Founder Richard Yao
- Richard Yao was the Founder and Executive Director of Fundamentalists Anonymous. He was raised a fundamentalist Christian and attended a fundamentalist school.
- Yao is a graduate of Yale University’s Divinity School, one of the pre-eminent centers for the study of religion in the world, and New York University School of Law, one of the top American law schools.
- Yao created F.A. Support Groups around the U.S. and wrote a popular little book “There Is a Way Out!” which became the powerful equivalent of AA’s Blue Book for ex-fundamentalists in recovery.
- Under Yao, the exodus from the bondage of Fundamentalism became a highly-visible and favorable media story. Yao popularized new terms such as the “shattered faith syndrome” and “The Fundamentalist Mindset.” They became widely recognized and understood. Ex-fundamentalists put the Religious Right and TV Evangelism on the defensive, and helped shape national debate and agenda.
- Unlike before, people leaving bad religions found their voices, came out of the closet. With the help of F.A., they no longer have to be isolated, guilt-ridden and self-blaming.
- And most of all people helped each other leave the fundamentalist fold and recover from it.
- With a membership of over 50,000, Richard Yao has probably helped more ex-fundamentalists and people who have experienced dysfunctional religion than anyone else in history. He saved dozens, possibly hundreds, from suicide.
- In addition to the actual membership who mostly respond to TV or media appearances, it is estimated there were at least ten times more (half a million) who have been helped significantly without their actually becoming a member.
- Yao left a lucrative Wall Street career to plunge into nonprofit. To set up Fundamentalists Anonymous, he exhausted his own personal savings and credit line from Wall Street and worked initially for up to 100 hours a week without pay. As the head of a major foundation pointed out, Yao was F.A.’s first philanthropist and benefactor.
- As F.A.’s inhouse publicist and public relations person and strategist, Yao got F.A. unprecedented media attention which was overwhelmingly supportive and favorable. Yao used talk shows like Donahue and Oprah to talk directly to people in the fundamentalist fold. No wonder the media-savvy Jerry Falwell admitted that Richard Yao’s presence alone was enough to “send shock waves through the world of TV evangelism.”
- Yao’s media success for F.A. is proven by the fact that it has never been duplicated since. Unfortunately.
- Yao was also F.A.’s primary fundraiser. He was able to garner support and grants from foundations as different as the progressive Veatch Fund of the North Shore Universalist-Unitarian Church to the very establishment Henry Luce Foundation. But most importantly, Yao was able to use direct mail to gain support directly from ex-fundamentalists.
- In light of the above, it was not surprising that the Religious Right made F.A. its “number one enemy” and concluded the best way to destroy F.A. was to destroy Richard Yao.
If we’ve learned anything…it’s that the right-wing scandal machine will find a way to smear anyone, and that a lot of the media will play along. — Paul Krugman, New York Times Columnist