Unification News for February 1997
Before the Boston Globe Published the Hassan Article
This is the correspondence Peter Ross had with the Boston Globe before the article was published.
TO: John Koch, The Boston Globe
FROM: Peter D. Ross
DATE: January 9, 1997
I appreciate that you called to confirm you are writing a profile on Steve Hassan-his life, his book, and his activities. You did tell me that the impetus to do so was because someone-and I assume it was Mr. Hassan himself or his publicist-sent you a copy of Mr. Hassan's book. I can reasonably deduce that Mr. Hassan's book was forwarded to you for this very purpose. I cannot entirely know the criteria by which you then deemed Mr. Hassan and his book worthy of mention in the Globe. However you stated that the issues raised in his book were factors as was the fact that Mr. Hassan has garnered a certain public notoriety through his appearances on national television. I appreciate your invitation to submit my perspective on Mr. Hassan for your reference and while you encouraged me to be "pithy" I will endeavor to do my best. In this regard, I thought it best to confine my comments to three areas: Mr. Hassan's theories about "mind control"; his illicit activities; and the nature of his association with the Unification Church.
Mr. Hassan is not an innovator or a new-thinker in propounding his theories about "mind control." Harvey Cox has stated that the allegation of brainwashing and mind control in this context is simply "a more psychologically acceptable way of expressing what was expressed previously in other ways. The brainwashing version of the evil eye myth holds that 'these people' are the victims of prophets, spell-binders, witches, or hypnotists." Hassan's theories are otherwise almost entirely derived from the work of two discredited scientists: psychologist Dr. Margaret Singer (University of California) and sociologist Dr. Richard Ofshe (University of California). Mr. Hassan also refers to Dr. Robert Lifton's book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. This work examined the techniques practiced by the Chinese Communists to politically indoctrinate their POW captives in an effort to alter their political beliefs. It is a real stretch to apply such theories to religious conversion.
The theories advanced by Drs. Singer, Ofshe, and Mr. Hassan have been consistently repudiated by the Federal Courts, the established scientific community in America, and the established religious community in America. Hassan's theories can best be characterized as "junk science."
* The Federal Court decision in U.S. v Fishman (San Francisco, 1990) not only repudiated the theories of "mind control" as advocated by Hassan and his ilk, but the court refused to recognize its proponents as acceptable expert witnesses.
* These same theories of "mind control" have been rejected by the American Sociological Society and the American Psychological Society as "negative value judgments in scientific garb." These pre-eminent organizations advocated this position in an amicus brief filed in Molko, Leal v HSA-UWC. Not only did these professional organizations reject the conclusions of their errant colleagues, they went further and stated that the very methodology relied upon to support such theories have "been repudiated by the scientific community."
* In a brief filed in the same case by the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), Americans United For Separation of Church and State, The American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., and The Southern California Ecumenical Council, the religious community repudiated the notion of "mind control" as an "attempt to reduce conversion to a psychological pathology." These groups attacked the theories of mind control and brainwashing as "pejorative characterizations of religious conversion proffered in the guise of scientific objectivity."
It is interesting to note that when Steve Hassan gave a presentation on deprogramming and exit counseling to Russian scholars in Moscow a couple of years ago, these scholars noted that what he was advocating was what the KGB had tried to do to them for years!
Mr. Hassan was in the Church for only two years before being forced to sever his relationship with the Church by his family. There is no mention in his book of him ever making a clear decision to join or indeed to leave. At best, he was a mere trainee, someone who had a significant experience during a brief association.
* Mr. Hassan claims in his book and public utterances he was deceived, that he was never told he had unwittingly become involved with the Unification Church. This is not true. Rev. Wayne Miller, who until recently was the Director of the Manhattan Unification Church, taught Hassan his first introductory lectures on the Divine Principle. Wayne has signed an Affidavit stating that Hassan was told before his first lecture that what he was about to hear were the teachings of the Unification Church of the Reverend Moon.
*Mr. Hassan claims that he quickly rose to the ranks of being a top leader in the Church with ready access to the Founder. This is also false. He never ascended higher in the ranks of the Unification Church than a young trainee in a small Church center in Queens. The President of the American Unification Church at that time has previously made a sworn statement that Mr. Hassan was never an assistant director of the Unification Church at national headquarters or a director of the Church's student organization, CARP, at Queens College, nor did he hold any other official position.
* Mr. Hassan has used a series of personal notes, referred to as "Master Speaks," to ridicule and misrepresent the teachings of the Church and its Founder. Mr. Hassan has been repeatedly challenged by the Church for his intentional misrepresentation and mischaracterization of these materials. What Mr. Hassan refers to as literal and verbatim "translations" have been reviewed by linguistic experts and determined to be simultaneous paraphrases of what the "translator" believed Reverend Moon to have stated. Hardly definitive. Recently Mr. Hassan removed these materials from his Home Page when challenged by the Church.
* As a former associate of the Church, particularly one coerced to sever his affiliation, Mr. Hassan's public and inflammatory claims about his experience with the Church can most accurately be characterized as "apostate atrocity tales." Throughout the history of religious bigotry false, exaggerated, and incredulous stories have been disseminated to evoke fear, hysteria, and hatred of new and persecuted religious communities. Similar to many other victims of coercive faith-breaking, Hassan went on to become a self-proclaimed "expert" on the Unification Church. While many people join the Church everyday throughout the world and others leave for all sorts of reasons and get on with their lives, Mr. Hassan has make his apostasy a career and his primary source of income. Whatever the true nature of his inability to forget and leave the Church behind, he has no legitimate justification for a twenty-year vendetta against the Church. As the Eagles sing: "Get Over It!"
* Mr. Hassan's ill-will towards the Unification community is evident in his persistent use of the pejorative term "Moonies." This term was first coined by hostile detractors of the Church who knew full well the impact of the suffix "ie" and its informal, disrespectful, and derogatory register. After an effective effort to sensitize the public of its dehumanizing and harmful effects, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, ABC News, Nightline, Reuters, Oxford Publishing Company, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the New York Civil Rights Coalition among others, have all affirmed the pejorative and unacceptable use of this epithet. Though having been so notified, Mr. Hassan continues to perpetuate the term for his own designs.
Soon after his own coerced renunciation of the Unification Church, Mr. Hassan was an active participant in abusive and unlawful "deprogrammings." The Unification Church legal office has sworn statements from two Unificationists, both of whom incriminate Steve Hassan in their unlawful imprisonment and abusive attempted faith- breaking. One, is that of Arthur Roselle who has stated in his affidavit that he was kidnapped, beaten, held against his will, and treated like a prisoner of war at the hands of violent captors. Mr. Hassan was an active participant. In an attempt several years ago to clean up his past, Hassan asked Arthur Roselle to commit perjury and renounce his former affidavit. By doing so, he not only re-opened an otherwise dated incident, but he has increased his criminal culpability by soliciting another to commit perjury and by his attempts to obstruct justice. And why? So he can try and fool the public that he is a good guy, just trying to help people out.
In the words of John Sweeney, former president of Citizens Freedom Foundation (one of many defunct "anti-cult" groups) Steve Hassan "is really greedy." According to Sweeney, Hassan claims to be able to walk into a room and freeze a cult member by looking him/her in the eye and to then get the person to follow him! Hassan is happy to charge thousands for his work, according to Jeremiah Gutman, New York attorney and former president of the ACLU.
Does Television Legitimize?
For all of my statements above, I have clear and irrefutable evidence. And so perhaps you may ask, if all of this is so, why has Hassan appeared on such programs as Nightline ? Incidentally, on Nightline, he went off and unilaterally attacked Arianna Huffington for allegedly belonging to one of Steve's 2,500 cults (ask him to name them all!), spent time railing against Jehovah's Witnesses, and then in his usual chicken-little mode warned a shocked Ted Koppel that we are all vulnerable!! As we say in Ireland: "you can only bring Steve somewhere twice and the second time to apologize."
I do not believe that his 15 minutes of fame legitimizes him, his theories, or his activities. His public-speaking programs consistently attract the smallest of audiences. His appearances on radio, television, and in tabloid magazines, perhaps say more about the contemporary premium placed on entertainment by these media forms. It certainly should never be interpreted as a measure of the credibility and legitimacy of who Mr. Hassan is and what he does. For he is far too easy to caricature: a nattering nabob of negativism; a quack dispenser of snake oil; a jester who is animated by the click of a television light; a congenital liar who hasn't met a tool of false propaganda he couldn't use; and the chicken-little of those who feel that new religions are to be feared. But don't take my word for it. As
I mentioned, John, there are objective and eminent authorities who can also provide you with a less irreverent account of Mr. Hassan. I mention two:
1. Marvin Bordelon, Executive Director, American Conference on Religious Movements. Telephone: (301)770-2821.
2. Dr. Gordon Melton, Director, Institute of American Religion. Telephone: (805)967-2669
While I am satisfied that you use any of this material, either paraphrased or as a direct quote, I do ask for the opportunity to respond to any particular allegation Mr. Hassan may make about the Unification Church, its Founder and members, that is not covered in these materials.
Again, I can only wonder why it is you deem it fit to extend the imprimatur of The Boston Globe to further serve Mr. Hassan's penchant for self-promotion. I recognize that the debate about "cults" in religion raises many issues. None however are novel or unique and the lessons of history can assist in their resolution. The bonafide scholastic community has consistently refuted the rantings and ravings of hate-mongers who attempt to debase the dialogue. The religious community has been unequivocal in their condemnation of the activities of Hassan and his ilk. So too should the press critically examine the claims and objectives of sloganeers and night-riders, like Mr. Hassan, who serve no other objective than to undermine the democratic, constitutional and civic protections afforded religion.
TO: John Koch, The Boston Globe
FROM: Peter D. Ross
DATE: January 13, 1997
I want to remind you of my invitation to you to interview those who have suffered personal injury as a direct consequence of Steve Hassan's illicit activities. I was prompted to first make this suggestion by way of a voice-mail to you last Friday for two reasons:
1. Your statement to me that you have spoken with people in the Boston area who appreciate Mr. Hassan's work. Whatever their personal experience, it is fair to suggest that you speak with those who have a contrary personal experience.
2. Your characterization of some of my previously-submitted comments regarding Mr. Hassan as "ad hominem." I will not apologize for my comments nor indeed defend myself further by claiming moral justification - "he has spoken falsely about an entire community for twenty-plus years and therefore I can say such-and-such." No, my defense is the facts and a reasoned interpretation of those facts, for an "ad hominem attack" normally refers to an unbridled personal attack that is not otherwise grounded in reason. Mr. Hassan's personal and professional character deficiencies are manifested in his public utterances, published writings, and abusive activities. They are discernible to those who dare to exclaim that the emperor has no clothes!
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