A headline in Sunday's editions of The Washington Post incorrectly described a group of people opposed to religious cults who were attempting to hold a conference at Georgetown University as deprogrammers.
Georgetown University has withdrawn permission for a national group opposing religious cults to meet on the campus next month because school officials apparently believed it would make it appear that Georgetown was taking a stand on the controversial "deprogramming" issue.
"We do not want the pros and cons of deprogramming debated at our facilities," said a spokeswoman for the Jesuit-run school.
The cancellation of arrangements between Georgetown and the International Foundation for Individual Freedom reportedly was requested by the university president, the Rev. Robert J. Henle S. J. He was out of the office yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
"Of course, it's a terrible, terrible disappointment to us," said Flanagan, a Catholic, whose son is a member of the Church of Scientology. Georgetown's cancellation resulted in the postponement of the convention, which was expected to draw 750 persons to organize a "unified" national effort against cults like the Scientologists, the Unification Church and the Hare Krishnas.
The incident comes at a time when the cults, after experiencing six years of kidnapings and "deprogrammings" of their members, are both bidding for acceptance as alternative religious movements and fighting in courts for the rights of their adherents to believe as they choose.
"Deprogramming" is a method created by Ted Patrick, a Californian, to forcibly rid cult followers of their sometimes unusual religious views that some parents, clergy and physicians contend are imposed by "brainwashing."
Since it was organized in the spring as an umbrella organization of anticult groups, the International Foundation for Individual Freedom has gained more than 5,000 members, according to Flanagan.
The group's purpose is to educate people without the destructiveness" of the cults, his wife said. It does not arrange deprogrammings, although many members are known supporters of the method.
One person believed responsible for Georgetown's action is the Rev. John Lewis Price, a Baptist pastor in Philadelphia and regional official of the Alliance for the Preservation of Religious Liberty, a combined effort of cults and others to fight deprogramming."
He said he complained to Georgetown shortly before the cancellation was announced. "Deprogramming violates civil and religious liberty," he said.