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The Anti-Cult Movement

Deprogramming Bill
Cases Studies
History and Organization

Heaven's Gate
The Anti-Cult Mindset


notice-flsh.gif (14093 bytes) The Anti-Cult movement is the name given by sociologists and scholars to designate the loose group of organizations and individuals who are opposing so-called "cults" on a strong "Us vs Them" duality. The movement mostly originated with Ted Patrick's kidnappings and deprogrammings in the early 70s and is based on the notion of mind-control, a concept that has been debunked in the 80's but is still alive in popular media. The movement resorted to conservatorship laws to get hold of cult members and forcibly "treat" them, and tried to legalize this practice further by trying to pass deprogramming laws. Exacerbating the fanatical reaction of cults and encouraging a cult phobia among the public and authorities, anticultists helped to precipitate mass tragedies like Jonestown, Waco, and the Heaven's Gate. Today, the anti-cult movement is a potent force behind discriminative measures promulgated against minority groups in France, Germany, China, and other countries.


Deprogramming was the name given by Ted Patrick in the early 70s to his practice that consisted in kidnapping members of religious cults and subjecting them to a constant barrage of "arguments" until they recanted their views.

aclu2.gif (10190 bytes) ACLU Position on Deprogramming. The ACLU explains what is its position and how it arrived at it.
Deprogramming and the Law. This is the first part of the report the ACLU presented in 1978 on that issue.
CONFLICT3.GIF (1848 bytes) The war of the Cult. This article from Wayne Sage, written in 1976 when deprogramming was at its height, is an independent and informative look on the situation from both sides of the controversy.
Ted Patrick's Violent Methods Ted Patrick's Violent Methods.
Excerpts from Ted Patrick's book.


Conservatorship laws are laws aimed to protect the elderly or disabled person against themselves.  Anticultists used these laws to gain hold of cult members who, they said, needed to be protected against themselves for reasons of mind-control. They are basically State-sponsored forms of forcible deprogramming, something actively practiced today in China.

hp-court.jpg (7607 bytes) ACLU Report: Abduction Under Color of State Law. Second part of the ACLU report - dealing with the conservatorship aspect of deprogramming.
Deprogramming Falun Gong Members. The Chinese government has acknowledged its co-operation with "International Anti-Cult organizations" and is putting Falun Gong members in "rehabilitation camps". On July 18, 2001, the "People's Daily" published a series of articles that confirms the Chinese government involvement in a massive campaign of State-sponsored forcible deprogramming

Deprogramming Bill

Anticultists tried to pass laws that would come into effect around 1984, and that would allow them to legally seize and "treat" cult members out of "mind-control".

newyork.jpg (2171 bytes) New York. New York was the first state to propose a deprogramming bill. It passed all the stages but was vetoed by Governor Carey two years in a row.
kansas.jpg (2646 bytes) Kansas. The State House passed the bill with 98 votes against 27, but it was subsequently stopped later as civil rights organizations informed the Kansas Senate about the true nature of this bill.
newjerse.jpg (4275 bytes) New Jersey. The bill breezed through the state Senate but came under fire in an Assembly committee hearing by churches and the American Civil Liberties Union.
nebraska.jpg (2706 bytes) Nebraska. State Sen. James Goll of Tekamah worked on a cult conservatorship legislation for 1985, but, in view of the previous failure of similar legislation proposals in other States, the project never saw light.

Cases Studies and Testimonies

I have hundreds of testimonies, affidavits, and press articles that I am going to web gradually. Here are some of them.

tongil1b.jpg (4169 bytes) Deprogramming from the Unification Church. Statement of Brian Sabourin.
gb.gif (5893 bytes) UK Case Study: Kathleen Wilson. Deprogramming was more of an American phenomenon. The present case does not involve deprogrammers, but more an amateur-like kidnapping attempt motivated by typical anti-cult rationale. The same mind-control rationalizations was used in courts to justify the action as were  used in the earlier times of American deprogramming.
Deprogramming Lesbians. This is a special and unusual case, but shows to which extreme the mind-control justification can lead, and how far would proponents of deprogramming go if left unchecked.
pregnant2b.JPG (3160 bytes) Deprogramming a Pregnant Krishna Devotee to "save" her baby. Another special and unusual case, but showing the extend of stupidity anticultists can go. It involves a group of Christian fundamentalists who decided to "save" the baby of a Krishna devotee from cult involvement.

History and Organization

The small group of parents who gathered around Ted Patrick in 1971 soon formed the CFF (Citizen Freedom Foundation) who later became CAN (Cult Awareness Network). In the meantime, legal, scholarly, and civil rights opposition gradually mounted against anticultists' practices to culminate in CAN's conviction and later bankruptcy.

logo0.gif (19783 bytes) 1974: CFF founded with the help of Ted Patrick. The lineage between FreeCog, the organization that supported Ted Patrick's effort, CFF, and CAN is quite clear, but anticultists will sometimes try to deny it. Here is a press article showing how Ted Patrick helped to found CFF, the predecessor of CAN.
justice.jpg (20603 bytes) 1980 Ted Patrick conviction in the McElphish case. Ted Patrick finally has been convicted of kidnapping.
justice2.gif (2610 bytes) 1983: Four convicted in Iowa. A case of snatching someone from a cult for purposes of washing out a brainwash has entered the annals of crime in Cedar Rapids


The mind-control theory is the rationale that justified anticultists' abuses. While there certainly can be elements of cultic influences that are worth being studied, "mind-control" itself is hardly more than sheer superstition, similar to the superstitious Middle-Age belief in demonic possession used to burn "witches".

Mind_Control.gif (36203 bytes) The Cult Mind-Control FAQ. Mind-control is a central notion in the cult issue, and many superstitions exist about it. This FAQ tries to answer the most common questions.
Hed2hed.gif (2144 bytes) Debunking the myth of mind-control. Diane Richardson led fascinating debates on the mind-control issue in the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup. She has a clear style and can back up her claims with solid evidences.
Hed2hed.gif (2144 bytes) The mind-control debate. Critics and ex-members are unable to conclusively demonstrate their point other than presenting unsubstantiated anecdotal evidences. Their reactions often show that, quite on the contrary, their zeal is still very much cultic, and their belief in "mind-control" amounts more to superstition and justification than anything substantial.
animat3c.gif (23562 bytes) Psychotechnology as a social weapon. "Psychology thus transformed into a kind of psychotechnology becomes a social weapon."
ontario.gif (1351 bytes) Ontario's Government official report on cults and the anti-cult movement. This official study, dating from 1980, is a an excellent and very extensive study on the cult/deprogramming question. Its conclusions are informed and eloquently stated.


Jonestown is one of the most picturesque example of the extremity cults can go. While it is actively promoted as such by anticultists, they themselves have their own share of responsibility in this tragedy. Their aggressive confrontation, threat of deprogramming, and hysterical cult phobia, exacerbate the group's feeling of estrangement with society and fanaticism, and envenom situations that already are potentially explosive.

17jonestown.gif (38823 bytes) Newsgroup Debate.This debate shows how anti-cultists are unwilling to even recognize the possibility of them having made any mistake, and how they would rather engage in straw men and derision rather than face this possibility.
Inflam.gif (1669 bytes) ACM involvement in Jonestown. This is a transcript I found by chance wading through my documents. Although somewhat strongly worded, it does show how Leo Ryan was influenced by anticultists and their aggressive and confrontational approach.
hand2pi.gif (4706 bytes) Open Letter. At the time of the presentation of its report, the Committee on International Relations classified a significant number of documents. A group of scholars petition the Committee to make these documents accessible.


Even some anticultists will admit that the FBI and BATF goofed in the Waco tragedy. However, they of course will never recognize their own role in mounting authorities against the group and their encouragement for the precipitated and clumsy reaction of the police forces.

fire.jpg (19933 bytes) ACM involvement in Waco. Carol more made a detailed and fully documented analysis of the Waco event. The report was highly critical of the anti-cult movement and of Rick Ross, a self styled deprogrammer.

Heaven's Gate

The ACM helped to feed the paranoid worldview of Heaven's Gate members that lead to their ultimate decision.

Heaven's Gate and the ACM ACM and the Heaven's Gate. Usenet posts made by the group members and excerpts from their web site showing how the ACM, combined with the group's own paranoid tendencies and its strange beliefs, helped to bring about their fatal decision.

Anti-Cultism in Europe

European countries have a shorter and more recent history with anticultism and are proner to react to anticultists' hysterical stances.

Grmnbutn.jpg (2614 bytes) Discrimination in Germany. The current oppression against religious minorities in Germany is a good example on how a government can be lead in discriminative actions against its own citizens through a combinaition of the anti-cult rhetoric and actual cultic abuses. Many anticultists of course effectively encourage these discriminative actions.
france.jpg (2770 bytes) The French Anti-Cult Law. Despite domestic and international protest, the French House passed on May 30, 2001, a new anti-cult law.
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The Anti-Cult Mindset

Anticultism can turn out to be as narrow minded and dangerous as cultist. Worst of all, it often exacerbates the cultic mindset of those they oppose, and can worsen situations that are already bad at the outset. The irony of it is that they are the ones supposed to know better, but are also the same who, more often than not, exemplify cultic behavior better than cultists themselves.
ART NOUVEAU HEADERS LC - X.JPG (18566 bytes) Anticultists, Critical Thinking, and the Constitution. Series of posts from Judy Stein making an excellent description of uncritical critics.
arscc.gif (2004 bytes) alt.religion.scientology. alt.religion.scientology is a newsgroup dedicated to criticism of Scientology. It is, however, also a place where countless examples of the anti-cult mindset can be found.


The anti-cult movement has been documented on several sites, most of them of a scholarly nature.
headdark.gif (3100 bytes) Cesnur. Cesnur, under the direction of Massimo Introvigne, stands for "Center for Studies on New Religions". Cesnur is currently one of the most effective group combating discrimination against minority groups in certain European countries. Many texts are translated into French and Italian.
nrmhome.jpg (4029 bytes) University of Virginia. The most extensive scholarly site about New Religious Movements, under the direction of Prof. J.K. Hadden. This link will take you straight to its anti-cult movement page, but the whole site is worth visiting.
isarlogosm.gif (938 bytes) Institute for the Study of American Religion. Site under the auspice of Dr. J. Gordon Melton. Has an excellent analysis of the anti-cult movement's history.
header.gif (7539 bytes) Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Not a scholarly site but close, OCRT was one of the first site to speak out against religious intolerance. It has an informative page about the anti-cult movement.

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