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  #1  
Unread December 22nd, 2005, 09:48 AM
Lil'Pon Lil'Pon is offline
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Default Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

There has been much internet discussion about cult de programmers, organizations and individuals who help people who have been involved in cults for many years (or even lifetimes) to break free from these destructive groups. I am curious what you might have to say about any legal issues involved in helping escapees from destructive cults. Many cults threaten cult de programmers with lawsuits, asserting claims such as such people are religious bigots, or are against religious freedom, and similar false accusations.

I know of one such organization called The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) which runs regular workshops for former members of high-demand, “cultic” groups – they have done so for many years and are comprised of social workers, Licensed family therapists and ex cult members and their aim is to assist former cult members, namely second and third generation cult members, to adjust to normal life outside of the cult.

Can these groups be successfully sued throughout the US? I know of one example - a cult in Florida, supposedly the largest and oldest cult in the US (won’t mention their name I’m sure you know who it is), which sued and then bankrupted the former Cult Awareness Network several years ago - then the cult actually purchased the organization and all of their files for a song and now use the CAN as a propaganda tool for the cult. They also use CAN records to investigate any of their members who may have contacted the former CAN people for assistance in escaping.

This cult has the requirement for any new members to join that he or she sign a contract which gives the cult permission to both imprison the member for breaking the cult rules, and also permission for the cult, if there is a mental or physical breakdown of the member, to allow the cult leaders to forcibly remove the member from any psychological, psychiatric or medical treatment. Is such a contract legal?

Just curious if you know what legal considerations if any a group which assists present and former cult members need to consider before getting into this difficult, sad yet very necessary area of practice.

Last edited by Lil'Pon; December 22nd, 2005 at 12:26 PM.
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  #2  
Unread February 24th, 2006, 12:36 PM
Charles McNeil Charles McNeil is offline
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Default Re: Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

I don't know about the USA, but in Canada (where I live and work) a person cannot sign away his or her human rights in a contract. Imprisoning individuals who break cult rules constitutes wrongful detention which is itself a criminal offense. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees "security of the person." Any move on the part of a cult to interfere with a person's right to seek treatment for any psychological or physical complaint would be illicit and could lead to members of the cult beiing charged under any number of statute violations. Heck, Canadians can't even sign away their tenant rights within tenancy agreements (leases).

The problem with de-programmers as I understand it, is they are often with organizations that compete with the very cults from which they seek to assist people to escape. Seldom are they secular counsellors. Often they have their own faith agenda, so the cult victim becomes "reacquired" by an organization that is not significantly dissimilar from the cult the person was initially entrapped within. This may not always be the case, but I have seen this occur many times.

Charles

Charles
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  #3  
Unread February 25th, 2006, 02:36 PM
Da Friendly Puter Tech Da Friendly Puter Tech is offline
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Default Re: Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

Hey Charles,


If I may disagree with you on a few points here -

First of all there is a huge problem in proving that a cult interfered with a persons right to leave. For instance if a cult member is detained for a while, for the cult group to work on changing this persons mind, then the person is not released until the cult is fairly certain they have broken the member, and the member will follow their rules. In that case - the cult member will probably hang out with the cult at least for a while afterwards. Lets say an ex cult member then 2 years down the line want to sue the cult claiming they were sometimes held against their will - how will it look in a court that after they were held against their will they returned and stayed for a while of their own free will? Besides - who, other than other cult members, saw the crime happen? Tricky situation to persecute - ESPECIALLY because in all honesty many mental health professionals at least in the US has despairingly little info about how cults actually function. They think they know, but in all honesty if you interview to determine how much they actually know ya gotta shake yer head some. (said in all deep respect for all the wonderful professionals of this board of course).

It will also be a rare situation where a cult member currently held against his or her will is able to contact outside friends of family members for help. One of the ways the cults use to break a cult member is to not allow them any privacy, often not even in the bathroom. Since there are usually several people working to "break" a cult member it is not hard for them to keep a cult member under constant surveillance.

Your other comment about "de-programmers" really also show your lack of knowledge. There are very few "de-programmers" left on the market, as they operated in the 70ties - if any. There are a few religious organizations that claim to "address" cult issues, they obviously do it based on their religious tenants, and dont get much by way of business, except from people within their faith. Most of these are honest about what they do, what they believe, and how they do it - even if we disagree with their religious framework, they usually work ethically.

By far most cult exit counselors today work from a well educated, and non-religious frame work. Giving the cult member they are working to help lots of choices, information and options. Few - if any - of todays exit counselors work with cult members that are illegally detained. (I dont know of any, and i know the market fairly well).

If you are interested in suggested reading material about the topic please let me know - I have quite a bit I can suggest.

Kind regards,
Da Friendly Puter Tech
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  #4  
Unread February 25th, 2006, 02:54 PM
Da Friendly Puter Tech Da Friendly Puter Tech is offline
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Default Re: Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

Hey Lil' pon,

As you said yourself - the cults - especially scientology (I have no trouble naming them), sometimes sue people fighting against them.

There are some lawyers that specialize in suing for cults too, they are often scientologists themselves. Because in all honesty scientology was damn smart - smarter than many cults - when they decided to focus their recruitments on well educated affluent or famous people.

I have no clue if the "contracts" that scientology members sign are "legal". I think maybe they serve more of a emotional purpose - the cult member having in mind that they signed this contract, so they cant possibly leave and then they wont even try. A contract like that in the light of some of the emotional horrors members go through, its not surprising if it has a strong effect. This is like having someone sign a suicidal contract - the contract has no "legal" standing, but is still often followed.

Some of the things I usually consider when I talk to other ex members, or people who work to help those in cults are -

People fighting against cults often have personal experience with cults, and they tend to easily get very, very angry at the cult leaders. If they express their anger or even rage at the cult they can easily do or say something that can look really bad in a court. I have seen a few examples of this happening. So, make sure the people that work on a specific case has enough of their past pain healed to act professionally and calmly around the cult no matter what.

Parents who are trying to help a current cult member also sometimes fly off the handle - its understandable but it is a risk element. The lawyers can have a field day with it in court if they want to.

Watch out for email communications - even anonymous email communications can and has been used in a court of law. Keep it calm, civil, focus on provable facts, and on helping whoever the helpers are there for.

When anything is said or written about the cult - make sure its provable to avoid slander suits.

Also - in general, be aware of the laws governing how you interact with the group, and then follow them. Maybe consult with a lawyer about what risk factors are there before starting to tangle directly with a cult that is strong enough to hire an expensive lawyer.

Those are just teh things I have noticed as I have moved around in the field.

Da Friendly Puter Tech
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  #5  
Unread November 23rd, 2007, 11:54 AM
William Reid William Reid is offline
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Lightbulb Re: Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

Thanks for reading this thread! The Law, Ethics and Psychotherapy Forum gets a lot of readers, but few new posts. You are invited to contribute statements, comments or questions to keep the forum alive. Pick something you like, or something you don't like, but don't let the threads go stagnant! All I ask is that we avoid personal questions from patients (we can't do clinical work or second-guess therapists here, but we can have professional discussions among clinicians about ethics or forensic scenarios). We also avoid personal attacks.

The possibilities are endless. You can simply reply to a post in an existing thread, or start a new one. Do you have questions or experiences that involve the ethics or legal aspects of training? clinical work? termination? malpractice or malpractice lawsuits? forensic careers? criminal matters related to mental health? boundaries? work with courts or lawyers? work in correctional institutions? work with parolees or probationers? clinician impairment? laws affecting practice?

Choose something you're familiar with or something you want to know more about. If you want suggestions, you're welcome to check out my website at www.psychandlaw.org.

Thanks,
Bill Reid, Forum Administrator
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  #6  
Unread April 10th, 2008, 10:53 PM
Lil'Pon Lil'Pon is offline
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Default Re: Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

Hey Lil' pon,

As you said yourself - the cults - especially scientology (I have no trouble naming them), sometimes sue people fighting against them.


(So Puter tech, over 2 years late, better late than never). I am well aware of this, I have been threatened by the cult.

There are some lawyers that specialize in suing for cults too, they are often scientologists themselves. Because in all honesty scientology was damn smart - smarter than many cults - when they decided to focus their recruitments on well educated affluent or famous people.

L Ron Hubbard was not that smart; the man was an anti social by today’s DSM standards. Most of the cult leaders are stark raging lunatics.

I have no clue if the "contracts" that scientology members sign are "legal". I think maybe they serve more of a emotional purpose - the cult member having in mind that they signed this contract, so they cant possibly leave and then they wont even try. A contract like that in the light of some of the emotional horrors members go through, its not surprising if it has a strong effect. This is like having someone sign a suicidal contract - the contract has no "legal" standing, but is still often followed.

Are you kidding - you don't know if it's Legal? The one billion year contract that members of the Sea Org sign upon joining? What contract which has a term of one billion years is legal?

Some of the things I usually consider when I talk to other ex members, or people who work to help those in cults are -

People fighting against cults often have personal experience with cults, and they tend to easily get very, very angry at the cult leaders. If they express their anger or even rage at the cult they can easily do or say something that can look really bad in a court. I have seen a few examples of this happening. So, make sure the people that work on a specific case has enough of their past pain healed to act professionally and calmly around the cult no matter what.


I am not, nor never have been a member of any cult. If you are suggesting that any amount of psychotherapy, counseling or any kind of intervention will assist a long term cult member (and I am talking about someone who has been in for many years or decades) to “heal”, I feel you are sadly mis informed. Just check out www.xenu.net to get an understanding. People who have been abused for that long generally don't heal via the talking cure. They have had years and years and years of talking - brainwashing, and now to suggest that they go through many more years of MORE talking with a professional, in my opinion, it's unethical. Only time and family and friends will help - keep the therapists out of it.

Parents who are trying to help a current cult member also sometimes fly off the handle - its understandable but it is a risk element. The lawyers can have a field day with it in court if they want to.

Watch out for email communications - even anonymous email communications can and has been used in a court of law. Keep it calm, civil, focus on provable facts, and on helping whoever the helpers are there for.


If you want to talk, do it face to face.

When anything is said or written about the cult - make sure its provable to avoid slander suits.

Yes, I agree with you there.

Also - in general, be aware of the laws governing how you interact with the group, and then follow them. Maybe consult with a lawyer about what risk factors are there before starting to tangle directly with a cult that is strong enough to hire an expensive lawyer. Agreed.

Those are just teh things I have noticed as I have moved around in the field.


Agreed there.
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  #7  
Unread April 17th, 2008, 11:51 PM
Da Friendly Puter Tech Da Friendly Puter Tech is offline
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Default Re: Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

Hello Lil Pon,

Wow, I had to go back and look over the posts to even remember the conversation. As it just happens I consider it one of my obligations to inform the public about cults and how they work due to a little too much personal exposure to those groups.

So let me just try to respond to your questions one by one.

I consider a lot of cult leaders smart - as in intelligent, cunning or having "street smarts". I do not consider them "lunatic" as in having psychotic disorders, although I agree with you that most of them most likely suffer from personality disorders. In this case I use the term "most likely" because I am not a mental health professional capable of officially diagnosing anyone.

Which is the same reason I referred to the legality of contracts signed by scientology members with a "most likely". I am not a lawyer and not capable of citing cases or legal statutes to back up a claim of what is legal. I note also that your original post specifically asked about the legality of said contracts. I did state in my original post that those contracts have more emotional standing than legal standing. I stand by that comment.

For the next part of my post I was responding specifically to your questions about legal cases between cult like groups and ex members or organizations helping ex members of cults. I commented on some of the situations I have seen where those fighting against the cults hurt their own case by being too emotionally entangled with the subject matter. Not that I think CAN did that at all eventhough they certainly where hurt by $cientology. Just noting that I have seen it happen quite a bit.

Your current answer is about something else - namely will therapy help former cult members. I am myself a former cult member having been a 5 year member of a small cult in Europe now around 12 years ago. I lived with the group, and had relatively little outside influences during my stay with them.

It took me several years to have the courage to ask for professional help after leaving the group, but it helped when I did so. I have quite a few friends who are also ex members. Most of them have used therapy to heal from their experiences, but some of them felt like you that it would just be triggering. Either way I respect any former cult members right to choose how they go about healing from their experiences and I think that any blanket statements about how ex members are supposed to do it continue to take away choice from ex members. So in all honesty I take issue with your blanket statement that ex members cant benefit from therapy. Some will benefit from therapy, others might not. It is the individuals right and obligation to determine their own path to healing.

I will also say that specifically for legal situations (which was what the initial question was about) even face to face talk can be detrimental to a legal case if those participating in the conversation has not healed sufficiently to keep the conversation professional.

Warm regards
Da Friendly Puter Tech
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  #8  
Unread May 18th, 2008, 01:43 PM
Lil'Pon Lil'Pon is offline
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Default Re: Legal issues concerning cult escapee organizations

This brings an interesting question. Do you see any differences between the disconnection and suppressive persons policies of Scientology groups, compared to the disconnection policies of many psychotherapists?
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