Cult advisers in clash over clampdown

The Daily Telegraph London / July 7, 2000

THE Government has promised to take a closer look at religious sects following the recent hullabaloo over the Jesus Christians. But it may be hampered by bad advice, according to one cult watchdog.

Tom Sackville, the former Tory Home Office minister and anti-cult campaigner, abolished government funding for the Information Network Focus on Religious Movement's (Inform) in 1997, only to see it reinstated this year.

"I cancelled Inform's grant and I think it's absurd that it's been brought back," he said. Inform is the result of research carried out by Professor Eileen Barker at the London School of Economics. It has been criticised by other cult watchdogs, including Mr Sackville's own Family Action Information Resource (Fair), because she refuses to condemn all "new religions" as cults.

"The Government is taking non-judgemental advice as an excuse for its non-action on cults," says Sackville.

But Professor Barker is short with her critics. "We are not cult apologists," she says. "People make a lot of noise without doing serious research - so much so that they can end up sounding as closed to reason as the cults they're attacking. Besides, I imagine Fair was disappointed not to get our funding."

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