Rick Ross (consultant)

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This article is about Rick Alan Ross. For other people with the same name, see Rick Ross (disambiguation).
Rick Alan Ross
Rick Ross 2014.jpg
Born (1952-11-24) November 24, 1952 (age 62)
Cleveland, Ohio
Occupation Founder and Executive Director,
Cult Education Institute
Cult News
The Cult Education Institute

Rick Alan Ross (born 1952 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 (later to be renamed the Cult Education Institute), which maintains a database of court documents, essays, and press articles on groups and individuals that have attracted controversy.[2]

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 involuntarily deprogramming members of controversial groups and movements. By 2004 he said he had worked over 350 cases with a 75% success rate.

Ross has worked as an expert court witness and as an analyst for the media in cases relating to such groups.[3] 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. After the civil verdict in the Jason Scott case Ross stopped coercive interventions for adults in the mid 1990s, in favour of voluntary exit counseling.

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 Union High School in 1971 and did not attend college.[4]

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][4] He continued working in the car-salvage field until 1982.[4]

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][4][5][6] 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][4] 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,[7][8] and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations appointed him to two national committees focusing on cults and inter-religious affairs.[9]

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,[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

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][4] and worked as a Cult Awareness Network-associated deprogrammer.

He undertook a number of involuntary deprogramming interventions at the requests of parents whose children had joined controversial groups and movements.[3][4] 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][13] 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".[14]

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.[15][16] Aaron refused to leave the organization, and saw his mother as "possessed by the devil".[17] 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.[15] 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.[16]

In 1992 and 1993, Ross opposed actions of the Branch Davidian group led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas.[18] Ross had previously deprogrammed a member of the group.[19][20] 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.[21] 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.[20] A later Department of Justice report on the matter stated that "the FBI did not 'rely' on Ross for advice whatsoever during the standoff."[20] 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.[20] 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".[22][23][24] Other scholars also criticized Ross' involvement.[19][22][25][26][27][28] 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".[29]

Jason Scott deprogramming

Main article: Jason Scott case

In 1993 Ross faced criminal charges over a 1991 forcible deprogramming of United Pentecostal Church International member Jason Scott, but was found "not guilty" by the jury at trial.[30] Jason Scott later filed a civil suit against Ross in federal court. 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. Ross filed for personal bankruptcy because of the $2,500,000 in punitive damages awarded against him.[31] Scott later reconciled with his mother, who had originally hired Ross to deprogram him, and was persuaded by her to settle with Ross; under the terms of the settlement, the two agreed that Ross would pay Scott $5000 and provide 200 hours of his professional services.[32]

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.[33] He states that despite refinement of processes over the years, cult intervention work continues to depend on the same basic principles originated through deprogramming.[33]

Cult Education Institute

In 1996 Ross started a website titled "The Ross Institute Internet Archives for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements".[34] Ross has lectured at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and University of Arizona,[35] 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!.[4]

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.[36] 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.[36]

The institute was re-launched in 2013 as the Cult Education Institute (CEI). CEI is a non-profit institution and member of the American Library Association and the New Jersey Library Association.[37][38]

See also


  1. ^ "Cult News website Cultnews.com". 
  2. ^ "Information Archives". The Ross Institute. Retrieved April 16, 2009. The Rick A. Ross Institute has assembled one of the largest archives of information about controversial groups. This archive contains thousands of press articles, court documents, and essays. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Johnstone, Nick (December 12, 2004). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rick Ross's Biography". 
  5. ^ "Pastor Gil Kaplan". buildersofunity.org. Builders of Unity Ministries International. Retrieved November 15, 2008. After the Kaplan’s moved to Arizona in 1953, Louis Kaplan founded and directed what became an international Messianic television and radio ministry known as the Jewish Voice Broadcast, which later became known as Jewish Voice Ministries International which continues to air in many countries today. 
  6. ^ Evans, Pete (November–December 2004). "The Door interview with Rick Ross". The Door Magazine. 
  7. ^ Taking Aim: Efforts to convert Jews draw fire from interdenominational group, The Arizona Republic, 1982, by Richard Lessner, as hosted on culteducation.com
  8. ^ Cleveland Jewish News, 29 July 2004. KABBALAH CENTRE hawks 'snake oil for the soul
  9. ^ "Challenging Cults, Cultivating Family", The Greater Phoenix Jewish News, February, 1989, by Elaine DeRosa, as hosted on culteducation.com
  10. ^ "Ross to head religious committee for state corrections department". Greater Phoenix Jewish News. March 12, 1986. , as hosted on culteducation.com
  11. ^ "Three Nation Umbrella Org. to Aid Jewish Prison Inmates, Families", National "Jewish Press", April 1986, as hosted on culteducation.com
  12. ^ Curriculum Vitae, Rick Ross web site
  13. ^ Ross, Rick. "Intervention: Costs". Retrieved November 25, 2008. 
  14. ^ Johnstone, Nick (December 12, 2004). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved October 24, 2008. [...] taking into account his claimed 75% success rate for interventions (he has worked on more than 350 cases, at a typical cost of $5,000, everywhere from the US to the UK, Israel to Italy), he has rescued many people from harmful situations [...] 
  15. ^ a b Goodman, Walter (June 1, 1989). "Review/Television; Trying to Pry a Youth Away From a Cult". New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  16. ^ a b Enge, Marilee (March 23, 1989). "Mother fights church group for her son". Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska). 
  17. ^ CBS News – New York, CBS News' 48 Hours Takes Viewers Inside the Deprogramming of a 14-year Old Boy May 18 on CBS, April 1989
  18. ^ Ortega, Tony (November 30, 1995). "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans. Clients of deprogrammer Rick Ross call him a savior. Perhaps that's why people he's branded cult leaders want to crucify him.". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved April 27, 2006. 
  19. ^ a b Tabor, James D.; Gallagher, Eugene V. (1997). Why Waco?. University of California Press. pp. 93–96, 138–139, 233. ISBN 0-520-20899-4. 
  20. ^ a b c d US Department of Justice, Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas: Part IV, The Role of Experts During the Standoff, 28 February to 19 April 1993. Available online
  21. ^ Baum, Michele Dula, "Dangerous cults focus on leader, Deprogrammer Says", The Chattanooga Times, April 30, 1994
  22. ^ a b Wright, Stuart A. (ed.) (1995). Armageddon in Waco. University of Chicago Press. pp. 98–100, pp. 286–290. ISBN 0-226-90845-3. 
  23. ^ Report to the Justice and Treasury Departments, Nancy Ammerman, September 3, 1993, with an Addendum dated September 10, 1993
  24. ^ Waco, Federal Law Enforcement, and Scholars of Religion at the Wayback Machine (archived September 1, 2006), Nancy Ammerman, 1993
  25. ^ Chryssides, George D. (1999). Exploring New Religions. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0-8264-5959-5. 
  26. ^ Newport, Kenneth G. C.; Gribben, Crawford (eds.) (2006). Expecting the End. Baylor University Press. pp. 154–171. ISBN 1-932792-38-4. 
  27. ^ Wessinger, Catherine Lowman (2000). How the Millennium Comes Violently. New York, NY/London, UK: Seven Bridges Press. pp. 1, 60, 69, 98. ISBN 1-889119-24-5. 
  28. ^ Michael, George (2003). Confronting Right-wing Extremism and Terrorism. New York, NY/London, UK: Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 0-415-31500-X. 
  29. ^ "Letters to the Editor – What Happened at Waco". The Washington Post. July 23, 1995. Retrieved November 4, 2008. 
  30. ^ Haines, Thomas W. (September 21, 1995). "'Deprogrammer' Taken To Court -- Bellevue Man Claims Kidnap, Coercion". The Seattle Times. 
  31. ^ Phoenix Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans – Phoenix New Times
  32. ^ http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1996-12-19/news/what-s-2-995-million-between-former-enemies/ What's $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies? - Phoenix New Times
  33. ^ a b Rick Ross. "Deprogramming". Intervention. Retrieved August 10, 2005. 
  34. ^ "Home page of The Ross Institute website". 
  35. ^ Hennessy, Molly (July 14, 2001). "MINISTER SUES CULT EXPERT". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  36. ^ a b Toutant, Charles Suits Against Anti-Cult Blogger Provide Test for Online Speech, New Jersey Law Journal, January 10, 2006
  37. ^ "About Us". Cult Education Institute. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  38. ^ "The Ross Institute has officially changed its name". Cult News. 2013-08-02. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 

Further reading

External links