Cult Information Centre

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Cult Information Centre
Organization logo
Founded1987; 32 years ago (1987)
FounderIan Haworth
TypeCharitable organisation
FocusCult education
Key people
Alan Meale

The Cult Information Centre (CIC) is a British organisation[1] that provides information and advice to members of what the organisation terms as cults, as well as affected family members,[2] members of the press and scholarly researchers. The organisation also serves as a resource for information on controversial religious groups,[3][4] therapy cults,[3][5][6] and political cults.[7] The Cult Information Centre gives educational talks about cults in schools around the United Kingdom to students about to start university education.[8][9]


The Cult Information Centre was founded in 1987 by Ian Haworth,[10][11][12] who had previously been involved with the Council on Mind Abuse,[13] and gained charitable status in the United Kingdom in 1992.[14] Following Haworth's loss in a lawsuit brought by Werner Erhard against the Council on Mind Abuse organisation,[14] Haworth went bankrupt and left Canada for Britain.[13][14] Haworth later stated that his Cult Information Centre received complaints in Britain about the actions of Landmark Education,[15] which he described as being linked to Werner Erhard's est movement.[15] Haworth also made similar statements about the Werner Erhard and Associates course "The Forum".[16]


The Cult Information Centre believes that the most striking features of post-war religious cults includes the usage of mind control techniques, and strict adherence to a leader or tight-knit leadership structure.[12] This high level of adherence helps to reinforce authority, as well as belief in the leader's doctrine, which may involve his own personal delusions.[12] The organisation cites twenty-six key forms of mind control, which includes hypnosis, peer pressure and groupthink, love bombing, the rejection of old values, confusing doctrine, use of subliminal messages, time-sense inhibition, dress codes, disinhibition, diet, confession, fear, and chanting and singing.[12][17][18][19]

The organisation has attempted to define the term cult by analysing dictionary definitions, and psychological, religious, and secular definitions, however it has found that they are all deficient in some manner.[20] Its current definition of the term cult includes three main points: the group's identity was derived from a major religion, but its practices and belief system are dramatically different; its followers are not bound by a codified belief structure; and the group was founded by an individual who utilised fraudulent means to gain respect and acceptance.[20] In his work Understanding New Religious Movements, Saliba notes that though the organisation's definition of the term cult stems from a theological background, it incorporates sociological and psychological features as well.[20]

The organisation believes that the number of cults actively recruiting from college campuses has increased,[21] and says that intelligent students that are intellectually and/or spiritually curious are prime recruitment targets for cults.[22][23] In addition to the susceptibility of college-age students and teenagers,[24] the Centre also believes that well-off professionals within the middle class are targeted by cults.[25]

Reception and criticism[edit]

Some of the groups that the Cult Information Centre analyses have criticised their methods. John Campbell of the evangelical Christian group, the Jesus Army insists they have good relations with other Christian churches, and called the Cult Information Centre "unethical" and its views "absolute nonsense".[8] Following a BBC News article on Scientology which cited the Centre,[26] the Church of Scientology said that its message had been misrepresented.[8]

William Shaw contacted the Cult Information Centre in his 1993 investigation of cults, and was explicitly critical of its methods and the reliability of its research throughout his book. His opinion was that individuals had joined cults out of "their own hunger to believe" and is dismissive of "absurd scare stories".[27]

A complaint was made in 2010 to the Charity Commission challenging the organisation's charitable status. The single complainant was never identified publicly.[28] The complaint was not upheld and the organisation remains listed and regulated by the Charity Commission.[29]


  1. ^ Partridge, Christopher (Ed.) (2004). Encyclopedia of New Religions: New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities. Lion Hudson Plc. p. 76. ISBN 0-7459-5073-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Lane, Megan (2000-07-26). "Cults: Playing for keeps". BBC News. BBC.
  3. ^ a b Shipman, Martin (2004-04-13). "Tourist board defends pounds 11,000 cash grant to 'cult' group". Western Mail. 2004 MGN Ltd.
  4. ^ Shipton, Martin (2004-04-02). "Storm over pounds 180,000 grant to Welsh 'cult'". Western Mail. 2004 MGN Ltd.
  5. ^ Staff (2001-07-22). "`Self help' cults target professionals". The Independent. Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
  6. ^ Hampshire, Mary (2000-11-28). "I was raped.. then lured into misery by church fanatics". The Mirror. 2000 MGN LTD.
  7. ^ Kirby, Terry (March 27, 2004). "Grieving parents warn of dangers of `political cults'". The Independent. Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
  8. ^ a b c Bacon, Hanna (1999-07-16). "Sixth formers on cult alert". BBC News. BBC.
  9. ^ Staff (August 28, 2001). "Children wooed by forces of Satanism on Internet". Irish Independent.
  10. ^ Kon, Andrea (2005-07-25). "In the Hot Seat: Just the Job". The Evening Standard. Solo Syndication Limited.
  11. ^ Chryssides, George. 1999. Exploring New Religions. London, GBR: Continuum International Publishing.
  12. ^ a b c d Gurr, Nadine; Benjamin Cole (2002). The New Face of Terrorism: Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction. I.B.Tauris. pp. 134, 158, 182, 193, 308. ISBN 1-86064-825-8.
  13. ^ a b Williams, Raymond Brady; Harold G. Coward; John Russell Hinnells (2000). The South Asian Religious Diaspora in Britain, Canada, and the United States. SUNY Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-7914-4509-7.
  14. ^ a b c Arweck, Elizabeth (2006). Researching New Religious Movements. Routledge. pp. 69, 132, 194, 442, 443. ISBN 0-415-27754-X.
  15. ^ a b Bourke, Fionnuala (April 18, 2004). "Fears as 'life-change' firm recruits in Brum". Sunday Mercury.
  16. ^ Braid, Mary (December 5, 2003). "Turn up, tune in, transform? - The Landmark Forum claims to change utterly the lives of its devotees - and it is spreading fast by their word of mouth. But are its 'breakthrough' sessions a good or bad thing? Some see it as education, and others as brainwashing". The Independent. Independent News and Media Limited. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  17. ^ Shaw, William (1994). Spying in Guruland: Inside Britain's Cults. Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-85702-152-5, ISBN 978-1-85702-152-3.
  18. ^ Mikul, Chris (1999). Bizarrism. Critical Vision. pp. 142, 152. ISBN 1-900486-06-7.
  19. ^ Staff (November 8, 1998). "Fear, coercion and control - tactics used to recruit members". Sunday Mercury. Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd.
  20. ^ a b c Saliba, John; J. Gordon Melton (2003). Understanding New Religious Movements. Rowman Altamira. pp. 4, 283. ISBN 0-7591-0356-9.
  21. ^ Wallis, Lynne (October 1, 2003). "Let us prey: Many new students starting university are curious and idealistic. Which makes them vulnerable to the increasing number of cults targeting campuses, reports Lynne Wallis". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited.
  22. ^ Wallace, Wendy (June 20, 2000). "Cult following: Evangelical groups are recruiting hard on Britain's campuses". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited.
  23. ^ Coxon, Kate (November 6, 2001). "Cult following: Students may find themselves the target of religious sects seeking new members, warns Kate Coxon". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited.
  24. ^ Staff (1998-11-08). "As the number of potentially-lethal sects in the UK tops 500, the groups are targeting Birmingham in the run up to the millennium". Sunday Mercury. Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd.
  25. ^ Staff (1999-01-05). "Wanted: middle-class professionals". BBC News. BBC.
  26. ^ Staff (July 13, 1999). "Cult or religion: What's the difference?". BBC News. BBC.
  27. ^ Medway, Gareth J. (2001). Lure of the Sinister: the unnatural history of Satanism. NYU Press. p. 277. ISBN 0-8147-5645-X.
  28. ^ Doward, Jamie (4 March 2012). "Cults watchdog faces danger of being shut down". The Observer. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  29. ^ Doward, Jamie (30 June 2016). "Data for financial year ending 30 June 2016". The Observer. Retrieved 2017-09-21.