Paul Morantz, Lawyer Who Campaigned Against Cults, Dies at 77

The NY Times reports

He took on sects and other fringe groups in California, as well as abusive psychotherapists and a self-help guru. At one point assassins tried to kill him with a rattlesnake.

Paul Morantz, a lawyer and investigative journalist who in the 1970s was so successful at taking on cults, abusive psychotherapists and self-proclaimed gurus around California that one of his targets tried to assassinate him with a rattlesnake, died on Oct. 23 in Los Angeles. He was 77.

His son, Chaz, confirmed the death, at a hospital. He did not provide a cause but said his father had been in declining health for several years.

Cults proliferated in the post-hippie weirdness that was California in the 1970s, often establishing alternative communities in rural parts of the state where authoritarian leaders, typically men, dictated every aspect of their followers’ lives, down to their clothing and choice of sexual partners.

Mr. Morantz made his name taking down one such movement, Synanon. It had begun as a last-chance drug rehabilitation program in the late 1950s but had, by the early ’70s, become an insular, oppressive organization under its founder, Charles Dederich.

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