About the Scientology-backed "Cult Awareness Network"
Note: If you need information about cults, ex-cult support, or related issues, Apologetics Index recommends you contact these legitimate organizations instead of Scientology's deceptively-named ''Cult Awareness Network.''
Introduction CAN's Web Site Can's Misinformation Can's Intolerance Web Forum
Scientology Promotion Is Your Confidential Mail In CAN's Hands? News Database
1998 - Scientology sues and then takes over CAN, a group which helped parents whose children had been entrapped by groups like Scientology. A report by 60 Minutes.
Buyer-beware: The real CAN, a secular anticult organization, has been taken over by a Scientologist, and must be considered under the influence of the Church of Scientology [Documentation]. While claiming to promote tolerance, the new CAN has shown itself to be a hate group. It is now operated by the Foundation for Religious Freedom (FRF), a California corporation doing business as Cult Awareness. The agreement between the Church of Scientology and the IRS, reveals that FRF is a "Scientology-related" entity (VIII 4c). Billing itself as an interfaith organization, FRF is headed by Dr. George Robertson, who also founded "Friends of Freedom," an organization funded by the Church of Scientology [Documentation] Robertson is a baptist minister. He is vice president and chairman of Maryland Bible College & Seminary, which is operated by Greater Grace World Outreach, a church that has been in the news in the past for unethical practices. Another person associated with GGWO, Louis DeMeo, is a vocal opponent of France's anticult- and countercult movements. Scientology minister Nancy O'Meara, administrator for FRF, bills herself as a CAN-volunteer. Whereas the real CAN was an organization that warned people about dangerous cults, the Scientology-backed CAN relies primarily on information provided by cult apologists. It's use of the name "Cult Awareness Network" is, therefore, seen as a farce. Incidentally, the term "interfaith" strictly speaking stands for "involving person of different religious faith." The idea is that while these people may differ in their theological convictions, they nevertheless tolerate and respect each other. Currently, though, some (including many cult apologists) are trying to redefine the term to mean that one must accept religious pluralism - the theory that there are more than one or more than two kinds of ultimate reality and/or truth - and that therefore more than one religion can be said to have the truth (way to God, salvation, etcetera). In this view, questioning or critiquing the beliefs and/or practices of a religious movement is considered akin to "intolerance," "persecution," and "hatred." For obvious reasons, this appears to be the approach favored by the new CAN. Friends and parents of people involved in cults should be aware of these views and take them into account when deciding where to obtain accurate information about cults and alternative religious movements.
Long relatively dormant, the web site of the Scientology-back "Cult Awareness Network" in 1999 underwent a facelift of sorts - a proccess apparently still not finalized. New webmaster David Hinkley also is the webmaster for FRF. He claims to be a Christian, but many Christians would consider his involvement in a cult apologist organization like CAN to be ill-advised at best. Indeed, such involvement shows a marked inability to discern orthodoxy from heresy. His support for a variety of cults and abusive movements, and his ad-hominem attacks on cult experts, speak for themselves. Considering the Church of Scientology's pre-occupation with issues of copyright, it is also interesting to note that the CAN site includes plagiarizes material, including items taken from the Apologetics Index web site. (Documentation available to qualified parties). Hinkley also volunteers his services to www.worship.nu, which, operated by a non-profit organization, provides "free hosting and design services for Christian churches and religious organizations." The site is prominently linked-to on the FRF web site. While www.worship.nu appears to be an indepent organization, it will be interesting to learn whether churches using its services are approached by FRF or CAN (if so, contact the publisher of Apologetics Index).
Misinformation Still In Evidence
Though it has undergone several facelifts, the CAN site is still a somewhat confusing jumble of old, new, and rehashed content. Material appears and disappears in a rather haphazard manner. (The URLs mentioned for various CAN features may or may not work.) The usual level of misinformation foisted by CAN on unsuspecting visitors is still evidenced by these kind of lies:
The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) is the nationís leading referral service for reliable and qualified information on cults.
(Mission Statement - http://www.cultawarenessnetwork.org/statemnt/)
In fact, America's leading referral services for reliable and qualified information on cults are the American Family Foundation (secular), and Watchman Fellowship (Christian). A host of other secular organizations and Christian ministries far exceed the new CAN in professionalism, reliability, qualifications and believability (See Organizations and Sites) These organizations work with - and refer to - numerous qualified professionals. This old newsletter, also still online, further demonstrates CAN's deceitful nature:
The newspaper Cleveland Plain Dealer recently ran an article which said about the new CAN: "... the organization provides callers with information about religious groups and refers callers to the group they are inquiring about for further information or to people who are deemed experts in that area...the new CAN's role is mediation, to get families back together." And a November United Press International wire story said the new CAN is: "...a religious tolerance organization that gives people reliable information and reconciles families through mediation. The vile and hateful attitude is gone."
While CAN makes it look as if the Cleveland Plain Dealer and UPI laud the "new CAN," in reality, they merely ran CAN press releases. The above statements are direct quotes from those CAN press releases.
Again, those looking for help may want take such misreprentations into account when deciding where to obtain accurate information about cults and alternative religious movements.
Intolerance Still In Evidence
Throughout the site, CAN assures us it has a "different philosophy" than the old CAN. However, it's banner cry of "tolerance" is belied by hateful articles masquerading as press releases, as well as the same unbalanced approach we have come to expect from the "new CAN." Even Jeffrey Hadden - one of CAN's "professional referrals" - says this:
The CAN name, logo and other assets were purchased by a member of the Church of Scientology. CAN has been reopened under the guidance of Scientology. The new mission statement purports to, "promote religious tolerance, good will and understanding." Thus far, the content of the page focuses heavily on attacking the old CAN and its allies. This is, at best, confusing to one who is not familiar with the history of the conflict, and almost certainly counter-productive to the stated aims of the new CAN.
Jeffrey Hadden, Anticult and Countercult Movements
Cult experts like Steve Hassan and Margaret Singer are subjected to ad-hominem attacks, as is the publisher of Apologetics Index. (My statement regarding the information disseminated by CAN and CAN's webmaster is here).
Visited primarily by CAN's webmaster, critics of the Church of Scientology, and posters pointing out CAN's connection to the Church of Scientology, CAN's web forum was short-lived. It has been discontinued.
One question often asked on the discontinued CAN's web forum was whether CAN would link to information critical of the Church of Scientology. Not likely. The site contains a five-part overview of 47 "Controversial Groups," written by James R. Lewis. CAN's web master has annotated two of the entries, the one for "Alamo Christian Foundation" (a link to its official web site), and one of two entries for the Church of Scientology (identical articles, listed under "Church of Scientology" and "Scientology, Church of"). [Accessed, Aug. 30, 1999] The latter is followed by You can learn more here... leading to a typical puff piece on the Church of Scientology, presented in a format identical to many other sites promoting Scientology. The article starts out with "This joint report about the Church of Scientology has been written by a scholar of religion and a social worker and scientist." None of the writers is identified, but true to form they "... have found Scientology to be a religion." That, then, is CAN's idea of "cult awareness." Somehow CAN keeps missing the more realistic and truthful evaluations of the Church or Scientology
Is Your Confidential Mail Now in CAN's Hands?
Through what many observers consider a grave miscarriage of justice, Scientology's CAN has now also obtained the confidential files of the real CAN. These files include personal letters sent to the real CAN by individuals who could not have thought that one day their private mail would fall into the hands of an organization like Scientology's CAN. Given Scientology's documented track record of harassment, that is cause for concern.
If you communicated with CAN in any way over the years--if you ever called, sent a letter or a check, or received their newsletter--Scientology may now have your name or other personal information. Judge Thomas Quinn recently ordered that all CAN records be turned over to the Cook County Sheriff for public sale. Instead Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon accepted the records as settlement in full of the near two million dollar Jason Scott Judgment against CAN. (The auction was expected to produce only a small fraction of the Jason Scott judgment since Scientology was expected to be the only major bidder). They now belong to Gerald Beenie, a Scientologist who bought the Jason Scott judgment for $25,000. In over 50 lawsuits all of which but one for near two million dollars were either won by CAN or dismissed, Scientology drove CAN out of business and subsequently into bankruptcy. The CAN service mark and logo were sold to a Scientology attorney for $20,000 several years ago. Scientology also got the phone number. Scientologists now answer the phones "Cult Awareness Network." The records include all confidential correspondence, financial records, and membership and subscriber lists including more than 10,000 names. Any questions may be sent to Edward Lottick, M.D., acting chairman of the board of the (original) Cult Awareness Network and president of the Foundation for Human Rights: 41 Gershom Pl, Kingston, PA 18704; 570-287-1377; firstname.lastname@example.org .
Skeptic magazine, Vol. 7, No. 2 1999
Here's but one indication of what the Scientology front group intends to do with the files:
Since transporting the files to L.A. barely two months ago, the new Scientology-backed CAN has begun the arduous task of organizing and archiving them. It intends to hand over to each of the many groups targeted by the old CAN copies of all the documents that pertain to those groups, says Nancy O'Meara, the new CAN's treasurer and office manager. A 25-year veteran of Scientology, O'Meara sees the old CAN as made up of hate-mongers bent on persecuting any group they didn't like. Citing the old CAN's "reign of terror," she scarcely conceals her glee at the prospect that some of the formerly targeted groups may want to use the newly obtained materials to pursue lawsuits or even criminal prosecutions.
Scientology's Revenge Sep. 9, 1999, New Times LA feature article on Scientology's take-over of the Cult Awareness Network
If you have contacted the real CAN before the take-over, and become aware of any illegal use of the CAN files and your personal information, please let the publisher of Apologetics Index know.
If you are looking for accurate information on cults, sects, and alternative religious movements, Apologetics Index recommends AFF (secular perspective) and Watchman Fellowship (evangelical Christian perspective).
- Articles -
Did Scientology Strike Back? Article from the June '97 issue of American Lawyer on the take-over of the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) by the Scientology Church - which now operates CAN under it's old name and logo.
Group That Once Criticized Scientologists Now Owned By One CNN report. Excerpt:
At one time, the Cult Awareness Network took as many as 16,000 telephone calls a year in an effort to help anxious families worried about sons or daughters involved with unconventional religions.
But last month, after 20 years of operation, the Cult Awareness Network closed its doors, forced into bankruptcy after losing a costly lawsuit to the church of Scientology.
Now the phones are ringing again -- but this time there's a good chance they'll be answered by a Scientologist.
In a bizarre twist of fortune, the organization that was once the most vocal critic of Scientology is now owned by a member of the controversial church.
CNN, December 19, 1996
A Mother's Betrayal by the New CAN As reported on Trancenet.org
Scientology's Revenge Sep. 9, 1999, New Times LA feature article on Scientology's take-over of the Cult Awareness Network (in French)
What's $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies? Stunning settlement frees cult deprogrammer Rick Ross from almost all of $3 million judgment. (...)
''The Church of Scientology has had a long-standing campaign to destroy the Cult Awareness Network. It was in the interests of Mr. Moxon's major client, the Church of Scientology, to destroy CAN totally and to do what has occurred. It was not in Jason Scott's interest at all.'' Scott has not just fired an attorney with ties to Scientology; he has hired an attorney with a history of opposing that church.
- Books -
Note: It should be clear that Apologetics Index does not recommend any materials published by the "new CAN." "Cult " Alert! [No longer listed] This book was initially listed as "Compiled by the board members of the Cult Awareness Network," though the same book in another binding was said to be authored by Nancy Ann French (Nancy O'Meara's maiden name). At one point, it was also listed as "by Stan Koehler," who is a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for Religious Freedom. The listing is currently update to reflect Nancy O'Meara's name as the author, though the same listing says the book is "by Interfaith Board of Directors of the Cult Awareness Network." The musical chairs/multiple authors game is a bit odd, to say the least. Previous descriptions at Amazon.com have included:
About the Author
Nancy Ann French has volunteered on the new Cult Awareness Network hotline for over two years, answering thousands of calls, and helping hundreds of families overcome scarey conditions.
The publisher, "the new Cult Awareness Network" says about the volume compiled by "the board members":
A practical handbook for saving families. Based on over 8,000 calls to the Cult Awareness Network hotline, this booklet advised parents/family/loved ones to 1) CALM DOWN 2) STAY IN COMMUNICATION 3) GET MORE INFORMATION. It follows with many examples of how to do so and how to keep family relationships intact despite deep belief differences.
The version listing Nancy Ann French as the author adds:
We don't know if it happened on the 500th or 5000th call, but somewhere amongst the thousands of phone inquiries to the new Cult Awareness Network (CAN) hotline, it became obvious that a common-sense handbook is needed on how to handle "cult" situations.
Tolerance 101 At 104 pages, this is a different book, published by the Foundation for Religious Freedom. Regarding this book, the publisher states
We don't know if it happened on the 500th or 5000th call, but somewhere amongst the thousands of phone inquiries to the Foundation for Religious Freedom's hotline, it became obvious that a common-sense handbook is needed on how to handle situations regarding minority religious [sic]
and author Nancy "Anne French" is now an FRF volunteer:
Nancy Ann French has volunteered on the Foundation's religious tolerance hotline for over two years, answering thousands of calls, and helping hundreds of families overcome situations involving deep belief differences.
Clearly, Foundation for Religious Freedom did not want this book identified up-front with its "Cult Awareness Network." Incidentally, though this book is listed as "by Interfaith Board of Directors of the Foundation for Religious Freedom." According to Scientologist Cathy Norman, the book was co-authored by Stan Koehler, a Buddhist. Indeed, at one point this book was also listed as authored "by Stan Koehler," while the author blurb again listed "Nancy Ann French."
- News Database - » About this News Archive
(May 18, 1999) Cult awareness conference courts protest, debate
(Apr. 30, 1999) "CAN" Revamps Website
(Aug. 28, 1998) Court denies appeal by anti-cult group (Fallout from Scientology-backed CAN's fight against the real CAN.
(Aug. 27, 1998) Court upholds cult deprogramming ruling
- Sites -
CAN The Scientology-operated CAN.
CAN R.I.P. Mirror of the old, real CAN (Cult Awareness Network) site shortly before CAN was taken over by the Scientology Church.
Note: Download the entire site and set up your own mirror.
In Retrospect: Cult Awareness Network History of the real CAN, including articles, newsgroup postings, and links to mirrors.