Below are some resources for those detrimentally impacted by abusive leaders of cults/coercive groups/new religious movements and their followers that may be helpful. This list is not comprehensive. The inclusion of some of these resources does not necessarily indicate my complete agreement with every viewpoint expressed in these resources.
- For those who may struggle with addictions due to the stress caused by cults/coercive groups/new religious movements:
- Not Enough Willing Attorneys
- Not Enough Savvy and Qualified Experts
- Fear of Offending – The Shadow of the First Amendment
“There is a dangerous Pollyanna attitude lulling Americans into assuming that if the actor is religious, the inevitable result is good. This is a reality check: religious entities harm people every day, and even though I am a religious believer myself, I say with conviction that it is foolhardy to permit religious individuals and organizations to be unaccountable. The prevailing trust in religious organizations and individuals has led to a patchwork of laws that create special privileges for religious entities beyond anyone’s initial expectations.”
- Confusion Wrought by Cult Apologists
- Article on France’s About-Picard anti-cult law, enacted in 2001. Our state and federal legislators would provide much benefit to our country’s citizens by working to enact laws that adopt aspects of the French About-Piccard anti-cult law. Clergy authentication laws would also help protect the general public and enhance the honest good work of ethical, qualified clergy members (see stopreligiousfrauds.com). Federal and state authorities would likewise benefit our country’s citizens by enforcing existing Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws (www.justia.com/criminal/docs/rico/), tax evasion laws, and all other existing laws to investigate, prosecute and convict cult leaders and their followers who use religion as a cover for a variety of criminal activities, especially criminal activities against children.
- FECRIS, European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, “created in 1994, serves as an umbrella organisation for associations which defend victims of cultic excesses in more than 30 countries to date, among them 5 are non-European. FECRIS is a non-profit association under French law. FECRIS is politically, philosophically and religiously neutral.” https://www.fecris.org/.
- International Cultic Studies Association, icsahome.com. Articles written by law professor Robin A. Boyle Laisure are specific to legal issues involving cults. There are many other articles found on ICSA’s website dealing with cults, coercive group activities and spiritual abuse. ICSA’s website also contains therapy resources for those affected by cults/coercive groups/new religious movements.
- Info-Secte/Cult, https://www.infosecte.org/, a Canadian organization that provides information on cults, court rulings, and resources for professionals and for those harmed by cults and other coercive groups.
- Cult Information and Family Support, Inc., cifs.org.au/index.php, an Australian organization that provides news articles and resources for researchers and for those harmed by cults and other coercive groups.
- Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), snapnetwork.org.
- Cult 101, cults101.org.
- Cult Recovery, cultrecovery101.com.
- Cult Intervention, intervention101.com.
- Cult News 101, cultnews101.com.
- Ministry Watch, ministrywatch.com
- Mark White blog. Fr. White, a Catholic priest in the Richmond, VA diocese, blogs about his experience speaking out against Catholic authorities’ cover up of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church and the backlash he’s received from his superiors for speaking out and demanding accountability.
- “Pope Francis is the Catholic Nixon,” John Zmirak, The Stream, September 5, 2018.
- “Power, Preferment, and Patronage: Catholic Bishops, Social Networks, and the Affair(s) of Ex-Cardinal McCarrick,” Stephen Bullivant and Giovanni Radhitio Putra Sadewo, 2020.
- “Child Sexual Abuse in Protestant Christian Congregations: A Descriptive Analysis of Offense and Offender Characteristics”
- “6 Red Flags that your Spiritual Community May Be Abusive”.
- Connie A. Baker, MA LPC, Religious Abuse Recovery Specialist, Traumatized by Religious Abuse, Luminare Press, 2019. https://connieabaker.com.
- Paulette J. Buchanan, Fighting for Justice: Religious Fraud, Mental Illness, and the Collapse of Law & Order, The Good Fight, 2021. https://fightingforjusticebook.com/ . Buy on Amazon.
- Wendy J. Duncan, I Can’t Hear God Anymore, VM Life Resources, LLC, 2006. Wendy Duncan documents her traumatic experience as a member of Ole Anthony’s Trinity Foundation cult. Wendy and her husband Doug Duncan offer in-person and online counseling. https://dallascult.com/ and www.spiritualabuseministry.com .
- Marci Hamilton, God vs. the Gavel, Cambridge University Press, 2005. This book describes court cases in which religious groups have abused religious rights to the detriment of others. Attorney Marci Hamilton is the CEO of Child USA, an advocacy group that works in part to publicize cases in which cults/high demand groups/new religious movements use religion or aspects of “spirituality” as a cover to commit crimes against children. https://www.childusa.org/.
- John Huddle, Locked In, Survivor Publishing, LLC, 2015. John Huddle is a survivor of Word of Faith Fellowship in North Carolina. https://religiouscultsinfo.com/about/.
- Debby Shriver, Whispering in the Daylight, University of Tennessee Press, 2018. Debby Shriver documents the damage done to adults and children by Tony Alamo and his Tony Alamo Christian Ministries cult. Buy on Amazon.
- Characteristics of human predators by Jon and Sam Atack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyYWCCsQViY.
- Joe Navarro, M. A. “Dangerous Traits of Cult Leaders”
Dangerous Cult Leaders
Psychology Today, August 25, 2012 • Excerpted below
This list is not all-inclusive nor is it the final word on the subject; it is merely my personal collection based on my studies and interviews that I conducted in my previous career.
If you know of a cult leader who has many of these traits there is a high probability that they are hurting those around them emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually, or financially. And of course this does not take into account the hurt that their loved ones will also experience.
Here are the typical traits of the pathological cult leader (from Dangerous Personalities) you should watch for and which shout caution, get away, run, or avoid if possible:
- He has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.
- Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
- Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.
- Has a sense of entitlement – expecting to be treated special at all times.
- Is exploitative of others by asking for their money or that of relatives putting others at financial risk.
- Is arrogant and haughty in his behavior or attitude.
- Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws.
- Takes sexual advantage of members of his sect or cult.
- Sex is a requirement with adults and sub adults as part of a ritual or rite.
- Is hypersensitive to how he is seen or perceived by others.
- Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
- Makes members confess their sins or faults publicly subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation while revealing exploitable weaknesses of the penitent.
- Has ignored the needs of others, including: biological, physical, emotional, and financial needs.
- Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.
- Needs to be the center of attention and does things to distract others to insure that he or she is being noticed by arriving late, using exotic clothing, overdramatic speech, or by making theatrical entrances.
- Has insisted in always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.
- Doesn’t seem to listen well to needs of others, communication is usually one-way in the form of dictates.
- Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling is part of his personality.
- Behaves as though people are objects to be used, manipulated or exploited for personal gain.
- When criticized he tends to lash out not just with anger but with rage.
- Anyone who criticizes or questions him is called an “enemy.”
- Refers to non-members or non-believers in him as “the enemy.”
- Acts imperious at times, not wishing to know what others think or desire.
- Believes himself to be omnipotent.
- Has “magical” answers or solutions to problems.
- Is superficially charming.
- Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior.
- Has a certain coldness or aloofness about him that makes others worry about who this person really is and or whether they really know him.
- Is deeply offended when there are perceived signs of boredom, being ignored or of being slighted.
- Treats others with contempt and arrogance.
- Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere him.
- The word “I” dominates his conversations. He is oblivious to how often he references himself.
- Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly – when he does he acts out with rage.
- Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything he has done wrong nor does he apologize for his actions.
- Believes he possesses the answers and solutions to world problems.
- Believes himself to be a deity or a chosen representative of a deity.
- Rigid, unbending, or insensitive describes how this person thinks.
- Tries to control others in what they do, read, view, or think.
- Has isolated members of his sect from contact with family or outside world.
- Monitors and or restricts contact with family or outsiders.
- Works the least but demands the most.
- Has stated that he is “destined for greatness” or that he will be “martyred.”
- Seems to be highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.
- Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from members or believers.
- Sees self as “unstoppable” perhaps has even said so.
- Conceals background or family which would disclose how plain or ordinary he is.
- Doesn’t think there is anything wrong with himself – in fact sees himself as perfection or “blessed.”
- Has taken away the freedom to leave, to travel, to pursue life, and liberty of followers.
- Has isolated the group physically (moved to a remote area) so as to not be observed.
“When the question is asked, “When do we know when a cult leader is bad, or evil, or toxic?” this is the list that I use to survey the cult leader for dangerous traits. Of course the only way to know anything for sure is to observe and validate, but these characteristics can go a long way to help with that. And as I have said, there are other things to look for and there may be other lists, but this is the one that I found most useful from studying these groups and talking to former members of cults.”
“When a cult or organizational leader has a preponderance of these traits then we can anticipate that at some point those who associate with him will likely suffer physically, emotionally, psychologically, or financially. If these traits sound familiar to leaders, groups, sects, or organizations known to you then expect those who associate with them to live in despair and to suffer even if they don’t know it, yet.”