Sign of the Cult-Buster (Page 3)
Ford Greene eventually assumed a more controversial role, becoming a
"deprogrammer" hired by parents to pluck their sons and daughters
from cults, sometimes employing tactics that bumped up against the law.
In 1977, he was charged with kidnapping in Colorado after helping to abduct
a rancher's son who joined the Moonies and tried to cash out his share of
the family spread. (The charges were later dismissed.) Greene's deprogramming
of a young Canadian schoolteacher who fell in with the Unification Church
while on a trip to the Bay Area was chronicled in the 1980 film Ticket to
By his estimate, Greene deprogrammed more than 100 young people, scaling
back only after managing to talk his way into law school at San Francisco's
New College of California. It was hardly the Ivy League track that his influential
parents had imagined for him. But for Greene, who had bounded from one expensive
boarding school to another as a teenager and was without a college degree
at the time he was admitted, the tiny, little-known law school suited his
purposes. He chose law not for the sake of becoming a lawyer, he says, but
as a way to better equip himself for the anti-cult crusade in which he had
already enlisted. "Ford is one of those people for whom the law is
a means to an end, and in his case that has meant going after groups that
he considers to be cults," says Murray Orrick, whom Greene helped deprogram
from the Moonies and who is a Bay Area music producer and nephew of the
late federal judge William Orrick.
As a lawyer, it didn't take long for Greene to make a mark.
For example, in 1979, a young law school graduate named David Molko and
another former Moon follower sued the church, claiming to have been coerced
and brainwashed. Lower courts ruled that constitutional guarantees of religious
freedom barred such suits. But in Molko v. Holy Spirit Association, Greene
prevailed before the California Supreme Court. In an opinion written by
Justice Stanley Mosk in 1988 that would bear on the tactics religious groups
use to attract followers, the court said that any burden on the free exercise
of religion was outweighed by the state's interest in protecting against
"fraudulent induction of unconsenting individuals into an atmosphere
of coercive persuasion."
A year later, Greene scored another victory against the Unification Church,
persuading a Colorado jury to acquit two deprogrammers of kidnapping a woman
who became a Moonie. In that case, he and another lawyer successfully used
a "choice of evils" defense to argue that the deprogrammers were
forced to capture the woman to prevent her from being brainwashed.
About the same time, he agreed to represent Richard and Vicki Aznaran,
the high-ranking husband-wife duo whose departure from Scientology sent
shock waves through the organization. In the mid-'90s, he helped represent
ex-Scientologist Lawrence Wollersheim, to whom the church agreed to pay
an $8.7 million judgment after Wollersheim claimed that Scientology operatives
had subjected him to numerous deprivations, including being held as a church
prisoner on a ship off the California coast. Greene also successfully represented
a partially brain-damaged former Scientologist named Raul Lopez, who contended
that church officials in Southern California had bilked him out of nearly
$3 million from an insurance settlement.
In a 1998 case involving the Ananda Church of Self Realization, Greene
won a $1.7 million judgment against the church and its spiritual leader,
J. Donald Walters, aka Swami Kriyananda. In that case, a jury found that
Walters and another church official had sexually exploited a former Bay
Area devotee, Anne-Marie Bertolucci, under the guise of helping her to make
"Fighting cults comes from deep within Ford's own experience,"
says Vermont attorney Max Taylor, whom Greene helped bring out of a group
called Fellowship of Friends years ago. "In his mind there's nothing
worse than using spirituality to take advantage of people."