Analysis of “Cult/Brainwashing Cases and Freedom of Religion” by James T. Richardson

Topics: Cult, Religion, Mind control Pages: 4 (1218 words) Published: October 4, 2008
What is the primary question addressed in this article? What can we learn from this article?

Primarily this article delves into detail about certain court cases involving high tolerance sects, referred to as “cults” and ex-members attempting to sue said cult for various different reasons. The most detailed cases described by the author are of cases in which the plaintiff is accusing the so-called cult of brainwashing the person into joining; seen in cases such as George v. ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Conciousness) as well as Molko and Leal v. The Unification Church [Richardson (1990): 3, 8]. The foremost problem that this presents is whether or not brainwashing is a successful practice that members of sects or “cults” use to bring in new members.

A key person in most cases using the accusation of brainwashing in order to bring a case against a cult religion is Dr. Margaret Singer [Richardson (1990): 3]. She has been used to examine plaintiffs for their emotional distress, symptoms of mental disorders, and come to conclusions if indeed they were brainwashed. Many psychologists and sociologists disagree with her positions, having posted amicus curiae briefs in appeals courts attempting to limit use of “brainwashing” accusations in cult cases. These scholars claim that psychologists like Dr. Singer ignore a large portion of studies done on new religions that reveal it is unlikely that new members are coerced into joining [Richardson (1990): 2-3]. It represents the research that scholars have put into participants joining new religions voluntarily, for whichever reasons they feel to choose using their free will. This includes the fact that in the 1960’s many people chose different lifestyles that some would refer to as “hippies” or “beatniks” instead of what they believe is a hypocritical path following the Second World War and other stresses of the world. The brief also applied that groups such as the Hare Krishna and Unification...
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