The Words of the Boothby Family

White Paper Report And Call To Action To
    Uphold The Right Of Thought And Conscience
              By Ending Forcible Deprogramming


By Lee J. Boothby, Esq. 

Written for the International Coalition for Religious Freedom -



           It may come as somewhat of a surprise to many that during the 1970s and 1980s thousands of young people in the United States and Western Europe were kidnapped, assaulted, battered, confined against their will, and sometimes even raped, all because someone wanted to change their religious beliefs.  This religious persecution was carried out in the United States and other democratic countries of the western world by vigilantes hired at the behest of distraught and well-meaning parents of young people who had embraced new or less accepted eastern religions. 

          Crude attempts at faith-breaking were carried out by people with no formal training in theology, psychology, or psychiatry, but who were more than willing to charge large sums of money for what in many cases was both mental and physical cruelty.  This new "profession" became known as "deprogrammers" and their services known as "deprogramming."  Although at first it was the adherents of less accepted adherents of religious groups who were the victims, later Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant believers were also targeted. 

          This White Paper will explain that forcible deprogramming violates internationally accepted human rights standards, including Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as provisions of the U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief.

           The acts of forced deprogramming first arose in the United States in 1971 when the father of deprogramming, a man named Ted Patrick, took it upon himself to force young people to change their religious beliefs using physical violence, enforced incarceration, inducement of shame, along with deprivation of both food and sleep. Several religious leaders became alarmed that such brutal and abusive means were being used to "rescue" young people from what parents believed to be a wrong religion.  They spoke out against those who prayed upon and exploited distraught parents as well as the tactics used.

           By 1974 the abuse was deemed so abhorrent that the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches of the U.S.A. adopted a resolution recognizing that forcible deprogramming violated "not only the letter and spirit of state and federal statutes but world standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."  Subsequently, the late Dean Kelley, Director of Civil and Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches, called for the prosecution of deprogrammers "not just as any other kidnapping undertaken for mercenary motives, but even more vigorously, since it strikes at the most precious and vulnerable portion of the victim's life, religious convictions and commitments."

           In 1977 the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union adopted a resolution opposing kidnapping of people from religious groups.   

          Professor James E. Wood, Jr., who served as executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, called deprogramming "a serious assault on many of the guarantees of the First Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution], but nowhere more so than on the right to religious liberty."  He also observed "that deprogramming has not been limited to converts to new religions, but also has been employed to converts to older or mainline churches." 

          This Paper outlines the progression of civil and criminal litigation in the United States which ultimately by the end of the 1980s forced deprogrammers out of business and resulted in civil court decisions establishing in the United States a bedrock legal principle.  Ultimately, the courts in the United States concluded that forcible deprogramming of adult children cannot be justified or legally tolerated even when engaged in at the request and involvement of concerned parents. 

          This Paper also cites a recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights which concluded that the state may not acquiesce in forcible deprogramming even when families of young adults are immediately responsible for causing these young adults to lose their liberty through false imprisonment used as a means to "deprogram" the religious thinking of these people. 

          As this White Paper notes, although forcible deprogramming is no longer a problem in the United States, unfortunately it has become a continuing problem in other parts of the democratic world.  It is perhaps most notably a problem in Japan where scores of coerced deprogrammings are carried out by parents with the aid of Christian ministers while law enforcement turns a blind eye and courts fail to provide a judicial remedy for violations of both national laws and international human rights standards. 

          This Paper solicits the attention of the international human rights community, government officials, and international bodies to once and for all end this gross violation of one of the most basic of all human rights -- the right to freedom of thought and conscience.         

          A number of organizations and individuals have joined together in renouncing forcible deprogramming of adult religious adherents and have declared that such actions taken to alter or change a person's religious beliefs violates basic international standards of human rights.  See Appendix A listing the names of those organizations and individuals.




          Western and other democratic countries have engaged in more than mere finger-pointing at several countries in the Middle East where exercising the inherent right to change one's religious beliefs brings both official and private retribution to anyone with enough courage to follow one's conscience.  The United States has repeatedly condemned religious human rights abuses in countries where individuals face restraints from government and suffering at the hands of the dominant religion if they dare to convert to or practice another religion.  Other democratic countries make similar protests in international forums. 

          But prior to the Twenty First Century, thousands of individuals in the United States and Western Europe were subjected to religious persecution.  This persecution occurred not only at the hands of parents and others claiming to know what religion, if any, was better for someone, but also sometimes with the support of law enforcement agencies and, in a few instances, the courts.  People were kidnapped, assaulted, battered, subjected to false imprisonment and humiliation because they exercised their inalienable right to adhere to their conscience and change their religious affiliation. 

          Faith-breaking tactics were condemned by prominent religious and human rights leaders and organizations in the United States and effectively thwarted by a number of civil and criminal court decisions. This dismal account might only be deemed to be a sad and embarrassing footnote to American history except that such criminal conduct has been exported from the United States to other parts of the globe.  The practice now continues in other countries, perhaps now most prominently in Japan, which claims to embrace and practice democratic values.  Unfortunately, in Japan representatives of some religious organizations instead of speaking out against violations of conscience have themselves participated in such activities. 

          This "White Paper" focuses on faith-breaking or, as it is more commonly called, forcible deprogramming.[1]  We call upon the active support of the international human rights community to once and for all end this gross violation of one of the most basic of all rights -- the right to freedom of thought and conscience.[2]



           On December 10, 1945, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[3]  Article 18, the article that pertains to religious freedom, states: 

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to maintain his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

          Twenty-one years later, on December 16, 1966, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).[4]  It is legally binding upon all member states.  And Article 2 of the Declaration contains a specific provision that "[e]ach State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status." 

          Article 18 of the ICCPR in two sections articulates in direct and clearly stated terms mirroring the Universal Declaration: p;

1.       Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. 

2.       No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of
 his choice.

          In 1981 the Member States of the United Nations provided additional understanding of U.N. recognized religious human rights through the adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.  Article I restates Article 18 of the ICCPR.  By Article 4(1), all States are required to "take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise, and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life."  Also, through Article 4(2), States are required to "to take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion or belief in this matter."  Finally, Article 7 states that these rights and freedoms "shall be accorded in national legislation in such manner that everyone shall be able to avail himself of such rights and freedom in practice." 

          Although under Article 1(3) the right to o manifest one's religion or belief is subject "to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others," the right to freedom of thought and conscience is absolute.[5]



     A.  The Origin Of Forcible Deprogramming In The United States

          The birth of new, and the emerging presence of much older Eastern, religions in the 60s, resulted in a new and abusive form of religious intolerance within the United States.  There had been an unfortunate history of religious intolerance within the United States from colonial days which took on different forms over the years.  But a new phenomenon developed.  It has even resulted in a vocabulary change to include such terms as "deprogram," "cult," "reality therapy," "brainwashing," "mind control," and "exit counseling." 

          But in spite of both international commitments and clear judicial holdings of the First Amendment's protections, individuals in the United States were subjected to both verbal and physical abuse when exercising a most basic human right -- the right to change or adopt a religious belief with which someone else (usually parents) disagreed.[6]  During the 1970s and 1980s even some government officials at the local level lent governmental power and authority to faith-breaking.  At first, many prosecutors and courts turned a blind eye to what in any other situation would be deemed criminal conduct -- assault, battery kidnapping, and false imprisonment -- when young people, even of legal age, embraced a religious belief contrary to the wishes of their parents. 

          Ted Patrick, who has been called the father of deprogramming and a pioneer anticultist and one-time aide to then California Governor Ronald Reagan, in 1971 began investigating a religious group known as the Children of God.  He concluded that it was his life's mission to "deprogram" young people from what he described as "cults" and "pseudo-religions." 

          From 1971 through the 1980s people known as deprogrammers, people without any professional training in religion or psychology who have been paid rather handsomely for their work, have used vigilante, private, self-help methods, as well as various agencies of government to carry out their legally proscribed practices. In his book, Let Our Children Go, Patrick admits employing physical violence, enforced incarceration, and the inducement of shame, along with deprivation of food and sleep -- the very devices he accuses the "cults" of using.[7]  By 1979 Patrick claimed to have deprogrammed nearly 1,600 people from the Hare Krishna movement, the Unification Church, the Children of God, the Church of Scientology, the Divine Light Mission, the New Testament Missionary Fellowship, and the Worldwide Church of God. 

          The Midwest area of the United States proved to be fertile ground for deprogrammers.  There, extreme anticultist attitudes attracted a fusion of deprogrammers and government authorities working together in a manner that seems unbelievable in a country where religious freedom is revered and guaranteed to all.


     B.  Religious And Civil Liberation Organizations And Individuals Expressed Concern As Forcible Deprogramming Spread In The U.S.  

          James E. Wood, Jr. for a number of years served as president of the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief.  He also served for many years as executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and later Director of Church-State Studies at Baylor University.  He wrote: 

With the emergence of a strong anti-cult movement in the late sixties, new religions were often charged with employing tactics of "brainwashing" and "mind control."[8] 

As a result of such claims, anti-cult groups incited concern on the part of parents of young people who were attracted to new religious movements. 

          Professors Thomas Robbins and Dick Anthony explained why deprogrammers have seized upon the "brainwashing" theory they employ to justify their "deprogramming" work: 

Deprogrammers and anti-cult activists assert that the relevant issue is not freedom of religion but freedom of thought; that is, freedom from the insidious mind control to which cults are accused of subjecting their members.  But candidates for deprogramming are generally assumed to be brainwashed simply by virtue of their affiliation with a certain religious sect.  When deprogrammers, outraged parents, and anti-cult activists have their way, adult cult converts are subject to deprogramming without prior hearings in which they may contest allegations of their incompetence and without prior psychiatric examinations.[9] 

          The much-respected National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. in the early 70s became alarmed and concluded that deprogramming was a serious threat to religious liberty.  On February 28, 1974, its governing board adopted a resolution in which it condemned such activities, stating that "forcible abduction and protracted efforts to change a person's religious commitments of duress" was a gross violation of religious liberty.[10]  The National Council of Churches called the use of "kidnapping to compel religious deconversion" "criminal."  Recognizing that deprogramming violated international standards of human rights, the 1974 resolution of the National Council of Churches stated: 

It violates not only the letter and spirit of state and federal statutes but the world standard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . . . . 

          It is important to note that the National Council's Resolution was not insensitive to parental concerns:[11]

The Governing Board recognizes that parents have the ultimate responsibility for the religious nurture of their children until they become adults in their own right, and parents are morally and legally justified in using reasonable force to carry out their responsibility (even if in matters of religion it may be unwise, ineffective or counter-productive).  Nevertheless, at some point, young people are entitled to make their own decisions in religion as in other matters.  What that point should be may vary from family to family, since emancipation is a gradual process (and none too smooth at best), but in our society emancipation is surely in most cases virtually complete by 18.

          Dean M. Kelley of the National Council of Churches observed that people "seem positively to panic at the prospect of anyone becoming a convert to a faith they consider alien. . . .  And when such behavior comes on suddenly as a result of religious conversion, the pestiphobic reaction can rise to virtual hysteria."[12] 

          According to NCC's Rev. Kelley, a keen observer of the deprogramming phenomenon: 

People who otherwise are circumspect and law-abiding will suddenly feel obliged to react as to a terrible disaster.  They will take the law into their own hands, hire thugs to "rescue" the convert, spend tens of thousands of dollars to reverse the conversion, and if caught and accused of crime, will plead "necessity" -- i.e., that their action was taken in an "emergency" to forestall a far worse evil.  What evil?  The exercise by an adult of the right to change religion![13]

          A few years later on March 5, 1977, the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement opposing "kidnapping people from religious groups."[14]  That organization expressed its additional concern about the use of judicial machinery to aid in deprogramming, stating:

ACLU opposes the use of mental incompetency proceedings, temporary conservatorship, or denial of government protection as a method of depriving people of the free exercise of religion, at least with respect to people who have reached the age of majority. 

          Professor James Wood in 1985 wrote condemning the practice of deprogramming:

For almost two decades, deprogramming has constituted a serious assault on many of the guarantees of the First Amendment, but nowhere more so than on the right to religious liberty, the right to believe and practice the religion of one's own choosing, a right that is fundamental to the American experience.  Deprogramming is predicated on the notion of "mind coercion," a term that remains undefined and unsubstantiated in referring to converts of new and unpopular religions.  It should be noted, however, that deprogramming has not been limited to converts to new religions, but has also been employed on converts to older or mainline churches.[15]

          Dean Kelley described deprogramming faith-breaking techniques:

Deprogramming consists of several steps: (a) Gaining control of the convert (kidnapping).  This is often brought on by a ruse, such as the convert's mother taking him (or her) out to lunch or home for a visit or to the hospital to see the other parent, who is said to be recovering from a heart attack brought about by the convert's absence, etc.  At some point deception is replaced by force.  The convert is seized, often by several strong men, and transported (often across state lines) to a place where he or she can be kept in isolation: a motel, a relative's home, a deprogramming center, or all of the above in succession.


          (b) Keeping control of the convert (unlawful imprisonment).  The convert is confined in a room whose windows are usually boarded up, with locked doors, guards outside, and sometimes the convert is tied or handcuffed to the bed.  The convert is never alone, even when going to the toilet and is told that the detention will continue as long as necessary to attain the desired result: "freedom of choice" to leave the cult.


          (c) Counter-indoctrination (which frequently involves assault, menacing, intimidation, "intentional infliction of emotional distress," "outrageous conduct," etc.).  Under this heading comes a variety of techniques.[16]

          Kelley stated that "[t]hese methods of deception, coercion, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, repetitive indoctrination, emotional pressure, etc., are remarkably similar to what the anti-cult movement accuses the cults of using."[17] 

          The Congressional Research Service of The Library of Congress in July of 1977 analyzed the legal implications of taking religious converts over state lines for deprogramming purposes.[18]  They concluded that although the federal kidnapping statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1201, contains an exemption for a parent who forcibly takes a minor child across state lines, this exemption would not appear to apply with respect to a non-minor. 

          The Library of Congress report concluded that "even a benevolent purpose does not immunize a captor from liability under the federal kidnapping statute."  It stated: 

Consequently, it would appear that the forcible taking of an adult child across state lines by its parents for deprogramming purpose would be actionable under the federal kidnapping statute.  The parents and their agents would not be immunized by the parental exception in the statute, because that concerns only the taking of minor children by their parents.  Nor would the parents be immunized from prosection by the supposed benevolence of their purpose: the addition of the words "or otherwise" toe the statute in 1934 has been interpreted to manifest congressional intent that the statute covers kidnapping not only for pecuniary motives but also for "any other reason." 

The report also questioned any state intervention or ratification of parental abductions of their minor children, stating: 

In sum, therefore, it is clear that state intervention in, or ratification of, parental abductions of the adult children for deprogramming purposes raises serious First Amendment questions.  Absent an adequate showing of the sect member's incompetence and consequent inability to make free and informed choices for himself or of some other compelling reason for state intervention, it would appear that the sect member's rights of religious freedom under the First Amendment would be violated by state sanctions his removal and deprogramming.[19]

          It took civil and criminal court decisions to stop the kidnapping and forced confinement of victims of deprogrammers in the United States.  Having begun in the early 1970s, the deprogramming phenomenon continued into the 1980s. 

C.  Criminal And Civil Litigation Responds To Forcible Deprogramming. 

          Because many deprogrammings occurred in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, only a few illustrative examples will be covered in this paper.  The following cases, however hopefully, show the progression of legal reasoning in dealing with these religious vigilantes who assault the people's conscience.  Ultimately, as will be demonstrated, the courts concluded that forcible deprogramming cannot be squared with accepted principles of religious liberty and also is a violation of criminal laws.

The Wendy Helander Case 

          In September of 1976 the Fairfield County Superior Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, ordered Ted Patrick to pay $5,000 to Wendy Helander, a young woman who had been a victim of Patrick's deprogramming.  (This court understood that the deprogrammers had acted tortiously.)[20]  The case provides a glimpse into the practice of forced deprogramming: 

Through surreptitious means, the plaintiff was taken from Barrytown against her will to a secluded residence in Weston, Connecticut, where she was informed that she would undergo a "deprogramming" procedure by the defendant Theodore Patrick, Jr., who was referred to as "Black Lightning," and his assistants, the defendant, insisting that she had been brainwashed by the church, labeled her a vegetable, a dog, a bitch, and maintained that she was out of her mind.  He insisted that she denounce the church and accused her of being a prostitute for Rev. Moon when she tried to defend her affiliation with the Unification Church.  For many hours, without food or sleep, she was addressed in foul language and was intimidated by the defendant.

The court noted she was held for several weeks practically as a prisoner.  The court further stated: 

The modus operandi adopted by the defendant and his associates -- luring the plaintiff away from Unification Church premises by deception, attempting to "deprogram" her by crude, callous, and brow-beating tactics, shuffling her from place to place and confining her against her will, smacks of a fictional television melodrama, rather than a real-life incident.

The Darlene Sense Case

          But some courts in the United States' midwest were not as sensitive to religious freedom concerns as the court was in the Helander case.  During the 1970s a judge and armed law enforcement officers in several Wisconsin counties authorized and assisted in the abduction of several adult members of a Wisconsin religious group.  A secret hearing was held before a county circuit judge in Wisconsin in August, 1977.  After the hearing, the judge found Darlene Sense, thirty-two, mentally incompetent to handle her own affairs and that of her two children.  The judge gave temporary guardianship of Mrs. Sense and her children to her parents. 

          According to testimony at the hearing, Sense was considered incompetent because she belonged to the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, a fundamentalist Christian organization with approximately 200 members in the Midwest.  Sense was never notified of the hearing.  The judge also agreed to seal the court records to keep the plan secret, thus foiling any rescue attempt.  In addition, Sense was denied the right to counsel to secure witnesses on her own behalf. 

          Sense was held for 13 days until another judge ordered her release.  The judge ruled that Sense had been illegally restrained.  He also removed the guardianship order and restored her children to her. 

          Sense filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, but the court ruled on May 19, 1980, that the judge could not be held liable for his part in the deprogramming plan because of judicial immunity.  Others named in the civil suit filed by Sense, however, settled out of court for $25,000. 

The Nancy Lofgren Case 

          On July 2, 1976, Nancy Lofgren, another member of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, was abducted by deprogrammers and held for 12 days of deprogramming before she was able to escape.  Lofgren was seized on a Sunday as she was entering a Howard Johnson's Motel in Rochester, Minnesota, to attend religious services.  She was thrown into a car by her abductors who turned out to be the county sheriff's deputies.  They wore no uniforms nor badges and gave her no explanation of what was happening.  Later in federal court depositions, the three deputies admitted their actions.  The wife of the late sheriff of the county also admitted her husband's role in planning the abduction and said he did so because he was a family friend. 

          The first stage of abduction did not take long.  A Minnesota highway patrol officer, alerted about the abduction, stopped the car at gunpoint near Zumbrota, Minnesota, about 25 minutes later.  Lofgren was taken to the Rochester State Hospital on a seventy-two-hour mental commitment hastily scrawled by the sheriff. 

          Lofgren protested that although she was not mentally ill she was not allowed to make any telephone calls.  When fellow members of the Disciples learned of her whereabouts and demanded her release, nurses spirited her out a side door of the hospital to her waiting parents.  She was then dragged, kicking and screaming, into a car which took her to Roseville, a Minneapolis suburb, for 10 days of deprogramming. 

          While there, Lofgren was visited by her parents' pastor on several occasions.  He did not disclose her location even when asked by police because he said he did not want to violate pastor-parishioner confidentiality.  Officials did not press the issue. Lofgren was then moved to a home in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and escaped the next day when she was left unguarded, fleeing to the Golden Valley police station. 

          Records of the court show that the police refused to allow her to make any phone calls until the sheriff who was originally involved arrived from Rochester to pick her up.  But Lofgren persisted and eventually was allowed to call the leader of her religious group.  She then learned that the sheriff had been issuing news releases saying she was under doctor's care and that she was with her parents of her own free will.  The sheriff handcuffed her and took her back to the state hospital. 

          Lofgren was released after hospital officials decided they had absolutely no reason to hold her as a mental patient.  She ultimately won $21,000 from her abductors in an out-of-court settlement of a suit filed in federal court in Minneapolis. 

The Susan Peterson Case 

          Some time prior to May 24, 1976, Margaret Jungclaus spoke to Kathy Mills, a professional deprogrammer credited with 41 deprogrammings, about the possibility of deprogramming Jungclaus' daughter, Susan, who had become involved with a religious organization called The Way Ministry.  At that time, Susan was 21 years old and engaged to a fellow Way member, Kevin Peterson, whom she later married. 

          At this meeting with Margaret Jungclaus, Kathy Mills suggested that Jungclaus' daughter -- a person she had never met -- had been "brainwashed."  Before Mrs. Jungclaus decided to have her daughter deprogrammed, however, she discussed the matter with a Lutheran clergyman from Bird Island, Minnesota. 

          On May 24, 1976, Susan was picked up at Moorhead State University, where she had been studying, by her father and the Lutheran minister.  The three drove to a house occupied by Veronica Morgel, Kathy Mills' mother.  Morgel was a professional deprogrammer too, and on this occasion she was paid $1,145 by Mrs. Jungclaus for her services. 

          The minister was suddenly called away to assist a parishioner, but Susan's father took his adult daughter to a small bedroom in the Morgel house where she was held against her will from May 24 to May 31.  When the minister returned at approximately 11 that night and went into the bedroom, he noticed that Susan was hysterical.  She screamed and cried and pleaded with several people to let her go, but her pleas were ignored.  Her protest continued until approximately 3:00 a.m. the next morning.  During this time Kathy Mills told Susan that papers had been drafted to commit her to Anoka State Hospital if she refused to cooperate with the deprogramming. 

          After a closely guarded trip to Ohio for "rehabilitation," on June 9, Susan overheard her mother and Kathy Mills talking about sending her to California for two weeks.  She then left the house and escaped by flagging down a police car.  She was taken to the Northeast Minneapolis Precinct by two police officers and was then freed to leave with her fiance's father. 

          Susan later filed a civil lawsuit.  A jury trial was held and on February 17, 1978, judgment was entered in favor of Susan against Kathy Mills in the sum of $6,000 and against Veronica Morgel in the amount of $4,000. 

          On appeal the Minnesota Supreme Court held that "when parents, or their agents, acting under the conviction that the judgmental capacity of the adult child is impaired, seek to extricate that child from what they reasonably believe to be `a religious or pseudo-religious' cult, and the child at some juncture assents to the activities in question, limitations upon the child's mobility do not constitute meaningful deprivation of personal liberty sufficient to support a judgment for false imprisonment." 

          However, the court's decision went on to state, "[b]ut owing to the threat that deprogramming poses to public order, we do not endorse self-help as a preferred alternative.  In fashioning a remedy the First Amendment requires resort to the least restrictive alternatives so as not to impinge upon religious belief." 

          Justice Wahl, in a dissenting opinion, noted that under the theory advanced in the court's plurality decision, an individual's "`acquiescence' in the latter stages of deprogramming operates as consent which `relates back' to the events of the earlier three days and constitutes a `waiver' of her claims of those days." 

          Recognizing the danger of the majority's holding, Justice Wahl then stated:

Certainly, parents who disapprove of or disagree with the religious beliefs of their adult offspring are free to exercise their own First Amendment rights in an attempt by speech and persuasion without physical restraints, to change their adult children's minds.  But parents who engage in tortious conduct in their "deprogramming" attempts do so at the risk that the deprogramming will be unsuccessful and the adult children will pursue tort remedies against their parents.  To allow parents' "conviction that the judgmental capacity of their [adult] child is impaired [by her religious indoctrination]" to excuse their tortious conduct sets a dangerous precedent. 

          Justice Otis, in a separate dissenting opinion, also protested, stating:

I join in the views expressed by Justice Wahl, and particularly take issue with a rule which authorizes what is euphemistically described as "limitations upon the adult child's mobility" whenever a parent, or indeed a stranger acting for a parent, subjectively decides, without the benefit of a professional opinion or judicial intervention, that the adult child's "judgmental capacity" is impaired and that they should be "extricated" from what is deemed to be a religious or pseudo-religious cult.

          This case became the key decision relied upon by the anti-cult movement throughout the United States as justification for their deprogramming activities.  But the Minnesota State court decision was subsequently repudiated by a Minnesota federal court in the William Eilers litigation. 

The William Eilers Case 

          While Bill and Sandy Eilers were visiting a friend, several members of the families of Bill and Sandy telephoned and accused Bill of becoming involved with a cult, The Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ -- the same group as in the Darlene Sense and Nancy Lofgren cases.  One expert witness at the Eilers trial likened the group to the Mennonites in their actions and beliefs.  Most of the members are middle-income, "high-tech" people who believe that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is imminent and for this reason eschew worldly pleasure. 

          Dr. Douglas A. Stevens, a clinical psychologist, who appeared as an expert witness at the Eilers trial, testified that in becoming a member of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Bill Eilers "[i]n his own way . . . sought to bring order and consistency to his life by affiliating himself with a religious group that provided structure and consistency.  He had high levels of emotional disturbance for many years and found in this affiliation those factors that proved beneficial in allowing him to begin the reintegrative and stabilizing process." 

          Sandy Eilers' parents contacted Free Minds, a group located in Minneapolis that was active in attempting to restrict solicitation by the new religions.  Its members included Veronica Morgel -- the same Veronica Morgel who with her daughter, Kathy Mills, were defendant deprogrammers in the Peterson case. 

          Sandy Eilers' parents were given the name of Joanne Hansen who had been involved with Free Minds.  Hansen was self-employed and claimed to have researched and given lectures on mind-manipulation techniques, although she had no formal training in psychology or psychiatry.  The genesis of her interest in the anti-cult movement was that her oldest daughter had joined the Children of God in 1971, and she had her daughter abducted and deprogrammed.

          Hansen telephoned Debbie Coy, a deprogrammer in Pennsylvania, to ask if she was still working in "reality therapy" and if she could locate other people to assist in the Eilers' deprogrammings, which were to take place the following Monday.  Subsequently, a team of deprogrammers and security people was assembled from various parts of the United States, including Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Ohio and flown to Minnesota at the parents' expense. 

          On August 16, 1982, Bill Eilers, twenty-four, and his pregnant wife, Sandy, twenty-two, were abducted as they were leaving the Winona Clinic following Sandy's prenatal examination.  Bill was grabbed from behind by two security men and forced into a waiting van.  Sandy was placed in another van, and both of them were driven to a religious retreat house a short distance away.  Bill, although forcibly resisting, was carried by four men to a room on the top floor of the dormitory-style building.  The windows of his room and the hallway were boarded over with plywood, and the telephone in the hallway had been dismantled. 

          Bill and Sandy were held in separate quarters for 5 1/2 days.  Shortly after their arrival Bill had a violent struggle with his captors and was subsequently handcuffed to his bed.  He remained handcuffed to the bed for at least two days of his confinement.  During the initial period Bill was allowed out of the room only to use the bathroom and was heavily guarded during those times.  On one occasion when Bill had to use the bathroom, one of his abductors kicked a wastebasket toward him and told him he was an animal and could just use the wastebasket. 

          During his confinement Bill was physically abused, threatened with mace, and told that he would be kept confined until he had been successfully deprogrammed.  At no time during the week was Bill free to leave, nor at any time were reasonable means of escape available to him. 

          On the evening of August 21, 1982, as Bill Eilers was leaving his temporary prison to be transported to Iowa City, Iowa, for further deprogramming, he took advantage of his first opportunity to escape and jumped from the car in which he was riding.  Some of his captors pursued him.  Others sped away from the scene in an apparent attempt to elude the police who had been called by local residents.  The Winona Police Department, however, apprehended one carload of deprogrammers and placed them under arrest.  A formal criminal complaint was filed against all but one of those who were captured by the police. 

          On October 7, 1982, the grand jury selected to hear the evidence in the criminal case returned a verdict of no bill, thus dismissing all charges brought against the deprogrammers in the case and holding them blameless. Although no one knows exactly what happened within the grand jury room, it is probable that the Minnesota Supreme Court decision in the Peterson case was an important ingredient in the grand jury's decision.  Also important was the fact that the prosecuting attorney did not call any of the deprogrammers to testify as witnesses. 

          When a civil suit was filed against the deprogrammers by Bill Eilers, the defendants claimed they had acted only "to exercise their constitutional rights of free speech."  The deprogrammers also quickly asserted they had no liability for what they had done because under the decision in Peterson they were relieved of any liability as agents of the parents.  To them, Peterson seemed to provide safe haven for their illicit operations in Minnesota. 

          At the conclusion of the Eilers trial, United States District Judge Harry MacLaughlin entered a directed verdict of guilty on Eilers' false imprisonment count against each of the defendants.  In his opinion,[21] Judge MacLaughlin stated: 

There is also no question that the plaintiff was actually confined.  Relying on the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision in Peterson v. Sorlien, 299 N.W.2d 123, 129 (Minn. 1980), the defendants contend that there was no actual confinement because there is evidence that the plaintiff consented to the defendants' actions.  At least by the fourth day of his confinement the plaintiff, in contrast, has testified that he merely pretended to consent in order to gain an opportunity to escape.  The plaintiff's apparent consent is not a defense to false imprisonment.  Many people would feign consent under similar circumstances, whether out of fear of their captors or as a means of making an escape. . . .  Under the circumstances, the court finds, in agreement with many other authorities, that plaintiff's apparent consent is not a defense to false imprisonment. [Citations omitted.]  The court therefore holds, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff has proven the necessary elements of false imprisonment. 

          After suggesting several alternatives available to the defendants, if in fact there were a need for psychological assistance, Judge MacLaughlin stated: 

At no time did the defendants attempt, or even consider attempting any of these alternatives during the five and one-half days they held the plaintiff, the first five of which were business days.  Instead they took the plaintiff to a secluded location with boarded-up windows,held him incommunicado and proceeded to inflict their own crude method of "therapy" upon him -- methods which even the defendants' own expert witness had condemned.  Well aware that the police were searching for the plaintiff, the defendants deliberately concealed the plaintiff's location from the police.

          Judge MacLaughlin's opinion in the Eilers case thus nullified the safe-harbor "choice of evils" defense of the Peterson case.  No longer could hired deprogrammers use vigilante methods to sell their services in the belief they could use the judicial system and the prejudices of the community to free them from both civil and criminal liability for their acts.  Bill Eilers was awarded $10,000 in damages, but in addition the family members and others settled out of court for $50,000. 

The Thomas Ward Case 

          On November 24, 1975, Thomas Ward came to visit his family in Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday.  But he was kidnapped at the airport and taken against his will to a location where deprogrammer Ken Connor and others restrained, assaulted, and deprived Ward of sleep.  Ward was taken from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was constantly subjected to physical and mental abuse.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Ward v. Connor, 654 F.2d 45 (4th Cir. 1981), rejected an argument similar to that subsequently embraced in the opinion of a Japanese court.  In Ward the United States District Court "concluded that since the parents of the plaintiff were motivated to act by their concern for the well-being of their son, the requisite discriminatory class bias was absent."  However, the court of appeals did not agree, responding to this holding of the lower court: 

While we do not quarrel with the court's assumption in regard to such parental concern, the complaint sufficiently charges that the defendants were motivated to act as they did not only because they found the plaintiff's religious beliefs intolerable, but also because of their animosity towards the members of the Unification Church.  This, in our opinion, stated a discriminatory motive sufficient to support a claim under the statute.

The Britta Adolfsson Case

          In People of the State of Colorado v. Dennis Whelan and Robert Brandyberry,[22] two men, Robert Brandyberry and Dennis Whelan, both professional deprogrammers hired by Britta Adolfsson's Swedish parents, admittedly abducted this 31 year old woman, all the while arguing in a criminal case they were not guilty of a crime. They successfully argued before the trial court that they were not guilty of a criminal conspiracy and kidnapping under a "choice of evils defenses."  This defense was based on the defendants' claim that the victim had been "brainwashed" by the religious group of which she was a member and not therefore exercising "free will" with respect to her religious beliefs.[23] 

          In this case Britta Adolfsson was abducted by the defendants and forcibly held against her will for seven days.  The defendants successfully argued their position before the jury and were acquitted.  But the district attorney representing the state believed the case represented an erroneous judicial holding as a matter of law and appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals seeking judicial guidance from the court as to "[w]hat kind of behavior is the law prepared to recognize as justifiable?" 

          Consistent with its 1974 Resolution, the National Council of Churches, together with Council on Religious Freedom, filed a friend of the court brief supporting the state's position.  That amicus brief argued that 

the trial judge clearly erred in permitting the jury to decide whether the claimed facts and circumstances could constitute justification without first specifically finding as a matter of law whether the asserted facts, if established by defendants, demonstrated, as they must, that the actions taken by defendants were necessary as an emergency measure to avoid imminent injury and that there were no lawful means available to meet the perceived emergency.  The judge's failure to carry out his statutory assigned role, however, has far graver consequences than in the more traditional criminal actions.  The court's failure to make the appropriate determination as a matter of law permitted a criminal action directed against admitted violators of a serious criminal statute to turn the case into a heresy trial.[24]

          The brief noted that the necessity defense raised here was the same defense used by one of the defendant, Robert Brandyberry, in the Eilers case in Minnesota.[25]  The brief pointed out that the Eilers court specifically held that the defendants' failure to attempt to use the lawful alternative available to them effectively eliminated the "choice of evils" necessity defense citing Eilers, 582 F. Supp. at 1099.[26] 

          The Colorado Court of Appeals adopted the argument made by the National Council of Churches in its amicus brief, deciding in future legal actions to preclude the use of the "choice of evils" defense.[27]

The Jason Scott Case 

          A jury in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, after a six-day trial in Scott v. Ross, found the plaintiff Jason Scott's abduction by Rick Ross and his team had violated Scott's civil rights and were guilty of negligence. They awarded Scott $875,000 in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages.  The jury allocated 10% of the negligence liability and $1 million in punitive damages against the anti-cult organization, Cult Awareness Network ("CAN"), formerly incorporated under the name of Citizen's Freedom Foundation. 

          The Cult Awareness Network filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with respect to the jury's verdict finding CAN liable for conspiracy and negligence.[28]  The court of appeals noted that "[t]he evidence indicates that is was CAN's practice to refer people to deprogrammers, including Rick ross, and that Ross was known to engage in involuntary deprogramming."  The court found it important that CAN's executive director had given referrals to Ross.  The court found sufficient evidence, if believed by the jury, to establish that CAN members routinely referred people to deprogrammers, including Ross, that Ross conducted involuntary deprogrammings, and that CAN was aware that Ross conducted involuntary deprogrammings.  The court also held that even though CAN had an official policy prohibiting involuntary deprogramming, neither undermined the evidence concerning CAN's practices nor precluded the imposition of vicarious liability on CAN.  Following the court of appeals decision, CAN filed for bankruptcy. 

          The deprogramming vigilantes found that kidnapping is a crime even when a defense is claimed that they were merely attempting to "rescue" the person from his conscience.  Ted Patrick was convicted in June of 1974 in Denver, Colorado, for false imprisonment.  In May of 1975 he was again convicted, this time for kidnapping. In 1980 he was once again convicted in San Diego, California, for kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.  This time he was sentenced to a year in jail, fined $5,000, and prohibited from any deprogramming as a condition of five years in jail.[29]



          In the case of Riera Blume and Others v. Spain, 14 October 1999, No. 3768 O/97, the European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section) entered money judgment on behalf of six individuals who had been subjected to deprogramming against their will.  In that case, the Public Safety Department ("the DGSC") of the government of Cataluña received, through an association formed to fight against sects, a request for help from several individuals (applicants before the European Court of Human Rights) who alleged that members of their families had been "ensnared" by a religious group who it was claimed brought "about a complete change of personality in their followers, leading them to break off ties with their family and friends . . . ."  Several members of the group were brought before the court.  The duty judge released the applicants but gave oral instructions to the police to hand over the applicants to their families, "to whom it should be suggested that it would be as well to have them interned in a psychiatric centre, on a voluntary basis" since they were adults. 

          Subsequently the applicants were taken by the Cataluña police in official vehicles to a hotel about thirty kilometers from Barcelona where the police handed the applicants over to members of their families.  Once in the hotel the applicants were taken to individual rooms where they were not permitted to leave for the first three days.  Windows of the rooms were boarded up and the glass removed from the windows.  While at the hotel they were subjected to "deprogramming" by a psychologist and a psychiatrist at the request of the anti-cult group.  After being informed of their rights, the applicants were questioned by the Assistant Director-General of Public Safety. 

          Upon their release, the applicants filed a criminal complaint with the authorities claiming false imprisonment, offenses against the exercise of personal rights, and other claims of misconduct.  A criminal process was instituted on the grounds of false imprisonment.  But the Barcelona Audiencia Provencial acquitted the accused "holding that the acts complained of had been prompted by a philanthropic, legitimate and well-intentioned motive and that there had been no intention of depriving the applicants of their liberty, so that the offense of false imprisonment was not made out." 

          The prosecution and applicants appealed on points of law, but the appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court which held that "the detention took place with a sole aim -- a very laudable and plausible one -- of avoiding worse evils than those complained of by the appellants, so there was no unlawfulness strictly or properly understood."  The court also noted that the detention was with the agreement of the victims' families. 

          An appeal was taken to the Constitutional Court on the claim that several provisions of the Spanish Constitution had been violated including the right to religious freedom.  The Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal. 

          The European Court of Human Rights quoted some provision of the Spanish Constitution including Article 16, which states: 

1.  Freedom of ideas, religion and worship shall be guaranteed to individuals and communities without any restrictions on its expression other than those necessary for the maintenance of public order as prescribed by law. 

Applicants asked the European Court of Human Rights to hold that the state had failed to discharge the obligations imposed on it by Article 5 and 9 of the European Convention.[30]  The Court also recited Article 17 dealing with the right to security of persons, the right of a person arrested to be immediately informed, and the right to habeas corpus procedure. 

          The applicants claimed that Article 5 § 1 of the European Convention had been violated because the Cataluña police had transported them to the hotel and turned them over to others to be deprogrammed from their membership in a "sect."  Accordingly, they were deprived of their liberty without any legal basis under either domestic or international law. 

          The European Court noted that "it was officers of the autonomous Catalan police who, acting on the instructions of their superiors and, partly, those of the investigating judge, transferred the applicants in official vehicles from the premises of the Catalan police to the hotel" and this was without the applicants' consent.  The Court observed that the applicants underwent detention "similar to false imprisonment."  It concluded that "the national authorities at all times acquiesced in the applicants' loss of liberty.   The European Court stated: 

While it is true that it was the applicants' families and the Pro Juvenil Association that bore the direct and immediate responsibility for the supervision of the applicants during their then days' loss of liberty, it is equally true that without the active cooperation of the Catalan authorities the deprivation of liberty could not have taken place.  As the ultimate responsibility for the matters complained of thus lay with the authorities in question, the Court concludes that there has been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.


       A.  The Japanese Police And Courts Have Turned A Blind Eye To Abuses If The Victim's Family Is Involved.                                                         

          American courts and prosecutors began to understand that deprogramming by religious vigilantes who violated the basic rights of others must be held accountable for their misdeeds.  As we have already found, deprogramming was condemned by responsible religious leaders and organizations and civil rights organizations, and the United States has become for all practical purposes free from forcible deprogrammings.  But enforcing it has gained a foothold in other places in the world. 

          One country where religious human rights violations in the form of faith-breaking through assault, battery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment continue to occur and have been particularly egregious is Japan.  Numerous deprogrammings have occurred in Japan.  Two examples of cases where the police either failed to intervene or act are: 

          (a)      The Saechiro Kobayashi case where Kobayashi was held on two occasions for a total of seven months.  On at least one occasion the police were told of the abduction but after taking everyone to the police station, the police permitted the abduction to continue when told that the victim was "mind-controlled" and needed "protection." 

          (b)     The Suzuki Akemi case where Akemi was held against her will for 18 days until the police arrived. But subsequently the police drove her to her parents, and she was again confined. 

          Perhaps the most recent example in Japan where the courts have turned a blind eye to faith-breaking violations (similar to the case in Spain reversed by the European Court of Human Rights) committed with the aid of hostile religious bigots is the case of Mitsuko Ishikawa Antal. 

The Mitsuko Ishikawa Antal Case 

          Mitsuko Ishikawa Antal was born in 1971.  She graduated from college in March of 1992.  In April of 1992 she was employed by the Isegaki Cooperation Bank.  She was introduced to the Unification Church by her sister, Yukiko, a registered nurse, that same year, and Mitsuko joined the church in July.   

          In April of 1995 Mitsuko moved to the Unification Church Youth Center.  In May, Mitsuko and her sister met with their parents and told them they were studying the teachings of the Unification Church.  This news disturbed her parents, so Mitsuko left.

          Mitsuko's parents became involved with an anti-cult group that opposed the Unification Church.  On May 20, 1996, Mitsuko went to the driver's license bureau to renew her driver's license.  Approximately eight relatives met Mitsuko there and brought her to an apartment where she was confined against her will. 

          There were three special door locks in addition to a regular key lock for the door of the apartment.  The windows were specially prepared with heavy glass, and the door to the patio had a special lock that rendered it impossible to open. 

          A minister affiliated with the United Church of Christ of Japan, visited Mitsuko in the room several times attempting to persuade her to quit her Church.  On June 30 for the first time since her capture, Mitsuko was allowed to leave the apartment, but only escorted by her parents, an aunt, and a former church member.  After she pretended to renounce her faith, Mitsuko's parents took her to the Yamura Christian Church to meet a United Church of Christ minister.  They told her to stay there, study and be rehabilitated.   

          Around 11:00 p.m., after Mitsuko's parents left her to go home, she managed to escape from where she had been held in the church.  Mitsuko walked 3 hours on a country road and eventually caught a train into town. 

          Mitsuko telephoned her parents 3 days following her escape.  However, she soon left for the United States arriving in Washington, DC, on December 5, 1996.  She returned to Japan in March of 1997 where she stayed until returning to the United States in September of that same year.  There she participated in the Unification Church's Blessing Ceremony and met Christopher Antal. 

          On December 4, 1997, Mitsuko returned to Japan and started to work again as a nurse's assistant.  On May 16, 1998, around 8:30 a.m. after Mitsuko's roommate left their apartment, Mitsuko's parents came into the apartment without knocking.  Shortly, three of her uncles and an aunt arrived.  Outside were two waiting autos and other relatives, 10 in all.   

          Mitsuko was driven for about 3 hours to a specially prepared apartment. There she was confined for 70 days.  During this time she was subjected to harassment and abuse by another minister of the United Church of Christ who came to the apartment approximately 20 times attempting to persuade her to quit the Unification Church.  While trying to persuade her, the minister threatened her, saying that she should be in a cell with iron bars for her whole life.  On July 8 the minister hit Mitsuko in the face several times with a pillow and violently shoved her.  On July 26 Mitsuko escaped through the veranda but fell while trying to climb to the ground injuring herself in the fall but still was able to run away. 

          After running from the apartment, Mitsuko caught a taxi which transported her to Tokyo.  When she arrived at the Unification Church Center, Christopher Antal met her.  The following day, July 26, 1998, they went to the hospital where a doctor found that she had sustained a broken vertebrae. 

          On August 18 Mitsuko and Christopher registered their marriage in Japan.  They then together returned to the United States.  Sadly, as a result of the two separate confinements and forced deprogrammings, Mitsuko concluded she could not have further contact with her parents unless and until she was provided reliable assurances she would not be kidnapped, confined, and abused further.  She and her husband decided that because of the influence of the anti-cult ministers upon her family, the only guarantee against future deprogrammings was a court injunction. 

          On February 12, 1999, Mitsuko and her husband, Chris Antal, filed a lawsuit against the parents and the minister.  The plaintiffs invoked Article 709 of the Japan Civil Code which provides that those who violate the rights of another are liable for compensation and claimed the court should legally enjoin all defendants against further kidnapping, confinement, and forcible meeting.  On March 8, 2002, the District Court dismissed their claim.  The plaintiffs appealed to the Tokyo High Court but on December 26, 2002, the High Court dismissed their appeal.  The plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was not granted. 

          The High Court's decision basically followed the original judgment of the District Court.  As for the first abduction and confinement, the court found that on May 20, 1996, Mitsuko's parents and 7 relatives came to the driver's license center because a postcard regarding license renewal had come to their home.  They found that Mitsuko was met by her parents and relatives and told to come with them.  It further found that the apartment to which she had been taken had a lock, and the key was not given to Mitsuko, that she went into the bathroom for long periods of time to avoid conversations, and that on one occasion she tried to break the window with a handbag without success and subsequently attempted to break the window with a CD/radio/cassette player but was physically stopped by her parents.  The court further found that during this period of time her parents or some other relative stayed with Mitsuko constantly, and there was no occasion when she was alone. 

          As for the second abduction and confinement, the court found that Mitsuko's parents and relatives "strongly requested" that Mitsuko stay with them and Mitsuko reluctantly put her items in a travel bag.  The court found that there was a lock and crime prevention chain attached to the porch door and a lock placed on the door, the key to which was never given to Mitsuko.  Also, the court found that a filter was applied to the window glass to prevent the glass fragments from scattering if broken. 

          The court also observed that Mitsuko was hyperactive in the initial period after she arrived and that she knocked a hole in the wall of the room, refused to take meals, and locked herself inside the bathroom.  The court found that Mitsuko's parents or some other relative were always with her, and there was never an occasion when she was left alone. 

          The court acknowledged that on July 26, 1998, Mitsuko escaped from her confinement.  The court found that it was reasonable to assume based on the minister's admission that he had actually pushed Mitsuko's shoulders with both hands and he actually held a cushion with considerable force on her face.  In spite of its findings, the court excused the minister's conduct because, according to the court, the minister believed Mitsuko had lied to her parents and to him with regard to her and Christopher's participation in the Unification Church's Blessing Ceremony.  The court excused such conduct because the minister "felt urged to let Mitsuko understand that lying is a crime, lying betrays the trust of the person and he was trying to chasten her."  According to the court, when "Mitsuko continued her attitude of refusing to sincerely listen to him, he apparently tried to alert her so that she would listen to him."  However, the court concluded that "the acts themselves were not reasonable, but they cannot be considered unlawful acts to justify a damage claim." 

          In her lawsuit, Mitsuko claimed that the minister and her parents had been involved in a "conspiracy."  This was based on a letter which the minister  had sent to the plaintiff after the incident.  In that letter, the minister admitted that the parents had "visited him before the incident, talked over the matter, and all of them had the same opinion that the plaintiff would escape unless they locked her in a room."  The minister in his letter stated "it is natural to lock the room if people try to maintain a conversation with a Unification Church believer who had ever escaped from the situation of persuasion."  The District Court, however, concluded that the minister had not conspired with the parents to kidnap and confine the plaintiff to compel her to quit the Unification Church. 

          Mitsuko also claimed in her lawsuit that the minister has been repeatedly involved in "deprogramming" activities of Unification Church members.  The plaintiff submitted testimonies from other court cases in which the minister admitted he had been involved in persuading believers to renounce the Unification Church while they had been confined.  Mitsuko claimed that the United Church of Christ in Japan has been systematically engaging in kidnapping and "deprogramming" activities, quoting the court testimony of Minister Makoto Sugimoto who actually testified to this in another case.  However, both the District Court and the High Court denied this claim. 

          As for the injunctive relief requested, the District Court admitted that the parents had put the plaintiff under circumstances in which her "free psychological and physical activities were restricted."  But it found the parents' behavior to constitute only "talks" and indicated it could not guess if the parents would ever do this again, saying: 

There is little likelihood the plaintiff will immigrate to Japan in the near future; and the parents engaged in the conduct based upon "parental affection," so it is "improper" to charge them with "false imprisonment" or "compulsion of renouncing faith."  Besides, their behavior cause the plaintiff to repel her parents, so they do not have any intention to intervene in the family life of the plaintiff. 

          This holding by the court ignored plaintiff's claim that the reason she would not immigrate to Japan was precisely because she feared her parents would repeat another kidnapping and "deprogramming."  Mitsuko's rights to physical integrity and security of persons, the right to freedom of conscience, the right of expression, the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the right not to be unlawfully detained were all violated in this case. 

          The Japanese judicial system in this and other similar cases has clearly turned a blind eye to conduct which breaches such international obligations as: (1) the obligation to ensure no one within its jurisdiction is, because of his or her religious beliefs, deprived of the right to liberty and security of person; (2) the duty to prevent discrimination on the basis of religion; (3) the obligation to provide effective remedies in cases in which the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is violated; and (4) the obligation to counter intolerance and related violence based upon religion or belief by promoting a culture of tolerance and respect for religious diversity. 

          Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, but such violations are continuing.  The most recent report of the United States Department of State as to international religious freedom reports: 

Members of the Unification Church and Jehovah's Witnesses continue to allege that police do not act in response to allegations of forced deprogramming of church members.  They also claimed that police do not enforce the laws against kidnapping when the victim is held by family members and that Unification Church members are subject to prolonged detention by individuals who are not charged by police.[31]

          Because there continues to occur in Japan similar cases of forcible deconversions motivated by intolerance and discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief, and often involving acts of violence, intimidation and coercion motivated by religious intolerance; and, considering such instances threaten the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people, this case requires the attention of the international human rights community.  It is time that the international human rights community act now to provide fuller protection for the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and belief. 

B.  The Attitude Of The Japanese Courts Cannot Be Squared With A State's Responsibilities Under Japanese Or International Law. 

          The actions of the defendants in the Mitsuko Antal case cannot be squared with basic constitutional principles set forth in the Japanese Constitution.  Article 19 of the Japanese Constitution provides that "[f]reedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated."  Article 20 states that "[f]reedom of religion is guaranteed to all."  And Article 13 states: 

All of the people shall be respected as individual.  Their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other governmental affairs.

          The abuse suffered by Mitsuko Antal and others in Japan violated United Nations principles of international law which Japan has acknowledged.  We have already noted that the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights in Article 18 provides for freedom of thought, conscience and religion, while Article 19 provides for "freedom of opinion and expression."  But Article 3 also provides that "[e]veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."  Also, Article 7 provides for "equal protection before the law" as well as "protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination."  Finally, Article 8 states: 

Everyone has the right to effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the Constitution or by law. 

          These rights, as set forth in the U.N. Declaration, were recognized by Japan in the Peace Treaty with Japan of September 8, 1951.  The preamble to that treaty includes a clause under which "Japan for its part declares its intention . . . in all circumstances, to conform to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations; to strive to realize the objectives of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. . . ." 

          The government of Japan may respond that the deprogramming was not the result of government action, but of faith-breaking vigilantes or concerned parents.  But Article 7 authoritatively states: 

It must be realized that in many cases restraints upon freedom of thought, conscience and religion -- and even denials of that freedom -- stem not from any governmental action but from pressures within the society in which they occur.  Such pressures are usually exercised through subtle methods of exclusion from social life, or other forms of social ostracism.  Public authorities have a duty to protect individuals and groups against this kind of discrimination, as is made clear in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. . . .

          If government authorities, including those in Japan, have a duty to protect against subtle denials of thought, conscience and religion,[32] how much greater is that obligation where violence is protected against the victim?  As in the earlier United States court decisions and the Spanish case decided by the European Court of Human Rights, the involvement of parents in such violations does not excuse governmental involvement or acquiescence in such violations of human conscience. 

          Japan did ratify the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).  As an international covenant, it is legally enforceable.  Thus, Japan is accountable for any breach of this covenant.[33] 

          Article 3 of the Covenant provides that each State party to the covenant undertakes to: ensure (a) that a person whose rights and freedoms recognized by the covenant have an effective remedy; (b) the person claiming a remedy to have his right determined by a competent authority; and (c) the competent authority shall enforce such remedies when granted. 

          Under Article 18(2) of the ICCP "[n]o one shall be subjected to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice." 

          The covenant obligates State parties to "adopt such legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized."  Article 2 § 2.  It also legislatively prohibits "[a]ny advocacy of . . . religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. . . ."  Thus, state parties, including Japan, are obligated to establish an environment friendly to persons of all religious beliefs. 

          The United Nations Human Rights Committee[34] General Comment No. 22 (48) (Article 18) states in paragraph 2 that "Article 18 [of the ICCPR] is not limited in its application to traditional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions." 

The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established or represent religious minorities that may be subject to hostility by a predominant religious community.

          The Committee in paragraph 3 states that Article 18 distinguishes between "the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief from freedom to manifest religion or belief.  It does not permit any limitations whatsoever on the freedom of thought and conscience or on the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of one's own choice.  These freedoms are protected unconditionally, as is the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference in article 19(1)." 

          The Committee in paragraph 3 recognized the fact that the unconditional freedom of conscience and the right to adopt a religion or belief of one's own choice, in accordance with articles 18(2) and 17 included within the right of privacy, and "no one can be compelled to reveal his thoughts or adherents to a religion or belief." 

          Of importance in the context of the invasion of religious human rights by faith-breaking attempts of others is the Committee's statement in paragraph 5 of its General Comment No. 22(48): 

The Committee observes that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including inter alia, the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief.  Article 18(2) bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.  Policies and practices having the same intention or effect, such as for example those restricting access to education, medical care, employment or the rights guaranteed by Article 25 and other provisions of the Covenant are similarly inconsistent with Article 18(2).  The same protection is enjoyed by holders of all beliefs of a non-religious nature.

          It is thus clear from the Committee's General Comment that Article 18(2) of the ICCPR bars the use of physical force and other forms of coercion against individuals in an attempt to make those individuals recant their religious beliefs.  And it is no excuse that the perpetrator of the coercive action does not recognize the belief as religious since the protection is to be equally available to one who holds a non-religious belief.  The protection encompasses freedom of thought on "all matters."[35] 

          One writer observed that "[t]he drafting history of Article 18 records that the drafters of the ICCPR construed `coercion' broadly as comprising both physical and indirect pressures."  However, it indicates that "coercion" does not extend to moral or intellectual persuasion.[36]  The Japan court excused the actions of the defendants because they were only attempting to persuade.  But it would be more than a stretch to argue that the "coercion" of Article 18 does not include so-called intellectual pressure as claimed by the defendants in the Mitsuko Ishikawa Antal case where the intellectual persuasion takes place in an environment where no escape for Mitsuko was possible except by breaking a window and escaping down a drain pipe. 

          The fact that a parent or a minister of another faith has a different religious perspective does not justify the use of coercion to change the religious beliefs of another.  It has been stated: 

The personal convictions of an individual or a religious group that their beliefs are true or superior can never justify discrimination towards others because they hold or profess different beliefs which are judged wrong or inferior.[37] 

          In 1981 the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief was adopted.  If there were any question that non-governmental actors may not be held accountable for violating U.N. religious human rights standards, that issue was put to rest in the 1981 Declaration.  Article 2(1) not only prohibits discrimination by the State but also by any "institution, group of persons or person on the grounds of religion or belief."  And Article 1(2) states that "[n]o one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice."  While Article 4(1) of the Declaration insists that "[a]ll States shall take effective measures to prevent or eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life."  Likewise, Article 4(2) instructs "[a]ll States . . . to take appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion or other beliefs in this matter." 

          It should be observed that "[w]hen Articles 2(1), 4, and 7 are read together, it is clear that national laws are to protect all persons against religious discrimination practiced by all other persons. This represents a bold attempt to require countries to outlaw private discrimination as well as discrimination at the hands of a body representing the state itself."[38] 

          The 1981 Declaration, although not a convention, still has legal effect because of the content of the language as well as its evolution since its adoption.  The mandatory language found particularly in Articles 4 and 7 demonstrates that the General Assembly intended the 1981 Declaration to be normative and not strictly exhorting.[39] 



          As stated by Mr. Federico Major, Director General of UNESCO, in addressing the OSCE International Seminar on Tolerance in May of 1995:

In practice, fighting intolerance requires both state action and individual responsibility.  Governments must adhere to the international standards and instruments of human rights, must ban and punish hate crimes and discrimination against minorities and all vulnerable groups, must ensure equal access to justice and equal opportunity for all.[40]

          It has been suggested that "States should . . . review whether their court rulings and administrative practices conform with existing standards on freedom of religion and belief."[41]  It is long over due for the Japanese judiciary to examine its rulings against the yardsticks of international human rights requirements.  And the government bears a responsibility also to ensure that no person is subjected to the abuses of forcible deprogrammings without an effective legal remedy.  We must wait no longer for Japan and other States to remedy such abuses. 

          Because forcible deprogrammings have been permitted for way too long, international bodies must now take additional action to insist that the right of conscience guaranteed by international standards is fully protected against such reprehensible violations of human rights.  The international human rights community and officials must condemn such conduct without delay.  Governments committed to standards broken by such violations must see to it that not one more citizen is subjected to a forcible deprogramming.




     [1]The term "forcible deprogramming" is perhaps not the best term used to describe the conduct condemned in this Paper because it suggests that a religious adherent to a new or unfamiliar religion has been first "programmed" by the religious groups to which he or she has become a member.  Many theologians suggest that what is deemed by many "main stream" churches to be a "conversion" experience when the adherent joins a mainline religious organization is what is condemned as "brainwashing" when one becomes an adherent to a new religious movement.  However, because "deprogramming" has become the nomenclature generally used, this paper will reluctantly use the term "forcible deprogramming."

     [2]It has been stated that "[a] compelling argument for religious human rights is to be found in the sanctity of the human person and respect for the inviolability of the human conscience, for together they constitute the basis for a limited state and a free and democratic society."  James E. Wood, Jr., An Apologia for Religious Human Rights, Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, Religious Perspective 466 (John Witte, Jr. and Johan D. van der Vyver, eds.) (1996).

     [3]The Universal Declaration was adopted by 48 votes in favor, with none against.  There were 8 abstentions (Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Byelorussian S.S.R., Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, U.S.S.R., and Yugoslavia).

     [4]The ICCPR covenant was adopted with 105 aye votes, none against, and no abstentions.

     [5]In this regard, the principles enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution are similar to that of Article 18 of the Declaration.  For this reason, the legal determinations of courts in the United States may be helpful and instructive to the international legal community. In Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303-04 (1940), the Supreme Court declared that the right to believe is absolute.  In a subsequent case, United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 87 (1944), the U.S. Supreme Court stated:

The Fathers of the Constitution were not unaware of the varied and extreme views of religious sects, of the violence of disagreement among them, and of the lack of any one religious creed on which all men would agree.  They fashioned a charter of government which envisaged the widest possible toleration of conflicting views.  Man's relation to his God was made no concern of the state.  He was granted the right to worship as he pleased and to answer to no man for the verity of his religious views.

     [6]The freedom to change one's religion, to adopt a religion, and to have a religion or no religion without coercion is a universal human right guaranteed by international standards.  See Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 22 (48) (art. 18), U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4 (1993); Arcot Kreshnaswami, Study of Discrimination in the Matter of Religious Rights and Practices, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/200 Rev. 1, (1960).

     [7]Ted Patrick in his own book described his "rescue" work with one of his victims:

Wes had taken up a position facing the car, with his hands on the roof and his legs spread-eagled. There was no way to get him inside while he was braced like that.  I had to make a quick decision.  I reached down between Wes's legs, grabbed him by the crotch and squeezed hard.  He let out a howl, and doubled up, grabbing for his groin with both hands.  Then I hit, shoving him headfirst into the back seat of the car and piling in on top of him.

T. Patrick with T. Dulack, Let Our Children Go at 96 (1976).

     [8]Wood, New Religions and the First Amendment, Religion and the State, p. 204 (ed. James E. Wood, Jr. 1985).  Wood observed:

The widespread practice on the part of public officials of even referring to the new religions as "cults" raises serious questions of discrimination and the entanglement of government with religion.   The very term "cult" arises out of a value judgment that has no place in American law.  Actually the term "cult" is a pejorative word used to denigrate religions other than one's own and is popularly applied to new religions so as to reinforce their deviation from the more socially established religious traditions.  Government is not competent and has not authority to judge which religions are good and which are bad any more than it can determine which religions are true and which are false.

     [9]"Legitimating Repression" by Drs. Thomas Robbins of Central Michigan University, Dick Anthony of Graduate Theological Union, and James McCarthy of Sanctuary Institute, The Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy: Sociological, Psychological, Legal and Historical Perspective 322 (David G. Bromley and James T. Richardson eds.) (The Edeven Mellen Press 1983).

     [10]The February 28, 1974, Resolution by the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches is attached as Appendix B.

     [11]           In the July/August (1977) issue of the Civil Liberties Review, Dean Kelley who served with distinction as the Director of Civil and Religious Liberties of the National Council of Churches, discussed the anguish of parents prayed upon by deprogrammers.  He said this parental anguish "has certainly been exploited and exacerbated to hysterical levels by deprogrammers who, in turn, feed off it like predators."  Kelley called for "equal consideration to the feelings -- and rights -- of young people who go about in daily dread of being physically seized and subjected to protracted spiritual gang-rape until they yield their most cherished religious commitments."  He called such conduct on the part of deprogrammers "criminal" stating:  "It should be prosecuted, not just as any other kidnapping undertaken for mercenary motives would be, but even more vigorously, since it strikes at the most precious and vulnerable portion of the victim's life, religious convictions and commitments."

     [12]Kelley, Religious Rights in Crisis, Hennepin-Hamline Dialogues, St. Paul, Minn., July 25, 26, 1984 at II, 1.


     [14]The March 5, 1977, Statement by the National Board of the ACLU is attached as Appendix C.  Likewise, the Christian Legal Society condemned such conduct.  See Appendix D.

     [15]The December 18, 1976, edition of the Washington Star reported that a Roman Catholic woman and an old Catholic priest were the subject of deprogramming.  See Appendix C.

     [16]Kelley, supra, at p. II-5.

     [17]Id. at II-6.

     [18]The July 12, 1977, Report of the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service of The Library of Congress as to the "Legal Implications of Taking Religious Converts Over State Lines for Deprogramming Purposes" appears as Appendix E.

     [19]An editorial appearing in the June 25, 1985, edition of The Evening Sun concerning "Parents as Kidnappers" condemned law enforcement which ignored forcible deprogrammings on the basis of parental involvement.  See Appendix D.

     [20]Attached as Appendix E is the Memorandum of Decision in Helander v. Patrick issued by the Superior Court of Fairfield County, Connecticut.

     [21]The case, Eilers v. Coy, 582 F. Supp. 1093 (D. Minn. 1987), is cited for the principle that:

Evidence that a plaintiff has been abducted and confined against his or her will for a period of days without any reasonable means to escape is sufficient to establish liability for false imprisonment under circumstances of attempted deprogramming particularly where the plaintiff is confined beyond the time required to turn the plaintiff over to lawful authorities and lawful alternatives such as civil commitments are not used.

32 Am. Jur. 2d, False Imprisonment § 73.

     [22]Colorado Court of Appeals Docket No. 88 CA 1741.

     [23]Deprogrammers earlier seized upon the "choice of evils" defense to escape conviction for false imprisonment in carrying out their forced deprogrammings.  In 1974 Ted Patrick advanced this defense when tried for false imprisonment of two young adult women who were not members of any religious sect.  They were raised in strict Greek Orthodox homes but rejected those beliefs.  The court rejected such a justification defense ruling: "First, for the choice of evils defense to be available there must be imminent public or private injury about to occur which requires emergency action."  People v. Patrick, 541 P.2d 320, 322 (Colo. App. 1975).  See article, Terror in Denver, appearing in the March/April, 1975, issued of Liberty magazine in Appendix F.

     [24]Amicus Brief of the National Council of Churches and Council on Religious Freedom filed in People v. Whelan and Brandyberry, Colorado Court of Appeals, Case No. 88 CA 1741 (1989) at 3.

     [25]Id. at 7.

     [26]Id.  at 16.

     [27]The appeals court said:

      Here, even if we were to assume that defendants rationally perceived that the victim's membership in the church posed a threat of an imminent injury to her, they failed to show that the remedy they elected to pursue (knowing violation of criminal laws) was the least harmful option available to them for avoiding the threatened injury.

      Moreover, there is no evidence that defendants sought assistance or alternative remedies from law enforcement officials or from the courts, either prior to or after kidnapping the victim.  Rather, defendants planned the abduction with the victim's parents without benefit of legal advice about what reasonable legal alternatives might be available to avoid any supposed injury to the victim other than the remedy they chose by violating the law. . . .  And, after the victim was seized, the defendants actively concealed her whereabouts from police authorities, continued their unauthorized custody and deprogramming efforts, and moved the victim repeatedly to avoid governmental or other outside interference with their activities.

People of the State of Colorado v. Robert Brandyberry and Dennis Whelan, No. 88-1741, slip op. at 11 (Colo. Ct. App. Nov. 23, 1990).

     [28]Scott v. Ross, 140 F.3d 1275 (9th Cir. 1998).

     [29]Attached in Appendix G is a March 29, 1977, news story "Deprogrammer Starts Five-Month Sentence," appearing in the Denver Rocky Mountain News; attached in Appendix H is a letter from Bud Cullen, Canadian Minister of Employment and Immigration, to Walter Baker of the House of Commons dated November 24, 1978; and attached as Appendix I is an August 14, 1985, news article "Deprogrammer Sentenced to Prison" appearing in the Washington Times.

     [30]Article 5 § 1 of the European Convention provides:

1.  Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.  No one shall be deprived of h is liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;

(b) the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation prescribed by law;

(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

(d) the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority;

(e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants;

(f) the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorized entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.

     [31]Page 240, Annual Report On International Religious Freedom 2002, Report submitted to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the U.S. House of Representatives by the Department of State (Nov. 2002).

     [32]Arcot Kreshnaswami: Study of Discrimination in the Matter of Religious Rights and Practices, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/200/Rev.1, U.Sn. Sales No. 60.XIV.2 (1960). This study was final report to U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at its twelfth session (1960).  The study was characterized as "a landmark" in the efforts of the United Nations to eradicate prejudice and discrimination based on religion or belief.  U.N. Docs. E/CN.4/80, E/CN.4/Sub.2/206, para. 35.

     [33]Admittedly, the forced deprogramming of adherents to disfavored religions in Japan is not as egregious as the official action of local Chinese authorities who use the administrative process to punish members of unregistered religious groups to sentence citizens to up to 3 years in prison-like facilities called reeducation centers or sending hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners for confinement in psychiatric institutions where forced to take medications or undergo shock treatment against their will.  However, on serious reflection, it must be admitted that the difference is only one of degree.  See 2001 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom Report at 206.

     [34]The United Nations Human Rights Committee is an autonomous treaty based body made up of human rights experts elected by state parties.  Its responsibility is to monitor state parties' applications of the ICCPR and operational protocols.

     [35]See D. Little, Studying "Religious Human Rights": Methodological Foundations at 7 n.11 (paper submitted to the International Conference on "Religious Human Rights in the World Today: Legal and Religious Perspectives," Atlanta, Oct. 6-4 (1994).

     [36]Bahiyyih G. Tahzib, Freedom of Religion or Belief: Ensuring Effective International Legal Protection 326 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1995).

     [37]K. C. Boyle, Report on "Freedom of Conscience in International Law," Freedom of Conscience Proceedings 37, 50 (Strasbourg)

     [38]Bahiyyih G. Tahzib, Freedom of Religion or Belief: Ensuring Effective International Legal Protection 172 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff 1995).

     [39]Id. at 186-87.

     [40]Message from the Director General of UNESCO, Mr. Frederico Major, International Seminar on Tolerance, OSCE/ODIHR, Bucharest, 23-26, May, 1995, Proceedings of the Seminar at 19.

     [41]Tahzib, Freedom of Religion or Belief: Ensuring Effective International Legal Practices, at 54, citing Vidal D'Almeida Ribeiro, Implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, U.N. Doc. E/CN4/1988/45 (1988) (para. 70).


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