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Tom Sackville's Odd Friends

Tom Sackville (left) keeps strange and unsavoury company; the anti-religious extremists he supports include American felon Ted Patrick (top left), former head of the Cult Awareness Network Cynthia Kisser (centre) and Danish fanatic Johannes Aaagaard (right). Except for a few sarcastic comments in the tabloids, the media generally paid little attention to a talk given by Home Office Minister Tom Sackville towards the end of last year.

ong a source of anti-religious hysteria in the Home Office, Sackville was again advocating a return to the spiritual Dark Ages.

     He was working, Sackville told his audience, to ban the neutral term “new religious movements” from ministerial jargon, to be replaced with the intentionally intolerant word “cults.”

     “In the past, the Home Office has seemed to give the impression it is neutral and I very much regret this. We’re anti-cult,” said Sackville.

     More recent Home Office announcements suggest mixed views. Some apparently hold more rational opinions. Others, it seems, have been infected by Sackville’s virus. This is more than merely outrageous considering the scope of groups condemned by him and his chain of “anti-cult” cohorts.

     Take, for example, a document from the French contingent. Their latest “official” list of churches and other organisations which they are “anti” contains 172 groups, some religious and some not. It includes “cults” like the Baptist Church—the religion of the President of the United States. Hardly a stance one would expect the UK government to adopt publicly.

     If that is not absurd enough—consider Denmark’s anti-cult alarmist, Johannes Aagaard. Aagaard’s definition of “cult” is so all-embracing he literally links Ozone Therapy and the growth of organic carrots with occultism and satanism.

     And then there is American Cynthia Kisser—one of the most notorious of the “anti-cult” clique. Not satisfied with just the Baptists, Kisser has also included both the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party—the largest American political party with tens of millions of members — in her definition of “cults.”

Tom Sackville (left) keeps strange and unsavoury company; the anti-religious extremists he supports include American felon Ted Patrick (top left), former head of the Cult Awareness Network Cynthia Kisser (centre) and Danish fanatic Johannes Aaagaard (right).       “Sex and Power”

     Considering the breadth of purpose and ideology of the groups classified as “cults” by Sackville and his intolerant counterparts, his comment that the “true purpose” of all such groups is “sex and power” is not only defamatory but almost moronic.

     It is also hypocritical: Sackville made his “we are not neutral” speech before a group with its own dubious “sex and power” track record—“FAIR.”

     “Rescue” becomes “Resource”

     Until recently, “FAIR” stood for “Family Action Information and Rescue.” FAIR members believe that they know what’s best for you. If they don’t like the people you are associating with, or the religion you choose, they might suggest that you be “rescued.”

     This form of “rescue” is called deprogramming. The inventor of the technique, American Ted Patrick, states in his own book that deprogramming “may be said to involve kidnapping at the very least, quite often assault and battery, almost invariably conspiracy to commit a crime and illegal restraint.”

     Patrick acknowledged a debt of gratitude to British psychiatrist William Sargant. Sargant’s now condemned experiments in brainwashing produced techniques which, in his own words, would enable “the therapist [to] deliberately distort the facts of the patient’s life-experience to achieve heightened emotional response and abreaction. In the drunken state of narcoanalysis, patients are prone to accept the therapist’s false constructions.” In other words, the victim can be brainwashed by deprogramming so that he not only denounces his religious beliefs, but now actually believes lies about his former religion implanted by the deprogrammer.

     Himself a major anti-religionist, Sargant described deprogramming as a “devastating technique.”

     While some forms of “deprogramming” focus on deception and intensive persuasion, those involving force have been widely recognised as illegal for some time. For about the same period, FAIR has been, at least publicly, disavowing deprogramming and changed its name to “Family Action Information and Resource.” Similarly, deprogramming is now usually referred to as “exit counselling,” with its practitioners claiming to disavow the violent aspects of the process used earlier.

     In the pre-euphemism days of 1987, FAIR deprogrammer and Management Committee member Cyril Vosper was convicted of kidnapping and causing bodily harm to a young woman in Germany.

     As an advocate of less “neutral” language, Sackville no doubt prefers the honesty of the self-confessed deprogrammers and would rather FAIR had stuck with “rescue.”

     The True Purpose...

     FAIR has suffered a number of scandals of its own. In 1977, one of FAIR’s original trustees, Mark Hosenball, was deported by the Home Secretary as a security risk. According to government statements at the time, Hosenball had “obtained for publication information harmful to the security of the United Kingdom” and had “acted in consort with others.”

     More germane to Sackville’s “sex and power” theory, in 1989, former chairman Rev. Neil Dawson was exposed in the national press as the host of regular homosexual sex and drug orgies in his vicarage. Per Sackville’s definition, this must have been the first evidence that FAIR is itself a “cult.”

     The late Lord Rodney, who took over from Dawson, added to the group’s reputation when he was quoted in the press saying “everyone should be deprogrammed.”

     In 1986, FAIR launched an assault on the Peniel Bible Assembly, a Christian community in the UK, calling the group an “evil and dangerous cult.” Only after being sued for defamation did FAIR’s then-chairman, the “Reverend” Neil Dawson, issue an apology admitting that “the Peniel Bible Assembly is precisely what it claims to be, namely an independent Pentecostal Church.”

     The following year, FAIR sued its own treasurer, Casey McCann, for misappropriation of funds.

     FAIR’s accumulated difficulties were apparent at its 1994 annual general meeting. Attendees were not only asked to bring their own cut sandwiches, but also their own chairs. In 1995, they were unable to cover the hire for the hall.

     What Now?

     The October 1996 meeting was apparently slightly more accommodating—in deference to the guest from the Home Office with his “sex and power” speech.

     Although his follies may seem—indeed are—absurd, it is also an outrage that the Home Office Minister would advocate division and intolerance. It is also reprehensible that his peers have not demanded he apologise or resign.

     Albeit regrettable that no official agency has yet stepped forward to do so, Freedom is now moving forward with its investigation to establish the real reasons for Sackville’s embrace of lawless fanatics.

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