American Family Foundation (AFF)
An Apologetics Index research resource
American Family Foundation (AFF)
Contact Info News Archive AFF, cult members and cult apologists?
Note: In December 2004 AFF (American Family Foundation) officially changed its name to International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).
AFF is a nonprofit, tax-exempt research center and educational organization founded in 1979. AFF's mission is to study psychological manipulation and cultic groups, to educate the public and professionals, and to assist those who have been adversely affected by a cult-related experience. AFF consists of a professional staff and a growing network of more than 150 volunteer professionals in fields ranging from education, psychology, and religion to journalism, law enforcement, and business. AFF addresses the problems posed by cults and other destructive groups through programs and projects in three areas:
What is AFF? (Last accessed July 7, 2000)
AFF, cult members and cult apologists
It should be noted that the late Herbert Rosedale, who had been AFF's president, encouraged dialogue between cult awareness organizations such as AFF and scholars often referred to as cult apologists.
In the Spring of 2000, this approach culminated in a controversial 'peacemaking conference' of sorts. Privately, some cult experts who attended this conference refer to the meeting as a 'dissaster' - in large part due to the behavior of the cult apologists.
In recent years such noted cult defenders as Dick Anthony, Massimo Introvigne and Eileen Barker have been featured speakers at AFF conferences (Note that the late Jeffrey K. Hadden's controversial memo on the 'neutralizing' of anti-cult organizations was written on behalf of Eileen Barker and David Bromley).
At an earlier conference, a panel discussion titled, "Can Cultic Groups Change: The Case of ISKCON" included members of ISKCON (Hare Krishna). The discussion is described in the ISKCON Communications Journal and in AFF's Cultic Studies Review Journal. See also the Summer 1999 issue of Apologia Update (published by Apologia Report), and former member Nori Muster provided comments published in AFF's Cultic Studies Review journal before the event.
Later, Nora Muster included the following comment:
Author's Note: I wrote this article a year before attorneys filed Children of ISKCON v ISKCON in a federal court in Texas. The problem is now in the hands of attorneys. For feedback and media coverage on the lawsuit, link to: http://surrealist.org/gurukula/lawsuit.html.
Source: Can Cults Change? The Case of ISKCON Cultic Studies Review, April 1999
An article by AFF's Michael Langone titled, "Cults, Psychological Manipulation and Society: International Perspectives"," and published in the ISKCON Communications Journal provides some perspective on AFF's approach:
Some individuals on both sides of the controversy tend to ignore the empirical foundation of the cult issue and affirm non-falsifiable assumptions.
Some, for example, seem to presume that all groups labelled cults must be all bad and incapable of change. Messages on the Internet, for example, have asserted that this conference's programme, 'Can Cultic Groups Change: The Case of ISKCON', is a sign of naivety on AFF's part, or even a sign that 'AFF has been taken over by cults'. The underlying assumption of these criticisms seems to be that a group such as ISKCON is incapable of positive change; therefore, AFF must be wrong-headed or complicitous.
Some observers on the other side of the controversy seem to presume that all groups labelled cults are persecuted and benign. They sometimes call negative reports of ex-members 'atrocity tales' (Bromley, Shupe, & Ventimiglia, 1979), a term that appears a priori to dismiss all criticism of cultic groups as fabrications or face-saving sour grapes.
In between these extremes of 'see no evil' and 'see nothing but evil' is a broad range of opinions. If these opinions are ever to rise to the level of knowledge, disputing parties must engage in sincere and substantive dialogue that recognises the need to phrase the issues as questions that are amenable to scientific research. Such research must be conducted as a co-ordinated programme of studies, not a hodgepodge of unrelated studies pursued by isolated researchers.
Source: Cults, Psychological Manipulation and Society: International Perspectives ISKCON Communications Journal, Dec. 1999
In 2002, EMRN - a fellowship of evangelical Christian ministries in North America to the cults and new religions - which, at the time, was headed by John Morehead - also took the controversial step of including two cult defenders (Douglas Cowan and J. Gordon Melton) in their annual conference. Predicatably that approach resulted in many complaints from Christian apologists and cult experts. (Our own comments on that issue are noted here).
The publishers of Apologetics Index do believe dialogue among those who are involved in the study of religious movements in general, and cults and sects in particular, can be helpful. But given the agenda and track record of cult apologists, we also believe that it is necessary and prudent to draw clear lines of demarkation. As long as academic cult defenders remain controversial (due to, for example, their attrocious 'research,' their hateful attacks on apostates, their PR-like defense of cults, and their penchant toward bearing false witness), they should not be included as featured speakers at professional conferences.
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Items added after August, 2002:
» Religion News Blog News Collection, various sources
» Database of archived news items
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database) Older item:
(May 18, 1999) Cult awareness conference courts protest, debate
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