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Church of Synanon

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Church of Synanon, was a cult founded in 1958 by former alcoholic Charles Dederich. Synanon began as a rehabilitation program to help drug addicts, whom Dederich felt did not have a program to respond to their needs.

By the early 1960s, Synanon became an alternative living community for people wanting to live a self examined life. Members would gather daily to play the 'Synanon Game', in which people would take turns degrading and humiliating each other by pointing out personal flaws, thus making them feel inferior to their leader Dederich. Eventually Deidrich began saying that the world outside Synanon was evil, so he stopped the two year graduation program and made living in Synanon a lifelong commitment. Children born in Synanon went to Synanon School and juveniles were often sent to Synanon for 'Treatment.'

In 1974 legal problems began to arise including, the construction of a landfill and airstrip without permits, running an unauthorized medical clinic, and tax evasion. In response to the tax evasion problem, Dederich declared Synanon a tax exempt religious group called the Church of Synanon. Problems continued however, as children began running away from Synanon and revealing clear signs of child abuse. Dederich declared members should not have any more children and forced members to have abortions, vasectomies, and divorces .

Eventually allegations of murdering former members began to surface. Many threats were made against police and lawyers who threatened Synanon. A recorded speech was found in Synanon by Dederich claiming that he was more then ready to see all of their enemies dead. Dederich stepped down as leader of Synanon and the group officially disbanded in 1989. Dederich died in 1997.

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