Deprogrammer to relate efforts to rescue followers from cults

Arizona State University State Press/November 14, 1995
By Angela Mull

Cults across the United States frustrated with Rick Ross' deprogramming efforts can blame his grandmother.

When a cult infiltrated her nursing home in 1982, it sparked the 43-year-old Arizonan's interest in helping former cult members regain their identity.

"I was very concerned that elderly patients were being harassed," he said.

Ross, who has deprogrammed more than 200 ex-cult members since then, will speak at 7 p.n. tonight at the Memorial Union's Turquoise Room.

"There's been lots of interest in cult activity on campus," said John Lujan, Associated Students of ASU campus events director, ASASU contacted Ross on behalf of students curious about cults, he said.

ASU is flooded with cult groups like the Upside Down Club and the International Church of Christ, said Ross, who has deprogrammed six ASU students.

"Cults realize that people who attend colleges are looking for goals, a sense of identity and a sense of direction," he said. "They're open to ideas."

John Crawford, an associate professor of communications who spent 15 years speaking and writing about cult recruitment and phenomena, agreed that ASU students are a good locale for cult recruiters.

"(Students have) just been released from the tight supervision of their families, which puts them in a tremendously vulnerable state in terms of recruiting opportunities," he said.

In addition to campus cults, Ross will speak about ultra-fanatical groups like the Waco Branch Davidians. Ross has deprogrammed two Branch Davidians, and said it is usually concerned family members who request his services.

"They have seen radical changes in personality to the extent that normal personality traits, have been radically altered by the group," he said.

Of those Ross has deprogrammed, only one has filed suit against him. A man whose 1991 deprogramming failed filed suit in conjunction with the Church of Scientology. Ross was found not guilty of criminal charges. However, he is appealing the awarding of damages by a civil court.

Crawford said it is the possibility of such lawsuits that drove him out of cult studies. He said he admires Ross for not being scared away by potential lawsuits.

"He's one of the most courageous human beings I've ever known," he said.

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