Longtime cult tracker following new path

The Denver Post/April 21, 2011

Fort Collins - After 35 years of tracking cults and hate groups, counseling victims of mind control, and monitoring end-of-the-world prophecies on the Internet, Hal Mansfield has had enough.

"I've seen people who hang around this kind of thing too long, and I did not want to turn into some sort of jabbering nut job," said Mansfield, 56. "When you deal with the dirty underside of life, you want to come out in the sunshine and do something different."

From a narrow basement crammed with books written about and by race-baiting and cult groups, Mansfield has helped police, communities and parents shine a light on destructive movements as director of the Rocky Mountain Resource Center.

He's received accolades from several civic organizations and worked with the International Cultic Studies Association and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

They credit Mansfield for doggedly policing neo-Nazis, Aryan brotherhoods and ugly religious offshoots for more than three decades.

"We're definitely going to miss him; he's an invaluable resource," said Caroline Tu Farley of the Fort Collins Not In Our Town Alliance.

But Mansfield is handing off control of the nonprofit he started in 1981 to Lisa Monroney, herself a cult survivor.

Mansfield, a former military intelligence officer, became intrigued by cults in the late 1970s when as a community liaison working for Colorado State University, he encountered a member of the Unification Church.

"He was selling candy, and all the cops were saying 'Ah, he's in a cult,' " Mansfield said. "I had no idea what they were talking about."

He began researching and found that little had been written about the motivation behind someone joining a cult. About the same time, the mass suicide of the Jim Jones cult at Jonestown, Guyana, occurred, and Mansfield knew he had a new life to pursue.

"What little I could find, it only dealt with the criminal behavior of a cult follower or leader, and there was nothing else about the motivation," said Mansfield.

He began compiling information and settled into the United Campus Ministry in Fort Collins. He quickly learned that there are plenty of odd groups and organizations out there, but few are dangerous.

"Heck, you could say a chess club is a cult, and we are all weird in some respects," said Mansfield. "So, I really don't care about personal beliefs; I care mostly about how someone acts. After all, you can't put out an APB on the devil."

The groups that are menacing closely resemble a violent relationship, Mansfield said. There is usually underage sex, unusual control and threats of violence against members, he said.

Monroney said she encountered that type of life when she became a member of a fundamentalist, Bible- based cult when she was 21. She said she was sexually abused and deprived of sleep to keep her under the group's thumb.

Mansfield got her in touch with a counselor, and Monroney is now teaching about cults at several local colleges.

"I really want to build on what Hal has done here," Monroney said. "He's really done a remarkable job."

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