Cults are all about money, power and politics, and they are killing hundreds of people every year, a Phoenix-based deprogrammer said Sunday.
Rick Ross, speaking to a Scottsdale-based Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, said the 168 who died when a federal building was bombed a year ago in Oklahoma City are victims of cult spin doctors. He said if Timothy McVeigh, who has been charged in the attack, is guilty of the crime, it is a classic example of the "cult mind-set" which turns vulnerable people into puppets of fanatical organizations.
Ross, an expert on the Branch Davidians and a consultant to the U.S. Government during the 1993 Waco, Texas, standoff between the religious group and federal agents, was invited to speak at the Humanist organization's bi-monthly breakfast meeting at the Safari Resort in Scottsdale.
Ross said cults seek out the lonely or depressed, instilling "an unreasonable fear of the outside, demonizing government, establishing a crisis mentality and drawing them into a sense a security within the group."
He said growth of militias, which are political instead of religious-based, is the latest manifestation of the cult phenomenon.
"The Waco Davidians have become the rallying cry," he said. "After Waco, militias became a cottage industry with one conspiracy theory after another."
Ross said cults have developed around charismatic leaders from virtually every philosophical, religious or political ideology. Jointly the cults collect billions of dollars a year from members, and spend millions to stymie government attempts to protect children and other vulnerable people, he said.
Organizations with such widely diverse ideologies as the Church of Scientology, the Freeman of Jordan, Montana, the Aryan Nation and the various religious right organizations, work toward the same goal of keeping cults an "unregulated growth industry," Ross said.
The cult expert, who said he has deprogrammed hundreds of members of cults including four Branch Davidians, is currently embroiled in a court fight with a Washington-based Scientology group over the deprogramming of an 18-year-old. But he said that's just one small skirmish.
"Weekly I get calls about custody battles," Ross said. "We're talking about shattered lives."