Controversial Christian linked to skyrocketing number of predators
LARNED ? Psychologist Rex Rosenberg believes in demons.
He believes it’s possible to measure demonic influence with a survey he created.
Does the subject of the survey smell foul odors? Are they homosexual? Do they deny Jesus of Nazareth is God?
If the answer is yes to these or the other survey questions, that could indicate demonic possession.
Some say Rosenberg shouldn’t be the state’s chief evaluator of who is committed to the state’s sexual predator program at Larned State Hospital.
“It kind of makes me of the opinion that he’s got some real issues,” defense attorney Bill Muret, of Winfield, said of Rosenberg, his adversary in at least three sexual-predator trials.
Rosenberg’s demon survey has subjected him to growing criticism from attorneys and fellow psychologists. His critics question whether he’s qualified to be in such a powerful role.
And since he took over evaluations at Larned four years ago, the percentage of people labeled as sexual predators has skyrocketed.
Rosenberg said his religious beliefs have nothing to do with his work at Larned.
“It seems that there is tolerance for anything except that which is Bible-based and those who adhere to biblical teaching,” he said of his critics.
Rosenberg, 59, is a short, trim man with erect posture, a reddish-blond goatee and half-frame eyeglasses. He’s a Great Bend native, a motorcycle enthusiast and a chaplain in the state’s Christian Motorcyclists Assn.
His office at Larned lies out of the way of sexual-predator inmates, through several sets of locked doors at the end of a hallway lined with empty bedrooms.
“For someone who tries to keep a low profile, I haven’t done a good job,” he said.
Rosenberg has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Fort Hays State University. He said he never wanted to get involved with sexual predators.
“It wasn’t something I chose to do,” he said.
But after the state’s predator law came into effect, he was notified he would be one of about 10 people assigned to do the evaluations.
About four years ago, he was asked to become the lead evaluator. Since then he’s done the majority of the sexual predator evaluations.
His word on the witness stand can help a sex offender coming out of the prison system to Larned indefinitely for treatment.
Rosenberg said he was skeptical about religion until an experience 20 years ago shortly after a divorce. He was sitting in a bar drinking a beer and watching people on the dance floor.
“All of a sudden the spiritual eyes opened,” he said.
He put down the beer, left the bar, and realized his life had changed. He said in his work as a psychologist, he’d heard people talking about their demons, but he always believed it was a manifestation of the person being psychotic.
After his conversion, he began thinking demonic influence was worth more study.
The survey he developed has two parts. The first asks people to say whether they’ve had any of 96 experiences that, according to Rosenberg, can be signs of demonic influence. The list includes many things that could apply to sex offenders, such as, “tendency to commit violent acts,” “abnormal desire for sex” and “compulsive masturbation.” It also lists hearing voices, severe depression and inability to read the Bible.
The second part lists behaviors and activities that can make people vulnerable to demons, such as fornication, adultery and holistic health practices such as meditation.
When Rosenberg posted the survey on the Internet in the late 1990s, he added a preface that said the work was being censored by “those who scream tolerance and multiculturalism and diversity.”
Rosenberg said he’s been surprised by the controversy generated by the site since a defense attorney, Bob L. Thomas of Olathe, stumbled across it during an Internet search while researching a 2002 sexual-predator case. The site has since been taken down.
“Every time I go to court since then, this has become an issue,” he said. “It’s a big thing for the defense attorneys to hammer me on.”
Rosenberg said that in late 2003, a supervisor told him he couldn’t do evaluations any more because the Web site had damaged his credibility in court. But after about two months, he was told without explanation it was OK for him to resume his work.
“There had been some concerns as related to his Web site,” said Mike Deines, an SRS spokesman. Deines said the state wanted to investigate whether there were signs Rosenberg was letting the demonic survey influence his work.
Supervisors at the hospital “found that Rex was using concrete information, that his conclusions were just fine,” Deines said.
Rosenberg said the decision to temporarily take him off evaluations was a “bigoted, intolerant, anti-Christian approach.”
Rosenberg said it’s true that, among Larned’s evaluators, he has one of the higher rates of labeling people as predators. He estimated it to be 73 percent. But he said he takes the evaluations more seriously than some.
“If I see that they meet the (legal) definition, that’s what I’m going to call,” he said. “I don’t do spiritual assessments of those people, but I would say this: If things are encountered in the life of a person, whether they’re in the predator program or not, that open those doors, there may well be that influence there.”
‘Hard to believe’
Rosenberg’s critics say they believe he’s allowing his religious beliefs to influence his work during evaluations.
“For somebody to have posted this site and supposedly to believe in his, quote unquote, research in this area makes it awfully hard to believe he’s not,” said Muret, the defense attorney from Winfield.
Tim Davis, a former Larned staff member, said Rosenberg “applies the criteria a lot more liberally than the other evaluators do.”
Rosenberg said he resents the idea he is solely responsible for sending people to the sexual-predator program, given that juries make the final determination.
But Muret said the evaluations are a key part of the commitment process. If the evaluator labels the person a sexual predator, the person can either agree to the findings or seek an independent evaluation – a step that often leads to trial.
Muret said if the case reaches trial, jurors are unlikely to acquit someone once they’ve heard from a trained evaluator who labeled the person a predator.
“It doesn’t take much for the jury to say, ‘Hey, this guy needs to be put away.’ It’s an uphill battle for these people, and really, if the evaluation comes back that they’re a sexual predator, they’re pretty much nailed,” he said. “If you’re coming back and you’re finding everybody to be a sexual predator, you’re bypassing the first protection level for these individuals.”
Rosenberg, who is nearing retirement, said he recently asked to be removed from the evaluations. It’s partly because he wants to be able to clear his caseload before he retires, but partly because he’s tired of what he considers to be abuse.
“Maybe when I’m gone, they won’t have Rex Rosenberg to kick around anymore,” he said.