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Member Update, 2017, Vol. 8, No. 1

Announcements     ◊      ICSA News      ◊      Member News      ◊      Featured Resources 

News on the cult-related activities of ICSA members (in no particular order). Send us news (past 3 to 6 months or future events) you would like to share with the ICSA community. Tell us who, what, where, when. Biographical sketches of many ICSA members. Please contact ICSA if you want to reproduce any of this information. We will include some photos with each issue. Send us a jpg if you think we might not have a photo of you.

Annual Conference of International Cultic Studies Association. Bordeaux, France. June 29–July 1, 2017. Preconference Workshops: June 28, 2017.
High-Control Groups: Helping Former Members and Families. Santa Fe, New Mexico. November 3-5, 2017.

ICSA’s Recovery From Spiritual Abuse conference in Fort Myers, Florida (April 21–22, 2017) went very well. Approximately 35 people attended. Ron and Vicki Burks, Charlene Edge, Maureen Griffo, Michael Langone, and Bob and Judy Pardon presented. Videos of most presentations will be posted on ICSA’s YouTube channel soon. PowerPoints are available here.

Robin Barbosa’s book I Am Revealed Behind the Ashram Door has been released and is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The book is for anyone ever involved in a cult, thinking of getting involved, not sure if they are getting involved, who knows anyone involved, or who may not be sure whether it is a cult they are getting involved in. It is especially for anyone coming out of or thinking of leaving a high-demand group. It is also for professionals working in the field of cult awareness.

Dylesia Barner presented at the 2017 VACES (Virginia Counselor Education and Supervision) Graduate Student Conference. Her presentation was titled Spiritual Abuse: Implications for Counselors. She reports, “It went well! People were very interested in the topic, considering how taboo it is. They also found the tips I provided helpful for clinical practice. The conference set-up was in breakout sessions so the attendees had to choose between five presentations. Out of the 11 people who attended mine, all 11 opened up and shared that either they, someone they love, or at least one of their clients had been a victim of spiritual abuse. That alone shows how important this topic is!”

Volunteers with NJ Safe & Sound report that Bill S2562/A4244, which calls for a study of predatory alienation and its effects on young adults and senior citizens, unanimously passed the NJ Senate with a vote of 37–0 and the NJ Assembly with a vote of 74–0. NJ Governor Chris Christie has until May 8 to sign the bill, which has robust bipartisan support. More details are available here and here.

Robin Boyle Laisure, with Alan Scheflin and Stephanie Spanos, presented on April 28th at a panel of the Diversity Forum held at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn.

Robin, along with her daughter Andrea Laisure, will present before the Garden City Community Church in Garden City, New York (Long Island) at a Sunday Forum on May 7th at 9:15 a.m. This May, Andrea will receive her Girl Scout Gold Award for her presentations on Staying Safe from toxic relationships. To prepare for her scout project, Andrea accompanied Robin to the ICSA conference in Dallas, Texas last June. As part of the project, Andrea sent a copy of the NJ bill, asking for a study of predatory alienation, to local NY legislators. NY Assemblyman Edward Ra met with Andrea (photo on left) and was very enthusiastic about supporting similar legislation regarding undue influence and human trafficking. Robin will be presenting at the conference in Bordeaux in June 2018.

Robin Boyle and Alan Scheflin contributed chapters to the book Human Trafficking: Emerging Legal Issues and Applications.

Jeff Bryson was invited to write two articles for the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Women and Crime.

Elizabeth Burchard, author of The Cult Next Door: A Manhattan Memoir, gave two talks as part of the Learn at Lunch lecture series titled Deception, Power, and Control in Abusive Relationships and Groups on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, and on Thursday, April 20, 2017, at Fordham University, West Harrison campus.

George D. Chryssides recently gave two talks on new religious movements (NRMs):

  • (2016). Jehovah’s Witnesses. American Academy of Religion, Chaplaincy Session. San Antonio, USA. November 19, 2016. 
  • (2016). Beyond Armageddon—Is the Jehovah’s Witnesses Paradise Earth Conceivable? Postgraduate seminar, Spurgeon’s College, London, December 14, 2016. 

David Clark contributed to the ICSA conference in Poland, Enhancing Professional Knowledge on Preventing Undue Influence and Cults with two sessions, Cult Family intervention Work Including New Twenty-First-Century Technological Factors That Impact Family Outcomes, and Over Three Decades of Generational Factors in International Cult Recovery Work and How to Understand the Healing Process. He also taught a college course on cults in Hyderabad, India.

Neil Damgaard coordinated a lecture by Rev. Robert Pardon, Can Religion Be Destructive? The Psychological Dynamics of Spiritual Abuse, as part of the Religious Literacy series, sponsored by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth campus.

Raffaella Di Marzio reports, “On 10 December 2016 I’ve received a request for help from people close to the Ahmadiyya Community in Italy, who complained about the lack of information about the persecution of Ahmadiyya in Pakistan. You know that on 21 December 2016, finally, the Intergroup of the European Parliament on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) condemned the police raid and the persecution of the community and asked EEAS to intervene in order to protect the community. Camillo Maffia interviewed Imam Ataul Wasih Tariq about the Ahmadiyya Communiity’s situation in Pakistan, and we published the interview in our website.

Charlene Edge’s book Undertow is now available in e-book format and will soon be available on Amazon Kindle and from Barnes & Noble. Charlene visited Rollins College in March to do a reading of Undertow. A review of her book has been published by Kirkus and can be read here. Undertow made it to #78 on Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books About Life in Cults and Oppressive Religious Sects

Friedrich Griess contributed to the ICSA conference in Poland, Enhancing Professional Knowledge on Preventing Undue Influence and Cults, with a presentation titled The Metamorphosis of a Cult, about the Smith’s Friends.

Steven Hassan was interviewed for the article “Cult or Commune? How Utopian Communities Turn Dangerous,” published in Rolling Stone. He was also interviewed on Leah Remini’s A&E special on Scientology.

Michael Kropveld was interviewed by The Western Star in an article titled “Info-Cult Helps Families Understand Groups, Such As One Kayla Reid Immersed In.”

Michael Langone was quoted in the article “The Story Behind the Lavish Chinese Dance Shen Yun,” published in Seven Days.

John Huddle and the Faith Freedom Fund launched a new website. John also recently held a press conference calling for the local DSS to reopen a 2015 investigation into WOFF. Channel 7 from Greenville and Channel 13 from Asheville, North Carolina, and also local papers and the AP covered the event. John’s blog, has both videos. Other events have included the following:

  • Saturday, March 11th at the Spindale House in Spindale, North Carolina—hosted, along with some other survivors, a survivor’s forum. 
  • March 16th—spoke at Isothermal Community College on the subject Recruiting Techniques of Dangerous Groups

Katharina Meredith ran her first workshop for second-generation adults (SGAs) in German. She plans to offer more workshops in the future.

Catherine Moestue’s ICSA Today article, “You Don’t Have to Be a Fool To Be Fooled,” was republished on ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Cathrine_Moestue/contributions

Rick Ross has been involved in several projects over the past few months:

Colleen Russell is offering two support groups. The first is an online workshop: Behave, Believe, Become—Or Not! The second workshop, A Hybrid Supportive Therapy Group for Former Members Including Those Born and Raised, is offered both in person and through online video. Contact Colleen: 415-785-3513; crussellmft@earthlink.net; www.colleenrussellmft.com

Dan Shaw’s experience in Siddha Yoga was explored in an article, “This Article Won’t Change Your Mind,” published in The Atlantic.

On November 28, 2016, Stephen Mutch (Honorary Fellow, Macquarie University, Sydney, ICSA member, and IJCS Editorial Board member) presented his paper Policy Approaches to Combating the Religious and Ideological Causes of Terrorism: Insights from the Study of Religious Cults at the Counter-Terrorism Law conference hosted in Shanghai, China by the Shanghai Municipal Government and the East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPL). 

Alex Stein was interviewed for Broadly in an article titled “A Cult Member Turned Expert Explains How Anyone Can Be Brainwashed.”

Joseph Szimhart won the jury award for a three-person show in the fall at Freyberger Gallery, Penn State Berks campus, with his Jackrabbit Stew painting.

José Miguel Cuevas, Miguel Perlado, and Omar Saldana participated in a conference in Malaga, March 3–4, 2017: Encuentro Nacional: Professionales, familiars, y ex-miembros de sectas.

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