The West Australian, Sat 27 Mar 1993

Restraining order against 'consultant'

A Sydney Scientologist has sought a restraining order against one of two American "consultants" who visited WA to counsel a woman out of the ET Earth Mission sect.

The order was sought in a Sydney court by Sarah Harrison, 19, who said she feared Patrick Ryan, of Philadelphia would try to "deprogram" her against her will.

Mr Ryan, who went to Sydney from Perth, received the summons at his hotel room at 4.30pm on Tuesday last week.

He was booked to fly to America the next morning.

On legal advice, he had someone else attend the hearing to explain his non-appearance and the case was adjourned to April 28.

Church of Scientology community liaison officer Carmen Harris said in Perth yesterday that Ms Harrison did not want to be deprogrammed out of her religious affiliation.

She had told the court she needed the restraining order to ensure Mr Ryan did not "assault, intimidate, harass, threaten, molest or otherwise interfere with her".

Ms Harris alleged that Mr Ryan had previously been involved in at least two "involuntary deprogrammings" and that his colleague, Joe Szimhart, had admitted involvement in forced abductions and deprogramming attempts.

Mr Szimhart was awaiting trial on a charge relating to the kidnapping of a woman in Idaho, she said.

Ms Harrison has reportedly said she wants the case to proceed, even if she was not deprogrammed, because: "These guys should not be allowed to come into the country to try to rip families off, take their money and play on parents' fears."

Mr Ryan said he had been in Australia to counsel people caught in an extraterrestrial sect and had not approached Ms Harrison.

People in his work were known in the US as deprogrammers, exit counsellors or cult busters, but he saw himself as an educator.

He educated people on cults in general and the nature of influence and hypnosis.

There was no point drugging people or using sleep deprivation to break links with cults.

"Quite the contrary. If someone wants to sleep or rest it's best to let them do that. The idea is to stimulate the intellect and their thinking processes," he said.

"I only work with people who agree to talk to me. It's not worth doing it any other way."

Mr Szimhart confirmed that he would stand trial in Idaho on April 5 on a charge of having aided and abetted the kidnapping of a mother-of-four caught up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religious sect which believes in the teachings of ascended masters.

He would defend the case.

"I was the last to arrive at the scene, where the woman's mother and sister were present," he said.

"The woman agreed to talk and to listen for several days, after which I went home."

Mr Szimhart said the mother and sister were arrested two days later. He was one of three deprogrammers also charged, though not one of those who abducted the woman.

The woman had since dropped the charges against her mother and sister, but everyone else remained charged.

He had stopped participating in coercive holding two years ago, having found it unnecessary.

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