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$20 Florida Excursion: A Brainwashing Effort?

Date: Monday, December 31, 1979
Section: RUN OF PAPER
Page: ?

By Gayle Pollard Globe Staff

A 19-year-old Medfield woman thought that for $20 she was buying a bus trip to Florida and a week of fun in the sun.

But her parents claim that Deborah Block instead was kept at “brainwashing” sessions over the weekend run by the Collegiate Assn. for the Research of Principles (CARP), followers of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

A CARP leader said the group is independent of Rev. Moon, and described the camp seminar as simular to a Christian retreat.

Deborah’s parents were concerned about any connection to Rev. Moon. They were also concerned about their daughter’s medical condition. “She has temporal lobe epilepsy,” said her father, Robert Block, and she had chest surgery in October. “She was in a pretty weakened state,” he said yesterday.

The parents called Florida authorities, who went to the McConnell Camp, a former YMCA camp about 15 miles south of Gainesville, a college town in the north-central section of the state.

As Alachua County sheriff’s deputies escorted the woman and four others from the camp in the flat, wooded marshlands before dawn Saturday, Ann Block flew to meet her daughter Deborah.

“My wife met Debbie at the police station and they talked for a while. She still had some doubts so they went to a deprogrammer in Tampa. They’re going to Disney World and will come home Tuesday night,” Robert Block said yesterday. He said he paid close to $500 for his wife’s round-trip airfare and his daughter’s passage to return here.

“We had to borrow some money, but I figured we’d worry about the bills later,” Deborah’s father said. The father of five, two of whom still live at home, he works as a sales engineer for an optical filter firm in Burlington.

“The thing down in Florida is a highly effective and efficient brainwashing event,” he said of the camp. “The way they do it, as soon as they get there they start these orientation sessions. They only allow the kids to get a couple of hours sleep. They keep pouring the philosphy into them. By the time they get through a short session, the kids are brainwashed.” He said his daughter was there only one day.

Alachua County sheriff’s deputies acted after Block’s parents called, according to shift commander Sgt. John Nobles. “The sheriff went out and checked on a girl that was possibly sick – Deborah Block – and five people wanted to leave. We escorted them out of there,” Nobles said in a telephone interview.

An investigator with the sheriff’s office told Terry Woods, a reporter for the Gainesville Sun, that deputies had confronted the camp leaders. “After a long argument, they brought out Debbie. The deputies explained they couldn’t hold people against their will. Another person approached them, quite scared, and wanted transportation out,” an investigator told Wood.

Deborah was one of an estimated 200 people attending the six-day seminar that began Saturday, according to Wood. “It was advertised as a $20 trip to Florida for fun in the sun. They bused down all these people. The majority of people are from the North – Boston and New York. Most are college students.”

“They claim they are not affiliated with the Unification Church,” she said, referring to an unidentified camp spokesman quoted in a local news account.

No criminal complaint has been filed in Florida against the group and there have been no other complaints by parents, according to Gainesville authorities.

No charges have been filed in Massachusetts either. According to a report aired by WBZ-TV yesterday, however, the state attorney general’s office has an “open file” on CARP.

The television report, filed by Nancy Fernandez, also quoted a former Moonie, now leader of an “anti-Moonie” group. Steven Hassan of Lincoln described what happens at such camps. “People’s thoughts are definitely reformed. They are changed. They are altered,” he said.

During that same report, a volunteer leader, Jan Ockerman, described CARP as a student group separate from the Unification Church. She said, however, that the “ideas stemmed from the Rev. Moon. The essence of CARP is to inspire students with the love of God and humanity, investigate basic Christian ideas . . . spirit of patriotism,” she said. Ockerman described the Florida trip as a “spiritual revival of the ’80s.” The program she said is “set up very much like a Christian retreat.” No leaders of CARP could be reached by The Globe.

Deborah Block’s family discovered that she was going to Florida after speaking to her Boston landlady last week. “We were going to celebrate Chanukah on January first,” a family tradition, Block said. “We called up Debbie, and the landlady said she wasn’t there. She was at the CARP home.”

Deborah is scheduled to start her first year in college Wednesday at Northeastern University. “She wants to work with handicapped people,” her father said. “She’s a nice kid. She wants to help people.”

POLLAR;12/30,20:45 CHAO ;01/02,12: B08051965


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