Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 321–336 | Cite as

Deprogramming: from private self-help to governmental organized repression

  • James T. RichardsonEmail author


This paper examines deprogramming, a multi-faceted form of derecruitment from unpopular religious groups (“cults”) developed in the United States and then spreading to other nations, as a form of social control of new religious movements. The early history of deprogramming in the United States is discussed, and then its more recent application in Japan against members of the Unification Church is detailed. A continuum is presented that has self-help remedies at one end, and governmental repression at the other. Self-help forms of deprogramming are illustrated mainly by the United States which has First Amendment protections for religious groups which afford some protection from governmental intervention. Governmental forced derecruitment is illustrated by China’s effort to stamp out the Falun Gong through a very systematic official governmental program involving many institutions operating with full support of the government and the Chinese Communist Party. In between these extremes are cases such as Japan’s social control efforts, and some within the United States, where governmental officials and agencies turn a “blind eye” to self-help remedies, allowing them to operate, or even engage in covert activities to suppress unpopular religious groups.


Social Control Religious Group Chinese Communist Party Religious Freedom Religious Movement 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Judicial Studies Program, Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies, Mail Stop 311University of NevadaRenoUSA

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