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Rick Alan Ross

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Rick Alan Ross
Rick Ross 2014 retouched and cropped.jpg
Born (1952-11-24) November 24, 1952 (age 63)
Cleveland, Ohio
Occupation Deprogrammer
Website The Cult Education Institute

Rick Alan Ross (born 1952) is an American deprogrammer. Ross has intervened in more than 350 deprogramming cases in various countries, including a number of involuntary deprogramming interventions at the requests of parents whose children had joined controversial groups and movements.[1]

Ross faced charges of unlawful imprisonment over a 1991 forcible deprogramming of United Pentecostal Church International member Jason Scott; a jury acquitted him at trial. In 1995, a civil lawsuit filed by Scott resulted in a multi-million dollar judgement against Ross and his co-defendants. Later, Ross and Scott reached a settlement in which Ross agreed to pay Scott US$5,000 and provide 200 hours of professional services at no charge.

Ross was the only deprogrammer to work with members of the religious group Branch Davidian prior to the Waco siege; some scholars later criticized his involvement with the siege.

Early life

Rick Alan Ross was adopted by Paul and Ethel Ross in Cleveland, Ohio in 1953. The family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1956. Other than one year at South Carolina's Camden Military Academy, Ross grew up and was educated in Arizona. He graduated from Phoenix Union High School in 1971.[2]


According to Ross, he became concerned about controversial religious groups in 1982 after a visit with his grandmother at Phoenix's Kivel Home, a Jewish residential and nursing facility. He learned that missionary affiliates of the locally produced Jewish Voice Broadcast had become staff members and sought to target residents for conversion to Pentecostal Christianity.[1][2][3] He brought this information to the attention of the home's director and the local Jewish community, later campaigning to have the group's activities stopped.[1][2] Ross then began working as a volunteer, lecturer and researcher for various Jewish organizations.[1] He worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix,[4][5] and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations appointed him to two national committees focusing on cults and inter-religious affairs.[6]

During the 1980s, he represented the state's Jewish community by serving on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Arizona Department of Corrections; the committee later elected him as its chairman.[7] As well, Ross was at one time chairman of the International Coalition of Jewish Prisoners Programs sponsored by B'nai Brith in Washington D.C. His work in the prison system covered inmate religious rights and educational efforts regarding hate groups.[8]

In 1986 Ross left JFCS and BJE to become a full-time private consultant and deprogrammer,[1][2] In this capacity, he worked with the Cult Awareness Network (CAN).[9]

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.[10][11] Aaron would not leave the organization, and saw his mother as "possessed by the devil".[12] The program focused upon Ross' efforts to persuade Paron to view Potter's House as "a destructive Bible-based group" which took control of its members' lives.[10] 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.[11]

Waco siege

Main article: Waco siege

In 1987, Ross deprogrammed two former members of the Branch Davidian group in upstate New York, and in 1988 began receiving calls about the Davidian group led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas.[13][14][15] Ross was the only deprogrammer to work with Branch Davidian members prior to a siege that caused the death of many of the group's members at Waco.[16] Television network CBS hired Ross as an on-scene analyst for their coverage of the Waco siege.[1] After Ross offered advice to the FBI during the standoff,[15] a later-published Department of Justice report on the matter stated, "the FBI did not 'rely' on Ross for advice whatsoever during the standoff".[15] 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 information received from the public.[15]

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 Ross "has a personal hatred for all religious cults". She further stated 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".[17][18][19] Other scholars also criticized Ross' involvement.[14][17][20]

Jason Scott deprogramming

Main article: Jason Scott case

Ross faced unlawful imprisonment charges over a 1991 forcible deprogramming of United Pentecostal Church International member Jason Scott, whose mother was referred to Ross by the CAN.[21] Ross was acquitted of these charges by the jury at trial,[22][23] but his associates pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of coercion and were sentenced to one-year jail terms.[24]

Scott later filed a civil suit against Ross, two of his associates and CAN in federal court. In September 1995, a nine-member jury unanimously held the defendants liable for conspiracy to deprive Scott of his civil rights and religious liberties. In addition, the jury held that Ross and his associates (but not CAN) "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." The case resulted in an award of US$875,000 in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amount of US$5,000,000 against Ross, US$1,000,000 against CAN, and US$250,000 against each of Ross's two other co-defendants. The case bankrupted the CAN, and a coalition of groups that were attacked by the CAN bought its assets, and ran a new version of the CAN which become active in religious freedom causes.[25][24][26] According to Eugene Gallagher, the Scott case marked a watershed for non-traditional religions in North America.[25][27]

Scott later reconciled with his mother, who had originally hired Ross to deprogram him. Scott terminated his lawyer, Kendrick Moxon, who was linked to the Church of Scientology,[28] and was persuaded by his mother to settle with Ross. Under the terms of the settlement, the two agreed that Ross would pay Scott US$5,000 and provide 200 hours of his professional services.[29]

According to the book American Countercultures, Ross and others forwarded the notion that charismatic leaders were able to brainwash college-aged youths, and that such cases were in need of forcible removal from the cult environment and deprogramming.[30] In a book that Ross self-published in 2014, he wrote that after the Scott case he stopped involuntary deprogramming work with adults,[31]:196 advising against such interventions with adults because of the risk of legal consequences.[31]:XIV


Ross started a website with his archives in 1996.[32] Launched under the name "Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups, and Movements", it displayed material on controversial groups and movements and their leaders, including Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, as well as the Westboro Baptist Church on which Ross had been collecting data since 1993.[32] Content from the website and Ross' opinion surrounding it has been cited in books such as Andrew Breitbart's Hollywood, Interrupted in which Ross is quoted as forwarding the notion that Hollywood and the entertainment industry is rife with connections to controversial groups, and that celebrities as role models may influence people by their endorsement of such groups.[33] According to Ann E. Robertson the Institute "is an unusual source of considerable information about rather obscure groups".[34]

In April 2004 NXIVM sued unsuccessfully against the Institute in NXIVM Corp. v. Ross Institute, claiming copyright infringement.[35] In June 2004 Landmark Education filed a US$1 million lawsuit against the Institute, alleging 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 website was renamed in 2013 as the "Cult Education Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements", published under an educational nonprofit corporation of the same name.[37][38]

Other activities

By 2004, Ross had handled more than 350 deprogramming cases in various countries [1] and testified as an expert witness in several court cases.[1][39][40] He has also contributed to a number of books, including a foreword to Tim Madigan's See no Evil[41] and a chapter to Roman Espejo's Cults: Opposing Viewpoints.[42]

In 2014 Ross self-published the book Cults Inside Out.[31] The book was also published in China in 2015 by a Hong Kong publisher.[43]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Johnstone, Nick (December 12, 2004). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Rick Ross's Biography". 
  3. ^ Evans, Pete (November–December 2004). "The Door interview with Rick Ross". The Door Magazine. 
  4. ^ Taking Aim: Efforts to convert Jews draw fire from interdenominational group, The Arizona Republic, 1982, by Richard Lessner
  5. ^ Cleveland Jewish News, July 29, 2004. KABBALAH CENTRE hawks 'snake oil for the soul
  6. ^ "Challenging Cults, Cultivating Family", The Greater Phoenix Jewish News, February 1989, by Elaine DeRosa
  7. ^ "Ross to head religious committee for state corrections department". Greater Phoenix Jewish News. March 12, 1986. 
  8. ^ "Three Nation Umbrella Org. to Aid Jewish Prison Inmates, Families", National "Jewish Press", April 1986
  9. ^ Robert Glenn Howard. "The Anti-Cult Movement" pp 191-192 in American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History, Ed. Gina Misiroglu. Routledge, 2015 ISBN 9781317477297
  10. ^ a b Goodman, Walter (June 1, 1989). "Review/Television; Trying to Pry a Youth Away From a Cult". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b Enge, Marilee (March 23, 1989). "Mother fights church group for her son". Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska). 
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ 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'', February 28 to April 19, 1993.
  16. ^ Baum, Michele Dula, "Dangerous cults focus on leader, Deprogrammer Says", The Chattanooga Times, April 30, 1994
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Report to the Justice and Treasury Departments, Nancy Ammerman, September 3, 1993, with an Addendum dated September 10, 1993
  19. ^ Waco, Federal Law Enforcement, and Scholars of Religion at the Wayback Machine (archived September 1, 2006), Nancy Ammerman, 1993
  20. ^ Chryssides, George D. (1999). Exploring New Religions. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0-8264-5959-5. 
  21. ^ Haines, Thomas W. (September 21, 1995). "'Deprogrammer' Taken To Court -- Bellevue Man Claims Kidnap, Coercion". The Seattle Times. 
  22. ^ "'Cult Buster' Acquitted In Abduction". The Seattle Times. January 19, 1994. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  23. ^ Haines, Thomas W. (September 21, 1995). "'Deprogrammer' Taken To Court -- Bellevue Man Claims Kidnap, Coercion". The Seattle Times. 
  24. ^ a b James R. Lewis Cults: A Reference and Guide: Approaches to New Religions. Routledge, 2014 ISBN 9781317545132 pp. 97–98
  25. ^ a b Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael (2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 139. ISBN 0-275-98712-4. 
  26. ^ Mark L. Goldstein, editor. Handbook of Child Custody. Springer, 2015. ISBN 3319139428 p. 287
  27. ^ Kaplan, Jeffrey. "The fall of the wall?". Nova Religio 1 (1): 139–149. doi:10.1525/nr.1997.1.1.139. Retrieved January 15, 2009. 
  28. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (December 23, 1996). "Plaintiff Shifts Stance on Anti-Cult Group; Scientology-Linked Lawyer Is Dismissed in Move That May Keep Network Running". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 29, 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  29. ^ Tony Ortega for the Phoenix New Times. December 19, 1996. What's $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies?
  30. ^ American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History. Routledge. March 26, 2015. p. 192. ISBN 9781317477297. 
  31. ^ a b c Ross, Rick (2014). Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out. CreateSpace Publishing. ISBN 978-1497316607. 
  32. ^ a b Jason Nark for March 12, 2011 Cults are Jersey man's bread and butter
  33. ^ Breitbart, Andrew; Ebner, Mark C. (2004). Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon-- the Case Against Celebrity. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0-471-45051-0. 
  34. ^ Ann E. Robertson, with contributions by James O. Ellis. Terrorism and Global Security Global Issues. Infobase Publishing, 2009. ISBN 1438109040 p. 267
  35. ^ Pankaj. E-commerce. APH Publishing, 2005. ISBN 8176488054 pp. 207–208
  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 July 9, 2014. 
  38. ^ "The Ross Institute has officially changed its name". Cult News. August 2, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2014. 
  39. ^ Mindy Bond for The Gothamist. July 18, 2005 Rick Ross, Cult Expert
  40. ^ Hennessy, Molly (July 14, 2001). "MINISTER SUES CULT EXPERT". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  41. ^ Ross, Rick Alan (1993). "Foreword". In Madigan, Tim. See No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh's Holy War. Summit Publishing Group – Legacy Books. ISBN 1-56530-063-7. 
  42. ^ Ross, Rick Alan (2012). "Ex-Cult Members Can Be Deprogrammed". In Espejo, Roman. Cults: Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Press. pp. 165 ff. ISBN 978-0737739954. 
  43. ^ "和平圖書". Peace Book Company. Archived from the original on January 15, 2016. 

External links