Skip to main content

James T. Richardson New Religious Movements Collection

Identifier: MS-0563

Scope and Contents

The James T. Richardson New Religious Movement Collection contains records of his scholarly research and activity to include newspaper clippings, photos, audio and video recordings, personal papers, organizational documents, federal agency records, and related anti-cult and scholarly papers spanning over the last fifty years. It is evident by the contents of this collection that several New Religious Movements directly contributed primary source materials about their activities to Richardson. Those sorts of documents make this particular collection unique. Some of the most notable documents are from groups such as the Rajneeshees, the Aggressive Christianity Missionary Training Corps, the Hare Krishna and Jesus People movements, Scientology, the Unification Church (Moonies), Aum Shinrikyo, and the Family International (Children of God). There are a significant number of folders with information about the Branch Davidians and Peoples Temple, though the materials do not appear to be directly from those sects. Other themes found in this collection include ritual abuse, famous news cases (e.g. the “Dingo ate my baby” case in Australia). There are a large number of documents from both the Anti-Cult Movement as well as the Religious Libertarian/Religious Freedom Movement. There are also folders that contain information about lesser known groups with both benign and controversial histories. There are ten series in this collection: Religious Movements Files (1830-2014), Governments and New Religious Movements Files (1971-2013), Richardson Office Files (1972-2011), Legal Papers (1975-2009), Academic Papers (1956-2014), Thematic Files (1973-1995), Private Organization Files (1977-2003), Periodicals (1965-2008), Audio/Visual Files (1972-1998), and News Articles (1972-2005). Religious Movements Files (1830-2014): This series is arranged by sect with folders labeled thematically. It is a rather large series and contains materials for over 40 different groups of various movements, from new age to Christian, eastern traditions, UFO worship, etc. This series spans 17 boxes. Governments and New Religious Movements Files (1971-2013): This series is arranged by country, mostly European. This contains papers from and about these governments and their relationships with alternative religions and fringe sects. Most of these documents are in English with few exceptions. Richardson Office Files (1972-2011): The contents of this series are broad. It includes general correspondence, comic cartoons, university materials, etc. Most of these folders are not specific to any sect or to the direct study of New Religious Movements. Legal Papers (1975-2009): The majority of this series are documents about major legal cases, particularly in the United States but do not include media coverage of those cases. That can be mostly found in series 10. Academic Papers (1956-2014): This series contains academic works from Richardson and many other scholars at different levels of their careers, from master’s theses and doctoral dissertations to published articles of well-established scholars. The scholars in this series are from different disciplines with varying specialties and include notable names such as Stuart Wright, Anson Shupe, and David Bromley, to name a few. Thematic Files (1973-1995): This series is arranged by topic. The materials in this series often have no author or organizational indicators so are not included in series 2, 4, 5, 7, or 10. Topics include Christchurch abuse scandal, abortion, deprogramming, etc. Private Organization Files (1977-2003): The organizations found in this series are mostly groups that fall into either the anti-cult or religious freedom movements. The materials are mostly primary source documents directly from the organizations and discuss their activities in regard to various sects and incidents over the last several decades. Periodicals (1965-2008): Many of the periodicals found in this series are major titles; Time, Newsweek, etc. However, a bulk of the series also includes sect-specific periodicals, including Hare Krishna’s Back to Godhead, issues of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry’s Salt Lake City Messenger, periodicals from the Rajneeshees, Scientology, the American Family Foundation, and the Family International (both Activated and Good News among others). Audio/Visual Files (1972-1998): In this series are VHS, 3 ½ inch floppy discs, photos, slides, and cassette tapes from various groups as well as interviews Richardson conducted with members of several groups. News Articles (1972-2005): This series has both newsprint and photocopied news articles. The scope of this series is wide; it is separated by material, topic, group, and physical size.


  • Creation: 1830-2014
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1972-2010


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Biographical Note

James T. Richardson was the director of the Judicial Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Reno and a professor of sociology. He also holds a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. He studies new religious movements and cults, their organization and recruitment activities, and their relationship to government and government regulation. More generally, he works with social psychology and law. He has written and edited various volumes on law and religious topics, including Saints Under Siege about the 2008 Texas raid of the Yearning for Zion Ranch, and is likely best known for his book The Satanism Scare. This collection includes correspondence with various institutions, news articles, Anti-Cult documents, scholarly statements, official statements and publications from several New Religious Movements, cassette tapes, 3 ½ inch floppy discs, VHS, and photographs and slides, as well as information on related religious groups. Topics of particular interest are primary sources papers and videos from the Aggressive Christianity Missionary Training Corps; a wide breadth of primary source documents from the Family International; and a large number of publications from the Hare Krishna/ISKCON movement, Jesus Movement, and some Black Panther newspapers (particularly about the People’s Temple).


25.02 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Religious Movements Files, 1830-2014

II. Governments and New Religious Movements Files, 1971-2013

III. Richardson Office Files, 1972-2011

IV. Legal Papers, 1975-2009

V. Academic Papers, 1956-2014

VI. Thematic Files, 1973-1995

VII. Private Organization Files, 1977-2003

VIII. Periodicals, 1965-2008

IX. Audio/Visual Files, 1972-1998

X. News Articles, 1972-2005

Source of Acquisition

James T. Richardson

Accruals and Additions

2017-002, 2017-008, 2017-018, 2018-002, 2018-037

Related Materials

Peoples Temple Collection

The Family International Records

James T. Richardson New Religious Movements Collection
Stephanie Griswold
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US