Special Report: Re-programmed

SHAWANO (WFRV) - Researchers say there are about 3,500 "Cults" currently operating in the U.S.

Those are religions or sects with extreme views led by a charismatic leader who then controls every aspect of a members life.

Now the "Religious Research Project" is looking to open a "Cult Recovery Clinic" in Shawano, which has seen it's share of cults, but Meadowhaven-Midwest won't be involved in de-programming.

It'll help those who've left cults "re-program" their lives.

A building near downtown Shawano could have a new purpose by year's end, one that helps people who've entangled their lives in cults restore their lives.

The Meadowhaven-Midwest's founder, Jay Howard says the sooner they can help someone the better.

"People sometimes come out of a cult, they're so beat up," Howard says.

He also continues to say, "They'll leave a cult still believing that the group is right and the cause was right and the leader was right."

Shawano is well experienced with cultic activity. 

For nearly 40 years, a man by the name of Avraham Cohen,  formerly known as Rama Behera and Samanta Roy, led a group first known as the "Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ" and then "Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology" or "SIST". 

The group made its presence felt in community outreach and ownership through several businesses. 

Over time, the group became less about ministry and more about it's leader. 

A former member, Elina Lane explained the beliefs taught to members in a 2009 interview.

"He was a prophet and he could receive word from God and why not have someone who receives direct communication from God who knows your life already. Why not have him direct you?," Lane said.

Jay Howard says such a need to help former members of any cult makes Shawano an ideal location for the planned clinic. 

Meadowhaven is designed for those who've broken away from cults.

Howard says, "We're taking them and trying to help them recover more fully from the cult experience."

Meadownhaven-Midwest won't deconstruct cult experiences through more infamous and ineffective techniques like kidnapping and holding someone against their will.

Former cult members won't be charged for the 10 to 11 month reprogramming services.

It also won't be open to just anyone. 

There will be an application process to ensure the clinic is a good fit with the former cult member.

That member will also be expected to contribute to the clinic and the community. 

"If they want, they can go into the community and get a part-time job," Howard says.

He continued to say, "We're going to expect them to volunteer their services at some point."

That accountability can help people regain what a cult took from them.

"Once a person's personality comes back after they leave the cult, they're going to personally want to reach out to the families and reconnect with their friends and their loved ones," Howard says.

Larger cults, like the unification church, church of bible understanding and others were prevalent in the 1970's and early 1980's.

Those churches since that time have diminished.

According to Jay Howard, cults have not disappeared from the scene, they've only gotten smaller and harder to track.

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Through the years, there have been several cults that have gained notoriety for events that took place or for traumatic events that have involved cults.

In this section, we'll highlight three of the most famous cults in recent years, with links to reports of events that made the cults become more notable.

We want to to advise you, the subject matter in these written and video reports, contain subject matter that some people might find disturbing and/or graphic. 

1. The Branch Davidians

The Branch Davidians were formed by David Koresh. Koresh joined the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists, but was expelled due to his radical views. Among these views were the fact he was a messiah and all women were his spiritual wives. Koresh went on to form the Branch Davidians, who believed the end of the world was near and Koresh spoke the word of God.

They located to Waco, Texas and began to amass an armory of weapons. The combination of arming themselves in their Waco compound and Koresh’s own scandalous practices, brought an unwelcome spotlight on the Branch Davidians. This culminated in a raid in March of 1993 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. A 51-day siege of the compound ensued, complete with tear gas canisters being used in an attempt to make the Branch Davidians leave. The building they were in eventually caught fire and in the end, 77 Branch Davidians died in that fire. Among those were 20 children.

This is a link to a CNN News Report that takes a look at the events from the siege in Waco: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM6Gxn47sHo

2. The Manson Family 

Charles Manson founded a cult called “The Family” in San Francisco in 1967. The Manson Family is one of the cases of a non-religious cult, though Manson’s beliefs at times involved Scientology and other beliefs. Manson believed America would soon have a race war he named “Helter Skelter”, after a Beatles song. Charles Manson and his cult would hide out during the war, emerging afterward to lead the victors.

To help instigate the race war, Manson ordered killings in the nearby area as a frame job. Nine people were murdered, including coffee heiress Abigail Folger and actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of Hollywood director Roman Polanski. The stabbings horrified Americans, so the murders became a national sensation. Charles Manson was convicted and sentenced to death, but California banned the death penalty, so he has spent decades in prison.

This is a link to a CNN report from 2012 when Charles Manson was eligible for parole: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wakREi9MVX0

3. Heaven's Gate 

Heaven’s Gate made the headlines in March of 1997 when 39 members of the cult killed themselves. This was done in the hopes of reaching a spaceship which was following in the wake the newly-discovered Hale-Bopp Comet. The investigations that followed confirmed that Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles were the founders of Heaven’s Gate.

Applewhite claimed to have had a vision and he and his wife started a new group as a way of offering people another option to leave the planet Earth. The entire group committed suicide by taking a dangerous mix of drinks and chemicals. All of them were dressed in similar black attire and tennis shoes. 

This is a link to a CNN report about one of the members of Heaven's Gate finding all of the members of the cult after they committed suicide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzWpfq103q4

 

For more information on the proposed clinic or about the Religious Research Project, contact Jay Howard at:  jay@focusonthefaulty.org


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