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New Religions and Public Policy

Research Implication for Social and Behavioral Scientists

Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

John G. Clark, Jr., M.D.


Although new religions, or cults, have existed throughout history, they appear to have become especially numerous, or at least more conspicuous, during the past 15 to 20 years. Some observers consider this proliferation of Christian, Eastern, occult, and satanic groups as part of the general �turning inward� that followed the political activities of the 1960s�what could be called the seekerhood explanation. Others note the hunger for community, the erosion of the Protestant ethic, and the dissolution of moral consensus as causes of the current religious ferment (Robbins & Anthony, 1981).


Although generally agreeing that the profusion of new religions is related to some form or other of social change, scholars disagree on the extent to which this phenomenon is socially or psychologically constructive (Coughlin, 1983). Some scholars maintain that new religious�even those that have been most harshly attacked in the popular press�fulfill needs that are inadequately met by traditional religions and the family (Robbins & Anthony, 1981). Other observers contend that at least some new religions�as well as cultic political and therapy groups�cause psychological, medical, and social harm (Clark et al., 1981; Delgado, 1977, 1982; Levine, 1982; Rudin, 1979-80; West, 1982).  (Although the terms �cult� and �cultic� can apply to non-religious as well as religious groups�an advantage in iour opinion�we have used the term �new religions� in order to conform to the terminology of the organizers of this conference).


Critics of new religions have advocated as remedies: (1) deprogramming (Levine, 1980; Patrick & Dulack, 1976); (2) counseling (Clark, 1979; Clark & Langone, in press; Clark et al., 1981; Etemad, 1979; Galper, 1982; Goldberg & Goldberg, 1982; Langone, 1983b; Maleson, 1981; Singer, 1978; Spero, 1982); (3) education (Clayton, 1979; Human Relations Media, 1982; Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia, 1976; Langone, 1982; Schwartz & Zemel, 1980; Swope, 1980; Willis, 1983); and (4) legislation (Aronin, 1982; Delgado, 1977, 1982). These remedies�-deprogramming in particular-�have aroused much criticism, especially from those who believe that new religions are fulfilling unmet psychological and social needs of their members.


The notion of brainwashing, or mind control (perhaps more properly termed �unethical methods of persuasion�), is at the heart of this controversy. Critics believe that many groups diminish psychological freedom by using unethical techniques of persuasion (e.g., isolation, group pressure, denigration of critical thinking, physical debilitation, induction of trance-like states, extensive control of information) to recruit and hold onto converts. In addition, critics maintain that some new religions use these techniques to exploit converts financially and/or psychologically. These criticisms have been supported by much testimony in the popular literature (Bugliosi & Gentry, 1974; Conway & Siegelman, 1979, 1982; Cooper, 1971; Edwards, 1979; Enroth, 1977; Freed, 1980; Hershell & Hershell, 1982; Kemperman, 1981; Methvin, 1980, 1981. Patrick & Dulack, 1976, Rudin & Rudin, 1980; Scharff, 1982; Stoner & Parke, 1977; Underwood & Underwood, 1979; Wooden, 1981; Yanoff, 1981) and numerous federal and state legislative inquiries (Boettcher, 1980; Final Report on the activities of the Children of God[1]; Information meeting on the cult phenomenon in the United States[2];Public hearing on solicitation utilized by religious and charitable groups[3]; Public hearing on treatment of children by cults[4], as well as by mental health clinicians, who together have worked with thousands of individuals and families (Clark et al., 1981; Langone, 1`983b; Singer, 1978, 1979, West, 1982; West & Singer, 1982).


The defenders of new religions contend that the harm, if any, associated with them does not justify extreme actions such as forced deprogramming or legislative action. Generally, these scholars maintain that the �mind control� explanation is at best a misleading exaggeration of reality and at worst utter nonsense (Bromley & Shupe, 1981; Robbins & Anthony, 1981; Shupe & Bromley, 1982); Shupe, Spielman, & Stigall, 1977). Indeed, some observers consider the public�s generally critical response to new religions as a greater threat to society than the damage allegedly caused by new religions (Bromley & Shupe, 1981).


The Dilemma of Decision-Makers


The term �decision-makers� refers to those individuals who contribute to public policy decisions in this area (i.e., who make or offer advice regarding decisions concerning persons or families affected by new religions or concerning society as a whole). According to this definition, legislators, judges, educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals, and clergy are all decision-makers.


Individuals seeking help (for themselves and/or family members) or advocating some form of social action (e.g., restrictions on college recruitment by new religions; prosecution of deprogrammers) frequently demand that decision-makers take action regarding new religions. But because many suggested courses of action would be based upon inadequate information or would raise ethical concerns, decision-makers turn to experts for guidance. Unfortunately, the experts often disagree vehemently.


This disagreement is partly a function of the diverse world views and methodological predilections of the clinicians and social and behavioral scientists who have taken an interest in this field. But it is also, in large measure, a function of their inability (due largely to formidable methodological obstacles) to answer authoritatively three questions of central importance to decision-makers:


1.                  What types of harm, if any, are associated with new religions and/or the public�s reactions to them?

2.                  What is the prevalence of such  harm, should it exist?

3.                  Is there a need for, and what are the likely consequences of proposed ameliorative responses (i.e., legislation, deprogramming, inaction, counseling, and education)?


This paper will examine these questions in order to: (a) help decision-makers more effectively discriminate among fact, impression, hypothesis, and prejudice; and (b) help researchers better understand the needs and perspectives of decision-makers. The paper�s primary concern is with the alleged harm associated with new religions. Were there no accusations of harm, decision-makers would not be called upon tomake decisions about new religions and their members.


What Types of Harm, if any, are Associated with New Religions and/or the Public�s Reactions to Them?


Differences among Disciplines


Most scientific studies of new religions, or cults, have been conducted by sociologists and anthropologists. The latter tend to study cults outside the American mainstream (e.g., an Afro-Brazilian fetish cult, Hedrick, 1967). The former, who frequently study contemporary new religions, are inclined to look at their social structures or their interactions with mainstream society (for a review of the sociological literature on new religions, see Robbins & Anthony, 1979). One sociological study, for example, asserts that the controversy surrounding new religions reflects �a conflict of interest, which occurs when two parties desire very different outcomes in the same situation but one of them gains only at the expense of the other� (Bromley & Shupe, 1981:5).


Psychological/psychiatric researchers (as well as some sociologists), on the other hand, tend to be concerned with individual differences which, ideally, can be quantitatively measured. A number of studies, for example, have used psychological tests, surveys, questionnaires, or structured interviews to examine current and/or former cult members (Buckley & Galanter, 1979; Conway & Siegelman, 1982; Galanter & Buckley, 1978; Galanter et al., 19079; Langone, 1984; Rockford, 1982; Ross, 1983; Ungerleider & Wellisch, 1979) and their families (Beckford, 1982; Zerin, 1982).


Although generally unable to use such systematic research methods in their practices, mental health professionals (clinical and counseling psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, pastoral counselors, etc.) are often able to gain a depth of understanding (because of extensive interactions with their clients) that is inaccessible through standard research techniques. Moreover, because their job is to try to remedy harm, clinicians tolerate ambiguity and take value stands more comfortably, perhaps, than their academic colleagues, who tend to value neutrality and methodological rigor (although one discipline�s rigor can be another discipline�s mush).


Because of their different interests and methodological preferences, clinicians and social and behavioral scientists often have diverse opinions regarding two important aspects of Question One: a) the nature (or even existence) of �harm�; and b) the advantages and disadvantages of different research methods designed to provide data relevant to this question. Before examining these issues, however, let us consider a topic that illuminates different conceptualizing systems of some students of new religions.


Harm, Values, and Medicalization


Although many scholars shun concepts such as harm, behavioral scientists and mental health professionals will indirectly investigate such value concepts by utilizing measures of psychopathology, symptomatology, social dysfunction, etc. Many anthropologists and sociologists, on the other hand, tend to reject even these research concepts, maintaining they are mere labels used by medicalizers. Some sociologists, in fact, consider these concepts to be of so little utility that they view the relationship of new religions and psychiatrists as one of competition:


Controversial spiritual masters such as Baba Muktananda or Bhagwan Rajneesh and controversial movements such as EST, Scientology, or the Divine Light Mission have merged as competitors of licensed psychotherapy (Anthony et al., 1977; Marshall, 1978). Furthermore, deprogramming, rehabilitation services and counseling of converts and ex-converts expand vocational opportunities for mental health workers � The history of medicine in the United States has witnessed a successful struggle on the part of the medical profession to stigmatize and eliminate competitors, including homeopathy, osteopathy, naturopathy, Christian Science, chiropractic and faith healing. Non-scientific factors such as monopolistic considerations sometimes intruded into these disputes (Wardwell, 1972). Cults present a threat to the medical monopoly of healing (Robbins & Anthony, 1982: 288-289)


Physicians and mental health professionals are human beings and, consequently, liable to compromise their scientific integrity by worrying about vocational opportunities or dismissing competing healers, such as marijuana-smoking shamans, before the National Institute of Health has completed an authoritative series of objective studies (with appropriate representation from the various alternative healing arts). But really! Are physicians and mental health professions that ignoble? And are they that stupid?


Obviously, we do not hold such a cynical opinion of these professions. In our opinion, the main concern of mental health professionals and physicians is to find and employ effective methods for dealing with harm�be it physical, psychological, or social. Their definitions of harm may be faulty. Their methods may not be as effective as they would like and in some cases may be totally ineffective. And they may sometimes overlook or prematurely dismiss (for reasons other than fear of competition, e.g., insufficient time to follow the literature on a topic) ideas and techniques that could prove useful. But these failings are not primarily a result of intergroup competition, a shallow prejudiced rantings of professionals unsuccessfully competing with physicians for the public�s attention and respect?) Rather, these failings are a result of basically honest, but limited minds grappling with enormously complex scientific problems in a changeable and ambiguous world. Thus, whereas the cynical academician may view the clinician as an aggressive, intellectually-careless powermonger, the clinician, soiled from the daily grind of work in the trenches, often sees the armchair academician as an articulate spokesman of sterile purity, unimportant or misleading distinctions, or even outright fantasy.


Speaking as �soiled clinicians,� we submit that the concept of harm (which we do not equate with the medical concept of sick) has meaning, although not nearly s9o precise a meaning as a philosopher of the analytic school would like. This meaning is rooted in culture, for human beings cannot exist without culture. Furthermore, because the assertion of values is an essential aspect of any culture, the meaning of harm is directly related to the fundamental values of the culture in question. Since our concern is contemporary western culture--and not that of eighteenth century Polynesia--our proposed concept of harm reflects our current understanding of contemporary Western civilization's fundamental values.


Types of Social Harm


Although as clinicians our main concern has been with individuals and families, we are also troubled, as are others (Delgado, 1977, 1982; Horowitz, 1979; Levine, 1982; Rudin, 1979-80; Rudin & Rudin, 1980; Schwartz & Kaslow, 1982; Schwartz & Zemel, 1980; West, 1982; West & Singer,    1982; Williams, 1980), by apparent social harms related to new religions. New religions can sometimes attack and challenge the importance of the family, which our culture values in a fundamental way. The fraudulent fund-raising practices of new religions can damage the credibility of legitimate charities. The political aspirations of some new religious movements--mainly those with totalitarian world views--threaten our democratic political traditions. And to the extent that new religions are causes (whether primary or reciprocal in nature) of the general social instability of recent years, they contribute to the undermining of the Judeo-Christian world view that has sustained our society.


Obviously, what some observers consider social harm, others say consider social progress. (e.g., the dissolution of the Judeo-Christian world view). Because such value disagreements interfere with the first stage of rational discourse (e.g., the definition of "harm"), they pose a serious problem for researchers` and decision-makers. Indeed, there is no easy solution to this dilemma, for we, the researchers and decision-makers, are part of the changing social framework that we wish to understand and repair, even while we dispute what, if anything, is wrong. The next section, which elaborates upon the authors' conceptualization of personal harm, will, we hope, stimulate debate on at least some aspects of this central definitional issue.


Types of Personal Harm


We propose six varieties of harm relevant to new religions. These types of harm are often difficult to demonstrate with rigorous scientific methodology (a handicap that mental health professionals are used to). These types of harm are not exclusive to new religions. They do not necessarily imply a need for restrictive legislation or a justification of forced deprogramming. They should not, therefore, be discounted merely because one opposes one or more of the proposed remedies for harm associated with new religions.


Physical harm


The first, most obvious, and most readily acknowledged harm is physical harm. Although the dividing line between non-harm and harm of the physical sort is not sharp (e.g., when is physical exhaustion harmful?), a general consensus exists regarding many indicators of physical harm. Few, for example, will defend the child abuse which has occurred in some groups (Public Hearing on Treatment of Children by Cults[5] ; Rudin, 1984; Soko�love, 1982; Wooden, 1981). Moreover, since bruises and broken arms are easily observed, the existence of child abuse can be demonstrated to those who may have initially been skeptical.


Financial exploitation


A second type of personal harm is financial exploitation. Although financial "changes" are relatively easy to demonstrate (e.g., so-and-so signed over a million-dollar inheritance to a leader of a new religious group), demonstrating financial exploitation is more difficult, for exploitation implies that the financial change resulted from manipulation, deception, or coercion--processes that are frequently difficult to detect or make apparent to others.


Psychiatric symptomatology


A third type of personal harm, psychiatric symptomatology, is rather obvious in some cases, yet difficult to define or demonstrate in others. Psychiatric symptoms often cannot be evaluated out of context: speaking very slowly, for example, could reflect depression, or mere fatigue. Furthermore, opinions vary significantly regarding which patterns of behavior suggest a problem (e.g., the changing attitude of the American Psychiatric Association toward homosexuality). Although some have argued that the entire notion of psychopathology is vacuous (Szasz, 1974), abundant evidence indicates that there really are psychiatric disorders (frequently having strong biological components in their etiology) and that these disorders are not were consequences of labeling (Ban, 1977; Ludwig & Ekkehard, 1977; Spitzer et al., 1978). For this reason, clinical reports of psychiatric disturbance associated with involvement in new religions should not be dismissed as out of hand.


The next three varieties of harm that we have observed are sometimes even more difficult to define precisely and demonstrate than those already dis�cussed. These types of harm, which reflect three fundamental values of West�ern culture, are: 1) diminished personal autonomy; 2) impaired psychological integration; and 3) diminished critical thinking.


Diminished personal autonomy


Personal autonomy refers to an individual's capacity to make decisions (i.e., to choose from a set of alternatives) without undue interference from other people. Such interference occurs when others prevent or prohibit a person from making certain choices (e.g., a guru commanding a follower to leave school), unethically persuade a person to make or not make certain choices (e.g., "brothers" and "sisters" unfairly pressuring a group member not to go home for the holiday), or manipulate information or a person's circumstances or feelings so as to decrease the number of alternatives which he or she perceives (e.g., Jim Jones� telling his credulous followers that they must either commit suicide or be butchered by their ene�mies). Methods which undermine personal autonomy are discussed  elsewhere (Andersen & Zimbardo, 1983; Brown, 1963; Clark et al., 1981; Lifton, 1961; Schein, 1961; Zimbardo et al., 1977).


Diminished psychological integration


Psychological integration refers to the individual's need to continually attempt to order his or her memories, values, beliefs, heritage, etc., into a unified whole. Although complete integration is never achieved, the impulse to "get it together" is strong, as well as adaptive. If we did not strive for increasing levels of logical consistency and balance among our values, beliefs, etc., we would either find ourselves in a chronic and escalating self-conflict or would compartmentalize ourselves into discordant mind-pieces. With regard to new religions, psychological integration may be impaired when a group persuades its members to inappropriately disown and/or reject significant "chunks" of themselves (e.g., family, personal goals, culturally based values).


Diminished critical thinking capacity


Achieving an adequate level of psychological integration and personal autonomy is virtually impossible with out the capacity to think critically. Making discriminations, asking pertinent questions, formulating hypotheses, testing hypotheses, analyzing the logic of perceived relationships, and the like are all critical skills with which individuals differentiate and integrate their views of self and world. Some new religions denigrate these skills. They attack the mind as the great�est obstacle to happiness. They exalt paradox. They view questioning as satanic, or at best futile. And they belittle logical thinking.


Before closing this section on the components of personal harm, we would like to note that not all harm associated with new religions stems from the new religions. As critics of the so-called "anti-cult movement" have pointed out, nondiscrimination reactions against new religious movements can sometimes result in harm inflicted upon the members of those new religions (Bromley & Shupe, 1981). Certain false assumptions or beliefs (e.g., assuming that all new religions are basically the same, that conversion to new religions neces�sarily comes about through brainwashing, that new religions are all bad and should be destroyed, and that all converts to new religions should be saved by deprogramming) can cause otherwise decent people to interfere inappropriately with the lives of others.


The existence of this kind of anti-cult harm further complicates the deliberations of decision-makers, for in choosing a course of action to mini�mize one type of harm they may inadvertently cause other types of harm. Hence, decision-makers, in order to properly weigh the consequences of their courses of action, must not only define harm, but must measure its magnitude as well. Accomplishing these tasks is formidable.


Empirical Strategies for Evaluating the Nature and Magnitude of Harm


Several strategies, reflecting in large measure the methodological bents of clinicians, social scientists, and behavioral scientists may be used to investigate the nature and magnitude of alleged harm in new religions.


Naturalistic observation


Naturalistic observation, commonly employed by sociologists and anthropologists, has provided such data on the social struc�tures of diverse groups (Daner, 1976; Lofland, 1977a,b; Lofland & Stark, 1965; Richardson et al., 1972; Richardson & Stewart, 1977; Wallis, 1977). Natural�istic observation has several attractive features: 1) It enables the researcher to observe subjects in their normal everyday environments; 2) It enhances the researcher's capacity to understand complex social interactions within a group; 3) It permits the researcher to obtain a broad view of the area under investigation--in contrast to methods utilizing nonrandom samples of subjects; and 4) Compared to other methods, naturalistic observations can be relatively simple to execute.


Among the disadvantages of naturalistic observation are: 1) The re�searcher's conceptualizing system(s) say significantly affect his/her percep�tion, description, and interpretation of the phenomena under study. A psychoanalytically trained psychiatrist observing a garbage-eating group (at least one such group exists), for example, say attach a much different significance to certain group behaviors than might a researcher who rejects the notion of the dynamic unconscious; 2) The researcher is not able to closely examine the psychological causes and consequences of the group's behaviors; and 3) The researcher is liable to get "caught up" in the group processes under study, especially if such group process have prominent psychological components of which the researcher is unaware. In one study, for instance, the investigators noted that "they felt a need to withdraw daily in order to reaffirm their own world view through 'the thin thread of conversation'" (Richardson et al., 1972:200).


Social scientists, of course, are trained to remain clinicians are trained take account of what psychodynamic schools call counter-transference. Nevertheless, social scientists, like clinicians, are not perfect. Hence, researchers should examine the conclusions of naturalistic observation with the same critical eye which a clinical supervisor uses when reviewing a therapist's inferences about a specific case.


Clinical case studies


The clinical case study approach to understanding new religions is, in a sense, the single-subject analogue to naturalistic observation of a group. Its advantages and disadvantages, therefore, are similar, though sometimes opposite in direction. A clinician may gain a deep understanding of the psychological factors involved in a particular person's behaviors and feelings within a new religious group. The case study approach does not require the methodological preparations of more systematic methods. In addition, clinicians are much less likely to get "caught up" in group processes.


On the other side of the coin, clinicians are, of course, more likely to be affected by counter-transference processes. And their subjects are likely to be a select subgroup from anew religion. Furthermore, the psychological orientation of clinicians may impair their capacity to appreciate the. broad social interactions of a group, much as the sociological or anthropological orientation of other researchers can limit their appreciation of psychological factors. There might, then, be some utility in clinicians now and then participating in naturalistic observations of groups and, conversely, social scientists participating in extended clinical interactions.


Systematic data collection methods


Although clinicians and naturalistic observers have contributed much to the understanding of new religions, their approaches lack the systematic controls and quantifiability generally preferred by behavioral and social scientists (although some forms of naturalistic observation, e.g., the counting approaches of behaviorists, are systematic and quantifiable). For this reason, a number of researchers have employed structured interviews, psychological tests, questionnaires, surveys, and con�tent analysis of documents in their investigations of new religions (for reviews of these and other studies, see Clark et al., 1981, and Robbins Anthony, 1979).

Clark et al. summarize the common findings of the studies they reviewed:


(1) most cult members are in their late teens or early twenties and come from white, middle-class backgrounds; (2) males outnumber females by about 50%; (3) approximately 20% of members have graduated from college while about 60% have attended college but have not graduated; (4) between 20% and 50% of cult members sought psychiatric/psychological help before cult involvement; (5) prior to involvement members of at least some cults (e.g., Divine Light Mission,


Unification Church) had experimented with drugs more than most young people; (6) most members report considerable dissatisfaction with their lives prior to joining a cult; (7) no typical personality profile (e. g., hysterical personality) characterizes cult members-�there is simply too much variation to talk about "the type of person" who joins cults; (8) much of the research indicates that present and former cult members tend to come from intact families, although Ungerleider and Wellisch found that ex-members had lower rates of family intactness;    (9) findings are contradictory with regard to the extent to which members experimented with several cults; and (10) a considerable proportion, perhaps one-third or more, of ex-members left the cult voluntarily (1981:40-41).


Unfortunately, the studies upon which the preceding summary was based have many methodological flaws which seriously detract from their capacity to answer authoritatively the question of harm vis-a-vis new religions. Samples are frequently nonrandom; the leadership of the new religions sometimes in�fluenced the choice of subjects or even the data collection methods; measuring instruments were sometimes untested or of questionable utility in assessing harm; and only a small number of. new religions were studied.


Harm and Psychiatric Diagnosis


Galanter (1982) conceptualizes new religious groups as open systems lodged in a generally hostile social environment (mainline society). As a system, a new religious group takes in information from its environment (e.g., dissonant beliefs and personal ties outside the group), transforms this information into terms consistent with the group's ideology and needs, monitors the behavior of members in order to ensure adherence to group norms, and establishes methods of boundary control, which help the group maintain its distinctive character and social cohesiveness.


A consequence of such system survival is the creation of very powerful demand characteristics (i.e., implicit and explicit cues that communicate what behavior is expected of members). Consequently, Galanter suggests "that we shift our focus from the psychology of the individual alone and consider also the psychology of the large group" (1982:1545). He provides as an example the observation that many members of new religious groups sees to exhibit a glazed and withdrawn look (Singer, 1978), which is sometimes interpreted as an atypical dissociative reaction. Galanter maintains, however, that this observation is at least partly a function of how the member perceives the observer. If the observer is perceived as threatening to the group, the dissociative symptom picture may emerge, whereas a positively perceived observer is not likely to elicit such behavior. Galanter cites his own experience (and that of Ungerleider & Wellisch, 1979) as examples of positively-perceived observers who did not see the trance-like behavior reported by clinicians viewed as antagonistic to the group (Clark, 1979; Singer, 1978). (Although we have no quarrel with this view, we suspect that during the early stages of conversion, before internalizing the group's belief system, the convert may exhibit the glazed look even within the new religious group.)


Galanter concludes:


I have described deviant behavior in charismatic large groups in terms of the group as a whole. This has certain advantages. It helps in understanding members' puzzling beliefs and actions as responses to the demand characteristics of the group and makes it unnecessary to ascribe them only to individual psychopathology in persons who are otherwise apparently relatively intact. At the same time, the option still remains of considering those diagnostic entities (atypical dissociative disorder; adjustment disorder characterized by depressive and anxious components; brief reactive psychosis] whose criteria are met by the deviant behavior elicited by the group. (1982:1547)


Basically we agree with Dr. Galanter on this point. We have noted else�where:


According to clinicians who have worked closely with ex-cultists, these patterns of symptomatology, which seem to suggest the existence of deep-rooted psychopathology, are, on the contrary, often a consequence of the patient's cult experience and the shock of returning to the mainstream environment. Thus, even though many ex-members have lengthy histories of psychological disturbance, clinicians should show extra care in diagnosing former cultists. Nearly half of the more than 200 cases of the senior author, for example, were relatively normal adolescents experiencing standard developmental crises at the time of conversion. (Clark et al., 1981:62)


Despite our basic agreement with Dr. Galanter, we are less reluctant to infer harm from our observations. We agree that a person's displaying a certain behavior may be at least in part a function of the setting (e.g., a person in love may show glazed eyes only when the beloved is present). This we recognize, and we do not automatically condemn those with glazed eyes to the land of the ill. With regard to new religions, however, we conceptualize personal harm not only within the context of the religious group, but also within the context of what we believe are fundamental values of our society: personal autonomy, personal integration, and critical thinking. Hence we view new religious groups as systems within a larger system (i.e., western culture).


Membership in a new religious system does not obliterate all ties to the broader system, one's culture of origin (a major component of which is one's biological family). Thus, in cases we have seen, glazed eyes, for example, will generally be observed along with defensive reactions (e.g., chanting) to information contrary to the group's doctrine (which, assuming that openness to information is an essential criterion of critical thinking, we also interpret as diminished critical thinking) and disavowal of familial and cultural heritage. Believing that one's past cannot simply be erased by fiat, we tend to conclude (but do not automatically or always do so) that such persons are psychologically constricted:  Their psychological integration is much less than what it could be (even though they may appear to be well integrated within the confines of the new religious group). They are, in a sense, psychologically split. Thus, we are probably more inclined to make a diagnosis (e.g., atypical dissociative disorder) than is Dr. Galanter. But we do so, as does he, with the realization that the observed symptomatology is often more closely related to environmental circumstances than to long-standing psychopathology.


How prevalent is the Harm Associated with New Religions?


Evidence at Hand


Although some evidence is relevant to this question, it cannot yet be answered authoritatively because: a) consensus regarding the definition of harm does not exist; b) even given such consensus, instruments and procedures for measuring harm are not adequate; and c) the variations in the beliefs, practices, and populations of new religious groups suggest that the nature and prevalence of harm may vary markedly from group to group, an observation which, if true, would magnify the methodological difficulties in determining prevalence. Nevertheless, if we refuse to give up on answering this important question, we must begin somewhere. Let us start with the evidence at hand.


As noted earlier, most evidence pertaining to the question of harm consists of clinical studies, legislative inquiries, autobiographical accounts of former members, journalistic investigations, and psychological/psychiatric research studies. Abundant testimony in legislative inquiries and journalistic investigations indicates that some new religions engage in fraudulent, manipulative, or deceptive practices Boettcher, 1980; Delgado, 1977; Final Report on the Activities of the Children of God; Horowitz, 1979; Information Meeting on the Cult Phenomenon in the United States ; Levine, 1982 Public Hearing on Solicitation Utilized by Religious and Charitable Groups ; Methvin, 1980, 1981; Public Hearing on Treatment of Children by Cults; Rudin, 1979-80; Investigation of Korean-American Relations; Williams, 1980; Wooden, 1981). Some clinical and research studies suggest that between 20% and 50% of converts had psychological problems before joining a new religion (Buckley & Galanter, 1979; Clark, 1979; Clark et al., 1981; Galanter & Buckley, 1978; Galanter et al., 1979). Some clinical studies and the testimonies of parents and former converts indicate that many converts who leave their groups (wheth�er voluntarily or through forced deprogramming experienced considerable distress (in the group as well as after leaving) and frequently required one to two years to readjust to life in mainstream society (Clark, 1979; Clark et al., 1981; Conway & Siegelman, 1982; Singer, 1978, 1979; West & Singer, 1982). Some research studies, however, suggest that contrary to the other types of available evidence, compared to non-members, converts to new religions are not significantly disturbed psychologically (Buckley & Galanter, 1979; Galanter & Buckley, 1978; Galanter et al., 19791; Ross, 1983; Ungerleider & Wellisch, 1979).


Unfortunately, both lines of evidence have serious methodological deficiencies. The subjects of clinical studies and the legislative, autobiographical, and journalistic testimonies of parents and ex-members constitute a biased sample of the general population under study (i.e., converts to new religions). Moreover, clinical, legislative, autobiographical, and journalis�tic approaches tend to rely upon anecdotal information (which, nevertheless, can be telling) or less systematic methods of assessing harm. The formal research studies, on the other hand, also tend to employ unrepresentative or selected (e.g., by the leaders of a new religious group) subject samples. And, although more concrete and defined, their assessment procedures are not necessarily adequate to the task of measuring all important types of harm. In one series of studies (Buckley & Galanter, 1979; Galanter & Buckley, 1978; Galanter et al., 1979), for example, the researchers used an eight-item neurotic distress scale that was not subjected to any kind of psychometric evaluation. In another study (Ungerleider & Wellisch, 1979), there was some evidence of motivated distortion on the part of the subjects who belonged to new religious groups.


Despite these methodological deficiencies, we believe that the evidence, as a whole, suggests that the picture is not simple. Many individuals and families are harmed as a result of affiliation with new religious groups. Yet, on the other hand, many individuals are either benefited or not harmed. Even though the true proportions of harm, non-harm, and benefit are not known, decision-makers cannot ignore demonstrated harm. Benefit simply does not cancel out harm. The Jonestown victims, abused children, and wasted years of troubled ex-members do not simply disappear because some members of new reli�gions benefit from their experience. To brush aside harm on the basis of alleged benefit is analogous to the FDA dismissing reports of harmful effects of preservatives simply because they have so clearly benefited so many people.


Thus an evaluation of the evidence at hand boils down to questions of "Whom do you believe?" and "How much are you troubled by reports of harm?" Many who have approached the issue of harm in new religions from an academic perspective seem to discount the evidence proffered by mental health profes�sionals, journalists, parents, and ex-members. The latter, on the other hand, seem to think that formal psychological/psychiatric studies and. naturalistic observations (particularly when conducted by investigators committed to sociological conceptualizing systems) miss the point: they do not detect the harm involving diminished autonomy, impaired psychological integration, end diminished critical thinking.

"Pro-Cultists" and "Anti-Cultists"

Although partly a function of the inconclusiveness of existing evidence, this "pro-cult/anti-cult" standoff is also a function of a) the tendency of some (vocal) anti-cultists to advance an extreme stereotype which portrays all new religions as destructive all the time, and b) the tendency of some pro-cultists to discount or deny the evidence that new religions sometimes inflict harm on converts. Perhaps the pro-cultists fear that admitting to the occur�rence of such harm would precipitate a witch-hunt by anti-cultists.


This battle (which of course has much media appeal) has created an illusory, unnecessary, and destructive polarization of researchers' opinions, primarily because opinions may have disturbing repercussions in the public policy-making arena (e.g., legislative deliberations). Pro-cultists who, for example, suggest that some new religions may sometimes harm converts and their families may find their opinions used to support a conservatorship bill of which they strongly disapprove. Similarly, anti-cultists who modify their position as a result of arguments or evidence put forward by pro-cultists may be called traitors by one side and dissemblers by the other.


While such emotional reactions are understandable, professionals should try to rise above emotion (although this is certainly easier said than done) and, at minimum, truly listen to those with whom they disagree. Sarcastic academic exchanges (such as frequently occur in the Letters or Comments sections of most scholarly journals) are usually harmless fun because the topic under discussion more likely than not concerns nobody except the scholarly gladiators and a handful of their colleagues. But the issue of harm in new religions has serious consequences and implications for society. It is, therefore, a waste of valuable brainpower to devote time and energy to the formulation of specious arguments, the salient purpose of which is to portray one's opponents as idiots.


Those of us who have worked clinically with converts, ex-converts, and their families are perhaps especially sensitive to this point, for collectively we have seen thousands of examples of harm. Yet our testimonies are frequently discounted as mere prejudice or medicalization. Our position is somewhat analogous to that of psychotherapists in the 1950s, when researchers began to question the efficacy of psychotherapy (Eysenck, 1952). The therapists, who knew that their work was not a monumental waste of time, were attacked because they were unable to demonstrate their effectiveness scientifically. Although the derision smarted, it prompted them to develop and implement methods for evaluating their work more systematically. The result was an explosion of psychotherapy outcome research which, on the whole, not only demonstrated the general efficacy of psychotherapy (Bergin, 1971; Meltzoff & Kornreich, 1970; Smith & Glass, 1977), but also led to new models of therapy, including that of the "scientist-practitioner" (Mahoney, 1974).


Like the therapists who listened to the critics of the 1950s, at least some of us who are mental health professionals realize that there are defi�ciencies in our present understanding of the issue of harm in new religions. Because our subject samples are nonrandom, we cannot generalize safely to the broad population of converts to new religions. Because our conceptualizations of harm are broad and our assessments of it are frequently based on interview data, we cannot satisfy methodological taskmasters. On the other hand, we also realize that formal research studies are themselves plagued by methodo�logical deficiencies, not because the researchers are idiots (we refuse to pass the insult along), but because this area is difficult to investigate scientifically.




Our answer, then, to the question posed at the beginning of this section is: We do not know for certain the prevalence of harm in new religions. That there is considerable harm associated with new religions seems obvious to many of us who have approached the subject as clinical observers. But precisely how much and what kinds of harm characterize new religions, or subgroups of new religions, we cannot say. The necessary research is ahead of us, not behind us. Some suggestions for future research follow:


We (must) develop quantitative measures of harm and exploitation [although the article here quoted distinguished between harm and exploitation, we believe it is more accurate to consider exploitation as one type of harm] that are applicable to group-individual interactions. Because the concepts to measure are so value-laden, consensus may be impossible to achieve; but at least the terms and their application will be clarified. (2) We (must) seek some agreement on what quantitative levels of exploitation and harm are unethical and/or socially unacceptable. (These levels would apply to all groups, not just cults.) (3) We (must) use the measures developed in (1) to survey representative samples of cults, controversial cults, and non-cult groups in order to determine a) the extent to which cults in general exploit and/or harm people, b) the extent to which the more controversial cults exploit and/or harm people (in order to find out whether this group is a guilty subset of a possibly innocent larger set), and c) the extent to which non-cult groups exploit and/or harm people (in order to construct a baseline against which to compare cults, as well as to find out whether some non-cult groups should be scrutinized more critically). (4) We (must) regularly examine our own participation in the processes under study, for, like our sub�jects, we belong to "tribes" which can influence us in ways of which we are unaware. (Langone, 1983x:14-15)


What are the Likely Consequences of Proposed Ameliorative Responses?


Individuals evaluating proposed ameliorative responses to the problems allegedly associated with new religions may be divided into five categories: (1) those who reject the notion of harm and, consequently, see no harm in new religious groups; (2) those who have a narrow view of harm (i.e., who prefer to define harm in a way that makes it easily observed and who, therefore, would find concepts such as psychological integration much too ambiguous); (3) those who, like the authors, have a broad view of harm but who, unlike the authors, do not believe the harm associated with new religions to be of sufficient magnitude to warrant concern; (4) those who have a broad view of harm and believe that the level of harm associated with new religions is great enough to cause concern, but who believe that at least some remedial actions are likely to cause more harm than the new religions; and (5) those, like the authors, who have a broad view of harm, believe the level of harm is significant, and believe that some remedial actions--if properly planned and implemented--will produce more benefit than harm. Let us consider some of the proposed remedies in light of these categories.


Legislative Remedies


Three broad categories of legislative remedy have been proposed: (1) stricter enforcement of existing laws; (2) passage of new laws that would make it easier for former members of new religions to sue for damages; and (3) Passage of conservatorship laws, which would enable parents to submit adult children in new religious groups to a period of psychiatric observation in order to determine whether or not their religious affiliation is based on a voluntary, informed decision.


These remedies, especially conservatorship proposals, have produced much controversy. Those who deny harm or define it narrowly will tend to oppose legislative remedies for they believe that they are unnecessary and may be easily abused, causing more harm than they supposedly will prevent. Those, on the other hand, who, like the authors, conceptualize harm in broad term and who generally accept the critical testimonies of parents and ex-members will often tend to be sympathetic toward legislative remedies, although not necessarily supportive of them. Some mental health professionals, for example, may use a broad definition of harms when considering the ethical aspects of clinical involvement in a conversion-related case, but may oppose or at least remain skeptical of a legislative remedy because they believe that a narrower conceptualization of harm is more appropriate in the legislative arena.


It should also be noted that different conceptualizations of harm may call for different prevalence rates in order to justify the same remedy. Justifying a conservatorship proposal based on a broad view of harm, for example, may require a high prevalence of demonstrated harm associated with new religions in order that the proposal's benefit outweigh its risk. Justifying a conservatorship law based on a narrow view of harm, on the other hand, may not require a high prevalence, because the proposal's application will be restricted (e.g., to cases in which severe physical harm is demonstrated), thereby lessening its risk compared to laws based on a broad view of harm.


It appears, then, that the appropriateness of legislative remedies will depend on the definition of harm employed, the prevalence of harm,and the projected benefit/risk ratio of the proposed remedy. Although there has been considerable discussion regarding proposed legislative remedies (Aronin, 1982; Delgado, 1977, 1981; Pfeiffer, 1979-80; Robbins, 1979-80), existing evidence does not seem to answer adequately the questions of prevalence and benefit/ risk, nor have discussions adequately articulated and evaluated diverse conceptualizations of harm.


In our opinion, decision-makers should proceed cautiously in the legislative arena and should, at least until we have more authoritative and illuminating empirical evidence, utilize relatively narrow conceptualizations of harm in their deliberations regarding new legislation. Nevertheless, we also believe it is appropriate to enforce existing laws, particularly those regarding fraud, more vigorously. Freedom of religion is not served by permitting frauds and charlatans to prosper under religion's cloak, especially when their prosperity depends upon duping and exploiting people.


Forced Deprogramming


Forced deprogramming is, strictly speaking, against the law. Nevertheless, it more often than not goes unpunished--sometimes because it works (i.e., successfully deprogrammed persons do not press charges because they feel rescued) and sometimes because courts deem it a lesser harm than that which it attempts to rectify (or at least deem it a forgivable harm). Some, on the other hand, have argued forcefully that courts should vigorously prosecute deprogrammers under existing laws (Bromley .& Shupe, 1981; Shupe & Bromley, 1982; Shupe et al., 1977).


Because forced deprogramming is technically against the law, many have called for legislation--most notably conservatorship proposals--that would permit parents to have adult children deprogrammed within the law (something which is occasionally possible even within existing conservatorship statutes). Needless to say, such legislation, as noted previously, has generated passionate debate.


Much of this debate revolves, around the concept of mind-control. Opponents of deprogramming either deny that social influence can reach a level tantamount to mind-control or maintain that the demonstration of mind-control is too unreliable to justify abduction and/or forced retention (i.e., that many people falsely believed to be under mind-control will be subjected to forced deprogramming). Proponents of forced deprogramming, on the other hand, contend that it restores freedom to individuals who are controlled psychologically (and usually exploited) by leaders of new religious movements.

Social and behavioral research can help decision-makers grappling with this problem by: a) clearly defining mind-control; b) demonstrating whether or not it occurs in new religious movements; c) developing methods for deter�mining whether it has occurred in a given case; d) evaluating the reliability of these methods; and e) assessing how often it occurs in new religious movements.

Relevant to point (a) is social psychology research which appears to demonstrate, rather conclusively in our view, that environmental variables can influence individual behavior in sometimes remarkable ways, as in Zimbardo's well-known prison role-play experiment (Andersen & Zimbardo, 1983; Brown, 1963; Lifton, 1961; Schein, 1961; Zimbardo et al., 1977). Other evidence, relative to point (b) (Clark et al., 1981i Delgado, 1977, 1982; Final Report on the Activities of the Children of God ; Information Meeting on the Cult Phenomenon in the United States; Public Hearing on Solicitation Utilized by Religious and Charitable Groups ; Mills, 1979; Rudin, 1979-80; Rudin, 1984; Wooden, 1981) suggests that similarly remarkable environmental control can occur in new religious movements. Thus the proponents of deprogramming seem to be correct in maintaining that mind-control sometimes occurs in new religious movements.


The key (unfortunately unanswered) questions for decision-makers, however, are how to determine the prevalence of mind-control and how to identify its occurrence reliably. A low prevalence of mind-control or an inability to reliably identify it could result in abuses (i.e., attempting to deprogram people who have not been programmed).


Because we have known of many cases in which forced deprogramming seemed, in fact, to have rescued a person who was subjected to what we consider an unethically high level of social influence and who was harmed in other. ways, we cannot condemn forced deprogramming categorically. Nevertheless, we also know of cases in which forced deprogramming was misapplied. We also suspect that its failure rate (i.e., the percentage of subjects who return to the new religious movement) is probably higher than many of its proponents believe (Langone, 1984).


These observations, as well as the unanswered questions regarding reliable assessment and prevalence of mind-control, suggest that decision-makers proceed cautiously regarding judicial or legislative endeavors concerning forced deprogramming. Although judicial leniency regarding deprogramming cases may often be appropriate, legalizing forced deprogramming may very well result in more harm than benefit.  We recommend that legal authorities continue to do what they have been doing evaluate each case individually. [2001 Update � Developments over the past 15 years have demonstrated the superiority of noncoercive exit counseling over deprogramming, and most workers in this field reject deprogramming as an option to consider.]




Although inaction has not formally been proposed as a remedy for the problems associated with new religions, it is an implied remedy in that those who essentially say "let the new religions be" are advocating a hands-off policy. This attitude assumes that the anti-cult threat to religious liberty is of more concern than the alleged abuses of new religions.


This attitude has some merit if forced deprogramming and restrictive legislation are the only remedies under consideration. To the extent, however, that a hands-off attitude becomes dogma, rather than a discriminating judgment, it can add to the harm associated with both new religions and the anti-cult movement. The hands-off dogma tends to implicitly deny an individ�ual's right even to criticize new religions (by, for instance, assuming that all critics are, in their hearts, lustful witch-hunters). Moreover, focusing on the presumed motivations of critics rather than the content of their criti�cisms personalizes the argument and needlessly polarizes opinions (which makes it easier to continue to stereotype one's opponents).


This resulting polarization of opinions interferes with attempts to make more discriminating analyses of new religions. When, for example, some of us who are critics of new religions began to use the adjective "destructive" in front' of the noun "cult" (in order to demonstrate that we in fact realize that not all cults are destructive), we were accused of being dissemblers or merely trying to be fashionable. Hands-off proponents also tend to downplay the abuses of new religions, for, apparently perceiving their opponents as witch hunters, they fear that fully acknowledging the harmful aspects of new reli�gions may unleash the full fury of their opponents' primitive prejudices. This diversion of energy into spurious battles is the most damaging aspect of the hands-off attitude. While the opposing sides bludgeon each other with stereotypes, those who cause harm proceed unimpeded on their journeys.


This occurs because the hands-off attitude tends to close debate regarding possible courses of action to remedy the harm associated with new religions. By falsely portraying the debate as one between civil libertarians and witch-�hunters, the hands-off proponents ignore or prematurely dismiss alternative remedies to forced deprogramming and restrictive legislation. Furthermore, by contributing to the destructive polarization of opinions, the hands-off proponents in effect withdraw any constructive input they could have into the formulation of fair-minded remedies.


Some may, of course, argue that the hands-off attitude is in fact appropriate because new religions do not cause any harm. Considering, however, that exploitation and corruption are commonplace in human affairs (sometimes they even infect academic faculties!), is there any reason to believe that these human failings do not occur in new religious movements? And if they do occur, and if they disturb enough people to bring national attention to the issue, why not at least consider whether it is worth doing something to remedy the harm?


In previous sections, we have advised caution regarding two proposed remedies: forced deprogramming and restrictive legislation. In the next two sections we will discuss two often ignored but important remedies: counseling and preventive education. We hope that our opponents will make constructive suggestions regarding these much less controversial courses of action.




Our concern here is not on "how" to counsel those who have been harmed by involvement in new religions (see Clark & Langone, 1984; Clark et al., 1981; Langone, 1983b; Maleson, 1981; Singer, 1978; Spero, 1982 for discussions on the "how" of counseling). Rather, our concern is the appropriateness of counseling as a remedy for harm associated with new religions. Before developing this topic, however, we would like to emphasize that counseling should not be equated with deprogramming. Counseling is a facilitative process, the purpose of which is to help clients make informed decisions regarding their lives. Unlike deprogramming, it does not assume that the client (or clients' children, when parents are the clients) is/was necessarily programmed. Counseling, therefore, is much less inclined to use persuasive techniques (which are generally reserved for crisis situations).


We identify three types of counseling concerning harm associated with new religions: (1) family counseling, which reduces family distress and improves family communications (sometimes with the additional goal of helping the family identify strategies for promoting the well-being of a family member); (2) reentry counseling, which helps ex-members of new religions cope with the problems frequently encountered when they return to mainstream society; and (3) reevaluation counseling, which helps converts make or confirm an informed, voluntary decision regarding their continued involvement in a new religion.


When acting ethically, counselors help clients make intelligent, informed decisions regarding their problems by exploring with them the ramifications of those problems and the possible consequences of alternative, remedial courses of action. When, on the other hand, counselors become dogmatic and lose sight of the unique complexity of each client, they run the risk of selling normality rather than promoting autonomy, integration, and critical thinking. Contrary to the claim of some critics, most mental health professionals do not view deviance from social norms as necessarily harmful. Nor do they blithely assume that deviance is mere individuality. When deviance is associated with personal distress, diminished autonomy, impaired integration, and diminished critical thinking, its healthfulness becomes suspect. (Of course in an absolutely relativistic society, there is no such thing as "healthfulness."   But we don't live in a relativistic society--a tolerant society, perhaps--but not relativistic.)


When counseling is ethical, it poses no threat to religious liberty. And when it is effective, it can alleviate personal and familial distress. Therefore, provided that ethical standards are maintained, it is an appropriate remedy for addressing some of the harms associated with new religions.


Preventive Education


Preventive educational activities concerned with new religions assume that (a) harm is associated with some new religions, and (b) individuals (especial�ly young people) can learn to defend themselves (i.e., be inoculated) against such potential harm. The challenge of any preventive educational program is to be accurate, credible, and fair (i.e., to avoid being the new religions equivalent of the ludicrous anti-marijuana film, "Reefer Madness").


At the American Family Foundation we are trying to make the "psychology of social influence" the cornerstone of our preventive educational work (which is still in the developmental stage). The basic issues we are exploring are (a) how do groups manipulate individuals? and (b) what makes some individuals more susceptible to group influences than others? Although the potential for manipulation and harm in new religions is our major concern, we do not deal with new religions exclusively. We try, instead, to elucidate the broad context of social influence, such as has been described by Zimbardo and his colleagues (Andersen A Zimbardo, 1983; Zimbardo et al., 1977).


To the extent that an educator's conceptualization of the potential for harm in some new religions is accurate, credible, and fair, a preventive educational program will be an appropriate and effective remedy for some types of harm associated with some new religions. Such programs can reduce individual vulnerability to harm without threatening religious liberty. On the other hand, "Reefer Madness" types of educational programs may create and reinforce public misconception about new religions and, thereby, contribute to unjustified intolerance and persecution of their members.


Unfortunately, "Reefer Madness" types of programs are not uncommon. Some critics of new religions are attempting to develop and disseminate educational programs that will, in fact, be more accurate, fair, and credible. This is a difficult task. If, however, pro-cultists offered more constructive criticisms and fewer righteous polemics, the educational challenge would be much easier to meet.




The controversy surrounding new religions highlights the difficulties encountered when public decision-makers need assistance from behavioral and social science researchers. When a substantial number of people take a strong interest in a subject, they can often apply considerable pressure on legislators (to whom citizens seem to carry all public grievances) and other decision-makers. Unfortunately, the public tends only to partly understand the subject, a deficiency fueled by media simplifications. Decision-makers, feeling the pressure to act while recognizing the need for more understanding, look to researchers for information and advice.


Unfortunately, in many areas of behavioral-and social science the relevant studies turn out to be inconclusive. The public--not sharing the researcher's respect for methodological rigor--becomes cynical about research and/or selec�tively cites research findings (paying little or no attention to their metho�dological quality) in order to buttress one position or another. Finding themselves caught between the inconclusive data and a public clamoring for action, decision-makers search for a reasonable course of action:  Their job is to act, not to study.


This sometimes infuriating process of uninformed decision-making causes some scholars to withdraw into ivory towers from where, contrary to anti-academic prejudices, some, but unfortunately not all, things can be seen more clearly. Other scholars ;join the public brawl as partisans (i.e., they pick a side and then, like the general public but only more cleverly, they use the god, Science, to support their position and stone that of their opponents). Others, however, enter the battle zone as aware participants, recognizing the need to act, but simultaneously recognizing the need to learn.


We realize, as some pro-cultists and neutral observers have maintained, that many converts to new religions may benefit (or at least not be harmed) by their experience. We also realize that unrestrained public reaction to media stereotypes of new religions may cause considerable damage.


But we also believe that thousands of individuals and families have been and continue to be harmed by involvement with some of the new religions. These distressed people should not be ignored, discounted, or--even worse--mocked. On the other hand, the passion based accusations of some alleged victims of the new religions should not be accepted at face value. A balance must be found.


Unfortunately, we must. search for this balance while we are called upon to act. We cannot meet this challenge if we are unwilling to learn from one another. We must keep our minds open. Otherwise, those whose minds are closed--whether they be inside or outside new religions--will undermine the open, tolerant society that allows us to disagree and live together at the same time.




1.                  Final report on the activities of the Children of God. Report submitted to Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General of the State of New York, 1974.

2.                  Information meeting on the cult phenomenon in the United States (transcript). Senator Robert Dole, Chairman. Washington, D.C., February 5, 1977.

3.                  Massachusetts State Senate. Public hearing on solicitation utilized by religious and charitable groups (transcript). Senator John G. King, Chairman. March 21, 1979.

4.                  New York State Assembly. Public hearing on treatment of children by cults (transcript). Assemblyman Howard Lasher, Chairman. August 9-10, 1979.

5.                  Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations,' U.S. House of Representatives. Investigation of Korean-American relations (transcript). Representative Donald Fraser, Chairman. October 31, 1978.




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Schwartz, L. L., & Zemel, J. L. Religious cults: Family concerns and the law. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 1980, 6, 301-307.

Shupe, A. D., & Bromley, D. G. The new vigilantes: Deprogrammers, anti�cultists, and the new religions. Journal of Religion & Health, 1982, 21, 89-90.

Shupe, A. D., Spielman, R., & Stigall, S. Deprogramming: The new exorcism. American Behavioral Scientist, 1977, 20, 941-956.

Singer, M. T. Therapy with ex-cult members. Journal of the National Association of Private Psychiatric Hospitals, 1978, 9, 13.

Singer, M. T. Coming out of the cults. Psychology Today, January 1979, 72-82.

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Sokolove, M. Cultists accused of child-beating. Philadelphia Daily News, 9 February 1982.

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Spitzer, R. L., Endicott, J., & Robins, E. Research diagnostic criteria: Rationale and reliability. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1978, 35, 773-782.

Stoner, C., & Parke, J. A. All God's children: The cult experience--salvation or slavery. Radnor, PA: Chilton, 1977.

Swope, G. W. Kids and cults: Who joins, and why. Media and Methods, 1980, 16, 18-21.

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The late John G. Clark, Jr., M.D. (Harvard) was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Family Foundation. An internationally acknowledged authority on destructive cultism, Dr. Clark treated thousands of former cult members and their families, lectured widely to professional audiences, and published several widely read and cited works on cults, including �Cults� (Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 242, No. 3, July 20, 1979).


Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist, is AFF�s Executive Director.  He is the editor of Cultic Studies Journal and Recovery From Cults.  He is co-author of Cults: What Parents Should Know and Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know.  Dr. Langone has spoken and written widely about cults.  In 1995, he received the Leo J. Ryan Award from the "original" Cult Awareness network and was honored as the Albert V. Danielsen visiting Scholar at Boston University.  (


This article was based on a paper presented at the 64th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Division American Association for the Advancement of Science in June 1983.  It was later published in a book of proceedings from this symposium, Scientific Research and New Religions: Divergent Perspectives, edited by Brock K. Kilbourne, Pacific Division American Association for the Advancement of Science, San Francisco, California, 1985, pp. 90-113.






[1] Final report on the activities of the Children of God. Report submitted to Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General of the State of New York, 1974.

[2] Information meeting on the cult phenomenon in the United States (transcript). Senator Robert Dole, Chairman. Washington, D.C., February 5, 1977.

[3] Massachusetts State Senate. Public hearing on solicitation utilized by religious and charitable groups (transcript). Senator John G. King, Chairman, March 21, 1979l

[4] New York State Assembly. Public hearing on treatment of children by cults (transcript). Assemblyman Howard Lasher, Chairman. August 9-10, 1979.

[5] Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives. Investigation of Korean-American relations (transcript). Representative Donald Fraser, Chairman. October 31, 1978.



The late John G. Clark, Jr., M.D. (Harvard) was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Family Foundation. An internationally acknowledged authority on destructive cultism, Dr. Clark treated thousands of former cult members and their families, lectured widely to professional audiences, and published several widely read and cited works on cults, including �Cults� (Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 242, No. 3, July 20, 1979).


Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist, is AFF�s Executive Director.  He is the editor of Cultic Studies Journal and Recovery From Cults.  He is co-author of Cults: What Parents Should Know and Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know.  Dr. Langone has spoken and written widely about cults.  In 1995, he received the Leo J. Ryan Award from the "original" Cult Awareness network and was honored as the Albert V. Danielsen visiting Scholar at Boston University.  (


This article was based on a paper presented at the 64th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Division American Association for the Advancement of Science in June 1983.  It was later published in a book of proceedings from this symposium, Scientific Research and New Religions: Divergent Perspectives, edited by Brock K. Kilbourne, Pacific Division American Association for the Advancement of Science, San Francisco, California, 1985, pp. 90-113.





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