Busting on the 'cult buster'

Kabbalah critic Rick Ross has drawn fire after warning Wesley Clark to steer clear of L.A. Kabbalah center.

New York Daily News/January 13, 2004

Self-styled "cult buster" Rick Ross stirred up a hornet's nest last week with his warning to Madonna's favorite presidential candidate, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, to keep his distance from Madonna's spiritual home, the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles.

One apparent supporter of Kabbalah Centre founder Philip Berg E-mailed me yesterday to describe Ross - who runs a New Jersey-based nonprofit that describes its mission as the study of cults - as "disreputable."

The E-mailer then recounted the 51-year-old Ross' childhood psychiatric history and various brushes with the law as a young man in Arizona - notably his guilty plea to a felony for the theft of diamonds from a jewelry store.

Yesterday Ross told me that he has always been open about his troubled past: "It happened almost 30 years ago. I was young and foolish and made mistakes that I deeply regret. I did whatever the court required, completed my probation in 1979, and the guilty verdicts were vacated in 1983. I have gone on with my life and never again got in that kind of trouble."

In August 2001, Nevada Kabbalah Centre official Moshe Omer attacked Ross when the latter was invited by a local synagogue to speak on religious cults. "Rick Ross is a convicted felon who a history of psychiatric problems," Omer complained to the Las Vegas Sun.

Ross told me: "It's the same old, same old. It's just the same recasting of a Scientology attack that I've heard many times."

Ross said the Church of Scientology has waged a hardball PR campaign against him for years.

Scientology International spokeswoman Linda Simmons Hight, meanwhile, told me there is no cooperation between the church and the Kabbalah Centre to put out the word on Ross.

"I'm just glad that that the information is getting around," she said. "I don't care who sends it ... It comes from Christian groups and now apparently the Kabbalah Centre as well. All kinds of people are writing about Rick Ross."

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