Brainwashed! Scholars of cults accuse each other of bad faith - 1998-12-01
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.