Ex-cult Members Address Meeting of Anti-cult Foundation

St. Petersburg Times/ October 4, 1981

Parents whose children have joined extremist cults should maintain positive communication with them and avoid adopting an "us-versus-them" attitude towards the cults, an ex-cult member advised Saturday.

Being overly critical might increase the children's involvement instead of influencing them to leave the cults, Steve Hassan asserted.

Hassan, a former member of the Unification Church headed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, spoke during the second day of the national conference of Citizens Freedom Foundation. The group is dedicated to exposing what it calls "destructive cults" such as the Unification Church and the Clearwater-based Church of Scientology.

Ex-cult members and parents whose children have joined such cults have come to Tampa this weekend to learn more about their common experiences. On Saturday morning, they heard a panel discussion by four former cult members.

Kathy Hansen, formerly a member of the Children of God, urged parents and ex-cult members to acknowledge that not everything that goes on in cults is bad. Not acknowledging this amounts to "selective perception" and harms the psychological recovery of ex-cult members, Ms. Hansen asserted.

The panel discussion was followed by a luncheon address by Pinellas County Commissioner Gabriel Cazares. Cazares, previously mayor of Clearwater, has battled Scientology ever since the church moved to Clearwater in October 1975.

Cazares said that with Scientology in Clearwater, the Divine Light Mission in Miami, and other groups expanding in Florida that the state is "rapidly becoming the cult capital of the world."

Cazares added that there is "no greater threat to America and to its institutions and freedoms" that cults, whose member included an estimated 3-million Americans.

"Unless America wakes up," Cazares claimed, the situation could become so serious that a cult leader could take power in the same way Adolf Hitler did in Germany during the 1930s.

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