Category Archives: Tiff with TED

Hugged by God

TED Enables Defamers - Crocker Art Museum - Sacramento
Crocker Art Museum – Sacramento

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.

Zombie Piano Teacher
Run for your lives! Zombie piano teacher!

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

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)


No More Gotos!

T Goto
Mr. Toru Goto after being held captive for over twelve years.

No more Gotos! No more Gotos! No more Gotos!” I shouted in front of around seventy people as I held up the poster I had made with those words and a picture of a nearly starved Toru Goto of Japan sitting in a wheelchair.

My wife and I and a couple of friends were protesting a TED event taking place at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in downtown Sacramento, California. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), whose slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading”, holds and supports conferences worldwide. According to their mission statement they “…believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world.”

What a beautiful night for a protest...
What a marvelous night for a protest…September 26th 2014

Despite the proclamation on their website that “TED is not a place for partisan slams and one-sided arguments”, it appears that in the area of new religious movements they are in fact one-sided, partisan and extremely bigoted. This is especially apparent in their promotion of former Unification Church member and “deprogramming” advocate Diane Benscoter and her scurrilous presentation, How Cults Rewire the Brain.

Benscoter opens her talk by showing a slide of herself and others as they are getting ready to begin a peace walk and to encourage people to attend a speech to be given by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. She says, “What I didn’t know though, was most of those people standing there with me were Moonies.”

(Note: The nickname “Moonies” is a term that New York City’s Commission on Human Rights describes as a pejorative that evokes intolerance and hatred…and is no longer used by most major news agencies when commenting about Unification Church members.)

In her book, Shoes of a Servant, Benscoter, when referring to a flyer she had been given before she joined in the march writes: “It read: ‘Walk for World Peace. Please join us for a 3-day walk to hear Reverend Sun Myung Moon speak in Des Moines, Iowa.’ This and the slide of her standing near a huge sign with a picture of Reverend Moon and another sign that reads, “Hear Rev. Moon”, and she still doesn’t know she’s with the “Moonies”? However, in Benscoter’s defense, according to her book, she was often abusing drugs and smoking pot which may explain her tunnel vision.

Benscoter continues: “The top picture is a group of Moonies that have been blessed by their messiah. Their mates were chosen for them. The bottom picture is Hitler youth. This is the leg of a suicide bomber.”

Heil Moon!!!… Heil Hiltler!!!

First of all, it’s a pretty good chance that many, if not most, of those people taking part in the mass wedding ceremony were not members of the Unification Church and in fact consisted of people from many different faiths, and their mates were not chosen for them. Even if they were, so what?

Oh, and that cheer, where everyone’s raising their hands? That’s a customary Korean cheer that’s probably been taking place for centuries. Hitler Youth? Yeah, right!

The Hon. S.Y. Lee, Vice President of South Korea, leads cheers at the close of the UN Day ceremony at Seoul. October 24, 1950
The Hon. S.Y. Lee, Vice President of South Korea, leads cheers at the close of the UN Day ceremony at Seoul. October 24, 1950

However, Benscoter’s comparing me and my church to Hitler Youth, Jim Jones and suicide bombers, and her insulting pseudo-scientific theory about our brains being infected is not what motivated me to protest a TED event. I’ve heard it all before, ad nauseam. But, for an organization as respected as TED to promote and elevate someone associated with forcible incarceration and coerced de-conversion is personal.

Maree Ryan
You can’t keep a good woman down.

In Auckland, New Zealand, August of 1983, my wife was kidnapped by “deprogrammer” goons who came from America and held her against her will while they attempted to harass, harangue, bully and manipulate her into recanting her chosen religion. She, however, did not give up her faith, but escaped from her captors and is now enjoying her life as an outstanding wife, mother, business owner and community activist.

Perhaps the most egregious and downright sinister aspect of TED’s support of “deprogramming” lies in its potential to influence and legitimize the practice in locations where religious freedom is not protected by law and forced de-conversions still take place. For example, it would not be hard to imagine Chinese government officials viewing Benscoter’s presentation for advice on how to attack Falun Gong, a Buddhist religious practice of self-cultivation, founded in China by Li Hongshi. Already the government-controlled press has attempted to depict Falun Gong as a “cult of evil” which engages in mind control. Sound familiar?

Thousands of Falun Gong followers have reportedly been arrested by the Chinese government and have been forced into “reeducation camps” to remove the “wrong thinking” from their minds. (Perhaps Deprogrammer Diane and her fellow henchmen from the now-bankrupt Cult Awareness Network should see if the Chinese government is hiring.)

On the job training for work in China.
On the job training for work in China?

When I copied and pasted the URL for Benscoter’s TED presentation and performed a Google search, many of the results that came up had Chinese characters and other foreign languages in their headings. So it appears that TED ideas are indeed spreading globally, no matter how bigoted and jaundiced.

I also checked out some of the websites and blogs promoting Benscoter’s hate speech and her book; and I kept seeing words like: harrowing, disturbing, appalling and evil, when describing her time in the Unification Church when her “…mind was lost to mind controlling manipulators in a powerful cult.”* However, after reading her book and many of the blog posts, I just couldn’t seem to find anything that even came close to be terribly appalling, disturbing or evil. However I did find one post that highlighted, “She fasted and prayed for Nixon”. Now that’s scary.

If someone really wants to read about a harrowing and evil experience, I suggest they read Toru Goto’s testimony about his imprisonment and torture at the hands of relatives and “deprogrammers” for over twelve years in Japan.

When I decided to protest the TED event in Sacramento I had no intention of speaking in front of that crowd. I simply wanted to hand out some fliers and display my placard, and also to get some ideas for future protests. As I walked with my wife towards the Well Fargo Pavilion, I held her hand tightly and looked at the image of an emaciated Mr. Goto taped to my poster. I remembered English statesman, Edmund Burke’s quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I also thought back to the time over thirty years ago to when I had no idea where my wife was, except that she was being held against her will and that people like Diane Benscoter were trying to force her to think and act in the way they deemed appropriate. I guess I was just moved by the spirit when I walked into the pavilion courtyard.

No more Gotos! No more Gotos! No more Gotos!” I shouted, and then declared that TED supports forced kidnapping and de-conversion. “Stop the hate speech!

As I started to give out fliers, much to my surprise nearly everyone, especially the younger people, took them. However, my wife and friends and I were promptly escorted out of the courtyard by security. Again to my surprise, several young people followed us to find out what we were protesting and to get more information. All of them were sympathetic and supportive of our cause.

Tell us more.
Tell us more.

So TED, how about letting my wife, Mr. Goto, or someone else who survived incarceration and forced faith-breaking attempts, tell their side of the story?

*Quoted from Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus Stanford University on the back of Benscoter’s book, “The Shoes of a Servant”.