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Steven Hassan’s new book Freedom of Mind provides the knowledge and awareness needed to help yourself and loved ones avoid or escape from such dangerous people and situations. Available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers as paperback and e-book.Learn More

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...by Steven Alan Hassan M.Ed., LMHC, NCC

For the record, I believe in freedom of religion. I am Jewish and an active member of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, Massachusetts since 1998. Healthy religious involvement encourages people to question. It encourages people to read whatever they want to read. It encourages people to seek out other’s opinions and discuss things freely. It encourages people to maintain old friendships and develop new ones outside of the group. If a friend decides to leave a healthy religious organization, friendships are maintained. Healthy religions encourage people to have close relationships with family and friends. They do charity for others–especially outside their own immediate faith community. There are no hidden agendas. No authoritarian leaders. No phobias that you have to do what the leader says (in my case, the Rabbi) or else you will be treated as disloyal.

I am an activist who fights to protect people’s right to believe whatever they want to believe. That is why my work has had broad support of religious leaders from a variety of spiritual orientations including: Catholic; Baptist; Methodist; Episcopalian; Church of Christ; Lutheran; Unitarian; United Church of Christ; Jewish; Buddhist; Hindu; Pagan and Neo-Pagan and others. I am proud to say that many unorthodox religions have expressed their gratitude to me for my books because it clearly shows them NOT to be a destructive cult. It is very clear from anyone who has ever heard me lecture or read my books that one of my chief motivations in exposing the destructive and deceptive practices of mind control cults is my high regard for spirituality and for religious freedom. I believe that everyone has the right to believe and the right not to believe whatever he/she chooses to believe. Even members of groups I consider to be a destructive cult. Of course, until a member takes the time and makes the effort to learn about unethical social influence and learn about the facts about the group’s leader, the group policies, and listen to former members, I do not believe they are operating with the knowledge fully needed to make an informed decision. Can I make someone want to get this information? Of course not! They have to be willing. Do family members and friends have the right to emotionally and intellectually engage the member and ask him/her to do the research? Of course!

The truth is that I was involved in about a dozen deprogrammings of members of the Moon cult in 1976-77. For one year only! With members of the Moon cult only. Some of them were legal conservatorships. Others were not. Never did I ever abduct, restrain, hit or threaten anybody. I did not and do not like the deprogramming method and stopped doing them in 1977! I have spoken out publicly against forcible deprogrammings since 1980. Read my three books, Freedom of Mind, Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs (2012), Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults (1988) and Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (2000).

In my book, Releasing the Bonds, I go so far to include a testimonial from a woman who was traumatized by her deprogramming, even though she decided to leave the cult. I strongly encourage you to actually read my books for yourself, rather than rely on someone else to take things out of context and tell you what to think.

Point 1: Response to Roselle information. Disinformation is more like it!

Arthur “Skip” Roselle’s affidavits? Scientology now takes some lines from the 1976 affidavit to insinuate that I’m a violent person and an anti-religious person. Now I see Roselle’s 1991 affidavit is online to imply what I am doing now is unethical. I need to set the record straight.

I acknowledge that I was involved with the Roselle deprogramming attempt in 1976. But I was never involved in violence of any kind. One main issue is that the family felt that they needed to secure him with a rope before I arrived at the neighbor’s house. Skip had reportedly punched and bitten his father as well as friends of his from the football team who were very concerned about him. When I arrived and learned Skip was in the basement tied up and violent, I turned around to leave. it was his mother’s tears and other family members who begged me to speak with him. I decided to go downstairs and with tears in my eyes, begged him to just listen to what I had to share with him and if he wanted to go back to the Moonies, he was free to do so. He agreed and we talked for days. He even agreed to go to Arizona to a rehab center. There were many other people present- members from Skip’s former football team, family members, etc. I never restrained him or did any of the things he later wrote about.

Please understand that at the time, Roselle was grateful for his family’s love and the intervention. However, he did go back to the group to try to get his friends out of the Moonies, but got drawn back in. I am attaching separate sheets written by Roselle before he got re-involved. At the point that he went back into the Moonies, they apparently told him to write the phony affidavit alleging all of these horrendous things. The important thing is that criminal charges were never made against me. In fact, the group never even tried to civilly sue me either. They knew these accusations against me were baseless and his family and friends would never allow anyone to threaten or hurt Skip. They were present during the whole time. Please see Joanne Roselle’s (Skip's mother's) affidavit.

In 1991, I learned that Roselle had left the Moonies. I immediately wrote a letter to him and asked his family to give it to him. Naturally, I (and they) assumed he would “come clean” and tell the truth. What I didn’t realize is that he had just become re-involved with the Moonies. There was never a legal jam. I just wanted him to tell the truth. I was tired of cults like the Moonies and Scientology trying to make me out to be a violent, anti-religious person.

It is true that Scientology did try to frivolosusly harass me by trying to include me in a $12 million lawsuit filed against the Sally Jessy Raphael television show. I was quickly dropped from the lawsuit when the producer of the show and the two ex-Scientologists did an affidavit explaining that I had no knowledge of the segment that involved the women’s mother–a Scientologist. It might interest you to see a tape of the show that Raphael did on Scientology. One of the women who appeared later died of brain cancer–she had relied on Scientology tech to help her with her headaches. What she needed was real medical help. Now it is too late for her. I believe the transcript of the show is on the Internet.

Point 2. The false assertion that the American Psychological Association memo of 1987, the DSM IV and others do not subscribe to theories of undue influence and mind control

First the APA memo. The important words of this memo are, “BSERP does not believe we have sufficient information available to guide us in taking a position on this issue."

They stated that they didn’t want Singer and Ofshe to state that the APA officially endorsed their findings based on what they had submitted. They felt it was not thorough enough for APA to state an official position. They did not say they didn’t believe that mind control existed.

For a very thorough analysis of the issue of the APA, and cult propaganda efforts, please see Mind Control in New Religious Movements and the American Psychological Association and Blind, or Just Don’t Want to See? published in Cults & Society: An Internet Journal Vol. 1 No. 1 2001 and in the Cultic Studies Journal: Psychological Manipulation and Society, AFF Volume 17, 2000, p101-121 (on the web at http://www.dimarzio.it/srs/modules/news/article.php?storyid=207).

Another article of great interest is: “Scientology and the European Human Rights Debate: A Reply to Leisa Goodman, J. Gordon Melton, and the European Rehabilitation Project Force Study.” Marburg Journal of Religion 8 No. 1 (September 2003).

I am attaching these articles.

It is patently incorrect to state that The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) does not mention the issue of brainwashing. It does, in fact mention the words "brainwashing" and "thought reform". Please look at a copy of Dissociative Disorder NOS 300.15. Prior versions of the DSM did, in fact, use the word cult. It appears that there has been a political effort within the APA to get the word “cult” taken out of this category. The website for The American Psychiatric Association is http://www.psych.org/.

Statements and articles in the American Psychological Association’s publication, the Monitor, as recently as November 2003, indicate the belief that unethical social influence does exist. Destructive cults, like the People’s Temple, have hurt people. Dr. Philip Zimbardo has been teaching a course at Stanford University for many years, entitled The Psychology of Mind Control and used chapters from my first book. Please read his President’s Column in the APA Monitor, Mind control: Psychological Reality or Mindless Rhetoric?.

Former Air Force psychiatrist and Harvard professor Dr. Robert Jay Lifton is a legendary figure. He is author of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: Brainwashing in China (1961) and worked for military intelligence in the 1950’s, along with Margaret Singer, Louis Jolyon West and Edgar Schein. All of these mental health professionals wrote about the power of “thought reform” or mind control. Lifton has given many lectures over the years on the subject and in 1999, authored an important book entitled, Destroying the World to Save it: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence and the New Global Terrorism. In this volume, Lifton writes about the sarin gas cult of Shoko Asahara in Japan as well as other destructive groups. Lifton is considered to be one of the most highly respected psychiatrists in the world, writing about the horrors of nuclear bomb proliferation, issues of veterans of the Vietnam War, the psychology of Nazi Doctors, and many other socially important topics. I have known Dr. Lifton since 1976 and he has never vacillated in any interaction with me about the veracity of his research or opinions.

In conclusion, I do believe there are substantive issues that require your immediate attention. I do hope that you will consider how much deception is used in this material designed to make people distrust me as a valuable source of information.