The untold story of Ginni Thomas' anti-cult activism — after she was 'deprogrammed'
In the 1980s, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas had a moment of clarity: She realized she had fallen in with a group she considered “a cult” and sought to be “deprogramme
WASHINGTON — In the 1980s, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas had a moment of clarity: She realized she had fallen in with a group she considered “a cult” and sought to be “deprogrammed” from it, she said in decades-old remarks obtained by NBC News.
Thomas’ involvement with Lifespring, an organization advertising training seminars purporting to help participants unlock almost superhuman potential, left her wondering what it was about herself that allowed her to be drawn in. Her successful deprogramming — considered a controversial tactic — led her to become a vigorous anti-cult crusader. For years, she was deeply involved with the nation’s largest anti-cult organization, assisting in setting up workshops for congressional staffers to combat groups like Lifespring.
“When you come away from a cult, you’ve got to find a balance in your life as far as getting involved with fighting the cult or exposing it,” Thomas told attendees at a 1986 Cult Awareness Network panel in Kansas City, Missouri. “And kind of the other angle is getting a sense of yourself and what was it that made you get into that group. And what open questions are there that still need to be answered.”
It’s difficult to reconcile Thomas then and now, four people who worked with her at the height of her anti-cult activism through the late 1980s said in interviews. After she spent years trying to expose cults, these people found Thomas’ efforts to promote outlandish plans to overturn the 2020 results, particularly the text messages and emails in which she referenced false election conspiracies that originated in QAnon circles on the internet, surprising. Democrats and Republicans alike have said QAnon supporters exhibit cult-like behavior.
“Ginni Thomas was out there active in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and then she really went a different path,” said Rick Ross, a prominent expert on cults and a former “deprogrammer” who knew Thomas through their anti-cult activism. “I admire the work she did back in the ‘80s. And she should be given credit for that.”