You need kin or Cash, says a cultist who ran
  January 1, 1979
  Many young people caught up in religious cults are actually financial prisoners who can't leave even if they want to because they lack the money or family to help them, says Sydney Tooman, who quit a cult in late 1977. "Many of the brothers and sisters in the Church of Bible Understanding Inc. have no relatives and no money of their own after years of working without pay," she explains, "so they're trapped there even if they want to leave," Sydney was luckier though.  When she decided to quit COBU after six years with the religious cult headed by Canadian-born ex-vacuum cleaner salesman Stewart Traill, she knew she could return to her parents or to the home of a married sister. Her only problem was in leaving the Manhattan fellowship without being hassled or even stopped, as is a custom with COBU and many cults.  Even though it was December, Sidney   purposely left her coat and purse in the COBU office, at 607 W. 51st St. when she went to pick her $10 weekly allowance, in order to give the impression she was still on the premises.  Then she slipped outside, hailed a cab and sped off to the East Side Bus  "I had telephoned my parents that I wanted to come home and they agreed to wire me a plane ticket if I could get out to the airport," she recalls
      Bull Sydney almost didn't make It. Before she found a taxi, a COBU brother spotted her walking without  her coat and approached her to ask if she was in trouble.  When he realized what she was doing he tried to intervene, telling the taxi driver it was all a mistake.  Only after Sydney jumped  in the cab and insisted on leaving did she feel safe. Sydney arrived at the airport too late to catch a plane back to Scranton, so she called her sister, Paula Hradkowaky, also an ex-COBU member, who drove here to pick her up. Now a 22-year-old student in a Pennsylvania college, studying to become a missionary, Sydney say she was just 15 when she joined the cult as a naive, teenager disillusioned with life. "By the time I was 17  I was convinced my parents' attempts to keep me from Traill's meetings were the work of the devil, and I left home for good," she says.
     But she now enjoys a warm, loving relationship with her parents.  "What really helped me make it back," she explains, "was the fact that my parents always assured me of their love and kept telling me I could return home any time I wanted.  This is very important for anyone involved in a cult. It was Sidney's simple request that she be allowed to spend Thanksgiving 1977 with her family in Pennsylvania that led to her eventual defection from the cult. "The council turned me down," she recalls, noting the Traill's wife, Gayle, "couldn't see any point in my going home."  Until then her life within COBU seemed loving and serene, full of security.  She had a purpose for living and felt needed, but all that changed after she asked to go home.  Suddenly, Traill started telling her, and others, that her work was inferior, and she became desperate and depressed. Until then, Sydney, like all the
others in COBU, had regarded Traill as virtually infallible, a man with a direct line to God.  His disapproval of  her work and attitude seemed tantamount to not pleasing Jesus and to eternal damnation. Luckily, she says, her sister Paula, who had already left COBU was bombarding her with a steady stream of letters urging her to come home. Paula had been COBU's business manager and told of Traill's alleged use of church money for his own purposes.
   Sydney says she also started comparing Traill's actions with those of the Rev Richard Wurmbrand, a former prisoner in Communist Romania who bad been a guest speaker at fellowship conventions. "I suddenly realized," she says, "that Stewart was not really a Christian and began questioning his use of the Bible to entrap and exploit us. In a sense, I saw he was playing
God." Most of those years were wonderful, she admits, "but I now feel COBU's message and doctrine are in error.  There's very little Christianity to he found there, and Stewart's more interested in making money than anything else. "The fact that he teaches the separation of parents and children is a prerequisite for salvation is just rotten," Sydney says.