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Alternative Religions And Their Academic Supporters
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When Scholars Know Sin - Continued
Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters

by Stephen A. Kent and Theresa Krebs

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Lewis described his published scholarship as "undermin[ing] the notion that nontraditional religions exercised extraordinary forms of influence" over its members and, hence, he categorically rejected the idea that CUT "brainwashed its adherents" (Lewis and Melton, 1994a, viii). Challenging, however, to Lewis's rejection of the idea that controversial religious groups exercise extraordinary influence over their members is trial evidence, which revealed aspects of CUT's coercive controls over its members ([CUT] v. Gregory Mull, 1981, 5; [CUT] and Elizabeth Clare Prophet v. Linda Witt, 1998, 23; Balch and Langdon, 1998, 199). Throughout the investigation, however, both Balch and Langdon "observed and experienced subtle pressures not to raise critical questions about either [CUT] or the study itself" (Balch and Langdon, 1998, 203). After Langdon "continued to raise questions about issues that were not being investigated, some members of the research team (ironically) began to question his objectivity" (Balch and Langdon, 1998, 204).

One reason that Horowitz warned about academics involving themselves in Moonie-sponsored research was his fear that the groups would then use the findings in attempts to legitimize themselves. Canadian sociologists Marlene Mackie and Merlin B. Brinkerhoff concurred with Horowitz's apprehension in relation to academics and the Unification Church (Mackie and Brinkerhoff, 1983, 35-36). Moreover, sociologists have long understood that groups such as Scientology, the Unification Church, ISKCON, and other ideological groups solicit "endorsements from academics who claim that that the supposedly widespread intolerance and persecution against these contemporary non-normative organizations is analogous to the persecution suffered by such currently accepted and generally tolerated groups as the Mormons and the Quakers" (Kent, 1990, 402-403). What they neglect to mention, however, is that both the Mormons and the Quakers made dramatic adjustments in their public postures that lessened their tension with society.

As expected, therefore, CUT used the results from Lewis and Melton's superficial study in an attempt to gain legitimacy within the community and among its members. Following publication of Church Universal and Triumphant: In Scholarly Perspective that Lewis and Melton coedited in 1994, CUT's newsletter, Royal Teton Ranch News, carried a front page headline that proclaimed, "Study Debunks Anti-Church Myths." Headlines on following pages sound equally victorious: "Reality Wins Over Perception: Church is Entering Mainstream" (1994, 2); and "Moving Beyond Stereotypes" (1994, 8). In an interview in the same issue, Lewis stated his hope that the AWARE study "will be a paradigm for future studies" (Royal Teton Ranch News, 1994, 8). None of the articles in the newsletter mentioned that Lewis ran the independent publishing firm (Center for Academic Publication) that produced the study -- the same press that published The Family study.

Nowhere does CUT or the book on it produced by Lewis and Melton mention that CUT seemingly had a hand in the very foundation of AWARE -- an arrangement that would have significant implications for its ability to produce a critical study were the facts to have warranted one. In the 1992 press conference statement sent to the media that announced AWARE's formation (AWARE, 1992), the other contact person aside from Lewis himself was Henry Kriegel, a high ranking CUT member who ran his own information organization -- the First Amendment Crisis Task Force (Kriegel, 1992). Almost certainly, the list of prominent researchers and academics who were involved themselves with AWARE, including prestigious members of its Advisory Board, were unaware of the foundation CUT connection.

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