by Martin Newland
THE Government and the Church of England have joined forces in supporting a new organisation called the Information Network on Religious Movements (Inform), which has been founded to monitor England's cults and to offer practical advice to cult converts and their families.
Dr Eileen Barker, a sociologist at the London School of Economics responsible for the launch of Inform, has come under fire from other more extreme cult watching groups for being too academic and lenient on cults such as the Moonies.
The Rev Neil Dawson, chairman of Family, Action, Information and Rescue, (FAIR) welcomed Inform as a resource for academic study.
Dr Barker, wary of the potential for cult watching groups to become "as fanatical as some of the cults" adopts a line based far more on dialogue rather than condemnation.
This was cause for worry for a spokesman for Fair who drew attention to the fact that in November 1985 the Rev Kenneth Cracknell, head of the Interface section of the British Council of Churches and member of the committee for Inform, co chaired a meeting with the Scientologists, another cult, on the subject of religious freedom.
Jackie Clackson, Counsellor at Housetops, a Catholic Centre specialising in monitoring cults.
She advocated rather the examination of the gaps in young people's lives that caused them to fall back on the cults.
The success of the cults among the young, she said, "posed a challenge to church communities to provide relevance for the young person in the realm of prayer, spirituality and community life."