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Jeffrey Hadden's Memo on neutralizing anti-cult organizations

Jeffrey Hadden's Memo on neutralizing anti-cult organizations

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Subject: Memorandum from Jeffrey K. Hadden on neutralizing AFF
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[Editorial notes in brackets. Bracketed numbers indicate page breaks,
whether present in the original or not. This document came to me in
.tiff format, and appears to be a second or third generation copy.
It appears to have been typewritten. Two staple-shaped marks are in
the upper left-hand corner of the first page, and handwritten across
the top is CONFIDENTIAL, underlined twice, probably with a ballpoint
pen. Wherever possible, line-breaks, punctuation and spacing conform
to the original. Where clearness demands, I have altered the format,
but all text occurs in the original except where noted. If you
received this document with the original .tiff file, please continue
to distribute it bundled with the .tiff if reasonable, for purposes
of establishing authenticity. For purposes of display on the
Internet, I use a 25-character tab as an approximation of centering.
_Underscores_ preceding and following a word or phrase indicate
underlining, whether it existed in the original copy or was introduced
in a subsequent copy. I ignore highlighting in this transcription.
Where irregularities in format occur, they occur in the original.
If typographical errors occur unmarked by [sic] they do not occur
in the original. Enclosures referenced do not accompany the copy
used for this transcription. The material I have includes two
documents, each six pages in length.]


December 20, 1989

To: Social scientists concerned about forensic and related issues
dealing with New Religious Movements.

From: Jeffrey K. Hadden (on behalf of Eileen Barker and David

Re: Developments since our informal meeting in Salt Lake City on
October 27, 1989


Eileen Barker, David Bromley and I met in New York on
December 10-12 to consider further the issues we discussed at
our October meeting in Salt Lake City.

While in New York we met with the following individuals:
Perry London (Dean of the Graduate School of Applied and
Professional Psychology at Rutgers University); Mark [sic--Marc]
(Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at the NYU School of Medicine); Eric
Lieberman (attorney who has been involved in a number of NRM
cases); Dean Kelley (National Council of Churches) and John
Biermans, David Hager, and Hugh Spurgen (Unification Church).

Our agenda for each meeting varied, but basically we were
interested in exploring the issues discussed in Salt Lake
with individuals who do not normally operate in our orbit and
who, thus, may have different perspectives on these issues.

This report will not attempt to summarize each meeting
but, rather, will highlight the general conclusions we
reached, although in some instances, specific points will be
attributed to individuals. In the interest of communicating
with you before others gather in California in January, I am
sending this report without the benefit of first circulating
it to Eileen and David for corrections and additions. We did
have a wrap up session in which we attempted to identify the
salient issues and summarize what we thought we had learned.
This report is based on notes that I made during that session.
In general, I believe this report communicates the general
sentiment of the three of us. If I stray too far from our
collective conclusions or omit some important point, I hope
they will follow-up with an addendum to this report. The
report is concluded with a suggested agenda for the California


I am also enclosing three documents which I think will
also be of interest in preparation for the California
meeting. The first is a declaration of Perry London's on the
_Fishman_ case. All of us felt this statement was [sic] succinct and
helpful summary of the current situation. The second
enclosure is a communication from Herbert Rosedale of the
American Family Foundation. Note that AFF has launched a
"multi-year program of research and education" called Project
Recovery. The communication indicates that study group
reports are scheduled to be released to the public in a "major
conference" scheduled for the summer of 1991. This
development will no doubt have relevance for some of you as
individuals and it may possibly have implications for tasks
that our ad hoc group may wish to pursue. Third, I am
enclosing a statement about INFORM which appears in an
appendix to a new book that Eileen has just published.


1. There is a substantial body of literature on "social
influence" that has generally not been cited by sociologists
of religion. Studies of intentional communities (see: for
example, Benjamin Zablocki's _The Joyful Community_ and
_Alienation and Charisma_), therapeutic groups (e.g. _AA Groups
investigated by Galanter_ and others); and social psychological
studies of group pressure (e.g., Ashe, Heider, Milgram,
Zimbardo, etc) are all examples of such literatures.

These literatures are not normally identified as part of
the general corpus of literature on "brainwashing," "thought
control," "coercive persuasion," etc. (see London's
Declaration, paragraphs 35-38).

2. The conclusion of our informants is that the
literatures they read do not produce findings or theory which
constitute a foundation for strengthening the Margaret Singer
theory of "Systematic Manipulation of Social and Psychological
Influence" (SMSPI). To the contrary, our social science
informants tended to dismiss Singer a [sic] "fringe" figure who is
not taken seriously by creditable scientists in their
3. Benjamin Zablocki's letter to the ASA Council (8/2/89)
would seem to dispute this conclusion. It is possible that
the AFF's Project Recovery will seek to cull this literature
to bolster the Singer/Ofshe claims. It may be of strategic
importance to develope [sic] a strategy for the systematic review of
literatures that are not explicitly identified as party of the
"brainwashing," etc. corpus. It seems quite likely to me that
the AFF's project Recovery will seek to cull this literature
to bolster their claims.


4. To the extent that it is appropriate to say that there
exists a group of social scientists who are "moderately"
positioned in the "brainwashing" controversy, it would appear,
as a working hypothesis, that they are not particularly well
informed about the social and legal issues that have been of
concern to our group.

5. In this respect, our conversations highlighted the
fact that the controversy is inappropriately defined as one
between sociologists, on the one hand, and psychologists and
psychiatrists on the other.

It is probably more appropriate to conclude that most
sociologists, psychologists and psychiatrists are not very
well informed about the issues. Sociologists of religion who
study NRMs are fairly informally skeptical of the conclusions
of psychologists, psychiatrists, and the few sociologists who
are aligned with the anti-cultists. But the large majority of
all scholars in all three disciplines are largely uninformed
regarding the empirical literature or the controversy. As the
controversy heats up, this reality may point to the need to
target education to our colleagues in each of these

6. Both of our social scientist informants (London and
Galanter) were quick to make a _sharp_ distinction between
social influence and "brainwashing." Both see social
influence to exist in all groups and, in some groups that
influence may be "massive." But both see this a [sic] something
very different from the kind of "robot-like" behavior that is
implicit in "brainwashing" theory.

At the same time, we found both informants had difficulty
in making clear, crisp distinctions between "normal" social
influence and the more severe form of influence the anti-
cultists call "brainwashing."

Eileen noted that Singer's position is typically couched
in the notion that brainwashing is "irresistible,
irreversible, and that it takes place subtly without the
'victim' really being aware of what is happening." It seems
to us fairly clear that this does not happen. BUT, Singer's
testimony weaves back and forth between this proposition and
"normal" social influence theory.

If she, and/or others, were to back away from the
"_irresistible_, _irreversible_ and _subtle_" definition, how does
this change the battleground? Would our task be easier or
more difficult? Among other things, this suggests the need
to pay much more attention to the broader process of social
influence. How does it happen? Are there contexts in which


social influence may be so massive as to suggest that the
state has a role (interest, obligation) to protect the
individual? If so, how are the boundaries to be drawn? Who
decides? And how would this development square with 1st
Amendment free exercise concerns?

7. Our meetings with the members of the Unification
Church confirmed our earlier impressions that while they may
assent to the value of a long range strategy for dealing with
the anti-cultist [sic] and their forensic consulants, their
response is very substantially confined to ad hoc responses to

I pressed them on the question of whether it might be
possible for the UC in collaboration with several other NRMs
to raise a significant amount of money that could go--no
strings attached--to an independent group, which in turn,
would entertain proposals and fund research on NRMs.

While the three of us were not of one mind regarding the
desirability to such a development, we agree that this is
unlikely to materialize for several reasons. First, the NRMs
are primarily interested in projects that will be of
immediate benefit to them. Second, it seems unlikely that
persons such as John Biermans, who clearly are interested in
and appreciate social science research, are prepared to deal
with the intra-organizational politics of supporting research
that they can't control. Third, we conclude from these
conversations, as well as others, that there is not a high
level of communication and cooperation among NRMs. While the
legal staffs of NRMs share information, cooperation for the
sake of their common interests is not a high priority. The
Movements would appear to be about as far as they are
prepared to go at this time.

8. Dean Kelley reports that religious liberty is not a
very high priority issue among NCC officials or constituent
bodies. This is especially true with respect to NRMs.

9. Kelley and our legal consultant (Lieberman) questioned
whether the brainwashing testimony has been as dangerous in
the courts has [sic] we have feared. They note that it has had
little precedent setting impact as most court decisions have
resisted the validity of the brainwashing thesis. If the
expert testimony of Singer and Ofshe should be denied in the
Fishman case, the "brainwashers" may be on the run and this
problem could be self-corrective. I think it was Lieberman
who suggested that as Singer extends her brainwashing thesis
to more and more bizarre cases, the argument must eventually


10. Kelly [sic] feels that public perceptions about NRMs
constitutes a very serious problem. (This concern should not
imply that he is not concerned about the forensic testimony of
the brainwashers).

He made a very significant distinction between
identifying and responding to needs and engaging in campaigns
to inform people who have little interest in being informed--
or, who don't know that they need to be informed. The former
can be highly successful; the latter seldom are.

[I believe Hadden has here confused "former" with "latter."]

11. Consistent with this observation, we spent a good bit
of time considering whether the time might be right to import
Eileen's INFORM or create a US organization that would
perform a similar function. I think it is fair to say that we
concluded our meetings with a good deal of enthusiasm for
further exploring this possibility.

I know you all are aware that Eileen organized INFORM
(Information Network Focus on Religious Movements) last year,
but many of you may not have much information about what she
has done. Also enclosed with this report is a statement
about INFORM which is taken from the Appendix of her new book,
_New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction_. Just
released this month, this book is published by Her Majesty's
Stationery Office.

In spite of having some bad experiences with the media,
Eileen has taken a very significant step in neutralizing anti-
cult movements in the UK. I don't think that any of us feel
that creating a similar organization in the US would be a
substitute for continuing research. But I [sic] we all came away
with the feeling that such an organization fits Kelley's
criterion of responding to a need. Response to a need is, in
fact, the reason that CAN and AFF have been successful.

12. It is by no means clear how we would go about
creating such an organization. We discussed a variety of

We recognize that Gordon Melton's Institute is
singularly the most important information resource in the US,
and we feel that any new organization would need to work
closely with him. At the same time, I think we all feel that
it is inappropriate to deal with the challenge by dumping it
in Gordon's lap. His years of hard work with research and
writing is beginning to get the national attention that is
deserved. We don't want to deflect that effort.

We discussed whether this project might constitute a
natural or logical sequence to the Williamsburg Charter
Project. (For those who may have missed this, the


Williamsburg Charter was [sic] project designed to commemorate and
reaffirm the First Amendment religious clauses on the
occasion of the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights. A small
brochure is enclosed). In the spirit of the Charter, if the
religious liberties of some are endangered, then religious
liberty itself is endangered.

It was suggested that Os Guinness, who conceived and
executed the Williamsburg Charter Project, might find this
project of sufficient interest that he could lend assistance
in putting INFORM, USA (or INFORM International) together. I
had a brief telephone conversation with Os after our New York
meeting. He expressed interest in learning more. I am going
to try to get together with him before the California
gathering next month.

13. We agree that there is value in putting together a
small monograph (or possibly lengthily [sic] paper) that would
explicitly, and in detail, identify a research agenda on NRMs
for the next decade. We spent some time brainstorming about
how this might be done as well as identifying some specific
research projects. We feel that this is a task which should
be an important agenda item for the California gathering. I
will prepare some notes on this for that occasion.

14. On the issue of the value of research and litigation,
our legal consultant (Lieberman) was not particularly sanguine
about the prospects of social scentists coming up with
findings that would be of great value. In so many words, he
told us that the most important think [sic] we could do is prepare a
statement that refutes the claim that social science can be
helpful. I interpreted this as the agnostic statement we
discussed in Salt Lake. Which brings us back to the question
of a resolution for ASA Council consideration.

15. A draft resolution, as promised in Salt Lake, has not
been forthcoming for two reasons. First, when I sat down to
dash one off, I found I was not as prepared to do this as I
had assumed. Second, I misunderstood a communication from
Bill D'Antonio wherein I thought he was advising me that the
resolution idea had [sic] superceded by another development. This
task still needs to be done. It would be very nice if someone
would call me and advise me that they have (or will) prepared
a draft for our agenda in California.

16. We discussed the question of how we, as social
scientists might do a better job of communicating our point of
view to the press and to the public in general.
Substantially we reaffirmed the discussion in Salt Lake. More
effective communication is a desirable objective, but we
didn't get as far as designing a blueprint for accomplishing


AGENDA ITEM # 1 - _Development of a research agenda for the
1990s, including a strategy for production
and dissemination of same._

We agree that the development and publication of a
research agenda for the 1990s could be an important step
toward encouraging research and checking the growing influence
of CAN, AFF, and the forensic hustlers. The following are seen
as specific benefits of such a publication:

(1) sharpen our own awareness of the theoretical and
methodological strengths and weaknesses of
contemporary NRM research;

(2) pinpoint critical gaps in knowledge and point to the
kinds of research required to fill those gaps and

(3) help sustain the interests and motivation of those
who have been active researchers to continue to do
research on NRMs;

(4) provide an inventory of worthwhile projects and

(5) encourage students and professional scholars with a
wide range of backgrounds, interests, training and
skills to pursue research on NRMs; and

(6) communicate the tenuous and incomplete nature of
knowledge about NRMs and thereby help neutralize the
unsubstantiated claims of anti-cult groups and

We see this last point as an important way in which we
can collectively address the American Family Foundation's
Project Recovery. We have no further information regarding
their plans for this project than the letter from Herbert
Rosedale which was enclosed with the December memorandum on
the New York meeting. It seems a reasonable guess that it
will involve a significant elaboration and expansion of the
content of the 1985 Wingspread conference.

[Text in curly brackets {} in the following paragraph is
smeared or blurry, and represents the efforts of an intermediate
transcriber to interpret the obliterated text. From the images
I believe the interpolations to be accurate.]

Whatever the content, the Rosedale communication suggests
that the project will involve a major effort {to gain media}
attention. We believe the publication of a {research agenda}
which makes clear the unfinished research task, and which
avoids the polemics and presuppositions that are {ever-present}
in the anti-cult literature could be a {very effective way for}


blunting their media effort. This assumes (1) that our effort
is a quality product, and (2) that we put forth our best
effort to attract media attention to our project.

We agree that the development of this research agenda
should be a substantial project, as opposed to an article-
length inventory that could only highlight a few issues.

Without excluding the possibility of exploring other
options, we would propose that this inventory be published as
RELIGION and, simultaneously, as a SSSR monograph. The former
will reach the largest single group of social science
scholars of religion and the latter will assure the on going [sic]
availability of the inventory [sic] students and scholars who are
not members of JSSR.

We propose further that this project be presented to the
Council of SSSR with the request for (a) allocation of funds
for the publication of this special issue and monograph
(scheduled for publication in 1991 between the March and June
issues of JSSR) and (b) the imprimatur of the Society. The
Society has, on at least two previous occasions, granted its
imprimatur for scholarly publications (Glock and Hammond,
eds., _Beyond the Classics_, 1973; and Hammond, ed., _The Sacred
in a Secular Age_, 1985).

Accomplishing this task would require a general editor
and the cooperation of a number of scholars who would be
willing to block out several days of their time to inventory
subtopics and identify research needs and ideas. We would
need to work out a common presentational format for perhaps
15-25 issues. For opening discussion, this format might

(1) a short essay overviewing the salient theoretical,
methodological and substantive issues for each

(2) identification of gaping holes in our knowledge

(3) identification of studies, books, articles that are
seminal with ideas for new research;

(4) recommendations for replications or reformulations
of existing studies;

(5) statements of general propositions and the
formulation of specific hypotheses; and


(6) exploration of how each of the issues of concern in
the study of NRMs has underlying theoretical
parallels in other fields of inquiry, and
suggestions as to how NRM research might benefit
from exploring these related areas of research.

Under normal circumstances, this would be a task of
herculean proportions, especially with a tight time frame.
There are two factors which make it an accomplishable task.

First, there are several new reference resources that
will be invaluable in the completion of the task. The most
important is John Saliba's monumental two volume annotated
bibliography of cult research. I done [sic] a bit of scanning--
almost at random--and have found hypotheses and ideas for
research on virtually every page.

Second, there should be a fairly high level of motivation
to do this task. The project addresses an important means for
stimulating and enriching the quality of research on this
topic of common concern _and_ it represents a strategy for
combatting something which we all agree is a pernicious
process that is shaping public opinion.

If the community of scholars who have been actively
researching NRMs will collectively agree to undertake this
task, it should not be a great burden for anybody.

AGENDA ITEM #2 - _Discussion of the value and need for an
American version of INFORM and
consideration of how we might be of

We were in general agreement about the value and need for
an organization which would accomplish the objectives of
INFORM. Our discussion focused on how such an operation might
be accomplished.

An American equivalent of INFORM could not be
accomplished by merely expanding the scope of ISAR operations.
Gordon has personally been involved in providing information
to concerned parents, bringing together of parents and NRM
members, and making referrals for counseling. However, this
was never the primary function of ISAR. To actively invite
people [sic] come to ISAR for these types of services would
significantly refocus the ISAR focus.

Gordon pledged his support and indicated that ISAR
resources would be made available if an INFORM-like group is
established. ISAR does not have physical space to host a new
organization, but it was suggested that it might be located in


Santa Barbara in order to facilitate easy access to ISAR

We discussed the considerable differences between the
U.S. and the U.K. and the implications of these differences
for the creation of an INFORM, USA. Of considerable
importance is that fact that the U.S. is too large and complex
to ever expect the development of the kind of cooperation that
Eileen achieved with the government. And, similarly, there
is no equivalent of patronage or sponsorship, although it
might be possible to enlist the support of a roster of
American celebrities (religious and secular).

It is immediately apparent that financial support is
imperative if an organization of this type is to be created.
None of us have any ready ideas as to where to turn for
funding, but we are willing to invest some effort in
exploring this.

It is our recommendation that Eileen draft a proposal to
first be circulated among her sociology colleagues and other
U.S. friends. Hopefully this will produce some valuable
insights regarding the American scene which can be
incorporated before it is circulated to prospective funding
agencies or persons that could be of help in approaching a
funding source.

I did not have the opportunity to get into Washington to
see Os Guinness prior to meeting, but I hope to do so in the
near future. Eileen may wish to contact Os directly.

AGENDA ITEM # 3 - _Preparation of the "agnostic" resolution
and development of a strategy for
encouraging the governing bodies of ASA,
APA (or perhaps Sect 38), SSSR, ASR, RRR
and CISR to adopt same_.

At our Salt Lake City meeting there was broad support
for the proposal that we prepare an "agnostic" resolution
which could be presented to and, hopefully adopted by ASA, APA
and all of the social science organizations specializing in
the study of religion.

The purpose of said resolution was seen as (1) negating
the misstatements that have been (and continue to be) made
regarding the reasons for the withdrawal of the APA and ASA
support of the Molko brief and, (2) placing on record a
statement that would stand against the claim that there exists
a consensus regarding the state of the literature. (On this
second points, Ofshe's latest declaration in the _USA v. Fishman_
case states that "there is no dispute of substance _within the


relevant scientific community_ as to the acceptance of the
concept of thought reform...(emphasis added))."

It was recommended in Salt Lake City that the resolution
be circulated as broadly as possible. My notes from that
meeting state that "the more people who look at it, the more
likely we are to spot trigger words that might give cause for

The enclosed draft resolution represents the best effort
of the five of us who met in Pasadena to state an agnostic
position that is free of words that might set off other
people's hot buttons. We encourage you all to go over it with
care and with an eye toward even further tightening of the
agnostic and value-neutral posture. Please send your comments
to me by the end of the month.

The question of a strategy for taking the resolution to
the various organization [sic] remains. I think each organization
may require somewhat different strategies. For the sake of
opening discussion I propose the following:

(1) SSSR, ASR and RRR -- ask the past-presidents of each
of these respective organizations to be sponsors of the

(2) ASA -- submit the resolution with sponsorship of as
many names as possible among those who are ASA members
and who (a) have published research on NRMs and/or (b)
are recognized "leaders" in the sociology of religion;

(3) CISR -- defer to Eileen Barker and Jim Richardson
for recommendations;

(4) APA -- defer to Newt Maloney and his psychology
colleagues for recommendations.

However we do this, it is important that we succeed as
there may not be a second opportunity. As Meredith McGuire
noted in Salt Lake City, many of our own sociology of religion
colleagues do not give this issue great priority. We could
lose their support if we keep coming back every year with yet
another proposal. So offer your thoughts and volunteer your
support to help do it right.

AGENDA ITEM # 4 - _Consider whether other collective action
is appropriate at this time for dealing
with the ongoing forensic battles_.

While it is evident that the legal staffs of several NRMs
engage in information exchange, and the same is true for those


who are most actively involved as expert witnesses, there
exists no depository for legal documents. An archive of
legal documents from NRM litigation could be of considerable
valuable [sic] for both social science research and legal research
in conjunction with the preparation for legal cases.

The assembly of legal documents for such an archive is
not seen as a terribly difficult task because a few
individuals privately hold a fairly large proportion of these
documents. The immediate start up costs would involve (1)
reproduction and shipping, (2) cataloging and (3) the
printing of an index.

We are proposing the establishment of a Legal Resource
Center on New Religions and that same be housed with the
American Religion Collection at the University of California
at Santa Barbara. Given that the holdings at USCB [sic] are more
extensive than any other collection, locating the resource
center in Santa Barbara seems like the most logical spot.

A draft proposal for the achievement of this objective is
attached to this report. Your comments including support or
reservations should be addressed to Gordon.

AGENDA ITEM # 5 - _Consider what collective action, if any,
needs to be developed as an alternative
to AFF's Project Recovery_.

As noted above (Agenda Item # 1) the development and
publication of a research agenda for the 1990s, if accompanied
with proper PR work, could constitute an appropriate and
effective measure to neutralize Project Recovery. This is our
primary recommendation. In addition, we encourage our
colleagues to develop other ideas, to communicate with others
and, when appropriate, to enlist collective support.


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