The Words of the Rogers Family
The spring weather of 1977 in Washington, DC, was beautiful on the Sunday afternoon I visited my cousin in nearby Gaithersburg, Maryland. My cousin and her husband had invited me to go to the National Zoo. I had joined the Unification Church three years earlier, and I knew my mother was not comfortable with my decision to join the church, I thought this visit would bring me closer to my mom, and my extended family. My cousin asked if I was tired after we had walked around a while, and I answered: "No, I feel great." The fact was, at 26 years old, I felt like I was in top physical shape. Later, after some refreshments at their home and a little small talk, my cousin's husband told me to go wait for him in the carport while he got his keys to drive me home. As I went out the door, I was grabbed in a flash by two strong men and pushed into a car that whisked me away to another reality -- that of being kidnapped into a "deprogramming" plan hatched by my mother, aunt, and cousins. Unbeknownst to me, my family had hired a group of anti-cult kidnappers connected to Mr. Ted Patrick, who was convicted and imprisoned for kidnappings sometime later.
I screamed, but one of the strong men threatened me, so I quieted down and pondered what to do next. My mother was in the front seat and did not turn to face me. The two men holding my arms back were Mom's mental hospital coworkers. I trusted that somehow my mother would not let the "deprogrammers" hurt me. I was both comforted by her presence and conversely sick to my stomach to be a kidnap victim. Across Virginia into North Carolina we drove, until we reached the destination, a motel somewhere on the highway near the airport of Raleigh, NC.
I spent a sleepless night in this motel room with my mother. Several men who slept on the floor to block me in case I tried to get out of bed to escape covered the floor of my room. In order to reach the door, I would have had to step on one of them. My eight-day ordeal had begun.
The next morning I met my so-called "deprogrammer", a girl who had spent time in a new religious movement called the Children of God. Her job was to psychologically "break me" so that I could get free from a supposedly awful religious group. This young woman did not realize that psychology had been my major in university, and that I was looking forward to finding out how much she knew about the church. She gave me her best -- undocumented rumors and hateful rhetoric against the Reverend Moon -- all of which I had heard several times during my three years as a church member. I could see they had nothing new, just hearsay, pejoratives, put-downs, and lies -- repeated often enough through the media that some people would believe them.
Later, they brought in a young man and a young woman, both former Unification Church members who had joined at the same time I did in Raleigh. I wondered why they couldn't look me straight in the eye while talking to me. Were they hiding something embarrassing? While they were telling me about how the "treatment" goes, I sensed there was a weird element they didn't want to mention explicitly. They were talking about the last stage of the program, when I would be taken to a "retreat" at a camp in the mountains of Vermont. There I would spend 24 hours with a member of the opposite sex until the deprogramming was "finished." Then it hit me that the final treatment was to lose one's virginity, thereby insuring that the member would not go back to the church, since sexual purity was the most important thing to us. The idea was that the person would be too ashamed. Then and there, I decided to make a plan to escape the fate that had overtaken my brother and sister. I pitied them.
At this time in our church history there were so many kidnappings that church leaders had given us advice about how to handle ourselves, just in case. I had been given the advice that I should go along with the captors and create a false recantation. With any luck, they would let me go, and I could then return to the church unharmed. It was a tough decision: I hated lying, and I was proud of the church. I truly wanted my family to understand how great I felt about the Divine Principle, and how beautiful and inspiring the church was. But seeing the determination of these people, I knew they would stop at nothing. I said a prayer and told God that what I was about to say to my captors was not my true heart. I then told my keepers, "Yes, I need to think about all the things I have heard."
The deprogrammers appeared to be relieved, because previously I had been so unmovable. They required me to sign a document to prove that their "treatment" had worked, so that they could get paid. This galled me the most. Mom was a widow and certainly not wealthy. She contacted the deprogrammers out of love and concern, and it made me sick to my stomach to see my mother's hard-earned money used this way. Worse, the deprogrammers were making a profit by degrading people. The female deprogrammer even laughed at how much money she was making, and bragged of having had to hire an accountant to take care of it all.
The deprogrammers made plans to take me to the retreat in Vermont by car. "Yeah, right!" I thought. Again, my mother was in the front seat. We drove for hours, and I expected to have chances to escape. When I heard Abba's song, "Dancing Queen," on the car radio as we stopped for gas in Silver Spring, Maryland, I knew it was my cue to make my escape. I told the captors I was going to the restroom and got out of the car. Surprisingly, I was not accompanied. Then, I went to get a drink of water inside the garage at the fountain. Once inside the garage, two men working there, one an African American and the other a Hispanic gentleman pulled down the two garage doors separating me from my captors. I then alerted the gas station manager that the people waiting for me were not my friends and that they had kidnapped me, and requested he call the police. "I'm 26 years old," I said. As long as you are in my station you don't have to go with anyone you don't want tor he said as he dialed the police.
By this time, the kidnap party was showing signs of panic that I was loose. But the policeman who showed up in the squad car said that as far as he was concerned it was a family matter. I requested that he ask his superior to let me make a statement at the police station, and he did. Then, at the police station, the superior officer said it was an FBI case as I had been transported across state lines. The police let me call my church elder who agreed to pick me up right away.
Meanwhile, the deprogrammers hadn't given up. They watched the police station from their car, hoping to get another chance to grab me, but they were out of luck. David Hose, another Unificationist, drove up and whisked me away to a lawyer's office where I gave a sworn statement. Legal proceedings were started but I balked when I found out that my mother more likely would be tried for kidnapping instead of the deprogrammers, since she was present the whole time. I declined to prosecute my mother. After all, she was the unsuspecting victim. These people had taken her money under false pretenses that I, her 26-year-old child, had been in danger. I was hidden for a while in safe houses provided by members in the area. When True Father came to town, I was presented to him, along with my story and he shook my hand. I then decided to change locations and church responsibilities to avoid recapture. I knew the deprogrammers were still under contract, and Mom had a written guarantee on their services.
I felt sorry for my mother, but did not talk to her again for two years. When I did call, it was to let her know that True Father had engaged me to the man of my dreams, David Rogers, on May 13, 1979. David and I visited her together, by which time she had learned that David's father had met Reverend Moon in person at a science conference and had no worries at all about the Unification Church. My husband turned out to be the son she never had, as I am the only child. The subject of the kidnapping was so painful that we buried it and got on with our lives. She attended our historic wedding in Madison Square Garden, in New York City on July 1, 1982, and later visited us in Alaska for several summers afterwards. She was close by for the birth of three out of four grandchildren and enjoyed every minute of being a grandmother. When she fell ill in 2001, our family went back to North Carolina to take care of her until she passed in 2003, the week before her first grandchild was blessed in marriage.
I have never given this testimony publicly because I felt I knew my mother kidnapped me out of love, and out of the misplaced fear that I was somehow in danger. I was shocked to find out kidnapping and deprogrammings are still going on in Japan. I only give my testimony to tell people that this practice of kidnapping - detaining individuals, and coercing them to recant their religious beliefs -- is illegal, immoral and against a person's human rights.