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Cult Awareness Network (CAN)

Warning!!!: the new CAN has been taken over by scientologists. The new name of the Cult Awareness Network is Foundation for Religious Freedom.

Wikipedia: Cult Awareness Network

The Cult Awareness Network (or CAN) is a cult-related organization now owned by associates of the Church of Scientology. It previously provided information on groups considered to be cults. It also provided support and referrals to so-called deprogrammers.

It evolved out of the Citizens' Freedom Foundation which Ted Patrick was "the prime force in organizing". (New York Times, September 2, 1974).

In 1995, CAN, Rick Ross and two others were found guilty of conspiracy to violate the civil right to freedom of religion of Jason Scott of the Life Tabernacle Church. Ross was ordered to pay more than $3 million in damages; CAN was ordered to pay in excess of $1 million. Ross had been involved in hundreds of interventions with members of various religious groups over a 15-year period. Scott was allegedly violently and brutally kidnapped, and was forcibly confined for five days. The crippling damage award, plus a large number of additional civil cases brought against it by the Church of Scientology drove CAN into bankruptcy in 1996. Its assets, including records, name and phone number were sold at an auction for $20,000 to a Scientologist.

Supporters and detractors alike use the terms old CAN and new CAN to refer to the two periods of the organization's existence.

The Los Angeles New Times (Sep. 1999): "Scientology's Revenge" by Ron Russell

Robertson bristles at the suggestion from Coates and others in the anti-cult movement that he is merely a lackey of the Scientologists. "My issue is freedom of religion," he says. "CAN is totally independent of the Church of Scientology."

Yet the new CAN appears to be run by Scientologists, for Scientology. Its two most visible representatives and those responsible for its day-to-day operation, O'Meara and Bagley, are members of the church. Robertson says the five-member board of directors meets quarterly via a conference call and holds at least one face-to-face meeting each year. But when asked who the board members are besides him and O'Meara, he referred the question to her.

The American Lawyer (Jun. 1997): "Did Scientology Strike Back?"

When the end finally came for the old Cult Awareness Network, it happened fast. Cynthia Kisser, CAN's executive director, struggled to stay calm as she sat in federal bankruptcy court in Chicago late last October waiting for the auction to begin. Kisser, who had spent the past nine years leading CAN's efforts to inform the public about dangerous cults, had hoped that she wouldn't have to pay much for her group's assets that day. Nor did she want much, she claims -- just the chance to put the hopelessly bankrupt CAN out of its misery by buying up its trade name, post office box, help line number, and service mark, so that all could be retired.

There was another suitor in the courtroom, however -- Steven Hayes, a member of the Church of Scientology. And Hayes, a lawyer who had come all the way from Los Angeles to attend the auction, had other plans.

The bidding started at $10,000. Kisser offered $11,000, Hayes raised her by $1,000. The two quickly inched up to $15,000. Kisser kept going, to $17,000, then $19,000. But when Hayes upped the bidding by another $1,000, Kisser finally balked. "No more," she told Philip Martino, the bankruptcy trustee overseeing the sale. From there, it was all paperwork. "I will accept the offer of Mr. Hayes for $20,000," Martino announced dryly. "We will document this with a court order tomorrow."

The Washington Post (Dec. 1996): "Anti-Cult Group Dismembered As Former Foes Buy Its Assets" by Laurie Goodstein

For 20 years, the Cult Awareness Network ran the nation's best-known hot line for parents who grew distraught when an unconventional religious group they neither trusted nor understood suddenly won the allegiance of their children.

From its offices here in a Chicago suburb, the network (known as CAN) answered more than 350 telephone inquiries a week, counseled relatives at conferences attended by thousands, and gave news interviews to everyone from small-town daily newspapers to "Nightline."

As CAN's influence rose, so did the ire of its foes, who were furious at being depicted as dangerous cults.

In particular, Church of Scientology members fought CAN with a barrage of lawsuits. One high-stakes suit, handled by a lawyer who has frequently represented the church, succeeded, and a jury ordered CAN to pay as much as $1.8 million. The group filed for bankruptcy.

Now CAN's assets are up for sale, and last week its name, logo, Post Office box and telephone number were finally sold to the highest bidder: a Los Angeles lawyer named Steven L. Hayes, who is a Scientologist. Hayes says he is working with a group of people "united in their distaste for CAN" who plan to reopen the group so it "disseminates the truth about all religions." [...]

The Washington Post (Dec. 1996): "Plaintiff Shifts Stance on Anti-Cult Group"

The young man whose lawsuit has pushed the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy has done an about-face and is no longer moving toward putting the group out of business.

He has abruptly dismissed his lawyer, a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, the anti-cult group's nemesis, and hired an attorney who has battled the church in the past.

The sudden shift by Jason Scott, 24, has raised the possibility that the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) will be able to emerge from bankruptcy and resume its work. The group is a once-influential clearinghouse that for two decades counseled families and others to beware of new and unconventional religions.

The gradual dismemberment of CAN in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, reported earlier this month by The Washington Post, has shaken some nonprofit organizations whose work involves taking controversial stands against powerful interests that they fear can afford to sue them into silence.

CAN declared bankruptcy after Scott won a $1.8 million lawsuit against the group. His previous attorney, Kendrick Moxon, often represents the Church of Scientology. By contrast, Scott's new lawyer, Graham Berry, has assisted CAN members in the past. Berry says he will seek a cash settlement that would allow CAN to keep its files and return to its original mission. [...]

    60 Minutes (Dec. 1997): "The Cult Awareness Network"
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 and Jentzsch sitting together

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.

Mark Blocksom walking down sidewalk

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.