Deprogrammer says he'll help cult members

March 04, 1993|By Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DALLAS -- As children and women trickle out of the high-walled compound of the Branch Davidian sect, a consultant says he is ready to repair what he sees as the human wreckage inside.

Dick Ross, a practitioner in the relatively new and controversial field of cult deprogramming, was flown to Texas by Dallas-Fort Worth television station KDFW.

Mr. Ross, who said that he deprogrammed a New York man who was a seven-year member of the cult, said that he was in contact with several families of cult members.

"These people have been subjected to the worst kind of mental manipulation and emotional control," Mr. Ross said in an interview Tuesday. ". . . If they don't get help they may become a group of adoring disciples who communicate with him [leader David Koresh] in prison."

Mr. Ross, who charges $500 a day for his services but holds no degree in psychology, said that he sees his job as reactivating free-thinking among people who have submitted themselves to the will of one leader. Mr. Ross said that the process takes four days to a week and that he then refers them for psychological help.

"The children need to learn that the relationships they experienced inside were not normal," he said. "They will have to learn about normal

life," he said.

Mr. Ross began his fight against religious cults in 1982 after a Pentecostal group began recruiting members at his grandmother's nursing home in Phoenix. Four years later, the self-described activist left his work with his family's salvage business to become a full-time consultant.

Deprogrammers aren't universally accepted.

Dr. Lonnie D. Kliever, a theology professor at Southern Methodist University who specializes in new religious movements, refers to the industry as "the Ku Klux Klan of the religious world."

"This is a very shady repression of freedom of religion of adult men and women," Dr. Kliever said, referring to deprogrammers.

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