The list offered included three names. Two, are of course old Scientology favorites Gordon Melton and his traveling companion James Lewis (also listed on CAN's professional referral list). Both Mr. Melton and Mr. Lewis have received money from groups (e.g. Aum of Japan) often-called "cults."
Benjamin Zablocki, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University has said, "A major obstacle toward the sort of progress desired is the cloud of secrecy that surrounds the funding of research on NRMs. The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied...in the form of subvention of research expenses, subvention of publications, opportunities to sponsor and attend conferences, or direct fees for services, this money is not insignificant, and its influence on research findings and positions taken on scholarly disputes is largely unknown. This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal. I do think there needs to be some more public accounting of where the money is coming from and what safeguards have been taken to assure that this money is not interfering with scientific objectivity."
But the third name is somewhat new--Catherine Wessinger, an academic at Loyola University in New Orleans. She is the author of a treatise titled "Religious Intolerance--not 'Cults'--Is the Problem." Essentially, this paper posits the theory that somehow the word "cult" itself has now become an expression of "religious intolerance." And perhaps most criticism of such controversial and often destructive groups is intolerant too.
It is important to note that Ms. Wessinger seems to place the principle blame for the largest recorded cult suicide/murder in history, the "People's Temple" at "Jonestown" (1978), upon its former members, government officials and investigators--instead of the obvious culprit Jim Jones. The Loyola academic claimed in a "draft article" to "appear as Chapter Three" within her book, "How the Millennium Comes Violently"---that there might have even been a CIA conspiracy concerning Jonestown. Ms. Wessinger states, "the confrontation that immediately provoked the murders and mass suicide was the visit of Representative Leo Ryan." In other words, if this United States Congressman had chosen instead to ignore serious complaints from his constituents about abuses at Jonestown--everything somehow might have been OK.
One Jonestown suicide note read they killed themselves--"because you [the outside world] would not let us live in peace." Ms. Wessinger offers as her final eulogy a response to that note's author--"Peoples Temple's ultimate concern was preserved." Ms. Wessinger has stated--"If Jones and his community had succeeded in creating their Promised Land, they would still be here. But due to the attacks and investigations they endured, they opted for the Gnostic view that devalued this world." Once again, she fails to include the one man actually responsible for the tragedy--Jim Jones.
Like Ms. Wessinger, the new CAN attempts to skirt the real issues and obscure the facts regarding The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. and its terrible end. Of course this should come as no shock to those who already know that the "new Cult Awareness Network" seems to be little more than a Church of Scientology front.
In its "Uganda Alert" CAN's editor laments the "callous, biased reports" about the most recent cult suicide/murder. He is offended by "terms like 'doomsday sect'" and "suicide pact." Despite the well-corroborated facts reported about the group, which indeed indicate its predilection for setting "doomsday" dates and apparent agreement/"pact" to assemble for the end.
First Joseph Kibweteere, the cult's leader--set the date for the end at December 31, 1999, but when that date passed without incident, he moved his "doomsday" prediction to December of this year. Later seemingly convinced by a "vision" from the "Virgin Mary"--the date became March 17, 2000.
The "new CAN" then compares the fiery deaths of hundreds of cult members and their children, incinerated within their church--to shootings at "McDonalds" and "U.S. Postal Station murders." Somehow the editor of this CAN article seems to feel citing such unrelated violence will obscure and/or ameliorate the tragic truth. That is, another destructive cult simply imploded under the control of its leader.
Clearly, witnesses who met with members and knew the group first hand said the adults willingly gave up their lives under the influence of Kibweteere. But the bodies of at least 78 children offer a grim reminder that most often--kids are unable to make their own choices within destructive cults. In fact, the authorities in Uganda consider the children's deaths murder.
Catherine Wessinger no doubt can be relied upon by the new CAN to offer up more apologies for cult behavior in Uganda. After all, she once offered the tortured logic that--"The outcome with Heaven's Gate [somehow] call[ed] into question traditional Hindu beliefs and practices."
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Professor of Psychology at Haifa University asserted that--"In every single case since the Jonestown tragedy, statements by ex-members turned out to be more accurate than those of apologists and NRM researchers. Our conflicting biases [as New Religious Movement NRM scholars] should naturally lead to debates and controversy. It is indeed baffling that ...[amongst one] particular research network the strange, deafening, silence of conformity. Scholars in perfect agreement around a thorny issue are like the dog that didn't bark. They should make us curious, if not outright suspicious."