INFORM

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INFORM (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements)
Informlogosmalla.gif
Most People Have An Opinion About Religious Movements ... INFORM has the Facts
Formation 1988
Founder Eileen Barker
Type Non-profit charity
Headquarters London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Membership religious, secular
Board of Governors Chair
Eileen Barker
Board of Governors Chair
James A. Beckford
Board of Governors Chair
Rev. Andrew Maguire
Director
Nick Parke
Key people
James A. Beckford, Rev. Andrew Maguire, Sarah Jane Harvey, Sibyl Macfarlane, Suzanne Newcombe, Silke Steidinger, Adviya Khan
Affiliations London School of Economics, Methodist Church, Church of England, Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, St Clement Danes, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Baroness Sally Greengross of Notting Hill
Staff 7
Website inform.ac

INFORM (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements) is an independent registered charity[1] located at the London School of Economics. It was founded in 1988 by the sociologist of religion, Eileen Barker, with funding from the British Home Office, Britain’s mainstream churches, foundations and enquirers.[2][3] Its stated aim is to provide neutral, objective and up-to-date information on new religious movements (NRMs) to government officials, scholars, the media, and members of the general public, in particular to relatives of people who have joined a new religious movement.,[4][5][6] as well as religious or spiritual seekers[7]

History[edit]

The founding of INFORM was motivated by a shared impression among clergy and academics that groups hostile to cults often aimed to feed rather than alleviate enquirers' fears.[8] The British Home Office had received many complaints related to NRMs from concerned parents, but did not feel that any of the existing counter-cult and anti-cult groups deserved state funding.[8] Answering the need for a body that would disseminate well-researched, impartial, and easily understood[7] information, Eileen Barker, a leading sociologist of religion based at the London School of Economics and Political Science, established INFORM in 1988 with the support of the Home Office, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Hume and other mainstream churches.[2][6][8][9]

Activities[edit]

INFORM, based at the London School of Economics and Political Science, collects information on new religious movements and makes this data available to all interested parties – government officials, researchers and the media as well as relatives of people who have joined a new religious movement.[4][8] Seeking to dispel the often inaccurate and distorted information disseminated about new religious movements in the media, INFORM aims to provide reliable information, based on in-depth research, about the character, policy and origins of new religious movements, as well as information about what motivates converts, and how movement membership tends to affect members' subsequent lives and careers.[4]

Eileen Barker advises that the media is the most influential source of information about New Religious Movements and that the majority of that information is of a negative nature. The media have an interest in attracting and keeping readers, most of whom are likely to be attracted by sensational stories. Suppliers of information may well have an agenda that leads them to adjust their product to meet a perceived demand.[10]

INFORM does not itself perform counselling, but refers enquirers to a nationwide network of qualified experts.[2] Where parents have lost all contact with their son or daughter, INFORM may be able to put them in touch with a go-between who has established lines of communication to the movement.[11] In some instances, INFORM has arranged meetings between families and founders or officials of new religious movements.[4]

Reception[edit]

In a book of essays in tribute of Eileen Barker, Bryan R. Wilson, a leading scholar of religion from Oxford University, stated that INFORM has often managed to resolve or defuse the deeply emotional conflicts surrounding membership in a new religious movement.[4]

INFORM has been criticised by anti-cult organisations, in particular the Family Action Information Resource (FAIR) chaired by former Conservative Home Office minister and anti-cult campaigner Tom Sackville, who cut INFORM's Home Office funding in 1997.[12] In 1999, it was reported that INFORM was facing closure, due to lack of funds.[13]

By 2000, Home Office funding was restored, prompting Sackville to warn that INFORM might provide government with bad advice, adding, "I cancelled INFORM's grant and I think it's absurd that it's been brought back."[12] Criticism of INFORM has focused on Barker's reluctance to condemn all new religions as "cults".[12] Barker responded to the criticism by saying, "We are not cult apologists. 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."[12]

Funding[edit]

INFORM has a policy of not accepting money from any of the new religious movements or any other organisation that might wish to prejudice the outcome of its research. INFORM receives funding from the British Home Office; mainstream Churches; and foundations including Smith's, J.P.Getty, Nuffield, Wates, and the Jerusalem Trust. Other organisations have given assistance either with grants or in kind. In addition, INFORM receives some donations from enquirers and makes small profits from its seminars and the sale of literature.[3]

Articles[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Information Network Focus on Religious Movements, Registered Charity no. 801729 at the Charity Commission
  2. ^ a b c Beckford & Richardson 2003, p. 5
  3. ^ a b [1] Information about Inform published by INFORM, 2005
  4. ^ a b c d e Wilson 2003, p. 20
  5. ^ ICSA 2009
  6. ^ a b Fautré 2006, p. 328
  7. ^ a b Barker, E., (2006) 'What should we do about the Cults? Policies, Information and the Perspective of INFORM', in The New Religious Question: State Regulation or State Interference? (La nouvelle question religieuse: Régulation ou ingérence de l'État?), P. Côté and T.J. Gunn, Editors. Peter Lang: Brussels. p. 371-395.
  8. ^ a b c d Chryssides 1999a, p. 351
  9. ^ Chryssides 1999b, p. 270
  10. ^ The New Religious Question: State Regulation or State Interference? Edited by Pauline Cotee and Jeremy Gunn, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2006: 374-375.
  11. ^ Chryssides & Wilkins 2006, p. 375
  12. ^ a b c d Telegraph staff 2000
  13. ^ Thomson 1999

References[edit]

External links[edit]