SFWeekly Feature
Sign of the Cult-Buster (Page 5)

Although Greene told no one at the time, the ordeal helped to send him into an emotional tailspin. He tried college but couldn't focus on studying. Determined not to return to Willow Hill, he lived for a time in a fleabag hotel, did a stint in a hospital psychiatric ward on suicide watch, and had several run-ins with the law. He was arrested for shoplifting bedsheets from a department store, cited for assaulting a police officer after a traffic stop, and arrested for hit-and-run after he panicked following a traffic mishap. (Nobody was injured, he says.) "Desperate and depressed," he went off to climb mountains in the summer of 1974. (He says he and a friend scaled 16 peaks of at least 14,000 feet in elevation in the span of three months.) "I hit all the rocks in the bottom of the river, with the last one being the Moonies," Greene says.


Ford Greene's experience with the Unification Church is inextricably linked to Catherine, the sister with whom he was closest growing up. She met the Moonies while hanging out in UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza in the fall of 1974 and moved to a church commune near Booneville in Mendocino County. Moon, the controversial Korean-born religious figure accused of brainwashing young people into selling flowers to support his movement, was rapidly attracting converts in the United States at the time.

Greene went to Booneville to "rescue" his sister. Instead, he succumbed to the group's indoctrination after several days of being showered with love and affection, he says: "I was in a lot of emotional pain and was vulnerable." He lived in church dorm houses in San Francisco and Berkeley and took a job at a church-owned gas station on Market Street.

After being unable to accept Moon's messianic pretensions, however, he left the Moonies eight months later and joined his mother's anti-cult crusade. "Having been through it, Ford was able to reach people in ways that few others could," says Michael Daly, 51, whom Greene helped bring out of the Moonies in Nebraska in 1976. (Daly and his then-wife had joined the group in San Francisco during an intended trip to Alaska and ended up moving to the Booneville commune.)

But Greene's biggest failure as a deprogrammer was with his sister.

Using his mother as bait, he and other family members lured Catherine to Willow Hill in 1977. They handcuffed and blindfolded her and whisked her into a van that drove to the home of relatives in rural Marin County. But things went badly. On the second day of her captivity, Catherine stabbed herself in the stomach with a broken juice bottle and had to be taken to a hospital. From there, she notified the police and friends from the Moonies. The account of her kidnapping and escape from her own family was all over the news the next day.

The district attorney declined to bring criminal charges, and Catherine did not follow through in pressing a civil suit she initially filed against her brother and other family members. Today she lives near Boston, is married, has two daughters, and remains a member of the Unification Church. "She's like a zombie," Ford Greene says of his sister. "I still love her, but she's not the bright, effervescent person we all knew growing up." She sees her mother and other family members once every year or two. "It's strained and polite, and we never talk about anything of substance," Ford Greene says.

For her part, Catherine Greene Ono says she prefers not to discuss her brother. She says she made peace with her family long ago despite the trauma caused by the kidnapping, and she is following a religion she believes in. "He still thinks I'm brainwashed," she says. "What else can I say?"

When it comes to Ford Greene, however, others from groups often accused of being cults have plenty to say.

"I view the man as dangerous. He definitely has issues," says Allen Seher, a Bay Area attorney and Unification Church member. Quiros, the Scientology official in San Francisco, is even more vociferous. "In my estimation the guy is a nut case," he says. "I don't think condoning or advocating kidnapping against people trying to practice what they believe is something that anybody ought to admire."

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