Scientology's Revenge - 1999-09-09
It was an idea whose time had come. That's how Priscilla Coates describes the humble beginnings of the Cult Awareness Network, founded two decades ago in the wake of the murders and mass suicides in Guyana that claimed the lives of hundreds of the late Jim Jones' followers. The concept was simple enough: set up a nonprofit, national organization to assist the often desperate loved ones of people caught up in the ever-proliferating cult scene. On paper, at least, the group known by the acronym CAN endures. But nearly a quarter-century later, neither Coates, who ran the Los Angeles chapter during the organization's heyday, nor anyone else who once helped nurture the network has anything to do with it. That's because whenever people call CAN's hotline these days, more likely than not someone from the Church of Scientology answers the phone. Instead of warning people about suspected cults, opponents say, the new group promotes them. As one Scientology critic puts it, "It's like Operation Rescue taking over Planned Parenthood."