The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was founded in the wake of the November 18, 1978 deaths of members of the group Peoples Temple and assassination of Congressman Leo J. Ryan in Jonestown, Guyana. CAN is now owned and operated by associates of the Church of Scientology, an organization that the original founders of CAN strongly opposed. Prior to its hostile takeover, CAN provided information on groups that it considered to be cults, as well as support and referrals to exit counselors and deprogrammers.
From 1978 until 1996 when the Cult Awareness Network was bought out by associates of the Church of Scientology in United States bankruptcy court, CAN and its representatives were highly critical of Scientology, Landmark Education, and other groups and new religious movements that it considered to have potentially harmful tendencies. The Cult Awareness Network referred to some of these groups as "destructive cults." Cynthia Kisser, the then executive director of CAN, was quoted in the controversial 1991 TIME article, "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power". These comments and other forms of criticism from CAN garnered the attention of the Church of Scientology and Landmark Education, and both separately began malicious litigation proceedings against the organization.
CAN was driven into bankruptcy when a court found CAN guilty of having conspired to violate the civil rights and religious liberties of Jason Scott, a Pentecostalist, who had been forcibly kidnapped and subjected to a failed "deprogramming" by Rick Ross, a CAN-referred deprogrammer. The court ordered CAN to pay a judgement of US$1 million. The large award was intended to deter similar conduct in the future; the court noted that the defendants were unable to appreciate the maliciousness of their conduct towards the deprogrammee, and portrayed themselves, throughout the entire process of litigation, as victims of the alleged agenda of the opposing counsel, Church of Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon. Subsequently, the organization was bought out in bankruptcy court by Church of Scientology attorney Steven Hayes in 1996. As a result of a legal settlement with Landmark Education, CAN agreed not to sell copies of Outrageous Betrayal, a book critical of Werner Erhard, for five years after it emerged from bankruptcy proceedings. Following its bankruptcy, the files of the "Old CAN" were made available to scholars for study and transferred to a university library. Since then, academics who published a joint paper with Kendrick Moxon and later others referencing their work have stated that the "Old CAN" covertly continued to make and derive income from referrals to coercive deprogrammers, while publicly distancing itself from the practice.
The "New CAN" organization (also known as the Foundation for Religious Freedom) has caused both confusion and controversy among academics and its opponents. Board members of the "Old CAN" have characterized it as a front group for the Church of Scientology. In December 1997, 60 Minutes profiled the controversy regarding the history of the "Old CAN" and the "New CAN", with host Lesley Stahl noting: "Now, when you call looking for information about a cult, chances are the person you're talking to is a Scientologist." James R. Lewis has described "New CAN" as "a genuine information and networking center on non-traditional religions". Margaret Thaler Singer expressed the opinion that any experts the public would be referred to by the "New CAN" would be cult apologists. Shupe and Darnell noted that the "New CAN" had been able to attract support from donors such as Amazon.com, and that by 2000 it was receiving thousands of phone calls per month and had made hundreds of expert referrals. The "New CAN" promotes itself as a champion of human rights and freedom of religion. An August 2007 article on Fox News on the Wikipedia Scanner noted that "a computer linked to the Church of Scientology's network was used to delete references to links between it and [...] the 'Cult Awareness Network'" on Wikipedia.
- 1 "Old CAN"
- 2 "New CAN"
- 3 Reception
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The CAN predecessor, Citizen's Freedom Foundation ("CFF"), was founded in the wake of the 1978 Jonestown mass murder-suicide, and was run for a time by Patricia Ryan, the daughter of US Congressman Leo J. Ryan (D-Millbrae, California), who died from gunfire while investigating conditions at the Jonestown cult compound in Guyana. CAN evolved out of the CFF, of which Ted Patrick was "the prime force in organizing." The organization was originally headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The "Old CAN" collected information on many controversial organizations and religious movements. Actor Mike Farrell was one of the members of the board of advisors of the "Old CAN", and Dr. Edward Lottick served as president. In 1990, the Cult Awareness Network established the "John Gordon Clark Fund", in honor of psychiatrist John G. Clark, who had given testimony about Scientology and other groups. The fund was established to assist former members of destructive cults. By 1991, the Cult Awareness Network had twenty-three chapters dedicated to monitoring two hundred groups that it referred to as: "mind control cults."
The "Old CAN" also became the subject of controversy. Galen Kelly and Donald Moore, both of whom were convicted in the course of carrying out 'deprogramming', are linked to the "Old CAN" by detractors Anson Shupe, Susan E. Darnell, and Church of Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon. Shupe, Darnell, and Moxon charge that the "Old CAN" deliberately provided a distorted picture of the groups it tracked. They claimed it was "a Chicago-based national anticult organization claiming to be purely a tax-exempt informational clearinghouse on new religions." In 1991, Time magazine quoted then CAN director Cynthia Kisser in its article "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power". Kisser stated: "Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen. No cult extracts more money from its members." This quote has since been referenced verbatim in other secondary sources discussing Scientology.
According to the (Old) Cult Awareness Network's executive director, Landmark Education and the Church of Scientology were the two groups for which CAN received the highest number of inquiries from concerned relatives – twenty-five per month per group. In an interview, CAN's executive director emphasized that the label "cult" with regard to Landmark Education was not important; but rather greater scrutiny of its practices was needed. Specifically, CAN stressed concerning characteristics such as: "... the long hours during which the participant is in the organization's total control, receiving input from only one source, removed from any support system except for the seminar group itself." In 1994, Landmark Education Corporation sued the Cult Awareness Network for USD$40 million, claiming that CAN had labeled Landmark Education as a cult. The case itself involved a dispute over the legality and applicable usage of what Matthews termed "cult indoctrination procedures." CAN later settled and made a statement that it did not consider Landmark Education a cult, as part of the settlement agreement.
During the litigation proceedings between Landmark Education and the Cult Awareness Network, Landmark Education spent months attempting to compel legal journalist Steven Pressman to respond to deposition questions aimed at obtaining the confidential sources he used for research on his book about Werner Erhard, Outrageous Betrayal. Though the deposition questions were brought under the pretext of compelling discovery for use in Landmark Education's lawsuit against CAN, Pressman concluded that the deposition questioning was mainly a form of harassment. The discovery commissioner who entered an interim order in the matter, commented that: "... it does not appear that the information sought [from Mr. Pressman] is directly relevant or goes to the heart of the [CAN] action, or that alternative sources have been exhausted or are inadequate." The action against Pressman was dropped after the Cult Awareness Network litigation was settled. As a result of the Cult Awareness Network settlement with Landmark Education, CAN agreed to cease selling copies of Outrageous Betrayal for at least five years. From the resolution of the CAN board of directors: "In the interests of settling a dispute and in deference to Landmark's preference, however, CAN now agrees not to sell the Pressman Book for at least five years after CAN emerges from bankruptcy." CAN's executive director maintained that the purpose of Landmark Education's lawsuits was not to recover lost funds, but to "gag critics". Along with Scientology, Landmark Education was granted access to Cult Awareness Network's files, which contained phone records and data on individuals who had previously sought information on these groups.
Church of Scientology's response
The Church of Scientology had long characterized the Cult Awareness Network as both an opponent of religious freedom and a "hate group." In 1990, a woman named Jolie Steckart, posing as Laura Terepin, applied to volunteer for the (Old) Cult Awareness Network. Bob Minton later hired a private investigator to look into this, and in 1998 discovered that she was actually a "deep undercover agent", who was managed by David Lee, a private investigator hired by the Church of Scientology. Steckart had also attempted to infiltrate the Scientology-critical organization Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network or "FACTnet".
In 1991, over fifty Scientologists from across the United States filed civil suits against the Cult Awareness Network, many of whom used the same carbon copy claims through influence from the Los Angeles, California law firm Bowles & Moxon. In addition, Scientologists filed dozens of discrimination complaints against CAN, with state human rights commissions in the United States. The Cult Awareness Network, which ran on a budget of USD$ 300,000 per year, was unable to cope with this amount of litigation. By 1994, it had been dropped by all of its insurance companies, and still owed tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Kendrick Moxon, chief attorney for the Church of Scientology, had stated that the lawsuits were brought to address discrimination against individuals who wanted to reform the Cult Awareness Network. These fifty individuals had all simultaneously tried to join the organization. When the Cult Awareness Network's executive director turned down the applications for fear that the new Scientologist applicants would overtake control of CAN, they sued in separate lawsuits claiming religious discrimination. Though Moxon handled the litigation for all of the lawsuits, the Church of Scientology maintained that it did not provide the financial backing for the suits. Moxon did acknowledge that his firm Moxon & Bowles had represented the plaintiffs in the case at virtually no charge, and that Scientology churches "helped a little bit, but very little," with the litigation costs.
Daniel Leipold, the attorney who represented CAN in the suits, believed that the Church of Scientology did indeed have a role in the financial backing of the suits, stating: "for every nickel we spent, they spent at least a dollar." Leipold also stated that when he began to take statements from some of the Scientologist plaintiffs in the process of his defense of CAN, "Several of the plaintiffs said they had not seen or signed the lawsuits, even though the court papers bore their signatures." One Scientologist plaintiff told CAN attorneys that he could not recall how he initially got the contact information of CAN officials, or who had asked him to write to the organization. Another Scientologist later fired his lawyer and asked a judge to dismiss his own case against CAN, saying that Eugene Ingram, a private investigator for the Church of Scientology, had paid him three hundred dollars to have lunch where he agreed to be a plaintiff and signed a blank page for Church of Scientology attorneys. CAN attorney Leipold stated: "Scientology planned, instigated, coordinated and sponsored a plan to subject CAN to multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions in order to overwhelm and eliminate it or take it over and control it." Frank Oliver, who was until 1993 an operative in the Church of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs division (OSA), asserted that his last assignment with the OSA branch was to assist Kendrick Moxon in developing a special unit to target the Cult Awareness Network. Oliver stated that this unit was tasked with recruiting plaintiffs to sue the Cult Awareness Network, with the intention that these lawsuits would put CAN out of business. In 1995, members of the Church of Scientology picketed the home of ex-Scientology staff members Robert Vaughn Young and Stacy Young. A Scientology spokeswoman called it "a peaceful First Amendment demonstration to protest the Youngs' involvement with the Cult Awareness Network". In a 2005 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a Church of Scientology spokesperson stated that the Church was not responsible for the litigation leading to CAN's bankruptcy.
Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige appeared in his first ever interview with the media on the program Nightline on February 14, 1992, and was interviewed by Ted Koppel. Miscavige stated that he believed Scientology did not "lend itself well to the press," and he criticized a piece on Scientology that aired on Nightline shortly before his interview. In his criticism of the piece, Miscavige asserted that Nightline correspondents had only interviewed members of CAN, stating: "For instance, something that isn't mentioned in there is that every single detractor on there is part of a religious hate group called Cult Awareness Network and their sister group called American Family Foundation. Now, I don't know if you've heard of these people, but it's the same as the KKK would be with the blacks. I think if you interviewed a neo-Nazi and asked them to talk about the Jews, you would get a similar result to what you have here." Koppel then posited the notion that others critical of Scientology were less apt to come forward and speak publicly due to fears of potential recrimination from the Church. In 1994, the Cult Awareness Network opened a counter-suit against the Church of Scientology, eleven individual Scientologists and the Los Angeles law firm of Bowles and Moxon.
Jason Scott case
In 1995, CAN, Rick Ross and two of Ross's associates were found guilty of negligence and conspiracy to violate the civil rights and religious liberties of Jason Scott, then a member of the Life Tabernacle Church, a small United Pentecostalist congregation in Bellevue, Washington. A CAN volunteer had referred Ross to Scott's mother, endorsing his ability as a deprogrammer. The mother thereupon retained Ross's services. The 18-year-old Scott was forcibly kidnapped by Ross and his associates, held captive and subjected to a failed deprogramming attempt; in the end, he was able to escape and call the police, who arrested his captors. Ross was ordered to pay more than US$3 million in damages; CAN, having referred Ross to Scott's mother, was ordered to pay a judgement of US$1 million. The court found that CAN volunteers had routinely referred callers to deprogrammers. Addressing the defendants, United States District Judge John C. Coughenour said:
Finally, the court notes each of the defendants' seeming incapability of appreciating the maliciousness of their conduct towards Mr. Scott. Rather, throughout the entire course of this litigation, they have attempted to portray themselves as victims of Mr. Scott's counsel's alleged agenda. Thus, the large award given by the jury against both the CAN and Mr. Ross seems reasonably necessary to enforce the jury's determination on the oppressiveness of the defendants' actions and deter similar conduct in the future.
CAN appealed the decision but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award, two of the three judges finding against CAN, with the third judge dissenting. The full 9th Circuit court then voted against reconsidering the case. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a final appeal by CAN in March 1999.
Ross had been involved in hundreds of interventions with members of various religious groups over a 15-year period. The large damage award, plus a large number of additional civil tort cases brought against CAN by the Church of Scientology, drove the "Old CAN" into bankruptcy in 1996, and its assets, including records, names and phone numbers, ended up in the hands of Scientologists.
Ross went into bankruptcy as well, but emerged in December 1996 when Scott reconciled with his mother and settled with Ross for five-thousand dollars and 200 hours of Ross's services "as an expert consultant and intervention specialist." Scott fired his attorney Kendrick Moxon the next day and retained long-time Church of Scientology opponent Graham Berry as his lawyer instead.
After Scott fired Moxon, Moxon filed emergency motions in two states and alleged Scott had been influenced by supporters of CAN to hire Berry as his lawyer. "He's really been abused by CAN and disgustingly abused by this guy Berry," said Moxon in a statement in The Washington Post. Moxon, who had argued in the case that Ross and associates had hindered a competent adult's freedom to make his own religious decisions, immediately filed court papers seeking to rescind the settlement and appoint a guardian for Scott, whom he called "incapacitated." That effort failed.
Scott stated that he felt he had been manipulated as part of the Church of Scientology's plan to destroy CAN. According to the Chicago Tribune, Scott and his relatives felt Moxon was not paying enough attention to Scott's financial judgment, and was instead focused on a "personal vendetta" against CAN. "Basically, Jason said he was tired of being the poster boy for the Scientologists. My son has never been a member of the Church of Scientology. When he was approached by Moxon, he was lured by his promises of a $1 million settlement, so he went for it," said Scott's mother Katherine Tonkin in a statement to the Chicago Tribune.
Congress record statement on Waco
In a 1996 joint hearing before the United States Congress on the Waco Siege entitled: Activities of Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Toward the Branch Davidians, it was stated into the record that publicists for the New Alliance Party had circulated a report to Congress and the media called "What is the Cult Awareness Network and What Role Did it Play in Waco?" Testimony was also entered into the record stating that: "Their report relied on Linda Thompson, organizations created or funded by the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church" and a "long-time cult apologist".
Demise of the "Old CAN"
The Jason Scott case brought about the demise of the "Old CAN", marking the end of the cult wars, at least in North America. Controversies surrounding new religious movements continued, but the debate thereafter largely moved to other arenas than the courts.
Bought in bankruptcy court
After the litigation had driven the Cult Awareness Network to bankruptcy, Church of Scientology attorney Steven Hayes appeared in bankruptcy court and won the bidding for what remained of the organization for an amount of $20,000: the name, logo, phone number, office equipment, and judgments that the organization had won but not yet collected. Initially, the Scientologists did not gain access to the CAN files, because of the threat of litigation against the bankruptcy trustee; the files were returned to the board. After Jason Scott sold his $1.875 million judgment to Scientologist Gary Beeny for $25,000, this made Beeny, represented by Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon, CAN's largest creditor. The CAN board then settled with Beeny by turning over the files to him instead of the possibility of being individually liable for the judgement.
Individuals who had confided in the "Old CAN" organization expressed anxiety about their confidential files being sold to other groups, but Moxon stated: "People who have committed crimes don't want them to be revealed." According to Shupe, Darnell and Moxon, there is evidence that a number of documents in the files were destroyed by unknown persons at CAN in the early to mid-nineties, during the time when CAN and its directors were embroiled in legal battles. Moxon sought out pledges of money from leaders of new religious movements for the confidential files. Moxon believed only 5 percent of the files related to Scientology, and told The Washington Post he had contacted leaders of other new religious movements because he thought that "there's smoking guns in the files" involving deprogrammers and the "Old CAN". After being turned over to Beeny, the files were donated to the Foundation for Religious Freedom, who made them available to academic researchers and representatives of various new religious movements for inspection and photocopying. Later they were transferred to the Special Collections section of the University of California library in Santa Barbara.
The Foundation for Religious Freedom became the license holder of the CAN name and operates the New CAN today. It is controlled by a multi-faith board of directors chaired by George Robertson, a self-described Baptist minister. It operates a website and a telephone hotline. The Foundation for Religious Freedom predates the "New CAN"; in the 1993 closing agreement between the IRS and the Church of Scientology, it was listed as a Scientology-related entity.
The Jason Scott case in 1995 demonstrated the ongoing involvement of the "Old CAN" in deprogramming referrals. Also, in 1993, deprogrammer Galen Kelly's trial following another botched deprogramming attempt had revealed that the "Old CAN" had, contrary to its stated policy, paid Kelly a monthly stipend during the 1990s.
At the 2000 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Sociologist, Anson Shupe and Susan E. Darnell presented a paper co-authored with Church of Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon, based on their analysis of the files of the "Old CAN", and raising various allegations against the way the "Old CAN" was operated. Shupe, Moxon and Darnell repeated these allegations in a 2004 Baylor University Press publication entitled New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America, edited by Derek Davis and Barry Hankins. They expressed the view that the "Old CAN" could reasonably be described as a criminal organization operating in large part for the profit to certain actors, and that it cultivated a hypocritical and deceptive public persona. They alleged that despite public denials, the "Old CAN" operating policy included routine referrals to coercive deprogrammers, citing, among others, FBI wiretap evidence documenting frequent, casual contact between coercive deprogrammers and Cynthia Kisser, the executive director of the "Old CAN". They further alleged that the "Old CAN" operated as a money laundering scheme, with coercive deprogrammers expected to "kick back" to the "Old CAN" part of the fees they charged families, in the form of direct or indirect donations. Other allegations made by Shupe, Darnell and Moxon included irregularities in finances suggestive of personal enrichment by some "Old CAN" officials, as well as the use of legal and illegal drugs by deprogrammers during deprogrammings, and occurrences of sexual intercourse between deprogrammers and deprogrammees. Shupe and Darnell expanded on these topics in their 2006 book Agents of Discord, referencing their prior work with Kendrick Moxon.
The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements (Oxford University Press, 2004, edited by James R. Lewis) states that the "Old CAN" countered fiscal challenges by soliciting donations for referrals. In a chapter co-authored by David G. Bromley, Anson Shupe and Susan E. Darnell, the Handbook states that exit counsellors or deprogrammers either made donations themselves, or had client families make donations to the "Old CAN", and that these donations made up as much as one-third of "Old CAN" revenues. While the "Old CAN" was set up as a tax-exempt organization serving educational purposes, coercive depogramming referrals remained an integral part of its economy and response pattern, a contradiction that was concealed, but not resolved by the "Old CAN" publicly renouncing deprogramming while covertly engaging in referrals. Ironically, the authors state, the "Old CAN" was finally "undone by the same kind of civil suit strategy it had employed against NRMs [new religious movements], in a case involving the same type of coercive practices it accused cults of employing."
In her book Researching New Religious Movements, Arweck wrote that individuals began to fear that Scientology would "use CAN's name to cause confusion", and these fears solidified with the appearance of "New CAN". Board members of the "Old CAN" said the "New CAN" was nothing but a front group for Scientology. A section of its website relating to the Aum Supreme Truth sect authored by Nick Broadhurst, a New Zealand Scientology Spokesman, stated that the real source of the crimes committed by Aum were drugs and psychiatric treatments the cult administered to its members. Broadhurst thanked the Scientology subsidiary Citizen's Commission on Human Rights for usage of material in his report. Scientology is extremely hostile towards psychiatry. The site does not contain any criticism of Scientology, unlike most other sites which claim to provide anti-cult information (other than those dedicated to other specific groups). In the Scientology publication IMPACT, Nr. 72, Scientologist and CAN VP Jean Hornnes explained: "We have successfully prevented deprogrammings and we have taken broken families and helped to put them back together by using standard LRH technology on handling PTSness." In January 1997, shortly after the formation of the New CAN, brochures mailed out by the organization described Scientology as a way to: "increase happiness and improve conditions for oneself and for others."
Other news sources reported that the (New) Cult Awareness Network was owned by the Church of Scientology. A December 1996 report by CNN had the headline: "Group that once criticized Scientologists now owned by one." One Scientologist was quoted in the report as stating that he believed the New Cult Awareness Network would stand for "religious freedom", however former director Cynthia Kisser was quoted as saying: "People are going to believe they're going to talk to an organization that's going to help and understand them in their time of crisis, and in fact, it could be a pipeline of information directly to the group they're most afraid of." In 1997, an article in The New York Times characterized the New CAN as an affiliate of the Church of Scientology, stating: "now it's in the hands of a Scientologist and proselytizes for the church." The New CAN has been accused of passing the name of a caller, a concerned mother, to the cult she was inquiring about, which resulted in further damaging the relationship with her daughter. Penn writes in False Dawn that the New Cult Awareness Network is "dominated by Scientologists". In describing what he refers to as the "doublespeak" of the (New) Cult Awareness Network, Tuman states that Scientology and CAN utilize the term "religious freedom" as a hallmark of its defense against critics. Tuman wrote that: "What seems to be the case is that the Cult Awareness Network has kept its same name and even its original mission statement, while shifting its concern 180 degrees, from investigating sects to protecting them (from "religious intolerance"). Tuman concluded his piece entitled: "The Strange Case of the Cult Awareness Network", by comparing the Web site of the (New) Cult Awareness Network to the 1956 cult film, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
On December 12, 1996, a usenet posting by 'lah' (later reported by TIME magazine to be the account of one Sister Francis Michael of the Heaven's Gate group) in the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology applauded Scientology for their "courageous action against the Cult Awareness Network," which she accused of "promoting all sort of lies (including) cult activities." This email was also reported on, and the full-text of the email was displayed, in an article entitled: "The business of cults", in 2000. The subject of the email was: "Thanks for Actions Against CAN", and began with the text: "Here's a round of applause to the Church of Scientology for their courageous action against the Cult Awareness Network."
In December 1997, 60 Minutes profiled the new management of the Cult Awareness Network, in a piece hosted by Lesley Stahl, entitled: "CAN: The Cult Awareness Network". 60 Minutes referred to the (Old) Cult Awareness Network as a comprehensive resource, stating it was "for 20 years the nation's best-known resource for information and advice about groups it considered dangerous." The current influence by the Church of Scientology was investigated, and Stahl commented in a voice-over: "Now, when you call looking for information about a cult, chances are the person you're talking to is a Scientologist." The Church of Scientology's Fair Game policy was described by Stahl; examples of the Fair Game policy were given on-camera from individuals such as Stacy Brooks, as well as a private investigator hired by Kendrick Moxon. Moxon and Church president Heber Jentzsch also gave an interview, during which Jentzsch compared CAN to the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi Party. The Time Magazine article "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power" was also cited as a reference in the report. The piece concluded by displaying some of the pamphlets distributed by the (New) Cult Awareness Network, which included one called "Facts about Deprogramming" and another entitled "Fact vs. Fiction: Scientology: the inside story at last." The 60 Minutes segment itself was later cited by secondary works on the history of the Cult Awareness Network. In August 2007, a FOXNews article on the new Wikipedia Scanner reported that "a computer linked to the Church of Scientology's network was used to delete references to links between it and [...] the 'Cult Awareness Network'."
In his 2005 book Cults: A Reference Handbook, James R. Lewis stated that when CAN was bought by the Church of Scientology, most observers expected that the "New CAN" would become merely a propaganda wing for Scientology, but that contrary to expectations it had begun to operate as "a genuine information and networking center on non-traditional religions". According to Lewis, the "New CAN" has built working relationships with scholars and professionals, referring callers to suitable specialists if their own staff are not able to adequately answer queries from the public.
Margaret Thaler Singer, in her 2003 book Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace (Revised and Updated Edition), stated that most of the information offered by the "New CAN" would probably not be the warning or help callers would have received from the "Old CAN" in the early nineties. As far as the "experts" were concerned that people might be referred to by the "New CAN", most of them were what she would call cult apologists.
In their 2006 book Agents of Discord, Anson Shupe and Susan J. Darnell stated that the "New CAN", operated by a mixture of Scientologists and others, actually set out to fulfill the function that the "Old CAN" had claimed to fulfill: that of a bona fide clearinghouse of information about both conventional and unconventional religious groups. Operating an 800-number hotline, they could refer concerned families to volunteer professionals. By the beginning of the century, these included "sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, at least one lawyer-theologian, attorneys, a psychiatrist, ministers and other academics knowledgeable about new religious movements." They added that the "New CAN" succeeded in attracting supporting donations from a variety of sources, including the National Association of Police and Lay Charities, businesses such as Amazon.com, various Christian, Buddhist and other religious associations as well as private individuals. They also reported that, unsurprisingly, the "New CAN" made common cause with a number of groups that at various times had been opposed by the "Old CAN", such as the Unification Church. Kisser's fears that the CAN name would be "acquired and used by a party whose purposes [were] contrary" to those of the "Old CAN" had thus been justified. By 2000, the "New CAN" was receiving several thousand phone calls per month and had made hundreds of expert referrals.
In popular culture
The controversy surrounding the Church of Scientology and the (New) Cult Awareness Network was described in the 2002 play, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train. The character Angel tells Mary Jane that individuals who call the Cult Awareness Network looking for help will end up speaking with a Scientologist on the other end of the phone. The play was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award, in the category: "The BBC Award for Best New Play of 2002."
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