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"When Scholars Know Sin" Forum Debate

Kent and Krebs' Skepticism Crosses The Line

Anson Shupe Responds

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Index to Forum Debate
Original article   Rejoinder by Krent and Krebs   Credits and Copyright

Kent and Krebs' article, in researching religious groups, is both a canard and seriously misleading. I am well aware that there is a fine line around which participants, observers, and interviewers must tread when studying unconventional religious groups. The authors, seemingly unknowingly, do not realize they have transgressed that line in criticizing J. Gordon Melton, James Lewis, and myself for somehow being in bed with, or in the pockets of, cults. We may not be the dream team when it comes to studying unconventional religions, but we're not as stupid or misinformed or naive as Kent and Krebs suggest.

There is a lot of misinformation in Kent and Krebs' article. They put a goofy spin on things. The Jason Scott case--in which an adult Pentecostal was kidnapped, physically and emotionally abused, involuntarily contained for an entire week by deprogramming mercenaries, and whose civil suit financially broke the back of the pernicious Cult Awareness Network--was not, as the authors write, unusual. The Cult Awareness Network, which routinely referred deprogrammers to distraught family members whose family members had joined unconventional religions, was operative at violating civil liberties. This was, as we say in criminology, corporate crime. Kent and Krebs should do better if they are going to champion CAN's cause. CAN was no benevolent, humanitarian, or educational organization.

Contrary to the authors' claims, I have never submitted any article to the Church of Scientology's "Freedom" magazine, nor, I should add, have I ever been a Scientologist. I did write an editorial on the German Republic's neo-Nazi discrimination against Scientologist celebrities and entertainers, but it was for the "Fort Wayne Gazette" and was ultimately picked up a national wire service and reprinted by Scientology. The authors' mention of this article is an uninformed, ad hominem attack.

Anyone who is a professional in the sociology of religion and aware of Steven A. Kent knows that he does not have clean hands in the cult-anticult debate. For example, despite any reliable law enforcement corroboration and on the basis of dubious informants, Kent persists in claiming there are organized Satanists running loose in Canada. Canadian newspapers have questioned his credibility as any kind of expert. And he even presented a paper several years ago at a national sociological conference with a co-author who was a coercive deprogrammer, one who narrowly escaped a prison sentence for kidnapping and assault simply on a legal technicality. Kent's articles, published in anti-cult and mainstream professional journals, defending as does the discredited views of alleged mind control processes, are sometimes bizarre. There is, however, one irony here. I am currently coauthor of a book under contract on the entire cult-anti-cult controversy at the turn of the next century. Steven A. Kent and Theresa Krebs, their confused views, and the incident of the SKEPTIC article will be in it. They have become grist for my mill.

--Anson Shupe, Professor Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne SHUPE@ipfw.edu



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