|Lakewood conference to explore cults, hate groups|
A 25-year-old research and education foundation that studies cultic phenomena is meeting this weekend.
By Monte Whaley|
There will be plenty of talk about religious faith turned into deadly dogma at a forum on cults that will be held in Lakewood this weekend.
Other topics include the influence of hate groups like the White Aryan Resistance and the National Alliance, the whereabouts of polygamous-sect leader Warren Jeffs and the problems faced by gay and lesbian Jehovah's Witnesses.
Taking it all in will be Patti Allread, who will be happy to talk about her faith - the Church of Scientology - at the International Cultic Studies Association conference.
"I'm not going so much to see what is being said about Scientology," said Allread, "but to answer real questions about the church."
She is among about 200 people signed up to learn the latest about cult and hate groups from a list of experts that includes police, former cult members and therapists. The conference starts today and runs through Saturday at the Sheraton Denver West Hotel in Lakewood.
Last year's gathering was in Madrid, Spain, and next year it's slated for Brussels, Belgium.
The Denver area was picked to host this year's confab because it is centrally located in the United States and relatively easy for panel members to get in and out of, said Michael Langone, a psychologist and the association's executive director.
"It's a large population center and big enough to support this conference, which is growing more popular every year," he said.
The 25-year-old association is an interdisciplinary research and education foundation based in Florida aimed at studying cultic phenomena.
It also offers help to people who want to escape abusive groups and situations. The group is not interested in labeling all organizations and religions cults, Langone said.
But it does track groups that consistently abuse and bully its members.
"It isn't about religion but about control," Langone said. "It's about person A deceiving and lying to person B to control them."
Of particular interest is Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is wanted on charges related to arranging polygamist marriages to underage girls.
Jeffs by himself is not dangerous but his followers seem willing to die for him, said Hal Mansfield, director of the Fort Collins-based Religious Movement Resource Center.
"They appear ready to pick up guns and kill for this guy," said Mansfield, who is one of the conference's panelists. "He wields a lot of psychological power, and that is what makes him especially dangerous."
Mansfield also will discuss the activities of various cult groups in Colorado and the United States. Their members may be in the audience.
"I think a lot of cults will be there to wonder what we are saying about them," he said.
Staff writer Monte Whaley can be reached at 720-929-0907 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published June 22, 2006
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