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FBI and ReligionFaith and National Security before and after 9/11$
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Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520287273

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520287273.001.0001

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The FBI’s “Cult War” against the Branch Davidians

The FBI’s “Cult War” against the Branch Davidians

(p.203) 12 The FBI’s “Cult War” against the Branch Davidians
FBI and Religion

Catherine Wessinger

University of California Press

This chapter examines the FBI’s engagement of the Branch Davidians and the eventual bombing of the group at their Waco compound. The author explains how the cult essentialist perspective, which places all blame on “cultists” for violent outcomes in conflicts, was promoted by FBI agents during and after the siege and prepared the majority of Americans to view the assault as reasonable. In this essay, Catherine Wessinger, a leading scholar of new religious movements and active in engaging with the FBI in the early years after the Branch Davidian siege, questions this understanding in light of evidence including internal FBI memos reporting on agents’ interviews with people who knew the Branch Davidians and FBI summary documents and evaluations in the Lee Hancock Collection at Texas State University, San Marcos.

Keywords:   Branch Davidians, Waco, Cults

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