Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 7, 2004
Cults manipulate, destroy lives
June conference focuses on how children are conned
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Beware of cults for they can ruin your life as well as the lives of those you love. That warning comes from Betty McCoy, who lost her son to a cult 30 years ago and she still can't recover him.
McCoy, a mother of five and member of St. John the Evangelist Parish, is director of ESAMA, the Edmonton Society Against Mind Abuse. In 1985 she helped establish the group to warn others about the pervasive influence of cults.
Now the group, in conjunction with the American Family Foundation, is co-sponsoring an international conference on Understanding Cults and other Charismatic Groups.
The Violation of Innocence: How Cults Abuse Children is the theme of the June 11-12 conference at the University of Alberta Conference Centre.
The event will feature presenters and attendees from Europe, Australia, Mexico, the United States and Canada.
The slate of 45 speakers includes ex-cult member Carol Giambalvo, a renowned American author, lecturer and consultant on cult-related topics; Lorna Goldberg, an American therapist in private practice, who has led a support group for ex-cult members with her husband William, and Gordon Drever, a sociology tutor at Athabasca University who has been researching fringe religious and political movements since 1980.
Presentations include Polygamy's Impact on Children with Mike Kropvel, Children in the Unification Church with Donna Collins and others, Update on Spanish Research on Cultic Studies with cult experts Jose Carrobles and Carmen Almendros.
There will also be pre-conference workshops on June 10 for former cult members, mental health professionals and family members of cultists.
The purpose of the conference is to educate and inform the public on the destructive influence of cults in society and on the family, McCoy said.
She described a cult as a highly manipulative group that exploits its members and can cause psychological, financial and physical harm. Cults usually target young students and the elderly, essentially people who are lonely and craving attention.
"They are after power and money," she said, noting that cults dictate, in an absolute manner, the behaviour, thoughts and emotions of their followers.
McCoy said cults generally conceal their real nature and goals from prospective members by adopting deceptive behaviour in order to attract new recruits. Sometimes they post a simple poster saying, "Come to a Feast" and give an address. Those who attend are virtually "talked" into submission, their questions never answered. "They speak until you forget your questions (about the group) or until they wear you down."
"Some people don't even realize they are in a cult because these groups are streamlining their operations in order not to look cult-like. They try to use a more business-like approach to (attract new recruits)."
Some cults recruit professionals such as medical doctors to gain credibility. Others use manipulation techniques to transform new recruits into loyal, obedient and subservient members. Many new recruits end up abandoning their homes.
In Alberta there are anywhere from 200 to 300 cults, including marketing groups, political groups, religious societies and hate groups, according to McCoy. Membership into these groups varies from two to several hundred.
For more information on ESAMA and the upcoming mind abuse conference call Betty McCoy at (780) 452-1830 or visit the organization's website at www.ecn.ab.ca/esama.