A 23-year-old Seattle-area man kidnapped by deprogrammers seeking to break his ties with a United Pentecostal Church (UPC) congregation has teamed with a Church of Scientology lawyer to deal an unprecedented blow to the Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network (CAN), a cult-monitoring group.

A jury on September 29 awarded Jason Scott $4.8 million in damages, the largest civil award ever rendered against a deprogrammer in U.S. history, according to Scott's attorney, Kenneth Moxon. can is to pay about $1.1 million of the damages, and the deprogrammers owe about $3.5 million.

"What this whole thing has done to my family is just unspeakable," Scott told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. "I felt absolutely attacked in every direction."

But can executive director Cynthia Kisser says the verdict is the result of a Church of Scientology vendetta against can, which up to now had survived more than 50 Scientology-backed suits.

"Barring something that we do drastic here, we probably won't be able to stay in business," Kisser told CT.

In the case, Scott contended that in 1991 a can affiliate in Washington State advised his mother, Kathy Tonkin, to hire deprogrammer Rick Ross, who kidnapped a gagged Scott and held him for five days in an effort to force him to renounce his faith. After faking a recantation to gain his freedom, Scott immediately filed charges against Ross and his aides.

Moxon, who is affiliated with the Church of Scientology, represented Scott in the civil suit, calling can "a pretty arrogant group that has a world-view that thousands and thousands of minority religious organizations are cults."

Moxon claimed that can's Washington State affiliate recommended Ross, who was consulted heavily by federal agents during the Waco Branch Davidian standoff in 1993. Ross is one of several deprogrammers recommended over the years by can, Moxon claims.

But Kisser says can never recommended Ross for Scott's deprogramming. Her Washington affiliate offered Tonkin the name of Ross with several others as potential counselors for Tonkin's two younger sons, who also were members of the UPC, historically a non-Trinitarian denomination. The mother then hired Ross to deprogram the oldest son, Jason, as well.

"The whole experience has not changed my faith and belief at all," Jason Scott says. "It is the most harmless church out there. It is the absolute opposite of a cult."

Kisser says can does not "take any position on the UPC, and never has." She says Tonkin felt her sons were being controlled by the church, in which members must adhere to a strict holiness code.

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