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Center for Healing Spiritual and Cultic Abuse (CHSCA): Some Questions to Advisory Board Members and Staff

August 27, 2011

Important Update: Click here to read John Knapp’s former client’s response to his postings about her.

Update September 7, 2011: Doug Mesner has informed me that he has resigned from CHSCA.

Update September 8: Another advisory board member, Shane Bugbee has also resigned. Click here to read his public statement about his resignation. Also, someone named Amanda who appears to be one of his greatest defenders, has posted a letter of resignation from CHSCA to Knapp’s Facebook page. It is important to note that I have, to this date, had no communication with Shane nor Amanda who appeared to have come to their decisions based upon their own observations of Knapp’s behavior.

Click here for additional updates.

August 27, 2011:

The Center for Healing Spiritual and Cultic Abuse (CHSCA), formed earlier this year, has quite an impressive advisory board of some internationally renowned individuals from both the skeptical and the anti-cult communities. For that reason, I was quite puzzled and stunned to see the profanity-laced writings of  its Executive Director, John Knapp, LMSW (scroll down that page to see some examples) who currently bills himself as a licensed masters social worker (LMSW) although in other writings he has expressed a desire and intent to leave the profession. Oh his blog, which is on the CHSCA’s website, he trashes a former client who filed a complaint with his state board about him, calling her a cyber stalker and posting what, according to this client, is a false statement that she asked him to have sex (although I believe the client that this is false, even if it were not false, it would be highly inappropriate for him to be posting this, regardless of whether it happened after terminating therapy). This client has posted quite openly about her experiences in therapy with Mr. Knapp including details on alleged dual relationships and her state board complaint against him and after checking with her, she has indicated to me that she is fine with me posting this.

I tried to contact Mr. Knapp directly to express my concerns, as the NASW Code of Ethics advises. Mr. Knapp had initiated a communication, sending me a “friend” request from Facebook and sending me a link to another posting he had written. When I sent him a message in response to this, he accused me of harassing him, even though he responded to me several times, at length and at no time asked me to stop sending him messages in a conversation that he himself initiated. Go figure. Here is the response I sent him:

I see you have launched a highly defamatory attack on me on your website and you want to be my friend? What’s going on with you, John? And by the way, I am not unemployed. I am self employed. Now that I have informed you of that, if you leave that up, I will consider this an intentional posting of a falsehood on your part.

His response was “Monica, I don’t really care.” To that, I responded, in keeping with the NASW principle to attempt to have a discussion directly with a colleague if it is believed an ethical violation occurred [note that Mr. Knapp has already posted this on his website and public Facebook page and made this public. Had he not done so, I would have kept this private]. I informed him that I believed his state board would care very much about what he had posted about his former client, which I consider to constitute grossly unethical behavior on his part.

However, he was not amenable to discussion, to put it mildly. Here was his initial response to me, which he posted on the Center for Healing Spiritual and Cultic Abuse website and his public Facebook page [I have deleted the “F” word in the multiple instances where it appeared in Knapp’s original postings, in order to keep this blog clean]:

Game. F[explicative deleted]. On….

Look who finally crawled out of bed!!!! Everybody! Let’s welcome Monica Pignotti, P.h.[f__ing].D.!

Kiddies, you’re just wanta sit back and watch this one. Please don’t try to help. You could get hurt.
Dear, dear, s w e e t Monica,

I laff in your face.

You really need to Google the legal definition of “defamation.”



You’re starting to look like a fool with your empty threats. Defamation isn’t possible if one tells the truth, my dear.

Please list each and every statement I made about you in my cited post that was false. And provide some sort of proof each was false.



Inquiring minds are just dying to know.

As to poor, poor Carol Welch, either of you can check out cyberstalking laws in New York and North Carolina and judge for yourself whether naming Carol as one is in fact indefensible.

But then again, if I have my way, she’ll be able to comment on that herself in the foreseeable future. In a court of law. Sworn in. At risk of perjury. Able to call witnesses.

Licensure? Have you even been paying *modest* attention????

I’m happy to give up my license to “practice” if it means calling an end to the sickness.

Monica, you can’t touch me.

You have no power. You have no consequence whatsoever. Outside the tiny, tiny, tiny part of the “anti-cult movement” that you have crawled into:


except in your own mind

You are an unemployed PhD who, some might argue, EASILY fits the definition of a cyberharrasser. The very sickness I speak of among those who worship meaningless credentials but can’t [f___ing] do the job.

And you are a joke.

In my humble opinion.

Of course.


and there was much more, including posting material from the anonymous internet smear campaign against me. The bottom line was I sent him private messages expressing my concerns about his public postings about a former client, and he sent me back rants and threats to sue his former client, such as the one I just quoted, posting the whole thing publicly [although I have seen no evidence that anything she has done remotely fits the definition of cyberstalking]. To set the record straight, I was not threatening to sue Mr. Knapp. I was merely notifying him that he had posted a false statement about my employment status. That being said, his writings are directed towards not only about me but more importantly, a former client, calling her a cyberstalker and making quite serious allegations against her including attacking her for filing a state board complaint against him and writing about her experiences with him on her blog, that quite frankly concern me, given that they come from a licensed social worker who specializes in working with clients who have been victims of spiritual and cultic abuse.

The client and I have both sent e-mails to a number of advisory board members and others associated with this organization and no, this does not constitute defamation or interference with a business because I merely sent them the links to John’s own postings on his website blog, so if that causes them to resign, John Knapp has no one to blame but himself. It is quite possible they are not aware of what Mr. Knapp has been posting. At least some of them are now, however, so let’s see if they act and if so, what they will do about this. Having been an advisory board member myself in other organizations, I am well aware that such members do not have the power to change things other than giving input and feedback to officers that they are free to take or leave and they  may not be aware of website content, which they typically have no control over. However, they do, of course, have the ability to decide whether they will continue to endorse such an organization and sit on its board.

In the meantime, I have some questions for the advisory board members.

1. First, are you aware of these postings made by your Executive Director? (if not, please click on this link and read them and click here for more).

2. Do you think these postings are appropriate for an organization that purports to be about healing from spiritual and cultic abuse?

3. If not, what do you intend to do about this?

The Advisory Board members, as of August 27, 2011, according to the website, include:

Michael Shermer

Janja Lalich, PhD

Barry Markovsky, PhD

Doug Mesner also is listed on the website and as I understand it, plays a key role in this organization.

I look forward to responses any of you might have regarding this and I have contacted the ones for whom I have e-mail addresses and expressed my concerns as I cannot in all good conscience stand by and witness what I have without saying something.

These are individuals who I greatly respect, so I can only make the most generous assumption that they were unaware of these postings that are on the website by Mr. Knapp. He appears to be having a meltdown and I hope that they can help him get the help he appears to be in need of and remove him from any position where he could influence highly vulnerable ex-cult members, since he does not appear to be successfully modeling cult and spiritual abuse recovery, to put it mildly. That is my opinion.

PS: Mr. Knapp’s accusation that I have been “harassing” him for the past year is completely false. We had a few isolated, brief exchanges when I had contacted him earlier to express my concerns about his participation in the smear campaign that had been taking place on Dennis Erlich’s Facebook page. Knapp had responded to me and at no time did he indicate that he wanted me to not contact him. Had he done so I would have honored his wishes. He has also falsely stated that I “aided and abetted” this client’s board complaint. In fact, I did not read the complaint or learn of its filing until months after it was filed. A mutual acquaintance had written me earlier about the possibility of her filing, but that at the time thought it was unlikely that she would. To that, I had responded that this was entirely her decision and I did not contact her or in any way put any pressure on her to write the complaint. Knapp’s correspondence to me was that he had heard that I was helping her come up with charges. Far from it. That is what is known as hearsay in a court of law.

People might wonder if John Knapp was part of the anonymous smear campaign. For a number of reasons, I don’t think so. First of all, the smear campaign was demonstrably by people who are from the international adoption community and supporters of some of the therapists, a topic Knapp has shown me he knows very little about (Knapp stated to me that he has never even heard of Ron Federici, for example and he knew nothing about the lawsuit and the fact that Federici is far more famous, powerful and influential in the mental health profession than Knapp could ever hope to be, yet he lost in court against me and the five other defendants). Also, the smear campaign, which began in early 2009, predates Knapp’s entry into this situation. Although it is possible he authored some of the recent anonymous postings, such as the one that falsely accused me of trying to get Steve Hassan’s license taken away, it is highly unlikely he is responsible for any of the earlier ones.

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