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Activist, Former ARCO Speaker Loses Lawsuit

By Barbara E. Martinez

The International Church of Scientology declared "the end of an era of religious terrorism" after winning a recent suit brought against them by Cynthia Kisser, the former director of the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), and a controversial panelist in a recent ARCO forum event on the issue of cults at the Kennedy School of Government.

Kisser sued the Church and its president, Rev. Heber Jentzsch, for libel on the basis of statements contained in an October 1991 issue of Freedom Magazine, a Church of Scientology publication.

The 1991 article alleged that Kisser "has been another long-time advocate of kidnapping and assault conducted under the guise of 'deprogramming'...In 1978, she deprogrammed her own sister, then went on to conduct other assaults."

During the trial, Scientology leaders stood by their published words.

"Our strategy was to document the criminal background of a number of deprogrammers and then connect them to Ms. Kisser," Jentzsch said. "She admitted in depositions that she had gone on to conduct other deprogramming and provided a conduit of evidence for other deprogrammers."

But Kisser objected to the Scientologists' assertions that her activities were improper. "I don't think it proved what the Scientologists were trying to prove," Kisser said. "I have never participated in any type of criminal deprogramming."

At the trial, Kisser's sister testified she had never been deprogrammed by Kisser, according to her attorney John Beal.

But, he said, the Church presented an extensive amount of evidence pointing towards Kisser's support of deprogrammers.

"We didn't effectively enough refute [the evidence presented at trial]," Beal said.

Defining deprogramming as "the determination to change another per- son's religious beliefs," Jentzsch said "the courts foud that we were fully backed up with documentation [of Kisser's deprogramming]."

According to Beal, most of the documentation the Scientologists presented at the trial came from their own publications.

Because Kisser was considered a public figure for the purposes of the trial, she had to prove that the allegedly libelous statements were not only false but also intended with malice, according to Beal. Thus, the court case did not rule on the validity of Freedom Magzine's statements, he said.

"At no point during the trial did they produce one person who said I had been involved in a kidnapping," Kisser said.

Under Kisser's direction, CAN served as a referral point for the relatives and friends of cult members. Jentzsch has alleged that CAN referred callers to deprogrammers and that it funded the activities of criminal deprogrammers. Criminal deprogramming entails kidnapping cult members.

Prior to the April 29 forum on cults, the Church of Scientology sent a letter to the Institute of Politics objecting to Kisser's presence on the panel.

"Her personal opinions are that only, and not reflected in the studies of respected scholars of new religious groups," wrote Nancy O'Meara, corporate treasurer of the new CAN, which is now owned by Scientologists.

"The top scholars around the world, 50 of them of different persuasions, have found unquestionably that it is a religion...that it recognizes the human spirit and a supreme being," Jentzsch said.

To help drug addicts, Scientology uses a technology which combines exercise, mega-vitamins and use of a sauna. The technology has taken over 1 50,000 people off drugs, according to Jentzsch.

But Kisser has persistently denied that Scientology is a religion.

"Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen," said Kisser in Time magazine on May 6, 1991.

Kisser pursued her case to prove that "she did not engage in criminality," according to Beal. He further cited her extensive experience with cult members as a testament to her ability to speak as an expert on the issue of cults.

"The decision was to let me speak. I feel I'm qualified," Kisser said. "I wish there would be more studies on mass movements. The question is what types of information do you bring to this study.

According to Beal, most of the documentation the Scientologists presented at the trial came from their own publications.

Because Kisser was considered a public figure for the purposes of the trial, she had to prove that the allegedly libelous statements were not only false but also intended with malice, according to Beal. Thus, the court case did not rule on the validity of Freedom Magzine's statements, he said.

"At no point during the trial did they produce one person who said I had been involved in a kidnapping," Kisser said.

Under Kisser's direction, CAN served as a referral point for the relatives and friends of cult members. Jentzsch has alleged that CAN referred callers to deprogrammers and that it funded the activities of criminal deprogrammers. Criminal deprogramming entails kidnapping cult members.

Prior to the April 29 forum on cults, the Church of Scientology sent a letter to the Institute of Politics objecting to Kisser's presence on the panel.

"Her personal opinions are that only, and not reflected in the studies of respected scholars of new religious groups," wrote Nancy O'Meara, corporate treasurer of the new CAN, which is now owned by Scientologists.

"The top scholars around the world, 50 of them of different persuasions, have found unquestionably that it is a religion...that it recognizes the human spirit and a supreme being," Jentzsch said.

To help drug addicts, Scientology uses a technology which combines exercise, mega-vitamins and use of a sauna. The technology has taken over 1 50,000 people off drugs, according to Jentzsch.

But Kisser has persistently denied that Scientology is a religion.

"Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen," said Kisser in Time magazine on May 6, 1991.

Kisser pursued her case to prove that "she did not engage in criminality," according to Beal. He further cited her extensive experience with cult members as a testament to her ability to speak as an expert on the issue of cults.

"The decision was to let me speak. I feel I'm qualified," Kisser said. "I wish there would be more studies on mass movements. The question is what types of information do you bring to this study.

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