Religion News Briefs: cult expert’s new book, false memories, Scientology

This is Religion News Blog’s roundup of news reports dealing with religion, spirituality, cults, and related issues.

checkmark Great Grandson Of L. Ron Hubbard Blasts Scientology

The great grandson of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard refers to the cult leader as a “portly red-headed charismatic lying con-man pseudoscience self-help author.”

CBS says

His mother is the daughter of Ron DeWolf, L. Ron Hubbard’s son. The son changed his name after he famously left Scientology. Jamie DeWolf said his mother never spoke about the church. “It destroyed and devoured both her grandfather and her father,” he said. […]

DeWolf doesn’t mince words when it comes to what he really thinks about his great grandfather’s ministry. He called it a “pyramid scheme that sells secrets and they sell them under the guise of self-help.”

Watch DeWolf’s stage performance about L. Ron Hubbard
Research resources on Scientology


checkmark Third death at Narconon facility prompts probe

AP reports that

After the third death in nine months at a Pittsburg County drug rehabilitation with ties to the Church of Scientology, the county sheriff has opened an investigation into the latest death.

Sheriff Joel Kerns says his office is investigating last week’s death of 20-year-old Stacy Dawn Murphy of Owasso at Narconon Arrowhead.

Narconon is a Scientology front group that uses the cult’s quackery to try and cure drug addicts.

Probe into death at Narconon facility expands to include two other deaths in past nine months

checkmark Muslim groups face threats in Sweden: study

Some 40 percent of Muslim congregations in Sweden have been exposed to some form of criminal attack, according to a recently published study at Mid Sweden University.

“The study concludes that around four in 10 Muslim congregations are exposed to criminal attacks of various kinds – vandalism, threats, physical attacks or such like,” said Klas Borell the researcher who led the study to The Local.

Borell explained that the study is the only statistically representative survey of its kind in Europe and involved more than 100 representatives for Muslim organizations.

checkmark Minnesota Supreme Court Court Rejects Clergy Abuse Case

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed out a clergy abuse lawsuit by a man whose case rested on a repressed memory claim, siding with a lower court’s ruling that repressed memory is an unproven theory. […]

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with the district court, which found that studies claiming to have proven the existence of repressed memory “lacked foundational reliability.”

According to memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, “despite decades of research, there is absolutely no controlled scientific support for the idea that memories of trauma are routinely banished into the unconscious and then reliably recovered years later. Since it is not actually a legitimate psychological phenomenon, the idea of “recovered memory” and the movement that has developed alongside it is thus closer to a dangerous fad or trendy witch hunt.” (See The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse)

Research resources on False Memory Syndrome

checkmark Yearning for Zion Ranch: Tower dismantled

Just days after workers at the Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas completed construction of a ‘mysterious’ tower they destroyed the structure.

The tower, which resembled a prison guard tower, stood an estimated 100 feet tall and was recently topped with an observation deck.

Judge James D. Doyle, who takes aerial pictures of the YFZ Ranch and posts them at his website says that FLDS sect members resumed work on the tower last month after an hiatus of several months.

He said he doesn’t know why residents of the 1,700-acre Yearning for Zion Ranch would take it down, just as he didn’t have any idea why they would build it in the first place. […]

The ranch has been a sacred and secretive FLDS site. Documents taken from the ranch state that its residents have been hand-picked by Warren Jeffs, the president and “prophet” of the sect. […]

Doyle has flown over the ranch to take pictures of it since about the time construction began in the early 2000s. […]

He said he has kept an eye on the FLDS group because, “They’re not to be trusted. We need to know what’s going on.”

Jeffs received a prison sentence last year of life plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two girls ages 12 and 15 in what his cult considers to be ‘spiritual marriages.’

Ten other FLDS members have also been sentenced for crimes including child sexual assault, bigamy and performing an illegal marriage. The evidence for those prosecutions was obtained in the April 2008 raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch.

Though imprisoned, Jeffs maintains his iron-fisted rule over the FLDS.

Note that while the tower was destroyed last week, this article was published in the San Angelo Standard-Times today.

checkmark Judge seeks explanation for Utah’s polygamy policy

In her Polygamy Blog at the Salt Lake Tribune, Lindsay Whitehurt says

At the Sister Wives hearing today (story here), U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups seemed to be picking apart Utah’s unique approach polygamy, which generally boils down to this: Bigamy is a felony, and it should stay that way. But if you’re a polygamist who otherwise keeps your nose clean, we’ll leave you alone.

Prosecutors want to keep the law on the books by pledging to enforce it only when someone has committed another crime. But why?

checkmark Cult Expert Steve Hassan publishes new book

Noted cult expert Steve Hassan has a new book out: Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs.

We haven’t read it yet, but will do so and post a review. But given the quality and usefulness of Hassan’s earlier books — Combatting Cult Mind Control (1989) and Releasing the Bonds (2000) — we have high expectations.

Freedom of Mind is said to be significantly updated and revised edition of Hassan’s groundbreaking Releasing the Bonds. According to the book description at Amazon.com, the book

explains how to identify and evaluate potentially dangerous groups and individuals. Hassan details his groundbreaking approach, the ‘Strategic Interactive Approach,’ which can be used to help a loved one leave such a situation. Step-by-step, Hassan shows you how to: evaluate the situation; interact with dual identities; develop communication strategies using phone calls, letter writing and visits; understand and utilize cult beliefs and tactics; use reality-testing and other techniques to promote freedom of mind. He emphasizes the value of meeting with trained consultants to be effectively guided and coached and also to plan and implement effective interventions. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is knowledge and awareness.

We have long appreciated Hassan’s work as a cult expert, and we highly recommend him.

Cult Experts — what you should know before you hire one.

The Links

Swedish pastor admits to serving as Stasi spy: Church of Sweden pastor Alexander Radler has admitted to having worked as an “elite spy” for the East German Stasi during the Cold War, according to a report in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

Rich Mouw on Why Evangelicals Need to Be Quick to Listen to Mormons, and Bill McKeever on why Rich Mouw should repent. Note: Mouw still doesn’t get the various meanings of the term ‘cult’ and how the term would apply to the Mormon Church. We find that so inconceivable that we believe he deliberately obfuscates the issue. See also: Is Dr. Richard Mouw Bearing False Witness?

Church of Scientology Dodges Forced Labor Suit Over Sea Org: Two former Scientologists who worked 100-hour weeks for a pittance, foregoing family life and following behavioral codes, cannot advance forced-labor claims, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday. Primary reason? The allegations failed to convince U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer in Los Angeles. He found that the Headleys’ claims were barred by the First Amendment’s ministerial exception, which discourages courts from getting involved in disputes over church activities that are “doctrinally motivated.” Affirming unanimously, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that the ministerial exception does not even apply here because the Headleys failed to show that they were forced into anything. The judgement also notes the Headleys did not take advantage of numerous opportunities to escape. More about this later…

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014