Cult Awareness Network

From Academic Kids

The Cult Awareness Network (or CAN) was an information service that provided advice for parents (and other concerned relatives) of adult children who joined unpopular new religious movements:

It evolved out of the Citizens' Freedom Foundation which Ted Patrick helped create, and referred hundreds of cases to Rick Ross before being driven out of business in June 1996 by a crippling lawsuit [1] (

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

After a jury awarded $1,000,000 to a young man who was kidnapped after CAN referred his parents to a deprogrammer, the old CAN declared bankruptcy. Its assets, including its name and phone number were sold at auction for $20,000 to a Scientologist.


Opponents of the old CAN charge that it deliberately provided a distorted picture of the groups it tracked. They claimed it was "a Chicago-based national anticult organization claiming to be purely a tax-exempt informational clearinghouse on new religions". [2] (

Opponents of the new CAN say it has become effectively a subsidiary organization of, and a front group for, Scientology, as it exclusively promotes Scientology's point of view regarding cults and deprogrammers.

CAN was founded in the wake of the Jonestown mass suicide, and it collected information on many controversial organizations and religious movements. It also, however, became the subject of considerable controversy regarding the tactics employed by CAN operatives such as Galen Kelly and Donald Moore, both of whom were convicted of kidnapping in the course of carrying out "deprogramming." [3] (

In 1991, Time magazine reported:

According to the Cult Awareness Network, whose 23 chapters monitor more than 200 "mind control" cults, no group prompts more telephone pleas for help than does Scientology. Says Cynthia Kisser, the network's Chicago-based executive director: "Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen. No cult extracts more money from its members.'" (Time, May 6, 1991, "Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power.")

Around this time, the Church of Scientology struck back. In The American Lawyer, an article recounts:

Starting in 1991, CAN was forced to fend off some 50 civil suits filed by Scientologists around the country, many of them asserting carbon copy claims and many pressed by the same law firm, Los Angeles's Bowles & Moxon. Scientologists also filed dozens of discrimination complaints against CAN with state human rights commissions nationwide, requiring the services of still more lawyers. The avalanche of litigation staggered the network. By 1994 CAN, which ran on a budget of about $300,000 a year, had been dumped by its insurers and owed tens of thousands of dollars to attorneys. [4] (

After driving the Cult Awareness Network to bankruptcy, a Scientologist attorney appeared in bankruptcy court and managed to win the bidding for what remained of the organization. The 'Cult Awareness Network' is now one of the hundreds of front companies run by the Church of Scientology.[5] (

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