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. https://www.leavinglinda.com/?p=416
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] http://www.religiousfreedomwatch.org/extremists/scarff/news-article.jpg (Article in Chicago Defender that has been publishing since 1905)