be our guest.

Q.Have you ever communicated with Rick Ross in the context of your position as the Executive Director of CAN?

A:Yes, I have communicated with Mr. Rick Ross in my capacity as a CAN employee, yes.

Q.What other persons who have been convicted of crimes have you communicated with in the context of your position at CAN

[Kisser then continued to meander around such questions but finally and grudgingly admitted she had communicated with ex-con Rick Ross and Galen Kelly (a private investigator-turned coercive deprogrammer) and that they had been frequent attenders at annual CAN conventions.]

Q.Are you saying you never associated with persons who have been convicted of crimes?

A.Taken "association" in the broadest term, no that is not what I am saying. The broadest possible construction of it, yes. I’m quite sure that I have.

Q.You have done so in your role as Executive Director of CAN, right?

[The attorney then went on to read to Kisser a Who’s Who list of coercive deprogrammers and she responded affirmatively to having dealt with each of them, such as Mark Blocksom, Newbold Smith, Donald Moore, Robert Points, Rick Ross, Galen Kelly, Joe Szimhart, Mary Alice Chrnalogar, Robert Brandyberry, Jerry Flanagan, Joey DeSanctis, and Cliff Daniels.] [21] [see Document 15]

Kisser’s reticence in acknowledging that CAN served as an active referral agency for professional deprogrammers is perhaps not surprising but certainly disingenuous. For example, in deprogrammer Rick Ross’s own self-promoting resume [Document 16] mailed out to various prospective client sources, Ross offers a blurb of praise from her as follows:

He is very knowledgeable about cults. His name is among the half dozen best deprogrammers in the country. [22]

Consider another example of defining away the coercion of deprogramming and denial under oath by Priscilla Coates, former executive director of the Citizens Freedom Foundation and former head of the Cult Awareness Network, Los Angeles affiliate:

Q.What is involuntary deprogramming as you understand it?

A.To the best of my understanding, when the family decides that there is no other way to talk to the person but by keeping them at a location until they have heard the correct information about the group.

Q.Through the use of force?


Q.How do you keep someone against their will without force?

A.You lock the door. [23]

Below are other representative data on a CAN-deprogramming connection:

Rick Ross, writing to Priscilla Coates in 1988 [Document 17/18], referred to deprogramming referrals from CAN helping to underwrite the costs of writing a book. He estimated that it was necessary for him to complete about two more exit counseling cases that year to support his project. He said a couple of cases right then would be helpful. He asked if she knew of anything. He remarked that Cynthia Kisser in Chicago had given him a couple of referrals but they did not come through. They were just ambivalent families who really couldn’t make up their minds, he said in disgust. [24]

A private investigator who interviewed deprogrammer Robert Brandyberry by telephone reports:

Brandyberry admitted he was a former "deprogrammer" who had worked very closely as a deprogrammer with the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) between 1980 and 1989. Brandyberry stated that during this time, he also provided CAN with educational materials, gave lectures at CAN meetings, and volunteered his time for CAN related projects.

Brandyberry stated that he deprogrammed approximately five hundred persons between 1980 and 1989. Of these deprogrammings he conducted approximately one hundred fifty illegally. Specifically, Brandyberry stated that it was necessary for him to kidnap and falsely imprison these deprogramming victims during their "involuntary deprogrammings."

Brandyberry also stated that of these approximately one hundred fifty kidnappings and false imprisonments, CAN officials had directly referred him to about seventy-five to eight-five percent of the persons who had paid him money to conduct these illegal deprogrammings.

Brandyberry stated that CAN’s referral policy for illegal deprogramming was very common knowledge by the employees in the national offices of the Cult Awareness Network during the entire time he was a deprogrammer. [25] [see Document 19]

Dr. Lowell D. Streiker, an author and counselor with a PhD. in religion from Princeton University, is the founder and former director of the Freedom Counseling Center in Burlingame, California. The FCC is a non-profit organization that counsels families with members in non-traditional religions.

Dr. Streiker is no knee-jerk "cult apologist" nor is he an "anti-cult apologist." He is, however, familiar with the CAN-deprogramming connection:

In my years as a counselor, I have become well acquainted with the so-called "anti-cult" network, which is a loose-knit confederation of parents’ groups, deprogrammers, dissatisfied former group members, cult-concerned mental health professionals, attorneys, and evangelical religious propagandists.

A major element in the anti-cult network is the "Cult Awareness Network" (C.A.N.)... The official policy of the national CAN on deprogramming states that CAN is opposed to kidnapping. Yet CAN executive directors and presidents have regularly referred numbers of the public to individuals known as "deprogrammers." ...As a counselor of families disturbed by so-called cults and an opponent of forcible deprogrammings, I could estimate that eighty percent of all deprogrammings that have been reported to me were set up by CAN national headquarters, or its chapters. Approximately two-thirds of those actively involved in CAN are vehemently in favor of coercive deprogramming and most of them have used the services of such big name deprogrammers as Ted Patrick, Joe Alexander, Jr., Galen Kelly, Cliff Daniels, Mark Blocksom, and Joe Szimhart.

In his sworn statement [Document 20] Streiker provides a number of examples of CAN-arranged deprogrammings of which he is personally aware. His conclusion:

I’ve become very disgusted with CAN, having personally had to clean up the wreckage that was left by their deprogrammers which went sour over the years. Seven highly distraught and depressed deprogramming victims have [even] been referred to me by various CAN members. [26]

In a sworn statement [Document 21] retired deprogrammer Mark Blocksom affirmed:

I became very active in my deprogramming activities during the early 1980s. The standard method by which referrals for involuntary deprogramming was via phone calls to the "good old boy" network (CFF, and later, CAN members or affiliates), who would then refer the called to a non-CFF/non-CAN person (usually a family member of a prior successful case), who would then call me and arrange the deprogramming. This "cut out" system was created to insulate CFF/CAN from legal liabilities.

It was an "unwritten" guideline that the deprogrammers did not ever directly affiliate themselves with CFF or CAN for reason of legal repercussions if a deprogramming failed/or received some bad press coverage . ...On at least two occasions, I used the farm house of Priscilla Coates in upstate New York as a safe house to complete the deprogramming. At this time, Coates was the Executive Director of CFF/CAN . ... Cynthia Kisser, who is now the national director of CAN, assisted me on at least 2 kidnapping type deprogrammings involving members of The Way International.

Both Kisser and Coates were involved in giving me referrals for involuntary deprogrammings prior to the actual formation of CAN, while the organization was still more "loose-knit," operating as CFF. They were both in my opinion fully aware that the parents they sent to me as referrals were planning to have their children/family member kidnapped or unlawfully detained.

Many of us in the deprogramming field would frequently attend the CFF/CAN conferences and conventions, both regional and national. At these conventions we would speak to parents and other attendees, for the purpose of soliciting deprogramming business, or at least making our availability known in anti-cult circles. Many of us involved in deprogramming were actually guest speakers, or served on discussion panels where deprogramming was discussed. I was a speaker on "exit counseling" at the 1985 CAN convention. This was a play on words, as it was well known that most of my deprogrammings were involuntary.

Kisser never took any actions to dissuade me from continuing kidnapping type deprogrammings. She was aware that I specialized in that type of deprogramming, and it was tacitly understood that if she referred a case to me, that a kidnapping could, and probably would occur. I believe that CAN maintained a referral list of deprogrammers, and I was on the list. [27]

Even Joe Szimhart, a prolific coercive deprogrammer in the 1990s, who once described himself at a national sociological meeting as merely a part time counselor and artist, publicly admitted that most of the several dozen deprogrammings he had performed were the result of CAN referrals. [28]

Finally, as one more piece of evidence illustrating the CAN deprogramming referral connection, Marty Butz, a staff member at CAN during the early 1990s, under oath estimated he had personally made approximately 400 -500 deprogramming referrals for persons who called CAN [see Document 22]. And he referred one NRM member who called CAN pretending to be ignorant of a given NRM but inquiring about it to a woman who said she could provide a list of deprogrammers (including the "classic rescuers": Joe Szimhart, Dave Clark, Randall Burkey, Steve Hassan, Rick Ross, and Carol Giambalvo) and their expected fees ($2,000 - $10,000) [29]

In short, based on a triangulation of sources there is little room for conjecture that deprogramming referrals were part of regular CAN policy, and, since many of these abductions were patently illegal and potentially harmful, CAN was therefore a hub of street crime involvement.

Indiscriminate Labeling/Publicizing NRMs and Other Groups as Destructive Cults

It is now known that when Kathy Tonkin, mother of three United Pentecostal sons for whom she sought deprogrammings, contacted CAN (see Case 6, Appendix A) [see Document 23], neither the ultimate chief deprogrammer ("Bible-based expert") Rick Ross nor anyone at CAN had ever heard of the Tabernacle Life Church. This turned out to be a matter of irrelevance since CAN cast an enormously wide net to monitor possible "cults" and in entrepreneurial fashion assumed most groups inquired about were ones justifying "interventions" for families. The array of alleged "cults" expanded exponentially as the ACM and CAN continued into the 1990s. J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, estimates that while the ACM was mostly concerned with about fifteen NRM -- and of those, only five consistently over the year -- as many as 75 to 100 received some attention. [30]

In fact, the array demonstrated an increasing inclusiveness over the years. As deprogrammed ex-Unificationist Gary M. Scharf told two journalists in a post-Jonestown interview, trying to draw an analogy between the Unification Church and the Peoples Temple for suicide potential: "Whenever you’re dealing with religious categories like resurrection and birth, you begin to blur categories between life and death." [31] Such reasoning expanded considerably the number of groups of which to keep track. It bred distrust and guaranteed a growth industry of anticultists in the American religious marketplace. Traditional groups, such as the Christian Scientists and Mormons, over which evangelical counter-cult watchers had fretted for years, were of course invited to sit at the secular anticultists’ table of lists. So were variations of the Buddhist, Islamic, and Hindu world religions.

The game of identifying cults took on the nature of a binge, and at times ranged from the silly to the absurd. Momentum only increased from the 1970s into the 1990s. For example, taking his own home-spun wisdom to heart (i.e., "The Bible will drive you crazy if you take it literally"), deprogrammer Ted Patrick went on in a free-wheeling Playboy interview [see Document 24] to claim that evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton, president Jimmy Carter’s sister, was "one of the biggest cult leaders in the nation," albeit a "good cult leader." The Rev. Billy Graham was thrown in for good measure. [32]

The net kept widening. Observed two sociologists: "At the end of the decade of the 1970s ‘there were even indications that the ACM might take on television evangelists as well." [33] Then came an alleged satanic underground network, and even quasi-religious corporations, such as Amway and Mary Kay, were accused of exhibiting cultic tendencies. [34]

There seemed to have been an unspoken agreement among ACM participants, exemplified by CAN, to wit: "I’ll consider your group a cult if you’ll do the same for mine." Deprogrammers’ parallel understanding seemed to be: "Any group referred to us, or disturbing to someone, requires intervention." The result was an open season on not just NRMs but on any organization that smacked of enthusiastically accepted discipline, self-mastery, self-improvement, self-refection, and deeply held spiritual beliefs.

But the net widened still. By the mid-1990s, the high point of CAN, files were kept on a total of 1505 groups: from Amway, the Amish, and the Anti-Reformation League; to chiropractic, Roman Catholics, and Campus Crusade for Christ; from the makers of the board game Dungeons and Dragons to the Democratic Workers Party; to the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana (America’s largest Protestant congregation) and the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International to the San Francisco rock band The Grateful Dead; on to the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and the International Workers Party; to Klanwatch, the Ku Klux Klan, Lutherans, Mormons, Shirley MacLaine and the National Association of Evangelicals; on to the Oklahoma City bombings and Opus Dei; then to the Order of the Solar Temple, Protestants, Peoples Temple, Promise Keepers, and Jim/Tammy Faye Bakkers’ PTL Club; to the Rockford Institute, the Rutherford Institute, and the Rajneeshees; to Soka Gakkai, Scientology, and Santeria; to Teen magazine, Transcendental Meditation, and the charismatic Toronto Blessing; to Urantia and the United Pentecostal Church; from the Worldwide Church of God and the Wycliffe Bible Society to Women Aglow and Youth for Christ. (See Appendix B.) [See also Document 25]

If, as religious historian Philip Jenkins argues eloquently in Mystics and Messiahs. "Extreme and bizarre religious ideas are so commonplace in American history that it is difficult to speak of them as fringe at all," and that the existence of NRMs is a "persistent theme of American religion," then CAN was oblivious to this fact. [35] In reality, CAN was informed by few if any knowledgeable historical, sociological, theological, or psychological experts

Slanted information on NRMs was CAN dissemination policy. Several deposed testimonies from CAN leaders illustrate this tendency. For example, CAN employee Marty Butz revealed:

A.People do contact CAN with their concerns.

Q.And you give them derogatory information about cults, correct?

A.I don’t think "derogatory" is a fair term.

Q.Well, isn’t it a CAN practice to only give derogatory information and not positive information about groups that you consider to be cults?

A.We give a lot of information that’s responsive to the concerns of the individuals.

Q.Well, see, that doesn’t answer my question. My question is: Isn’t it a CAN policy to give derogatory information and specifically not to give positive information about groups that CAN deems cults?

A.Our focus deals with the critical or controversial aspects of these organizations that people have concerns about.

Q.Well, you never provide positive information. You don’t ever seek out positive information to give people about groups you consider to be cults.

[Butz admitted this was true after some verbal meandering.] [36] [see Document 26]

CAN’s Cynthia Kisser (in tortuous prose) [see Document 27] admitted that CAN’s policy was to never disseminate information in requested mailed packets about any NRM that could be considered non-threatening or non-destructive:

It’s a general policy for any packet, not necessarily just [on] Scientology... that the information in the packet is information other than that which is provided by the groups [themselves], since that information presumably is readily available to anybody from the group itself. And so the purpose of this is to provide information that’s in the public domain but not already published by the group, you know. [37]

Kisser’s and CAN’s approach in defining "cults" was laissez-faire, which is to say that they let any inquiries from distraught/worried family members define what was a "destructive cult," broadening their definitional umbrella. There was no hesitation about establishing "balance" in CAN information, even if the standards seem inconsistent in the same breath, according to the former President of CAN’s Board of Directors:

Most of the information that we receive about groups - actually if we do receive information that has positive information about that group, as well as negative, we don’t try to withhold the positive information... But we don’t endeavor to balance the positive with the negative... I think that our purpose is to collect information that’s been written about an organization. There is plenty of --- as counsel said, there’s plenty of positive information that usually people have seen on the organization. They haven’t had access to a balanced view of it. And it’s our job to provide information that gives [a] more critical view of the group. [38] [see Document 28]

CAN’s indiscriminate approach to defining and acting against NRMs can be illustrated twice. We provide anecdotal evidence of the rather cavalier attempts to identify "destructive cults" and/or their practices.

First, in a deposition by CAN’s executive director Cynthia Kisser in which she attempts to deal with the implications of an inclusive definition of cult:

Q.What’s your definition of cult?

A.Just of a cult?


A.It’s -- a cult is an organization --an organization can be large or small; size is not the determinant -- that has expressive devotion to a leader, principle or idea.

Q.Is the Catholic Church a cult?

A.Under that broad definition, yes.

Q.Is the Democratic Party a cult?

A.Under this definition of cult above, yes. [39] [see Document 29]

Second, in an unpublished manuscript draft deprogrammer Rick Ross interprets charismatic glossolalia as an alleged link to "mind control":

It seems obvious that the "gift" of tongues is a facet of fundamentalist mind control. It is dehabilitating [sic–there is no such word.] and have [sic] severe side effects. Disassociative behavior and premature senility have become repeated symptoms. [40]

The most interesting aspect of Ross’ interpretation is that he has little clue as to the difference between a fundamentalist Christian and a charismatic Christian. Likewise, Cynthia Kisser agreed about glossolalia in analyzing the Christian sect called The Way International: "The Way’s practice of speaking in tongues" is "classic hypnosis." [41] But then these sorts of confusions and misunderstandings were mere nuances of little import to deprogrammers and ultimately to CAN.

Use of Sexual Abuse and Illegal Drugs by Deprogrammers During "Rescues"

Coercive deprogrammers’ use of illegal drugs and sexual tactics involved during their confinement of adult citizens has never been discussed in the mainline social science literature on the ACM. [42] If anything, the notorious Riethmuller deprogramming-sexual assault case (Appendix A, Case No. 2) [43] has been seen as an anomaly. By several sources of evidence, however, including both notarized anecdotes and depositional material, we maintain that sexual deviance and drug use were an ancillary, but not infrequent, accompaniment of numerous coercive deprogrammings.

Previously in this paper we cited former CFF executive director John Sweeney as complaining about non-accountable, free-wheeling deprogrammers: "Many deprogrammers had sex with their victims and used drugs during the deprogrammings." Focusing on an illustrative (but admittedly truncated) set of cases here (an expanded set to be presented elsewhere–see endnote No. 7), we find empirical support for a similar pattern of abuse continuing from CFF into the CAN organization and tolerance of it at the highest echelons.

Drug use here means consumption/ingestion during the course of a coercive deprogramming of illegal substances (ex., cocaine) and alcohol. Sexual tactics refer to two types: (1) forced sexual intercourse, or rape (of men and women); and (2) sexual demeaning or intimidation of a person or refusal to permit reasonable hygienic care. Since sometimes the drug use and sexual abuse occurred together, we make no attempt to separate them out in the following illustrative testimonies:

Jennifer Jacobs swore in a legal declaration [see Document 30] that in 1987 at the start of her deprogramming she was unwillfully abducted by three men who "smelled of sweat and alcohol." During her eleven-day confinement she relates how

throughout the time of my captivity [former deprogrammer Mark] Blocksom and the other security guards used cocaine heavily. The cocaine made Blocksom become enraged and violent. More than once, the other men had to physically restrain him to keep him from beating me up. [Deprogrammer Joe] Szimhart saw them using cocaine but did not appear to object. [44]

Forbidding privacy for personal hygienic and elimination needs appears to have been standard deprogramming practices for many men and women:

In Appendix A, Case No. 3 [see also Document 31], Karen Lever testified under oath that during eight days’ confinement she decided to refuse to take a shower because she was not allowed privacy from the continuous stares of her male abductors. Jason Scott (Appendix A, Case No. 6) appears to have been deliberately fed poor, greasy food that caused him to develop stomach cramps and diarrhea, but two of the male deprogrammers insisted on accompanying him each time to the nailed-open bathroom [see Document 32]. This humiliating violation of privacy is often encountered in deprogramming survivor accounts. Arthur Roselle, a former member of the Unification Church and now a respected member of the banking industry, told in a sworn declaration of his treatment by deprogrammer Steve Hassan:

During the first three days, I was always escorted to the bathroom while my hands were still bound and tied. I was not washed or shaved. With help I was able to urinate in a pot. Due to the embarrassment of being watched at all times, I did not allow myself to defecate. [45] [see Document 33]

Another of deprogrammer-turned-"exit counselor" Steve Hassan’s "clients" was Claire Kelley, who was confined to one room in a New Hampshire log cabin for three days. A guard was placed outside the bedroom door to prevent her escape, and a guard inside the room at all times escorted her to the bathroom. [46] [see Document 34]

During the five-day abortive coercive deprogramming of Henry Kuegel, a member of the Church Universal and Triumphant, deprogrammers Mary Alice Chrnalogar, Galen Kelly, and Rory Ingalls (among others present) displayed the usual "commode insensitivity" and mocked Kuegel’s sexuality:

Food didn’t sit well. One of the guards followed me to the open air bathroom... Once [his girlfriend] and Rory came down [to the basement where he was kept] and decided to mock my church’s belief in celibacy before marriage. Rubbing the girlfriend’s arm, Rory contemptuously declared, "In the Church, you men don’t have genitals!" [47] [see Document 35]

An admittedly gross but illustrative example of demeaning sexual callousness that can only be labeled deliberately harassing occurred in the deprogramming fiasco involving Debra Dobkowski [see Document 36]. Succinctly described: in 1992 former Loudin County (VA) sheriff’s deputy Daniel L. Moore, Phil and Michele Bruschansky, and private investigator Galen Kelly were hired by Washington, DC. resident Beth Bruckert’s parents to abduct and deprogram her because she was allegedly a member of the apocalyptic, eastern mystic Circle of Friends cult. [48] However, they abducted the wrong woman, Bruckert’s roomate Debra Dobkowski. Dobkowski recalls:

As the two men walked towards me [in a parking lot outside her place of employment late at night], the stocky one started to talk as if to ask me a question. I immediately went to slam the hatch to the car and run to get in the car . ...They both grabbed me and threw me to the hood of the car. The taller one had hold of my legs, which he spread wide apart, at this point I thought I was going to be raped. I felt his crouch [sic] up against mine . ...I had been thrown into the van, through a side sliding door. In addition to the two men, there were two women in the van . ... I screamed not to touch me, let me sit myself, to get hands off me. [49]

There were the usual promises of gentle treatment in exchange for cooperation:

[During the drive to Bruckert’s parents’ home] I indicated that that very evening, I had just gotten my period, that I had not had tampons with me and so I was a bloody mess and the longer time went by the bloodier and messier I would become. Kelly indicated that he could not do anything about that. He motioned to the woman in the back. She said she had tampons in her car at the place where we were going and she would get me some when we arrived.

They arrived at the Bruckert residence and the mother informed them they had abducted the wrong woman. Meanwhile, while the confused deprogrammers debated what to do, Dobkowski recalls:

One more time I requested tampons so I could address the bloody mess problem. Kelly allowed the woman in the back to get me some tampons. She left the van for about five to ten minutes and then returned with about 5-6 slender tampons. I begged them at this point to let me out but Kelly would not allow me to leave the van to use the tampons. We then proceeded to start to drive again. I was told they were driving me back to where they had picked me up.

A young woman mistakenly abducted by vigilante pseudo-therapists, faced with the indignity of having to sit for hours in her own menses -- this street crime had one more element. When the deprogrammers abruptly pushed out Ms. Dobkowski into the empty parking lot after two o-‘clock in the morning, she checked her two handbags which the deprogrammers had initially taken from her and found they had stolen about $175 in cash.

Anecdotes of inebriated "counselors" and "guards," some holding down their female "clients" by the thighs under their dresses, whispering threats and/or assurances, lips to ears, and so forth, became legion. Sexual assault and harassment became commonplace under CAN. Dr. Lowell D. Streiker, counselor and author cited earlier, recalled:

One of the deprogrammers that CAN frequently referred members of the public to was Cliff Daniels... I have personal knowledge of Cliff Daniels’ violent deprogrammings. In 1981 I consulted with a client named Dorothy Mitchell, who had family members in the River of Life Ministry. In the course of counseling Ms. Mitchell, I had the occasion to speak to Daniels, who was involved in deprogrammings at this time with other members of the River of Life Ministry. Daniels volunteered to me the information that he had used illegal drugs while involved in deprogrammings and that he had had sex with one of his deprogramming victims. [50] [see Document 37]

Other female deprogrammees told Streiker that Daniels had tried "repeatedly and persistently, to seduce them." It was apparent that Daniels tried to use sexual intercourse as a "test" to see whether the women were completely "out of the cult." [Streiker’s words.] If the women continued to resist his advances, he accused them of not really having been deprogrammed. [51] A male, Jason Scott (Appendix A, Case No. 6) only had to feign a change of attitudes to dupe his male deprogrammers; some women, it appears, had to go the more extreme route to ultimately accomplish the same end. We do not list here other anecdotes traveling within the ACM subculture of male rapes and homosexual deprogramming behavior.

Ultimately, individual anecdotes of maverick deprogrammers are one thing. The CAN "home office"’s posture toward use of sex and related tactics in deprogrammings is another. In CAN’s case this attitude appears to have been a pragmatic one, indeed. In a deposition, CAN’s final executive director Cynthia Kisser was directly asked about sex in deprogrammings by an attorney. She provided a telling response:

Q.That’s all I am asking simply… You don’t consider sexual assault during deprogramming to be sexual perversion, is that right?

A.That is not my understanding of what sexual perversion is, no.

Q.Would you consider it sexual perversion for a deprogrammer who was hired to change the belief of someone who is alleged to be a lesbian to do so by showing her how a quote, "a real man does it," would you consider that to be sexual perversion?

A.Well, if they are having regular intercourse, man to woman, then it can’t be perversion. It might be rape, assault or something else, but it doesn’t sound like perversion to me.

Q.Rape isn’t perversion to you?

A.Rape is a criminal act, but perversion means something different than just a criminal act.

Q.Ms. Kisser, do you consider rape to be a sexual perversion or not?

A.As I understand sexual perversion, that would not fit the definition of sexual perversion. [52] [see Document 38]

Thus, a helpless man or woman detained against his/her will who had been sexually assaulted in whatever manner had not experienced any sort of perverse act according to CAN’s head. Trained sex therapists who use surrogate partners in legitimate therapy for clients with sexual dysfunctions are controversial, still relatively rare, but at least professionally accountable. The less-than-accountable deprogrammers and exit counselors, almost none of whom has ever had former credentials in any accredited therapeutic practice, found a blind eye turned toward their "rescue" methodologies in the "insider" subculture of CAN.

Deprogrammer Kickbacks and Money-Laundering: The Inner Sanctum of NARDEC

Journalist Nora Hamerman, in writing about the Dobkowski deprogramming fiasco, referred to CAN as "a clearinghouse for kidnap-for-hire rings." This is an apt description. There was a corporate crime basis for CAN’s continuance and funding, as we suggested earlier. [53]

Various background informant sources speak to a deprogrammer kickback/money laundering scheme by which deprogrammers received continued referrals from CAN in exchange for "repayments" or donations (i.e., commissions) funneled back to national CAN headquarters. In one newspaper article former deprogrammer Jonathon Nordquist "alleges that with each referral to a deprogrammer, a ‘kick-back’ is sent to CAN in the form of a ‘donation’ to ensure that the referrals continue." [54] If so, such claims would establish a financial symbiosis between CAN and coercive deprogrammers. John M. Sweeney, Jr., past head of CFF as it turned into CAN during the early-to-mid 1980s, recounting how deprogrammers charged thousands of dollars per case, testified:

Because of the large amounts of money they make due to referrals received from CFF members, deprogrammers usually kick-back money to the CFF member who gave the referral... The kick-backs would either be in cash or would be in the form of a tax deductible "donation" to the CFF . ...Adrian Greek, who was the national chairman of CFF at the time that I was its national director, had an adult daughter in the Unification Church. Mr. Greek was very cheap and didn’t want to pay money to have a deprogramming. He then attempted to get a deprogrammer to deprogram his daughter in exchange for Mr. Greek’s future referrals of clients to the deprogrammer. [55]

Deprogrammer Mark Blocksom (endnote 27) alludes indirectly to this reciprocity, and deprogrammer Rick Ross (endnote 24) seems to assume it. CAN’s last executive director, Cynthia Kisser, in her weave-and-dodge responses under legal examination, is vague but suggestive of such a corporate policy:

Q.Whether CAN National during the period of 1987 to 1989 to your knowledge received donations, pleads, or funds of any sort from deprogrammers?

A.I would say given the definition I gave of deprogramming, yes, they very well could have.

Q.To your knowledge from 1987 to 1989 have any families who to your knowledge hired deprogrammers subsequent to referrals from CAN made any donations to CAN National?

A.I would have no way of knowing on a first name basis, if that was their reason for giving.

Q.So, to your knowledge some families have given, but you don’t know what their reasons were?

A.Thousands of people have given. I don’t know what their reason may have been.

Q.Well, to your knowledge have families who in fact hired deprogrammers and made that known to you, made donations to CAN?

A.I don’t know if specifically between ‘87 and ‘89 there were families who had hired deprogrammers who did also give money to CAN during that time period. I just do not know. It’s possible they could have. [56] [see Document 39]

The attorney was chipping away at the possibility that deprogrammers "discounted" the price of a deprogramming if the families (not the deprogrammers) made the donation directly to CAN. That this practice existed appears likely. Notes on donor index cards for NARDEC contributions (see below on NARDEC) in CAN desk rolodex files comment frequently on donors’ family members’ present or past membership in NRMs (e.g., COG, CUT, UC,HK, BCC, Alamo) and sometimes if the deprogrammings referred were successful or unsuccessful (and conducted by which deprogrammer -see CAN Box 249 "Rolodexes). However, a more direct answer can be found in other testimony and in CAN records themselves. In a deposition CAN staff member Marty Butz, who admitted to have made around 500 deprogramming referrals, was asked in a deposition:

Q.Have any of the people that you made referrals to for deprogramming since you’ve been in CAN made any donations to CAN, any monetary donations?

A.I know that [deprogrammer] Carol Giambalvo has been a Nardeck [sic] member. That’s the only extent of my knowledge of any contributions going CAN’s way.

Q.What does "Nardeck" mean?

A.I don’t know. I don’t know what Nardeck represents.

Q.Nardeck members are people that make substantial monetary contributions to CAN isn’t that correct?

A.Yes. [Butz suddenly remembers.]

Q.There’s a–that’s kind of the select people that are the primary financial supporters of CAN?

A.I believe what it is is a commitment for three years donating a thousand dollars.

Q.A year?

A.I can’t say that’s where CAN’s primary support comes from.

Q.How much money has Miss Giambalvo donated to CAN since you’ve been involved in CAN?

A.I have no idea.

Q.At least $3,000?

A.If she’s been a Nardeck member more than once, quite possibly more than $3,000

Q.She’s the person you’ve made the largest number of deprogramming referrals to, correct?

A. Yes. [57] [see Document 40]

The court recorder had the subgroup of CAN spelled incorrectly: not Nardeck, but rather NARDEC: National Resource Development and Economic Council. This was the heart of deprogrammers’ money-laundering operation and a key area of financial support for CAN. Its referral-in-exchange-for-a-kickback-of-deprogramming-fees is why CAN deprogrammer Rick Ross, in a "slump time" for business after having "paid his dues" to NARDEC, wrote CAN activist Priscilla Coates in a huff:

Have not received one really solid referral, C.A.N. included. I don’t know why. Perhaps summer, "turf" issues, or lack of desire to deal with fundamentalists. Phil and Annie have called from N.Y. and Annette is trying, but some parents are so cheap they prefer to let their kids "bang the Bible" than pay. [58]

Ex-CAN executive director Cynthia Kisser acknowledged the existence of NARDEC deprogrammer contributions in a deposition:

Q. Do you know of any donations that have been made to CAN by deprogrammers?

A. Let me just take a minute to look at some of the people that you’ve identified as deprogrammers to let me answer that question. Yes.

Q. Who?

A. Steve Hassan, Carol Giambalvo, and … Randall Burkey. [59]

Formed in the mid-1980s, by 1987 NARDEC had become institutionalized as a special unit within CAN. Ronald M. Loomis, CAN president, wrote in a June 26, 1987 form letter to all CAN affiliates and newsletter subscribers:

We are grateful to those of you who responded to our appeal for contributions with the February meeting. The number of persons who have become members of the National Resource and Development Council (NaRDeC) by pledging $1,000 per year for three years continues to grow, but we need that level of commitment from many more persons. Based on your generous support in 1986, we determined that we could afford to commit ourselves to the full time salary of an Executive Director for the future. A letter from our Finance and Development Chair ...together with a pledge card, is [sic] enclosed. It will be a real challenge for us to continue in 1987 what we did in 1986. Please do what you can to sustain that effort. Remember that we cannot expect anyone to support the cult awareness effort unless we provide the first level of support. [60] [Italics ours.]

Apparently deprogrammers (renaming themselves "exit counselors") understood the message. Under the NARDEC aegis they began to organize within CAN. In the Preliminary Program of the Portland, Oregon 1987 annual CAN conference there was scheduled a Wednesday, October 19 special evening meeting for exit counselors (and added below that announcement: "will not post on hotel meeting sign or brochure.") On Saturday, October 22 at the same convention there was also a special NARDEC breakfast. [61] NARDEC also had special 7:30 AM breakfast meetings at the 1989 CAN annual conference (program noted: "NARDEC members only") and at the 1990 annual CAN conference NARDEC members met in conjunction with the CAN Advisory Board [see Document 41]. Referring back to earlier sections of this paper where CAN officials tried to distance themselves on paper and in legal testimonies that CAN in no way encouraged deprogrammings, an examination of real CAN activities belies that claim. It would appear that "exit counselors," formerly deprogrammers, were invited (literally) to sit at the CAN table.

Of course, not all contributions to CAN and NARDEC were from deprogrammers or persons who favored vigilante actions over educational goals. CAN donors each received Identification numbers and were listed/enumerated in files. An inspection of such lists would include, for example, a July 25, 1988 contribution of $2,000 from the Grainger Foundation to a more modest July 21, 1995 contribution of $35 from evangelical Christian (counter-cult) sociologist Ronald Enroth (ID# 912). However, many were from known deprogrammers (and their sympathizers), such as Carol Giambalvo, Paul Engel, Janja Lalich, and David Clark.

Inspection of NARDEC contributions by month for 1998-95 shows a fairly stable pattern: yearly totals averaged between $40,000 and $54,000, always strongest in January (around $7,000 for that month) and then leveling off to less than $4,000 per month. (NARDEC’s contribution to total CAN revenues was about one-third.) However, it appears likely that under-the-table deprogrammer referral kick-backs made up a substantial proportion of NARDEC funds. (NARDEC had its own CAN account number, 4080, as opposed to the general fund, 4000, or CAN’s mail order "bookstore" selling tracts, tapes, and books, 4020.) Apparently some deprogrammers did not use this traceable account for "donations." Examining monthly NARDEC contributions for the 1990s, for example, they rarely approached the reported monthly total contributions in CAN and never approached the reported annual totals. Cash receipts for April, 1992, for instance, show a total that month of one $1000 contribution. October, 1992 shows the same. In other words, NARDEC fund totals in any given year cannot be explained by cash receipts or recorded individual contributions (which, as numerous boxes of rather tediously studied files show, were quite meticulously detailed).

In fact, many recorded NARDEC contributions were in "nickel-and-dime" modest amounts: $30, $50, or $150. Some donations to CAN were even split between other funds and NARDEC; for example, $50 donated by an individual in 1993, $30 to go to NARDEC and $20 into CAN’s general fund. Such are the minutiae of the CAN files. There were some perennial NARDEC stalwarts who were family relatives of present or previous NRM members (and some deprogrammers). But NARDEC had a serious problem if it is assumed all monies taken in are reflected in the books eventually shown outside auditors.

There were many donors who welched on their pledges, decreasing overt NARDEC revenues: in 1992, 59 persons pledged $1000 or more, but 26 reneged; in 1993, 30 persons pledged the $1000 minimum but 14 reneged; in 1994 23 of 27 persons reneged; and in 1995, 38 of 50 persons reneged. True, towards the waning days of CAN there was a strong, last-ditch resurgence of giving to help. January 1996 checks (from a very small, "select" group of persons) of $1000 to NARDEC totaled around $10,675. But by then CAN was struggling amid many lawsuits, having lost the Jason Scott deprogramming civil suit, and squandered an insurance settlement thereof [see Document 42] on pointless litigation -- much of which it ultimately lost or conceded.

So where did NARDEC make up the difference if recorded dollar totals do not square with meticulous, computerized receipt statements?

Two separate rolodex lists of NARDEC donors and general contacts in media, law, industry, and social sciences (marked "Major Gifts and NARDEC: comments to be included when required") include a Who’s Who of dozens of coercive deprogrammers’ names, telephone numbers, and addresses. We suggest a triangulation of evidence from: (1) deprogrammers’ testimonies; (2) former CFF/CAN officials’ testimonies; (3) the obvious accounting lacunae in CAN financial records; and (4) the "cash-only" nature of deprogramming fees. (Deprogrammers typically didn’t take credit cards or provide receipts. So complained families who felt taken advantage of by expensive, ineffective deprogramming interventions.) [see Document 43] Our opinion and conclusion is that systematic records of the kick-backs that went on in CAN’s offices during its last days were never kept in the first place, or destroyed. The shoddy bookkeeping of CAN, and the likelihood of white collar crime committed by certain CAN leaders, to which we now turn, are part of the NARDEC story.

Evidence of Mismanagement of CAN Finances and Violation of Fiduciary Responsibility

CAN president Ronald M. Loomis was especially pleased in Spring, 1987 when an executive director search committee recommended Cynthia S. Kisser of Woodstock, Illinois after six months of deliberations and interviews. He wrote effusively to the CAN affiliates and newsletter subscribers about her business credentials (aside from her academic credentials):

Her professional background includes four years as a business manager with responsibility for general ledger, payroll records, tax reports, monthly billing and company financial matters. She has supervised staffs, set up computer operations and resolved hardware and software matters... She has taught Business Communication for a community college. [62] [see Document 44]

Yet, problems that had plagued the top levels of CFF-as-it-turned-into-CAN continued. Recall that Kent E. Vaughn, CFF Board of Directors member 1982-84 came to the disturbing conclusion that there was an "inner board" of CAN with an agenda beyond CAN’s public pronouncements (see endnote 11). In 1981 earlier national director of CFFI-IS, John M. Sweeney, Jr. saw economic problems in the board’s behavior. While he resigned for a number of reasons, including CFF’s rejection of a deprogrammer’s ethics code while simultaneously heavily involved in often illegal, coercive, expensive, and often ineffective "rescues," he was also unhappy that the group had failed to reimburse him on occasion and considered a collection suit against CFF-IS. However, his final complaint was that something untoward was occurring in CFF’s management of money, yet met a stonewall of silence when he called for an inspection of these issues. He voiced his frustrations:

Why has the CFF-IS Board done all in its power to prevent an audit of the corporate books? Why has over $20,000 worth of donations been buried in an interest bearing CD account (did the Board approve this action?) or in a checking account? Why wasn’t this donation money stipulated for use in anti-cult projects? Why was money freed up so easily to finance an all expense paid trip to Dallas for the Board for an unnecessary meeting yet legitimate bills could not or would not be paid on time? I have records of threatened phone cut-off and late payment notices due to C---’s inefficient method. To protect my reputation and credit rating the WATS and SPRINT have been disconnected because they are in my name. [63]

Ironically, CAN had the same troubles during its existence and demise in 1996. For example, when CAN executive director Kisser came into office in 1987, she appears to have made some radical changes in CAN financial management. In essence she consolidated its finances, with minimal executive office accountability to members. According to one informant knowledgeable about the group:

...Kisser changed the financial lines of the Cult Awareness Network. Kisser demanded that all Cult Awareness Network chapters send all of the donations they received, including uncancelled checks, to her at the national office in Illinois. Kisser then cashed the checks, kept the amount of money that she wanted and then mailed the remaining money to the affiliated chapters as she saw fit. [64]

Ex-deprogrammer Jonathon Nordquist, having met Kisser at a CAN convention, remembers:

Shortly after, [Mary] Krone told me that once Kisser fully learned how to do her new job, that Krone would no longer be working at the national offices... Additionally, I recall an incident that occurred while I was riding in an elevator during the [CAN] convention in Pittsburgh. Also present in the elevator were Mary Krone, Krone’s son, John, Cynthia Kisser and Rachel Andres. Mary Krone was talking about the finances of the Cult Awareness Network when Kisser stated to her: "If the cults ever get a hold of our books we’d be in trouble." [65] [see Document 45]

Having expended its insurance money on fruitless appeals of the Jason Scott/Rick Ross/CAN deprogramming case that awarded Scott over $4 million, and wasted funds on other lawsuits, as its income decreased CAN began to default on its phone bills (all the while continuing to pay director Cynthia Kisser $3000 per month plus lesser amounts to CAN staff).

There are several implications:

All not-for-profit organizations are required to follow standard ethical and legal protocol particularly with respect to financial management. Complete detailed records must be consistently maintained, then supported by both internal and external audits to ensure both accuracy and propriety. The operations and cash flow must conform to generally accepted accounting standards. A painstakingly extensive review of the allegedly complete court-ordered financial records of CAN confirms blatant impropriety. CAN was classified as 501 (c) (3), a not-for-profit, tax exempt organization with the Internal Revenue Service. To qualify and comply, certain measures of practice and accounting are required; the organization is accountable by Federal law. The organizational test is a mandate that specific conditions be met and maintained for tax exempt qualification according to the IRS code. To qualify for 501 (c) (3) status the organization must be formed exclusively for literary and scientific purposes; the manner of operation must be described in detail. Furthermore, the articles of the organization must appropriately limit the organization’s purpose, regulate the allocation of contributions, and foster the best interests of the people. CAN’s admitted affiliation with deprogrammers as confirmed in the Scott trial, among other places, appears to conflict with the IRS limited purpose constraint as well as in the express powers clause [7.8.2] 3.3.4 (02-231999), Express Powers that Cause Failure of Organizational Test. [66]

An organization does not meet the organizational test if its articles expressly empower it:

To have objectives and to engage in activities which characterize it as an "action organization" (Reg. 1.501(c)(3)-1 (b)(3)(iii));

To carry on any other activities (unless they are insubstantial) which are not in furtherance of one or more exempt purposes (Reg. 1.501(c)(3)1(b)(1)(i)(a)). [67]

By affiliation, CAN cast at minimum a shadow on these two IRS provisions. We would maintain that given the records and documented activity of this organization, CAN acted in multiple violations of its IRS classification.

One initial and standing concern is that of missing or duplicated documents. The general condition of the financial records is deplorable. Documents are not in chronological order or in keeping with standard bookkeeping practice, making tracking a monumental feat. There are substantial gaps and pertinent items, statements, canceled checks, audits, and so forth are missing. The list is significant. There are no itemized journals or ledgers of income or expenditures (standard accrual accounting), merely sporadic incomplete lists. The financial records are highly questionable and are at best professionally sloppy.

Cash flow is abundantly problematic and highly critical. In mere illustration, a petty cash withdrawal of $1,500 was observed. The established, acceptable norm for an organization of this size would be to maintain a generous $300 fund in total. Of greater concern, a. review of cash receipts reflects numerous and substantial checks issued by CAN (National) to CAN itself with no indication or record of who received said funds, nor of the generating purpose. To illustrate [see Document 46], a $12,000 check issued 3/25/94 by CAN to CAN lists an account category #4250 for which there is no correlating account description. The canceled check #184 is not present among those in that series, nor is it ever listed as an expenditure. Interestingly, similar documentation and lack of canceled checks occurs with numerous other like entries.

Or another example: on 1 /19/95 two (2) checks (#5876 and #5877) were issued to J. Gordon Melton and Anson Shupe, respectively, for $600 each [see Document 47]. Given their extensive study in this field, both men are known critics of CAN and would certainly not be on its payroll (i.e., certainly not "anti-cult apologists"). This time period ties in to the Lippmann/Scientology lawsuit against CAN with neither party involved party beyond personal academic interest and neither party deposed by CAN as part of the lawsuit. (Depositional checks to professionals are rarely made out before depositions are taken.) Neither scholar when questioned has any knowledge of the existence of these checks. The checks were then processed as stop payments. Melton’s the same day, Shupe’s not until April, yet the funds ($1,200) were never reentered into the CAN account to offset the would-be stop payments. Both checks were physically located, reflecting stop payments, yet the bookkeeping does not appropriately correlate. Uncannily, these particular entries were discovered by Shupe personally while examining financial data in the CAN boxes. Why were bogus checks issued, who retained the $1,200, and more importantly, how many other orchestrated entries lie within the records of CAN and to whose financial gain?

Moreover, while not unheard of, not-for-profit CAN maintained a steady and healthy separate account with the Merrill Lynch firm housing an extremely active money market account with no correlating income relationship as well as certificates of deposit averaging $40,000, far exceeding the standard required reserve. Despite these investments, letters and audits indicate financial distress. According to records, CAN was unable to pay concurrent Sprint network telephone bills, netting numerous final disconnect notices. These concerns led to a recommendation issued by Virginia Hulet, CAN Treasurer (resigned October, 1989) asking that all Sprint credit cards be returned. From whom? Phone records indicate substantial use by deprogrammers of CAN phone lines, calling from CAN’s national office. We ask again, was this careless mismanagement or diverted attention?

In 1987 Cynthia Kisser, CAN’s Executive Director, directed all chapters funds to be generated directly to the National Office. While there was noted Board objection, this practice was implemented, allowing the National complete control of funds with minimal accountability.

Peat Marwick (KPMG), a respected Certified Public Accounting firm, was procured by CAN to conduct its annual audits. Auditing correspondence consistently expressed numerous concerns regarding the need for improved accounting principles, further suggesting accrual accounting [see Document 48]. They cited concern with the lack of internal audits indicating, neglect of Auditing Standards No. 50 as previously posed. In the face of rising litigation expenses no allotments were made to accommodate this clear necessity appropriately. Finally on June 1, 1994 a letter signed by KPMG Peat Marwick expressed serious concern regarding CAN’s solvency. In a letter dated June 8, 1995 KPMG indicated an imbalance between the general ledger and the bank reconciliations that had existed since July, 1994. In a final communication KPMG elected to withdraw its affiliation with CAN in the face of growing financial concerns. [See Document 49]

Countless fringe questions arise when analyzing the CAN boxes: why do CAN records contain an inordinate amount of letters of dispute (i.e., a $26,228.76 disputed Conference balance with the Crown Plaza Hotel in White Plains, NY, November, 1995); why were multiple financial accounts simultaneously active (i.e., 4/9/96 when Cynthia Kisser requested NBD Bank of Skokie to transfer remaining funds to an account titled Cult Awareness Network Corp aka CAN D.I.P); why would an organization of good intent be faced with fiercely escalating litigation (i.e., in 1994 there were 51 lawsuits in various states of settlement as presented to KPMG for completion of ‘94 audit): and finally why did Cynthia Kisser and several staff members continue to receive their salaries (Kisser $1500 every two weeks) beyond the filing of bankruptcy? More importantly, what became of CAN’s final funds in the midst of dissolution?

These examples serve only as a small segment of a greater deluge of seeming impropriety currently under scrutiny within the CAN. financial records. Two outside veteran auditors when questioned regarding potential innocent explanations for these issues stated that this appears to be a case of "money laundering" or of "looting the assets" (their words). Again we ask, is this a case of atrocious bookkeeping or instead calculated misappropriation? Neither option is acceptable per auditing and IRS protocol.

We have evidence of substantial malfeasance throughout the documents purportedly representing the complete fiscal records of this organization. The "why" remains yet to be addressed, the leaders and trustees are yet to be held accountable. This preliminary finding is just that: a highlighted report of what we believe to be a much darker indication than that of poor record-keeping. A Brownie troop with a naive, inexperienced leader might maintain such records and be accused of poor bookkeeping. For an organization with the capital, the influence, and the magnitude of CAN, such explanations are inexcusable and suspect.

At the time of this presentation the exploration of CAN documents continues as additional discoveries unfold. Are these findings the results of gross negligence or of something much more untoward? Our final assessment will appear in a book currently in progress.


This paper, like its larger book-length project, is part of a work in progress. Thus we continue to find new evidence of CAN’s criminal involvement the further we delve into the files of the former CAN, despite evidence that toward the end Cynthia Kisser and/or CAN operatives deliberately shredded/destroyed important files dealing with CAN’s telephone calls and likely selected cancelled checks. [68] And in this paper we have dealt only with CAN, not its sister ACM organization, the American Family Foundation, though we will be examining that group in the future. (To illustrate the close ties and interlocking directorates of CAN and AFF, see Appendix C.)

In summation, we offer five reasonable propositions about the operations and philosophy of America’s formerly most activist anti-cult organization:

Proposition 1: Despite public claims otherwise, CAN had as its operating corporate policy the routine referrals of inquirers to coercive deprogrammers. As has been shown, this proposition is supported by a variety of sources: testimonies of deprogrammers, testimonies of CFF-CAN officials, CAN records, and Federal Bureau of Investigation wiretap surveillance.

Regarding the last source, fairly recently we became aware of the fact that the FBI, learning of certain deprogrammers conspiring toward, among other things, the kidnapping of a young heir to the DuPont estate who had become involved in Lyndon LaRouche’s organization, and learning of those deprogrammers’ involvement with CAN, in 1992 conducted wire-taps of CAN telephone conversations and certain deprogrammers’ telephone conversations. FBI Special Agent Daniel Murphy presented an affidavit dated July 19, 1992 [see Document 50] to the U. S. Federal Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in which he stated:

As a result of my personal participation in this investigation, my knowledge of reports made to me by other FBI agents .... there is probable cause to believe that Donald Moore, Galen Kelly, Edgar N. [Newbold] Smith, and others unknown, have been, or continuing to, and will be committing offenses against the United States including conspiracy, in violation of 1816.U.S.C., Section 371, and kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C., Section 1201. There is probable cause to believe that communications concerning said offenses will be obtained through the interception of wire communications, authorization for which is herein applied. [69]

The transcripts of over half a dozen reels of tape reveal coercive deprogrammers in frequent (and casual) contact with CAN and CAN’s executive director, Cynthia Kisser, on how to harass the LaRouche organization and simultaneously protect themselves legally from prosecution after the deprogramming. Such transcripts may be one logical reason that Cynthia Kisser had thousands of CAN phone sheets destroyed around the 1992-93 period. For brief examples:

Edgar Newbold Smith calls former deputy sheriff-turned-deprogrammer Donald Moore about suing his own son, Lewis duPont Smith, duPont fortune heir and a follower of Lyndon LaRouche:

But the only problem with suing Lewis, having CAN sue Lewis, is that they know that we contributed to CAN [Italics ours.] So you’re going to get the biggest bunch of goddamn bunch of squawk going on down there involving us .... Now maybe one of the things you ought to talk to Cynthia about is why not include Lewis in your depositions? [70]

Or: Moore’s answering machine for 7/15/92:

This is Cynthia Kisser for Don Moore. I’m in Chicago. My number is 312/267/7777.

Or this conversation in early August, 1992:

Donald Moore: Hello.

Cynthia Kisser: Hi. Is Don Moore there?

Moore: Yes.

Kisser: Hi, Don. It’s Cynthia.

Moore: How are you doing,?

Kisser: Good. Good. Um, listen, um, I still have not talked to um---

Moore: Galen? [Galen Kelly, once head of security for CAN conferences and convicted of kidnapping in the Dubkowski case.]

Kisser: Yes.

Moore: That is, uh, you are not alone in that effort.

Kisser: Okay. Now do you think that Newbold is at his office today or at his home?

Moore: He should be at his home today. And I talked to him less than an hour ago.

Kisser: Yea. I want to give him a try. Thanks. [71]

Or a call from deprogrammer Moore to CAN headquarters in Chicago:

Moore:?Yes, this is Don Moore calling from Virginia. Is Cynthia Kisser there?

Female voice: No, she’s on a week’s vacation.

Moore: Ouch.

Female voice: And, uh, her assistant though comes in at nine o’clock and it’s ten to nine. Maybe she can help you?

Moore: All right, well, uh, I, basically I don’t need help as far as that goes. I’m one of the folks that work for her as far as the LaRouche case goes. [72]

On one of the FBI tapes is captured a conversation between Kisser and later convicted Donald Moore on July 15, 1992. Moore was retained by Newbold Smith to work with former private investigator-turned deprogrammer Galen Kelly on the abduction of Smith’s son. On the tape, Kisser informs Moore that she has filed her suit against [various Scientologists] and states:

Kisser: I think the timing is right for me to go back and try -- even if I’m not going to hear from Galen, to go back and approach Newbold … To talk to him a little bit now that I’ve got the suit filed. I want to get him a copy of it. I want to talk to him about it. I want to, uh, talk about it. [73]

The point of these sample bits of conversation is that (1) the FBI was very aware of CAN’s involvement in coercive abductions and (2) CAN’s highest echelon was engaged in corporate criminality, coordinating legal strategies with deprogrammers. Destruction of CAN’s phone sheets permanently removed written notes and comments that we know contained details of CAN-deprogramming conversations:

The phone sheets contain the caller’s name, address, number, subject of call, information provided to the caller, and notes regarding the call . ...The sheets are used for the sending out of materials and tabulation of statistical information about. calls... [Ms. Kisser] affirmed that use of phone sheets was a standard office procedure... Kisser estimated that CAN received from 60,000 to 80,000 phone inquiries and 20,000 to 40,000 mail inquiries from 1987 to 1993, Between 53,000 and 56,000 total phone and mail sheets were created during 1991, 1992, and 1993, most of which are phone sheets. Thus, subtracting the 15,000 that remained in existence in March of 1994, at least 38,000 phone and mail sheets have been destroyed... [74]

Rolodex files from the desks of CAN officials and staff members (Box 249 labeled "Rolodexes"), however, were not destroyed and also reveal CAN’s familiar connection to deprogrammers. Along the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and business cards of attorneys, American Family Foundation officials, Xerox repair men, sympathizers like comedian Steve Allen and actor Mike Farrell, and others, are entries (apparently for referrals) for deprogrammers like Ted Patrick, Joe Szimhart, Newbold Smith, Gary Scharff, Rick Ross, Galen Kelly, Shirley Landa, Ann Greek, Carol Giambalvo, Wendy Ford, Randall Burkey, and David Clark, among others. We will return to the record destruction issue below.

Proposition 2: CAN was a money-laundering scheme in that coercive deprogrammers were expected to "kick-back" or donate, directly or indirectly, portions of their fees charged families to CAN in exchange for continued referrals. The testimonies of various CFF-CAN officials, deprogrammers, and circumstantial CAN records (i.e., the NARDEC contributions from deprogrammers and the irregular movements of cash within CAN) strongly point to this conclusion. In this sense CAN conforms to a judgment rendered by Franklin H. Littell, president of the Philadelphia Center on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights:

CAN and its staffers encourage distraught parents to take actions that further alienate young people. CAN conspires to destroy the liberties of individuals and groups that have religious [beliefs] and worldviews different from the rest of us. It deserves to be put in the dock with the individuals the FBI has exposed and the courts are now trying for criminal activity. [75]

Proposition 3: Despite public claims only to be concerned with the behaviors of so-called "destructive cults," CAN as a purported hate group indiscriminately labeled and publicized various NRMs and non-NRM organizations, with mainstream as well as non-mainstream beliefs, as dangerous and cultic. This conclusion is almost embarrassing for us to indicate: only a intellectually indefensible worldview would throw the Rockford Institute, the National Democratic Party, the Unification Church, Roman Catholics, and Amway into the same "hopper" with the "religious cults" CAN was supposed to monitor and oppose. On the other hand, from the standpoint of financial entrepreneurship, it is understandable that the umbrella definition of "destructive cults" would be extremely inclusive.

Proposition 4: Uses of sexual/physical harassment and even forced sexual intercourse as well as legal/illegal drug use were not rare occurrences during coercive deprogrammings. Too many sources corroborate and triangulate this conclusion, from victims’ testimonies to those of CFF-CAN officials and non-CAN individuals. All this was occurring during the time between the late 1980s and early 1990s when deprogrammers met at CAN conferences and attempted to professionalize and change their identities into "exit counselors." (See Shupe and Darnell, 2001 for an extended discussion of this professionalization campaign.)

Proposition 5: There were sufficient irregularities in the handling of CAN finances and cash flows to suggest that some CAN officials may have enriched themselves in unknown quantities at the expense of the CAN organization and its mission without members’ general knowledge. The CAN financial documents are grossly problematic in numerous ways. Direct examination of the records as released by CAN pose the following non-inclusive concerns: tax exempt violations, incomplete and inappropriately duplicated records, pertinent required items missing, unaccounted fund appropriations, an improper petty cash allotment, contribution discrepancies, a questionable reserve and CDs, unacceptable accounting and management of funds, and auditor findings resulting in termination of association.

This analysis is preliminary; indeed, it is a constant course of discovery. Each question poses more. Our preliminary findings of these staggering discrepancies, combined with the clear affiliation to deprogrammers, points to a cash flow from deprogrammings. Are the gaping omissions in the financial records a cover-up? The systematic destruction of selective pertinent financial records seems to indicate a pointed attempt at eliminating potentially incriminating evidence. In the final days of CAN’s existence, why were Kisser and other anti-cultists so frantic to purchase the CAN records, as evidenced in the bidding for such which occurred during the bankruptcy sale of goods hearing 10/23/96? [76] [see Document 51]

A final burning question rests in the reason behind the bomb threats made towards the final shipment of the CAN documents once procured, en route to a secure storage site. Such drastic measures only serve to arouse curiosity and to stimulate this investigative study.

Our final conclusion is that a reasonable description of CAN, as it existed 1986-1995, views it as a criminal organization playing on hate and fear themes, organized against new religious movements (and other groups) in large part for profit to certain actors, and hypocritical and deceptive in its public persona.

Appendix A - Sampler of Deprogramming Cases

Appendix B - Cult Awareness Network, Inc. - Groups and Individuals that CAN kept records on

Appendix C - Cross-ACM Activists during the 1990s

Appendix D - Provenience of the (Old) CAN Records in Boxes


A Correspondence about “CAN, We Hardly Knew Ye”: Letters from Herb Rosedale, Anson D. Shupe and Massimo Introvigne

"Agents of Discord: The North American-European Anticult Connection", by Anson Shupe, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA and Susan E. Darnell

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