"Only source of funds" 

 Introvigne's lawyer denies Introvigne's claim that the Piedmont Region is   CESNUR's "only source of funds"  

By Miguel Martinez. 

One year ago, when the CESNUR Critical Page first came out, we offered "unlimited space" to Dr Introvigne, should he wish to reply to our statements. Now, after a year of threats, insults and censorship, we are glad to say that Dr Introvigne has taken this opportunity, albeit through his lawyer.  
However, he also asks us to change the title of our essay - CESNUR uses public funds for a study labelling all its critics as 'extreme terrorists' 
His lawyer says that, if CESNUR had actually used public funds for this study, it would be committing a  

"specific felony i.e. the use of funds from the Region of Piedmont for aims other than those these funds were intended for. Funds received by CESNUR from the Region of Piedmont, in facts, are intended for the management of the library and the organization of CESNUR conferences. Any other use of these funds would amount of a criminal offense.

It is interesting to have a lawyer say so. I never claimed that CESNUR was committing a felony, only that as an Italian taxpayer I disliked having to promote the activities of a person who publicly labels anyone disagreeing with him as a "terrorist," including myself.  
The lawyer's letter also says that the electricity costs and phone bills involved in three month's computer trolling were not paid for by the Italian tax payer.  
She does not tell us however who paid for Dr Introvigne's trip to the ASR conference in Chicago. I am not saying the Piedmont government did, I am merely asking who did.  
Nor does she explain who pays for the CESNUR website which immediately published the CESNUR "study." (http://www.cesnur.org/testi/anticult_terror.htm) Indeed, the "study" has not been published anywhere else yet.  
The basic issue, however, is another:  
  • The study we are discussing was certainly one of CESNUR's "projects." 

  • CESNUR claims that the Piedmont government is its main or even only source of funds. 

This is what the CESNUR homepage has to say (http://www.cesnur.org/about.htm):  
"CESNUR International was recognized as a public non-profit entity in 1996 by the Italian authorities, who are the main current contributors to its projects. It is also financed by royalties on the books it publishes with different publishers, and by contributions of the members. As a public non-profit entity, accounts of its projects are filed with the Region of Piedmont, in Italy." 

Not only is CESNUR supported by the State - it virtually claims that it is the State (a "public non-profit entity"), and that "Italian authorities" contribute to its "projects", not just to its book collections.  
On June 21st, 1999, Dr Introvigne signed a post, in his role as "Managing Director of CESNUR", on NUREL (Home Page: http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/, an academic mailing list on new religions managed by Dr Irving Hexham of the University of Calgary in Canada) - also posted in Italian on the Usenet by Introvigne's charismatic allies of Una voce grida! - where he explicitly said:  [1]  
"Kelebek promotes a full-scale information warfare against CESNUR, asking anti-cultists and naive Web passers-by to fload [sic] CESNUR's E-mailbox with messages of protest and to write to the State of Piedmont, CESNUR's only source of funds.

Only source of funds... (for further information on the issue discussed by Introvigne, see here). Introvigne then goes on to say:  
"State funds are strictly used by CESNUR for its scholarly activities.

Now, a paper - like the "anti-terrorism" one we are discussing - presented at a convention of the Association for Sociology of Religion on August 5th, 1999, should certainly be considered a "scholarly activity," at least by its author.  
  • The study was not made privately by Dr Introvigne. According to Introvigne himself, it was carried out at the CESNUR office, using the computers of the office, by a group of anonymous, self-styled "CESNUR students". 

  • Now, CESNUR troll "Armando Cossutta" claims that CESNUR office is fundamentally a library. Writing in a polemical context during the "inflatable doll" campaign, "Cossutta" says:  [2] 
  • "you have obviously never been to CESNUR, otherwise you would be aware that CESNUR is mainly a LIBRARY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC (theoretically only three hours a day, actually often in the afternoons and on holidays too) which offers its users the use of its computers". 

"Cossutta" states in capital letters (the emphasis is in the original) that CESNUR is "mainly a library", which is just what Introvigne's lawyer admits the Italian taxpayers pay for.  

However, it is Introvigne who claims in the very study that we are discussing that the study was conducted from the CESNUR library 

"A small group of students associated with CESNUR's library in Turin, Italy, conducted a covert participant observation programme for more than three months extending from the original Italian to some non-Italian newsgroups as well [...] Indeed, all messages emanating from the original group involved in the research were posted from two computers in CESNUR's Turin library, using the same operating system.

  • So the question "who paid for the CESNUR anti-terrorism study" is the same as the question, who pays for the CESNUR library? Who pays the rent? Who bought the computers? 

  • Introvigne's lawyer seems to confirm that these are paid for by the Piedmont government. 

We therefore have two valid reasons for having chosen the title we used for our study.  
The first is, that CESNUR publicly claims that its "scholarly activities" are paid for by the Italian taxpayer, sometimes presented as the "only" financial backer, at other times as the "main" one.  
Second, even CESNUR's lawyer claims that the library is paid for by the Italian taxpayer; but - according to CESNUR militants - the library is synonymous with CESNUR, and Introvigne claims that the study we are talking about was done from the library, by people "associated" with the library.  
Of course there is another possibility, but unfortunately this would mean Introvigne is not telling the truth when he boasts of being only/mainly funded by the State.  
It may be that the Italian public authorities do not pay the expenses of the CESNUR office/library. Introvigne has previously denied that the public authorities pay for CESNUR's legal expenses; this time his lawyer denies they pay for CESNUR's study projects, its phone and electricity bills. Though her letter is anything but clear, it may actually be that we taxpayers only pay for selective purchase of some books (many books are of course donated, so in this case we the people would not even be paying for all the books in the CESNUR library).  
If Introvigne's lawyer provides evidence of this, we shall be glad to amend our original title.  
If we do so, of course, CESNUR should immediately correct its web page too, and explain who does pay for what are presumably the main expenses for any association: rent, computers, travel by the directors and so on, specifying that Italian "public authorities" only help out with marginal expenses.  

From: Irving Hexham  
To: nurel-l@majordomo.ucalgary.ca  
Subject: CESNUR  
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 22:24:23 -0600 (Mountain Daylight Time)  
X-Mailer: Simeon for Win32 Version 4.1.5 Build (43)  
X-Authentication: none  
Sender: owner-nurel-l@majordomo.ucalgary.ca  
Reply-To: Irving Hexham  

From: Massimo Introvigne  

Some days ago CESNUR lawyers and the Italian Internet provider for the notorious anti-CESNUR site reached a settlement, and the provider agreed to discontinue the site. This small legal victory by CESNUR (largely symbolic, since the site can be mirrored in countries where providers have no legal liability, making actions hopelessly long) did not please the anti-CESNUR activists.  
From their new home their site Kelebek promotes a full-scale information warfare against CESNUR, asking anti-cultists and naive Web passers-by to fload CESNUR's E-mailbox with messages of protest and to write to the State of Piedmont, CESNUR's only source of funds. All this in the name of a battle against Internet censorship, while the real censorship comes from those willing to strangle CESNUR by cutting off its funding.  
Obviously State funds are strictly used by CESNUR for its scholarly activities. Legal actions are funded from the private pockets of the directors and, occasionally, from lawyers themselves who donate their work on a pro bono basis.  
The new home of the anti-CESNUR Web site is www.ummah.net, a well-known Islamic fundamentalist site. Go there, click on "action", and you realize that this is a gateway to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Talebans, and other similar organizations. You will be exposed to propaganda against the U.S. and Israel and in favour, among others but quite prominently, of Saddam Hussein, and may read anti-Christian Islamic texts (the latter have always been included in the anti-CESNUR site Kelebek: apparently its Christian anti-cult supporters did not care).  
At least, this time there is a clear international political signature.  
Friends of the anti-CESNUR Web site now know what kind of international network they are supporting. CESNUR, by the way, never dealt with Islam in its activity (oriented towards NEW religions) except that it published a booklet on Islam in its collection "Religioni e movimenti", a booklet quite well received in the mainline Islamic community.  

Massimo Introvigne  
Managing Director, CESNUR  



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