International Cultic Studies Association
|Genre||Cults, religion, psychology|
|Founded||1979, as American Family Foundation, renamed 2004|
|Headquarters||Florida, United States|
|Key people||Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., executive director|
|Products||Cultic Studies Review|
|Website||Official ICSA home page|
The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is a non-profit anti-cult organization focusing on groups it defines as "cultic" and their processes. It publishes the scholarly journal Cultic Studies Review and other materials.
ICSA began in 1979 as the American Family Foundation (AFF) — one of several dozen disparate parents' groups founded in the late 1970s by concerned parents.
The founder was Kay Barney, a retired Raytheon International Affairs Director, whose daughter had become involved with the Unification Church, Barney wished to address the field professionally and scientifically and so founded AFF as a non-profit tax-exempt organization for research and education.
In 2004, the organization took the name International Cultic Studies Association, "to better reflect the organization's focus and increasingly international and scholarly dimensions".
Activities & influence
Michael Langone, ICSA's Executive Director, defines a cult as "a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the group’s leader, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community...Although many cult members eventually walk out on their own, many, if not most, who leave cults on their own are psychologically harmed, often in ways they do not understand. Some cult members never leave, and some of these are severely harmed. There is no way to predict who will leave, who won’t leave, or who will be harmed."
Assistance and education
The ICSA offers assistance and education relating to such groups:
- It offers assistance for "those who have been adversely affected by a cultic experience or who seek to help others or who are simply interested in the subject. This assistance includes an information service for families, clergy, students, and professionals.
- It offers education on the subject of cults.
- It publishes the online scholarly journal Cultic Studies Review 
- It maintains an electronic library on the Internet with information on groups and issues regarding psychological manipulation and abuse. There is also an online archive offering abstracts of all articles of the Cultic Studies Review.
- It conducts annual conferences for professionals and workshops for families, former members and mental health professionals.
Edelman & Richardson (2005) state that the China has borrowed heavily from Western anti-cult movements, such as ICSA, to bolster their view of non-mainstream religious groups, and so the support campaigns of oppression against them. In a previous article Richardson & Shterin (2000) had noted that in Russia, evangelic movements had borrowed Western anti-cult rhetoric – such as that of ICSA – to play on Russian government worries over religious minorities.
In their 2009 book, Cults and New Religions: A Brief History, sociologists Douglas Cowan and David Bromley describe the ICSA as a "secular anticult" organization. They point out that the ICSA provides no indication of how many of their so-called characteristics are necessary for a group to be considered "cultic." The checklist creators do not adequately define how much of certain practices or behaviors would constitute "excessive," nor do they provide evidence that any of the practices listed are innately harmful. Finally, Cowan and Bromley criticize the ICSA list as being so broad that even mainstream organizations such as Evangelical Protestantism, the Roman Catholic Church, Buddhism and Hinduism fall within the criteria.
Relation to the religious countercult movement
Michael Langone criticized Massimo Introvigne for proposing a typological distinction between the the secular anti-cult and the religious counter-cult (he acknowledged, but did not limit his analysis to evangelical Christians) that was “an oversimplication and subtly derogatory” that “leads to a construction or exaggeration of differences, as well as an underestimation of similarities” 
- Richardson, James T.; Shterin, Marat S. (2000). "Effects of the Western anti-cult movement on development of laws concerning religion in post-Communist Russia". Journal of Church and State 42 (2): 247. "Another source of the Western anti-cult material have been "secular" anti-cult organizations, notably the French ADFI, the British FAIR (Family, Action Information and Resource; "R" used to stand for "Rescue"), the "old" CAN (Cult Awareness Network) and the American Family Foundation (AFF)"
- Cowan, Douglas E. and Bromley, David G. ‘’Cults and New Religions: A Brief History.’’ Blackwell Publishing. 2009. Pages 4, 219-222. ISBN 987-1-4051-6128-2
- George D. Chryssides; Margaret Wilkins (10 May 2006). A Reader in New Religious Movements: Readings in the Study of New Religious Movements. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 360. ISBN 978-0-8264-6168-1. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Dole, A. A. (1989). "Book review". Journal of Religion & Health 28 (3): 245–246. doi:10.1007/BF00987757.
- Kay H. Barney Raytheon Affiliation Kay H. Barney ZoomInfo Profile
- Langone, M. (2001). "History of the American Family Foundation". Cultic Studies Review 1 (1).
- Cultic Studies: Information about Cults and Psychological Manipulation, Cultic Studies Journal, Web site. retrieved 1/4/07.
- Cults Questions and Answers Langone, Michael, 1988
- Assistance Cultic Studies: Information about Cults and Psychological Manipulation
- Study Guides (Collections Index)
- Study Guide: Cults 101 - Getting Started
- Cultic Studies Review
- Edelman, Bryan; Richardson, James T. (2005). "Imposed limitations on freedom of religion in China and the margin of appreciation doctrine: a legal analysis of the crackdown on the Falun Gong and other "evil cults"". Journal of Church and State 47 (2): p243.
- Douglas E. Cowan (2002) Exits and Migrations: Foregrounding the Christian Counter-Cult, Journal of Contemporary Religion, 17:3, 339-354, DOI:10.1080/1353790022000008271
- Critics and followers of Falun Gong: Adherents find fulfillment, but detractors call movement a cult, Vanessa Hua, San Francisco Chronicle, December 18, 2005
- Defining 'cults' is complex: Polygamists, former members speak out at Denver meetings, Deseret Morning News, Ben Winslow, June 24, 2006
- Combatants in Cult War Attempt Reconciliation: Peacemaking conference is held near Seattle, Don Lattin, Religion Writer, San Francisco Chronicle, May 1, 2000