The Post published an article July 2nd about Waco written by cult
apologist J. Gordon Melton and Lawrence Criner, a senior associate
editor with The World and I, a publication associated with the
Unification Church ["What the Hearings May Tell us; Did the
Federal Authorities Heed the Wrong 'Experts,'" Outlook].
Misleading statements were made concerning my role in the Waco
standoff. Mr. Melton has previously acknowledged false statements
concerning my work.
The Post's readers should know that J. Gordon Melton is touted
as a resource for information by the Church of Scientology in
its publication Freedom Magazine. Likewise, Philip Arnold, James
Tabor and Dean Kelley, cited as sources by Mr. Melton and Mr.
Criner, are on the same list. Nancy Ammerman, another one of
their experts, rated a full page. It is interesting to note that
the recent "deposition" from which the two quoted, saying
I "acted as liaison between ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms]
and David Block" (a former Branch Davidian), was taken by
Scientology lawyers in an unrelated case that has not yet gone
to trial. How did they get that information? Mr. Melton has
yet to disclose the board members of or the funding sources for
his so-called Institute for the Study of American Religion.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Melton flew to Japan with
James Lewis, another cult apologist, to investigate charges of
"religious persecution" made by Aum Supreme Truth.
The cult paid for all their expenses. High-ranking leaders of
this destructive group have been charged with the deaths of 12
in the gassing of 5,000 Tokyo subway riders and implicated their
jailed leader Asahara.
Mr. Melton and Mr. Criner's comments about interviews with federal
agents are misleading. Unlike the experts touted by Scientology,
I had five years of experience dealing directly with Davidians
by 1993. Federal agents felt such specific information might
be meaningful. I never offered to help them "destroy a cult."
Mr. Melton and Mr. Criner question David Block's testimony, but
his many months living within the compound and his years of experience
proved reliable and accurate. The information he provided was only partially
responsible for federal warrants served at the compound.
Dean Kelley has retired from the National Council of Churches
and is now a "consultant." He questions the use of
cult experts and instead recommends "authorities in religious
studies." Mr. Kelley's article "Waco: A Massacre and
Its Aftermath" in the magazine First Things seems to promote
the notion of a government conspiracy. It reads more like a militia
manifesto than objective religious scholarship.
Cult apologists seeks to use the Waco hearings to attack their
perceived enemies and advance the theory that cult groups should
not be held accountable for their action like others within our
society. They are somehow excused due to their religious beliefs.
This is a self-serving and dangerous argument.
It is important to discuss what happened at Waco. The government
did make mistakes. The ATF was too aggressive and could have
opted for a more cautious and considered approach in serving its
warrants. The FBI never really fully recognized the cult dynamic
central to the standoff and instead saw it as a terrorist "hostage-rescue"
situation, despite the advice of experts. However, these agencies
were obligated to enforce the law and could not ignore gross violations,
or walk away after federal agents were murdered. We should examine
and learn from the Waco standoff, but let's be honest about it.