[Note: Four articles over a two-page spread.]

The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), Sun 23 Jan 1994, p18-19

Cults danger to families

A BRISBANE Catholic priest who has been involved in counselling families affected by cults says Scientology is a destructive cult.

Father Bill O'Shea described destructive cults as those that enticed people into membership by deception, through not telling the truth.

"It really takes away a person's freedom and responsibility," Fr O'Shea said.

He said such cults split families by urging members to break away from their families.

"I would rate Scientology as a destructive cult," Fr O'Shea said.

"Their first approach to people is to get them to fill out a questionnaire, with which they claim to be able to help them improve their outlook.

"Almost all the people who are first approached would not have any idea what is involved."

Fr O'Shea said he believed those who were most successful in helping people to come out of cult groups were those who previously had been members - "those who had been through the mill themselves".

Fr O'Shea also said he believed the Brisbane Church of Christ, an offshoot of the Boston Church of Christ, was a destructive cult.

"It's probably one of the most aggressive, as far as recruiting," he said.

Father O'Shea warned of the cult group's activities on Brisbane university campuses.

A former member and a mother who has campaigned against the group's activities at the University of Queensland also have warned that new university students may be targeted.

Coral Carmichael said her son was almost recruited by the group, while he was looking to join a Bible study group, as a second-year science student at the university.

She said her son was scared off joining by some of the questions asked by the local leader of the group, but he was still put under a lot of pressure.

Mrs Carmichael said members would phone him late at night, and one kept following her son home from university.

"He was turning up day and night," Mrs Carmichael said.

"My husband and I went over and had to physically remove him from the premises.

"Every time my son saw these people he got sick."

Mrs Carmichael said her son said they made him feel bad about himself.

"Whatever these people are doing, they can do it in one or two weeks," she warned.

Tony, a former member of the Brisbane Church of Christ, has since joined a group of ex-members who meet regularly.

He said he was involved in the cult for three months, in early 1982, while he was studying architecture part-time.

"They met me in the mall and invited me to a church service claiming that they put the Bible into practice," Tony said.

Tony, 30, said the manipulation by the group started during Bible studies after a meeting.

"They induce an alpha state, by over-loading you with information," he said.

"I was confused and off balance. I was made to feel uncertain."

Tony said he first became involved when he was at a vulnerable stage, after breaking up with a girlfriend, and facing some important deadlines.

He said the group tried to encourage him to move into one of their share houses for single men, and he was constantly harassed into being involved in group activities.

They also wanted him to go out and evangelise.

Tony was "baptised" into the Brisbane Church of Christ, but he eventually returned to the Anglican Church.

"It was like a veil lifting," he said.

Tony said the group taught that the only way they could achieve salvation was through the church, and if they left their salvation would be in jeopardy.

"Fears get instilled into you, out of the group dynamics," Tony said.

"For instance, you might be afraid of dying if you leave ... or being severed, cast to the dogs."

Tony warned young people to be wary of any group that seemed to be fairly exclusive.

"Be wary if they are evasive about their leadership," he said.

"Everyone has the potential to be vulnerable at some time.

"If a cult comes along at that time, you could end up falling into it."

Brisbane father Stuart Riley knows the distress of watching a family fall apart.

Mr Riley returned from England on Friday after an unsuccessful attempt to persuade his son Lee to leave the Church of Scientology there and return to Brisbane.

Stuart and Lee Riley spent the previous weekend together in Manchester, after Stuart had gone to the media with his story and a letter he wrote to his son.

"While people keep quiet about Scientology they will never get their kids back," Mr Riley said.

"My argument is still against Scientology," he said.

"I would still like him to look at all the evidence I've got against Scientology."

[reduced headline 'Cult has my son' and photo of Stuart Riley] Last week's Sunday Mail front page


Scientology hits back

THE Church of Scientology claims a Brisbane father who tried to get his son away from Scientology in England has been involved with "anti-religious deprogrammers".

A Scientology spokesperson said Mr Stuart Riley had been in close communication with "deprogrammers" in England who had "incited him to attempt to deprogram his son and have him apostatise his chosen religion".

Last week, in a letter to his son, published in The Sunday Mail, Stuart Riley said Lee Riley, 27, appeared to be under the control of Scientology.

London-based reporter Malcolm Holland also wrote of Mr Riley's situation and of his own visit, with a photographer, to Scientology's headquarters in East Grinstead.

Stuart Riley said he had gone to England in a bid to release his son from the grip of Scientology and offer him a plane ticket home to Australia.

Mr Riley said he made several attempts to show his son what he believed was documentary evidence that discredited Scientology.

He released a story to the media after Lee Riley would not agree to spend a week with him reviewing the documents, without contacting Scientology.

Public relations director for the Church of Scientology, Virginia Kee, described the story as one-sided and bigoted, "regurgitating trite lines about the Church of Scientology which have been categorically disproven."

"There are numerous official studies of Scientology made by professionals and professors of religion which show that Scientology makes individuals more aware, more in control of their lives and happier," Ms Kee said.

She said Lee Riley was a Scientologist who worked as a volunteer for the Scientology-sponsored Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

Ms Kee said that at Christmas time, Lee Riley had called his parents to say he was coming home for a visit, but his father had said he would go to see him in England.

Mr Riley has claimed that his trip was planned three months before and Lee called to say he was coming home only hours before he was due to leave Australia.

Ms Kee said the father and son then spent 10 full days alone on a holiday, and later Lee was shocked to receive an ultimatum letter from his father.

Ms Kee said Lee contacted his father long before the 24-hour deadline, which is denied by his father, and they arranged a meeting for that day.

"However, shortly thereafter, Stuart called back and said he would not meet Lee as planned, as he already had a meeting set up with the media," she said.

Ms Kee said Malcolm Holland had visited East Grinstead 48 hours before Stuart Riley gave Lee the ultimatum letter.

The Church of Scientology has denied claims by Mr Holland about black-paramilitary uniformed and menacing Scientology guards and a car full of Scientology members giving chase by car.

"The only persons that came up to them was a middle-aged woman and a fellow staff member who invited Holland for a tour of the estate with the church public relations officer," Ms Kee said.

"However he never took the offer up and refused to correctly identify himself."

Ms Kee also attacked the act of deprogramming, saying that it had all the components of brainwashing.

She said the Cult Awareness Network was an anti-religious hate group, which had targeted Scientology under its destructive religions and organisations list.

"People using Scientology gain increased confidence, raised IQ, are more successful in life and have less stress and improved relationships," Ms Kee claimed.

[photo of guard in black] A guard at the Church of Scientology's English headquarters warns journalists off

Father continues to hope

STUART Riley, the Brisbane man who went to England to try to wrench his son away from Scientology, returned home alone on Friday.

But Mr Riley, who tried desperately to convince his son that his involvement in Scientology was ruining his life, still hopes his son will come home.

Mr Riley said since his return, he had learned Lee Riley had called from England and told his brother that he wanted to come home.

He said he would like his son to come home to Brisbane and, with the whole family, look at the documents and books that tell the other side of the Scientology story. "As a family we would then discuss Scientology, and if he still wanted to continue with Scientology he can do it.

"You have to come clean and almost be prepared to lose your son to get him back."

He would still offer his son a plane ticket home.

Before he left, Lee Riley gave his father a hand-written letter expressing his love for him, and Stuart Riley said there were no bitter feelings between them.

[photo] Stuart Riley ... wants his son back

A son replies

BRISBANE man Lee Riley, whose father unsuccessfully tried to get him to leave the Church of Scientology in England, has written the following open letter:

IN reply to the article about me, my father, and my interest in Scientology, appearing in Australian newspapers on January 16, I have some points I would like to make, as up till now the Australian media have not bothered to call me to ask me for any data for their stories.

Other media did talk with me and I willingly told them my feelings about the story.

My father arrived in the UK at the end of December to spend about two weeks on holiday with myself in England.

Upon his arrival in England, we drove to Manchester to visit relatives. We spent about 10 days together visiting places such as Lands End and Newquay. We did the regular father and son tourist trip.

I started back at work on the 3rd of January while my father drove to Leicester to visit my mother's cousin. My father arrived back from Leicester on the Thursday of that week and stayed at my flat both Thursday and Friday nights.

During these two days, dad visited both Saint Hill Manor and the Scientology college at East Grinstead and seemed to enjoy himself and even commented how nice the people were who work there.

He was given every opportunity to ask any questions about Scientology while there, but said he didn't have any questions.

As an end to our holiday together, dad had organised a trip to Worthing for Saturday - staying at the Andrington Hotel. We spoke at length about my interest in Scientology and dad seemed fairly relaxed about the whole subject.

Dad and I, I felt, had come closer together over those 10 days than we had been for quite some time. We covered many subjects, and in fact hardly talked about Scientology at all.

Then, while in Worthing at the hotel, my father suggested I watch a video of a TV program critical of Scientology. I obliged. My father then said he had been in contact with a guy called Jon Atack and wondered whether I wanted to speak with him.

Jon Atack is known to me as a deprogrammer, intent of depriving people of their choice of religious beliefs. I declined to speak with Mr Atack. My father then told me that Atack was coming to the hotel to see me with another person, Bonnie Woods.

I found it difficult to believe that it needed both my father and two deprogrammers to convince me to change my religion.

Atack and Woods arrived at our hotel room and I told my father than I refused to speak with them and would come back to the hotel when they were gone. This was the first instance of blatant interference in family affairs and from this point my father and I had problems talking.

I do not know what Atack and Woods were saying to my father, but it definitely made speaking with him much more difficult. By this stage I realised that Atack and Woods's sole intention was to enforce their opinions on my father and thus persuade me through less than honest means to give up my religious belief.

My relationship with my father did not return to a level that existed before Atack and Woods's interference. I made every effort to make peace with my father, but Atack and Woods's involvement was instrumental in creating a rift between my father and I.

I would like to think that if another family were to be placed in a similar position all parties concerned would consider the individual's right to his own religious beliefs.

Thank you.

Sincerely, Lee Riley

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