More than 170 experts on cults–including former and current members of cults, family members of persons in cults, therapists, politicians, legal experts, and academics–will meet at the University of Alberta this weekend to discuss issues such as how to re-socialize children who were born and raised in cults.
“People at this conference will have some amazing stories to tell about what they or their loved ones have gone through,” said Dr. Stephen Kent, a sociology professor at the U of A who researches controversial groups or groups that cause harm.
Kent is scheduled to present a talk on Friday morning called, Towards a scientific evaluation of the dangers posed by religious groups.
“People at this conference realize that the religious road is fraught with danger,” he said. “And this conference will help alert others to recognize the pitfalls that they or their loved ones may encounter on their spiritual quests.”
The conference, which is called Understanding Cults and Other Charismatic Groups–Perspectives of Researchers, Professionals, Former Members, and Families, features more than 50 presenters from Asia, Europe, Australia, and all over North America. It includes private workshops on June 10 and offers public presentations from June 11 to 13 at the U of A Conference Centre.
Presenters include Dr. Robert Balch of the University of Montana, who has written a number of books about controversial groups, including the Heaven’s Gate group, the Love Family, the Aryan Nations, and the Church Universal and Triumphant. Also, Alan Scheflin, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law and author of more than a dozen books, will present a keynote address Sunday evening called, Brainwashing, undue influence, and the law.
Kent noted this is the first year that the conference, which is sponsored by the American Family Foundation, is being held in Canada.
“A lot of big names are going to be here,” said Jessie Miekle, a sociology student at the U of A who studies dietary aspects of sectarian groups. “As a student, you read their books, but it’s going to be really interesting to meet them and hear what they have to say.”