FEBRUARY 12, 1976

Battle of the Cults Seen in Washington

WASHINGTON (AP) - The battle of the cults has come to Washington.

On one side are some parents who claim their children have been brainwashed by some of the newly organized religious cults.

On the other side are some young people who claim their First Amendment right to worship whom they please.

In separate hotels, the two groups held news conferences to hurl charges and defend themselves, each claiming to be misunderstood.

A group of seven parents, arriving in town late Tuesday afternoon, informally discussed their problem with reporters in a hotel room. They appeared tired, worried and distraught.

The young people took out a full page ad in a local newspaper, rented a fancy reception room, made formal statements behind microphones and served Danish pastry and coffee. About two dozen of them were there.

The parents have formed a group called the Individual Freedom Foundation, which is based in Ardmore, Pa. and are appealing to President Ford, Congress and the Justice Department to have the cults investigated. Twenty-five members of the group marched in front of the White House Wednesday and talked with individual congressmen.

Hundreds of these controversial, new religious cults have sprung up across the country, but the best known and largest are the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Children of God Sect, the Divine Light Mission of the Guru Maharaj Ji, which says it's not a religion but a way of life, and the Hare Krishna movement.

Some critics have called the groups "withdrawal groups," because of their demand for total devotion of converts, many of them in their teens and early 20s. Critics have also accused them of brainwashing converts, and parents have had their children kidnapped from the groups and had them "deprogrammed."

Some of the groups, such as Hare Krishna and the Unification Church, are big businesses, and young, idealistic converts often relinquish their possessions and live in near poverty to hawk flowers, candles and candy for the church.

"We want to bring to the attention of the nation the horrendous problem of mind control and brainwashing by these cults," said Ben Roeshman, president of the newly organized foundation and father of a child who joined one of the cults. "We want to educate the sitting duck victims who get involved."

Roeshman, who said he didn't want to discuss his child's situation, claims the cults often encourage the young people to quit school, get menial jobs to raise money for the group, work long hours and disassociate from the family. Once under the influence of the cults, he said, many young people lose all interest and emotional attachment to anyone but those in the cult.

Roeshman said he has received letters of support from about 200 families across the country. One goal of the group, he said, is to have laws passed to protect the public from the cults' influence. But when pressed on what kinds of laws they had in mind, the parents were vague.

Ted Patrick, a controversial "deprogrammer" whom parents have hired to "kidnap" their children from the cults, said there should be laws against "psychological kidnapping."

One of the mothers, Mrs. Elaine Lieberman. whose 20 year-old son belonged to one of the cults, the Church of Scientology, for five months before he was “deprogrammed" by Patrick, said the group is trying to educate Americans about what she sees as the cults' destructive influence on many people.