Add the name Steve Hassan to Leah Remini’s collection of wife beaters, thieves and embittered pathological liars showcased on her anti-religious reality TV hate series.
Once a member of the failed Cult Awareness Network hate group of “deprogrammers,” Hassan has a history of violence spanning more than 40 years, both directly and through his support of deprogrammers who kidnap and abduct individuals to force them to give up their religious beliefs. By demonizing their beliefs through false accusations, Hassan creates a climate of fear and divisiveness within families.
As with Remini and the rest of her subjects on her reality TV show, when you look past the phony self-righteousness you find it’s always about greed and making a buck. Hassan charged exorbitant sums to kidnap and physically abuse his targets. Not only that, but court records show Hassan charges $200 per hour for preparation and $1,500 per day for his self-proclaimed “expert testimony” on new religions. This from someone who boasts only a night-school degree in an unrelated field. In fact, in a 1997 letter to the New York Times, Remini’s co-host, Mike Rinder, referred to Hassan as an “infamous deprogrammer.” Elsewhere, Rinder stated that the Cult Awareness Network “has probably had a higher percentage of its officials criminally prosecuted than any other group in history.”
One deprogramming victim, Arthur Roselle, signed affidavits detailing the mental and physical abuse he suffered when Hassan subjected him to a deprogramming attempt. Roselle was forcibly kidnapped by several men, imprisoned, hands and feet bound, with his hands tied behind his back so tightly they “were badly swollen and … the color of a bruise.” Deprived of sleep for three days, he was not allowed to shave or wash and was denied all privacy, even when using the toilet. Until Roselle’s escape seven days later, Hassan subjected him to methods the victim later described as brainwashing and mind control techniques. Hassan even threatened him with drugs if he did not recant his religious beliefs.
Until Roselle’s escape seven days later, Hassan subjected him to methods the victim later described as brainwashing and mind control techniques. Hassan even threatened him with drugs if he did not recant his religious beliefs.
Another Hassan victim, “CK,” signed an affidavit describing being held against her will, confined to a room without doorknobs, and guarded around the clock.
Hassan participated in the attempted deprogramming of another victim, “LS.” Three men forced their way into a motel room where LS was visiting her sister, physically threw her from the bed and threatened to break her leg if she called for help or attempted to escape. She was forced into a car and driven to an isolated house in New Hampshire where for eight days her abductors forced her to read and listen to materials critical and abusive of her religious beliefs and relentlessly harassed and ridiculed her. After nine days of imprisonment, when the attempts of the first team of deprogrammers had failed, Hassan was brought in to take over the attempt at faith-breaking. After three days of further harassment from Hassan, LS negotiated her release.
After nine days of imprisonment, when the attempts of the first team of deprogrammers had failed, Hassan was brought in to take over the attempt at faith-breaking.
Hassan falsely presents himself as an “expert” on religions, basing his theories on the work of psychologist Margaret Singer whose theories were resoundingly rejected as unscientific by the American Psychological Association and by numerous U.S. courts. In March 1996, in Kendall v. Kendall, the United States District Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts rejected Hassan as an “expert witness,” ending his hopes to score a lucrative payday.
Professor Lorne L. Dawson, Full Professor in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies and the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and author of numerous books and papers, criticizes as unscientific Hassan and other proponents of Margaret Singer’s theories of religious brainwashing:
In the social scientific context, it seemed for a time that the only situation in which brainwashing could safely be said to have occurred was that of prisoners of war and other political captives, all of whom were physically compelled to participate in programs of indoctrination. Even in these instances, however, there is considerable doubt in the social scientific community that the experience warrants being called ‘brainwashing.’
As early as 1956, psychiatrists Lawrence Hinkle and Harold Wolff of Cornell University undertook a definitive study of brainwashing, with the support of the government and full access to the secret files of the CIA as well as some former Communist interrogators and their prisoners. Their report, overlooked for many years, refutes the effectiveness of all efforts to “brainwash” anyone—especially through inducing altered states of consciousness, the modus operandi that anti-cultists say new religions favor (e.g., Hassan, 1988; Singer, 1995). Where thought reform techniques do seem to have produced results, Hinkle and Wolff argue, one is merely witnessing behavioral compliance brought on by threats and the experience of physical abuse (see Anthony and Robbins, 1994: 460-461).
Dick Anthony, a forensic psychologist and foremost expert on “brainwashing,” censured Hassan for promoting fake science:
Proponents of the cultic brainwashing theory such as Steven Hassan have appeared on media talk shows asserting that [a kidnapping victim] was brainwashed in a manner similar to that used to bring about the involuntary conversion of Patty Hearst to the Symbionese Liberation Front [SLA]…The cultic brainwashing theory has generally been rejected by mainstream academia as a pseudoscientific myth that has been definitively repudiated on the basis of authoritative research on Communist coercive persuasion and also by generally accepted research demonstrating that people convert to offbeat religions through a voluntary process.
Hassan has allied himself with various organizations that engage in violent anti-religious actions. He was an adviser to the old Cult Awareness Network (CAN) which declared bankruptcy after being handed a multimillion-dollar judgment in 1995 for its part in the violent deprogramming of a Pentecostal Church member (Scott v. Ross et al.).
In his book published in 2000, Hassan attempts to downplay the crimes committed by CAN and its members. The trial judge in the violent deprogramming case, however, cited CAN’s “seeming incapability of appreciating the maliciousness of their conduct.”
Hassan has been an advocate for individuals such as serial deprogrammer Ted Patrick, despite Patrick’s convictions for violent criminal deprogramming. Commenting on Patrick’s activities, Hassan stated that the “involuntary intervention was the only effective method” of bringing people out of “cults.” He even went so far as to describe Ted Patrick’s brutality as “help.”
Hassan ignoring the truth by painting a rosy picture about a violent individual convicted of kidnapping and false imprisonment fits perfectly with Leah Remini’s reality TV show. After all, she and the A&E network have spent the entire series covering up for wife beaters while even trying to blame others for a violent felony a man pleaded guilty to committing.