J. Gordon Melton in apparently now promoting the seventh edition of his book called the "Encyclopedia of American Religions."
But don't expect to see any meaningful critical analysis or fact-driven revelations within this tome. Instead the part-time teacher and library worker at the University of California in Santa Barbara, basically reiterates whatever religious groups tell him.
For example, you won't read that space aliens from another planet are the actual basis for Scientology's theology.
In a short study by Melton about Scientology he again fails to even mention the premise that forms the basis for its entire belief system.
Because Scientology didn't tell Mr. Melton that and they don't want this information discussed within his published work.
Is this beginning to sound a bit specious for a supposed scholar?
Melton's encyclopedia retails for $310.00, which may partly explain its ranking on Amazon.com at well below 500,000.
However, Mr. Melton and his book got some good press recently in an article by Richard Ostling, carried by Associated Press.
What Ostling doesn't mention is the more sordid side of the author's work. Melton has often been called a "cult apologist."
In fact Mr. Melton refuses to use the term "cult." Instead he prefers to call groups like Scientology, "The Family" and Ramtha, "new religions" or "new religious movements" (NRMs).
Maybe this is because they pay him.
Melton often works for groups called "cults," either through cult-funded "research projects," books or as an expert witness.
J.Z. Knight, who leads the Ramtha group, hired him to write the book for her titled Finding Enlightenment: Ramtha's School of Ancient Wisdom.
Scientology has recommended Melton as a resource. And after the Cult Awareness Network was bankrupted by that group's litigation and its name was bought by a Scientologist, Gordon Melton became a "religious resource" recommended by the "new Cult Awareness Network."
Mr. Melton seems eager to help "cults" whenever he can.
He once flew to Japan to defend the cult Aum, right after it released poison gas within Tokyo's subway system. While thousands of victims were being rushed to hospitals Mr. Melton flew in, all of his expenses were paid for by the criminal cult.
For a "scholar" Gordon Melton often seems indifferent concerning historical facts.
Jim Jones was responsible for the cult mass murder-suicide of more than 900 people in Jonestown November 18, 1978. However, Mr. Melton said, "This wasn't a cult. This was a respectable, mainline Christian group."
Melton has earned a reputation for largely ignoring and/or discounting the testimony of former cult members.
Professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi of the University of Haifa noted, "In every single case since the Jonestown tragedy, statements by ex-members turned out to be more accurate than those of apologists and NRM researchers&It is indeed baffling&the strange, deafening, silence of [such scholars]&a thorny issue&like the dog that didn't bark& should make us curious, if not outright suspicious."
Is Gordon Melton such a silent scholar, or perhaps even a "silent partner"? After all he is often paid by cults.
Melton was prominently mentioned within a confidential memo written and distributed by Jeffery Hadden. This memo has been cited as a kind of "smoking gun," regarding the tacit cooperation of like-minded "cult apologists."
Within that memo the now deceased Hadden cited Melton's importance and willingness to cooperate in an organized effort, which would hopefully be funded by "cults," to essentially quell criticism about them.
Hadden said, "We recognize that Gordon Melton's Institute is singularly the most important information resource in the US, and we feel that any new organization would need to work closely with him."
Ostling's article carried by the AP cites Melton's "nonpartisan objectivity," but can anyone who objectively reviews his actual professional history really conclude that J. Gordon Melton is nonpartisan?