Ten years ago the Waco Tribune-Herald began a three-part series called "The Sinful Messiah" about a then obscure cult known as the Branch-Davidians led by Vernon Howell, later known to the world as David Koresh.
The first part of that series appeared February 23, 1993, the same day the BATF came to the cult compound to serve a warrant.
But rather than cooperate with authorities Koresh chose to arm his followers for resistance. The ensuing gun battle ended with four federal agents and five Davidians dead. Many more were wounded.
The 51-day standoff that followed tragically concluded in a horrific fire ordered by Koresh, which consumed the lives of his remaining followers, including their children.
Beginning Sunday the Waco Tribune-Herald launched a new series. This time it will not cover the "Sinful Messiah," but examine the legacy of the historical event that forever changed Waco.
How did it affect the town in Texas, the nation, society and those involved? What lessons were learned from this tragedy of cult devotion to a purported "psychopath"?
Interestingly, Stuart Wright a long-time cult apologist who has been recommended as a resource by the Church of Scientology was quoted within the first Tribune-Herald installment.
Wright testified before congress regarding the standoff and used that opportunity to essentially advance his own agenda concerning the supposed "persecution" of cults.
Wright seems dissatisfied with the results of two congressional investigations, a civil suit and the independent Danforth inquiry. Though millions have been spent to document the facts about the standoff he cryptically said, "I'm not sure the evidence was ever looked at in an objective light."
Wright edited his own version of events titled "Armageddon in Waco." This book is a collection of writings largely from other like-minded cult apologists such as David Bromley, James Richardson, Anson Shupe, James Lewis, Anthony Robbins and Edward Gaffney.
One entry within the book is by Nancy Ammerman, once lauded in a full-page article within Scientology's "Freedom Magazine."
Many of these academics have received cash from groups called "cults." This includes grants for "research," payments for court testimony and/or expenses for trips and conferences.
The objectivity and observations of such specious scholars should be suspect.
Benjamin Zablocki, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University said, "The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied...in the form of subvention of research expenses, subvention of publications, opportunities to sponsor and attend conferences, or direct fees for services, this money is not insignificant&This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal.
The physical evidence and facts now well established about the Branch-Davidian standoff failed to support the opinions of cult apologists or anti-government conspiracy theorists.
Instead, the only "persecution" that took place was the way David Koresh treated his followers, frequently targeting women and children for sexual abuse.
And the "Armageddon" that ultimately occurred outside Waco was the creation of a criminal cult leader, conceived in his twisted mind as a self-fulfilling prophecy.