Hugged by God


It was 4:00 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep as I anxiously thought about what I should wear.

Is it going to rain? Should I bring an umbrella? If I bring an umbrella, how am I going to hold it and a placard, and hand out fliers at the same time? Maybe I should just stay home.

But I knew that wasn’t an option; my conscience would bother me too much if I didn’t go. Even if I only got a picture of myself holding up my “TED Enables Defamers” sign in front of the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, it would be worth it.  Besides, some people had already heard I was planning to be there to protest a TED event at twelve noon on December, 12, 2014, so I needed to show up.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I got up and worked on some signs and fliers. After my son woke up, I talked him into going to Sacramento with his sixty-year-old rabble-rouser dad, so that he could be my driver, photographer and bodyguard.  We loaded up the car and, although the sun was out, I grabbed a rain jacket. Soon we were cruising past walnut orchards and the welcome sight of over-flowing creeks and ditches, hopefully a sign that California’s long drought might be coming to an end. As we drove between some rice fields I watched in awe as copious flocks of waterfowl flew near us and landed nearby. I then rolled the car window down a short way and listened to the music of ducks, geese, swans and other birds as I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths of the rain-washed air to calm my nervous spirit.

Snow Geese in flight near Liano Seco wil by lamsongf, on Flickr
Sacramento Valley Waterfowl.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  lamsongf 

Before long my son was practicing his big-city driving in downtown Sacramento. After some difficulty, he soon had the car parked.  I grabbed my four signs, to give to any others who might join me in my protest, and we walked a couple of blocks to the museum entrance.  I held my “TED Enables Defamers” sign under the words “Crocker Art Museum” as my son took a photograph.  However, he missed the words “Crocker Art Museum” and someday maybe I’ll return for a reshoot.

I had already checked out the museum on Google Street View and had toyed with the idea of standing near the entrance and giving a speech condemning TED’s support of forced thought reform. I’m a member of the Toastmasters club, Peach Bowl Dawnbreakers (meetings are 6:30am Fridays at the Dancing Tomato in Yuba City),  and I would have been quite comfortable doing that; but since there wasn’t a captive audience waiting in line at the door, I nixed my public speaking plan, held up my placard and started handing out fliers. The fliers read:

“Who’s in bed with TED? You might be surprised! Find out @”.

Thanks to a suggestion from my son, I had added a QR code (all by myself, I might add), that linked to my recent blog post which details some of the history of forced thought-reform and questions why TED would support such sordid activities.

Welcome to TED.
Welcome to TED.

In a short while, as expected, museum security was telling me I couldn’t be there and that I needed a permit to protest. I informed them that it was my constitutional right and they would need to have me arrested if they wanted me to stop. I then threw my car keys to my son and told him to make sure he took lots of video if the cops came. The security guards, a lady and young man, then left me and went back inside.

Sadly, it appeared no one else would be joining me in my protest and it was going to be a one-man show, so I decided to put down my placard with the other ones I had made and focused on giving out my fliers. I simply welcomed people to TED and handed them a piece of paper. I guess everybody must have thought I was with TED because nearly everyone took one. People were even asking me what entrance they should go into and I was happy to direct them.  However, before long, Mr. Head Security Guy was telling me to get off the museum property and forced me into the street, which wasn’t all that bad, although I did have to loudly explain to passers-by that I was banned from the sidewalk and that if they wanted to know why, they should come over and get a flier from me.  That seemed to work, because most people took the extra effort to get a flier. (A few times I did disobey my orders and quickly jumped over to the sidewalk, handed out a few fliers then hopped back into the street.) But if there’s a next time, I’m just going to ask my ninety-year-old dad if could borrow his picker-upper thing which he uses to pick up stuff from the floor without bending down. That way I could extend my reach from the street all the way to the sidewalk and keep everyone happy.

Practicing for next time.
Practicing for next time.

The last time I was doing this at a TED event, my wife joined me,” I told the young security guard standing near the door keeping an eye on me. “She’s a piano teacher and has a recital tonight, so she was too busy. She was kidnapped and held against her will by hired faith-breakers years ago because her parents were upset she left the Catholic Church, joined a different church, and married me, a non-Catholic. We do what we can to let people know that TED supports kidnapping and forced thought-reform.”

Where does she teach?” the guard asked.

In a small town about fifty minutes north of here,” I responded.

Run for your lives! Brain infected zombie piano teacher!

It started to rain softly and I was glad I brought my rain jacket. More people walked by and I continued to joyfully welcome them to TED and hand them a flier. At 1:00pm I had ten fliers left of the original stack of 139 (I had given one to a curious Staples clerk).  I wished the friendly security guard a good day and walked away, jumped in the car and soon we were heading home.

I quickly checked my blog when we arrived home.  Fifty visits to “Who’s in bed with TED?” between the time I left home and came back, which was about three hours. Not bad, I thought, and I’ll probably get even more visits later. Little did I know,  another very special moment of validation was yet to come.

The next day, my wife and I attended a Christmas concert by the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra. I don’t often go to such things, but as mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I’m attempting to acquire a little more culture, besides the “agri” kind.  So there I was, traveling to the big city again, this time with a car-pool of friends from Grace Episcopal Church.

The five of us, having left our vehicle in a downtown parking garage, were walking toward the Memorial Auditorium, where the concert was to take place. As we drew closer, the muffled sound of a megaphone pierced the night air. When we rounded a corner we saw police cars, flashing red lights and a large group of people chanting loudly and holding placards that read “Black Lives Matter!” All of this was being closely watched by a small army of uniformed police officers. What we were witnessing turned out to be a protest and “Die In” against the recent shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  The protest was taking place right outside our concert venue.

Memorial Auditorium by thephantomlio, on Flickr
Sacramento Memorial Auditorium
 The atmosphere was tense, as a long line of concert-goers snaked into a side entrance, while a much shorter line filed toward the front of the Auditorium, right past the protesters. I encouraged our party to head over the lawn and to the short line in front.  Soon, there we were, standing a few feet from the noisy crowd. Close by, a young African-American man held his arms high while shouting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” It was the security guard, now in street clothes, that had been keeping an eye on me while I was at the Crocker Art Museum! We recognized each other instantly.
  “You the man!” he shouted happily. “You were out there protesting all by yourself. He was doing that for you, right?” he asked my wife and she nodded yes. “By the way, how was your piano recital?”
Infecting students with the joy of music.
Infecting students with the joy of music.

He then took a short step and gave me a bear hug. And there we were: a graying red-headed, brain-infected white guy and a young African-American male, embracing as shouts for justice rang out from the crowd and echoed off the Memorial Auditorium walls. I felt like… God was giving me a warm hug. And all of a sudden, the restlessness and loneliness of the previous day washed away, like the fading quack of a lone mallard as it flies desperately to join the flock.





Who’s in bed with TED?

Who’s in bed with TED?

Besides being human, what do St. Thomas Aquinas, an Old Order Catholic monk, a suspected lesbian, a Marxist college professor, an anonymous thirty-one-year-old woman, my wife, Toro Gotu and thousands of Japanese citizens have in common? Answer – their parents were not happy with their chosen religion or lifestyle, so they were kidnapped and held against their will for the purpose of thought reform or, to use the loaded modern-day term, “deprogramming”.

Thirteenth-century Catholic priest and theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, whose writings have deeply influenced Western thought, was held against his will for nearly eighteen months in a family castle, while his family tried to pressure the young Thomas to give up his chosen religious vocation. His brothers even brought Thomas a prostitute whom he quickly chased out of his room with a flaming stick of wood.

Denise Melinsky writes in the August 9, 1982 issue of News Oklahoma about how the parents of a monk with the Old Catholic Order paid deprogrammers to try to coerce the former Walter Robert Taylor to give up his new-found faith: “Six years after what he describes as an ordeal of kidnapping, torture and false imprisonment by ‘Gestapo-like’ deprogrammers, an obscure Oklahoma City monk named Father Philaret continues to wage a religious battle reminiscent of one almost 2,000 years ago.” [i]

However, deprogrammers have not limited their kidnappings and forced de-conversions to religious converts. An article in the September, 1982 issue of MS magazine details the bizarre abduction, verbal harassment and rape by deprogrammers of Stephanie Riethmiller, who was suspected of being in a lesbian relationship of which her parents disapproved. In the Cincinnati trial of her captors, Riethmiller testified about her rape. She insisted that everyone in the house was fully aware of what was happening, and described her mother’s attitude being that “it was all right I was raped and anything was better than what I was doing.”[ii]

Wikipedia offers some disturbing facts about deprogrammer Ted Patrick: “In 1980 Patrick was paid $27,000 to carry out the deprogamming of Susan Wirth, a 35-year-old teacher living in San Francisco. He was hired by her parents, who objected to her involvement in leftist political activities. The process involved handcuffing her to a bed for two weeks and denying her food.”

Plus, in the Washington Post, Feb. 15, 1982, A Question of Will: “A Roman Catholic priest, a lesbian, even a thirty-one-year-old whose mother did not care for her fiancé, have been targets of deprogrammers.”

My wife was kidnapped and held in 1983 against her will for ten days in New Zealand while hired American deprogrammers tried to harass, harangue, bully and manipulate her into giving up her newly chosen religion. “I felt like an animal in a cage,” she said after her ordeal.[iii]

But perhaps the most egregious attack on modern-day religious freedom has been occurring in Japan. Toru Goto recently won a landmark court decision against his relatives, a professional deprogrammer and an evangelical pastor for depriving him of his freedom for over twelve years. [iv]

Over 4,000 Japanese citizens, primarily women, have been kidnapped and held against their will for the purpose of forcing them to give up their religious beliefs. An article written for The International Coalition for Religious Freedom details the abuse by faith-breakers and how, unlike the U.S. and Europe, Japanese authorities turn a blind eye to these abuses of religious freedom. “In fact there is significant evidence of the implicit, and in some instances explicit, support of the deprogrammers by authorities. Cases are routinely dismissed as mere ‘family matters.’ In some instances, victims who have escaped are returned to their captors by the very police from whom they had sought help.” [v]

The American Civil Liberties Union in 1977 released a statement against incarceration for the purpose of religious and ideological thought reform: “Parents have the right to attempt to influence their children’s religious affiliation. It is when these children are adults and the influence is forcible that the ACLU objects, particularly when such coercion is aided by the power of the state.” [vi]

The National Council of Churches writes in its resolution on deprogramming: “Kidnapping for ransom is heinous indeed, but kidnapping to compel religious de-conversion is equally criminal.”[vii]

Professors David Bromley and Anson Shupe write in their book, The American Cult Scare: “Deprogrammers are like the American Colonials who persecuted witches.”

Professor Saul Levine in his paper The Role of Psychiatry in the Phenomenon of Cults recorded: “Fundamentally deprogramming diminishes and creates dependency. It robs people of their responsibility. Instead of encouraging people to accept they made a mistake, it encourages people to deny their actions and blame others.”

In a similar vein Dr. Lowell D Streiker, former executive director of Freedom Counseling Center in Burlingame, California, writes in The Christian Century, August 2-9, 1989, “Not only does the anti-cult movement give parents a point of view that makes them totally right and their wayward children completely wrong, but it provides an ideology which explains why their children are wrong, excuses their children of culpability and offers a form of intervention to restore the children to their right minds.”

Princeton educated Methodist Minister Dr. Larry D. Shinn: “In the conclusion of my book, The Dark Lord, I argue that anti-cult views are fundamentally anti-religious. They are suspicious of, or opposed to, a faith that requires religious commitment or surrender and that appeals to youthful idealism. Such standards would have deprived the world of Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi.”

In September of 2014 I held a protest against TED, the “Ideas Worth Spreading” people, because of their promotion of the scurrilous presentation given by Diane Benscoter, “How Cults Think”. Where she compares members of the Unification Church to Hitler Youth and suicide bombers and insinuates that their brains are infected.

After contacting TED a couple of times, they finally got back with me to inform me I could write a comment on Benscoter’s video and that I should nominate a speaker who could give a presentation with an opposing view. I wrote back to TED and explained I had already done that but it wasn’t enough, and I continued:“Basically, I will continue to protest, blog, speak, and write about TED’s unconscionable act of promoting Diane Benscoter’s presentation until TED removes it and publicly apologizes or a speaker with an opposing viewpoint is given equal time and publicity.”

Would TED allow a member of the KKK, or a homophobe, or a misogynist, or any other like-minded person a stage where they could spout their bigotry? And, if someone complained, would they be told to write a comment or suggest a speaker with a different point of view? No! They wouldn’t allow the intolerant presentation in the first place.

Benscoter, in her TED appearance, deludes herself by comparing herself and her fellow deprogrammers as part of an underground railroad of sorts. Slaves were fleeing captivity, not the other way around. Also, I’ll bet those brave Americans, working in the Underground Railroad, weren’t charging exorbitant fees for their services.

Benscoter also informs the TED audience that after her arrest for kidnapping, she decided to turn her back on her deprogramming work. Of course she turned her back. Her employer, the Cult Awareness Network, (CAN) was forced into bankruptcy because of the multitudes of legal judgments against them. The demise of CAN also opened the door for public access to their records which included an almost comical list of over 1,500 groups they were keeping an eye on. It included such diabolical groups as Amway, the Amish, The Grateful Dead, and Promise Keepers. [viii]

One of the most interesting characters in the CAN comedy, or should I say tragedy, was a fellow deprogrammer who often worked with “Deprogrammer Diane” named Gary Scarff. Gary had met the Reverend Jim Jones, founder of the ill-fated People’s Temple cult, a few times in Los Angeles, and in a sworn statement said he was never a member of the People’s Temple. But that didn’t stop Scarff from travelling throughout America as the featured act in CAN’s dog and pony show. Scarff, also in a sworn statement, said he would often have packed crowds in tears as he told his fabricated tale of losing his son, girlfriend and father when they killed themselves in the Jonestown mass suicide/massacre.   Also involved in this charade was Catholic priest Father Ken Burns, who Scarff declares, “…knew that my stories about the People’s Temple were made up”. [ix] [x]

Years ago my Sociology Professor at Yuba College read his class a chilling tale of torture. The talented writer of the story wove an account of horror about the ordeal of a young woman at the hands of masked strangers. The description of odd smells, strange sounds, and screams from a nearby room had the class enthralled. When the professor finished reading the story he then asked his students what we thought about it. Everyone was horrified that the woman was treated so badly and wondered aloud where this person was tortured and by whom. The professor then informed the stunned class that the story was simply an embellished account of someone’s trip to the dentist.

Likewise, the anti-cult cult of jealous religious leaders, apostates, profiteers, naïve parents, anti-religious zealots and the like, with the help of organizations like TED, are a kind of fear-mongering machine. They continue to distort the truth and fabricate stories about brainwashing, danger, mind-control, brain-infections and suicide. They repeat their “cult…cult…cult” mantra against any group they disagree with or feel threatened by. As a result, the phenomenon of irrational “cultphobia” is a surprising reality in our modern hi-tech world.

Some might be shocked to learn there are many parents who are quite happy that their children joined groups like the Unification Church. For example, a good friend of mine told me that Reverend Moon came up to him one day and showed him a letter he had received from my friend’s father. In that letter, the father thanked Reverend Moon for saving his son’s life.

Given that groups like the ACLU, the National Council of Churches and an increasing number of religious leaders, freedom defenders and mental health professionals have condemned the practice of kidnapping and incarcerating someone for the purpose of forcing them to change their religion, politics, or mate, it’s hard to understand why TED would jump into bed with such a ragtag group of ex-felons, documented liars and freedom deniers. TED needs to be more careful of who they sleep with.

Well, that’s enough writing. There’s a storm a-brewing. I have a placard to make and some flyers waiting to get printed. There’s another TED event I’m planning to attend.







[vii]Resolution on deprogramming: Religious Liberty for Young People Too.”Adopted by the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches of Christ


[ix]   (Article in Chicago Defender that has been publishing since 1905)


I want Jesus on my team

Alicia 2
Alicia no more

I stood where Alicia Avenue ends at Pasado Rd. in Linda and leaned against the chain-link fence, staring out into the open field where Alicia Intermediate School used to stand. The school was demolished in 2013 because of its proximity to the airport and a natural gas line, so there were no classrooms left to jog my memories of when I was a student there; but still they came.

I remembered what it was like to attend classes with a deep pain in my heart because I thought my dad had left the family. His in-laws were visiting and he was tired of their nagging, so he left. Thankfully, once they departed, he returned. But I knew that wasn’t the case for many of my fellow classmates. Maybe that’s why Billy was a bully. He couldn’t get over the pain of his dad leaving and never coming back.

My old school

Billy was my friend for a short while, but something changed. Maybe he was jealous of me for having a dad that was still around; but for whatever reason, he started picking on me in wood shop, by making fun of things I was making, or by throwing small pieces of wood at me when the teacher wasn’t looking. There wasn’t much to Billy; he was short and skinny, so I wasn’t really afraid of him, but he was so annoying. I thought about punching it out with him, but I was worried I might accidentally punch him in the mouth and hit his teeth that stuck out so much and were spaced so far apart he could have flossed with shoelaces. I also didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting. But still, going to wood shop, a class I really enjoyed, was taxing. I had to do something, but what? I needed a miracle. That miracle came when I met……Jesus.

There it was, written on the blackboard amongst all the other names…… Jesus. I looked around the room of my seventh-grade physical education class but I didn’t see anyone that looked like Jesus. The teacher had written the names on the chalkboard so that he could organize soccer teams. I want Jesus on my team, I thought as the teacher wrote numbers next to the names. I got the number three, and so did Jesus. He was on my team! But when his name was called, the teacher pronounced it “Hey-Zeus”. Jesus wasn’t what I expected, he was a stocky Mexican kid that struggled with English, but he sure knew how to play soccer! It was on the soccer field where the accident happened.


Billy the bully, who was on the opposing team, ran toward the soccer ball as Jesus and I hurried toward him from opposite sides. He was aiming towards the goal! The three of us kicked toward the ball but Billy kicked it a split-second before us. Goal! Billy didn’t get to see it, though; he was writhing in pain on the ground. Jesus and I had missed the ball and kicked Billy’s leg, both of us at the same time. The school nurse was called and Billy was put onto a stretcher. His leg was broken. I took no pleasure in Billy’s pain and was sincerely sorry; however, he never did bother me again.

Someone else of Mexican descent had helped me a year before, in sixth grade. It was in the boys’ bathroom, where middle-school conflicts often take place. I had walked in to use the urinal and when I had finished my business, an older student asked me if he could borrow my comb. Yuck! I thought as I looked at his greasy hair. But I wasn’t about to tell him no. I handed him my comb and cringed as he combed his hair. The Fonzi wannabe then took my comb and threw it in the unflushed urinal. Luckily, it was right then that Peter, a fellow sixth-grade classmate of mine, walked in. Now Peter was no ordinary sixth-grader; he was feared by many and had older brothers that were feared even more. He even had a girlfriend who was an eighth-grader.

Peter saw what was going on in the bathroom and grabbed the soon-trembling eighth-grader by the front of his shirt collar and held him against a bathroom stall.

“When I let go of you, I want you to grab that comb, comb your hair, wash it off, and then give it back to my friend Bobby. You got that?”

The pinned eighth-grader nodded silently, and when he was let go, walked over to the urinal and grabbed the comb, shook off some of my pee and combed his hair. He then rinsed off the comb at the sink, wiped it with a towel and then handed it to me.

Mi Salvador

The school bell rang and the three of us walked out of the bathroom and into our classrooms. After sitting at my desk for a short while, I glanced behind me and across the room to where Peter was sitting. As usual, he was talking to a girl. He noticed I was looking at him and he smiled a quick smile and nodded slightly. I then turned back around and stared wide-eyed at the front of the classroom. Peter called me his friend! I was amazed and found it hard to believe. But word must have got around that I was Peter Garcia’s friend, because no upper class-man ever bothered me again at Alicia Intermediate.

I started to recall more memories of my time at Alicia as I stood at the fence that early Sunday morning, but the near-silence was soon disturbed by the familiar rumble of Harley motorcycles stopping nearby. I watched as the riders parked their bikes, and with Bibles in hand, walked across the street and into the building marked “Christ Has Risen Ministries”.

That’s enough memories for now,” I told myself. “It must be time for worship.” I took a few photos of the open field, locked my car, and then walked across the street and into the church.

Getting ready for church