Most People Have An Opinion About Religious Movements ... INFORM has the Facts
|Headquarters||London School of Economics, United Kingdom|
|Board of Governors Chair||Eileen Barker|
|Board of Governors Chair||James A. Beckford|
|Board of Governors Chair||Rev. Andrew Maguire|
|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|
INFORM (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements) is an independent registered charity 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. 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., as well as religious or spiritual seekers
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. 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. Answering the need for a body that would disseminate well-researched, impartial, and easily understood 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.
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. 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.
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.
INFORM does not itself perform counselling, but refers enquirers to a nationwide network of qualified experts. 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. In some instances, INFORM has arranged meetings between families and founders or officials of new religious movements.
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.
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. In 1999, it was reported that INFORM was facing closure, due to lack of funds.
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." Criticism of INFORM has focused on Barker's reluctance to condemn all new religions as "cults". 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."
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.
- "Cults need vigilance, not alarmism", article in the Church Times, 2008-06-20, by James A. Beckford, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and chairman of INFORM’s management committee
- Information Network Focus on Religious Movements, Registered Charity no. 801729 at the Charity Commission
- Beckford & Richardson 2003, p. 5
-  Information about Inform published by INFORM, 2005
- Wilson 2003, p. 20
- ICSA 2009
- Fautré 2006, p. 328
- 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.
- Chryssides 1999a, p. 351
- Chryssides 1999b, p. 270
- The New Religious Question: State Regulation or State Interference? Edited by Pauline Cotee and Jeremy Gunn, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2006: 374-375.
- Chryssides & Wilkins 2006, p. 375
- Telegraph staff 2000
- Thomson 1999
- Beckford, James A.; Richardson, James T. (2003), "Introduction", in Beckford, James A.; Richardson, James T., Challenging religion: essays in honour of Eileen Barker, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, ISBN 978-0-415-30948-6
- Chryssides, George D. (1999a), Exploring New Religions, Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-8264-5959-6
- Chryssides, George D. (1999b), "Britain's anti-cult movement", in Wilson, Bryan R.; Cresswell, Jamie, New religious movements: challenge and response, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-20050-9
- Chryssides, George D.; Wilkins, Margaret Z. (2006), A reader in new religious movements, Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-8264-6168-1
- Fautré, Willy (2006), "Non-state actors and Religious Freedom in Europe", in Andreopoulos, George J.; Kabasakal Arat, Zehra F.; Juviler, Peter H., Non-state actors in the human rights universe, Kumarian Press, ISBN 978-1-56549-213-4
- ICSA (2009), Profiles: Eileen Barker, Ph.D., OBE, FBA, retrieved 19 December 2009
- Telegraph staff (2000-07-31), Cult advisers in clash over clampdown, The Daily Telegraph, retrieved 19 December 2009
- Thomson, Alan (1999-02-12), Cult-watch centre faces closure, Times Higher Education, retrieved 19 December 2009
- Wilson, Bryan R. (2003), "Absolutes and relatives: problems for NRMs", in Beckford, James A.; Richardson, James T., Challenging religion: essays in honour of Eileen Barker, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, ISBN 978-0-415-30948-6