Stephen Kent, PhD, MA, MA, BA


Faculty of Arts - Sociology Dept
(780) 492-2204
6-16 Tory (H.M.) Building
11211 Saskatchewan Drive NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H4



      I have lived in Canada since 1977, and for decades  considered myself Canadian (although I do hold dual citizenship, mostly for professional and familial reasons). My second MA and then PhD are from McMaster University in Ontario, and (with the exception of one year when I was in the Sociology department at the University of Waterloo) I have been at the University of Alberta since January 1984. 

     I received two Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grants to study sects, cults, and new religions in Canada and the United States, and because of this research I have amassed one of North America's largest collections on alternative and sectarian religions (currently owned as a restricted collection by the University Library). Graduate and undergraduate students use the collection (under my supervision) on a regular basis.

     Because of this research and my work with students, I received my department's undergraduate teaching award (the Bill Meloff Award for Undergraduate Teaching) in 2010, and one of three campus-wide Graduate Supervisor Awards from the Graduate Students' Association in 2009.

     For advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence through my publications on the harmful aspects of some religious and other ideological sects, the International Cultic Studies Association awarded me the Margaret Thaler Singer Award in 2012


     With degrees in both religious studies and sociology, my research and teaching interests focus on a wide variety of religious organizations and practices.  Most of my research, and at least one course that I teach, is on controversial sects, cults, and alternative religions.I am working, for example, on a large project involving mental health issues related to sectarian leaders, and I have ongoing research and writing interests in the disturbing area of child sexual abuse in alternative religions.

     Students under my supervision have published on a wide variety of topics. These topics include:: Evangelical youth and sexuality, medical doctors' concerns around vaccinations, Jim Jones's use of language, apocalypticism and white racism; anti-racist skinheads; sects and family violence; internal sectarian dissent; Scientology's business management programs; terrorism; Edmonton spiritual teacher John De Ruiter; Max Weber on charisma; sociology of knowledge issues surrounding the study of alternative religions; religion and child sexual abuse; psychobiographies of sectarian leaders; fundamenatalist Pakistani madrassahs, medical and psuedo-medical issues invovling some sects; pseudo-science; Scientology; dietary issues in some sects; social movements; the Children of God/The Family; sectarian surveillance issues; Heaven's Gate; rational choice theory; Marxism and sectarianism; and jurisprudence violations involving many sects.           


     My courses include ones on the sociology of religion; social psychology, religious sectarianism; fundamentalism, and the sociology of deviance and conformity.  I also oversee numerous reading courses and independent studies for students, Finally, I supervise, and serve on committees of, numerous graduate students on the Masters and doctoral levels in both Sociology and Religious Studies.

Scholarly Activities

Other - Legal Consultations and Testimonies

I have been involved in thirty-four cult-related court cases, either through expert reports or court testimony, Cases involved:

Scientology (25 cases)

Polygamy (1 report and 1 testimony)

Satanism (3 testimonies)

Children of God (1 deposition)

Kabalarians (1 report)

VRRP Spiritual Learning (2 reports)

These cases have taken place in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland 


"Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse in Alternative Religions"

Author(s): Stephen A. Kent, Andrea Willey
Publication Date: 2017
Publication: International Journal of Cultic Studies
Volume: 8
Page Numbers: 16-36
External Link:

“An Expansion of the Rational Choice Approach: Social Control in the Children of God during the 1970s and 1980s.”

Author(s): Stephen A. Kent, Jonathan Simmons
Publication Date: 2015
Publication: International Journal for the Study of New Religions
Volume: 6
Issue: 1
Page Numbers: 27-49
External Link:

Freemen, Sovereign Citizens, and the Challenge to Public Order in British Heritage Countries.”

Author(s): Stephen A. Kent
Publication Date: 2015
Publication: International Journal of Cultic Studies
Volume: 6
Page Numbers: 1-15
External Link:

"Sects, Cults, and the Attack on Jurisprudence"

Author(s): Stephen A. Kent, Robin Willey
Publication Date: 2013
Publication: Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion
Volume: Spring
Page Numbers: 306-360
External Link:

“Religious Justifications for Child Sexual Abuse in Cults and New Religions.”

Author(s): Stephen A. Kent
Publication Date: 2012
Publication: International Journal of Cultic Studies
Issue: 3
Page Numbers: 49-73
External Link:

A War Over Mental Health Professionalism: Scientology Versus Psychiatry.”

Author(s): Stephen A. Kent, Terra A. Manca
Publication Date: 2012
Publication: Mental Health, Religion, and Culture
Page Numbers: 1-23
External Link:

Scientology in Popular Culture: Influences and Struggles for Legitimacy

Author(s): Stephen A.Kent, Susan Raine, eds.
External Link: