Related stories and comments by others

These are related stories and comments by others. And links

1.Ten Years After Jonestown, the Battle Intensifies Over the Influence of ‘Alternative’ Religions
November 17, 1988|BOB SIPCHEN | Times Staff Writer

But the most interesting litigation of late involves either a former member who is suing the organization to which he or she belonged, or a current member of a new religious group who is suing a deprogrammer who attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the person to leave the group.

The most significant case, everyone agrees, is last month’s Molko decision by the California Supreme Court, which anti-cult groups have cheered as a major victory.

In that reversal of lower court decisions, the justices agreed that David Molko and another former member of the Unification Church could bring before a jury the claim that they were defrauded by recruiters who denied they had a church affiliation and then subjected the two to church mind control techniques, eventually converting them.

Mainstream religious organizations including the National Council on Churches, the American Baptist Churches in the USA and the California Ecumenical Council had filed briefs in support of the Unification Church, claiming that allowing lawsuits over proselytizing techniques could paralyze all religions.

“What they’re attacking is prayer, fasting and lectures,” said Biermans of the Unification Church. “The whole idea of brainwashing is unbelievably absurd. . . . If someone had really figured out a method of brainwashing, they could control the world.” The church plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Paul Morantz, the attorney who was struck by the rattlesnake placed in his mailbox by the “Imperial Marines” of Synanon, gave pro-bono assistance to the plaintiffs in the Molko case.

“For me, it was a great decision for freedom of religion and to protect against the . . . use of coercive persuasion,” he said.

Morantz currently is defending Bent Corydon, author of the book “L. Ron Hubbard, Madman or Messiah” against a lawsuit by the Church of Scientology. He said he’s confident of how that case will turn out.

But he shares the belief of others on several sides of the multifaceted cult battle, in concluding that education rather than litigation should be the first defense of religious and intellectual liberty.

He’s not, however, optimistic.

“If anyone thinks they’re ever going to win this war, they’re wrong,” he said. “As long as we have human behavior, there will be sociopaths who will stand up and say ‘follow me.’ And there will always be searchers who will follow.”

3. From a blog by ex Conversation members:

“Gag, should you ever encounter the situation that your son/daughter/sister/etc has emerged from the fog and discovered that s/he’d been dreadfully entangled in a group that is in fact a cult, and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars is involved, I am sure that you will discover that you have a heart and a brain, and Paul Morantz will be among the first people you call. Or if your not-as-smart-as-you-are sister or daughter finds herself devastated by having been tricked by a therapist into beleiving that her psychological problems could be eradicated by entering into a trusting sexual relationship with the therapist himself, I am betting that Paul Morantz might be the guy you call.” Nov. 2004

4. From San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday November 25, 2003
By Steven Rubenstein, Chronicle staff writer. Kevin Fagan contributed to this report.
Margaret Singer, the soft-spoken but hard-edged Berkeley psychologist and expert on brainwashing who studied and helped authorities and victims better understand the Peoples Temple, Branch Davidian, Unification Church and Symbionese Liberation Army cults, has died.
Professor Singer, 82, died Sunday after a long illness at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley.
“She’s one of a kind, the foremost authority on brainwashing in the entire world,” said lawyer Paul Morantz in an interview last year. Morantz led the effort against the Synanon cult in the 1970s. “She is a national treasure.”

5. Synanon Founder’s Bid to Cut Probation Fails

By Ted Rohrlich, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 6, 1985.

Synanon founder Charles E. Dederich lost a bid Tuesday for an early end to the probation term imposed upon him in 1980 for his role in a conspiracy to kill Los Angeles attorney Paul Morantz by putting a rattlesnake in Morantz’s mailbox.

Dederich, 71, had asked that his five-year term be ended six months early so that he could once again participate in no-holds-barred group encounter sessions known as Synanon “games.”

But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert R. Devich turned down the request after listening to Morantz say that he wanted “six more months where I could go to sleep at night… where there would be a sword of reason hanging over Mr. Dederich and Synanon.”

6. Sects and Death
William S. Burroughs
I postulate that the function of art and all creative thought is to make us aware of what we know and don’t know that we know. You can’t tell anybody anything he doesn’t know already. Like those folks living on the sea coast in the Middle Ages, watching those ships come in mast-first year after year – then Galileo wises them up and they are ready to burn him as an egghead deviant. But they cool it out over the years and finally have to admit: “It’s round, boys, it’s round. We knew it all along.” Cezanne showed the viewer objects seen from a certain angle in a certain light and they attacked his canvases with umbrellas at the first exhibition. Well, that doesn’t happen any more and any child would recognize the objects in a Cezanne canvas. Joyce made readers aware of their own stream of consciousness and was accused of promulgating a cult of unintelligibility.

If the function of art is to make us aware of what we know and don’t know we know, the function of the Christian Church and all its metastases has been and still is to keep us in ignorance of what we know. People living on the sea coast knew the earth was round. They believed it was flat because the Church said so. And hardcore Synanon members still believe the media put that rattlesnake in Paul Morantz’ mail box to discredit Synanon. Is there any limit to brainwashing?

7. Qu 12. In 1980, after Los Angeles attorney Paul Morantz won a $300,000 settlement against the drug rehabilitation center Synanon for holding a woman captive in the 1970s, Synanon leader Charles Dederich attempted to murder the lawyer by putting what toxic agent in his mailbox?

8. Hi Paul,
I don’t know if you remember me or not, my name is Melissa Golson. You helped out with the Gottuso case several years ago.

I just wanted to say hello, and thank you for all that you did. That was a major turning point in my life and you were a big part of it. You are doing excellent work and should be commended for it. Thank you.

I am doing very well now, I’m still living in Southern California and I am working for USC Surgeons Inc. at the moment. My family and I are all doing really well.

I just thought it would be nice for you to hear that something positive did come of all of it.

Thank you again!


Nation: The Snake in the Mailbox
Monday, Oct. 23, 1978
Time Magazine

Challenging Synanon can be hazardous to health and wealth

Attorney Paul Morantz unlocked the door of his house in Los Angeles last week and put his left hand into the mailbox. “I felt a sharp pain, and then it felt as though my hand was in a vise,” he recalls. When he pulled his hand back, he brought with it a 4½-ft. diamondback rattlesnake, its fangs buried near his left thumb. He managed to shake off the snake and ran screaming to a neighbor, who applied a tourniquet that saved Morantz from almost certain death. Fire department paramedics chopped off the snake’s head with a shovel, and discovered that the rattles had been removed so that the snake could attack without warning.

Two days later Lance Kenton, 20, the son of Bandleader Stan Kenton, and Joseph Musico, 28, were taken into custody by Los Angeles police in connection with the rattlesnake attack. Both men are members of Synanon, a drug rehabilitation group based in Badger, Calif.

Three weeks earlier. Lawyer Morantz had won a $300,000 judgment against Synanon for a married couple who said that the wife was kidnaped and abused by members of the organization. From his hospital bed, where he was listed for a time in guarded condition, Morantz said: “I’ve been told that inside Synanon I’m on their enemies list.” But Synanon Lawyer Dan Garrett insisted that the group had had no part in the rattlesnake attack. Said he: “Synanon does not and will not condone, support or harbor any individual engaged in such activities.”

Still, what happened to Paul Morantz is only the latest in a series of curious misfortunes that have befallen people who have challenged Synanon in court, in print or on the air. Among the other victims:

— Phillip Ritter, a Berkeley, Calif, accountant, who last year won (but later lost) custody of his child from his Syna-non-member wife, was jumped by two men outside his home on Sept. 21 and severely beaten. “It was the usual Synanon method of operation,” says Jack Hurst, a friend and ex-president of Synanon who quit the group in 1976. “The short hair, the baseball bats, the doctored license plates.” Ritter is currently in hiding.

— Patricia Lynch, a producer for NBC, filmed a report on Synanon activities that was aired last June. Later, she says, two men with close-cropped hair and carrying tape recorders and cameras turned up at her Manhattan apartment building, asking tenants about her habits and the layout of her apartment. Since then, she has been shadowed by two men with shaved heads who told her they were from the Synanon Committee for Responsible American Media (SCRAM). She quotes one of them as saying: “The goal of SCRAM is to get your life.”

— ABC President Elton Rule and Chairman Leonard Goldenson were asked by Synanon representatives at the network’s annual meeting last May whether the network had considered hiring bodyguards for them and their wives. Synanon and its founder, Charles Dederich, have filed a $42 million slander suit against ABC and its station in San Francisco, KGO-TV, over several KGO news reports on Synanon.

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