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Those she left behind
A Cult took Rose's Daughter
and broke her heart

COVER STORY - For every gain there is an equal and opposite loss. When a cult or so called "shepherding group" initiates a new member, a family left behind mourns the loss of a daughter, brother, sister or son and fights back.

by Jeffery Zbar

The lost Sheep

Family members lament relatives consumed by 'shepherding groups'

"When you meet the friendliest people you have ever known, who introduce you to the most loving group of people you ever encountered, and you find their leader to be the most inspired, caring, compassionate and understanding person you ever met, and then you learn that the cause of the group is something you never dared hope could be accomplished, and all of this sounds too good to be true! Don't give up your education, your hopes and ambitions, to follow a rainbow."- Written by Jeanne Mills, a former member of Jims Jones People's Temple who was assassinated one year after the Nov. 18, 1978, Johnstown murder-suicides of 911 adults and children.

Rose thinks about her daughter every day.

She thinks about her when she rises from bed before 6 a.m., in her home ; lined with paintings and poetry created by her daughter Susan.

She thinks about her as she sets up a table on the campus at Miami Dade Community College or Florida International University; Rose distributes literature to hundreds of college students weekly in a diligent effort to educate young minds against missionary groups and cults.

This 80 year old widow and mother of two thinks often about her daughter and the church that consumed Susan and her two children, leaving Rose with so little to show for the creative child she raised.

Her daughter lives as an executive in the Church of Scientology's Clearwater headquarters - as she has for the past 17 years.

Rose, who requested that her last name be withheld, rarely hears from Susan (not her real name). The last time they saw each other was when Rose - recently widowed - asked Susan to come to Miami. Rose was reviewing her will, and Susan, hoping to be a beneficiary, quickly came.

"She probably got permission, because otherwise you can't leave," said Rose, who at the time had left money to Susan.

But after the enrollment of Susan's son in the church's Oregon school -despite Rose's offer to send him to an acclaimed boarding school - and after Susan's abrupt "disconnect letter," designed to sever ties with her mother, Rose decided to establish college funds for Susan's two young children. As for Susan? "She's not getting anything at all," Rose said.

Cults, missionaries, and smaller sheparding groups have lurked on the religious fringe for years and are much a part of American societal fabric. Disciples of the rev. Son Myung Moon's Unification Church hawk roses on street corners. Hare Krischnas solicit donations at airports. Bagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers bought up a forty-acre spread near the small town of Antelope, Ore.

There was a time when people didn't worry much about the influence of these groups, experts say. But naivete was violently ripped away when Jim Jones and the People's Temple went mad in Guyana. ambushing California congressman Leo Ryan and an NBC news crew on a dirt runway eight miles out of Jonestown ,and then, one day later, drinking cyanide-laden Kool-Aid or forcing the doubtful to do so. With a ghastly splash, cults, their seductive abilities and their potentially lethal consequences, came on to the scene.

"That was the biggest story since Kennedy's assassination," said Michael Langone, executive director of American Family Foundations and author of "Cults: What parents should know". "Cults existed before then, people just didn't notice them."

Florida has not been immune. In Lake City, members of End Time Minsitries prepare for the end of civilization, and keep the town on edge. Yahweh Ben Yahweh, a.k.a. Hulon Mitchell Jr., and his white robed disciples tended to immaculate motels across Dade County and are now defending themselves on murder charges. Experts notice that with increasing frequency, satanic, racist, and hate groups are priming young minds for possible indoctrination into larger cults later in life.

Most recently, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale Church of Christ and it's college arm, Campus Advance, were accused with "Love Bombin" would-be followers, particularly at Broward Community College. The technique involves showering recruits with affection, agressively seeking converts, watching over their members otherwise private lives and scorning those who leave the church.

Residents, parents especially, become alarmed that yet another new religious group was in the offing. But educators and anti-cult experts that have tracked the Boston Movement, parent of the local Church of Christ, and similar organizations for years were hardly surprised. The names and faces change over time, but the approach is often the same, said Sandy Andron, a local educator and national vice president of Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network, a grass-roots group that works against cults and missionary groups.

"They're very professional in their skills to recruit and manipulate," Andron said. "The Boston Movement is relatively new to this community. But the only difference from now and two or three or five years ago is cosmetic. A different approach to missioning."

Hollywood resident, W. John McCormick was recruited into Scientology through one of the "Dianetics" television ads. He was an-up-coming radio broadcaster in Massachussetts who wanted an edge in a dog-eat-dog profession.

So he bought the book and fell for the theology, he said. He son found himself becoming more confident, even arrogant. After buying Scientology literature, he was also $15,000 in debt, he said.

At 25, he left the comfortable suburb of Chelmsford, Mass., about 30 miles northwest of Boston and moved to Florida to take a job as a stockbroker in order to pay his bills. And he began spending more time at the group's Coral Gables offices.

"I was slowly getting more and more involved in the organization, " he said. "The goals I had were being subsumed by their goals of recruiting my friends, brining in more members, and clearing the planet so we can live with out war and hunger"

The more time John McCormick spent with the Church, the less he spent with a childhood friend, with whom he had moved to South Florida. No more weekends of sports, or games on TV. No more nights out. No more reading, other than church literature.

"They cut off access to other forms of information," he said. "Especially that wich was critical to the church."

Robert, his friend, called McCormick's parents in Massachusetts. There was never any doubt or denial by the parents about what Robert had told them, father Bill McCormick said.

"This kid was that close to John," Bill McCormick said. "It really took something for his friend to call a father and more or less rat on somebody and say he noticed something's wrong."

Bill McCormick had his doubts about ever being able to reel his son back in. He called the local police, who didn't know what to tell him. He worked his way up the ladder, calling his state and U.S. representative, and his senator. The senator, as well as someone from McCormick's church, mentioned American Family Foundation, which is in Weston, Mass.

Once in touch with AFF, Bill McCormick learned of Cult Awanress Netowrk, and learned how to talk with his son without becoming confrontational. Bill McCormick and his wife Marilyn, attended family workshops. They flew down to Florida to learn how their son was changing. The former highschool class vice president, radio diskjockey and outgoing salesman had withdrawn into somebody his parents hardly knew.

He did try to sell Scientology though. They would have no part of it, Bill McCormick said, and the discussions soon bordered on arguments.

Together, they began sending their son articles on Scientology, information the church calls "dead agent" information penned by the "merchants of chaos."

John McCormick says he showed the articles to the church resource person. She'd give me back 10 times as many documents that refute the things my dad was sending me," he said.

One weekend John McCormick flew home from his sister's wedding. His father recalled he was reclusive, pale, gaunt and terribly sick with a cold, something the church had attributed to mental conflict.

The day after the wedding his family invited three "exit counsellors," to their house. Such counsellors, who are often former church or cult members, work as outside parties- unconnected to the family - to enlighten current members about the groups.

"I told myself if I didn't nip this in the bud, I don't know when I'll be able to do it again," his father said. John McCormick was not amused and described the session as "hostile."

After four hours, he had heard enough and left the house. His two brothers walked and talked with him. "If some of the information some of the exit counsellors are giving you is true," he recalled his brothers as saying, "Doesn't that make you wonder?"

It did. He didn't return to Florida and decided to leave the organization. Bill McCormick realizes the difference his family - especially his younger sons-made.

"There's other families who have only one child, and the parents just can't relate," he said. "Thank God I have other children."

Family members left to endure

Although con artists rely heavily on senior citizens to fall for their scams, filling the pockets of the schemers, young people are still the domain of church groups. Such groups generally seek and seduce college students, recent graduates or the children of disciples. More than 50% of the 911 killed at Jonestown were children," experts say.

The organizations also enlarge their brood by converting people in transition, be it a new job or home, a bad marriage or a recent death in the family. Potential members need not be undergoing personal stress, but some educators say it makes for an easier target.

"That's the thing that's so hard for people to believe, that most people can be taken because we're all going transitions all the time," said Gary Eisenberg, an educator and author of "Smashing th Idols: a Jewish Inquiry into the Cult Phenomena." " There are those people who prey upon the victims and suck the lifeblood out of them while they're in this transition."

The victim gets draw in. The family remains to endure the fear and anger.

Walter (not his real name) has felt the feel and anguish. He learned about sheparding groups the hard way.

Though he was very close with his youngest daughter, her deepest secret had escaped Walter for more than a year. Carol (also not her real name) then 31, had become involved in the early 80's with a member of the sheparding group in St. Petersburg. Through his ex-wife, Walter learned that Carol had planned to sell her home, which Walter had recently helped her buy and follow her dogmatic pastor to Colorado.

Walter knew his daughter well. He understood that her willingness to try new ideas could mean that she might follow her leader anywhere. He feared her strong will would thwart any chance Walter had to change her mind. He recalled her days as a child, standing firm, hands on her hips, declining to do whatever she opposed.

"This was so out of character for her, that's why this whole thing was so frightening. Neither one of us could believe this. Listen to what she was saying," he said. "She was 34 years old. I couldn't be the tough, dogmatic father. I could never have told her to get out of this group."

Carol feared a confrontation with her father. She knew he would try to dissuade her. Though not religious, Walter, is a well-traveled journalist and is familiar with the world's religions. Experts say a learned, questioning mind is a missionary's worst enemy. With all his knowledge, though, Walter was still in the dark regarding sheparding groups. But he learned quickly.

"I learned about all this, boy, in a week," Walter said. "I called around, saying there must be somebody who's been in this problem before, who has a loved who suddenly wants to sell everything and go to the mountain top." He tracked down Judy Safransky, president of Cult Awaness Netowrk's Florida afilliate in St. Petersburg, who's son had been involved in such a group. Safransky recommended Walter track down a Philadelphia exit counsellor and prepare for Carol's trip home to Miami one week later. The counsellor warned Walter that he would not work if Carol was kidnapped, coerced, restrained, or simply declined to be interviewed. But that was not the case. After two days of counselling, Carol decided to leave the group.

"He saved my daughter's life. There's no getting around it," Walter said.

Psychologist Langone estimates that 10% of American have been touched by one of thousand of organizations scattered across the nation and ranging in size from dozens of member to tens of thousands. And the relatives left behind by new members continues to add up.

Conversion comes quickly

Angie Hayes considered herself a good mother an devout Baptist. She had raised her children in her Clewiston home with strong values and a love of God. When she sent her daughter Lynn off to Florida International Universtiy in the fall of 1989, she expected Lynn would get an education and a spirit of independence.

She didn't expect her to take on a new religion.

Lynn Hayes, who was 22, joined up with Campus Advance, a branch of the Boston Church of Christ, soon after she started classes in August 1989. By November, she was attending Bible talks with a classmate.

It was innocent from the start. Members were friendly, she said, calling her "sister" and showering her with affection. She didn't question their unrelenting demand for her devotion, she said, and as time went on, her defenses were lowered further. When she became distant on the phone, her mother started to wonder.

But red flags soon flew when Angie Hayes noticed checks were being written to her daughter's church instead of her landlord or for her utilities. Her daughter recalled being told by church leaders that the Bible called for 10% of whatever disciples receive - from income, tuition, or money parent's intended to be used for living expenses - be given to the church.

"I gave her money for school and she turned around and gave all of it except for $26 to the church," Angie Hayes said. "That was when the real initial slap came and said, 'Hey, something is definitely wrong.' I had been telling her something was wrong, but it was more of a gut feeling before that."

By last July, Angie Hayes had had enough. She and three family members got into the family sedan and drove south along U.S. 27 to Miami. They confronted her daughter outside the restaraunt where she worked, intent on bringing her back - forcibly if need be - to the family home. A fellow church member who also worked in the restaraunt resisted. But as Lynn Hayes recalled, "My uncle told him quietly to butt out," he said. When the church member left to get her Bible, the uncle grabbed her, put her in the car and they began the drive back north. Back in Clewston, her mother had learned how to unwire the telephones from outside her home to prevent her daughter from calling the church. And arrangements had been made to meet a deprogrammer in Arizona. By the time she decided to take control, her daughter had given more than of $3,000 to the church. To this day, Anglie Hayes has spent $10,000 on counseling and repaying her daughter's debts.

With disciples come money and power.

"It is the same reasoning as Hitler or Stalin. All of this is the same thing. It's total selfishness and power over other people."Walter said of the cult psyche. "People feel they want control over the minds and bodies of other human beings."

For cults, finances come from recruits. Experts say it's not uncommon for disciples to mortgage their homes, max out credit cards, devote their life savings or hand over their inheritance or tuition. But more importantly, the cults gain a body to do further recruiting and fundraising. Disciples filter robot-like through the community seeking new followers for the group, said Deputy Carlos Farina a psychotherapist with the Broward Sheriff's Office behavioral sciences division.

"This whole subservient process is part of the brainwashing effect," Farina said. "The member believes they are doing good. It's for the good of the ministry, the church, the leadership and they believe it's for their own good."

Bill McCormick said: "Cult members don't willingly join, they are recruited. Members are just like a trained sales force. They basically don't take no for an answer, they do what it takes to get the job done."

The resources available to these groups astound even the experts. When Eisenberg tried to publish his book, "Smashing the Idols," he was stalled six months by the threat of a Scientology lawsuit to prevent the book's publication, he said. Richard Behar's award-winning Time magazine article on Scientology was countered with a $3 million Scientology ad campaign refuting its remarks, Eisenberg said.

"Most cults are ruthless in the tactics that they will use, and they've got more money than God to keep their fight going," he said.

Cult Awareness Network faces eight lawsuits, mostly from Scientology, Executive Director Cynthia Kisser said.

"Even though the lawsuit- may be capricious, they can afford to be in the lawsuits, and we can't," one expert said.

Even parent support groups are rare. One is called GRAM for Grandparents' Rights Advocacy Movement, which fights against children who have taken grandchildren away, for example, into cults or missionary groups. Experts are wary of setting up more groups, only to have them inundated by cult members intent on steering talks toward a pro-cult slant

"They're coming there to confront, they're not coming there to participate," Andron of Cult Awareness Network said.

So it often ends up becoming a one-on-one struggle between parent and child. It's difficult, parents say, but it also builds the resolve to help others.

Kidnapping not recommended

Though successful in Lynn Hayes' case, experts and anticult counselors rarely condone kidnapping and aggressive deprogramming. Aside from questionable legality, the action could result in a lawsuit by the victim, or it may push cult members to further resist returning to their former lives. Deputy Farina said it is essential to first gather data on the group a family member has become involved in. Learn the group's philosophy, how it is applied and how members are treated.

"Otherwise, if somebody acts, presumptuously and this person fights and kicks the whole way, we chance turning the family to be the real bad guy, and this person going back to the group and saying, 'Look what happened to me,"' Farina said. "If there's a chance this person will go back infuriated and angered and with more fuel and an excuse for turning against their own family, there we've lost the chance to do what. was intended in the first place."

Education, then, becomes the primary tool.

Rose speaks with dozens of students daily, alerting them to what's going on. After his exit. John McCormick spent 18 months working and living in Massachusetts. Today he's back in Hollywood, studying to become a social studies teacher. He lectures on cults at schools and organizations and has doubled as an exit counselor, skilled on the eight points of mind control and accustomed to the "thousand-mile stare" associated with active cult members and victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. Of the $ 15,000 he invested, he got 13.000 of his money back through six months of negotiations and a pile of "skillfully written" letters threatening to go to the media with claims of continued harassment he said. And as a result of his experiences, his family has become much closer and he's more at ease with life. "In retrospect, the learning experience was very powerful," he said. "Very painful, but very powerful." His father detects lingering changes. This son who could have been "making six figures a salesman" is more withdrawn than before his church experience. "He's not the same person psychologically as he was before," Bill McCormick said. But, he said, he knows his son's future is now his own to decide.

Thanks to her mother, Lynn Hayes is comfortably back at home now.

She works at a drugstore and has worked her way back into the life she once led. She doesn't condemn Campus Advance. No threats or intimidation were used to maintain control, except for guilty feelings of betraying God and the Bible, a practice Safransky called "Scripture twisting."

With each article written detailing her family's ordeal, Lynn Hayes knows her name is mud with her former church brethren. "They know she's out there working against them now," Angie Hayes said. "She's not out of their minds, but I don't think I have to worry about her going back there."

Lynn Hayes misses some of the friends she made in Campus Advance and hopes that when they come to realize their lost freedom and leave the organization they will seek her out. But she said she is thankful for the support she now has.

"I'm thankful for what my morn did, because I call know the truth. I can know both sides and make my own decisions," she said. "It's only fair that people have a chance to see both sides." The last "good roads, fair weather" letter Susan sent to Rose arrived last June. Her grade-school granddaughter recently sent one, but Rose is leery She suspects it was a ploy to elicit a response in order to learn of Rose 's plans for the coming months. She puts nothing past the church. As Rose looks around her home she sees five self- portraits Susan painted in the early '70's before Scientology. Looking more closely Rose now sees a distant and disturbing glint in her daughter's painted eyes. "It's frightening," she says. Rose tried recently to send Susan a letter in a typed, unmarked envelope, from a post office in another city, so as not to reveal its real origin. She wanted -- more than ever --- for this one letter to get through to her daughter. "After the real Susan surfaces, I want her to know that I'll be here for her," Rose said, reinforcing her belief that, like many cult or missionary members, Susan is an unwitting participant "I don't even know that she got it."


Rose Paul joined us at that cold picket of Clearwater on March 1996.
Rose Paul, was the Executive Secretary to Dr. Linus Pauling, the discoverer of Vitamin C.
She was a donor to many anti-cult causes, and helped keep me alive during RTC vs Lerma, and financially supported this web site.
Rose Paul passed away in 2002

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