Family, friends to stand trial for kidnapping in deprogramming attempt

Family, friends to stand trial for kidnapping

A Mississauga doctor, his wife, son and two friends have been ordered to stand trial for kidnapping and forcible confinement.

The five are accused of attempting to forcibly deprogram the physician’s adult daughter, whom they feared was being brainwashed by a religious group operating in Hamilton’s North End.

Dr. Renato Brun Del Re, 55, his wife, Lucie, 56, of Milton, and their son, Giancarlo, 28, and friends Alan and Theresa Honner, are to appear Aug. 8 in Superior Court to set a date for trial.

The charges arose after Mirella Brun Del Re was allegedly snatched from Park Street North near the Dominion Christian Centre on Dec. 21, 2005. Police said she was forced into a van and taken to a secret location, where she was held 10 days.

At the centre of the bizarre kidnapping case is the centre’s charismatic pastor, Peter Rigo, whose unorthodox Christian mission is blamed for isolating and estranging young church members from their families.

– Source: Family, friends to stand trial for kidnapping, The Hamilton Spectator, Canada, July 26, 2008


For the background to this story, see these Religion News Blog newstrackers:
Renato Brun Del Re, or
Dominion Christian Centre.

An overview:

Police say the woman was snatched from Park Street near the church just before Christmas and held 10 days before she was able to escape. Investigators say her family believes she was the victim of a cult.

Pastor Peter Rigo, a former painter and decorator who founded the downtown DCC six years ago, says a well known American deprogrammer was brought to Halton to try to talk the family member into leaving the group.

“They brought in cult deprogrammer Mary Alice Chrnalogar. They flew her in from the States,” Rigo said.

Chrnalogar, a Tennessee-based intervention consultant, is the author of Twisted Scriptures: A Path to Freedom from Abusive Churches.

“I didn’t come up there to take part in anything, I did come up there and talked to the family,” Chrnalogar told The Spectator in a phone interview yesterday.

Rigo, 41, runs the centre along with his wife, Peggy. He says the DCC is nothing more than a Bible-based church that believes in praying for the revitalization of downtown Hamilton and positive change for people through believing in Christ.

“Look at us, our doors are open, anyone can come in here,” Rigo said this week.

The woman was snatched off Park Street just before Christmas last year and disappeared for 10 days.

Her father Dr. Renato Brun Del Re, 53, a family physician who practises in Mississauga, and brother Giancarlo, 25, have been charged with kidnapping and forcible confinement.

The maximum sentence on conviction is life in prison.

The victim’s mother, Lucie Brun Del Re, 54, a French teacher at Christ The King Catholic Secondary School in Georgetown, has been charged with forcible confinement, which carries up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

– Source: Family members charged with kidnapping in alleged effort to deprogram ‘cult’ victim, Paul Morse, The Hamilton Spectator, Canada, Aug. 31, 2006 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

In September, 2006, three more people with charged in connection with the case.

Deprogramming refers to a process that reverses alleged brainwashing. It is controversial in that the process is usually started without the voluntary cooperation of the person being deprogrammed. (Initially, the term referred to both voluntary and involuntary intervention. Over time, however, the term came to refer primarily to involuntary intervention). […more…].

See also Exit Counseling, and Thought Reform Consultation

Cult FAQ Frequently Asked Questions About Cults, Sects, and Related Issues
Includes definitions of terms (e.g. cult, sect, anticult, countercult, new religious movement, cult apologist, etcetera)
Plus research resources: articles, books, websites, etc.
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Kidnapping or rescuing daughter? Court case pits family against what they allege is a cult

The family, who say they implored police and government officials for help and even brought in a well-known cult deprogrammer from the United States, insist they were only doing their duty as devoted parents, intent on doing everything in their power to protect their daughter.

“You have to understand what cults do and how damaging they can be,” Mrs. Brun Del Re, a 54-year-old high school teacher in Georgetown, said in an interview. “As for my daughter, when you hear from her directly that she’s thinking of suicide, what kind of responsible parents would we be if we didn’t do everything we could?”

Police have charged six people, including the Brun Del Res and their 25-year-old son, with charges of abduction and forcible confinement for their part in snatching a woman off the street in Hamilton in late December, forcing her into a van and bringing her back to the family home in Milton, about a half hour’s drive north-east of the city.

The woman remained in the home for several days before she escaped and went to police. Her name has not yet been revealed in the court case and her mother will not disclose her name because she wants to protect her daughter’s privacy.

Her family says she has returned to her former lifestyle in association with the Dominion Christian Centre, an evangelical Christian group that uses raucous, music-based services to draw wayward young adults and others to its base in one of the grittiest parts of the city’s downtown core.

One of the core issues raised by this case is whether concerns over a family member’s safety can override an individual right to freedom of religion — particularly when the person involved is an adult, not a child.

Pastor Peter Rigo, who founded the Dominion Christian Centre with his wife six years ago, has denied any allegations the church is a cult.

Mary Alice Chrnalogar, a U.S.-based consultant who has overseen scores of anti-cult interventions and written a handbook to assist families in breaking free from extremist religious groups, says she deplores the fact that this Ontario family has been charged for doing what they believed was best for their daughter.

“Nothing matters when your kid is in trouble. If I had a kid in a cult and was in the same place, I would do exactly the same as them,” she said from her home in Tennessee. “This is a family that could be just like anyone else. The Canadian public should demand that they drop these charges — don’t put these poor parents through anything else.”

She says she spoke with the family about intervention strategies, and even spoke with the woman at the centre of the alleged abduction, but she insists that she has nothing to do with involuntary deprogramming attempts. (Ms. Chrnalogar was among a group of prominent deprogrammers who became embroiled in nasty legal battles with Church of Scientology members, among others, over the lengths to which families could go in reclaiming their kin.)

Mrs. Brun Del Re says her family has been through so much already that the court charges barely register as another concern.

She says the alienation occurred gradually between the family and her daughter, who went to Catholic schools and whom she describes as a very smart and spiritual girl who was trying to find her way as a young adult.

She even attended a couple of services at the church, at her daughter’s request, but grew increasingly uncomfortable as her daughter began asking the family to move closer to the Hamilton church, and eventually cut off contact with her brother and other family members.

“God would never say, ‘Don’t see your family any more,’ ” Mrs. Brun Del Re said yesterday. “We pray for her€¦. When you believe that what you do is right, you have nothing to fear.”

– Source: Kidnapping or rescuing daughter? Court case pits family against what they allege is a cult, Anne Marie Owens, National Post, via CHTV Hamilton, Canada, Sep. 25, 2006 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

For more information about the Dominion Christian Centre, see The Pied Piper of Hamilton, broadcast by CTV’s W-FIVE on Oct. 28, 2006 [Transcript]

Abusive Churches

Apologetics Index has a collection of research resources on the subject of abusive churches (and spiritual abuse).

See also Cult FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions about cults.

Tip: use the questions in Chapter 1 of Recovering From Churches That Abuse People to take a look at your own church or group.

Finally, if you think you may need expert help, please see Guidelines for selecting a cult expert/counselor.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday July 27, 2008.
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