Does CESNUR co-operate with the new CAN?

By Harry & Martini, Christmas 1998.

Last December, we started to publish the complete story [1] on how and why the new Cult Awareness Network changed direction and is now accused of being a Scientology front group.

Dr. Raffaella di Marzio, in charge of the Roman branch of G.R.I.S. (Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione sulle Sette) in her review [2] of the CESNUR conference held in Turin, Italy, last September, writes she met a young Scientologist about whom we wrote a lot [3]) who «introduced himself as the representative of the Italian branch of CAN (Cult Awareness Network)».

«Among other things» she says «this man informed me that CESNUR as well receives help requests from people who have problems caused by "religious minorities", and as it is not a task of CESNUR's to provide such an assistance, they address people also to CAN

Today, after more that one month since the publication of di Marzio's article, the director of CESNUR has not publicly denied this claim that we consider very serious.

Moreover, oddly enough the new Cult Awareness Network promotes Massimo Introvigne's work in its first and important newsletter [4] - a bulletin with openly propagandistic tones - introducing Mr. Introvigne as «a CAN professional referral»:

«A study released in December 1997 by the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) titled "Religious Liberty in Europe" (authored by Professor Massimo Introvigne, a CAN professional referral) states that a network of psychiatric, legal, media and socialist groups are pressuring European governments to outlaw or curtail well-known religious organizations. The study also covers the myths of brainwashing and mind control clearly saying such theories are completely unscientific. [5] It calls for international dialogue to prevent alarmist actions. Please contact CAN if you would like a copy or check out the webpage of CESNUR»

We then learn that last year the new CAN «sent to the press a long list of "experts"» [6] to be contacted in order to get "objective information" about religious minorities (our thoughts run to Scientology, as most new CAN activists are members of Scientology). Among the 22 lucky individuals selected by CAN [7] the fourth entry is J. Gordon Melton and the institute he founded in California (ISAR); Melton is the director of the American branch of CESNUR and sits on the board of directors of the network. Recently, the list of experts has been joined by Eileen Barker (see the official pages of the new CAN), who also sits on the board of directors of CESNUR International (oddly enough, in this list we do not see any of those people Introvigne would address as "anti-cult movement activists hostile to Scientology" - just to use his wordings).

In May 1998 [8] Introvigne commented: «Ironically, the name and the logo of the "Cult Awareness Network (CAN)" were purchased by a coalition of activists who fight for religious freedom, among which a number of Scientologists» [9]

At this point we wish that the managing Director of CESNUR had the common sense to deny any form of co-operation with the new CAN.

[See also Introvigne replies to our article about the new CAN]


[1] See the index of published articles on the Italian "Xenu" website.

[2] CESNUR '98 Conference - Facts, impressions, meetings and "events", minor and major, at an international meeting, by Dr. Raffaella Di Marzio of the Roman office of G.R.I.S.

[3] See Is Scientology investigating us? - The strange story of the mysterious MIAS (Italian Anti-Cult Movement), their lies and connections with the Church of Scientology. By Martini, Christmas 1998.

[4] See this page in the new CAN web site.

[5] For complete information about the position of CESNUR on the issue see the section CESNUR and "brainwashing" in the general index.

[6] See for example Melton regardered as an "expert" by the new CAN ("Giving Cults A Good Name", by Jeannette Walls, from Esquire Magazine, June 1997).

[7] We publish the press release of the new CAN: 

Where to go for factual information on new religions

If you need information about new religions, there are many scholars and theologians who may be contacted for objective information:

Dick Anthony  
809 Evelyn Ave  
Albany, CA 94706  

Dr. Newton Maloney  
Professor of Psychology  
Fuller Theological Seminary  
180 N. Oakland Ave.  
Pasadena, CA 91101  

Dr. Philip Arnold  
Religion Crisis Task Force  
2444 Times, Suite 236-M  
Houston, TX 77005  

Dr. J. Gordon Melton  
Institute for the Study of American Religions  
P.O. Box 90709  
Santa Barbara, CA 93190  

Lee Boothby, General Counsel  
Americans United for Separation of Church and State  
4545 42nd St. N.W., Suite 201  
Washington, DC 20016  

Rev. Jim Nicholls  
Voice of Freedom  
P.O. Box 1005  
York, PA 17405  

Dr. David Bromley  
Virginia Commonwealth University  
312 N. Shafer St.  
Richmond, VA 23285  

Professor Gerry O'Sullivan  
Fordham University  
Dealy Hall  
Bronx, NY 10458  

Dr. Isaac N. Brooks Jr.  
National Task Force on Religious Freedom Legislation and Litigation  
5900 Cable Ave.  
Camp Springs, MD 20746  

Dr. James Richardson  
Center for Justice Studies  
University for Nevada-Reno  
2075 Marlette Ave.  
Reno, NV 89503  

Dr. William Cenkner  
School of Religious Studies  
The Catholic University of America  
Washington, DC 20064  

Thomas Robbins  
427 4th St. SW Apt. A-8  
Rochester, MN 55902  

Barry Fisher  
2049 Century Park East  
Suite 3160  
Los Angeles, CA 90067  

Dr. George Robertson  
Friends of Freedom  
76 Cranbrook Road, Suite 194  
Hunt Valley, MD 21030  

Dr. Edward Gaffney  
Valparaiso School of Law  
565 S. Greenwich St.  
Valparaiso, IN 46383  

Dr. James D. Tabor  
Associate Professor  
Department of Religious Studies  
University of North Carolina  
Charlotte, NC 28223  

Dr. Jeffrey Hadden  
Department of Sociology  
University of Virginia - Charlottesville  
Charlottesville, VA 22903  

Dr. James E. Wood  
Professor of Church/State Studies  
Baylor University  
Waco, TX 76798  

Dr. Lonnie Kliever, Chairman  
Department of Religious Studies  
Southern Methodist University  
Dallas, TX 75275-0202  

Dr. Stuart Wright  
Professor of Sociology  
Lamar University  
Beaumont, TX 77710  

Dr. James Lewis  
Association of World Academics for Religious Education  
160 N. Fairview Ave., Suite D-282  
Goleta, CA 93117  

Dr. Hubert G. Locke  
Professor and Dean Emeritus  
Graduate School of Public Affairs  
University of Washington  
Seattle, WA 98195 

[8] Massimo Introvigne speaking at the Department of Neuro-Science, Section of Psychiatry, University of Turin, May 30th, 1998. 

[9] The fact that a group of dedicated Scientologists claims to "fight for religious freedom" is quite a curious statement. With reference to this, Mr. Giuseppe Ferrari, national secretary of GRIS, in an interview to the Catholic daily Avvenire (Dec.1st, 1998) said: «one should verify whether they are claiming just their own freedom, riding roughshod over other people's rights».

In fact, to be tolerant one must primarily recognize the dignity of his/her interlocutor. On the contrary L. Ron Hubbard showed he was unable to accept criticism, even if legitimate: the doctrine of Scientology labels as a "suppressive person" (synonymous of mentally ill, ugly, criminal) whoever dares to question its validity or does not approve its methods. 

Such a perspective does not encourage "religious freedom" at all, as this concept implies respect for others - unless it is a meaningless cliché used for mere propaganda. The recognition of a religious status implies tax exemption and other benefits, and grants some impunity: for Scientology it could mean avoiding the payment of «a 240 millions lira fine [123.000 Euros] after having evaded taxes for 410 million lira» [212.000 Euros] (Niente tasse per Scientology, by Cinzia Sasso, La Repubblica, Oct.15th 1998).

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