CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

A Correspondence about "CAN, We Hardly Knew Ye": Letters from Herb Rosedale, Anson D. Shupe and Massimo Introvigne


Letter from Herbert Rosedale to Eileen Barker and Massimo Introvigne

(May 29 2001)

Dear Ms. Barker and Mr. Introvigne:

I am in receipt of a document which purports to reproduce a paper presented by Anson Shupe at a meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in October 2000 and which is published on the Cesnur website.

The paper entitled "CAN, We Hardly Knew Ye," appears to be authored by Anson Shupe and Susan Darnell, an employee of a credit union. It includes as Appendix A, a "Sampler of Deprogramming Cases" described as prepared by Moxon and Darnell in 2001. If the Appendix is accurately described, then it was not part of the paper presented by Anson Shupe in October, 2000, and he does not appear as an author of the Appendix.

If I am correct in my assumption that the "Moxon" referred to is Kendrick Moxon, he is and was a senior representative of the Church of Scientology and was for a period of time (before he was terminated) attorney for the plaintiff in the Scott litigation referred to in the article and Appendix. Obviously, two questions are raised by this format of presentation. First, whether description of the document appearing on Cesnur's website as the paper presented in October, 2000 appears to includes material not then existing or presented and authored by others than the authors of the paper. Second, an issue exists as to whether participation in the authorship of paper by a senior officer of the Church of Scientology whose affiliation is undisclosed warrants the description of the entire paper as authored by one of the most well-known sociologists of religion in the United States. It is also unclear whether, if participation of Mr. Moxon was disclosed to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in October, 2000 the paper would have been accepted for presentation and publication without additional scrutiny and review.

In any event, it seems misleading for Cesnur not to indicate up front the participation of Mr. Moxon in the preparation of the material published on Cesnur's website, so that a reader can evaluate the interest and bias of one of the authors.

With respect to Mr. Moxon's interest in the subject matter of the paper, there is no disclosure that while acting as attorney for Mr. Scott, he was terminated by his client or the reasons for such termination which are relevant to the subject matter of the paper. In the dispute resulting from that termination, Mr. Moxon raised doubts as to Mr. Scott's credibility and independence of thought, yet Mr. Scott's statements are cited without mention of such reservations.

Accordingly, before dealing with the specifics in this article, I urge your serious review and consider the implications of the standards used in research and reporting as well as acknowledged citation of assertions for which there is no factual support and omission of critical material information. An example of such an omission is the inclusion of testimony from Deborah Dobkowski given in a litigation where the result was set aside and the prosecutor dismissed because of his impermissible conduct casting doubt on the verity of the testimony given. Citation of this information would, of course, be very significant in evaluating the credibility of the cited testimony.

Putting this overview aside, however, the reason for writing this letter is that the work published contains references to The American Family Foundation ("AFF") of which I am President, and those references contain factually false statements and the article is filled with invective and innuendo which may be defamatory. References are not simply "opinions" of the authors, but include factual statements which are simply false or conclusions asserted without any indicated factual basis. Cesnur has also enhanced the credibility of the material contained in this article by stating without specific identification that some of its directors may endorse its content.

The authors state that the article presents "controversial evidence" without any cited factual support and assertions and conclusions reached on uncited evidence, a practice certainly not conforming to academic standards observed by sociologists of religion in the United States or elsewhere. Accordingly, it becomes important to clearly characterize and object to those statements which are derogatory and which are made without factual support. The author indicates that there may be further material published or unidentified material not available to others to buttress these deficiencies, but there can be no certainty either of the content or accuracy of such material and no reason is given why publication could not have awaited the disclosure of the claimed factual support.

Accordingly, it would appear to be unambiguously acknowledged by the authors that this article makes unsupported charges which are incapable of verification or denial based on the material contained and cited in it.

I am writing you directly rather than corresponding with Mr. Shupe because of my previous futile experience in communication with him on issues like this. In the past, Mr. Shupe has made unsupported accusations of criminal activity against me personally and AFF generally. In response, I wrote and asked for citation of any instance of alleged criminal conduct and citation of such details and facts he could provide. My letter was returned with the envelope unopened marked "delivery refused." Professor Ronald Enroth, likewise attempted to correspond with Mr. Shupe about accusations concerning him and had a similar experience with respect to refusal of delivery of his letter.

I am, therefore, heartened by your communication stating that you will be kind enough to transmit a copy of this letter to Mr. Shupe and that he has undertaken to reply to my specific comments, and I appreciate your facilitation in this regard.

Comments in this letter are restricted to those portions of the article concerning and relating to AFF where the effects of circulation of the material may have negative financial and professional consequences to its officers, directors and presenters. Absence of comment on matters relating to other aspects of the article does not indicate acknowledgment of accuracy or completeness. Accordingly, I have attempted to deal very specifically with inaccuracies relating to AFF, its officers and presenters.

In that regard, on the third page of the article under the heading "A Brief Overview of the Anti-Cult Movement",(referred to as ACM) the authors state that in the early 1970's most ACM groups (the two most prominent of which are described as CAN and AFF), had memberships consisting of senior family members distraught at their offspring/junior relatives' deviant religious choices. This is absolutely false. AFF did not exist in the early 1970's, a fact I confirmed with a founder of AFF. At no time did it have a "membership." AFF is and always has been a not-for-profit corporation with no members. This information is easily available from public records and inquiries could have been made from founders or current leadership of the AFF. No attempt at such inquiry was made.

In the very next sentence, it is stated that over time, the "mantle" of ACM leadership passed to degreed behavioral science moral entrepreneurs who made ACM involvement an important and sometimes lucrative part of their careers. This statement is also factually untrue and uses a deliberately pejorative term in referring to the leadership of the AFF. I have been the President of the AFF for many years as is a matter of public record. The identity of the board of directors and of members of its advisory board likewise is a matter of public record. I am a lawyer and not a degreed behavioral science moral entrepreneur. Other leaders of AFF are likewise not degreed behavioral science moral entrepreneurs but are lawyers, members of the clergy, physicians and psychiatrists. In no way, shape or form has my stewardship of AFF proved "lucrative." That is a false statement which could have been easily verified. There is no attempt made to identify any particular individuals as to whom these labels are claimed to apply.

I also am offended by the use of the term "moral entrepreneur." That term is not free from negative innuendo. It is negatively pejorative when applied to a professional such as a lawyer, priest or pastor and on my personal behalf I regard it as defamatory.

Next, this article characterizes AFF as a "sister social movement organization" of CAN. This is factually wrong. The term "sister" when used to described two corporate organizations has a precise legal meaning and since a lawyer participated in preparation and support of the article, or its appendices I am sure he is aware of this. It refers to either two corporations which share common ownership by a single parent or two corporations with common stockholders. Neither is true of relationships between AFF and CAN. In looking at the claimed factual support for this statement, footnote 7 states "the symbiotic relationship between AFF and CAN is not dealt with in this paper. See Shupe, Moxon and Darnell, 2001." If the relationship between AFF and CAN was not dealt with in the paper, no comment about it should have been made, and certainly not a false one. If the support is to be derived from "Shupe, Moxon and Darnell, 2001," I have no idea what that sloppy citation refer to. It does not cross reference any appendix and other than Appendix A, no appendix is listed as having been authored by Shupe, Moxon and Darnell.

The only reason the paper asserts an existence of a relationship between AFF and CAN (although footnote 7 says it does not), is so that the authors can through innuendo imply that AFF is a participant for the criminal activity stated to have been regularly and knowingly participated in by CAN.

It is clear that the article attempts by innuendo to do what it denies it's doing, namely, link AFF to allegations of wrongful and criminal activity of CAN without citation of any facts or evidence supporting any such linkage. Allegations that AFF is affiliated with an alleged criminal enterprise is false, defamatory and damaging.

The paper then states with specific reference to AFF that the extent to which it may be a "hate group" as defined either by Washington state law or the racial/ethical criteria in sociology is open to debate. No definition of the term hate group is set forth in any Washington state law, so a statement that it is open to debate is false as well as vacuous. Of course, there is no citation to any such definition or law. To the extent the authors were referring to the Scott case, which took place in the state of Washington, that litigation involved only CAN and not AFF. The citation allegedly in support of this heinous charge does not refer to any action of AFF and is without any factual support. To claim that whether or not the AFF is a hate group is open to debate is irresponsible and defamatory, there being no predicate for such debate other than the venom or irrational bias of the authors. Indeed, this is made clear by the citation of a "Sample of CAN literature." (Document 7) without any attempt to relate this document to AFF. If the authors of this article had desired to see whether AFF truly was a hate group under Washington state law or otherwise, they could have attended the year 2000 AFF Conference held in a suburb in Seattle Washington. Indeed, a number of directors of Cesnur did attend that conference, and some participated in it. Having been there and in their presence, I do not recall a single instance in which any of them so characterized AFF or its activities.

With respect to the second portion of the offensive language; namely, the claim that it is open to debate whether AFF is a 'hate group' as defined by the racial/ethnic criteria in sociology, I don't know what races or ethnic groups the authors are talking about. The sole citation in its alleged support is a reference to a 1997 book for illustrative "definitional contrasts" (footnote 9). Nowhere is there any reference to any fact that would lend content to utilization of definitions. Definitions don't substitute for facts.

With respect to AFF, there are no racial or ethnic criteria relevant to factual evaluation of AFF's activities. An examination of a number of AFF's recent activities shows a sensitivity to racial and sexual discrimination, leaving the accusation without citation even more indefensible. Are the authors referring to the program presented at the AFF Washington conference dealing with custody issues which involve an allegedly religious group which practices of racial and religious discrimination? Are they referring to the earlier AFF conference with respect abuse of women and children either with respect to sexual abuse, physical abuse or exploitation? Or are they referring to the AFF's expressed parallel position to that of the United Nations regarding human rights issues female genital mutilation and slavery? What are the specific racial/ethnic criteria that the author thinks are relevant in the hypothetical debate as to whether AFF is a hate group? Any citation in this regard is wholly absent from the paper.

These lacuna are further highlighted by inclusion on page 3 of the article of a quotation from an author referring to the "modern trend for hate groups" and dealing with the "hate movement in the United States." Of course, relevance of that quotation is premised on the fact that it has already been demonstrated that AFF is part of the hate movement in the United States, an assertion for which there is absolutely no pretense of factual support. Scholarly deficiency of substituting ideology for fact has been printed out in a recent work criticizing revisionist historians denying the occurrence of the Holocaust (Denying History, Shermer and Grobman, University of California Press) who cite approvingly analogies to cult apologist criticisms of the anti-cult movement (See also Extrapolation, Exaggeration or Exculpation, Cult Observer, 2001, No. 1, pages 13-14) and Eileen Barker's trenchant comments in "The Scientific Study of Religion? You must be joking!" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 34, 1995 pp. 287-310 where she states that putting forth the conclusions before the facts are analogous to putting the tail before the dog. The article here can more appropriately be described as citing the tail without the dog.

As a capstone to the other false claims made in the paper, it is asserted specifically that the AFF has "presented slanted stereotypical images and language that has inflamed persons to perform extreme actions" (page 3). There is not a scintilla of proof offered or pretense of citation following this accusation.

AFF has had numerous professional presenters at its conferences over the years. They have included scholars such as Dr. Eileen Barker of the Cesnur Board and London School of Economics, Dr. Bruce Perry of Baylor University, Dr. Robert Lifton of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Dr. Benjamin Zablocki of Rutgers University, Dr. Jean Francois Mayer of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, Dr. Burke Rochford of Trinity College, Dr. Diane Casoni of the University of Montreal, Father Walter de Bold of Seaton Hall University, Robin Boyle of St. Johns University School of Law, as well as numerous other professionals. The paper does not identify any presenter as having delivered their presentation in slanted, stereotypical images and language such that it inflamed any person to perform extreme actions. Which of these people did the authors have in mind? Without naming them, all are smeared. Where is the citation of a single instance in the over two decade history of AFF in which any AFF presentation has induced a person to perform an extreme action? If such language is intended to be simply an obfuscatory evasion for a charge of inducing criminal action, then the statement is defamatory on its face. Previous requests for information to support this claim have gone unresponded to but the charge continues to be repeated by the author. Numerous scholars have investigated activities of various ACM groups but no scholar has identified AFF as falling in that category. Indeed, each of you has expressly personally denied to me that you regard the AFF's presentations in that category. This is not a generalized statement about the entire anti-cult movement. It is a specific statement about AFF in particular. That is why I take extreme umbrage with respect to it and have written this letter. It is why I object to its reproduction and continued publication.

As indicated above, this material which you reproduce on your website is admittedly deficient in citing supporting authority. It is not as you describe simply the paper presented by the authors to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in October 2000. It is a document supplemented months later by someone who is not a scholar but a senior officer and attorney of the Church of Scientology. It does not meet any reasonable criteria of scholarship and it contains manifestly false and defamatory statements. Had the authors waited until they assembled all of their evidence and included citations both you and a reader could make an informed judgment about the accuracy and responsibility of the conclusions and assertions but that is not possible in the present format.

I ask with all due respect that you re-examine your criteria for publishing and not place yourself in a position of being no more than a conduit for the dissemination of controversial accusations without inclusion of supporting factual material and research.

I thank you in advance for the time and effort you have devoted in considering these issues and looking forward to a fair and responsible, objective evaluation and response.

Very truly yours,

Herbert L. Rosedale


Letter from Massimo Introvigne to Herbert Rosedale

(May 31, 2001)

Dear Herb:

Thank you for your letter.

First of all, as clearly stated in the text, our Web site reproduces a paper presented by Anson D. Shupe and others at the SSSR conference in 2000. It has nothing to do with the conference co-organized by INFORM, CESNUR and other parties in London in 2001. CESNUR Web sites reproduces hundreds of documents, and I do not entirely agree with several of them. We often publish texts which have been presented at international conferences and are relevant in our field, irrespective whether I or other people fully agree with them or not. This text has been published, as we noted, with the full understanding that this is a controversial text, and in order to generate further discussion. Of course, characterizing Anson Shupe as a "well-known sociologist" verges on the obvious for anybody familiar with sociology of religion in general. Such familiarity would also persuade you that the term "moral entrepreneur" is currently used for advocates of a variety of causes and is not defamatory in any legal or non-legal sense.

So far, your comments are mostly generic, and not addressing the key issues of the paper (i.e. the connection between the American ACM and deprogramming). We would like to hear more about this point, which is obviously the subject matter of Shupe’s paper. Whether you are a "moral entrepreneur" or not is a matter of sociological evaluation, and of course "sister organizations" is a concept used by a sociologist such as Shupe in a broader rather than in a legal/technical sense. That inflammatory language used by certain anti-cult organizations may lead "persons to perform extreme actions" has been argued repeatedly before Shupe by, inter alia, Catherine Wessinger and myself in scholarly articles and books, and is again open to debate. Finally, you know only too well the difference between a text per se and the use of this text by third parties: the latter may be both defamatory and morally unacceptable while the first is not.

Let me add a couple of other comments.
First of all, I find it quite curious that "your side" (so to speak) asks us to "remove from our Internet site" Shupe's paper when persons and Web sites of the same "side" have repeatedly quoted and offered links to papers and sites slandering CESNUR, and myself personally, with all sort of defamatory allegations.

Secondly, I am surprised that you seem to have took the comment that we will publish additional material on this controversy as if it meant that we will only publish further material coming from Dr. Shupe and "our" side. This is not what the statement was intended to mean. It means that we will be pleased to publish serious criticism of Shupe's paper coming from AFF, and this is what we are now doing. This is what we call discussion and dialogue.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Massimo Introvigne

Letter from Anson D. Shupe to Massimo Introvigne

(June 5, 2001)

RE: Recent letter to Introvigne and Barker from Mr. Herbert J. Rosedale, President, American Family Foundation

Dear Sirs,

     I am unwilling to engage in a protracted paper or electronic debate with anticultists. I have done so in the past and have found it fruitless. Moreover, I am perplexed that Mr. Herbert J. Rosedale would address his letter to Eileen Barker of the London School of Economics and Massimo Introvigne since they had absolutely nothing to do with the October, 2000 paper I co-presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (except that Mr. Introvigne has put it on a website, along with scanned copies of supporting documents).  However, let me respond briefly to several points in Mr. Rosedale's letter since this issue is now addressed in an international forum.
     First, yes, the SSSR paper indeed had my friend and colleague Kendrick Moxon as a co-author along with Anson Shupe and Susan E. Darnell. Moxon had provided us with a number of valuable public documents and insights and as a courtesy he was included as a co-author. (He is not noted as such in our forthcoming book, however.) I make no apology for that. It is common practice in social and medical sciences to include as co-authors on papers and articles persons who make a variety of different contributions to the work. And, yes, Mr. Moxon is an attorney who is a practicing Scientologist and does considerable legal representation on cases related to his Church. That in no way inauthenticates the considerable sources we cited in the endnotes to our paper. Further, I sense a bad smell when someone impugns the credibility of my research because of the religious faith of any of my co-authors. I have previously co-authored with a Pentecostal, a Baptist, a Christian Scientist, a Mormon, and now with a member of the Church of the Nazarene. Is Mr. Rosedale suggesting that I as a sociologist choose my co-authors by denominational affiliation? Let's stay at the level of the data, which is unaffected by such matters.
     Second, there were materials scanned and put on the website from the larger data base (400 boxes of files from the defunct Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network) on which we relied (among other sources). I don't see the problem here unless one is somehow embarrassed by the files.
     Third, there is one unfortunate error in the paper for which I offer a mea culpa.  The American Family Foundation was originally a local affiliate of the Citizens Freedom Foundation, not the Cult Awareness Network, though in our defense the transition from CFF to CAN in the mid-1980s was mainly legalistic and cosmetic as CAN continued CFF's pattern of providing slanted information on new religious movements and serving as a deprogramming conduit. However, I have never claimed that AFF has ever been involved in such activities (and as a consequence has never suffered the legal difficulties than CAN did).
     Fourth, Mr. Rosedal'es complaint that members or leaders of CAN and AFF are described as moral entrepreneurs is not warranted. This is a basic term in the sociology of deviance and social movements developed by well known Professor Howard Becker of the University of Chicago. In similar sense Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were also moral entrepreneurs. It is not a negative or stigmatic term.
     Finally, I have seen recent correspondence from people in the anticult movement trying to distance themselves from the Cult Awareness Network and the coercive deprogramming it promoted. That is understandable. However, for Mr. Rosedale to deny a working relationship between AFF and CAN, both nationally and internationally, is ridiculous. AFF"s "footprints" are all over the CAN files, and anyone who wants to take the trouble and expense to check them out --- as I have, on my own nickel, without university subventions or foundation grants or underwriting by new religious movements such as the Unification Church of the Church of Scientology, day-by-day going through the CAN boxes -- can verify the Shupe-Darnell conclusions. Being labeled as a partisan or stooge of new religious groups, if that is implied, is a common attack on researchers who disagree with one's presuppositions. Sociologists of religion are used to it. I heard it twenty years ago when David G. Bromley and I wrote about the Unification Church. (The latter are the same folks angry at what I wrote about them in the Wall Street Journal, The Christian Century, and other publications during the late 1980s. Anticultists don't seem familiar with those writings.)
     But to return to my final theme: anyone can independently investigate the voluminous files of the old CAN if she or he has the patience. They are open to the public. Until such confirming research is done, questions of the validity of the Shupe-Darnell conclusions are moot.


Anson Shupe

CAN, We Hardly Knew Ye: Sex, Drugs, Deprogrammers’ Kickbacks, and Corporate Crime in the (old) Cult Awareness Network

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