Rick Alan Ross

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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
Website Cult News
The Cult Education Institute

Rick Alan Ross (born 1952) works as a consultant, expert witness, lecturer, and intervention specialist, with a focus on exit counseling and deprogramming of those belonging to cults.[1] He is the founder and executive director of the Cult Education Institute, which is an online database launched in 1996 containing court documents, research papers and press reports about groups and individuals that have attracted cult-related controversy.[2][3] He runs a blog called Cult News[4]

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. 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.

Ross faced criminal charges over a 1991 forcible deprogramming of Jason Scott. Ross was found "not guilty" but a subsequent civil lawsuit filed by Scott against Ross and the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) went to trial, in which Ross and CAN were found liable for violating Scott's civil rights and Scott was awarded $5 million in damages, which led to both CAN and Ross declaring bankruptcy.[1][5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[1][7] He continued working in the car-salvage field until 1982.[7]

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.[1][7][8][9] 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.[1][7] He then began working as a volunteer, lecturer and researcher for a variety of Jewish organizations.[1] He worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix,[10][11] and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations appointed him to two national committees focusing on cults and inter-religious affairs.[12]

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,[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

Consultant, lecturer, and deprogrammer

In 1986 Ross left the staff of the JFCS and BJE to become a full-time private consultant and deprogrammer,[1][7] and worked with the Cult Awareness Network.[16]

He undertook a number of involuntary deprogramming interventions at the requests of parents whose children had joined controversial groups and movements.[1][7] By 2004, Ross had handled more than 350 deprogramming cases in various countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Italy.[1][17] Ross claimed a success-rate of 75%, having worked on more than 500 cases.[18] [19]

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.[20][21] Aaron refused to leave the organization, and saw his mother as "possessed by the devil".[22] 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.[20] 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.[21]


In 1992 and 1993, Ross opposed actions of the Branch Davidian group led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas.[23] Ross had previously deprogrammed a member of the group.[24][25] 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.[26] Television broadcaster CBS hired Ross as an on-scene analyst for their coverage of the Waco siege.[1] Ross also offered unsolicited advice to the FBI during the standoff.[25] A later Department of Justice report on the matter stated that "the FBI did not 'rely' on Ross for advice whatsoever during the standoff."[25] 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.[25] 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".[27][28][29] Other scholars also criticized Ross' involvement.[24][27][30][31][32][33] 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".[34]

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 Cult Awareness Network.[35] Ross was found "not guilty" by the jury at trial.[5]:97-98 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 $5 million in punitive damages .[23] Ross' share of the damages was $3.1 million, which led to him declaring personal bankruptcy.[23] 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.[36]

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.[6] He states that despite refinement of processes over the years, cult intervention work continues to depend on the same basic principles originated through deprogramming.[6]

Cult Education Institute

In 1996 Ross started a website with his archives.[2] Ross has lectured at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and University of Arizona,[37] and has testified as an expert witness in court cases.[1][38] 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!.[7][39]

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.[40] 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.[40]

The website 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.[3][41]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Johnstone, Nick (December 12, 2004). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Jason Nark for philly.com March 12, 2011Cults are Jersey man's bread and butter
  3. ^ a b "About Us". Cult Education Institute. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "Cult News website Cultnews.com". 
  5. ^ a b James R. Lewis Cults: A Reference and Guide: Approaches to New Religions. Routledge, 2014 ISBN 9781317545132
  6. ^ a b c Rick Ross. "Deprogramming". Intervention. Retrieved August 10, 2005. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rick Ross's Biography". 
  8. ^ "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. 
  9. ^ Evans, Pete (November–December 2004). "The Door interview with Rick Ross". The Door Magazine. 
  10. ^ Taking Aim: Efforts to convert Jews draw fire from interdenominational group, The Arizona Republic, 1982, by Richard Lessner, as hosted on culteducation.com
  11. ^ Cleveland Jewish News, 29 July 2004. KABBALAH CENTRE hawks 'snake oil for the soul
  12. ^ "Challenging Cults, Cultivating Family", The Greater Phoenix Jewish News, February, 1989, by Elaine DeRosa, as hosted on culteducation.com
  13. ^ "Ross to head religious committee for state corrections department". Greater Phoenix Jewish News. March 12, 1986. , as hosted on culteducation.com
  14. ^ "Three Nation Umbrella Org. to Aid Jewish Prison Inmates, Families", National "Jewish Press", April 1986, as hosted on culteducation.com
  15. ^ Curriculum Vitae, Rick Ross web site
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ Ross, Rick. "Intervention: Costs". Retrieved November 25, 2008. 
  18. ^ South Florida Sun-Sentinel (20 July 2015). "Palm Beach woman at center of explosive new book, 'The Unbreakable Miss Lovely'". Sun-Sentinel.com. 
  19. ^ Johnstone, Nick (December 12, 2004). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ a b Enge, Marilee (March 23, 1989). "Mother fights church group for her son". Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska). 
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Baum, Michele Dula, "Dangerous cults focus on leader, Deprogrammer Says", The Chattanooga Times, April 30, 1994
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ Report to the Justice and Treasury Departments, Nancy Ammerman, September 3, 1993, with an Addendum dated September 10, 1993
  29. ^ Waco, Federal Law Enforcement, and Scholars of Religion at the Wayback Machine (archived September 1, 2006), Nancy Ammerman, 1993
  30. ^ Chryssides, George D. (1999). Exploring New Religions. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0-8264-5959-5. 
  31. ^ Newport, Kenneth G. C.; Gribben, Crawford (eds.) (2006). Expecting the End. Baylor University Press. pp. 154–171. ISBN 1-932792-38-4. 
  32. ^ 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. 
  33. ^ Michael, George (2003). Confronting Right-wing Extremism and Terrorism. New York, NY/London, UK: Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 0-415-31500-X. 
  34. ^ "Letters to the Editor – What Happened at Waco". The Washington Post. July 23, 1995. Retrieved November 4, 2008. 
  35. ^ Haines, Thomas W. (September 21, 1995). "'Deprogrammer' Taken To Court -- Bellevue Man Claims Kidnap, Coercion". The Seattle Times. 
  36. ^ Tony Ortega for the Phoenix New Times. December 19, 1996. What's $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies?
  37. ^ Hennessy, Molly (July 14, 2001). "MINISTER SUES CULT EXPERT". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  38. ^ Mindy Bond for The Gothamist. July 18, 2005 Rick Ross, Cult Expert
  39. ^ CBS News Staff. December 6, 1999 Leaving Endeavor Academy
  40. ^ a b Toutant, Charles Suits Against Anti-Cult Blogger Provide Test for Online Speech, New Jersey Law Journal, January 10, 2006
  41. ^ "The Ross Institute has officially changed its name". Cult News. 2013-08-02. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 

Further reading

External links