I bet scientology LOVES how the Denver police handled this cult situation:
© The Denver Post
By Kevin Simpson and Virginia Culver
Denver Post Staff Writers
Jan. 10 - Hands pressed hopelessly to the glass at Gate B-24, friends and family of 14 Concerned Christians cult members deported from Israel watched their loved ones scurry across the tarmac Saturday afternoon at Denver International Airport and onto buses that took them to an undisclosed location.
The move, requested by the cultists and arranged by Denver police, revolved around unspecified concern for the safety of the deportees, followers of self-proclaimed prophet Monte Kim Miller, who were ordered out of Israel amid suspicion they planned violence to hasten the apocalypse.
But it also shattered those who waited at the gate with tight-lipped smiles and hands clasped in prayer that they might reconnect with cult members they haven't heard from in months or more.
The cultists did not offer so much as a glance of acknowledgment toward the window above, where those who came to meet them stood, stunned with anger, frustration and disappointment.
"It feels so far away, so very far away,'' said Anna Brutan of Clifton, who hoped to see her brother, 20-year-old James Dyck, simply to tell him she loves him.
Some friends and family members were not altogether surprised that the 14 - eight adults and six children - would try to circumvent the welcoming party of perhaps two dozen, plus a large-scale media contingent.
But they fumed that local authorities would help the cult members avoid them.
Nelma Smith, whose son Terry, his wife and children were aboard the plane, said she was "dumfounded'' that police gave the Concerned Christians special protection from their families.
"They should have been forced to walk into the terminal,'' she said. "Why were they even given the option of not seeing us? This action just leaves the door wide open for the cult members to make connections and take off again someplace.''
Bill Honsberger, a local cult watcher and Conservative Baptist missionary who also waited at the gate, said it was "a lame idea'' for police to protect cult members.
"If I had a child in that cult group, they might have had to arrest me to keep me away from him,'' said the usually low-key Honsberger.
The deportees left Israel about 4:25 p.m. MST Friday and were routed on an Air Canada flight through Toronto because many of them already held return tickets on the airline. After a customs delay in Toronto, the plane arrived just after noon in Denver, and regular passengers and the Israeli escort disembarked first.
Then, after local authorities entered the plane to speak to the cultists, Denver police spokesman John Wyckoff addressed the waiting friends and relatives.
He said the deportees had unanimously voiced a "conscious decision to get off the plane by another route'' based on "concerns for their safety and well-being.'' Wyckoff also told the crowd that the cult members said they would contact their families soon.
But families weren't so sure.
"This might have been our last chance,'' said Josh Dyck, 18, brother of James Dyck. "I just feel really let down. I guess we'll just go home and wait for James to call.''
Honsberger figured it could be a long wait.
"It's against their pattern,'' he said. "That's why they had to leave - to get away from family.''
according to Wyckoff, police and U.S. Customs officials boarded the plane and told the 14 remaining passengers about the crowd waiting at the gate and gave them three options: walk off by themselves, walk off with a police escort or exit by a different route.
Wyckoff did not say specifically what the cult members' safety concerns were, but did note that they were told of some information police had developed. He said concern about "deprogrammers'' was mentioned by the deportees.
"That's an absolute crock,'' said Honsberger. "That tells you something about Kim Miller when family members are the threat. That tells you all you need to know about this group.''
Wyckoff took slips of paper bearing phone numbers from some family members and promised to have them delivered to the cult members. Friends and family gradually dispersed, some heading straight home in hope that the telephone would ring.
"I can hope - period,'' said Del Dyck, a 55-year-old builder from Gypsum and father of James. "But I can't rest on that.''
Indeed, Del Dyck arrived in Denver, sleepless, at 5 a.m. Saturday from New York, where he'd spent nearly three days meeting flights from Tel Aviv that he hoped might be carrying his son. By the time he got to the window at the gate, it was apparently too late to see James board the bus.
Del walked dejectedly down the concourse and prepared to head back to Gypsum.
"It's what Kim Miller would like - to see the whole thing fall through,'' he said. "Maybe they'll choose to contact us, but at this point, Miller's won.''
The whereabouts of Miller, 44, remain unknown, although some cult members detained in Israel claimed he was doing "research'' in London. But his prophesy that he will die on the streets of Jerusalem in December 1999, and the subsequent migration of cult members to that city in recent weeks, prompted Israeli authorities to round up the 14 cultists.
The Israelis believed the Concerned Christians were planning to provoke police into a shootout that would trigger violence that, in turn, would hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, no charges were filed against any of those detained, but all were ordered deported. Family members seized the development as a prime opportunity to see the loved ones who abruptly dropped out of sight, anticipating Miller's prophesy that Denver would be destroyed by an earthquake on Oct. 10.
Those awaiting the flight knew that they could be setting themselves up for disappointment, but Norm Smith of Lakewood, father of cultist Terry Smith, figured it could have been worse.
"I think I would rather have looked at my son through a window,'' he said, "than have had him walk by and shun me.''
In any event, Saturday's events only aggravated families' anger toward the cult's leader.
"Kim Miller has won a big victory,'' said Del Dyck. "I know he's cheering. But my attitude from Scripture hasn't changed: He's a great deceiver, and those who have given their lives to deceit will continue to hurt.''
Nelma Smith took heart in her own deep religious belief.
"We'll do what we've done before - just keep waiting,'' she said. "God's in control. Not Kim Miller.'