International Cultic Studies Association

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International Cultic Studies Association
Cultic Studies Association logo.jpg
Formation1979, as American Family Foundation (AFF), renamed in 2004
FounderKay Barney
Area served
Executive Director
Michael Langone
Steve Eichel
Steve Eichel, Carol Giambalvo, Michael Langone
Key people
Michael Langone, Carol Giambalvo

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 International Journal of Cultic Studies and other materials.


ICSA was founded in 1979 in Massachusetts as the American Family Foundation (AFF) – one of several dozen disparate parents' groups founded in the late 1970s by concerned parents.[1][2] For a time it was affiliated with the Citizens’ Freedom Foundation (CFF) which later became the Cult Awareness Network (CAN).[3] It also developed links with Evangelical Christian counter-cult movements such as the Christian Research Institute[3]

ICSA is a non-profit organisation, with a stated mission "to study psychological manipulation, especially as it manifests in cultic and related groups".[1][3][4][5] 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".[6]


Print magazines[edit]

In 1984, the American Family Foundation's early print magazine, The Advisor, was replaced by the Cult Observer and the Cultic Studies Journal.[7]

Cultic Studies Review[edit]

In 2001, publication of the Cultic Studies Journal ceased, and the AFF began publishing the Cultic Studies Review as an Internet/online journal with triennial print editions.[8] In 2005, the final AFF published edition of Cultic Studies Review was released. Subsequent editions were published by the International Cultic Studies Association until 2010.[9]

International Journal of Cultic Studies[edit]

In 2010, the first print and online editions of the International Journal of Cultic Studies (IJCS) were published online, as a self-described "refereed annual journal that publishes scholarly research on cultic phenomena across a range of disciplines and professions".[10][11][12]

Former Australian MP Stephen Mutch has served on the journal's editorial board.[13]


Connections with post-communist governments[edit]

Edelman & Richardson (2005) state that 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.[14] In a previous article Richardson & Shterin (2000) said that Western anti-cult organizations, including the CSA, had been a source of anti-cult material in Russia.[4]


In their book, Cults and New Religions: A Brief History (2009), sociologists Douglas E. Cowan and David G. Bromley describe the ICSA as a "secular anticult" organization. They point out that the ICSA provides no indication of how many of their 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 Buddhism, Evangelical Protestantism, Hinduism, and the Roman Catholic Church fall within the criteria.[5]


  1. ^ a b George D. Chryssides; Margaret Wilkins (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.
  2. ^ Langone, Michael. "History of American Family Foundation". Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Peter Clarke (2004). Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-49970-0.
  4. ^ a b 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. doi:10.1093/jcs/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)
  5. ^ a b Cowan, Douglas E. and Bromley, David G. ‘’Cults and New Religions: A Brief History.’’ Blackwell Publishing. 2009. Pages 4, 219–222. ISBN 978-1-4051-6128-2
  6. ^ Cults Questions and Answers Langone, Michael, 1988
  7. ^ Langone, Michael (May 1984). "To the reader". Cultic Studies Journal. 1 (1): 3.
  8. ^ Langone, Michael (2002). "Introduction to Inaugural Issue". Cultic Studies Review. 1 (1): 5.
  9. ^ Wehle, Dana; Madsen, Libbe, eds. (2010). Cultic Studies Review. 9 (1). {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Carmen Almendros; Dianne Casoni; Rod Dubrow-Marshall (2010). "About the International Journal of Cultic Studies". International Journal of Cultic Studies. 1 (1).
  11. ^ "International Journal of Cultic Studies - International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)". Archived from the original on 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2015-01-19.
  12. ^ Dole, A. A. (1989). "Book review". Journal of Religion & Health. 28 (3): 245–246. doi:10.1007/BF00987757. S2CID 40318380.
  13. ^ "People". Cult Consulting Australia. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  14. ^ 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): 243. doi:10.1093/jcs/47.2.243.