NBC Defames Carp And The Unification Church Of America

by Peter Ross-NYCIn November of 1993, NBC aired several programs which defamed the Unification Church of America and CARP. The following letter was submitted to NBC’s lawyer by Peter Ross. attorney, who represents the Unification Church and CARP. In addition to this response the Unification Church has filed an official complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
On Monday, November 8, 1993, and on Monday, November 15, 1993, NBC aired editions of the Today show which referenced the Unification Church of America (“the Church”). NBC also aired an edition of the Now program, which was essentially a re-run of the first Today show.
To date, your client has failed to consider the concerns of the Church with regard to these several programs. The failure of your client to respond to my request for a meeting to discuss these programs was very disappointing.
Therefore, please be advised that officials of the Unification Church have decided to retain counsel and to file suit in federal court against NBC and the producers of the Today show, together with Peter Heinrich, Cynthia Lilley, Patrick Ryan, Carol Giambalvo, Steve Hassan, and the Cult Awareness Network (CAN).
The cause of action is defamation of the Unification Church. Unification Church officials believe that these programs were maliciously produced in order to undermine the legitimate good standing of the Church as a bonafide religious organization, in order to adversely reflect upon the Church’s honesty and integrity, and in order to impair the Church’s ability to otherwise legitimately function as a bonafide charitable organization.
It is the opinion of Church officials that the elements necessary to establish a prima facie case have been met in these several shows. A brief review of the origin and nature of these programs will explain the basis for the Church’s decision.
Origin of the Today show:The producers of the Today show became interested in Cathryn Mazer’s brief association with the Unification Church after having been contacted by Cynthia Lilley and Peter Heinrich.
Cathryn had initially met the Unification Church in New York, through its student organization, the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP). Despite her efforts to communicate her decision to associate with CARP, Peter Heinrich, her step-father, and Cynthia Lilley, her mother, sought to persuade Cathryn to end her association with CARP through a variety of tactics, which included among others, first, the threat of force and subsequently the threat of a negative media attack on the Church. It must be noted that Cathryn Mazer never joined CARP or the Unification Church.
Because of a fear and apprehension that she would be abducted and subjected to an involuntary deprogramming, Cathryn Mazer advised Cynthia Lilley, who was visiting New York, that she would file a complaint with the police and seek a court order of protection if Cynthia Lilley’s threats continued. On behalf of Cathryn, I advised federal law enforcement agencies in New York of the threats that Cathryn had been subjected to. I have in my possession an affidavit drafted by Cathryn Mazer on September 14, 1993, outlining her concerns in this regard.
Having been so advised by Cathryn, Cynthia Lilley and Peter Heinrich ceased issuing threats of a forcible abduction and returned to California. The basis for Cathryn’s fear of being kidnapped arose from the fact that both Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley stated that they had obtained information and counsel from individuals associated with the Cult Awareness Network(“CAN”). In fact, the Today show of November 8, showed two active deprogrammers associated with CAN.
The term deprogramming refers to a process whereby individuals who are members of, or associated with certain religious groups are subjected to various involuntary procedures designed to strip them of their religious beliefs. It is more accurately described as faith-breaking.
The Reverend Dean Kelley, Counselor on Religious Liberty for the National Council of Churches, has stated: “Forcible deprogramming is the most serious stain on religious liberty facing this country in the latter half of the 20th. century.”
NBC presented on both the Today show and the Now show, two active deprogrammers retained by Cynthia Lilley advising her how to attempt a deprogramming of Cathryn Mazer. One of these deprogrammers, Carol Giambalvo, had her own daughter involuntarily committed into a mental hospital in order to sever her association with the Hare Krishna religion. The other deprogrammer, Patrick Ryan, is a well know deprogrammer who charges thousands of dollars for his services and has been most active in targeting members of Transcendental Meditation. In addition, the Today show presented an interview with Steve Hassan, a long-time associate of CAN, who had arrived in the NBC studios after having just attended CAN’s annual national conference in Minneapolis. All three, have been featured speakers at CAN conferences (see enclosed).
Several facts regarding the nature and identity of CAN are relevant:
1. CAN is an organization that has been implicated in the illegal kidnapping and forcible abduction of hundreds of individuals throughout the years.
2. The activities of CAN have been condemned by the majority of respected religious leaders, social scientists, and jurists throughout America (see enclosed).
3. The former national security director of CAN, Galen Kelly, has been convicted, and is currently serving a seven and one quarter year sentence in federal prison, for the kidnapping of a young woman in Virginia in 1992.
Federal prosecutors have at least one additional case pending against Galen Kelly here in New York which also further implicates associates of CAN.
4. CAN has been engaged in the practice of referring callers to hired kidnappers. Former deprogrammer and CAN member, Mark Blocksom, in an affidavit dated July 18, 1992, stated that he received 100 -200 referrals of deprogramming customers from CAN officers and directors. Cynthia Kisser, the executive director of CAN has admitted to referring inquirers to her office to deprogrammers, like Kelly and Blocksom. In return, the deprogrammers pay money for these referrals.
This information is a matter of public record, and was provided to the Today show and to your office prior to the airing of these programs. However, despite having received such notice, NBC elected to rely solely on sources that have been consistently hostile to, and prejudicial towards, the Unification Church.
The nature of the Today show:The threat of kidnapping and abduction of Cathryn Mazer abated upon Cynthia Lilley’s return to California. However, almost immediately, she and Peter Heinrich began to present the threat of a negative media attack on the Unification Church. This was communicated to Cathryn Mazer and also directly to representatives of the Church. Various elected officials, who were apprised of this prospect by Cynthia Lilley and Peter Heinrich, contacted the Church and cautioned Church officials of this imminent attack on the Church. In addition, I personally received a telephone call from an attorney in Washington, D.C., David Bardin, who made it clear to me that NBC was producing a report on the Unification Church that would be unfavorable in its treatment of the Church. Mr. Bardin serves as pro bono legal counsel for CAN in Washington, D.C.. In his phone conversation with me Mr. Bardin stated that “if Cathryn was in California there would be no story.”
It thus became apparent that Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley adopted this alternative measure to coerce Cathryn to terminate her association with the Unification Church and to extort from Church officials a decision to preclude Cathryn Mazer from associating with the Church. Rather than abducting Cathryn and forcing a deprogramming upon her as first intended, they sought instead to coerce Cathryn to expose herself to the same prospect by an alternative means. In order for them to do so, however, they needed the cooperation of a sympathetic and willing agent, which they found in Ms. Susan Friedman, the Today show producer and ultimately from NBC itself.
The purpose of the Today show was apparently two-fold: first, to intimidate the Church with the specter of unfavorable reportage to coerce Cathryn to return to California thereby exposing her to an abusive deprogramming, and secondly, to expose the Church to ridicule and hostility by airing a report which would present the Church in a defamatory manner. Both of these objectives were pursued through a conspiracy between Peter Heinrich, Cynthia Lilley, Steve Hassan, Carol Giambalvo, Patrick Ryan, CAN, Susan Friedman and NBC.
True to its design, the Today show of November 8, 1993, presented the Unification Church of America in a defamatory manner. The show maliciously reported that the Unification Church had intentionally restrained Cathryn Mazer against her will and that the Church had prevented her family from having access to her. This was entirely false. On the contrary, the intention of the Unification Church was at all times to insure Cathryn’s personal safety and to support her in the exercise of her fundamental constitutional rights. In this regard, I will be pleased to submit a transcript of my final conversation with Cathryn before her eventual departure to LaGuardia airport to travel to Detroit to meet her family.
The following facts are evidence of a conspiracy by NBC and the Today show to defame the Unification Church:
1. Cathryn Mazer had maintained consistent and regular communications with her family, albeit under very difficult circumstances, throughout her brief sojourn with the Unification Church. Yet, the Today show attempted to depict a different and false account.
2. The Today show portrayed Cathryn as being in hiding or as otherwise evading her family. This was false. Cathryn had attempted to communicate with her family at all times and to apprise them of her activities. However she was apprehensive of the intentions of Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley because of a real fear of being subjected to an abduction and an involuntary deprogramming.
3. The Today show never presented Cathryn Mazer’s side of the story that she feared she would be the victim of an involuntary deprogramming (see enclosed affidavit of Cathryn Mazer).
4. The Unification Church was described by the Today show as a cult. This is a misrepresentation and mischaracterization of the Church. Neither the original academic meaning of the term “cult” nor the more sensational and pejorative meaning of the term appropriately applies to the Unification Church.
5. Despite being provided with a letter from the New York City Commission on Human Rights and statements from distinguished media organizations condemning the use of the term “Moonie” as pejorative and offensive, and despite the statement of Dr. James Baughman, President of the Unification Church of America on the November 11 show, NBC persisted in using the term “Moonie” to dehumanize and to disparage members of the Unification Church.
6. The producers of the Today show gave no opportunity to Church officials to appropriately address the issues raised in these shows.
7. The producers of the Today program did not inform, nor did they provide any opportunity for Church officials to appropriately respond to the surprise airing of the interview with an apostate member of the Church. At no time was it explained by the Today show that this individual had been the victim of a deprogramming. Nor was it explained how the producers of the Today program had been referred to this individual.
8. The Today show invited Dr. James Baughman to appear live at the very last moment. His statements were to be the only opportunity for the Unification Church to respond to the attacks made by NBC. However, he was not provided the opportunity to present his response due to the decision by NBC and the producer of the Today show to concurrently present Steve Hassan on the program.
Mr. Hassan is a deprogrammer who has received tens of thousands of dollars to deprogram members of new religious faiths. At a CAN conference in New Jersey in 1989, Mr. Hassan described the Catholic Church as “the biggest cult in America.” As a highly paid deprogrammer Hassan has a clear financial stake in perpetuating the myth that members of new religious groups are held under mind control.
During his appearance on the Today show Mr. Hassan refused to allow Dr. Baughman the opportunity to speak. Please be advised that the Unification Church has been reliably informed that NBC paid Steve Hassan’s expenses in coming to New York to appear on this show. Furthermore, Mr. Hassan has publicly boasted of his role on the program and has stated that he was told by NBC to persistently interrupt Dr. Baughman in order to prevent Dr. Baughman from speaking. None of the other participants on this program were treated so unfairly or in such a hostile manner by NBC.
9. The Today show refused to provide any critical analysis of the role played by Carol Giambalvo and Patrick Ryan in relation to the activities of Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley in their efforts to procure a deprogramming of Cathryn Mazer; nor did NBC provide any explanation of their long-time association with CAN. Rather, both of these individuals were ironically presented as benign “family advisors.”
10. The Today show consulted exclusively with individuals who have a long association with CAN. There was no effort made to seek the opinion of impartial authorities or to interview any objective or informed critics of the Church. Nor was any apparent effort made to objectively investigate the practice of deprogramming.
11. Prior to the airing of the program, Susan Friedman, the producer of the Today show, denied having spoken with anyone from CAN and insisted that she was treating this story in a completely objective manner. However, there is no evidence that she consulted with any sources other than those hostile and prejudicial towards the Unification Church. In fact, when challenged to name a person that she had consulted with that was objective towards the Unification Church she named Anne Olander. Anne Olander is in fact the founder of the Chicago affiliate of CAN.
12. The November 15, edition of the Today show went so far as to juxtapose the Unification Church with the People’s Temple in Jonestown. Such juxtaposition was more than reprehensible under the circumstances.
13. It is a fact that neither the threat of, nor the actual airing of, a defamation of the Unification Church affected the decisions of Church officials in their concern for the safety of Cathryn Mazer. Nevertheless, Ms. Cynthia Lilley has recently embarked upon a lecture tour and presented a different story. Her presentations in these various forums is a tale of how she used the media to terminate her daughter’s association with the Unification Church (see enclosed materials). While such a presentation impacts upon the professional and ethical standards followed in this regard by NBC and the producers of the Today program, Ms. Lilley has presented evidence of a prior conspiracy to engage in tortious conduct that has proved injurious to my client.
Based upon these facts, and those facts referenced in my prior correspondences with you, the Unification Church of America has determined to pursue a civil suit against the various parties comprising this specious assault. Several other reports aired in the past have caused Church officials to conclude that NBC has contrived a particular policy with regard to reports about the Church. It is apparent that the only way for the Church to insure that NBC alters its current agenda is to file suit.
Nevertheless, please be advised that Church officials are prepared to consider an alternative non litigious resolution to this matter. In so doing, please be advised that nothing in this letter is intended as, nor should be construed as, a waiver of any rights or remedies by the Church, and all such rights and remedies whether at equity or law, are expressly
reserved.http://www.tparents.org/UNews/unws9405/MAZER-1.htm