1 11-15-88 12:43 aps xxx of dignity. Patricia Ryan, who serves on the board of the nationa

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

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 vulnerable people. "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 groups today. "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 helpless." 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 good deeds. "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 services. "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