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Rick Ross (consultant)

This article is about Rick Alan Ross. For other people with the same name, see Rick Ross (disambiguation).
Rick Alan Ross
Born (1952-11-24) November 24, 1952 (age 61)
Cleveland, Ohio
Occupation Founder and Executive Director,
Rick A. Ross Institute
Website
The Ross Institute

Rick Alan Ross (born 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio, as Ricky Alan Ross) works as a consultant, lecturer, and intervention specialist, with a focus on exit counseling and deprogramming of those belonging to cults. He runs a blog called Cult News[1] and in 2003 founded the Rick A. Ross Institute, which maintains a database of court documents, essays, and press articles on groups and individuals that have attracted controversy.[2] Ross has worked as an expert court witness and as an analyst for the media in cases relating to such groups.[3]

Ross' interest in controversial religious groups dates to a 1982 incident at his grandmother's nursing home. During the 1980s he represented the Jewish community on a number of advisory committees. In 1986 he began working full-time as a consultant, (sometimes involuntary) deprogramming members of controversial groups and movements. By 2004 he said he had worked over 350 cases with 75% success rate. His work deprogramming a 14 year old Potter's House Christian Fellowship member was covered in a 1989 edition of the American TV series 48 hours.

In 1993 Ross faced charges over a 1991 forcible deprogramming where he held an United Pentecostal Church International member Jason Scott against his will for five days, but was cleared the following year by jury trial.[4] Ross settled a civil suit with Scott in 1995, causing Ross to file for personal bankruptcy because of the $2,500,000 in punitive damages awarded against him.[5] In September 1995, a nine-member jury unanimously held Ross and other defendants in the case liable for negligence and conspiracy to deprive Scott of his civil rights and religious liberties.

Early life

Ross was adopted by Paul and Ethel Ross in Cleveland, Ohio in 1953. The Ross family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1956, where Ross grew up. Except for attending one year South Carolina's Camden Military Academy, Ross completed all of his education in Arizona. He graduated from Phoenix High School in 1971 and did not attend college.[6]

In 1974 at the age of 21, Ross was convicted of the attempted burglary of a vacant model home and sentenced to probation.[3] The following year, he robbed a jewelry store in Phoenix. Ross confessed to the crime and received five years probation.[3]

Following high school, Ross went to work for a finance company and then a Phoenix-area bank. In 1975, he began work for a cousin's car-salvage company, later becoming vice-president.[3][6] He continued working in the car-salvage field until 1982.[6]

Early career

Ross first became concerned about controversial religious groups in 1982 following a visit with his grandmother at Phoenix's Kivel Home, a Jewish residential and nursing facility where she lived. Ross learned that missionary affiliates of the locally produced Jewish Voice Broadcast had infiltrated the home as staff members in order to specifically target Jews for conversion to Pentecostal Christianity.[3][6][7][8] After bringing the matter to the attention of the home's director and to the local Jewish community, Ross successfully campaigned to have the group's activities stopped.[3][6] He then began working as a volunteer, lecturer and researcher for a variety of Jewish organizations.[3] He worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix,[9][10] and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations appointed him to two national committees focusing on cults and inter-religious affairs.[11]

During the 1980s Ross represented the Jewish community on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Later the Committee elected him as its chairman,[12] and he served as chairman of the International Coalition of Jewish Prisoners Programs sponsored by B'nai Brith in Washington D.C. Ross's work within the prison system covered inmate religious rights and educational efforts regarding hate groups.[13] Ross also worked as a member of the professional staff of the Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS) and the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) in Phoenix, Arizona.[14]

Consultant, lecturer, and deprogrammer

In 1986 Ross left the staff of the JFCS and BJE to become a full-time private consultant and deprogrammer.[3][6] He undertook a number of involuntary deprogramming interventions at the requests of parents whose children had joined controversial groups and movements.[3][6] By 2004, Ross had handled more than 350 deprogramming cases in various countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Italy, typically charging around $5,000 per case.[3][15] Ross claimed a success-rate of 75%; journalist Nick Johnstone, despite noting that Ross' moral credentials "seem shaky at best", credited him with having "rescued many people from harmful situations".[16]

In 1989 the CBS television program 48 Hours covered Ross's deprogramming of a 14-year-old boy, Aaron Paron, a member of the Potter's House Christian Fellowship.[17][18] Aaron refused to leave the organization, and saw his mother as "possessed by the devil".[19] Most of the hour-long program focused upon Ross's efforts to persuade Paron to see the Potter's House as "a destructive Bible-based group" bent on taking control of its members' lives.[17] The case resulted in the parties entering into an agreement that Potter's House would not harbor Aaron, entice him away from his mother, attempt to influence his behavior or take any action that would interfere with his mother's parental rights.[18]

In 1992 and 1993, Ross opposed actions of the Branch Davidian group led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas.[20] Ross had previously deprogrammed a member of the group.[21][22] Ross was the only deprogrammer to work with Branch Davidian members prior to a siege involving the death of many of the group's members at Waco.[23] Television broadcaster CBS hired Ross as an on-scene analyst for their coverage of the Waco siege.[3] Ross also offered unsolicited advice to the FBI during the standoff.[22] A later Department of Justice report on the matter stated that "the FBI did not 'rely' on Ross for advice whatsoever during the standoff."[22] According to the report, the FBI "politely declined his unsolicited offers of assistance throughout the standoff" and treated the information Ross supplied as it would any other unsolicited information received from the public.[22] Criticism of government agencies' involvement with Ross has come from Nancy Ammerman, a professor of sociology of religion, who cited FBI interview notes which stated that Ross "has a personal hatred for all religious cults." She claimed that the BATF and the FBI did rely on Ross when he recommended that agents "attempt to publicly humiliate Koresh, hoping to drive a wedge between him and his followers." She criticized them for doing so and ignoring the "wider social sciences community".[24][25][26] Other scholars also criticized Ross' involvement.[21][24][27][28][29][30] Ross characterized his critics as cult apologists who held the belief that cult groups "should not be held accountable for their action like others within our society".[31]

Jason Scott deprogramming

Main article: Jason Scott case

In 1993, Ross faced charges of unlawful imprisonment in the State of Washington due to the alleged forcible detention of Jason Scott (an eighteen-year-old member of Life Tabernacle Church, part of United Pentecostal Church International) in 1991.[32][33] Ross was acquitted at a January 1994 jury trial.[34][35][36][37] Scott later sued Ross, two of his associates, and the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), for his abduction and failed deprogramming (CAN was a co-defendant because a CAN contact person had referred Scott's mother to Ross). Ross said the lawsuit was an attempt by the Church of Scientology to silence his efforts, claiming "This isn't about Jason Scott. This isn't about his civil rights. They recruited him to harass me".[4]

The two men hired by Scott's mother seized him outside her house, the teenager was handcuffed and forced into a van, before being transported to a beach cottage for the deprogramming.[38][39][40] Ross and his partners walked him into the house, one of the men leading him on a nylon leash, another holding his handcuffs.[41] Ross and his partners had made the house a virtual prison; the windows were covered with thick nylon straps forming a mesh, to prevent escape.[41] Scott was restrained and told his release depended on the completion of the session.[34][41][42][43][44][45] Scott testified that he then endured five days of derogatory comments about himself, his beliefs, his girlfriend and his pastor, and diatribes by Ross about the ways in which Christianity and conservative Protestantism were wrong.[41][42] He was intimidated, forced to watch videos on cults and told his church was just the same.[40] He said he was watched 24 hours a day. When Scott threatened Ross with criminal prosecution, Ross was said to have threatened Scott that he would handcuff him to the bed frame.[41]

After four days, Scott began to pretend that he had changed his mind, feigning tears and remorse, in the hope that this would in due course give him a chance to escape.[20][41][42] The final day of his imprisonment he spent watching films on New Age religions and channeling, even though neither are related to Pentecostalism.[41] Scott's plan ultimately worked; Ross, pleased with the apparent success of the deprogramming session, proposed that they all went out to meet with Scott's family for a celebratory dinner.[20][39] In the restaurant, Scott was allowed to go the restroom by himself; he ran out and called the police, who arrested Ross and his companions on suspicion of unlawful imprisonment.[20][39][42] Initially, the charges were dismissed.[20]

At the civil trial Ross and his co-defendants were found liable for conspiracy to deprive Scott of his civil rights and religious liberties. Scott was awarded nearly $5 million.[46] The judge awarded $875,000 in compensatory damages, and punitive damages in the amount of $1,000,000 against CAN, $2,500,000 against Ross, and $250,000 against each of the other two individual defendants. The case bankrupted the Cult Awareness Network.[47][48] In addition, the jury held the defendants, excluding CAN, liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding they "intentionally or recklessly acted in a way so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."[41][49]

In 1995 Ross filed for personal bankruptcy because of the damages award against him in the Scott civil trial.[41][50] Scott then settled with Ross, accepting $5,000 plus 200 hours of Ross's professional services "as an expert consultant and intervention specialist".[45][50] Berry, Scott's new attorney, said that Scott's decision to use Ross's services was not a vindication of Ross's deprogramming methods and refused to say what services Ross would provide.[45]

As a result of the legal risks involved, Ross stopped advocating coercive deprogramming or involuntary interventions for adults, preferring instead voluntary exit counseling without the use of force or restraint.[51] He states that despite refinement of processes over the years, exit counseling and deprogramming continue to depend on the same principles.[51]

Rick A. Ross Institute

In 1996 Ross started a website titled "The Ross Institute Internet Archives for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements".[52] Ross has lectured at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and University of Arizona,[53] and has testified as an expert witness in court cases.[3] According to the biography page on his website he has worked as a paid consultant for television networks CBS, CBC and Nippon, and Miramax/Disney retained him as a technical consultant to one of the actors involved in making Jane Campion's film Holy Smoke!.[6]

In June 2004 Landmark Education filed a US$1 million lawsuit against the Institute, claiming that the Institute's online archives damaged Landmark Education's product.[54] In December 2005, Landmark Education filed to dismiss its own lawsuit with prejudice, purportedly on the grounds of a material change in case law after the publication of an opinion in another case, Donato v. Moldow, regarding the Communications Decency Act of 1996.[54]

Groups to watch

Organisations cited by Ross as "groups to watch" include the Kabbalah Centre, Chabad of Southern Nevada, the Greater Las Vegas International Church of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church, Falun Gong, among others. Included in his individual files at the 'Group Information Database' on Ross' website are names such as Deepak Chopra, Nation of Islam and Patty Hearst. Some have expressed displeasure about their inclusion in these lists.[55]

Articles and publications

  • Ross, Rick, The Arizona Republic, November 6, 1982
  • Ross, Rick, Arizona Department of Corrections, 26 July 1984
  • Ross, Rick, Letter to the editors – Washington Post, 1995-07-25
  • Ross, Rick, The Missionary Threat, , 1995
  • Ross, Rick. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

See also

References

Further reading

  • Madigan, Tim, See No Evil, Summit Publishing Group - Legacy Books, May 1993, Foreword by Rick Ross)
  • Kaplan, Jeffery and Heléne Lööw,ISBN 0-7591-0204-X
  • Breitbart, Andrew and Mark C. Ebner, ISBN 0-471-45051-0

External links

  • The Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements (website)
Media/news
  • The Observer, 12 December 2004
  • Dogma Free America podcast interview with Rick Ross
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