Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955, in Rome) is an Italianphilosopher,sociologist of religion and independent scholar. He is a founder and the managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), a Turin-based organization which has been described as "the highest profile lobbying and information group for controversial religions". Swedish academic Per Faxneld, writing for Reading Religion, described Introvigne as "one of the major names in the study of new religions." Sociologist Roberto Cipriani has called Introvigne "one of the Italian sociologists of religion most well-known abroad, and among the world's leading scholars of new religious movements".
Introvigne was born in Rome on June 14, 1955. From 1970 to 1973, Introvigne attended the Instituto sociale, the Jesuit high school of Turin. In 1972, he joined conservative group Alleanza Cattolica.[better source needed] He Introvigne earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Rome's Gregorian University in 1975, and in 1979 his J.D. from University of Turin.[better source needed] In 1980, Introvigne began work as an intellectual-property attorney at the firm Jacobacci & Partners.[better source needed] In 1986, he became a partner.
In 1988 he founded the CESNUR and has since served as the group director.
In 2010, Introvigne was included in an advisory board to the Italian Ministry for Internal Affairs, advising on issues related to Islamic minority in Italy.  In 2011, Introvigne was the "Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions" of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Beginning in 2012, Introvigne was listed as a "invited professor of sociology of religious movements" by the Pontifical Salesian University[better source needed]
In 2012, Introvigne was appointed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be chairperson of the newly instituted Observatory of Religious Liberty.. He maintained this position until 2016.
Beginning in 2018, Introvigne was editor-in-chief of the daily magazine on religion and human rights in China, Bitter Winter. In 2019 Introvigne said that Vladimir Putin "had made it clear that he believed Western values, such as a belief in human rights and religious liberty, were not universal rights and did not necessarily apply in Russia."
Introvigne is a proponent of the theory of religious economy developed by Rodney Stark. Introvigne has participated in a series of academic projects on the influence of esoteric movements on modern art, including "Enchanted Modernities", "Theosophical Appropriations" and others, and was called by the Spanish daily newspaper El País "one of the leading world experts on these themes."
Introvigne and new religions
Introvigne has been described as a "persistent critic of any national attempts to identify or curtail so-called 'cults'". Writing in 2001, scholar Stephen A. Kent criticized Introvigne and his group, arguing:
"In the context, therefore, of the debate over Scientology in France and Germany, CESNUR is a think-tank and lobbying group, attempting to advance Scientology's legitimation goals by influencing European and American governmental policies toward it. It is not a neutral academic association, even less so because on its web page Introvigne intermingles ideological positions within solid research and information. On issues, however, that are key to the religious human rights debates — apostates, brainwashing, undue influence, compromised academic research, 'sect' membership and the potential for harm, critical information exchange on the Internet, etc. — he advocates doctrinaire positions that favour groups like Scientology."
In the mid-1990s, Introvigne testified on behalf of Scientologists in a criminal trial in Lyon.
Particularly in France, after the publication of the 1997 report on cults by the French government, of which Introvigne was one of the main critics, journalists hostile to the cults called Introvigne a "cult apologist" and tried to construct his relations with the Catholic Alliance and Silvio Berlusconi's then ruling party as "right-wing extremism", a serious accusation in 1990s France. Introvigne himself answered this criticism by stressing that his scholarly and political activities were not connected. In 2016, Introvigne left all his positions in the Catholic Alliance. Critics continue to object, however, to what they see as his defense of "cults" under the banner of religious liberty.
Activists and scholars such as Thomas Gandow, Stephen Kent, as well as Benjamin Zablocki see Introvigne's framing of scholars and academics (those who agree with CESNUR) vs. anti-cult movement (those who do not agree with CESNUR regardless of their academic qualifications) as biased.
One of the main points which are questioned regarding Introvigne's work is his attitude regarding brainwashing and the CESNUR information he presents on that subject. Gandow refers to what he calls the "APA-Lie" (i.e. the way Introvigne presented the position of the American Psychological Association on brainwashing) as a scientific scandal. Introvigne's reply was regarded as useful even by critics (see e.g. the review by Jean-Bruno Renard in "Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions", 52ème année, avril-juin 2007, no. 138, p. 97–99, of the book on the controversy Introvigne co-authored in French with Dick Anthony), since he went to great lengths to obtain, post on the Internet, and later publish crucial and previously unavailable documents of the original U.S. brainwashing controversy. He published an Encyclopedia of Religion in Italy.
As recently as 2019, Introvigne noted that CESNUR's critics have accused the group of being 'cult apologists', as when journalist and Scientology-critic Tony Ortega penned a series of 2018/19 articles criticizing "CESNUR" as an unreliable "apologist journal".
Popular Culture and Vampires
Introvigne is also director of CESPOC, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.
He was the Italian director of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, which included the leading academic scholars in the field of the literary and historical study of the vampire myth. In 1997, J. Gordon Melton and Introvigne organized an event at the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles where 1,500 attendees came dressed as vampires for: "creative writing contest, Gothic rock music and theatrical performances".
^See for example Serge Faubert, "Le vrai visage des sectes", L'Evenement du jeudi, 4-10.11.1993, pp. 44-48; Bruno Fouchereau, "Les sectes, cheval de Troie des Etats-Unis en Europe," Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2001, 1. Susan Palmer, The New Heretics of France: Minority Religions, la Republique, and the Government-Sponsored "War on Sects", New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, ISBN9780199735211.
^See Massimo Introvigne, "CESNUR: a short history", In: Gallagher, Eugene V, (ed.), "Cult Wars" in Historical Perspective: New and Minority Religions. Routledge. pp. 23–31. ISBN978-1-317-15666-6.
^See e.g. the article by Italian anti-cultist Luigi Corvaglia (who, however, ignore that Introvigne left his role in Alleanza Cattolica the previous year), "Lo strano caso dell'avvocato Introvigne", "Lo strano caso dell'avvocato Introvigne". Retrieved May 22, 2017.