Karen Robidoux was found not guilty of second-degree murder, in the 1999 death of her infant child this week, reported the Taunton Gazette.

The Massachusetts mother was accused of starving her baby son Samuel to death.

Robidoux’s husband Jacques was convicted for Samuel’s murder in 2002 and is now serving a life sentence.

But the mother’s attorney, Joseph Krowski, offered the defense that cult “brainwashing” coerced Karen Robidoux’s behavior

The attorney argued that his client was victimized, abused and ultimately controlled by an obscure religious sect led by her father-in-law Roland Robidoux called “The Body.”

“There were two victims here, Karen and Samuel,” Robidoux’s older sister told the press.

And after seven hours of deliberation the jury agreed with the defense and its witnesses, acquitting the “cult” mom of murder, but finding her guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery.

“Because a child died, it may be an unpopular verdict, but we felt Karen Robidoux’s intent was not to kill her baby,” the jury foreman told the Boston Herald.

He later added, “I do believe she was psychologically held prisoner,” and concluded “she has suffered enough” reported NBC News.

Private journals kept by a “cult” member were made public after the verdict and they offered further proof of Roland Robidoux’s total control over his followers reported the Boston Herald.

“Dad [Roland Robidoux] feels that the end is coming soon…Our prayers should not be for Samuel to be healed but for God’s purposes to be fulfilled…What can we do for Samuel? Nothing…God is the master. We are his servants,” wrote the “cult” member.

The mother of four was sentenced to time served and walked out of the Bristol courthouse a free woman reported the Boston Globe.

“I’m just glad the nightmare door is shut,” she told reporters on the courthouse steps.

“It was a trail-blazing case that will affect all cult cases nationally. It’s now been proven what can happen when someone is brainwashed,” said nationally known forensic pathologist Dr. Millard Bass.

In Virginia late last year another jury came to a similar conclusion regarding the sentencing of “D.C. sniper” Lee Malvo. His lawyers also claimed their client was “brainwashed.”

The teenager’s defense team contended that he was dominated and controlled by his mentor John Mohammed.

Mohammed was sentenced to death, but Malvo was sent to prison for life.

In a noteworthy child custody case in North Carolina this fall a judge ruled that the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) exerted “complete control over the mind, body and spirit of its members, both adults and children.”

WOFF led by Jane Whaley has been called a “cult.”

The Carolina judge concluded, “The environment created at WOFF has an adverse effect on the health, safety and welfare of children,” and he subsequently ordered them to be removed from the group.

In a tacit acknowledgement of cult “brainwashing” another judge in California granted the release last year of a woman charged with the death of her small child to receive “deprogramming.”

Later that same judge sentenced the cult leader to 16 years in prison, while charges were dismissed against two of his followers.

The mother charged received an eleven-year sentence and told the court, “Mind control is a reality.”

CultNews reported that professional cult apologist Dick Anthony was involved in both the California and Carolina cases. Anthony is a psychologist and well paid for his work, but he failed his clients abysmally.

Judging from the prosecution’s arguments in the Robidoux case, they apparently were receiving input from someone like Anthony.

But the Robidoux verdict may be the most colossal setback for cults and their apologists to date. And will likely be cited in the future as proof of “brainwashing.”

Overall, 2003 was possibly the worst year ever for cults and their apologists.

They even attempted fruitlessly to dismiss the “brainwashing” of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart.

But brainwashing has become understandable to the public after Jonestown, Waco and the “Heaven’s Gate” suicides. It is no longer the mystery it once was when Charles Manson and his followers entered the California judicial system.

Europeans likewise came to acutely understand the cult brainwashing phenomenon through the Solar Temple suicides in Switzerland. And the Japanese were forced to confront this reality by the cult Aum, when it attacked Tokyo’s subways.

Joseph Kibwetere sent shockwaves through Africa when he led hundreds of his followers to death in Uganda shortly after the Millenium, once again demonstrating the power of cult mind control.

And isn’t “brainwashing” something Osama bin Laden has used to transform his followers into tools of terror?

Cults and their apologists will have increasing difficulty convincing anyone that “brainwashing” is only a “theory.”

The Robidoux verdict is evidence of that.

Lee Boyd Malvo, the teenager known as the D.C. sniper is now on trial for murder.

At 17 he and his mentor/father figure John Muhammad went on a killing spree that left ten dead in its wake and terrified a nation.

Now 18 Malvo is literally fighting for his own life in a Virginia courtroom. His attorney’s hope that an “insanity” defense based upon a “brainwashing” claim will explain the boy killer’s behavior and somehow ameliorate the outcome of the trial.

John Allen Muhammad the man that allegedly “brainwashed” Malvo has already been convicted and is almost certain to receive the death penalty. If his surrogate son and accomplice is found guilty, it is likely that he will receive the same sentence.

Opinions in the press vary, but some are calling the “insanity defense” in this case “crazy” reports Slate.

And the Washington Post points out those witnesses, who observed Muhammad and Malvo together, differ in their assessment of the relationship.

Some see Muhammad as a controlling and dominant figure that molded the boy into a “killing machine.”

Others say the two appeared more like friends, without readily seen evidence of a dominant/submissive relationship.

Malvo’s taped confession is chilling. The teenager admits, “I intended to kill them all.” And when asked if he personally pulled the trigger in the shootings the boy answers, “In all of them” reports Associated Press.

With such testimony, not to mention the physical evidence piled up by the prosecution, Malvo really has no other meaningful option than to plead insanity.

But was the boy “brainwashed” by John Muhammad or is this some clever lawyer’s contrived defense?

The “brainwashing” defense did not work for Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by a political cult in the 1970s.

Hearst an heir to a newspaper fortune was coerced into becoming the pawn of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), but was nevertheless ultimately convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to prison.

President Jimmy Carter later commuted her sentence and Bill Clinton pardoned Hearst before leaving the White House.

Public awareness regarding “brainwashing” has evolved considerably since the Manson murders in 1969 and Patty Hearst’s conviction during 1976.

The Jonestown mass suicide/murder of 1978, which claimed the lives of almost 1,000 followers of cult leader Jim Jones in the jungles of South America, shocked the public and created an acute awareness of the power of coercive persuasion.

The image of parents giving their children cyanide was certainly compelling proof of the power of Jim Jones’ brainwashing.

After Jonestown Americans suddenly seemed to see the destructive cults that existed throughout the country and began to more readily recognize their methods of gaining undue influence. In repeated news stories cult “brainwashing” was discussed during the 1980s and 1990s.

Then came Waco in 1993, the second longest standoff in US history, between the cult known as the Branch Davidians and federal law enforcement. The end would once again be tragedy, when David Koresh and his followers chose death for themselves and their children.

In a succession of similar tragedies one cult after another would demonstrate the effectiveness of its own brand of brainwashing.

1994 the Solar Temple suicide in Switzerland.

1995 — the Aum gas attack of Tokyo subways that killed 12.

1997 — 39 members of “Heaven’s Gate” commit suicide near San Diego.

2000 — the horrific mass murder/suicide of the doomsday group known as the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments in Uganda, which may have claimed more lives than Jonestown.

9-11-2001 — the senseless murder of 3,000 people in the World Trade Center attack, once again perpetrated by the seemingly “brainwashed” followers of a madman, Osama bin Laden.

Self-proclaimed “prophet” Brian Mitchell was able to brainwash Elizabeth Smart from a dutiful family member into his seemingly willing follower in approximately 60 days. Smart subsequently denied her identity to police and did not attempt to escape the lunatic that abducted her at knifepoint.

Muhammad apparently controlled Malvo’s associations, environment and dominated his thinking in a nomadic lifestyle similar to the one Mitchell constructed around Elizabeth Smart.

How have madmen from Manson to Mitchell persuaded normal people to act insane?

The process of thought reform, commonly called “brainwashing” has probably been used in various forms throughout human history. Its mechanics have been explained in detail by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in his seminal book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.

Lifton, who once taught at Harvard Medical School, identified the features of “brainwashing” through eight specific criteria; Milieu Control, Mystical Manipulation, the Demand for Purity, the Cult of Confession, the Sacred Science, Loading the Language, Doctrine over Person and the Dispensing of Existence (see Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism).

Essentially what Lifton observed is that if an environment displays at least six of these characteristics simultaneously, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is thought reform or “brainwashing.”

But can this work when only two people are involved?

The phenomenon of an abused spouse, often caught within what has been called a “cultic relationship,” also displays many of the same features described by Lifton. Experts have frequently labeled this the “battered woman’s syndrome.”

Was Malvo caught within the web of a “cultic relationship”?

Based upon some of the accounts that have surfaced from his family and witnesses he may have been.

But unlike Patty Hearst, who was eventually pardoned for her brainwashed behavior, Malvo’s deeds under the influence of his leader have included murder.

Perhaps the teenager was a victim of John Muhammad, but what about the victims of their rampage?

Ten people died as a direct result of Malvo’s “insanity,” and even though Muhammad may have been the master-planner of this killing spree, his puppet still pulled the trigger.

Society seems willing to forgive the misdeeds of “brainwashing” victims, but such forgiveness is far less likely if they have committed violent crimes.

The followers of Charles Manson murdered for him. Manson was later convicted like Muhammad, through a prosecution largely based upon undue influence. However, his followers were also convicted and sentenced to death.

Later the death sentences of the Manson Family were changed to life in prison. But despite their impassioned pleas that they were essentially “brainwashed,” Manson’s former followers such as Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten have repeatedly been denied parole.

As the Virginia jury weighs its verdict they are more likely to consider those caught within the sniper’s sights than the boy captured within the web of a madman’s undue influence.

Malvo’s only hope may come after his conviction, when his alleged “insanity” might mitigate sentencing.

At that point the claim of “brainwashing” might provide the basis for a sentence of life in prison, rather than the death penalty.

Tomorrow the world may end, or so says Yuko Chino, the 69-year-old leader of the bizarre wandering “Japanese cult” clad in white called Pana Wave, reports England’s The Independent .

However, a purported “cult” making doomsday predictions is nothing new.

Many groups before the turn of the century seemed enveloped in a kind of “millennial madness,” making dire predictions of coming catastrophe and calamity.

If it were not quite planetary extinction, then at least there would be a kind of technological meltdown due to the “Y2K” computer glitch.

Nothing happened.

Never mind. Cult leaders and/or prophets of doom simply came up with some savvy spin to satisfy their followers and moved on, with the tragic exception of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments in Uganda.

Historically long-established groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned that failed end times dates don’t mean “The End” for them and actually may increase baptisms, essentially becoming a useful recruitment tool.

People join up as if membership is the equivalent of an insurance policy against the event of Armageddon.

Yuko Chino seems to be carefully hedging her bets, by alternating between the claim that a lost seal in the news will somehow save humanity and/or that changes in outer space have already provided for a postponement, reports the New York Times.

One Pana Wave follower said, “I think it will be delayed till around May 22.”

But Japan’s Prime Minister just doesn’t get “why people believe in things said by such a group,” he asked plaintively.

After cult tragedies like “Heaven’s Gate,” the Solar Temple and most notably for the Japanese the doomsday cult called Aum, authorities in Japan are not taking any chances.

This week police raided Pana Wave locations just to make sure the group wasn’t concealing anything dangerous, like Aum once did, reports Mainichi Daily News.

However, one Japanese resident observed, “They’re not dangerous.” And added his main worry was “their…cars blocking…traffic.”

Yuko Chino has become a familiar figure in Japan through a series of such traffic jams. Perhaps that is what she always wanted.

Many cult leaders do seem to crave attention.

Despite Chino’s claims that she is suffering from terminal cancer and at death’s door, it appears the woman in white will be around for the foreseeable future.

Though judging from the reactions reported from several Japanese towns, Pana Wave is not a popular potential neighbor.

The Waco Tribune Herald concluded its nine-part series today with an article entitled, “Prophesying about Waco.”

The newspaper was seemingly taking a swing at foretelling the future, but not in any biblical sense. The article focused on the future of Waco, in an effort to burnish the image of the Texas town.

Baylor University is spending more than a $100 million dollars to expand its presence in Waco and some civic leaders hope that President George W. Bush might decide to build his presidential library there.

The series explored the town and its mood more than it delved into the facts about the Branch Davidians, at times it read like a brochure put out by the Waco Chamber of Commerce.

Ten years ago things were quite different.

Waco Tribune reporters Darlene McCormick and Mark Englund, who are no longer on staff at the newspaper, dug deep to produce an in-depth investigative series titled “The Sinful Messiah.”

If not for politics the two journalists might have picked up a Pulitzer.

That was then, and this is now.

Hard reporting seems to be the last thing anyone wants in Waco these days. What the Texas town is intent upon, is distancing itself from the cult led by David Koresh.

One civic booster even went so far as to point out that the cult standoff “happened outside of Waco.” And then offered these prophetic words, “I think we’ve got about as bright a future as we ever had.”


A Baylor professor chimed in, “Time has a wonderful way of curing things…My guess is that as time passes, the name ‘Waco’ – so indelibly marked in the minds of most Americans for a time [regarding the cult standoff] – will begin to fade.”

Well, Baylor certainly hopes so.

But the Waco Davidian tragedy was the second longest standoff in American history. And it is highly unlikely that it will “fade” anytime soon, despite the “prophesying.”

In fact it seems like some folks in Waco would rather ignore history altogether.

The paper appeared anxious not to anger anti-government conspiracy types. In a seeming bow to the fringe it reported a fire of “much-debated origin” ended the lives of the Davidians.

However, this ignores the facts as established by two congressional inquiries, an independent investigation and the verdict of both judge and jury in a civil trial.

The overwhelming evidence has conclusively proven that Koresh ordered the fire set.

In the final paragraphs of the recent Tribune series Baylor sociologist Larry Lyon offered his evaluation of the standoff’s enduring legacy.

He claimed, “It no longer means religious fanaticism. Now it’s a place where the government overreached.”

Perhaps this thinking is popular in Waco, essentially blaming the tragedy on outsiders. But the professor must be in an academic isolation tank.

Maybe he thinks the mass suicide at Jonestown was also the government’s fault, for not requiring that all Kool-Aide packages state, “Do not mix with cyanide.”

Kerri Jewell was only a child a decade ago, but her memory is more deeply etched that the professor’s. This is because she once lived in the cult compound.

Jewell said in a recent interview, “At some point we were going to have to die for him [David Koresh]. I didn’t expect to live past 12.”

Due to a bitter custody fight Kerri Jewell was not in the compound at the time of the standoff. Her mother was and she died in the fire.

ABC reported Davidian kids were taught “there were only two types of people: ‘good’ people who were inside the cult, and ‘bad’ people who were everyone else.”

Some Davidians still around Waco make it clear they feel the same. One told the Tribune there was still hope for the town though.

Clive Doyle said, “I believe God wants to save Waco, and I believe God works every day to change the minds of the people in Waco.”


Another Davidian put it less tactfully, “When David [Koresh] comes back, there’s going to be an earthquake so bad that Lake Waco, the shore, is going to drop 15 feet. When it does that, there’s going to be a flood here like you never seen.”

Now there’s some old time “prophesying.”

Waco will continue to be largely remembered as the place where a destructive cult chose to end its days.

And contrary to what Lyon concludes, Waco and other cult tragedies since, have proven the government rather than worrying about “overreaching,” often must take decisive action.

In 1995 Aum gassed Tokyo’s subways, sending thousands to hospitals and killing twelve. Next came the Solar Temple suicide in Switzerland, which initially claimed the lives of 74.

Americans were shocked in 1997 when 39 “Heaven’s Gate” cult members committed mass-suicide near San Diego. And the government had no interest in the group.

Criminal arrests and prosecutions in recent years, reflect law enforcement’s growing reach into the world of groups called “cults.”

A few examples include the Nuwaubians and House of Prayer in Georgia, the Church of God Restoration in Canada and California, the R.G. Stair’s Overcomers Ministry in North Carolina, the General Assembly Church of the First Born in Colorado and Polygamist groups in Utah and Arizona.

Since anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City murdering 168, with “Remember Waco” as his battle cry, the FBI has busted and put away many so-called “militia” members for weapons violations.

It is doubtful that Koresh would be able to stockpile illegal weapons today as easily as he did in 1992-93.

The FBI has learned to identify and deal with fanatics more effectively. The Freeman standoff in Montana, which ended peacefully, proved this.

But the Freemen were not the Davidians, with a leader comparable to Koresh. It is doubtful that the Waco standoff could have ended any way, other than the one chosen by the cult leader.

In the final analysis this is the greatest lesson of Waco.

Destructive cult leaders are often psychopaths capable of horrific acts. Cult followers frequently abdicate any meaningful autonomy in favor of total dependence upon their leaders. And they then rely upon the judgement of someone else that may be mad.

This can be a formula for disaster. Waco is proof of that.

Another “cult apologist” has surfaced through the news coverage of Elizabeth Smart.

Nancy Ammerman of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research previously has spoken about the Branch Davidians.

In 1993 Ammerman claimed within a published report that the FBI was negligent because they didn’t listen to her fellow apologists James Tabor and Phillip Arnold. Both men have been recommended as “religious resources” by the Church of Scientology, which has often been called a “cult.”

Ammerman’s work regarding the Davidian standoff was lauded by Scientology through a full-page article within its own “Freedom Magazine.” And she has admitted that “various political and lobbying groups” influenced her view of that cult tragedy.

The professor’s report about the FBI was later included in a book titled “Armageddon in Waco,” which also contains the work of scholars historically associated with and/or supported by groups called “cults.”

Ammerman observed that “If [Elizabeth Smart] was a devout religious person, and [her captor] wanted to play on those religious sentiments, it’s plausible, just plausible, that she could have understood this to be some sort of religious experience,” reports the Palm Beach Post.

Is a violent kidnapping, rape and imprisonment now somehow to be categorized within the realm of “religious experience”?

Here it seems Ammerman is avoiding the “B” word (“brainwashing“), in an attempt to offer some sort of alternative “religious” explanation.

But isn’t there a more obvious and plausible understanding, which is more consistent with the established facts?

Elizabeth was initially isolated for months. This began when the 14-year-old girl was first held in a boarded up hole at a relatively remote campsite. This is not unlike what happened to cult kidnap victim Patty Hearst in 1974, when she was first confined within a closet by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Elizabeth like Hearst was brutally raped, terrorized and effectively cut off from the outside world. This made Mitchell’s process of coercive persuasion not only possible, but also enabled its eventual success. Mitchell then simply solidified his undue influence.

Elizabeth became “Augustine.” And though she had numerous opportunities to escape and/or identify herself to authorities, she did not do so. Instead, for months “Augustine” passively followed her captors, Mitchell and/or Barzee.

Her actions cannot simply be explained away by her “religious experience,” or written off as just the effects of trauma and the “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Ammerman also said, “I suppose he also could have played off of a child’s desire to be obedient to an adult.”

This is a common sense observation almost anyone might make about adult authority.

But attempting to explain Mitchell’s undue influence over the child by linking it to her religious background sounds a bit like “victim bashing.”

Such a conclusion seemingly supposes that if Elizabeth and/or her family were not Mormons, Mitchell an excommunicated Mormon, might not have been so successful.

However, Mitchell’s bizarre religious “Manifesto,” an odd hodge-podge of beliefs taken from many sources, has little meaningful similarity to the Mormon Church Elizabeth attended.

Mitchell may have claimed to be a “prophet,” but Elizabeth must have known through her religious training, that the only prophets accepted by Mormons are those that are acknowledged by their church.

Accordingly, despite Mitchell’s claims, only the current church president could be seen by Elizabeth as a living prophet today.

In actuality Elizabeth’s “religious experience” can be seen more readily as an obstacle for Mitchell to overcome, rather than a common premise or bond that empowered him.

Again, Patty Hearst like Elizabeth Smart had no apparent common bond with her captors. Hearst was not a campus radical and/or left wing political activist. And the Hearst family were conservative and Republican.

But Patricia Hearst nevertheless, due to the process she was subjected to through her confinement, isolation and treatment, succumbed to her captors and became “Tania,” a revolutionary Marxist.

A cursory review of other cult victims in groups like Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, Solar Temple, Aum of Japan and “Heaven’s Gate,” demonstrates a diversity of backgrounds and frequently that personal histories are not in harmony with the cult’s beliefs.

Any attempt to simplistically categorize cult victims seems more like denial than serious examination.

Such claims as, their common “religious” background and/or religious devotion, made the victim vulnerable, appears to surmise that this somehow can’t be done effectively or as easily to secular or less devout people.

And let’s not forget that Elizabeth was abducted not recruited.

Research indicates that almost anyone may succumb to the extreme environmental control and pressures imposed by someone like Mitchell, and almost certainly a 14-year-old child held prisoner.

Perhaps rather than engaging in specious and/or simplistic explanations, Ammerman should have explored the unique circumstances, but common characteristics that define destructive cult indoctrination, often described as “thought reform.”

The Mungiki sect or “cult” has a horrific history of murder and mayhem in Kenya. Last week alone 32 people were murdered by cult members, only the latest victims of the cult’s reign of terror, reports Sunday Nation.

However, the international media rarely devotes its resources for meaningful in-depth coverage of the brutal cult killings in Africa.


When 39 members of a relatively obscure American cult known as “Heaven’s Gate” committed suicide in 1997 it made headlines and generated seemingly endless journalistic analysis.

And in 1994 when 53 members of the then obscure Solar Temple were found dead in Switzerland, that too became the focus of rapt international press concern.

The Mungiki movement may include more than 2 million members and seems intent upon destablizing a government.

Just after 2000 hundreds of bodies were recovered in Uganda, the direct result of brutal cult slayings and suicide connected to “The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments.” But again this didn’t generate the same international news coverage that much less historically significant cults did outside of Africa .


In 1978 when 900 Americans died in an isolated cult compound in Guyana called “Jonestown” there was no shortage of journalists willing to cover that story. More than that number probably died in Uganda, but we will never know due to a lack of forensic assistance and it seems international interest.

Apparently African cult tragedies somehow don’t rate the same attention from the international media and community.

It appears that many news outlets think cult members must be white, American, European or at least from an industrialized nation such as Japan (i.e. Aum), to be worthy serious concern and meaningful in-depth reporting.

A French cult called the “New Lighthouse” expected the end of the world to come this Thursday, but its leader Arnaud Mussy has now bumped the date, reports VOA News.

Well what do you expect from a man who says he’s Jesus reincarnated?

Mussy has proven to be somewhat feckless in his previous prophecies. There have been two other failed predictions. However, in the cult business three strikes doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out.

An Apocalyptic prophecy can be a useful device for cult leaders. Such predictions create a sense of urgency to gather the faithful together. And of course the leader promises safety for his or her chosen.

One example was Elizabeth Claire Prophet, who even built bomb shelters in Montana to protect her group the “Church Universal and Triumphant.”

And once within this crisis mode members are frequently easier to manipulate.

Mussy also eerily follows in the footsteps of Luc Joret, the former leader of the Solar Temple. Perhaps that’s why French authorities continue to have his house staked out. Joret ultimately created his own self-styled Armageddon through a group mass suicide in Switzerland during 1994. Many of Joret’s followers were French-speaking.

Now Mussy and his group are holed up in a house waiting for the end, which he says will come “very soon.” The supposed “Jesus” insists that they have no intention of killing themselves.

Again, that’s what another cult “Heaven’s Gate” said too. They even published an official statement against suicide on the Internet. However, they later all committed mass suicide outside of San Diego in 1997.

French authorities seem to feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Mussy claims he will drop the cult and resume a regular job if things fall through. But can he so easily stop being a “savior”? If history is any guide, probably not.

Three members of an extreme Buddhist group burned themselves to death in bathtubs of gasoline. They believed the ritual suicide would take them to heaven, reports Reuters.

The leader of the fringe Buddhist cult is now in Police custody.

The Buddhist religion, typically known for its peace and kindness, is no more immune to the cult phenomenon than Christianity, Islam or Judaism. Every religion seems to have its fringe groups, frequently dominated by charismatic leaders.

Apparently the Cambodian believers were not much different than other cult members of the past such as the members of the Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate or Waco Davidians, who like them believed suicide was a route to another world.

A cult in France called “New Lighthouse” believes that the world will end next month. So far, one member has committed suicide and two others apparently made a serious attempt, reports Reuters. French authorities fear the implications of such a doomsday date and how it may affect the cult members.

Much like “Heaven’s Gate” whose 39 members died through a mass suicide in 1997, New Lighthouse members believe they too will be saved by a spaceship. Their leader Arnaud Mussy. says he will reign as the new Christ, when he and his followers are brought to Venus. Mussy has declared his brother the Pope.

Never mind that this all sounds ridiculous. The point is that those involved believe it and may end their lives as a direct result of that belief. Cult members are often subjected to a type of coercive persuasion within a group environment that produces undue influence and dependence upon a leader for crucial decision-making and value judgements. Historically, cult leaders have often become deeply delusional and then led their followers to tragedy.

After the Swiss cult mass suicide of the Solar Temple in 1994, which claimed 48 lives initially and many more later, French authorities are taking no chances. The police now have the New Lighthouse under close surveillance.

In recent years the European response to destructive cults has been more forthcoming, consistent and ongoing than within the United States.