Deprogramming

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Deprogramming refers to actions that attempt to force a person to abandon allegiance to a religious, political, economic, or social group. Methods and practices may involve kidnapping and coercion.[1] Similar actions, when done without force, are called "exit counseling".

Deprogramming is often commissioned by relatives, often parents of adult children, who object to someone's membership in an organization or group. The person in question is taken against his/her will, which has led to controversies over freedom of religion, kidnapping and civil rights.

The validity and legality of involuntary deprogramming has been attacked by members of new religious movements, by the ACLU, and by professor Eileen Barker and other scholars. Their common argument asserts that it is dangerous and illegal to kidnap someone from any organization in which they voluntarily participate. Barker further argues that if the involuntary deprogramming fails then it will only widen the rift between the member of the new religious movement and his or her family.

While detractors of the practice focus on the sometimes illegal and violent activities by untrained and unlicensed practitioners, supporters of deprogramming portray the practice as an antidote to deceptive religious conversion practices by what they consider to be cults, such as mind control, brainwashing, thought reform, or coercive persuasion. They describe it as a last resort for families who feel that their loved ones have been taken away from them.

While during the 1970s and 1980s deprogramming was the main technique used to convert members of a faith, if not the only available, in later years other types of interventions followed, such as exit counseling, that are less traumatic for the follower and don't use any coercion.

Sometimes the word deprogramming is used in a wider sense, to mean the freeing of someone (often oneself) from any previously uncritically assimilated idea.

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