"60 Minutes", Sunday 28 December 1997
CAN, the Cult Awareness Network
Descriptions of video in [brackets]. VO = Voiceover of Lesley Stahl.
LESLEY STAHL (in studio): There was a time if you were worried about your son or daughter being in a cult, you could get help from a small, non-profit organization called the Cult Awareness Network, or CAN, for 20 years the nation's best-known resource for information and advice about groups it considered dangerous. Among them was Scientology, a church not known for turning the other cheek. But church officials say Scientology is just another tax-exempt religion that helps millions of people worldwide, including actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise. And while Scientology did attack its enemies in the past, church officials say they don't do that anymore. But recently, the Cult Awareness Network was forced into bankruptcy, and its leaders blame the Church of Scientology.
VO: Today, CAN is under new management.
RECEPTIONIST (answering phone): Hello, Cult Awareness Network.
VO: Now, when you call looking for information about a cult, chances are the person you're talking to is a Scientologist.
VO: Ashley's one; so is Bob. Everyone we met in the office was a Scientologist. Last year, a member of the church bought CAN's name, logo, and hotline number in bankruptcy court for $20,000.
STACY YOUNG: This is a dream come true for Scientology.
VO: Stacy Young would know. She was a member of the church for 15 years, including its elite Sea Organization. She also worked in the Office of Special Affairs, and was managing editor of its "Freedom" magazine.
VO: She left in 1989, and has been a paid consultant in lawsuits against Scientology.
YOUNG: the Cult Awareness Network was the only organization in the country where parents could call and say, you know, "I've lost my child into this cult. What do I do?"
VO: she says Scientology sets out to destroy anyone who criticizes it.
YOUNG: Someone who speaks publicly against scientology is targeted for a campaign of harassment, character assassination, financial ruin. There's a policy that says, specifically, "If possible, ruin them utterly."
[HCOPL of December 1965, "Fair Game" Law-the words "THE FAIR GAME LAW", "Fair game" and "destroyed" highlighted]
VO: She is talking about a church directive-- this one-- the "Fair Game" law, that says a person or group that publicly criticizes the church is "fair game," and can be "destroyed." Stacy Young and others do not believe the church when it says it no longer harasses its enemies.
STAHL (in front of Scientology building, by sign saying "Can you increase confidence and self respect?"): Now, the church says, Scientology, originally known as Dianetics, is a benevolent religion, with anti-drug programs and literacy projects that helps its followers increase their confidence.
[camera backs up to show rest of the sign-on top of the sign is a picture of the "Dianetics" book]
STAHL: A central doctrine goes like this: 75 million years ago, a tyrant named Xenu transported people from outer space to Earth, dropped them in volcanoes, then exploded hydrogen bombs on them. That experience is the root of all human misery today.
VO: Scientology offers to help people overcome that misery, charging as much as $50,000 in a year.
VO: It's one of the reasons why "Time" magazine calls Scientology "The cult of greed."
VO: One of "Time's" principal sources was Cynthia Kisser, who was CAN's executive director.
STAHL: You said, "Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious, and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen." Whoa, that was very powerful. Do you stand by that?
KISSER: oh, more than ever, more than ever. ii mean, everything they've done since then just proves that quote.
VO: Cynthia Kisser says a Fair Game attack on CAN started in the 1980's, and Stacy Young says she was part of it.
YOUNG: Some of the staff who were assigned to the Cult Awareness Network would brief us about...
STAHL: You mean there were people specifically assigned?
YOUNG: Oh, yes, that was their whole job. that was all they did.
STAHL: Was CAN?
YOUNG: Was CAN, that's right. And so, our whole orientation was, well, what have you done this week to get rid of CAN, and how, how well have you done to discredit the leaders of CAN? How much progress have you made on disrupting this group?
[footage of Scieno picketers with signs saying "CAN is a hate group", "No more hate, no more riots", "Stop hate mongering in Los Angeles, don't support CAN", "CAN kidnappers get out of LA", Stop Religious Hate Crimes, Stop Ku Klux CAN".]
VO: To do it, she says the church used picketers at CAN's conventions, and waged smear campaigns.
VO: Attorney Kendrick Moxon does most of the church's legal work, and he is a devout Scientologist.
STAHL: We are told, Mr. Moxon, that a small army of private investigators was hired by your law firm to go out and dig up dirt on members of CAN-Cynthia Kisser specifically-and anything else they could find. Is that true?
MOXON: No, it's not true.
STAHL: Now, a lot of lawyers hire private eyes to dig up dirt on people. I mean, now, we were even hearing...
MOXON: I don't know. I know... I've heard that people do that, and I know that the media does that, but I don't know that a lot of lawyers do that. I don't do that.
VO: He acknowledges using private detectives, but not for the purpose of digging up dirt.
VO: But former private eye Michael Shomers says Moxon's law firm hired him to do just that.
SHOMERS: Find the sleaze-to find the hidden alcoholism, to find the hidden drug abuse, if that was the case.
STAHL: The sex life?
SHOMERS: The sex lives.
STAHL: Bad debts?
[Scientology org in Washington D.C.,
handwritten notes about Cynthia Kisser and other CAN members-
some excerpts include "loose cannon?" "rude, crude-alcoholic?".
"Cynthia Kisser" are highlighted.]
VO: He says he got his marching orders during a meeting right in the Scientology Church in Washington, D.C. He says a staffer briefed him on CAN, and jotted down notes that Shomers kept. He says he was told to investigate CAN and its purported allies: I.R.S. officials, and Congressman Henry Waxman of California. And he was told to dig up enough dirt on Cynthia Kisser to destroy her reputation and intimidate her into silence.
[another highlighted part of notes: "Topless dancer at Blue Note (15 years)]
STAHL: It says "Topless dancer at the Blue Note in Tucson, Arizona. Cynthia Kisser."
SHOMERS: That's correct.
STAHL: So, did you investigate that?
SHOMERS: Yes, I did.
STAHL: Was she a topless dancer?
STAHL: Did you tell the Church of Scientology--
SHOMERS: Yes, I did--
STAHL: ...That these were...these allegations were not true?
SHOMERS: That's correct.
MOXON: I don't know if she's a topless dancer or not.
STAHL: Did you tell our producer that you didn't believe that was true?
MOXON: I told your producer that I thought, looking at Cynthia Kisser, it seemed improbable that she could have been a topless dancer because of the way she looks.
VO: Yet despite his own view and the evidence from investigator Shomers, Moxon, also a minister in the church, persisted in bringing it up.
MOXON: I mean, that... we got a declaration already indicating that she had been a topless dancer.
STAHL: I can't believe you are continuing to talk about her being a topless dancer.
MOXON: Why? That was one of the allegations.
STAHL: But you've even said you don't even think she was one. That's character assassination.
MOXON: I don't--Lesley, there's a declaration from a woman swearing that she was a topless dancer.
STAHL: Were you a topless dancer?
KISSER: No. And later, the person that they claimed told them that retracted it, issued a retraction, saying that it wasn't true.
[pictures of "Freedom" magazine,
anti-CAN Scieno literature]
VO: Kisser says Scientology also used its publications to label CAN a criminal outfit, and then contacted police and members of Congress with specific charges. President of the Church of Scientology, Reverend Heber Jentzsch, repeated the accusations to us.
JENTZSCH: kidnapping people, holding them against their will, beating up on people, pistol whipping, safe houses where they hold people against their will, rape of their victims, that sort of thing.
STAHL (in office): Jentzsch accuses CAN of kidnapping people out of cults and then trying to deprogram them. Defenders of the practice call them "rescues," which are perfectly legal when they involve youngsters under 18. But Scientology says CAN was involved in illegal deprogramming of adults, and they sent us reams of documents they say are examples, including the sworn declaration of a former deprogrammer named Mark Blocksom.
MOXON: I've got it right here.
MOXON: Mark Blocksom said he was involved in a number of...of kidnappings. He said he was involved in one with Cynthia Kisser, where he actually worked for CAN. He got... he got many referrals from CAN. He said most of his referrals were from CAN.
VO: So we tracked down Mark Blocksom and asked him about it.
STAHL: How would you describe that sworn declaration of yours?
BLOCKSOM: It's embellished, to say the least. It's not-it's not true.
STAHL: You lied.
BLOCKSOM: Yes, I did.
STAHL: Why did you lie?
BLOCKSOM: I saw it as a means to maybe get... support my habit.
[Blocksom walking down sidewalk]
VO: He says he was a drug addict when he signed that declaration five years ago after he was approached by one of Moxon's private detectives. Blocksom maintains there was an implied promise of money, which never materialized, if he could implicate CAN and Kisser in illegal deprogramming. Clean and sober now, Blocksom wants to set the record straight.
BLOCKSOM: Well, I spoke with Kendrick Moxon not long ago.
STAHL: Did you tell you had lied?
BLOCKSOM: Yes, and it irritates me that they persist in using this statement as a propaganda tool to support their position about Cult Awareness Network.
STAHL (in office): But the church accuses CAN of coercing Blocksom's change of testimony. For its part, CAN says that while it did permit deprogrammers to attend its conventions, it was never involved in illegal deprogramming, and in fact, CAN was never charged with a crime
VO: Even Michael Shomers, the church's own investigator, couldn't find any evidence of one.
STAHL: Did you ever find that they were deprogramming people, or involved in that?
SHOMERS: Never heard anybody at any meeting at any time.
STAHL: Ever mention deprogramming.
STAHL: So when you sent your reports in into the Church of Scientology, were they disappointed with you?
SHOMERS: Yes, they were. They just keep on going. There had to be something. They knew that there just had to be something, but there simply wasn't anything.
picture of bunch of letters sent by Scienos to CAN,
including "Model Letter" with "(to be put in own words)" hand written on top]
VO: Cynthia Kisser says the church's final assault on CAN began when hundreds of Scientologists from around the country wrote virtually identical letters asking to become members of CAN. Included among them was this model letter with instruction "to be put in your own words." Fearing, she says, the church was out to take control of CAN, Kisser denied their applications to join.
[document titled "Scientology-related cases CAN and members have faced" with the lists of plaintiffs, defendants, and jurisdictions]
VO: CAN was then hit with a barrage of lawsuits by individual Scientologists, claiming religious discrimination.
KISSER: I got hit with 12 suits in one week. I would open the door, a process server would give me a suit. They were suing us all over the country, sometimes simultaneously.
VO: In all, CAN was hit with more than 50 lawsuits. Even though most of the suits were eventually dropped or won by CAN, she says the cost of defending them, nearly $2 million, drove CAN to the brink of bankruptcy.
STAHL: Would you concede, Reverend Jentzsch, that at least part of the motivation for the lawsuits was to get CAN, was to silence them?
JENTZSCH: I would say that the individuals who were involved definitely wanted to do something about CAN. What are you going to do when they're trying to destroy you? Look, if you're a Jew-
STAHL: You're saying nothing-
JENTZSCH: If you're... if you're... if you're a Jew, no... no Jew is going to cry about the fact that the Nazi Party is gone. If you're an African-American, no one is going to cry that the KKK is gone. I am not crying because CAN is gone, OK? They were a vicious group-
STAHL: That's not my question-
JENTZSCH: They tried to destroy us.
STAHL: My question is, would you concede that at least part of what happened with those lawsuits was a deliberate attempt to harass and intimidate them into silence?
JENTZSCH: No, absolutely not.
STAHL: Well, you're not going to make us believe that there were these 30 or 50 lawsuits that's... all sprang up, you know, just serendipitously. There must have-
MOXON: They didn't spring up serendipitously. A number of Scientologists came to our firm and said, "I'm being discriminated against by CAN." We have these complaints-
STAHL: Well, wait--
MOXON: In the computer.
STAHL: Who was telling them to try to join?
MOXON: Nope! Oh, who was telling them to try to join CAN in the first place?
MOXON: I don't know. It was a kind of a grass-roots movement of Scientologists that wanted to go to CAN and dialogue with them.
YOUNG: 50 people all across the country suddenly all decided in unison, "We need to sue CAN." I don't think so. This is not the way it works.
[picture of Stacy Young]
VO: Stacy Young says she sat in on staff meetings where the litigation campaign against CAN was discussed.
YOUNG: Once they put CAN in their sights with regard to litigation, it was only a matter of time before they were gonna find a case that they could use to put them out of business.
VO: That case came in the person of Jason Scott, an 18-yr-old member not of Scientology, but of a fringe Pentecostal church in Bellevue, Washington. One of CAN's volunteers referred Jason's mother to a deprogrammer, who kidnapped Jason.
[Lesley Stahl and Jason Scott walking down sidewalk]
VO: CAN was never charged in the case, and the deprogrammer who was, was acquitted. Jason says a lawyer in Moxon's firm then recom mended that he file a civil suit.
SCOTT: He's like, "This thing is worth millions. Let's get 'em."
STAHL: Did they specifically say that you should sue CAN?
SCOTT: Mm-hmm. Oh, yes. That was, that was the kicker, is CAN. "We've got to get CAN involved."
STAHL (in office): So Jason sued. Kendrick Moxon was his lawyer. And despite CAN's insistence that it had nothing to do with illegal deprogramming, the jury disagreed, so did the judge, and the $1.8 million CAN was ordered to pay Jason forced it into bankruptcy.
[article with headline "Washington man awarded judgement against CAN, other defendants", CAN newsletter with headline "Cult Awareness Network files Chapter Seven Bankruptcy/ceases daily operations"]
RECEPTIONIST (answering phone): Hello, Cult Awareness Network.
VO: And that's why, when you visit CAN's new headquarters in Hollywood, you can find out about all the good things the Church is doing.
[new CAN pamphlets: "Facts about deprogramming: A stain on our heritage of religious tolerance", "A novel approach: How to bring family and friends back together", and "Fact vs. Fiction: Scientology: the inside story at last"]
STAHL (in studio): Since Stacy Young began speaking out, she believes the church has waged a "fair game" attack against her, including what she calls attempts to sabotage her business, a small non-profit animal sanctuary in Seattle. The Church denies it. We, on the other hand, deny the Church's accusation that we have a conflict of interest in this story because producer Richard Bonin has an aunt who's a lawyer involved in litigation against the Church. Though that's true, our producer's Aunt Lita had nothing to do with our story.