Janet Rogers

Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Stephanie Cole


Public perception of the 1993 Branch Davidian conflict, particularly as it developed well after the event, helped to alter government policy toward New Religious Movements. Prior to the investigations following the conflict, public expectations of government involvement in New Religious Movements had been shaped most dramatically by the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. That event had convinced scholars and the public at large that New Religious movements had a propensity for violence, and government intervention was necessary on occasion. Thus following Jonestown, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) became involved in several standoffs with New Religious Movements, including the Branch Davidians. After the events in Waco, however, the public argued that violence was not helpful in ceasing New Religious Movements. Policy-makers agreed, and both ATF and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) ceased such interventions.This study of public perception represents a new area of inquiry by historians. When studying New Religious Movements in the past, historians have examined the leadership and theology of the movements themselves as well as government actors, and the reasons behind official intervention. They have not yet looked at the changes in public perception of New Religious Movements. As this study suggests, however, public perception is important, because the public's feelings are closely linked to the government's feelings toward New Religious Movements and help to shape the decisions that government officials make when deciding that New Religious Movements have gone too far.


Arts and Humanities | History


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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