The Cult Information Centre (CIC) is a British-based anti-cult organization that provides information and advice to members of what the organization terms as cults, as well as affected family members, members of the press and scholarly researchers. The organization also serves as a resource for information on controversial religious groups, therapy cults, and political cults. The Cult Information Centre gives educational talks about cults in schools around the United Kingdom, to students about to start university education.
The Cult Information Centre was initially founded in 1987 and gained charitable status in the United Kingdom, in 1992. Ian Haworth is founder and current General Secretary of the organization, and he had previously been involved with the Council on Mind Abuse. According to Arweck's Researching New Religious Movements, Ian Haworth and an associate had previously lost a court case in Canada that was brought by Werner Erhard against the Council on Mind Abuse organization. Arweck writes that Haworth went bankrupt after losing the case to Erhard, and left Canada for Britain. Later in an article in the Sunday Mercury, Ian Haworth was quoted as stating that the Cult Information Centre received complaints in Britain about the actions of Landmark Education, which the article described as being linked to Werner Erhard's est movement. Similar statements from the Cult Information Centre were reported in an article on The Forum.
The Cult Information Centre believes that the most striking features of post-war religious cults includes the usage of mind control techniques, and strict adherence to a leader or tight-knit leadership structure. This high level of adherence helps to reinforce authority, as well as belief in the leader's doctrine, which may involve his own personal delusions. According to the Cult Information Centre, these individuals are prone to suffering from forms of mental illness. The organization cites twenty-six key forms of mind control, which includes hypnosis, peer pressure and groupthink, love bombing, the rejection of old values, confusing doctrine, use of subliminal messages, time-sense inhibition, dress codes, disinhibition, diet, confession, fear, and chanting and singing.
The organization has attempted to define the term cult by analyzing dictionary definitions, and psychological, religious, and secular definitions, however it has found that they are all deficient in some manner. Its current definition of the term cult includes three main points: the group's identity was derived from a major religion, but its practices and belief system are dramatically different; its followers are not bound by a codified belief structure; and the group was founded by an individual who utilized fraudulent means to gain respect and acceptance.
The Cult Information Centre has estimated that there are approximately 2,500 cults operating within the United States, as of 2007. Intelligent students that are intellectually and/or spiritually curious were described as prime recruitment targets for cults, according to the Cult Information Centre. The organization has stated that these religious sects are limited by very strict rules in Britain as to how they can fundraise and advertise in recruitment of new members. The organization believes that the number of cults actively recruiting from college campuses has increased. Though the organization has stated that college-age students and teenagers are susceptible, it also believes that well-off professionals within the middle class are targeted by cults. The organization states that it is a common misperception that only loners and misfits are drawn to controversial groups and movements.
Some of the groups that the Cult Information Centre analyzes have criticized their methods. John Campbell of the evangelical Christian group, the Jesus Army insists they have good relations with other Christian churches, and called the Cult Information Centre "unethical" and its views "absolute nonsense". The Church of Scientology felt that its message was also misrepresented by the Cult Information Centre.
Analyzed in secondary sources
Along with the Family Action Information Resource organization, the Cult Information Centre was cited by Wilson and Cresswell's New Religious Movements as one of the best known secular groups that monitor new religious movements. Arweck also compared the Cult Information Centre to the Family Action Information and Rescue Organization, as well as to other groups such as Reachout Trust.
Gurr's The New Face of Terrorism, Shaw's Spying in Guruland, and Mikul's Bizarrism cite the Cult Information Centre's twenty-six techniques of mind control. William Shaw had contacted the Cult Information Centre in his 1993 investigation of cults, but is explicitly critical of its methods and the reliability of its research throughout the book. His opinion was that individuals had joined cults out of "their own hunger to believe" and is dismissive of "absurd scare stories". These twenty-six techniques have also been cited by the press as well. BBC News has cited the Cult Information Centre's five key factors that distinguish a cult, in an article on Scientology. In a separate article Haworth of the Cult Information Centre was quoted as stating he was deeply concerned about Scientology's activities and use of celebrities in a global marketing campaign.
In his work Understanding New Religious Movements, Saliba notes that though the organization's definition of the term cult stems from a theological background, it incorporates sociological and psychological features as well. The research on the Cult Information Centre's Website is cited as a resource by Penn's False Dawn. The Cult Information Centre was also cited as a resource in British parliamentary proceedings investigating the Home Secretary's actions regarding the Unification Church and Sun Myung Moon.
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- Cult Information Centre, Main Web site