CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

Herbert Rosedale, Senior American Anti-Cultist: In Memoriam

imgWe receive news of the death of Herbert Rosedale, president of the American Family Foundation, the largest surviving American anti-cult organization. A graduate of Columbia University, Rosedale was of counsel at the large law firm of Jenkens & Gilchrist, and a part of the American anti-cult scene from several decades. He also represented former members of new religious movements against their religious organizations in several well-known trials. Rosedale's abrasive personality still emerged in a letter he sent to journalist Toby Lester after the latter wrote in 2002 in The Atlantic Monthly a well-researched article on new religious movements. Rosedale wrote (in a letter published in the May 2002 issue of The Atlantic Monthly) that "Lester depends for his information on a particular group of 'clubby' academics who purport to be experts on 'new religious movements.' They promote their careers by claiming that these movements are essentially benign, arguing that to question any religion violates fundamental human rights". Comments like these would tend to represent Rosedale as just another bitter representative of an American anti-cult movement in decline, yet still unable to understand the scholarly approach to NRMs. There was, however, more to Herbert Rosedale. He attended CESNUR events and conferences, and was a featured speaker at CESNUR 1999 in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. He crossed swords with "us" repeatedly with a grace and kindness who made many in "our" camp like Herb the man, no matter how deep the disagreements. He openly and publicly criticized some of the most blatant violations of religious liberty in the European parliamentary reports and anti-cult campaigns, and insisted that the American approach to "cult awareness" was somewhat different. He was instrumental in inviting both "'clubby' academics" and members of the new religious movements to the annual meetings of the American Family Foundation (something, in fact, less likely to happen within the anti-cult scene in some European countries). I myself was a featured speaker at the 2003 AFF conference in Orange, California. Recently, Rosedale became sincerely convinced that the dialogue between what he preferred to call the "cult awareness" community and the scholars many in that community regard as "cult apologists" was an unavoidable necessity, and became a staunch advocate of that dialogue against some opposition from "his" side.

A formidable presence, Herb will be missed by his friends - and perhaps also by his foes.

Massimo Introvigne

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