The Words of the Baer Family

Deprogramming Testimony

Laurance Baer

When I originally joined the [Unification] Church in June 1974, I had not seen my parents since the summer before. Our relationship had never been really close, largely because I had never felt fulfilled in what I had been doing. Before I joined the church, I was enrolled at Berkeley in Psychology and Physics, but was not motivated in either field. My dad had always hoped that I would follow his example and pursue some academic fields, so he was notably disappointed when I decided to join the Church after completing my spring quarter at Berkeley.

When I became involved with the Church, my life began to develop. Suddenly I could understand a purpose meaningful enough to motivate me. As I felt better about myself, also my feelings towards my parents improved. Through the teachings of Reverend Moon, and through my own soul searching, I came to realize the love they had always shown me, and I felt great gratitude and love in return. However, simultaneously, as I camp to take on more responsibility in the group, I had less and less time to visit. I had to settle for seeing my parents whenever they came to the Bay Area. At this time, my mother who was interested in learning more about our theology, attended a weekend seminar in Booneville. For her it was a very deep and meaningful weekend, and she wrote a letter to Kristina Morrison afterwards which I understand was very complementary. My father however refused to even read any literature. He had read some articles about Reverend Moon and was completely skeptical.

This was the last first-hand experience that either had with the group. For two years after, they read all of the newspaper articles and negative commentaries which were printed against the Church. Soon my father became strongly opposed to the church, and my mother became suspicious of her own experience. In our phone calls, they became more and more demanding that I come home. But in light of the kidnappings which even then were becoming commonplace, I decided not to risk a visit. As time went on, stirred up by much negative publicity, my parents began to research "deprogramming". More and more in our communications my father would make remarks like "you'd better watch out or I might kidnap you." At the time, he insisted that he would never do it, and I believe if he had not been provoked, he wouldn't have. However as a precaution, I wrote a letter to my attorney, Ralph Baker, retaining him in case a conservatorship were taken out against me. [Conservatorship were the means laws aimed at the elderly that anti-cultist used to "legally" seize cult-members for deprogramming until the American Civil Liberty Union got in to stop this practice].

I felt strongly then, and even more strongly now, that the freedom of religion and belief, was he basis for founding this country, and also the single most important factor in making America great. It's so clear to me that it's not only Reverend Moon and his followers who are being persecuted, but actually this has been the course of every great religious leader and thinker of history, from Jesus to Saint Francis to the Pilgrims to Martin Luther King.

Another thing I did at this time, was to visit a psychiatrist, Maye B. Beale, who was connected with the USC clinic in Los Angeles. I explained to her that I was afraid that a conservatorship might be taken out against me on the grounds that I was under mind control. She at first was very suspicious of my motives, but after speaking to my attorney, she assured herself that I had no ulterior motives. She then run me through several tests, and finally concluded that I was perfectly sane, and completely responsible. She actually remarked that I was extraordinarily responsible in that I was managing a whole maintenance company at the time.

I learned later that my parents had already tried to take out a conservatorship before this, but at the time, I was not aware of this. Around New Years time, my family planned a reunion at the home in Green Valley, to which I was invited. I decided to decline both because I was very busy, and also because I feared some funny business. My parents called up and did everything in their power to get me to come home, such as accusing me of not loving them, and also threatening me. My father wrote me a letter, demanding that I fly home, which he concluded "remember, there's more than one way to catch a rabbit." When I finally declined them, they changed suddenly and said they had finally accepted my decision not to leave the Bay area, and that they understood how important my work was. However, they were planning a visit in March to a medical convention for three days, and they expected me to at least come out do dinner. Of course I was skeptical of the sudden turn around, so I didn't respond for a long time. Finally, after speaking to my brother who had called several times, I decided to call them in Arizona, and arrange a meeting. I felt that if I could only meet with them, I could break through some of their concepts about the Church, and we could at least begin to communicate. I told them that I did not want to meet them in a specified place, because they might try to kidnap me. However I would be glad to have a friend pick them up and we could spend the day together at some undecided location. My father replied "I don't know what you're talking about," but that he would go along with it. They arrived Sunday March 13, and on March 14 I came to visit them. I came with a friend, Angelina Vigil, who met with them at their hotel in San Francisco. When I met with my parents, they were so warm and friendly, that I felt guilty of having been so suspicious. I have always loved them deeply, and still do, so that I was completely open to their suggestion as to where we might go. In retrospect, I can't imagine how I could have fallen for such an obvious set up, but at the time, I believed my parents when they told me that their blind, next door neighbor, had asked them to buy some fabric from a certain shop in Sausolito.

When we arrived at the shop in Sausolito, it was closed for some unknown reason. Still because I trusted my parents beyond my better judgement, I wasn't suspicious. As we went back to the car, I was met by a crowd of about 8 or 10 men including several police officers. A man, who later identified himself as Mike Trauscht, my mother's attorney, asked if I was Laurey Baer and told me that I was being placed under "temporary conservatorship." Everything suddenly became painfully obvious to me, and my mother started crying. I tried to run, but there were too many people for me to get away. As I fought, they shoved me into a car, scratching my nose, and knuckles in the process, and losing one of my shoes. The police assisted them completely.

In the car I recognized several ex-Church members, who told me "not to get excited," and that "everything was going to be alright." I was driven to the back parking lot of a building where we were met by another car of deprogrammers and several police cars. Mike Trauscht entered the car and held a document in his hand which he claimed was a Court order placing me under the temporary custody of my parents to "determine whether or not I was under mind control." He said that I was guaranteed among other things, "availability of my parents at all times; access to any non-unification Church material such as books, newspapers, and magazines; right to see a physician dentist, and psychiatrist; and that after 30 days I would have the right to return to the church if I still desire to." Incidently, although the only psychiatrist I have visited declared that I was perfectly normal, my "therapy" was carried on based on the assumption that I was definitely under "mind control." Never once was I taken to a psychiatrist, or tested, to determine if the suspicions of the court were at all valid.

I was driven to an obscure truck depot in Burlingame, where we waited for another car to meet us. I was held in the back seat between two ex-church members (Michel Mack and Bob Stewart), while a "reporter" named Skip drove. Also in the front was Mike Trauscht. The first thing my mother did, was offer me a vitamin pill (when we stopped). Apparently they had told her that I was being undernourished in the Church. When we finally regrouped, we went through a roundabout route to Santa Cruz where we registered in the Holiday in there. All the time in the car they tried to get me to open up and talk about my experience in the Church. They said that they were "sorry it had to come tot his, but that it was the only way for me to hear another point of view."

I said that I would not cooperate at all until I had a written guarantee of what Mike Trauscht had promised me verbally. So that night I went to sleep in the room, with Mitch and Bob Stewart, and Jeff Scales. They slept on a bed which was shoved against the door, to prevent any escape. Michelle Tunis slept in the adjoining room, with Skip and several other men. Before I went to sleep, I was introduced to Joe Alexander Senior, who had come out "specially" for my case. He came on really friendly, telling me how wonderful my parents were, and that although I didn't realize it now, someday I would be very grateful for everything they had done for me. The next morning I woke up, but refused to answer any questions until Mike Trauscht had given me a signed guarantee to the things he had promised. He finally agreed, but afterwards said that the conditions, especially the 30 day limit, were contingent upon my cooperation. I then asked that my parents be allowed to sit in on the session, reminding him that I was to have access to them at all times. But Joe Sr. interrupted saying that they had been under a lot of strain, and they were "out relaxing" but would be back soon. I saw them for perhaps 10 minutes late that evening, and most of the days I never saw them at all.

Michelle demanded that I turn over my wallet and possessions, which they promised I would get back after the 30 days. They then sat me down and started asking me questions like: "Do you think that Reverend Moon is the Messiah?", "In whose name do you pray?" They kept barraging me with questions, and accusations, and then yelling at me that I was lying. Then they would be friendly telling me that they expected me to react since my mind was controlled although I didn't know it.

They promised that as soon as I started to respond, they would take me out skiing and golfing, and even suggested that I should take a trip to Israel with my family to get over my ordeal of the cult (they always referred to the Church as "the cult" and to Reverend Moon as "Moon").

I read all the articles that had been written about the Church and when I said that the things they alleged had not been proven, I was told that it was clear that "Moon is a dirty fascist."

They brought many ex-members who told me about all the terrible things they had done while in the Church, but when I told them that I hadn't done things like that, they said I was the exception. They accused me of running my business dishonestly, and said over and over "where's your integrity?" Also they accused me of not loving my parents. If I responded by acknowledging their accusations, they rewarded me. I got to play Mitche's guitar, and they would all be friendly. And Joe senior would talk about all the wonderful things I would be able to do with my parents. He kept telling me I would be so grateful to my parents when this was over, and that they would bring my parents so much closer to God. And he spent many hours with my parents, apparently reassuring them that this was the right thing to do, and that when it was over I would be so grateful for their love and sacrifice (of 10 to 20 thousand dollars according to Mike Trauscht). This was perhaps what infuriated me more than anything else in the whole experience. The way my parents were blatantly manipulated and used by Joe Alexander Sr., Mike Trauscht, and the deprogrammers. My mother told me later that they were undecided about what to do, but that after talking to Jeff Scales and Eve Eder, they were finally reassured that this was the "proper way to handle it." it's so sad, that my parent's love for me, and their own guilt at what they consider a failure of proper upbringing, could be twisted so much. My father spent perhaps a year's income, or more, because he had been convinced that Joe Alexander Senior and his crew could make me love them on their own term.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, I read all about the alleged mis-activities of the church, as well as many so-called "flaws" in the churches theology. After I heard these "flaws," I felt much more confident that I actually wasn't under mind control, as they were all of a very trivial nature, usually a question of grammar. But when I asked Joe Sr. about a point which the principle seemed to explain in a way much more clearly than any I'd heard, he wasn't even aware of the question. I realized that although he claimed to have read the book "four times," he clearly didn't understand anything about Reverend Moon's teachings. In his words, it was simply "satanic."

Then came much testimony slandering Reverend Moon as a person, alleging illicit sexual practices, which after questioning, they admitted they couldn't prove. Also I heard people who had once highly respected Reverend Moon and his wife, tell stories against them and many other local friends of the church. These stories all contradicted my own longtime personal experience.

Among the people who participated in these sessions were Skip, (the reporter), Mike Trausht (who disappeared after the initial kidnapping), Jeff Scales, Evey Eden, Mitch Mack, Joe Alexander Senior, Joe Alexander Jr., Michelle Tunis, Mark (an ex-church member from somewhere East), Steve Lang, Jerry Feldman, and Bob Steward.

Whenever I refused to agree with them, they got mad and said "face reality, you've been a prostitute for Moon." And when I agreed with them or conceded that it was possible that some things were true, they acted like my long lost buddies. They tried to convince me that people in the church were only appreciated as long as they could provide money.

Around 2 or 2:30 Thursday, I was told to pack my bags. A little after 3, I was taken from the room escorted by policemen. Apparently, some of the church members had found where I was and wanted to test the legality of my confinement.

The police assisted the deprogrammers with escort until we were away from the church members. We drove to Fresno. On the way, in the van, I asked Joe Jr. and Joe Sr. what it meant to have freedom of thought. They told me that they had special psychiatrists who could detect mind control and the they would know. They said that a lot depended on my cooperation. I asked if they thought that by my free will, I could possibly choose to return to the church? Every one of them said "no" it would not be possible for anyone of integrity to freely choose to join the Church after he knew what I was going to learn! So I said I might still want to return after the 30 days. They said, "if I didn't cooperate, they could extend the conservatorship indefinitely." Joe Senior said it would be no problem because "I know the judge." So basically, their definition of "cooperation" meant deciding to leave the Church. They kept telling me about the wonderful things I could do after I had made a "decision about my life."

I finally realized what I was in for. They weren't out to free my mind, they were trying to break my faith in Reverend Moon, and in my theology of God. They had sold my parents on the idea that I was brainwashed because I followed Reverend Moon. Also, the guarantee they had given to me earlier was meaningless, because they were the ones to determine "cooperation" and they defined it as "leaving the Church."

From that moment on I decided not to say another word during any deprogramming until I had a more substantial guarantee. I requested a written guarantee that I be given test on 11 April (the termination of the conservatorship), to determine if I knew that material they were trying to drill into me; and then on the basis of that, I be given a free choice of my own future. They completely refused, saying "I could learn the material without really knowing it." That unless I actually believed that I was being exploited, then I didn't really understand. So from that point on, I was determined to try and get out, or at least to last until someone could find me.

Thursday night they blared at me with really sarcastic dirty stories about Church members - from five in the afternoon on. At midnight I requested to sleep, but when I lay down, they put a loud tape recorder right next to my hear. Whenever I moved they followed. So I pulled the blanked over my head - but they ripped it off. Then they took away my pillow, and said I had to hear the "Truth," and that the "Truth would set me Free.." Whenever I requested that my parents be allowed to witness the process, they said "not while you're in this condition." I saw them about two times during the whole week. When I still tried to sleep in spite of the recorder, Mitch started rubbing his hands on my back and legs and head saying "you can't sleep now." So I got up to avoid being touched. They kept me up till 3:45.

The next day, they came on really nice, but when I refused to talk, they got more sever. Mitch said I couldn't stand, but that I would have to sit and listen. When I tried to stand, he threw me on the bed. I warned him not to use violence, be he didn't seem to hear. I tried to get up a few more times so he finally threw me on the floor and held me in a scissors hold. Then Michelle got an ice bucket of water. She and Mitch both kept talking at me in the same sarcastic slanderous style. Every time I tried to close my eye or turn my head, they poured water in my face. Mitch aimed for my nose, so that several times I choked seriously. Yet they wouldn't let me sit up. I warned him that this wasn't legal, but he said it was legitimate therapy and that he was recognized as a professional because his testimony had been accepted in several states. He said that there were several million dollars worth of lawsuits against him now, and that there would be no problem with another million of so.

Whenever Joe Alexander Senior would come in, the violence would usually stop. He would take Mitch and Joe Jr. (an ex-Vietnam heroin addict) aside and they would argue for awhile, but usually Joe Senior would win out. He was most paranoid about the legal aspects and said he had to stay away from the Courts because they were anxious to find him. I felt that the others were so confident about being able to "deprogram" their victims, that they weren't afraid of any charges ever being pressed.

Friday, all day, they kept playing tapes advocating such things as sex and marijuana. They wouldn't let me read newspapers or the Bible. They said I still didn't understand. I asked to see a physician or psychiatrist, but they said not until I was ready.

Late Friday afternoon, I couldn't take it anymore, so I got up to go the bathroom. Joe Jr. said "sit down!" I tried to stand up several times, but he kept throwing me back onto the bed. So I ran past him into the bathroom and he followed and blocked the doorway. He said "I'm going to make you listen if I have to keep you in this bathroom for 30 days or three years for all I care." I told him he better not break any laws, and he said "I don't care about any laws. I'm backed up by the United States of America, and that's all that matters. And you don't have any rights or guarantees!"

I was determined not to be intimidated so I tried to walk by him. But he was much larger than I, so when I tried to walk by, he threw me against the tower rack and broke it. I tried to leave a second time, and he knocked my head against the wall. When I tried to leave again, he forced me to sit down on the toilet and said "if you were my kid, I wouldn't be so light. I would have taken you up into the hills, and that would have been that!" He was getting really angry, but luckily Joe Senior must have heard the noise, for he ran in and ordered his son to leave me alone. Joe Jr. made some wise cracks like "Aw, we were just having a little fun."

Friday evening, after that, they spent the rest of the night insulting me and making fun of me and the Church. I thought about escaping Friday evening. I realized that the screens weren't very strong and that I could jump right through. But I had gone to sleep without my shoes, and putting them on would have made too much noise. So I slept Friday and determined to face another day and then if possible attempt escape Saturday night. I knew I had to get out soon, because I was getting more and more frustrated, and I felt fearful of what they might do if I let them. I know that since Michelle and Yacov were deprogrammed, they started smoking and speaking filth. They had lost their ideas, and were no longer concerned with the world problems. I could see how Joe Alexander Sr. manipulated all the ex-church members to hate the Church. While I was there, he motivated Steve Lang to go through the study guide and try to find errors in the biblical references. He congratulated him for his effort and told him how good he was doing. I saw Joe Sr. comfort Jerry Feldan who was obviously shaken about meeting church members, since he had been kidnapped and deprogrammed, and tell him how strong he had been to face up to his old acquaintance. I could see how each person of the group, had to join together to validate their decision to leave. They had to make a crusade of kidnapping their old friends. It was probably the only way they could keep from facing their old abandoned ideals.

Saturday morning, every one was really friendly. All of a sudden, Joe Senior wanted me to play the guitar, "except for cult songs." I got to play and even read par paper. They even let me watch TV. Then about two or so, it started all over again. They launched at me with ridicule and more tapes of "successful" deprogramming sessions. When I tried not to listen, they made me sit in a chair while Michelle popped bubble gum bubbles in my face and poked me in the side if she felt I wasn't listening. Joe Jr. suggested that his war buddy, Don (who was also apparently an "expert" therapist although his only credentials were that he had participated in several kidnappings and "deprogrammings") Joe suggested that Don should smoke in the room so that I didn't feel like I was the boss. Also Joe and Mitch both threatened to smoke cigars and blow the smoke in my face, because their "friend, Ted Patrick (recently jailed for related activities) used it and found it very effective. At another point, I thought I detected marijuana odor as Mitch entered the room, although he denied it.

The repeatedly said they didn't care about any laws, and that I didn't have any rights, and that my 30 days didn't begin until I started to cooperate.

Finally Saturday night, I got up and said I was taking a shower. In the bathroom, with the water running, I wrote some notes saying "emergency message, call collect" and giving the Church's number, my name, and the name of the motel I was locked up in. I figured that even if they caught me, I could at least pass on the information to someone else who might call. Then I showered and came back. I laid down on the floor dressed, and pulled a blanket over me. They must have been worn out from the day, because they just played a tape and everyone went to sleep. At about 3:30 I rose quietly and tiptoed to the window. Joe Jr. was on the bed against the door. Mark and Steve were on the bed by the window, and Mitch Mack was on the bed nearer the bathroom. I positioned myself by the screen, prayed, and dove. As I crashed through the screen, I hear someone shout "Laurey," but I didn't stop to look back. I ran out of the street, and to the motel next door. There I managed to give away two notes. I kept running through the motel parking lot, over a fence and into yards and fields, I came to several roads. Every time a car drove by, I dove into the bushes. I knew that I was libel to be arrested as the police cooperated with the conservators. So I made my way along the road, without a penny in my pocket and no ID. I had my pen, (a Parker which my partner had given me an which I had managed to get back from the deprogrammers). I came upon some tracks and jumped a moving freight train for a mile or so, until it stopped. Then I walked along the tracks hiding in the bushes until I came to an all night gas station. I sold my pen to an attendant to get change for phone calls. . .

In retrospect, the thing which most disturbed me, was the deliberate intent of the programmers. They told me that they first planned to get the leaders of the Church, and then eventually everyone. They weren't interested in the freedom of any particular individuals, but rather they were using individuals to "destroy the cult." I know that they have systematically solicited the parents of other members of the Church, to try and manipulate them the same way they manipulated my parents. They told me "after we deprogram you, then through you, we'll get Jeremiah" (referring to one of the directors and a close personal friend). They refused to recognize the right of the church to teach, or the members to practice the religion as they desired. They have infringed on the lives of hundreds of individuals who live in daily fear of being kidnapped. They have taken upon themselves to enter the lives of hundreds of parents who might have otherwise been able to understand their children's heart.

It just hurt and frustrates me that the laws of a nation built on freedom of religion, could be so twisted and distorted as to support the breakdown of individuals' faith and spirit, the exploitation of families, and the destruction of valuable institutions which are the cornerstones of our society.

Signed: Laurance Baer.

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