“Psychologically Kidnapped!”

“Secular” Deprogrammings ,the Category of Cult, and Fear of Social Change


  • Jacques Parker University of California




Cult, Deprogramming, counter-cult movement, anti-cult movement (ACM)


The author analyzes cases of “secular” deprogrammings—including the infamous case of Stephanie Riethmiller’s deprogramming for being a lesbian—and brainwashing opposition generally. The author argues that a fear of social change primarily of the traditional family structure informs brainwashing opposition, and occasionally that fear makes brainwashing oppositional tactics spill over into other areas of American life.


Books and articles

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Video sources

Asher, Lyell. 2022a. “Introduction: Why Colleges Are Becoming CULTS | Dr. Lyell Asher.” Published on YouTube. Accessed 5 July 2023. https://www.you- tube.com/watch?v=rs3vSwsHWbc.

———. 2022b. “Why Colleges Are Becoming CULTS (Part 2): College Adminis- trators | Dr. Lyell Asher.” Published on YouTube. Accessed 5 July 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFVqJY-kELg.

———. 2022c. “Why Colleges Are Becoming CULTS (Part 3): Administrator Training | Dr. Lyell Asher.” Published on YouTube. Accessed 5 July 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJEPBddwegs.

———. 2022d. “Why Colleges Are Becoming CULTS (Part 14): Things You Can Do: Higher Ed | Dr. Lyell Asher.” Published on YouTube. Accessed 5 July 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU9S2tQ12ok.

———. 2022e. “Why Colleges Are Becoming CULTS (Part 15): Things You Can Do: K-12 Schools | Dr. Lyell Asher.” Published on YouTube. Accessed 5 July 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWViKX4s274.






How to Cite

Parker, J. (2024). “Psychologically Kidnapped!”: “Secular” Deprogrammings ,the Category of Cult, and Fear of Social Change. International Journal for the Study of New Religions, 12(2), 185-209. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsnr.26579