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In the past Anton Hein, founder and - together with his wife and brother - co-publisher of Apologetics Index, has referred people to Rick Ross, and has also defended him against online attacks by his critics. I, Anton, was informed by the same approach my wife and I currently use. That is:
We are Christians and we operate from a mainstream Christian point of view. At the same time, we support freedom of religion in thought and expression. We both strongly believe that people who need help should be helped regardless of who or what they are, what their lifestyle is, what they believe, what they can or can not afford, and whether or not they would be open for the message of the Christian Gospel. While we let people know up-front who and what we are, we also let them know that our help comes with absolutely no strings attached.
This is one reason why we feel comfortable recommending organizations, ministries and individuals involved in cult intervention, education and counseling from a variety of backgrounds, including - but not limited to - secular, Christian and Jewish. (See also our guidelines for selecting a counselor/cult expert)
That said, while Apologetics Index did, until the summer of 2003, include countless links to cut-and-paste news items posted at Rick Ross' web site, our published list of recommended organizations, ministries and individuals has never included Rick Ross -- and never will.
We wish to make it clear that we, the publishers of Apologetics Index, do not endorse Rick Ross nor refer people to him. We are not alone in this standpoint, nor in our criticism of his approach or behavior. For instance, Slam The Door! - a place for survivors of Christian Fellowship Ministries - on its links page included the following comments:
Here is Rick Ross's lists of articles on CFM. We do not endorse Rick Ross nor do we approve of his tactics towards many legitimate Christian churches and groups.- Source: Slam The Door
That said, our reasons for not endorsing Rick Ross are as follows:
For a variety of reasons, many cult experts refuse to work with - or to refer people to - Rick Ross. Much of that has to do with Ross' behavior toward those experts whom he disagrees with - as well as his attempts at getting others involved in those disagreements.
For example, Ross' attacks on cult expert Steve Hassan are a matter of public record. For instance, apparently setting himself up as the standard by which all others must be measured, Ross (self-taught) has attacked Hassan -- a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) with a Masters degree in counseling psychology from Cambridge College -- regarding the latter's fees for counseling/interventions.
Tellingly, the International Cultic Studies Association (formerly known as AFF) - the largest interdisciplinary network of professional cult experts - will not refer people to Rick Ross. In turn, Ross criticizes the ICSA for its academic approach to certain cult-related issues (which includes a level of dialogue with not just cult experts and ex-members, but also with people known as cult apologists as well as with some of the groups many consider to be cults. ICSA's approach - and our opinion of it - is described here).
When we ourselves, aware of Ross' problems with various experts, repeatedly refused to be drawn into Rick's fights with Hassan and the ICSA - as he attempted to do in an email exchange during the Summer of 2003 - his behavior toward us became increasingly unprofessional.
What began as his question as to why we did not include the 'Rick A. Ross Institute' in our list of recommended counselors/cult experts, turned into manipulative demands for answers to his questions regarding people and organizations we do list, as well as insulting comments.
(Incidentally Janet is a respected, Licensed Mental Health Counselor. In her professional capacity she works with a national organization that provides shelter, counseling and other practical help to abused women. Bullying and other manipulative behavior - whether in person or by email - does not escape her attention.)
In our responses to Rick Ross, we have consistently let him know that we refuse to be drawn into his fights with others. As a direct result, we ourselves became targets of his attacks, which include his misrepresentations of the email exchange and of our views, as well as his insinuations regarding our website.
On his website, he misrepresents this email exchange, claiming that we said his series of questions somehow represented a "fight against cult experts."
Ross did not stop there. Like Scientologists and some cult-friendly critics before him, Ross has now stooped to ad hominem attacks - choosing to make use of a legal problem I, Anton, had when I lived in the USA. For reasons that have been publicly posted on the Apologetics Index web site since Spring, 2000, I plea-bargained to charges stemming from an incident that occured in the context of a tragic family situation.
[Note: the information I posted is not intended to blame anyone other than myself. I made foolish decisions in this case, and have only myself to blame. I posted the information because it allowed me an opportunity to provide the context of the story.
Yes, I made some very bad judgment calls. No, I would not make such mistakes and errors of judgment again. Yes, I have learned much from my experiences.
But Rick Ross chooses to lie about this situation and my response to it.
In addition: Janet and I are in relationships of mutual accountability with other Christians, who are aware of the legal problems I faced in the USA. Too, while Janet counsels children in her professsional capacity as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I do not at all work with children. Furthermore, due to my experiences in the USA, I make it a point never to be alone with children.]
Rick Ross has been aware of this information since the time it was posted. Yet he has chosen to wait more than 6 years to attack me on it - only after Janet and I a) refused to get involved in his fights with others, b) refused to give in to his manipulative behavior, and c) removed all links to Ross' web site.
While Ross argues that his own criminal record - "mistakes I made as a young man of 21 and 22" - has no bearing on his current work, he attacks me for one incident that resulted in me plea-bargaining for the reasons I have described.
Incidentally, Ross claims that I do not like to discuss my past. Yet I have discussed 'my past' with hundreds, if not thousands of people. But I certainly do not intent to 'discuss my past' with Rick Ross.
What concerns Janet and me is that - whether by incompetence, malice, or a combination thereof - Ross weaves a story out of partial quotes, half-truths, insinuations and glaring omissions which will be evident even to those who do not readily accept my own account.
In the process Ross plays prosecutor, judge and jury, highlighting those things he wants to play up and ignoring whatever does not fit into the picture he is trying to paint. It makes for great drama, but it raises some obvious questions. For instance: Is this a pattern? What does he hope to achieve? Is Apologetics Index a threat to the entrepreneurial side of his business? Why now?
Too, as a result of our experiences with Rick Ross, Janet and I find ourselves wondering: if he does these kind of things to us, who else is he subjecting to that kind of behavior?
We cannot trust this man, and we are not surprised that so many cult experts do not wish to have anything to with him.
Update: In what we are told are instances of 'stalking,' Rick Ross continues to malign us regarding this issue in various online venues. His posts on the matter are rife with insinuations, assumptions and inaccuracies -- not to mention omissions. Indeed, we do view his behavior toward us as cyber-stalking and harassment.
As an aside: some of the news articles posted on Rick Ross' site appear to have been copied from Religion News Blog, which is published by Apologetics Index. We have some identifying measures in place.
Similarly, while he takes every opportunity to denounce us, we have documented the fact that Ross uses Religion News Blog's Twitter stream -- edited by David Anderson -- as a source for his own efforts on Twitter.
He clicks on links posted by @religionnews over the course of the day, but instead of retweeting them (a Twitter convention he does know about -- and uses) he simply simply posts them to one of his websites, which apparently automatically publishes them to his Twitter account. Leeching, regardless of how it is published, is a violation of Twitter's rules.
We believe his behavior, aside from being unethical (to say the least), to be a form of stalking -- one more reason why we encourage people in need of a cult expert to carefully consider their options.
No one in need of a cult expert should have to put up with a bully and/or have to rely on someone who - for whichever reason -- merely copies other people's work. Plagiarism is unethical.
Passing off other people's work as one's own is also self-destructive, as it rightly causes other people to question everything else the plagiarist presents.
Fortunately, those looking for a 'cult education,' have plenty of alternatives, such as the respected International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) -- a genuine network of qualified cult experts, most of whom produce valuable resources rather than merely sponge off the work of others.
Another reason we do not endorse Rick Alan Ross is as follows: while he has stated that no religious, political or personal agenda motivates the opening of a file on a given person or group he appears to focus much of his attention on
Mr. Ross has also decided to concentrate on Bible based or Christian oriented groups as a major area of focus in his public relations campaign, although his own orientation and background is Jewish, having worked for and served Jewish agencies in his previous professional commitments. - David Clark Responds to Rick Ross and "The Missionary Threat" Booklet
In the experience of the publishers of Apologetics Index, dealing with Bible-based cults requires spiritual discernment - including a working knowledge of orthodox, mainstream Christian theology and the various departures thereof. Otherwise, one can only properly deal with the sociological aspects of cultic involvement, while igoring or botching the spiritual aspects. The latter is indeed illustrated by Ross' own tract, "The Missionary Threat" - a rabid, grossly unbalanced piece of misinformation.
When one reads “THE MISSIONARY THREAT” one may be deeply troubled by the adversarial, inflammatory and polarizing language chosen by the author. It denigrates Christian missionary organizations without proper distinctions being made between destructive mind control organizations and mainstream evangelical ministries. This definitive categorical problem is similar to that of understanding the distinction between deprogramming and that of exit counseling. Serious lines have been crossed. The ethical assistance of those who are truly deceived and abused in destructive groups on one hand does not justify inflammatory bigotry on the other. Mixed messages challenge the credibility of what one is advancing. What is the ultimate agenda behind this kind of rhetoric?- Source: David Clark responds to Rick Ross and The Missionary Threat booklet
Given the specialized knowledge and spiritual discernment necessary to deal with cults of Christianity, the publishers of Apologetics Index - themselves evangelical Christians - recommend contacting Christian cult experts instead.
For the record: we have no issue with Rick Ross' religious background, nor with his defense of his belief system against challenges from outsiders. We do have an issue with both his approach and behavior.
Christians and non-Christians alike will find good alternatives in our list of recommended our list of recommended counseling and cult expert organizations, ministries and individuals.
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