Rick Ross Responds to his Critics

First posted May 14, 1998; Last updated April 2007

By Rick Ross


CAN Membership
The "New CAN"
Credentials and Education
"Psychiatric History"
Criminal Record
Deborah L. Malone
Scott Case
Steven Hassan
Anton Hein and "Apologetics Index."

The "new Cult Awareness Network" (CAN), which is apparently controlled by Scientology, published a "news bulletin" titled "Rick Ross, Modern Day Inquisitor" May 7, 1997. The bulletin attacked me personally and my work. This document has since become the primary basis for similar attacks made by other groups and their supporters. Most often these attacks are simply retaliation, motivated by critical information archived within this website about certain groups and/or their leaders.

"Religious Freedom Watch," a front group for Scientology, features seven pages of personal attacks on line, regarding my work and past. On page 7 they have posted a carefully annotated 196 page document that also includes information about The Cult Education Institute. This is the culmination of a substantial effort that included at least two private investigators and an attorney.

Typically, those who attack me personally avoid any meaningful rebuttal of the news reports, court documents or other information contained within this website. Instead, they appear to prefer an "ad hominem" attack, that is to say, "If you don't like the message, kill the messenger." In Scientology's own internal jargon, this is called "dead agenting," or discrediting your perceived adversary personally.

Please understand that the Scientology bulletin and other more recent personal attacks often misrepresent, distort and/or ignore the facts and actual context of my personal history and work. This appears to be a deliberate effort to mislead and/or misinform the public.

There is a section within this website totally devoted to the negative email I receive titled "The Hall of Flames." Many of the groups or individuals that have attacked me personally are likewise recognized at a page called "Flaming Websites."

More friendly responses to my work and website are posted at "Site Reviews."

A collection of information about my background, work and personal history is posted within this website at a section titled "Rick Ross."

In response to my critics I would like to clarify and/or review certain facts concerning my personal and professional history.

Scientology's "reorganized CAN" and/or "Religious Freedom Watch" Web site has stated the following:

"One of [CAN's] former members was Rick Ross"

Response: I did attend CAN conferences in 1985, 1989, 1990 and 1992, but I was never a member of their board, a spokesperson, a presenter or panelist at a CAN conference. I once subscribed to their newsletter and had a limited involvement with the organization. There was mutual respect expressed between myself and the old CAN.

My work in the field of cults, radical and potentially unsafe groups has included membership on two national committees for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (the Reform Movement of Judaism), sub-committee work for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, a teaching position for the Bureau of Jewish Education in Phoenix and a staff position at Jewish Family and Children's Service. This is detailed within my both my bio and CV.

The "New CAN"

"The management of the new CAN wants to make it known that Rick Ross has no association whatever with [the new] CAN."

Response: This is true. I have no association professionally or personally with the so-called "new and reformed CAN." This organization now seems to be largely controlled by the Church of Scientology. Scientology is an organization that has been described as "a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner" and "that combines elements of business crime and psychological terror against its own members." I have no intention of being associated with such an organization.

CAN now seems to be essentially controlled by Scientology. Their Web site advises that "CAN" is "operated by the Foundation for Religious Freedom." According to an agreement between Scientology and the IRS (see section VIII Definitions) this "foundation" is a "Scientology-related entity."

In a document recently published on the Internet by a Scientology front group the following statement was made; "From all outward indications, The Cult Education Institute (RI) is performing precisely the same function as the old Cult Awareness Network" (CAN).

This statement is correct.

Like the old CAN, RI continuously collects and makes available to the public an archive of historical information about controversial groups and movements, some that have been called "cults." RI also is a nonprofit educational effort like "the old Cult Awareness Network."

Credentials and Education

"Rick Ross has no religious educational credentials whatsoever...his only formal education is a high school diploma."

Response: I have never pretended to have anything other than a high school diploma as reflected by my publicly posted Curriculum Vitae. And though I did not attend college, some of the finest universities in the United States have invited me to lecture. My expertise has been widely recognized through local, state and national committee appointments. And despite the arguments presented by my opponents, I have been qualified and accepted as an expert witness by judges in courts across the country.

"Psychiatric History"

"Rick Ross has an extensive psychiatric history and use of psychiatric drugs."

Response: The Church of Scientology obtained a letter written by my childhood pediatrician (dated 1975). This letter related that at the age of ten I "was exhibiting hyperactive behavior and having difficulty concentrating and giving attention at school." For a brief period (about two or three months) I received some medication specifically prescribed for this problem. However, that medication was subsequently dropped and not recommended or taken again.

"He has undergone many years of psychiatric therapy starting at age 6."

Response: I did experience problems at school during my childhood. My family sought to resolve these problems by seeking professional help. However, I was not involved in "psychiatric therapy starting at age 6" as claimed by Scientology.

I saw two psychologists. One during 1963-64 at ages 10 and 11. Later, as a teenager in 1967 I saw another psychologist briefly. As a term of my probation (later explained) I was a assigned to counseling. This counseling was provided by a State employed psychiatrist, who subsequently released me from that requirement a year later.

I have never been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, nor treated at a hospital for a mental disorder.

Criminal Record

"A convicted criminal responsible for causing violence and has committed violent acts himself."

Response: I was convicted of one felony and a misdemeanor. These were both non-violent crimes. My misdemeanor conviction was for "Conspiracy" to commit a crime. This involved an attempted burglary of a vacant model home in 1974. No one was hurt or threatened in any way and I received probation.

My felony conviction was for "Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft" in 1975. This specifically concerned the embezzlement of property from a jewelry company, where a friend of mine was employed. My friend and I were both involved. Everything taken was returned to the satisfaction of the store and the police did not oppose probation. No one was physically hurt in any way and this was not a violent crime. I plead guilty and was sentenced to probation.

Two psychiatrists submitted evaluations to the court, both recommended that I receive probation. One of those psychiatrists who recommended probation was Dr. Domiciano E. Santos of Arizona State Hospital, quoted by Scientology/CAN. Dr. Santos saw me briefly for counseling as a term of my probation. However, he terminated that counseling early, satisfied with my progress and adjustment.

I was sentenced to four years probation April 2, 1976. My probation was terminated early "due to good conduct" January 18, 1979.

I deeply regret and am sincerely sorry for the criminal mistakes I made as a young man of 21 and 22, and have done everything possible to rectify those bad acts. I did accept full responsibility for my actions and made amends to the satisfaction of those concerned. I was never again convicted of any crime. In 1983 the Maricopa County Superior Court officially recognized this and ordered the vacating of both judgments of guilt, dismissed the charges and restored my civil rights.

Beginning in 1982 I worked first as a volunteer and then as a professional (program coordinator for Jewish Family and Children's Service of Phoenix) within the prisons and jails of Arizona. I founded the Jewish Prisoner Program within Arizona and also represented the Jewish community on the statewide Religious Advisory Committee to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC). In 1986 I was elected chairman of that committee. Later that same year I was appointed chairman of an international coalition for Jewish prisoner services.

My prison work was recognized by B'NAI B'RITH International through a Community Service Citation in 1986.

Paul Foxworthy, Chaplain Administrator for Pastoral Activities within ADOC said, "Our deepest thanks to Rick [Ross] for pioneering one of the finest Jewish inmate religious programs in the country. He is to be commended for a job well done".

Rev. Paul Moser the Stated Clerk Of the Presbytery of Grand Canyon commented, "Under Rick's leadership the [Religious Advisory] Board [for the ADOC] went from a small rather ineffective group to a respected Board representing most of the religious groups in Arizona. This growth was due to Rick's effectiveness in seeking out a variety of people, or denominations, and recruiting them to serve in this important activity."

Reflecting upon my time serving the State of Arizona and Jewish prisoners it seems to me that my life had come around full circle. My personal mistakes in 1974-75 enabled me to better understand and respond to the needs of both the prisons and the inmates. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to give something back, after the courts saw fit to allow me an opportunity to change.


"In a civil matter [filed] on May 23, 1979...The Court ruled against Ross and ordered him to pay...$8,464.65."

Response: This civil suit was settled later the same year and has no connection whatsoever to my current work.

"Also in 1979, another lawsuit was filed against Ross...for failure to repay a loan to his own aunt for $4,000.00"

Response: This matter was also settled and the suit dismissed the same year, long before my current work began.

Both of these civil suits involved loans regarding an auto salvage business, which encountered difficulties that were eventually resolved. My credit report at that time (1970s) therefore included no outstanding judgements, nor does it include any bad debts today. I have paid all my debts as agreed, excluding those explicitly discharged through bankruptcy.

Death of Deborah L. Malone

The "Religious Freedom Watch" Web site run by Scientology attempts to connect me to the tragic suicide death of Deborah L. Malone in 2002.

Deborah Malone, formerly known as Debbie Christiansen, was once a member of "The Door," a church affiliated with the Christian Fellowship Churches.

Debbie said she was raped while a member of the church by another member and that her pastor later advised her to say nothing and to not report the matter to local police.

Ms. Christiansen shared her story publicly to help others understand the pain experienced by those hurt within destructive churches. She also participated in a support group for former members.

Debbie and I worked together during the 1980s.

In 1992 Debbie divorced and requested that I submit an affidavit to the court in support of her custody over her minor children.

This same affidavit has been cited at a Scientology-linked Web site to imply that my work with Debbie somehow led to her tragic suicide almost ten years later.

At the time of her death I had not spoken with or seen Deborah Malone for almost a decade. She moved from Arizona after her divorce and we lost touch. And I later moved to New Jersey.

Debbie was a very fine lady and loving mother.

I do not know what circumstances surrounded her tragic death, but will always remember the brave way she came forward to tell her story and how she helped others.


"Ross' actions and hate-filled rhetoric helped instigate the Waco tragedy."

Response: For five years before the Davidian standoff I assisted families and received complaints concerning the followers of Vernon Howell (aka David Koresh). Two families retained me for intervention work. One before the standoff (during the summer of 1992) and another actually during the standoff. The second intervention focused on a Davidian who was blocked from returning to the compound due to the standoff. Both these interventions were successful.

I was interviewed by Davy Aguilera (January 1993) of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). At that time I recounted calls from concerned families and my observations about Koresh's influence. I was the only cult expert and intervention specialist that had direct experience with the Waco Davidians at that time. I urged the BATF to exercise caution, specifically that David Koresh was heavily armed and might prove to be dangerous. This was also well established by his 1987 arrest for attempted murder and by weapons that had been previously seized.

Subsequently, the BATF interviewed David Block, a former follower of David Koresh that I had worked with during the summer of 1992. Everything David Block said in that interview was later proven to be accurate.

Subsequently, during the standoff I was interviewed and consulted by the FBI. We did have disagreements on the handling of the standoff.

It is a matter of fact and well-documented, that David Koresh refused to come out, despite his promise to do so and numerous offers to facilitate the safe exit of Davidians made repeatedly by federal law enforcement.

The Republican Report regarding the Waco Standoff concluded this. That report states that the Davidians had ample opportunity to leave, even during the fire. Ultimately, that report concluded David Koresh was responsible for the tragedy at Waco.

Subsequently, a civil suit was filed by Davidian survivors and their families. The plaintiffs lost and once again David Koresh was essentially blamed for the tragedy.

The independent Danforth Report concluded the same.

However, despite the facts, which have been substantiated and proven again and again, conspiracy theorists and cults will probably never accept the truth about Waco.

"According to eminent religious scholar Dr. Nancy T. Ammerman of Princeton University, Ross had a direct ideological (and financial) interest in arousing suspicion and antagonism against what he called 'cults'. And noted that while Ross calls himself an expert he is certainly not recognized as such by the academic community and in fact, deprogramming tactics have been increasingly found to fall outside the law."

Response: I have been qualified and accepted as a court expert witness regarding cults, radical religious groups and their accompanying influence in numerous court cases across the country. I have also lectured extensively as an expert at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Ironically, Ms. Ammerman herself pointed out that the FBI repeatedly consulted me as an expert during the Waco standoff. However, she seems unhappy that the FBI did not consult "experts" such as herself, which she feels were largely ignored.

The list of experts Ms. Ammerman suggested includes a relatively small network within the "academic community" who have worked closely with well-known cult groups. Some have received funding from cults for their books or "research projects." This has increasingly raised ethical questions about their "direct ideological (and financial) interest."

Ms. Ammerman herself was prominently featured and lauded within Scientology's "Freedom Magazine." Increasingly, such "experts" are being asked if they have essentially become "cult apologists?"

What academics like Ms. Ammerman fail to recognize is that David Koresh was a psychopath. He was also a pedophile with much to hide. Koresh was also guilty of the rape of at least one girl. A cult leader like Mr. Koresh was unlikely to act rationally or dialogue meaningfully about theology as Ammerman and her associates speculated.

Ms. Ammerman's remark about the legality of "deprogramming" is misleading. The overwhelming majority of cult intervention cases handled by professionals such as myself have been voluntary, without any physical restraint whatsoever. Certainly this does not "fall outside the law" as Ammerman states. I have posted a brief history of cult intervention work at the beginning of a section within this website regarding my ethical standards.

"In an article for 'The Nation', Alexander Cockburn quoted Balenda Ganem, the mother of Davidian survivor David Thibodeau: 'I'd been in touch with Rick Ross, who was acting as an independent cult 'deprogrammer' and informant to the ATF and FBI. When I got to know him in Waco, I understood that he was instigating the most negative aspect of the situation because he wished violence toward David Koresh. He never said he wanted him to be helped out. He wanted him wiped out."

Response: Alexander Cockburn has defended Scientology publicly (e.g. an Opinion/Editorial piece within the LA Times) and appears to have worked closely with a Scientology paid private eye, e.g., Eugene Ingram regarding some of his Waco stories for "The Nation." Mr. Ingram personally faxed files he had gathered to discredit me, during and after the Waco standoff, to discourage the media from utilizing me as a resource.

Balenda Ganem's comment regarding my supposed hope that David Koresh be "wiped out" is completely false. I never made such a statement. My hope was always that the standoff would end peacefully. In fact I stated this on national television (the Phil Donahue Show). It is sad that Ms. Ganem made such a comment, in view of our previous relationship.

Balenda Ganem first approached me and solicited my help during the Waco standoff. She contacted me in Dallas where I was working as an expert consultant for the CBS network affiliate there. Calling from Maine Ms. Ganem advised that she would soon be in Waco and hoped to be reunited with her son David Thibodeau. She also emphasized that she would be available for interviews.

Ms. Ganem and I discussed possible help from cult specialists for her son after the standoff. However, though David Thibodeau did survive the fire, he never received that professional help. Instead, both Mr. Thibodeau and his mother became part of the media frenzy immediately following the fire. Ms. Ganem charged fees for interviews during the standoff and her son later sold his story as an "exclusive" to "A Current Affair." There was also a controversy about a potential deal Ms. Ganem was alleged to have made with the "National Enquirer."

Subsequently, Ms. Ganem went to Europe and her son David became a popular speaker amongst extreme fringe groups and conspiracy theorists, such as the so-called "militias." David Thibodeau later made a book deal. His book about David Koresh, the Davidians and the standoff was released at a timely juncture, which coincided neatly with media interest regarding the civil suit filed against the government by Davidian survivors and their families.

Sadly, it seems both Ms. Ganem and her son exploited their involvement at Waco for personal profit, and participated in the cottage industry that evolved out of Waco conspiracy theories. It appears that such groundless conspiracy theories largely motivated Timothy McVeigh to tragically murder 168 people in the Oklahoma bombing.

The Scott Case

"Ross organized criminal kidnappings"

Response: This essentially refers to the Jason Scott case, which involved an 18-year-old, in an involuntary intervention under the direct supervision of his mother Kathy Tonkin. Ms. Tonkin's concerns revolved around the Life Tabernacle Church of Bellevue, Washington, led by Pastor Harold Kern. The Church was a member of a controversial organization called the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).

Though criminal charges were initially filed in this case in 1991, they were later dropped. It was not until two and one half years later that those charges were filed again. For some time there was a concerted effort made by Scientology lawyers to pressure the prosecutor.

That trial ended in a verdict of "not guilty"

Subsequently Scientology lawyers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a civil suit that ended in a large judgement. However, that multi-million dollar judgment was settled largely for my consultation time to be provided to the plaintiff and small amount of cash (i.e. $5,000). Jason Scott left the church in Bellevue, reconciled with his family and fired his Scientology attorneys. Jason and I later became friendly. He stated publicly that he felt Scientology "used" him.

Scientology's manipulations in the Scott case were exposed by "60 Minutes" and in an article published by "American Lawyer."

I no longer participate in involuntary cult intervention work with adults. Though such interventions continue to be fully legal with minors under the direct supervision of their custodial parents.


"Instead of honoring the court judgments...Ross filed for bankruptcy. This even included disposing of a $17,500.00 debt to his own elderly mother."

Response: The Jason Scott civil lawsuit engineered by Scientology ended in a judgment against me of almost $3 million dollars. Subsequently, I declared bankruptcy. In that bankruptcy filing all my debts were listed, including money loaned to me by my mother for legal fees and expenses.

However, though the debt to my mother was technically discharged through bankruptcy, I made payments to my mother until the loan was satisfied some years later.

The Jason Scott judgment was settled in 1996 for $5,000.00 and 200 hours of my consultation time.


Wikipedia is supposedly and online encyclopedia, but its format allows anyone to contribute and per its disclaimer information has not "necessarily been reviewed by professionals with the expertise necessary to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information." This disclaimer ultimately concludes that Wikipedia therefore can make "no guarantee of validity." If you follow the linked discussion section to the entry about me you can see that this popular place on the Worldwide Web can become a venue for those that wish to attack someone or something they don't like. Wikipedia began as an effort to create a worldwide community of contributors and editors to evolve a reference resource constantly growing as virtually a living resource. However, what started out as a high concept at times can be largely co-opted by those with far less lofty ideals. The entry about me includes a collection of quotes and references from cult apologists known for their bias rather than their research. Many of these so-called "scholars" have been paid for their work by groups such as the Unification Church, Scientology, Ramtha, Children of God, Aum and other groups or organizations often called "cults." A review of the discussion section reveals the frequent frustration objective contributors and editors have on an ongoing basis with cult devotees and related propagandists anxious to turn Wikipedia into a platform for their polemics and conspiracy theories.

Steven Hassan

It is sad when someone who has fought against destructive cults somehow sees me as an adversary. Steve and I once worked together and his two books at one time were listed at the Books page of the Ross Institute (RI).

Beginning with my work surrounding the Waco Davidians standoff (1992-93) Steve became something of a critic, which was noted through a "Flaming Websites" award.

After receiving serious complaints about his work and the fees Steve charged families for his services, reportedly $500.00 per hour or $5,000 per day, a disclaimer was posted that RI did not endorse or recommend Steven Hassan. This was necessary due to the many articles archived within the RI database that quote him and/or refer to his work. A link to his Web site "Freedom of Mind" at the Links page and the listing of his two books at the Books page were also removed.

After that disclaimer at the RI Web site was posted for the first time Steven Hassan publicly posted his fee schedule, which he reduced to $250.00 per hour and/or $2,500.00 per day. Once this was done the RI disclaimer was taken down, but links to Steve's Web site and his two books no longer appear at the database.

Steve appears to be upset by all this and has decided to portray what was done as somehow constituting a "personal attack."

However, whenever serious complaints occur connected to cults, on either side of this issue, it seems to me that it is meaningful to respond. In a somewhat similar situation an article appeared at Cult News about another cult intervention professional, Patrick Ryan, who was sued by a client when he refused to return an unearned deposit.

Anton Hein and "Apologetics Index."

Anton Hein, a self-styled "counter-cult" activist, runs a website called "Apologetics Index." He describes himself as a "lay Christian minister" and he also leads a "house church" in Amsterdam, Holland.

Some time ago Mr. Hein and I had an email exchange about Steve Hassan and an organization once called the American Family Foundation (AFF), now known as the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). This exchange included questions regarding how Mr. Hein felt about the fees charged by Steve Hassan (see above) and AFF hosting Hare Krishna (ISKCON) representatives for panel presentations at its conferences along with "cult apologists" such as Dick Anthony and Eileen Barker, who now holds a chair on the ICSA's Cultic Studies Review editorial board.

Mr. Hein never answered these questions and instead became increasingly hostile.

Anton Hein has since become quite critical of my work, which has earned him a "Flaming Websites" award.

Mr. Hein seems to also have some sympathy for Teen Challenge and Youth With a Mission, which are listed at the Ross Institute database. He was once active within both of these organizations.

At times Mr. Hein has expressed strong feelings about Jews who criticize Christian groups and he seems to feel that my Jewish background is an issue of concern pertaining to my cult work.

I later became aware of deeply disturbing information about Mr. Hein posted at official government Web sites, which effectively eclipsed any concerns expressed within our past email exchange. Anton Hein served jail time and was put on probation for a "lewd act upon a child" in 1994, though another related criminal charge was dropped due to his plea agreement.

Anton Hein is listed as a registered sex offender by the State of California.

Anton Hein is listed as one of the "ministers who have sexually abused children" at Reformation.com.

After his release from jail Mr. Hein violated his probation and a felony warrant was issued for his arrest on September 25, 1996 directing that no bail be allowed.

Due to the nature of his criminal record and his current status I cannot recommend Anton Hein or his website as a resource to anyone under any circumstances.

The link to Apologetics Index, which was once listed under "Christian Cult Watchers," was therefore removed from the Links page. And a report explaining Anton Hein's history, current status and activities has been published at CultNews.com


  • There is no meaningful "Psychiatric history" or use of "psychiatric drugs" in my background.
  • My Criminal record now dates back to more than a quarter of a century ago. These were non-violent crimes in which full restitution was made to the satisfaction of all those concerned. I did not serve a prison sentence, but received probation. My probation was completed in 1979 and in 1983 the charges were dismissed, guilty verdicts vacated and my civil rights restored. I have never again been convicted of any crime and the mistakes I made as a young man of 21 and 22, are not related to my current work
  • Lawsuits filed against me in the 1970s were settled in the 1970s and have nothing whatsoever to do with my current work.
  • I acted as a responsible expert during Waco Davidian standoff. I was the only cult expert in the country at that time with direct experience regarding the Davidians. Despite the conspiracy theories within a thriving cottage industry of conspiracy theorists and apologists, the facts support my view of both Vernon Howell (David Koresh) and the standoff. I did disagree at times with the FBI and BATF handling of the standoff. But in the final analysis, despite some of my suggestions the FBI did not try, David Koresh controlled and was ultimately responsible for the outcome. In the end he decided to destroy the compound and murder his own people.
  • The Scott case cited by Scientology and the so-called "new CAN" is actually more of a revelation about their own efforts to manipulate and abuse the judicial system. They were exposed for this nationally through that case. Jason Scott ultimately rejected the UPCI, Life Tabernacle Church and the Scientology lawyers who used him. We are now on friendly terms.
  • A loan from my mother discharged through the bankruptcy prompted by the Scott case, was nevertheless repaid.
  • The tragic suicide of Deborah Malone, once known as Debbie Christiansen, which took place in 2002, was not connected to my work. Debbie and I did work together during the 1980s, but had not been in touch since 1992.
  • It should be noted per its disclaimer that Wikipedia has not "necessarily been reviewed by professionals with the expertise necessary to provide the public with complete, accurate or reliable information." and it therefore makes no "guarantee of validity." Cult devotees and apologists may use this Web site for their own propaganda purposes.
  • It is sad when someone like Steven Hassan who has fought against destructive cults somehow sees me as adversarial. And discovering Anton Hein's fugitive sex offender status was a disappointment to say the least. Unfortunately, I can no longer recommend Steve, nor in any way associate RI with Anton Hein. Just as it is necessary to share adverse information about cults in the public interest, at times due to ethical considerations it is also necessary to share adverse information about cult critics.
  • I continue to deeply sympathize with concerned parents who chose involuntary intervention as their only option in extreme situations that involved destructive and potentially unsafe groups. However, despite this sympathy, I no longer participate in such involuntary interventions with adults.

"I have read the accusations made against you by the Cult Awareness Network and I also read your response to their article. I believe that the mistakes you made are in your past, you have paid for them and they should now be forgotten. Just like all of the rest of us humans who have made mistakes, paid for them and now are living normal, productive lives. I believe this group had ulterior motives as you can do damage to these groups (cults) and they feel threatened," a visitor's comment


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