By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com March 13 2002 12:00 AM ET
MSNBC.com's Jeannette Walls reports that the Fourth Way school--celebrated in the documentary Artists and Orphans: A True Drama, which is nominated this year for an Academy Award--has come under fire for various controversial practices, including attempts to force gays to change their sexual orientation. "I have received many complaints about this group," cult expert Rick Ross tells Walls. "Former members and families complain that the extreme control Sharon Gans [who helped make the film] has exercised over their lives has caused them enormous personal pain and resulted in numerous divorces and estrangements. I have also been told that historically, the group has excluded black members and will accept gays only if they are interested in changing their sexual preference."
Artists and Orphans, about artists and actors helping orphans in the former Soviet state of Georgia, was directed by Lianne Klapper McNally, a member of the school.
Ross also mentions that Gans ran another school, the Theatre of All Possibilities, which was closed in the late 1970s after newspaper reports detailed allegations of brainwashing and violence against its members. "It's ironic that this documentary, which is all about rescuing children, is associated with a group that has been accused of being destructive to families," Ross said. Gans was unavailable for comment.