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Jeffrey K. Hadden and the Religious Movements Site

AcademicPluralistic Jeffrey K. Hadden and the Religious Movements Site


Pro-cult Activities   Hadden's Motives   Sociological Issues   Theological Issues

Jeffrey K. Hadden, who died recently at the age of 66, taught Sociology 257: New Religious Movements at the University of Virginia. He was a former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. He set up and developed - together with his students - the New Religious Movements Homepage Project.

Many anticult and countercult professionals considered him to be a cult apologist.

Not surprisingly, Scientology's so-called "Cult Awareness Network" listed Hadden as one of its "professional referrals."

Pro-cult Activities

Prompted by fellow cult apologist J. Gordon Melton, Jeffrey Hadden filed a Friend of the Court statement on behalf of the Church of Scientology arguing against the public availability of Scientology Scriptures. These arguments were filed in the case of "Church of Scientology International v. Steven Fishman and Uwe Geertz." Regarding this issue, see the section "Academics and Doctrinal 'Secrets' in "When Scholars Know Sin : Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters."

A few years ago, a 1989 confidential memo written by Hadden on behalf of two other leading researchers resurfaced. The memo shows how these sociologists wanted to "neutralize" activities of the American Family Foundation and other anti/counter-cult organizations. The memo is referred to in Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi's report, "Integrity and Suspicion in New Religious Movement Research."

To illustrate and discuss the ideology of collaborationism we are going to look at a couple of pages from the memo written by Jeffrey K. Hadden on 20 December, 1989. This memo has been widely circulated and can be found on the Internet, but I thought it worthwhile to present it. It is significant that this memo was sent to numerous collegues, and was not kept secret. That author's assumption was that there was nothing to hide, because of the overwhelming support for his point of view. I know that some of our collegues do prefer a no-name policy, and just want me to say 'a prominent sociologist of religion.' I have used this kind of language before, but today I decided that I must use full names first because scholars should he held accountable for their actions. One important reason to look at this text is that Jeffrey Hadden is by no means a marginal figure. Some of his colleagues have been trying to tell me that he is some kind of loose cannon ... At the same time, Hadden has not directly researched some of the groups he is willing to defend.
Source: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Collaborationism and Research Integrity, Part 1, Chapter 1 of Misunderstanding Cults (University of Toronto Press, 2001), p. 45,46

Charlotte Allen writes:

Zablocki did not name names. But a number of professors freely admit that nontraditional religions (in most cases, the Unificationists and Scientologists) have cut them checks. The list includes some of the most prominent scholars in the discipline: Bromley, Barker, Rodney Stark of the University of Washington, Jeffrey Hadden of the University of Virginia, and James Richardson, a sociologist of religion at the University of Nevada at Reno. All five have attended cult-subsidized conferences, and Bromley, Hadden, and Richardson have occasionally testified in court on behalf of cults or offered their services as expert witnesses against brainwashing theory. ''This is an issue,'' Zablocki wrote sternly, ''of a whole different ethical magnitude from that of taking research funding from the Methodists to find out why the collection baskets are not coming back as heavy as they used to.''

JUSTIFICATIONS for accepting benefits from fringe faiths vary: ''I can’t be bought with a free conference.'' ''Don’t scholars in many fields serve as consultants and expert witnesses?'' And outside research grants for scholarship on alternative religions are difficult to obtain. Until recently, the government has funded very few cult studies, and private foundations that support religious scholarship–such as the Lilly Endowment and the Pew Charitable Trusts–prefer to pay for studies of more conventional churches. ''Sure, I spent three days on a boat in the San Juan Islands with Eileen Barker and some other people–it was a conference on religious movements, and we had a great time, and the Moonies paid for it,'' says Stark. ''But I’ve gone to plenty of conferences paid for by Jewish organizations and Catholic organizations. The first big study I ever did, on religion and anti-Semitism, was a book for the Anti-Defamation League. I never felt that it was Jewish money. So I’m not so worried about that.''

Jeffrey Hadden once organized a Unification Church-sponsored conference on religion and politics in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and published the papers with a Unification Church-owned press. He explains: ''There are all these anticultists, and they begin with the presumption that every religious movement is illegitimate, so anything you say is all right if it undermines the group. I say that religious freedom is a fundamental right. Are there things that happen in these groups that I don’t approve of? Have I pointed it out? You bet I have! Have some scholars gotten too close to the groups they study? Of course-if you study a group to understand the world through their eyes, you will understand the world through their eyes. It’s a real difficulty.''

Hadden insists that the Moonie money had no effect on his scholarship and that he eventually lost favor with some of the Unificationists. His fall from grace was partly because he said unflattering things about them in his papers and partly because he refused to sign a petition protesting the 1980 New York state legislation that would have legalized deprogramming. ''I stood up at a conference and said, 'Absolutely not!''' Hadden recalls. ''But I reject the notion that our job as sociologists is to be watchdogs. Our job is to understand these groups so that there can be civil discourse about them, not bitter division.''

In fact, Hadden and his colleagues have frequently gone beyond understanding alternative religions into seeking to help them with their legal problems. Much of that activity has been inspired by their efforts to combat the anti-cult testimony of Ofshe and Singer, which they believe has been used to demonize alternative world views and deprive adults of their religious liberty. Inspired by a meeting of cult scholars and representatives from the Unification Church and the National Council of Churches, Hadden composed a memo in December 1989 that was aimed at counteracting the academic legitimacy of the brainwashing concept–as well as, implicitly, the expert witness status of Ofshe, Singer, and others.

Hadden's memo, to which he attached Bromley's and Barker's names without their consent, suggested that the Unification Church and other nontraditional religions set up a foundation to fund research and help in ''neutralizing anti-cult movements'' such as the Cult Awareness Network and the Florida-based American Family Foundation. Hadden recognized that the Constitution’s church-state provisions precluded federal funding for such an organization; therefore he urged the creation a privately supported ''legal resource center'' to be funded initially with contributions from ''individuals and groups targeted as probable primary users of the material''-in other words, lawyers and their cult clients.
Brainwashed! Scholars of Cults Accuse Each Other of Bad Faith, Linquafranca - The Review of Academic Life, Vol 8. No. 9, Dec/Jan 1998

Recently, Hadden militated against the Maryland Task Force, which investigated the influence and effect of cults and other influence groups on Maryland campuses. He supported the lawsuit filed against the Task Force by the Unification Church and Seventh-Day Adventists (helped by top-Scientology lawyer Kendrick Moxon).

Hadden was a board member for Irving Hexham's NUREL list. In turn, Hexham (owner of the NUREL list) and Douglas Cowan (Hexham pupil and NUREL list co-moderator), contribute to Hadden's "Religious Movements" web site.

Hadden's Motives

It isn't difficult to discover what motivated Hadden. For example, he was committed to the promotion of religious pluralism:

The goals of the Religious Movements Homepage are to (1) provide resources for objective understanding, (2) encourage appreciation of religious diversity, and (3) promote religious tolerance.
This example from the entry on the Temple of Seth

Anglican theologican Dr. John Stott says:

Pluralism is an affirmation of the validity of every religion, and the refusal to choose between them, and the rejection of world evangelism.

Indeed, while Hadden talks about an "appreciation of religious diversity," in reality he promotes religious pluralism - the theory that there are more than one or more than two kinds of ultimate reality and/or truth - and that therefore more than one religion can be said to have the truth (way to God, salvation, etcetera).

This is one reason behind Hadden's marked intolerance toward those who speak out against certain (religious) movements considered to be cults either on sociological and/or theological grounds:

Jeffery Hadden, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia who studies modern religious movements, calls Wellspring and similar centers the spin offs of an anti-cult movement that at its most extremes he likens to a hate group. He dismisses the scientific validity of the concept of mind control. ''People enter relationships because they wish to and when they cease to be of interest to them, they walk away,'' said Hadden. ''I won't deny that many groups have deleterious consequences, but most people are amazing resilient, and capable of walking away. When they leave with exit counselors, there can be an increase in a sense of anger, that they have been violated by the group they were a part of.''

Hadden is developing a ''Religious Movements'' Web site with over 150 profiles of new religions, partly a response to what he calls the excesses of the anti-cult movement.
Augie Wants to Turn You On, Spectator Online, Feb. 23, 2000

While denouncing respected ex-cult support and counseling centers like Wellspring, and even going so far as to bitterly liken the anticult movement to a hate group, Hadden had a tendency to paint cults in a good light. See, for example, this recent report:

Take the International Churches of Christ. A fast-growing Christian organization known for aggressive proselytizing to college students, the ICOC–which some ex-members and experts on mind-control assert is a cult–is one of the most controversial religious groups on campus. At least 39 institutions, including Harvard and Georgia State, have outlawed the organization at one time or another for violating rules against door-to-door recruiting, say, or harassment. ''I'm banning destructive behaviors, not religion,'' says the Rev. Robert Watts Thornburg, dean of the chapel at Boston University, which barred the ICOC from campus after members posted signs saying their meeting was mandatory.

Janine Marnien, for one, felt intense pressure to join the ICOC. In 1998, the then freshman was on her way across the University of Southern California campus, when a beaming young woman stepped in her path and invited her to a nondenominational church service–and wouldn't take no for an answer. Countless calls, compliments, and invitations later, Marnien was a full-fledged convert, attending almost daily Bible studies, services, and social activities–and forcefully recruiting other students as well. In addition to giving of her time, she was also required to donate a tenth of her income–about 30 percent of each meager work-study paycheck. ''I just didn't realize what I had gotten into,'' says Marnien, now a junior. ''That is, until my discipler told me I couldn't go home for my father's birthday.''

A zealous group, to be sure, but is it a cult? ''We're no more a cult than Jesus was a cult,'' says Al Baird, spokesperson for the ICOC, which, he insists, does not condone harassment and is merely an evangelical church out to ''share Jesus with everybody.'' University of Virginia sociology Prof. Jeffrey Hadden, who has studied religious movements for over 30 years, agrees. ''Every new religion experiences a high level of tension with society because its beliefs and ways are unfamiliar. But most, if they survive, we come to accept as part of the religious landscape.'' He cites Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Scientists as examples.

Still, experts say the label has nothing to do with radical beliefs and everything to do with behavior. Each of the estimated 3,000 cults in this country has a unique ideology, but they all share certain worrisome traits (box). Students are particularly easy prey. ''They are in transition from the culture of their parents, which leaves them somewhat uncertain and anxious,'' explains Marc Galanter, a professor of psychiatry and the author of Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion. ''Cults provide answers.''
A push becomes a shove, US News & World Report, Mar. 13, 2000

Hadden and Sociological Cult Characteristics

The sidebar (box) accompanying the US News & World article says:

Dangerous groups have varying beliefs but share similar traits:

  • Charismatic, authoritarian leaders. Requiring absolute devotion to one person, who dictates how members should think and act.

  • Mind control and manipulation. Using controlling methods, including physical and/or psychological isolation from family and friends.

  • Misleading recruitment tactics. ''Love bombing,'' or showering prospective members with attention; the use of front names that mask group affiliation.

More detailed information on the sociological characteristics of cults can be found here.

As a sociologist, Prof. Hadden no doubt was familiar with the behavioral traits that set cults apart from (other) religious movements. Yet he apparently chose to ignores or dismisses the serious problems associated with cultic movements. For example, instead of acknowledging cult recruitment trends, Hadden claimed:

''The notion that somehow new religions are seductively slurping people into their orbit on the streets or through the Internet is absolutely bizarre,'' says Professor Jeffrey Hadden, an expert in New Religious Movements at the University of Virginia.
Cults: Worry Ye Not, BBC News, Jan. 5, 1999

Though many of the profiles at the web site he edited make mention of cult controversies, the overall information is largely apologetic in favor of cults. (Note: the site is now edited by Doug Cowan, an avid supporter of cult apologists and their ideas)

Hadden and Theological Cult Characteristics

According to J. Gordon Melton, Hadden came from an evangelical background and attended an evangelical church. Nevertheless, he appeared to be either unable to tell the difference between orthodoxy and heresy, or unwilling to consider such differences as the basis for a theological definition of a cult.

Time and again, Hadden dismissed sociological and theological concerns regarding cults, in favor of his idea of "religious freedom." In a presentation prepared for a conference on ''Religious Freedom and the New Millennium sponsored by the International Coalition for Religious Freedom (which "receives the bulk of its funding from institutions and individuals related to the Unification Church") at the Renaissance Washington Hotel, Washington, D.C., April 17-19, 1998, Hadden said:

Most scholars and members of religious movements, while being well aware of the hate that is spread by anticultists, have paid relatively little attention to the countercultists. On the whole, these are well meaning people who are motivated by the desire to protect the boundaries of their own faith from ''false'' teachings. I think this is, and must be, an integral component of religious freedom. But I am increasingly persuaded that many of these people have never considered the necessity of religious tolerance as a condition of religious freedom. This is a very serious problem that needs to be systematically addressed through multiple educational and political strategies.
"Religious Freedom Resources on the Internet", Text on file.

Hadden's suggestions that anticult- and countercult movements as sources of hate or religious intolerance are typical of the information spread by cult apologists. Let the buyer beware: while Hadden gave lip-service to the defense of orthodox teachings against heresies, he essentially portrayed countercult professionals as intolerant. And while he claimed to promote "objective understanding," it is clear his objectivity was clouded by a profound hatred of those who speak out against cultic abuses.

- Articles -
Secular Brainwashed! Scholars of Cults Accuse Each Other of Bad Faith, Linquafranca - The Review of Academic Life, Vol 8. No. 9, Dec/Jan 1998
AcademicPluralistic The Concepts "Cult" and "Sect" in Scholarly Research and Public Discourse Jeffrey Hadden explains his views on the use of the terms "cults" and "sects", as well as his thoughts on the anti-cult and counter-cult movements.

- Sites -
AcademicPluralistic The Religious Broadcasting Page
AcademicPluralistic The Religious Freedom Page
AcademicPluralistic The Religious Movements Page Many of the articles reflect Hadden's personal opinion on the subject of cults. The profiles of religious movements are prepared by Hadden's students, and are of varying quality. Most are apparently prepared from a pluralistic point of view

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