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The following article was authored by the ICSA Board of Directors  

It was published in ICSA Today2013, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 2-7


Dialogue and Cultic Studies: Why Dialogue Benefits the Cultic Studies Field

A Message From the Directors of ICSA

The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA—formerly American Family Foundation, AFF[1]), in its nearly thirty-five-year history, has always been committed to freedom of expression, freedom of mind,[2] openness, and dialogue. During the past 15 years, an appreciation for these values has increased throughout ICSA’s broad network. This change is particularly evident at the organization’s annual conference, where participants can now choose to accept, reject, or study further a much wider variety of viewpoints than would have been available to them 30 years ago. We wish to reflect on these changes so that others will better understand and appreciate both why we welcome diverse views, and why we also can honor people with opposing viewpoints.[3]

Historically, the culticstudies field[4]- has seen its share of black-and-white thinking and polarization of views. In the field’s early days, splits resulted, at least in part, from (a) the collision of the intense emotional impact cultic-group affiliation had on some people and (b) the reactions of some academics to deprogramming and proposals for conservatorship legislation that would have enabled parents to obtain legal permission to forcibly remove adult children from groups.

As early as the 1970s, when the field was new and the term cultic studies was not even used, there were two clearly established camps: the so-called “anticult movement” (ACM) and an interest group of academics, the so-called “procultists.” Helping professionals (mostly mental health, but also some clergy) could be found in both camps, although most leaned toward the ACM because families and former cult members who were harmed were coming to them for assistance.[5]