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Rick Alan Ross
Born November 24, 1952 (1952-11-24) (age 68)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Occupation Founder and Executive Director,
Rick A. Ross Institute
Cult News
The Rick A. Ross Institute

Rick Alan Ross (born 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio, United States as Ricky Alan Ross) works as a consultant, lecturer and intervention specialist, with an interest in exit counseling and deprogramming people from cults. He runs a blog at,[1] and in 2003 founded the Rick A. Ross Institute, which maintains a database about controversial groups that contains press articles, court documents, and essays.[2] He has worked as an expert court witness and as an analyst for the media in cases relating to such groups.[3]

Early life

Paul and Ethel Ross adopted Rick Ross in 1953 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Ross family moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1956, where Ross grew up and attended school,[4] completing high school in 1971. He then worked for a finance company and for a bank.[3][4] In 1974 a court convicted Ross for the attempted burglary of a vacant model home and sentenced him to probation.[3] The following year he was sentenced to five years' probation for his involvement in a jewelry embezzlement scheme at a retail store in Arizona.[3][5] Ross later said "I had been in trouble as a young man, and I turned my life around ... I never again in my life made another mistake like that."[5] In 1983 the Maricopa County Superior Court vacated both judgments of guilt in the absence of any opposition, dismissed the charges and restored Ross's civil rights.[6] In 1975, Ross began work for a cousin's car-salvage business, eventually becoming company vice-president.[3][4] He continued working in this field until 1982.[4]

Early career

Ross says he first became concerned about controversial religious groups in 1982. Jewish Voice Broadcast, a missionary group founded by an Assembly of God minister named Louis Kaplan,[7] specifically targeted Jews for conversion to Pentecostalism. The group infiltrated the Jewish nursing home where Ross's grandmother lived.[3][4][8] After bringing the matter to the attention of the director and of the local Jewish community, Ross successfully campaigned to have the group's activities stopped.[3][4] He then began working as a volunteer, lecturer and researcher for a variety of Jewish organizations.[3] He worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix,[9][10] and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) appointed him to two national committees focusing on cults and inter-religious affairs.[11] During the 1980s Ross represented the Jewish community on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Later the Committee elected him as its chairman,[12] and he served as chairman of the International Coalition of Jewish Prisoners Programs sponsored by B'nai Brith in Washington D.C. Ross's work within the prison system covered inmate religious rights and educational efforts regarding hate groups.[13] Ross also worked as a member of the professional staff of the Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS) and the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) in Phoenix, Arizona.[14]

Consultant, lecturer, and deprogrammer

In 1986 Ross left the staff of the JFCS and BJE to become a full-time private consultant and deprogrammer.[3][4] As part of his work he undertook a number of involuntary deprogramming interventions at the request of parents whose children had joined controversial groups and movements.[3][4] As of 2004, Ross had handled more than 350 deprogramming cases in various countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Italy, with a typical cost of around $5,000 per case (in 2008 dollars).[3][15] Ross claims a success-rate of 75 per cent. Nick Johnstone credits him with having "rescued many people from harmful situations".[16]

In 1989 the CBS television program 48 Hours covered Ross's deprogramming of a 14-year-old boy, Aaron Paron, a member of the Potter's House organization.[17][18] Seeing his mother as "possessed by the devil", Aaron refused to leave the organization.[19] Most of the hour-long program focused upon Ross's efforts to persuade Paron to see the Potter's House as "a destructive Bible-based group" bent on taking control of its members' lives.[17] The case resulted in the parties entering a stipulation that Potter's House would not harbor Aaron, entice him away from his mother, attempt to influence his behavior or take any action that would interfere with his mother's parental rights.[18]

In 1992 and 1993, Ross opposed actions of the Branch Davidian group led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas.[20] Ross had previously deprogrammed a member of the group.[21][22] Ross became the only "deprogrammer" to work with Branch Davidian members prior to a siege involving the death of many of the group's members at Waco.[23] Television broadcaster CBS hired Ross as an on-scene analyst for their coverage of the Waco siege.[3] Ross also offered unsolicited advice to the FBI during the standoff.[22] A later Department of Justice Report on the matter stated that "the FBI did not 'rely' on Ross for advice whatsoever during the standoff."[22] According to the report, the FBI "politely declined his unsolicited offers of assistance throughout the standoff" and treated the information Ross supplied as it would any other unsolicited information received from the public.[22] Criticism of government agencies' involvement with Ross has come from Nancy Ammerman, who cited FBI interview notes stating that "Ross 'has a personal hatred for all religious cults'" and criticized the BATF and the FBI for relying on Ross and not treating him as a "questionable source of information."[24][25][26] Other scholars also criticized Ross' involvement.[21][24][27][28][29][30] Ross characterized his critics on the matter as cult apologists who held the belief that cult groups "should not be held accountable for their action like others within our society".[31]

In 1995 Ross filed for personal bankruptcy following a substantial damages award against him in a civil trial for actions associated with an attempt to deprogram Jason Scott, an 18-year-old member of a United Pentecostal Church in Bellevue, Washington.[32][33][34] Two men seized Scott;[35] he then experienced handcuffing, duct tape placed over his mouth, and confinement in a seaside cottage for five days. The deprogramming personnel restrained him and told him his release depended on the completion of the deprogramming.[33][36][37][38][39][40] A January 1994 jury trial for unlawful imprisonment resulted in acquittal for Ross.[38][41][42][43] A subsequent civil suit resulted in a judgment awarding Scott US$5 million in compensatory and punitive damages from a number of defendants, of which $3 million were from Ross.[20][44] In 1996 plaintiff Scott became reconciled with his mother and dismissed his Scientologist lawyer, Kendrick Moxon;[40] he then settled with Ross, accepting $5,000 plus 200 hours of Ross's professional services.[32][40]

Rick A. Ross Institute

As a result of the legal risks involved Ross stopped advocating coercive deprogramming or involuntary interventions for adults, preferring instead voluntary exit counseling without the use of force or restraint.[45] He states that despite refinement of processes over the years, exit counseling and deprogramming continue to depend on the same principles.[45] Stuart A. Wright has referred to Ross as one of the most important "hardline anticultists".[46]

In 1996 Ross started a website titled "The Ross Institute Internet Archives for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements".[47] Ross has lectured at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and University of Arizona,[48] and has testified as an expert witness in court cases.[3] According to the biography page on his website he has worked as a paid consultant for television networks CBS, CBC and Nippon, and Miramax/Disney retained him as a technical consultant to one of the actors involved in making Jane Campion's film Holy Smoke!.[4]

In 2001 Ross moved to New Jersey and two years later founded the Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults and Controversial Groups and Movements, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) public charity located in New Jersey, USA. The Advisory Board of the RRI includes Ford Greene, a California attorney specializing in cult-related litigation, as well as Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, co-authors of the books Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change and Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America's Freedoms in Religion, Politics and Our Private Lives. Psychologist Margaret Singer also served as a board member of the Institute until her death in 2003.

In June 2004 Landmark Education filed a US$1 million lawsuit against the Institute, claiming that the Institute's online archives damaged Landmark Education's product.[49] In December 2005, Landmark Education filed to dismiss its own lawsuit with prejudice, purportedly on the grounds of a material change in case law after the publication of an opinion in another case, Donato v. Moldow, regarding the Communications Decency Act of 1996.[49]

The Ross Institute also became involved in a lawsuit with NXIVM Corporation, which offers an exclusive and costly executive training seminar entitled "Executive Success Program".[50] NXIVM sued Ross and others for copyright infringement and other claims following the Institute's website's publication of reports by psychologist Paul Martin and psychiatrist John Hochman quoting sections of a course manual from NXIVM.[50][51][52] The reports also contained statements which, NXIVM alleged, misled readers into thinking of the Executive Success program as a "cult".[50] A court denied a motion for preliminary injunctive relief by NXIVM on the ground that the quotations constituted fair use.[50] In 2004 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the ruling on appeal and the United States Supreme Court refused to review the case.[53] NXIVM then filed an amended complaint, parts of which the court dismissed; litigation continued as of 2008.[50]

Articles and publications


  1. Cult News website
  2. "Information Archives". Archived from the original on 2013-01-05. Retrieved 2009-04-16. "The Rick A. Ross Institute has assembled one of the largest archives of information about controversial groups, some called 'cults,' and related information on the Internet. This archive contains thousands of press articles, court documents, and essays."
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Johnstone, Nick (2004-12-12). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Rick Ross's Biography
  5. 5.0 5.1 Willis, Stacy J. Arrival of cult specialist in Las Vegas stirs debate, Las Vegas Sun, 24 August 2001
  6. Maricopa County, Superior Court ruling
  7. "Pastor Gil Kaplan". Builders of Unity Ministries International. Retrieved 2008-11-15. "After the Kaplan’s moved to Arizona in 1953, Louis Kaplan founded and directed what became an international Messianic television and radio ministry known as the Jewish Voice Broadcast, which later became known as Jewish Voice Ministries International which continues to air in many countries today."
  8. Evans, Pete (November/December 2004). "The Door interview with Rick Ross". The Door Magazine.
  9. Taking Aim: Efforts to convert Jews draw fire from interdenominational group, The Arizona Republic, 1982, by Richard Lessner, as hosted on
  10. Cleveland Jewish News, 29 July 2004. KABBALAH CENTRE hawks 'snake oil for the soul
  11. "Challenging Cults, Cultivating Family", The Greater Phoenix Jewish News, February, 1989, by Elaine DeRosa, as hosted on
  12. "Ross to head religious committee for state corrections department". Greater Phoenix Jewish News. March 12, 1986., as hosted on
  13. "Three Nation Umbrella Org. to Aid Jewish Prison Inmates, Families", National "Jewish Press", April 1986, as hosted on
  14. Curriculum Vitae, Rick Ross web site
  15. Ross, Rick. "Intervention: Costs". Retrieved 2008-11-25.
  16. Johnstone, Nick (2004-12-12). "Beyond Belief". The Observer (London). Retrieved 2008-10-24. "[...] taking into account his claimed 75 per cent success rate for interventions (he has worked on more than 350 cases, at a typical cost of $5,000, everywhere from the US to the UK, Israel to Italy), he has rescued many people from harmful situations [...]"
  17. 17.0 17.1 Goodman, Walter (1989-06-01). "Review/Television; Trying to Pry a Youth Away From a Cult". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Enge, Marilee (1989-03-23). "Mother fights church group for her son". Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska). Archived from the original on 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
  19. CBS News - New York, CBS News' 48 Hours Takes Viewers Inside the Deprogramming of a 14-year Old Boy May 18 on CBS, April 1989
  20. 20.0 20.1 Ortega, Tony (1995-11-30). "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans. Clients of deprogrammer Rick Ross call him a savior. Perhaps that's why people he's branded cult leaders want to crucify him.". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2006-04-27.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Tabor, James D.; Gallagher, Eugene V. (1997). Why Waco?. University of California Press. pp. 93–96, 138–139, 233. ISBN 0520208994.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 US Department of Justice, Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas: Part IV, The Role of Experts During the Standoff, 28 February to 19 April 1993. Available online
  23. Baum, Michele Dula, "Dangerous cults focus on leader, Deprogrammer Says", The Chattanooga Times, April 30, 1994
  24. 24.0 24.1 Wright, Stuart A. (ed.) (1995). Armageddon in Waco. University of Chicago Press. pp. 98–100, pp. 286–290. ISBN 0226908453.
  25. Report to the Justice and Treasury Departments, Nancy Ammerman, September 3, 1993, with an Addendum dated September 10, 1993
  26. Waco, Federal Law Enforcement, and Scholars of Religion, Nancy Ammerman, 1993
  27. Chryssides, George D. (1999). Exploring New Religions. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0826459595.
  28. Newport, Kenneth G. C.; Gribben, Crawford (eds.) (2006). Expecting the End. Baylor University Press. pp. 154–171. ISBN 1932792384.
  29. Wessinger, Catherine Lowman (2000). How the Millennium Comes Violently. New York, NY/London, UK: Seven Bridges Press. pp. 1, 60, 69, 98. ISBN 1889119245.
  30. Michael, George (2003). Confronting Right-wing Extremism and Terrorism. New York, NY/London, UK: Routledge. pp. 148. ISBN 041531500X.
  31. "Letters to the Editor - What Happened at Waco". The Washington Post. 1995-07-23. Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Goodstein, Laurie (1996-12-23). "New Twist In Anti-Cult Saga: Foe Is Now Ally -- Bellevue Man Who Put Group Into Bankruptcy Fires Scientology Lawyer". Washington Post. Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Shupe, Anson; Darnell, Susan E. (2006). Agents of Discord. New Brunswick (U.S.A.), London (U.K.): Transaction Publishers. pp. 180–184. ISBN 0-7658-0323-2.. Shupe and Darnell give an account "based closely on court documents and testimonies, including Scott's own under-oath account of his deprogramming experience."Template:Citequote Shupe and Darnell cite the court documents to which they refer on page 194.
  34. Knapp, Dan (1996-12-19). "Group that once criticized Scientologists now owned by one". CNN.
  35. Narinsky, Judy (November 1, 1995 work = Willamette Week). "Q & A Brainwashed: Rick Ross talks about deprogramming members of religious cults". Portland, Oregon. Archived from the original on 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2009-01-19. "The two men hired by [Scott's] mother seized him outside her house. He was restrained after becoming violent. He was handcuffed but never struck. After he bit one of them, they taped his mouth, and both the handcuffs and tape were removed after he was put in the van to go to the hotel where we held the deprogramming. Jason was not free to leave for five days, but at the end he told us he was going to leave the cult, and when we went out for dinner, he 'escaped' - as he called it - instead of going to the bathroom. At that point, he was free to go at any time."
  36. Cockburn, Alexander (1996-08-26). "Vindication II: That Fool Adolph.". The Nation (The Nation Company L.P.) 263 (6): 8.
  37. Bromley, David G. (2003). The Politics of Religious Apostasy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0275955087.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Haines, Thomas W.. "'Deprogrammer' Taken To Court -- Bellevue Man Claims Kidnap, Coercion". Seattle Times date = 1995-09-21. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Ortega, Tony (1996-12-19). "What's $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies?". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  41. "Deprogrammers Plead Not Guilty To Holding A Bellevue Teenager 5 Days, Against His Will". Associated Press. Seattle Times. 1993-08-17. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
  42. "Eastside Journal – Glad It's Over". Seattle Times. 1994-01-21. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
  43. ""Cult Buster" Acquitted In Abduction". Seattle Times. 1994-01-19. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
  44. "Scott vs. Ross, Workman, Simpson, Cult Awareness Network: Verdict form (page 3)". CESNUR. Retrieved 16 October 2008.
  45. 45.0 45.1 Rick Ross. "Deprogramming". Intervention. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2005.
  46. Wright, Stuart A. 1997. Media Coverage of Unconventional Religion: Any "Good News" for Minority Faiths? Review of Religious Research 39, no. 2:101-115, p. 102.
  47. Home page of website
  48. "Minister Sues Cult Expert", Palm Beach Post, Jul 14, 2001
  49. 49.0 49.1 Toutant, Charles Suits Against Anti-Cult Blogger Provide Test for Online Speech, New Jersey Law Journal, January 10, 2006
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 50.3 50.4 "NXIVM Corp. v. Ross". Citizen Media Law Project. 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  51. Hochman, John M.D. (February 2003). "A Forensic Psychiatrist Evaluates ESP". Archived from the original on 2003-08-10. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  52. Martin, Paul (2003-02-12). "A Critical Analysis of the Executive Success Programs Inc.". Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  53. NXIVM Corp. v. Ross Institute, 364 F.3d 471 (2nd Cir. 2004)

Further reading

External links


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