Cult Awareness Network (CAN), a Chicago based secular cult awareness
organization, received a devastating blow last year when they
lost a $1.1 million civil suit and were forced into chapter 11
bankruptcy. Last September, a Washington State jury awarded United
Pentecostal Church (UPC) member Jason Scott $4.8 million in damages
suffered during a "deprogramming" conducted by an independent
exit counselor, Rock Ross and several aides (Christianity Today,
via America Online).
Scott claims he was abducted, (handcuffed and gagged) then held
for five days as part of an unsuccessful attempt by Ross to cause
him to renounce his faith. In a telephone interview with Watchman
Fellowship, Ross admitted that Scott was restrained, but explained
that it was at his mother's request by security guards that she
hired independently of Ross. Scott was restrained "only
because he became violent" Ross said, explaining, "I
was present but did not participate in the actual restraining."
Cynthia Kisser, CAN executive director believes that the case,
is in reality, an attack from the Church of Scientology which
she said had already backed over lawsuits against their Kenneth
Moxon, the attorney representing Scott, is a Scientologist. He
called CAN "a pretty arrogant group that has a world view
that thousands and thousands of minority religious groups are
cults." (Christianity Today)
Kisser maintains that no CAN staff were present, had knowledge
of or participated in the incident. CAN was, however, found guilty
of conspiracy and charged with over a million dollars of the total
damages awarded. Although Ross is not a CAN employee, a Washington
State CAN volunteer recommended Ross to Scott's mother, Kathy
Tonkin. According to Kisser, Ross was never recommended for the
Jason Scott case. Ross' name was only mentioned (along with several
others) as a potential counselor for Scott's younger brothers
who were minors. They were also members of the United Pentecostal
Church, a sect that denies the doctrine of the Trinity and teaches
According to Ross, the issue in this case was not the UPC as a
whole but one UPC minister, Harold Kern, Scott's pastor. Ross
claimed that Kern was practicing "extreme authoritarian 'shepherding'
the undue influence through coercive persuasion." Ross told
Watchman, "The church was not a safe place to worship
of Scott's brothers, a minor who I successfully counseled in an
earlier intervention, had been sexually molested by one of the
adult members of the church."
Like Kisser, Ross believes that Scientology was orchestrating
the Scott lawsuit. "The jury was not allowed to hear the
facts of the case, that Scientology was involved," Ross said,
had they known all the facts, they would have
found me not guilty just like in the [criminal] trial."
Ross had already been found "not guilty" of unlawful
imprisonment in a criminal trial that preceded the civil suit.
Ross, who also filed for bankruptcy protection, said that court
appointed trustees have already determined that he has no assets
to pay the nearly $4 million portion of the damages he currently
owes. Ross speculates that he spent $6,000 on legal fees in the
civil case and about $10,000 on the criminal case but says that
judgment has not slowed down his work.
CAN also continues to function under bankruptcy protection. Kisser
told Christianity Today, "Barring something that
we do drastic here, we probably won't be able to stay in business."
CAN lost a post trial motion to set aside the judgment but still
plans to fight it. On March 22, a CAN spokesperson told Watchman
that the organization was still in business and planning to appeal.