|8||Ted Patrick who believes that the end justifies the means, finally
has been convicted of kidnapping.
Patrick has made headlines across the country with his "deprogramming" activities, aimed at reconverting young persons who became disciples of religious cults.
"You have to do whatever is necessary to get them back," Patrick said many times.
The court had other ideas.
"We must observe the laws that makes it a crime to abduct another human being," San Diego Superior Court Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund said in sentencing Patrick to a year in jail.
Over the years, Ted Patrick has personified the anguish and anger felt by many parents who believed their children had been brainwashed by cultists. The young men and women joining these religious group frequently reject their parents, and their lifestyles are altogether different from their upbringing.
THE QUESTION REALLY is, however - do parents have the right to interfere in the lives of their adult children?
The courts have ruled "No" and they are right. When children become of age, each individual is responsible for his or her own life, barring special conditions such as mental incapacity.
For the most part, Patrick's victims have been adults who freely chose the religions from which he "rescued" them. They have not been found incompetent to make such a decision, have not been illegally abducted into the religious community, and have not broken any laws themselves which might justify their detention by Patrick and their parents.
While parents have the right - and even the obligation - to argue and plead or even offer inducements to lead children into what they consider the proper paths,they must stop short of physical coercion.
In principle, joining a religious cult like the "Moonies" is comparable to a child who gives up the faith of his childhood to join another church - or who refuses to attend church at all.
THE PROBLEM IS one of degree. The lifestyle of most cults is so different from the ordinary that most parents feel their children must have been subjected to extraordinary pressure to join.
They may be right - we have read some rather bizarre accounts of life among these religious zealots - but this does not change the principle.
There comes a time when parents, for better or worse, have to let their children go. Although it is difficult not to sympathize with those confronted with this problem, the invasion of their adult children's' rights cannot be justified.
This is what the courts have said. Kidnapping is still a violation of law, and those who practice it must be punished, regardless of their motives.
|7||In a free country an individual may choose to believe in one God,
100 gods or no god. It's a matter of personal conscience.
So a California judge did the proper thing last week in sentencing a religious "deprogrammer" to jail. Deprogramming, as practiced in this instance, is a technique of systematically erasing an individual's religius beliefs.
Superior Court Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund gave a one-year sentence to Ted Patrick, a man with a long record of "deprogramming" young adults who join religious groups disapproved by their parents. Patrick was found guilty of kidnapping a 25-year old woman of Tucson, Ariz., in order to "deprogram" her.
The judge told Patrick, now free pending an appeal, that he would remain on five years probation and fined him $5,000.
"Punishment is needed to deter him and to protect the community," the judge said. "He will be a danger to society unless he changes his way of deprogramming. The forcible abduction of adults cannot be tolerated even under the guise of deprogramming, or even if the parents want it dne."
Although he had been found innocent in August of kidnapping another woman in San Diego, Patrick's coercive methods already have cost him seven months in jail and pending indictments in two other states. He charges from $7,500 to $10,000 for parents who seek his services to "save" their children from "cults".
Although he makes money on deprogramming Patrick must be considered a sincere believer in fundamentalist Christianity who knows the Bible well and quotes expertly from Scripture.
But throughout its history the Bible has been interpreted in different ways by different people, as witness that today there are at least 256 denominations, all differing on some points from the others, which use the Bible as their guide.
People of different faiths have a right to peaceably try to gain converts. No one, no matter how sincerely pious, has a right to kidnap anyone to do so.
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