23 Jun 2008

FLDS to loom large at cult-studies meeting

Salt Lake Tribune - June 22, 2008

By Brooke Adams

Three sessions deal with polygamy, but other speakers likely to touch on aftermath of raid

Utah and Arizona officials will speak on the subject of polygamy and government

The Yearning for Zion Ranch raid will likely serve as a backdrop for discussions of polygamy during the International Cultic Studies Association annual conference next week.

The agenda for the June 26-29 conference in Philadelphia includes three sessions on polygamy, and other presenters have focused in the past on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Among them: Janja Lalich, a cult expert and professor at Cal State, Chico, who traveled to Texas in April to meet with caseworkers and providers involved in the FLDS case.

Texas officials raided the YFZ Ranch April 3 and took about 460 women and children into state custody based on allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. They were released June 2, though an investigation is continuing.

Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said no state employees will attend the conference.

Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office, and Jane Irvine, community outreach and education director for Arizona, will speak June 27 on "Polygamy and Government: Policies, Powers and Limitations of State and Local Governments."

That session is being moderated by Livia Bardin, a Washington, D.C.-based social worker and self-described cult expert.

Bardin led a daylong workshop in St. George in 2007 on authoritarian groups for the Utah Safety Net Committee.

Lalich will give the keynote address and will speak at sessions about cult research and brainwashing. In a recent interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Lalich said the FLDS have "all the hallmarks of a cult."

It is a "self-sealing" system, she said, and is led by a charismatic leader who commands power, sets norms and guidelines for the group.

Lalich said the sect also has a transcendent belief system that offers guidelines about how to qualify for salvation - which, she acknowledged, is characteristic of most religions.

But taken together, these elements differentiate cults from other groups, she said. Also key: The "amount of decision making a person does or does not have and the kinds of things that are expected of them in their daily lives."

As examples, she cited control over what people wear or how they style their hair, how they talk, what they eat, what they read and with whom they associate.

Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney who has acted as a spokesman for the FLDS, says it is not surprising that some consider the FLDS a cult. "Those same people call Mormonism a cult," he said.

Who will talk about FLDS case

Other speakers scheduled at the International Cultic Studies Association:

* Stephen A. Kent, a Canadian scholar who has written about the FLDS, will talk about "What the scholars missed and why they missed them: A retrospective examination of several major 'cult' stories from the end of the 20th century."

* Marci Hamilton, who has opined about the YFZ Ranch raid in Texas newspapers, is giving the distinguished legal lecture.

* Andrea Moore-Emmett, Laura Chapman and Sylvia Mahr will address "Polygamy: Recent Developments." Moore-Emmett is the author of "God's Brothel," a collection of stories about the experiences of women who left various polygamous communities.

Both Chapman and Mahr are social workers and former members of polygamous groups - Mahr was in the Apostolic United Brethren, while Chapman left the FLDS nearly two decades ago.

* Canadian scholars Marie-Andree Pelland and Dianne Casoni will speak about "The Socialization of Women into a Polygamous Lifestyle: The Experience of Canadian Fundamentalist Mormons."

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