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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 Exit counselor and deprogrammer
Website The Cult Education Institute

Rick Alan Ross (born 1952) is an American exit counselor and deprogrammer. Ross has performed a number of involuntary deprogramming interventions at the requests of parents whose children had joined controversial groups and movements.[1][2] A civil lawsuit over the 1991 forcible deprogramming of Jason Scott resulted in a multi-million civil judgement against Ross and his co-defendants. He was also involved in the coverage of the Waco siege. Ross has intervened in more than 350 deprogramming cases in various countries, and has served as expert witness in a number of court cases. His web database on controversial groups and movements is a point of reference in several publications.

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]


Ross 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][4]

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

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.[8] 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.[9] In addition to these involvements, Ross 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.[10]

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).[11]

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.[12][13] Aaron would not leave the organization, and saw his mother as "possessed by the devil".[14] 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.[12] 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.[13]

Waco siege

Main article: Waco siege

In 1992 and 1993, Ross opposed actions of the Branch Davidian group led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas[15] and had previously deprogrammed a member of the group.[16][17] 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.[18] Television network CBS hired Ross as an on-scene analyst for their coverage of the Waco siege.[1] After offering unsolicited advice to the FBI during the standoff,[17] a later-published Department of Justice report on the matter stated, "the FBI did not 'rely' on Ross for advice whatsoever during the standoff."[17] 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.[17]

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."[19][20][21] Other scholars also criticized Ross' involvement.[16][19][22] According to a 1995 article on Ross in the Phoenix, Arizona weekly newspaper, New Times, ""Ross has been reviled in print as a kidnaper and a vicious religion-hater. Some even blame him for the disaster at Waco, Texas. He's been hounded by private investigators and threatened with violence. Some of his friends fear for his life." [23]

Jason Scott deprogramming

Main article: Jason Scott case

Ross faced criminal charges over a 1991 forcible deprogramming of United Pentecostal Church International member Jason Scott, whose mother was referred to Ross by the CAN.[24] Ross was found "not guilty" by the jury at trial.[25] 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 depriving Scott of his civil rights and awarded Scott US$5 million in punitive damages .[15] Ross' share of the damages was US$3.1 million, which led to him declaring personal bankruptcy.[15]

Scott later reconciled with his mother, who had originally hired Ross to deprogram him. Scott fired his lawyer, Kendrick Moxon, who was linked to the Church of Scientology [26] 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$5000 and provide 200 hours of his professional services.[27]

In his 2014 book Ross wrote that after the Scott case he stopped involuntary cult-intervention work with adults,[28]:196 advising against such involuntary interventions with adults due to the possible legal consequences of such interventions.[28]:XIV

On-line database and Institute

The Scott Case had resulted in the demise of the CAN; it had to file for bankruptcy in June 1996, the Church of Scientology eventually purchasing its name, phone number and post-office box address in the sell-out.[25] The Church of Scientology also owning the CAN web address,[29] Ross started a website with his archives in 1996.[30]

Ross' website, launched under the name Rick A. Ross Institute, displayed material on controversial groups and movements, and their leaders, including the Westboro Baptist Church on which Ross had been collecting data since 1993.[30] Such material, and Ross' opinion about it, was cited in books like Andrew Breitbart's Hollywood, Interrupted,[31] James J.F. Forest's Homeland Security: Protecting America's Targets,[32] and Stuart A. Kallen's Prophecies and Soothsayers.[33] Also reports such as Pre-Incident Indicators of Terrorist Incidents, produced for the US Department of Justice, made use of the Ross Institute database.[34] According to Ann E. Robertson the Institute "is an unusual source of considerable information about rather obscure groups".[35]

The website was re-launched in 2013 as the Cult Education Institute (CEI). A non-profit institution, CEI is a member of the American Library Association and the New Jersey Library Association.[36][37]

There were attempts to hack the website.[30] In April 2004 NXIVM sued unsuccessfully against the Institute in NXIVM Corp. v. Ross Institute, claiming copyright infringement.[38] 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.[39] 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.[39]

Other activities

Ross has lectured at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and University of Arizona,[40] and has testified as an expert witness in court cases.[1][41]

By 2004, Ross had handled more than 350 deprogramming cases in various countries.[1] Out these cases,[1] Ross claims a success-rate of 75%.[42]

Ross has contributed to a number of books, including a foreword to Tim Madigan's See no Evil[43] and a chapter to Roman Espejo's Cults: Opposing Viewpoints.[44] In 2014 Ross published his own book: Cults Inside Out.[28]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Johnstone, Nick (December 12, 2004). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Rick Ross's Biography". 
  3. ^ "Pastor Gil Kaplan". 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. 
  4. ^ Evans, Pete (November–December 2004). "The Door interview with Rick Ross". The Door Magazine. 
  5. ^ Taking Aim: Efforts to convert Jews draw fire from interdenominational group, The Arizona Republic, 1982, by Richard Lessner
  6. ^ Cleveland Jewish News, 29 July 2004. KABBALAH CENTRE hawks 'snake oil for the soul
  7. ^ "Challenging Cults, Cultivating Family", The Greater Phoenix Jewish News, February, 1989, by Elaine DeRosa
  8. ^ "Ross to head religious committee for state corrections department". Greater Phoenix Jewish News. March 12, 1986. 
  9. ^ "Three Nation Umbrella Org. to Aid Jewish Prison Inmates, Families", National "Jewish Press", April 1986
  10. ^ Curriculum Vitae, Rick Ross web site
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ a b Enge, Marilee (March 23, 1989). "Mother fights church group for her son". Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska). 
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ a b c 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. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Baum, Michele Dula, "Dangerous cults focus on leader, Deprogrammer Says", The Chattanooga Times, April 30, 1994
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Report to the Justice and Treasury Departments, Nancy Ammerman, September 3, 1993, with an Addendum dated September 10, 1993
  21. ^ Waco, Federal Law Enforcement, and Scholars of Religion at the Wayback Machine (archived September 1, 2006), Nancy Ammerman, 1993
  22. ^ Chryssides, George D. (1999). Exploring New Religions. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0-8264-5959-5. 
  23. ^ Tony Ortega (November 30, 1995). "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  24. ^ Haines, Thomas W. (September 21, 1995). "'Deprogrammer' Taken To Court -- Bellevue Man Claims Kidnap, Coercion". The Seattle Times. 
  25. ^ a b James R. Lewis Cults: A Reference and Guide: Approaches to New Religions. Routledge, 2014 ISBN 9781317545132 pp. 97–98
  26. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (Dec 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)). 
  27. ^ Tony Ortega for the Phoenix New Times. December 19, 1996. What's $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies?
  28. ^ a b c Ross, Rick (2014). Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out. CreateSpace Publishing. ISBN 978-1497316607. 
  29. ^ Mark L. Goldstein, editor. Handbook of Child Custody. Springer, 2015. ISBN 3319139428 p. 287
  30. ^ a b c Jason Nark for March 12, 2011 Cults are Jersey man's bread and butter
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ James J.F. Forest. Homeland Security: Protecting America's Targets. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006 ISBN 0313054142 p. 280
  33. ^ Stuart A. Kallen. Prophecies and Soothsayers. Capstone, 2011. ISBN 160152322X p. 91
  34. ^ Brent L. Smith. "Appendix C: Case Study Narratives" in Pre-Incident Indicators of Terrorist Incidents: The Identification of Behavioral, Geographic and Temporal Patterns of Preparatory Conduct. DIANE Publishing, 2011. ISBN 1437930611 p. 9/ 43 / 46 / 54 / 70 / 94 / 146 / 217
  35. ^ Ann E. Robertson, with contributions by James O. Ellis. Terrorism and Global Security Global Issues. Infobase Publishing, 2009. ISBN 1438109040 p. 267
  36. ^ "About Us". Cult Education Institute. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  37. ^ "The Ross Institute has officially changed its name". Cult News. 2013-08-02. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  38. ^ Pankaj. E-commerce. APH Publishing, 2005. ISBN 8176488054 pp. 207–208
  39. ^ a b Toutant, Charles Suits Against Anti-Cult Blogger Provide Test for Online Speech, New Jersey Law Journal, January 10, 2006
  40. ^ Hennessy, Molly (July 14, 2001). "MINISTER SUES CULT EXPERT". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  41. ^ Mindy Bond for The Gothamist. July 18, 2005 Rick Ross, Cult Expert
  42. ^ South Florida Sun-Sentinel (20 July 2015). "Palm Beach woman at center of explosive new book, 'The Unbreakable Miss Lovely'". 
  43. ^ 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. 
  44. ^ Ross, Rick Alan (2012). "Ex-Cult Members Can Be Deprogrammed". In Espejo, Roman. Cults: Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Press. pp. 165 ff. ISBN 978-0737739954. 

External links