1 11-15-88 12:43 aps xxx of dignity. Patricia Ryan, who serves on the board of the nationa
1 11-15-88 12:43 aps xxx of dignity.
Patricia Ryan, who serves on the board of the national Cult
Awareness Network, maintains to this day that her Congressman
father, who was slain at the Port Kaituma airstrip outside of
Jonestown, should never have been allowed to go to the jungle
commune by the State Department, which had evidence of the
dangerous and unstable situation there.
"There's never been a Congressional investigation about it,"
said Ryan, who works in Washington, D.C. "There's just no excuse
for the government's lack of action. They should have been the
ones going in instead of my father, if they were doing their job.
Killed along with Ryan by temple members armed with
semi-automatic rifles in the airstrip ambush were San Francisco
Examiner photographer Greg Robinson, NBC newsmen Don Harris and
Bob Brown and temple defector Patricia Parks. Eleven others were
wounded, including Speier, diplomat Richard Dwyer, Examiner
reporter Tim Reiterman.
The airstrip shootings were triggered by Jones after more than
a dozen followers asked to leave Jonestown with the Ryan party,
defections that threw the cult leader into despair. One of the
"defectors" was Larry Layton, the only temple member to stand
trial in the United States and who was convicted of
murder-conspiracy for his role in the airport shootings.
Patricia Ryan said she's been dismayed to see how the
government, many officials of whom were supportive of Jones
because of his political clout, quickly tried to sweep Guyana
under the rug.
"There was never an investigation to see how many temple
members were shot, how many drank the cyanide juice and how many
were injected. They were allowed to die without anyone examining
what happened. They were written off."
Ryan said the lessons of Jonestown should be remembered
because there are a growing number of cults today using deception
and mind control to attract and entrap unsuspecting and
"There's no reason to talk about the past unless we can learn
from it. There are a lot of parallels to the Peoples Temple in
society today. A lot of groups should be looked at more
critically by law enforcement agencies, particularly for abuse of
children. There were 300 kids at Jonestown and people looked the
other way rather than attack freedom of religion.
"People must distinguish between freedom of religion and
freedom from the law."
Ryan and Steven Hassan, an expert on "exit counselling" or
helping people break away from cults, both warn that dangerous,
manipulative groups are on the increase instead of waning. Among
organizations they accuse of being destructive cults, the three
main ones are the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon; The
Church of Scientology; and Rajneesh.
Hassan, who has developed his own formula for helping people
escape cults, said the 10th anniversary of the Peoples Temple
deaths should help focus attention on the fact that mind control,
hypnotism and even ritualistic killings are being practiced in
"Most cults operate in the context of the greater society,"
said Hassan. "When Jones moved to Guyana, he moved out of that
social context and the members were isolated and completely
The main cult characteristics _ control of behavior, control
of thoughts, control of emotions and control of information _
were all present "in the extreme" at Jonestown, said Hassan, a
former Unification Church "Moonie" and author of the
recently-published book, "Combatting Cult Mind Control."
After the Jonestown incident, said Hassan, the world for
awhile focused on the impact of destructive cults, an interest
which quickly dissipated.
"Today, thousands of exploitive and manipulative cults are
burgeoning, robbing millions of people of their personal
idetities, their families, their life savings, even the capacity
to think for themselves."
There are still some, however, who recall joining Jones'
church for good purposes and who maintain that many of those who
died were simply followers of a philosophy they believed in.
Kathy Tropp, a former Peoples Temple member who was in San
Francisco when the Jonestown tragedy occurred, said many people
who joined were good, God-loving people who saw the church doing
"Obviously Jones went mad, I don't take issue with that," said
Tropp, who had previously refused to give interviews. "But, there
was a lot of good work going on. We were a large group of people
involved with each other. We used kills that could benefit the
community. It was idealistic and seemed very, very good.
"If you get people together, there's a lot of energy that's
good and positive and decent."
Tropp said Jones. who was born in Lynn, Ind., and came west to
settle in Ukiah, Calif., with 100 followers from Indianapolis
before moving to San Francisco, presented an approach to solving
social problems that wasn't extreme. "It was a sane philosophy,
and very middle class. I would defend it."
Charles Garry, the San Francisco attorney for Peoples Temple
who was in Jonestown the night of the tragedy and who escaped
through the jungle, said he hasn't spoken to any former temple
members in several years and wouldn't attend any of the memorial
"I just want to put it behind me," he said.
Jones' only natural son, Stephen Jones, lives in San Francisco
but refused to be interviewed for the anniversary. However, the
younger Jones, who was in Georgetown, Guyana on the fatal night,
has said he hated his father and even plotted to kill him.
Ironically, echoing the words of those who are warning against
the rise in cults, Jones himself had a saying elevated above his
green wooden chair in Jonestown which read, "Those who do not
remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank