Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cult Expert Rick Ross: Real Busy Doing Nothing

It's funny how someone can easily see what so many are easily missing:
CULT LEADERS are the pied-pipers of America, leading the outcast, the despondent, and sometimes the highly intelligent off into the dark, isolated fringes of society.

And then there's Rick Alan Ross, poking around in that darkness with a flashlight.

From his eclectic office in a former cracker factory in Trenton, Ross, 58, runs the Rick A. Ross Institute, a nonprofit Internet archive on "destructive cults" and "controversial groups and movements."

Attorneys, universities and the media often go to Ross for explanations when seemingly benign groups go off the rails, and parents turn to him when their children fall under a cult's spell.

"I've been quite active in China in recent years," said Ross, who launched his Web archive in 1996 and makes a living as a consultant, expert witness and speaker.

Next month, a computer hacker who unleashed a virus on Ross' website and several media websites will be sentenced in federal court in Camden. Ross will soon be traveling back to Arizona to testify in a case involving three people who died in a sweat lodge during a "spiritual warrior" event.

On a recent afternoon, Ross was on the phone with a reporter from an Oklahoma news station, after a member of the General Assembly Church of the First Born was arrested for failing to seek medical attention for her son before he died.

"There have been many children who have died, needlessly, in groups like this because a creator who leads the group demands that every member adhere to their belief system," Ross said.

It's not uncommon for someone with a television to get sucked in by cults and bizarre movements, at least for an hour or two, but Ross has been researching them since 1982, when someone messed with his grandmother. Ross said the Jewish Voice Broadcast, a fundamentalist group, had infiltrated his grandmother's nursing home looking to recruit elderly residents.

"They targeted Jews to convert them to Pentecostalism," he said.

Ross helped expose the group members working at the nursing home, and his life hasn't been the same since.

"It made me realize that there was a problem in my community," he said.
No, there's no problem. Cults? He's imagining things. On television? How everyone but him is missing that is beyond me,...