UC Not Dangerous

Media Sensationalism and Its Effects

Larry Moffit, Tiempos Del Mundo

delivered at the International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on "Religious Freedom in Latin America and the New Millennium" October 10-12, 1998, Sheraton Mofarrej Hotel, Sao Paolo, Brazil

As Chairman of Vanderbilt University’s Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, Jimmy Carter’s statement that he was a "born-again Christian" disturbed millions of Americans who, like the unknowing political reporters, wondered, "whether the former governor of Georgia was some sort of religious nut." They wondered, "Did Carter think that God spoke to him? Did he think that his born-again experience gave him a relationship with God that other believers did not have? Did it mean that he thought he was saved and that others who were not born again were lost?" They didn’t know how to handle his declaration and they asked him foolish questions like, "Approximately how many times a day do you think about God?" Mr. Carter’s answer was 25 or more.

Journalism’s discomfort around religion, sometimes drifting to outright disdain, is embarrassingly pervasive throughout our profession. The Washington Post, the newspaper with the largest circulation in Washington DC, on their front page, characterized evangelical Protestants as being largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command. Syndicated newspaper columnist Cal Thomas makes reference to religious people being given "intellectually pre-assigned seating on the back of the bus" and decries

a raging, unforgiving, imposing, intolerant, arrogant, secularism that claims that any idea or authority that comes from the source higher than the mind of humankind is to be a priori overruled as unconstitutional, immoral, illegal, and ignorant.

What theologian and author Richard John Neuhaus calls the sensitivity patrol, that is those who are ever vigilant to protect the image of races, classes, and sexes in the media,

turn a blind eye when it comes to beating up our religions. Not all religions, mind you. [Mainline] Protestantism escapes bashing because it is deemed to be neither interesting nor dangerous. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is both interesting and dangerous. They have all these wonderfully spooky things: candles, confessionals, masses, exorcisms, saints, nuns, monks, and a Pope who claims to speak infallibly about something called absolute truth.

For all its self-promotion about being a land of the free, the United States has a disturbing history of religious intolerance, particularly for the Catholic Church.

As an example, how the Catholic Church was portrayed in the US media was the focus of an extensive study covering three five-year periods, extending from 1964 to 1988. The study showed that the press tends to cover theological issues the same way they do secular political stories, that is, externally, pro and con. As a result, there emerged a clear pattern of portraying most of these issues as external, political conflicts between an old calcified church hierarchy and young, fresh, vibrant voices of dissent. It was the Pope and bishops versus the lower level clergy, lay Catholics, and non-Catholics. The television medium has proven to be terribly limited, unfortunately, in that it tends to boil things down into information bites easily digested by the eyes and ears. This is a problem especially regarding religion, whose issues are rooted in centuries of tradition and are often too esoterically layered to render very well on television.

The bite-sized format of the electronic press invites participants of opposing views to play to the camera with one-liners that foster intractability. Rather than being a disinterested observer, the press or media news coverage better serves to exacerbate each side’s intolerance of the other side’s position. Television journalists in South Africa, before apartheid was repealed, told me all they had to do in order to get footage of civil arrests on a given day on demand, was to show up on certain street corners in Soweto with a video camera and a microphone. A crowd of children would gather and immediately start pelting cars with rocks or setting old cars on fire. They knew what television wanted.

In 1980 doctors Robert Victor and Stanley Rothman interviewed 240 journalists working for seven major media organizations in Washington and New York. Eighty-six percent of those interviewed said they seldom or never attend religious services. The implication is that journalists are overwhelmingly less inclined toward religious beliefs than the general population. On the other hand, another survey of journalists conducted a decade after Victor-Rothman takes serious issue with the earlier study. John Dart, the religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, and Jimmy Allen, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, criticized the Victor-Rothman study as being a too small sampling of but one breed of journalist, that is, those at the pinnacle of the national level in the United States.

It may be, however, that being a survey of the media elite is exactly what made the Victor-Rothman sampling such a revealing piece of research. The study shows a startling lack of religious orientation among a handful of people at the top of America’s media pyramid. These are the people who create the national agenda of issues and who significantly shape the opinion of journalists and other organizations. Furthermore, their written articles and broadcasts are archived in electronic retrieval systems. Whether accurate or false, they assume immortality as the information they contain, is used again and again, year after year, by other reporters.

Dart and Allen actually end up being somewhat supportive of Victor-Rothman, although perhaps unintentionally so, in that they further substantiate significant gaps separating journalists and clergy. Dart and Allen found that an unhealthy distrust exists between religionists and journalists, even a fear of each other in many cases. Religious figures fear being misunderstood and misrepresented. Journalists fear making mistakes and incurring religious wrath. The resulting apprehensions inhibit the free flow of information and only add to misunderstanding.

How devout is the average person in the United States? A lot more than one would think. If one can believe the findings of Gallup and other polling organizations, Americans are certainly more devout than the impression gleaned from a perusal of the movies and music of US popular culture

According to Dr. Thomas Reeves, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, in 1988 the highly respected Gallup organization reported that nine Americans in ten said they never doubted the existence of God. Eight in ten said they believe they will be called before God on judgment day to answer for their sins. Eight in ten believed that God still works miracles, and seven in ten believe in life after death. More than 90 percent prayed. Eighty-eight percent believed that God loves them. A mere eight percent of Americans were without a religious preference. Yet even these eight percent, according to Gallup, expressed a surprising degree of interest in religion and religious belief. Dr. Reeves concludes by asking, "How can that much faith exist in a secular society?"

Obviously, one needs to read between the lines on opinion surveys. In spite of overwhelming lip service to moral values as expressed in the various opinion polls, religious leaders such as the Protestant, Baptist evangelist Billy Graham, Roman Catholic theologian Father Avery Dulles, and Jewish scholar David C. Stalinsky have declared on numerous occasions that the United States is definitely not a Christian or religious society and that a festering spirit of moral decay infuses our popular culture to an extent that endangers the safety of our lives and even of democracy itself.

President Bill Clinton said on a religious cable television interview program, "If I didn’t believe in God, if I weren’t a Christian, my life would have been much more difficult." The difficulties in President Clinton’s life have greatly increased precisely because of the problem of deeds being inconsistent with words. But if you were to judge him solely by his answers to any one of these surveys, President Clinton would, without a doubt, show up in the ranks of the most devout, praying, Jesus-committed, faithful, judgment day-expecting, church-attending Christians. A paradox, a cognitive disconnect of enormous proportions, begins to emerge.

So next time you come across a survey that proves how faithful we members of the media are, and how much we cherish the sacred, say to yourself, "That is fine, but does it manifest into anything meaningful in the real world?" In the real world priests and clergy are routinely portrayed by the media in movies and television as clearly less than pious, often comic figures. All without much of a cry of protest being raised by Gallup’s praying and worshipping 90 percent of the population. Those 80 percent who expect to have to answer to God on judgment day are seemingly without power in the face of television sitcoms which portray them as victims of a dementia called religious belief that is at best naive and at worst dangerous and life threatening.

So what does this teach us? It teaches us that the news media doesn’t deal very well with things that don’t show up on film or that can’t be verified with receipts. People of faith, on the other hand, routinely traffic in things they understand to be true but can’t see, hear, smell, touch, or taste, and whose existence cannot be proven. Religion is complex, filled with inconsistencies, paradoxes and schisms. It is highly intuitive and is slightly different to each person. It is not hard to understand why the simple teachings of one man, Jesus of Nazareth, could spin off to 400 or 500 different Christian denominations and sects in 2,000 years.

The search for news and the search for God use methodologies that couldn’t be more opposite. Religion’s ongoing mission to judge sin, redeem lost souls, lift up the poor in spirit is difficult for a journalist to cover to the satisfaction of that religion’s practitioners without it looking like the journalist is advocating that faith. Since every story has two sides, the journalist feels compelled by his professional training to interview at least one or two dissatisfied and resentful former members or other critics of whatever the church claims. Religious people who look for media coverage need to learn to live with journalism’s methodology and understand that it is intrinsic in the culture of the media that they would look more askance at a President like Jimmy Carter who thinks about God 25 times a day than at a President like Bill Clinton who thinks about other things 25 times a day.

Coverage of new religions, "cults" to many, is also something the media doesn’t do particularly well. Sometimes an entire body of believers runs afoul of the law in a dramatic and sensational manner. We saw this with the mass suicides of Jonestown, Guyana, the Branch Davidians of David Koresh of Waco, Texas, and the suicide of the Heaven’s Gate group in Southern California. It doesn’t take many of these episodes for the public to view any religion whose founding prophet is currently living as being one of these dangerous ilk.

Today’s news media would have enjoyed covering the ministry of Jesus at its beginning. Footage of his cult of devotees laying down palm trees for him to walk over as he entered Jerusalem would have been the lead story on the 6 o’clock news. When he started a one-man riot at the temple, driving out the vendors—people, by the way, who had a perfectly legal right to be there—it would have made sensational television. A sound bite to enrage the world would have been recorded if television could have been there to tape Jesus telling his followers,

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword, for I came to set a man against his father. He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

If God gives you a revelation to start a new religion, you would be well advised to buy your own television station, start your own newspaper, create your own forum. The mainstream mass communication media are not your friend. Under normal conditions we will not help you. Even for you mainstream leaders of long-established faiths, we in the media have a disturbing predilection to begin our newscast with the account of the one in ten thousand of your clergy who steps outside the bounds of law or human decency. Why? Because we know what sells newspapers and what attracts viewers, who in turn attract advertisers, who attract money.

Sad to say, but the surest way to avoid having the media create a sense of stigma about your religious beliefs, and further separate you from society, is for them to ignore you completely and let you quietly be about your Father’s business. Unfortunately, ignoring you also hurts, because religion in the information age needs mass media. The communication media are the highways to the marketplace of ideas, and religion is, first and foremost, ideas. In the modern world it is essential for religion to have fair and widespread media coverage in order for a society to maintain and place a high value on the freedom of religion. To paraphrase the well-known philosophical question: if the tree falls in the forest and there is no television news team to film it, does it make any noise? The answer in the age of information is, no, it doesn’t.

There are perhaps some signs that media and religion recognize the value of one another if one wants to interpret things positively. ABC television news anchor Peter Jennings is one of the many leading journalists who now realize the media’s shortcomings in reporting on religion. He said, "I have only recently come to understand how complicated and inadequate and occasionally horrifying media coverage of religion has been."

I would venture to say that in the overwhelming majority of newsrooms in America, there is an appalling ignorance of religion and faith.

Occasionally, to our credit, we in the mass media will run a story of a believer like Father O’Malley turning a hardened street gang of boys into St. Dominic’s choir. There are plenty of those people out there, the good shepherds. As the networks and outlying stations continue to yield to pressure to assign religion as a full-time beat, it is hoped that reporters will spend more time telling their stories. Journalism school should require their students to take a few courses outside the traditional journalism curriculum, like comparative religions, constitutional law, philosophy, and accounting. Theological seminaries should require basic courses in electronic and print journalism. Most still don’t, but they are at least talking about it.

To live and work in a public forum without polished media skills is to invite public misunderstanding through commission of the information age’s mortal sin, the failure to communicate well. Realizing this, the administrators of some religious organizations are finally beginning to allow their public information offices to budget for the training of spokespersons in sound bite 101, the art of looking and sounding credible on camera and in print.

Now these hopeful indicators are not meant to suggest that the mutually alien life forms of religion and media are ready to start their honeymoon. Or even that tension between the two will disappear. These are at best small steps forward. At the end of the day, however, there is some confluence of the two, if only stemming from the fact that there is at least one shrine in which they do cohabit. Media and religion both embrace as their sacred mission the search for truth.

ICRF Brazil Conference Index International Coalition for Religious Freedom

Unification Church

Antonio Benantcourt, Summit Council for World Peace

delivered at the International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on "Religious Freedom in Latin America and the New Millennium" October 10-12, 1998, Sheraton Mofarrej Hotel, Sao Paolo, Brazil

This is the first time I have been asked to speak on behalf of my church regarding the violations of religious rights around the world. I would like to begin my presentation by going back to 1975 and relating a horribly frightening experience.

A young missionary who had recently converted to the Unification Church was standing in front of Madison Square Garden giving out pamphlets inviting people to an event. Suddenly he was attacked by a large woman. The missionary could easily have subdued her if he had wanted to fight back, but he refrained. Then, the woman was joined by two men. Together, the three of them attacked the missionary, threw him to the ground and started to kick him while they screamed, "Moonie! Moonie! Moonie!"

The young man lay on the ground being kicked. His pamphlets were strewn all over the street. Yet the most horrible thing for this person was not being attacked. Previously, he had been attacked and mugged in one of those bad experiences people sometimes have in New York City. The most horrible experience in this instance was that when he looked for pity, for compassion, for empathy, for support, among the people who were around, he found none. The eyes that he found were eyes of accusation. He deserved to be kicked because he was a "Moonie."

I am that person.

The process of religious persecution carries a very interesting goal, especially when it is done in a systematic way as it has been done in the United States, Europe, Japan, and to some extent in Latin America, Africa, and other countries. The end is to create a ghetto as was done with the Jews in Europe. Religious persecutors demonize their victims and ghettoize them so that when actual civil rights are violated—such as when they suffer physical aggression as I did—there is no sympathy. Eventually, the victims can even go to the ovens or gas chambers with no support from anyone because they deserve it. They are less than human. I experienced that kind of dehumanization.

Rev. Moon has been discriminated against all over the world, and his followers have been discriminated against as well. Some have been killed. In the Dominican Republic, Martin Bauer was killed with the collaboration of the government in 1985. In addition, a Japanese missionary in that country was shot in the back. Fortunately, she survived. She crawled to the highway from the cane sugar plantation where she had been kidnapped and shot. Eventually, a good Samaritan took her to the hospital. She lost one eye and was crippled for life because of severe brain damage.

Bombings in France in 1995, 1975, and 1992 maimed some of our members. Others have been sentenced to as much six years imprisonment in the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. In 1978, some of our members in Ethiopia were executed. Some of you may remember the burning of 80 Unification churches here in Brazil in the 1980s. What caused all that? The ghettoization of a movement.

One of the most deplorable things that happened was the imprisonment of Rev. Moon on trumped-up charges of tax evasion. Basically, people in the United States government wanted to derail him and send him back to Korea. They tried to negotiate, "Either you go back to Korea or you can stay in the US and go to prison." That was the bargain. He said, "God sent me here to revive this nation. Catholics, Protestants, Jews need my message. They don’t have to convert to my religion. But they need to be impregnated with the message that God has given me." They couldn’t bear to hear this. He ended up in a prison in Danbury, Connecticut, for 13 months.

The inmates in Danbury testified about Reverend Moon. In their view he was a billionaire. Yet he took the most humble jobs in that prison. He cleaned the toilets. He scrubbed the pots and pans and mopped the kitchen floor. Things that no other prisoner wanted to do, he did. He got the endorsement of some of the prisoners, like Joe Coleman. Joe Coleman was condemned to 117 years in prison because he was a drug kingpin in Washington, DC. Prison officials transferred him from another prison to Danbury to break down Rev. Moon because they didn’t believe he was for real. Coleman was called to break down Reverend Moon. Instead, he ended up being converted. Afterwards, he told me, "I had never been loved. I was raised in the streets without a father and mother. That is why I was a criminal. This man showed me what true love is. Now I love God. Now I try to do my best for my fellow man." He now has a ministry program in Washington, DC

Currently, there are tremendous violations of our church’s religious rights. In Japan, more than 200 members are kidnapped every year. Some of them are exposed to a year of imprisonment in private houses during which time they are tormented by deprogrammers. Deprogramming is a process of breaking down the faith of someone and turning them against the religion they once professed. The Japanese government averts their eyes. They pretend this is not happening. Sometimes the government even supports the deprogrammers.

In Russia also there are tremendous violations. I don’t have the time to go over them all, but there is an ongoing case in which the judges and prosecutors have all joined against the church.

A major case in now going on in Germany. The German ban of Rev. and Mrs. Moon under the Schengen Treaty covered almost all of Europe. Thus, Rev. and Mrs. Moon have been banned, not only from entering Germany, but from eight other nations as well. The German government has published a tract against our church relying solely upon the words and views of anti-Moon groups. They made no effort to examine our actual religious teachings or sacred text. This booklet attacking our church cost $200,000 and was paid for by a government agency.

France has also declared Rev. Moon to be a person who violates the public order, together with other groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Austrian government does not allow the Unification Church to exist as a legal entity, so all property must be held by individuals. In Belgium, the Unification Church is one of 180 organizations listed by the Belgium Parliament Commission as a "dangerous sect."

In Venezuela, the leader of the Unification Church was arrested, the Unification Church has been dissolved, and the body of the church was completely destroyed. Fortunately, I have heard good news that apparently things are now under review and that the Minister of Justice has told our people that within a month their rights would be restored.

I could go on and on about Thailand, Malaysia, and many other countries where our church has been banned or outlawed. They have to worship underground. They cannot meet together. This happens not just in Islamic countries. It happens in countries that appear to be free and democratic. Fortunately, in the US, a country that is ruled by law, we have been able to win important cases and, at this moment, we are not experiencing any persecution that is government sanctioned. There are however, many countries such as Germany where the persecution is sanctioned by the government.

This body has a great responsibility. This is practically the only global organization that can protect the rights of all the religious minorities and eventually the rights of the larger religions because, if the little ones go, the largest also will go. We have to stick together and make ourselves be heard by all means. Thank you very much.

ICRF Brazil Conference Index International Coalition for Religious Freedom


apology 11

For Immediate Release Contact: Dan Fefferman August 16, 1999 703-790-1500

State of Maryland Sued for Religious Discrimination

The International Coalition for Religious Freedom (ICRF) and several other plaintiffs filed a federal suit against the State of Maryland today for infringing on First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom. The suit seeks to stop the state's "unconstitutional investigation" through its Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education Institutions.

"The Unites States has correctly criticized European states for scrutinizing smaller and newer religions through government commissions such as this one," said ICRF executive director Dan Fefferman. "The state of Maryland is engaging in a witch hunt by carrying out a biased inquisition into new religions."

Named as defendants in the suit are the State of Maryland, the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, Governor Parris Glendening, and task force chairman William Wood.

The defendants stand accused of several charges, including:

Violating the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment Violating Article 36 of the Declaration of Rights of the Maryland Constitution Causing the US to violate the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

"These two United Nations instruments require nondiscrimination, equality before the law, and equal protection of the law for all religions and beliefs, including those which are newly established, non-traditional, and/or originating or based in other countries," says a 19-page complaint filed in Maryland District Court today.

The complaint asks the Court for a declaration that the legislative act creating the Task Force and the actions of the Task Force itself are unconstitutional. It also seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions from further implementation of the Task Force's legislative mandate.

The complaint says the defendants have violated the Constitution by "utilizing government funds, employees, facilities and pronouncements" in

"investigating the religious beliefs and practices of targeted religious minorities" " mandating preferences for some religions over other religions" "chilling the rights of adherents to certain religions to the practice of their faith"

The Task Force was set up as a result of the state legislature's passing House Joint Resolution 22 last year. Fefferman denounced the Task Force as "religious McCarthyism. This is the 90s version of the 50s' Red Scare," he said. "The State of Maryland is looking for a 'cultist' under every college dormitory bed."

Rev. Susan Taylor, President of the Founding Church of Scientology of Washington, DC, added, "Actions like this Task Force occur when government officials fall victim to the propaganda of religious bigots."

Plaintiffs in the case include ICRF, religious freedom advocate Nicholas Miller of the Council on Religious Freedom, humanities professor Lloyd Eby of the University of Maryland's University College, and several other Maryland residents who are either students, parents of students, or employees of the Maryland University System.

More information on the Task Force is available through ICRF's web page at www.religiousfreedom.com. A copy of today's complaint filed in the Maryland District Court is available on request. The International Coalition for Religious Freedom is non-profit, non-sectarian, educational organization dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all, regardless of creed, gender or ethnic origin. ICRF acknowledges with gratitude that, at the current time, it receives the bulk of its funding from institutions and individuals related to the Unification Church community.

Saturday, June 19, 1999

Minority Faiths Come Under the Microscope Across Europe


WASHINGTON -- Religious-rights advocates have expanded their efforts to protect minority faiths in what many thought an unlikely arena -- some of Western Europe's leading democracies. The concern stems from actions in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and elsewhere that critics say run roughshod over the legal rights of minority religious groups, most of whom are relatively new, small or foreign imports. Among the targeted groups are the Amish, Jehovah's Witnesses, Wicca, Hare Krishna and Seventh-day Adventists. Others include dozens of small evangelical and Pentecostal Christian churches, the Church of Scientology, a number of Hindu and Buddhist movements, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, obscure New Age groups, Satmar Hasidic Jews, Baha'is, Mormons, the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei and even the YWCA. In France, a government commission issued a list of more than 170 suspect groups. In Belgium, a list of 189 groups was released. Among them was the Assemblies of God, a fast-growing Pentecostal denomination based in Springfield, Mo. Critics say the government actions fail to differentiate among the targeted groups, which vary widely in beliefs, practices and mainstream acceptance in the United States and elsewhere. Instead, they say, the governments have cast all the groups as potentially dangerous sects in an overzealous response to the violence of Japan's Aum Shinri Kyo cult, Southern California's Heaven's Gate commune, and, in particular, the 1994-'95 mass suicides and homicides in France and Switzerland carried out by Order of the Solar Temple members. "Everyone is being lumped together," said Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center for Studies of New Religions in Torino, Italy. "It's reminiscent of the McCarthy era in the United States." Targeted groups, said Introvigne, have been subjected to media attacks, harassment, tax and other legal problems. A sign of how widespread the "anti-cult" sentiment has become is a proposal before the 41-nation Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to establish a central European "observatory" to monitor "groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature." The proposal also urges Western Europe's wealthier nations to help their poorer neighbors create "information centers" to locally dispense information on suspect groups. The proposal expresses concern for "protecting" the children of group members from "ill treatment, rape, neglect, indoctrination by brainwashing and non-enrollment at school, which makes it impossible for welfare services to exercise supervision." At the same time, the proposal "reaffirms" the assembly's "commitment to freedom of conscience and religion," and "recognizes religious pluralism as a natural consequence of freedom of religion." But because the proposal does not define what makes a group suspect, critics say the potential for abuse is great and could be subject to political whims and cultural prejudices. The assembly, an advisory body to the council's decision-making Committee of Ministers, is scheduled to vote on the issue Monday at a meeting in Strasbourg, France. Christiane Dennemeyer, a council spokeswoman, said the proposal is likely to pass although it could be amended. "The majority of [council] members appear at this time to be of the same opinion as the recommendation," she said. U.S. government officials concerned with religious liberty issues have taken note of the situation, pointing out that domestic laws in many of the affected nations as well as international treaties are supposed to safeguard the targeted groups' religious freedoms. "The United States understands that there are some dangerous groups that use religion as a cover for their activities," said Robert Seiple, the State Department's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom issues. "Our concern is these governments are framing the issue as one of sects and cults. That ignores some dangerous groups that act under political cover and includes some groups that in no way are dangerous, simply because of religious prejudice." The issue was also the subject of a recent Capitol Hill hearing by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent federal agency that monitors human-rights concerns set forth in the 1975 Helsinki Accords. At the hearing, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a commission member, said he was particularly concerned that nations with less developed democratic institutions, such as the former Soviet republics and China, are using the Western Europe situation as an excuse for their own heavy-handed treatment of religious minorities. "The Western Europe model influences what other nations do," said Brownback. "That's why it's so very important what happens there." Fear of new cult violence is often noted by Western European politicians as a prime reason for the need to move against suspect groups. However, Willy Fautre, the Brussels-based director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, said some secular politicians, particularly in France and Belgium, have used past cult violence as an excuse to mask their bias against all religious faiths. Likewise, he said, representatives of established churches, fearful of competition from new groups, have joined with the secularists to present a united front against the minority faiths. "The established Protestant and Catholic churches want to keep out the newcomers, while the secularists think they're protecting enlightened Western society from irrational beliefs," Fautre said following the commission hearing. "It's really a case of strange bedfellows." Among the suspect groups listed in the French government report was the Institut Theologique Bible college and seminary in Nimes run by Massachusetts-born Louis DeMeo, an independent Baptist pastor associated with the Greater Grace World Outreach in Baltimore. In addition to his 10-year-old college, DeMeo also leads a 200-member church and directs a 50-student Christian day school, both also in Nimes. DeMeo said he moved to Nimes 17 years ago "to help re-establish Christian life in France, which has abandoned its Christian heritage." He said he has never been officially told why his Nimes institutions have been labeled potentially dangerous. He said the designation has resulted in tax, banking and job problems for himself and others associated with his schools and church. "The government never got in touch with us to ask who we were before putting us on the list or since," said DeMeo. "It's incredibly discriminating." A spokesman at the Embassy of France in Washington said he could not comment on DeMeo's case.



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Alternative or New Religions

Groups Widely-Publicized in Popular Media

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & People's Temple http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~remoore/jonestown/ [An excellent set of resources actively maintained by Rebecca Moore of San Diego State University.]

Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/n-waco.htm [Links to sites representing various perspectives on the group and its fate at the hands of the U.S. Government.]

Heaven's Gate http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/n-hvgate.htm [A short list of links to sites dealing with the comet and cosmic traveler group.]

New Religions from India http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/india/ [Resources on some yoga and meditations movements, the guru figure, and related phenomena connected with new religions from India.]

Scientology http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/n-sology.htm [Links to several official, semi-official, and oppositional sites.]

Bibliographies and Online Texts

Cults and New Religious Movements: A Bibliography http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/nanninga.htm [A non-annotated list of works in English, with an appendix of Dutch and German literature, by Rob H. Nanninga.]

Online Texts about Cults and New Religions http://www.skepsis.nl/nrm.html [A well selected set of links maintained by Rob H. Nanninga who works with the Dutch Foundation of Sceptics in the Netherlands.]

Scholarly Journals

Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions http://www.novareligio.com/ [A print journal published twice yearly by Seven Bridges Press in USA. Editors are Phillip Charles Lucas and Catherine Wessinger.]

Syzygy: Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture http://wsrv.clas.virginia.edu/~jmb5b/syzygy.html [A print journal founded by James Lewis. Although no longer published, the web site maintained by John Bozeman provides an index of back issues.]

Internet Directories and Meta-Sites

Cults and Religion http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/ [A site maintained by Irving Hexham at the University of Calgary in Canada, who also moderates NUREL-L, an e-mail discussion forum on New Religions.]

CultWatch http://www.americanreligion.org/cultwtch/index.html [An "oldie but goodie" site, not revised since 1997 but containing useful summaries apparently authored by J. Gordon Melton.]

GTU New Religious Movements Links http://www.gtu.edu/library/LibraryNRMLinks.html [Links to sites representing new religious movements, organized along the plan of J. Gordon Melton's "families" of religious traditions or orientations. The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California (USA) has been active in the study of new religions since the 1970's.]

Home Page of Joel Elliott http://www.unc.edu/~elliott/ [Selected links and information on International Churches of Christ and Jehovah's Witnesses.]

Religious Movements Homepage http://cti.itc.Virginia.EDU/~jkh8x/soc257/ [Established by Professor Jeffrey K. Hadden to meet the needs of his students in sociology at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, USA), this site has become a well-developed gateway to internet resources for the study of new religions. Particularly useful are the pages that link Anti-Cult and Counter-Cult Movements and hyperlinked New Religious Movement Group Profiles prepared by students in Dr. Hadden's classes. These pages may be slow to load, but repay one's patience.]

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance http://www.religioustolerance.org/ [A site that aims to provide summary information on a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices from a non-evaluative standpoint. Includes a guide to more than 60 identifiable traditions, movements, and groups.]

Yahoo Cults Index http://dir.yahoo.com/Society_and_Culture/Religion_and_Spirituality/Cults/ [A non-annotated and relatively poorly sorted collection of links from a major web-indexing service. Compare the similar Open Directory page.]

Academic Professional Associations that Support Study of New Religions

American Academy of Religion New Religious Movements Group http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/aar-nrm/ [Web page for the program unit of the the AAR that supports the study of emerging, new, and alternative religions. Meets annually in November.]

Association for the Sociology of Religion http://www.sociologyofreligion.com/ [Formed in 1938 as the American Catholic Sociological Society, current membership of the ASR is about 700 people interested in empirical study of religion. Meets annually in tandem with the American Sociological Association.]

CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni http://www.cesnur.org/ [Center for the Study of New Religions in Italy. Many online resources for current information about NRMs.]

Communal Studies Association http://www.swarthmore.edu/Library/peace/CSA/ [The CSA works to facilitate the preservation, restoration, and public interpretation of historic communal sites in North America, to provide a forum for the study of communal societies, and to communicate the successful ideas from, and lessons learned by, communal societies.]

Society for the Scientific Study of Religion http://fhss.byu.edu/soc/sssr/index.html [The SSSR was organized to stimulate and communicate scientific research on religious institutions and religious experience. Scholars from all fields of study who are interested in the scientific exploration of religion are among its members. A combined archives for the SSSR and the Religious Research Association is being developed by Jeffrey K. Hadden at the University of Virginia (USA).]

Society for Utopian Studies http://www.utoronto.ca/utopia/ [An international, interdisciplinary association devoted to the study of utopianism in all its forms with a particular emphasis on literary and experimental utopias.]

Oppositional and "Consumer Protection" Activists

New Religions - Cons and Pros http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/conspros.htm [Links to web sites of various individuals, groups, and organizations that specialize in observation, opposition, or victim-assistance in relation to alternative, emerging, or new religious movements. Value-conflicts precipitated by some closely-knit movements, and by responses to them from people supposing they represent the cultural or religious majority, have led to stigmatization by means of the term 'cult', to the founding of cult-opposition organizations, and to intervention "to assist people to recover from cult experiences."]

Main Page

A Decade of Violence: In the last decade of the twentieth century a number of millennial groups were involved in violence.

1992 -- Conflict between federal law enforcement officers and the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Sam Weaver (age 14), Vicki Weaver, and U.S. Marshall William Deagan were killed.

1993 -- Branch Davidian tragedy involving conflict with federal law enforcement officers resulting in the deaths of four ATF agents and eighty Davidians.

1994 -- Fifty-three members of the former members of the Order of the Solar Temple were discovered dead in Quebec and Switzerland. Some were murdered and some committed suicide.

1995 -- Sixteen more members of the Solar Temple died in a group murder/suicide near Grenoble, France.

1995 -- Members of Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas on Tokyo subway trains, injuring more than 5,000 people and killing twelve. Aum members had previously committed murders, and attempted to commit more after the Tokyo subway attack.

1996 -- Eighty-one-day standoff in Justus Township, Montana, between FBI agents and the Freemen contained an armed group that was part of a revolutionary movement in the United States that aimed to overthrow the federal government.

1997 -- When the Hale-Bopp comet was closest to the earth, five more members of the Solar Temple committed suicide in Quebec.

1997 -- Thirty-nine members of Heaven's Gate committed group suicide in a mansion near San Diego.

2000 -- In Uganda, 924 members of the Restoration of Ten Commandments are murdered; the worst religious-related mass killing in modern times.


Professor of the History of Religions and Womenís Studies


Religious Studies 504-865-3182 office Loyola University 504-865-3179 fax 6363 St. Charles Avenue 504-394-2207 home New Orleans, LA 70118 wessing@loyno.edu


History of Religions: New Religious Movements, Millennialism Women and Religion

videos by anti-culists http://www.cultinfo.org/books/Videoform.PDF

acrobat how religion differs from cult:


Links to Web Sites Spreading Anti-democratic & Right Wing Agendas

Including Conservative, Reactionary, Libertarian, Theocratic, Repressive Populist, Conspiracist, White Racial Nationalist, & Far Right Groups and Their Allies

In the sections below you will find many groups, including a few that may not be right-wing in overt philosophy, but which work in coalitions with rightist groups on specific issues such as opposing abortion. For a discussion on not stereotyping or demonizing political adversaries on the right, visit A List is Just a List.

Jump to list of other key links and resources

Conservative Web Sites Seek Limits on Reproductive Rights (Spans Right to Left) Eclectic Conspiracist, Apocalyptic, & Millennialist Worldview (Spans Right to Left) White Racial Nationalist Web Sites Touring the Right Online Ultra-Conservative & Reactionary Web Sites Christian Right Anti-Clinton Web Sites Far Right Web Sites -- Holocaust Revisionism Holocaust Denial Historical Revisionism -- Christian Identity -- Fascist Skinheads Libertarians Theocratic Web Sites Regressive Populism (including Patriot Movement, & Armed Militias) Foreign Racial Nationalist & Far Right Sites Jump to Main Links Page for Sites Challenging the Right

Touring the Right Online

Before you begin the tour for the first time, take a few minutes to read the following overview.

What are the Different Sectors of the Right?

by Chip Berlet & Margaret Quigley (revised)

As the United States slides into the twenty-first century, the major mass movements challenging the bipartisan status quo are not found on the left of the political spectrum, but on the right. The resurgent right contains several strands woven together around common themes and goals. There is the electoral activism of the religious fundamentalist movements; the militant anti-government populism of the armed militia movement; and the murderous terrorism of the neonazi underground--from which the bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City emerged.

It is easy to see the dangers to democracy posed by vigilante forces such as armed militias, and the far right including neonazis, and racist skinheads. However, hard right forces such as dogmatic religious movements, regressive populism, and White racial nationalism also are attacking democratic values in our country.

The best known sector of the hard right--dogmatic religious movements--is often called the "Religious Right" It substantially dominates the Republican Party in at least 10 (and perhaps as many as 30) of the 50 states. As part of an aggressive grassroots campaign, these groups have targeted electoral races from school boards to state legislatures to campaigns for the US Senate and House of Representatives. They helped elect dozens of hard-line ultraconservatives to the House of Representatives in 1994. This successful social movement politically mobilizes a traditionalist mass base from a growing pious constituency of evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, Pentecostal, and orthodox churchgoers.

The goal of many leaders of this ultraconservative religious movement is imposing a narrow theological agenda on secular society. The predominantly Christian leadership envisions a religiously-based authoritarian society; therefore we prefer to describe this movement as the "theocratic right." A theocrat is someone who supports a form of government where the actions of leaders are seen as sanctioned by God--where the leaders claim they are carrying out God's will. The central threat to democracy posed by the theocratic right is not that its leaders are religious, or fundamentalist, or right wing--but that they justify their political, legislative, and regulatory agenda as fulfilling God's plan.

Along with the theocratic right, two other hard right political movements pose a grave threat to democracy: regressive populism, typified by diverse groups ranging from members of the John Birch Society out to members of the patriot and armed militia movements; and White racial nationalism, promoted by Pat Buchanan and his shadow, David Duke of Louisiana.

The theocratic right, regressive populism, and White racial nationalism make up a hard right political sector that is distinct from and sometimes in opposition to mainstream Republicanism and the internationalist wing of corporate conservatism.

Finally, there is the militant, overtly racist far right that includes the open White supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, Christian Patriots, racist skinheads, neonazis, and right-wing revolutionaries. Although numerically smaller, the far right is a serious political factor in some rural areas, and its propaganda promoting violence reaches into major metropolitan centers where it encourages alienated young people to commit hate crimes against people of color, Jews, and gays and lesbians, among other targets. The electoral efforts of Buchanan and Duke serve as a bridge between the ultraconservative hard right and these far right movements. The armed militia movement is a confluence of regressive populism, White racial nationalism, and the racist and antisemitic far right.

All four of these hard right activist movements are antidemocratic in nature, promoting in various combinations and to varying degrees authoritarianism, xenophobia, conspiracist theories, nativism, racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, demagoguery, and scapegoating. Each wing of the antidemocratic right has a slightly different vision of the ideal nation.

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The basic themes of conservatism are to support tradition, hierarchy, and small government. Town Hall - http://www.townhall.com/ An extensive set of links, including American Conservative Union, Center for Individual Rights, Capital Research Center, The Family Research Council. Empower America, The Leadership Institute, National Review, Young America's Foundation, and Washington Times. Town Hall Expanded Links Sorted by Topic - http://townhall.com/links/ Selected Town Hall Members: Heritage Foundation - http://www.heritage.org/ Free Congress Foundation - http://www.freecongress.org/ The Federalist Society for Law and Public Studies - http://www.fed-soc.org/ American Conservative Union - http://www.conservative.org/ Young America's Foundation - http://www.yaf.org/ National Taxpayers Union - http://www.ntu.org/ National Review Magazine - http://www.nationalreview.com/

Other Sites:

Concerned Women for America - http://www.datadisc.com/cwfa/ Eagle Forum - http://www.eagleforum.org/ National Association of Scholars - http://www.NAS.org/ The Reagan Home Page - http://reagan.webteamone.com/ NRA Home Page - http://www.nra.org/

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Ultra-Conservative and Reactionary

Includes (to various degrees and in various combinations) conscious or unconscious support for white privilege; male supremacy; subservience of women and people of color; hierarchical religious and family structures; the protection of property rights over human rights; preservation of individual wealth; a rapacious form of unregulated free market capitalism; aggressive and unilateral military and foreign policies; and authoritarian and punitive means of social control. They also frequently include opposition to the feminist movement and abortion rights; democratic pluralism and cultural diversity; gay rights; government regulations concerning health, safety, and the environment; and minimum wage laws and union rights. (Adapted from "A Call to Defend Democracy & Pluralism"). Buchanan Brigade - http://www.buchanan.org/ Accuracy in Media - http://www.aim.org/ The Conservative Caucus - http://www.conservativeusa.org/

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Less government is better government. Subsets include economic libertarianism, social libertarianism, civil libertarianism, and anarcho-libertarianism. Libertarian.Org - http://www.libertarian.org/ Cato Institute - http://www.cato.org/ - "Promoting public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace."

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Seek Limits on Reproductive Rights (Usually Right but sometimes Left)

The Ultimate Pro-Life Resource List - http://www.prolife.org/ultimate/ American Life League National Right to Life Committee - http://www.nrlc.org/ APLN - The American Pro-Life Network Human Life International LifeLinks Operation Rescue National

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Christian Right

Christian Coalition - http://www.christian-coalition.org/ Focus on the Family - http://www.family.org/ Family Research Council - http://www.frc.org/ Promise Keepers - http://www.promisekeepers.org/ Rutherford Institute - http://www.rutherford.org Gospel Communications Network - http://www.gospelcom.net Has over 100 members on drop-down list Christian Broadcasting Network - http://the700club.org/ Trinity Broadcast Network - http://www.tbn.org/

Challenging the Christian Right and the Religious Right Jump to Longer List

Queer Resource Directory: "The Radical Religious Right" - Compiled by Greg R. Broderick http://qrd.tcp.com/qrd/www/rrr/rrrpage.html

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Theocratic Web Sites

The theocratic right's ideal is an authoritarian society where Christian men interpret God's will as law. Women are helpmates, and children are the property of their parents. Earth must submit to the dominion of those to whom God has granted power. People are basically sinful, and must be restrained by harsh punitive laws. Social problems are caused by Satanic conspiracies aided and abetted by liberals, homosexuals, feminists, and secular humanists. These forces must be exposed and neutralized.

Newspaper columnist Cal Thomas, a long-standing activist in the theocratic right, has suggested that churches and synagogues take over the welfare system "because these institutions would also deal with the hearts and souls of men and women." The churches "could reach root causes of poverty"--a lack of personal responsibility, Thomas wrote, expressing a hard-line Calvinist theology. "If government is always there to bail out people who have children out of wedlock, if there is no disincentive (like hunger) for doing for one's self, then large numbers of people will feel no need to get themselves together and behave responsibly."

[Under Construction]

Right-Wing Populism (including Patriot Movement, & Armed Militias)

For regressive right-wing populism, the ideal is America First ultra-patriotism and xenophobia wedded to economic Darwinism, with no regulations restraining entrepreneurial capitalism. The collapsing society calls for a strong man in leadership, perhaps even a benevolent despot who rules by organically expressing the will of the people to stop lawlessness and immorality. Social problems are caused by corrupt and lazy government officials who are bleeding the common people dry in a conspiracy fostered by secret elites, which must be exposed and neutralized. Regressive populists frequently slide over into white racial nationalism.

Linda Thompson, was a latter-day Joan of Arc for the patriot movement, representing the most militant wing of regressive populism. She appointed herself "Acting Adjutant General" of the armed militias that formed cells across the United States in the mid-1990s. Operating out of the American Justice Federation of Indianapolis, Thompson's group warned of secret plots by "corrupt leaders" involving "Concentration Camps, Implantable Bio Chips, Mind Control, Laser Weapons," and "neuro-linguistic programming" on behalf of bankers who "control the economy" and created the illegal income tax. Let Freedom Ring Web Ring - http://www.webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?ring=letfreedomring;list Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) - http://www.fija.org/ See also: http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/BillInfo/FIJA.html Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership - http://www.jpfo.org/ John Birch Society - http://www.jbs.org/ Militia of Montana - http://www.nidlink.com/~bobhard/mom.html Militia of Montana Information Center - http://www.militiaofmontana.com/ New World Order Intelligence Update http://www.inforamp.net/~jwhitley - John Whitley, Editor) Patriot Information - http://www.westworld.com/~jahred/politic.html#table - Has good list of assorted Patriot sites. Can be very slow. Resource Center - http://www.zekes.com/~happy/scrc/ - Good example of difference between Christian right and Christian Patriot right. World Wide Christian Radio - HTTP://WWW.WWCR.COM/ - Has variety of programs including Christian Right, Patriot, and Far Right. Challenging the Populist Right

The Militia Watchdog - Compiled by Mark Pitcavage - http://www.militia-watchdog.org/ Virtual Guided Tour of Regressive Populist Anti-Globalism - Mark Rupert - Syracuse University

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Eclectic Conspiracist, Apocalyptic, & Millennialist Worldviews (From Right to Left)

While several of the other categories are awash in conspiracy theories, some conspiracist web sites blend Christian, populist, antisemitic, and even leftist conspiracism into an eclectic blend.

The Watcher Website - http://www.mt.net/~watcher/new.html - Antichrist, UFO's and more from a millennialist perspective. Acacia Press - http://www.crocker.com/~acacia/article.html - Anti-Masonic essays. Freemasons & Illuminati rule!

Sites that Debunk Conspiracism

Federal Reserve Conspiracy Myths - Edward Flaherty, College of Charleston - Currently Offline Conspiracy Theory Index - http://www.floodlight.org/theory/contents.html - Gerry Rough - Debunking Conspiracy myths - Damien Falgoust - http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/3578/ The Tax Protestor FAQ - Daniel B. Evans - http://www.netaxs.com/~evansdb/tpfaq.html Sites That Monitor Apocalyptic and Millennialist Concerns

Center for Millennial Studies - http://www.mille.org/ Millennium Monitor - http://www.fas.org/2000/index.html

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Anti-Clinton Websites

Christian Right

Exegesis: A Compass For Moral Excellence Published Worldwide From Washington [Christian Philosophy] http://www.sm.org/exegesis/

Jeremiah Project: High Crimes and Misdemeanors [Clinton, Christian Prophecy, and Secular Humanism] http://www.jeremiahproject.com/prophecy/clintoncrime.html

The Cutting Edge [Clinton, Christian Prophecy, and New World Order] http://cuttingedge.org/news/n1139.cfm

Other Sites

Free Republic Right-Wing Populist http://www.freerepublic.com/index.html

Spawned by Christopher Ruddy

Stories from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review & the Western Journalism Center in reverse chronological order http://www.assumption.edu/webVAX/whitewater/PTRrco.html

Christopher Ruddy at Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://tribune-review.com/ruddy/

Newsmax [has a heavy emphasis on impeachment] http://www.newsmax.com/

Ruddy at Newsmax - http://www.newsmax.com/ruddy/


Clinton Body Count Web Sites

Clearinghouse on Clinton Body Count - http://www.thecommonman.com/bodycnts.htm Clinton Body Count - http://www.mt.net/~watcher/farahclintonbodycount.html - Christian End Times Web Site - with links on New World Order, Antichrist and UFO's

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White Racial Nationalist Web Sites

The white racial nationalists' ideology oscillates along a continuum from unconscious nationalist ethnocentrism to bullying ultra-patriotic bigotry to vulgar fascism in service of White male supremacy. What separates this sector from the far right is that some adherents practice a form of cultural racism rather than the didactic biological racism of the far right. Multiculturalism and pluralism are seen as threatening the essence of the nation and civilization itself. Most in this category see culture and nation as immutable.

In its mildest form White racial nationalism proclaims it is free from prejudice, and willing to treat as equals Jews and people of color. The catch is that everyone has to be willing to behave just like a middle class straight White Christian man who embraces the culture of northern Europe. This is a form of ethnocentric racism, which, albeit not as fierce or objectionable as the views of genetic determinists in race hate groups, is a form of racism nonetheless. It should be noted that the groups listed below all claim to be free from racism.

In its most extreme form, White racial nationalism supports unilateral militarism abroad and repression at home to force compliance with the needs of the nation. Social problems are seen as caused by uncivilized people of color, lower-class foreigners, and dual-loyalist Jews, who must all be exposed and neutralized.

Samuel Francis, the prototypical extreme racial nationalist, writes columns warning against attempts to "wipe out traditional White, American, Christian, and Western Culture," which he blames on multiculturalism. Francis's solutions: "Americans who want to conserve their civilization need to get rid of elites who want to wreck it, but they also need to kick out the vagrant savages who have wandered across the border, now claim our country as their own, and impose their cultures upon us. If there are any Americans left in San Jose, they might start taking back their country by taking back their own city....You don't find statues to Quetzalcoatl in Vermont."

Racial Nationalist Web Site Promoting White Supremacy

Council of Conservative Citizens - http://www.cofcc.org (White Christian nationalism) American Renaissance - http://www.amren.com Dept. A, P.O. Box 1674, Louisville, KY 40201; Facsimile: (502) 637-9324; (White Racial Nationalism) Dixie Net - The Southern League - http://www.dixienet.org/ (White southern nationalism) Federation for American Immigration Reform 1 - http://www.fairus.org/ (Xenophobia) Rights for Whites Webring - http://nav.webring.com/cgi-bin/navcgi?ring=whitering;list

Racial Nationalist Web Site Promoting Black Supremacy

Nation of Islam - http://www.noi.org

Sites Challenging Racial Nationalism

Critical of the "neo-confederate" movement - http://www.anet-dfw.com/~crawfsh/Index.htm Institute for the Study of Academic Racism - http://www.ferris.edu/ISAR/

Foreign Racial Nationalist Web Sites

International Third Position - http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/third-position/index.html The Vlaams Blok - http://www.vlaams-blok.be/ (not in English)

Foreign Sites Challenging Racial Nationalism

Extreme nationalist groups: Nazism Exposed - http://www.ekran.no/html/nazismexposed/

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Far Right Web Sites

For the far right, the ideal is White revolution to overthrow the corrupt regime and restore an idealized natural biological order. Social problems are caused by crafty Jews manipulating inferior people of color. They must be exposed and neutralized. This sector includes the Ku Klux Klan, neonazis, genocidal supremacist groups, the revolutionary right, right-wing terrorists, zealous white racists, Christian Patriots, Christian Identity, and those groups that rewrite the history of the Holocaust in a way that serves as an apology for Hitler or vilifies Jews as deserving of attacks.

The Truth at Last is a racist far right tabloid that features such headlines as "Jews Demand Black Leaders Ostracize Farrakhan," "Clinton Continues Massive Appointments of Minorities," and "Adopting Blacks into White Families Does Not Raise Their IQ," which concluded that "only the preservation of the White race can save civilization....Racial intermarriage produces a breed of lower-IQ mongrel people."

[Note that Far Right sites change frequently]

Stormfront - White Nationalist Resource Page - Don Black - http://www.stormfront.org/defaultf.htm White Aryan Resistance - Tom Metzger - http://www.resist.com/ (neonazi) National Alliance - William L. Pierce - http://www.natall.com/ (neonazi) The Spotlight - Liberty Lobby - http://www.spotlight.org/ (fascist populism) Aryan Nations - http://www.christian-aryannations.com/ (Christian Identity) David Duke Home Page - http://www.duke.org/ KKK.Com - http://www.kkk.com/open.htm - referal links to various Klan groups)

Sites Challenging the Far Right

Hate Watch Web Site - http://hatewatch.org Center for New Community / Cyberhate Tour - http://www.newcomm.org/cyberhate_main.htm Nizkor Project to expose Holocaust deniers - http://www.nizkor.org Cyberwatch at Simon Wisenthal Center "The Lunatic Fringe" collection at the Queer Resource Directory: Compiled by Greg R. Broderick - http://qrd.tcp.com/qrd/www/rrr/lunatic.html Radio for Peace International's Far Right Web Review - http://www.clark.net/pub/cwilkins/rfpi/frwr.html "Web of Hate" article from Web Magazine - http://www.webmagazine.com/Features/Hate/intro.html

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Thanks to Peter Herngaard, Carol F. L. Liu, Kim Goldberg, Devin Burghart, Center for Democratic Renewal, Coalition for Human Dignity, Arizona Citizens Project, Tom Burghardt, Jim Danky, John Cherney, Andrew Baker, Lin Collette, Surina Khan, Francine Almash, and several others who wished to be low key.

Inadvertant assistance from these rightists: Joe Bunkley, Reuben Logsdon, Milton Kleim, Don Black, and assorted industrious skinheads, neonazis, antisemites, and racists who circulated their lists online.

The first progressive BBS was NEWSBASE in San Francisco run by Richard Gaikowski. The oldest currently-running progressive BBS is The Public Eye, access by direct computer/modem call to (781) 221-5815. No fee or connect charges other than your regular long-distance rates. 24 hours. Settings: 300bps-14,400 bps, 8N1. (Sysop Chip Berlet), Sponsored by Political Research Associates and the NLG Civil Liberties Committee. The Public Eye BBS was begun by a group of us in Chicago in 1985 as the first explicitly antifascist, antiracist BBS, set up in response to the BBS network established for Aryan Nations by Louis Beam.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst Political Research Associates

Please read our Terms & Conditions for downloading, copying, printing, & linking.

The solution to bad cyberspeech is more cyberspeech. Censorship sweeps social problems under the rug. While system operators have every right (and in some cases a moral duty) to refuse to host conferences that promote prejudice, bigotry, and hate, the ultimate solution is educating citizens about the enemies of democracy and diversity. We need to teach democracy as a habit of mind.

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Other Key PRA Resource Pages:

Links to Sites on the Internet

Challenging the Far Right & Hate Groups Challenging the Conservative & Theocratic Right Building Equality Spreading Anti-democratic & Right Wing Agendas {You are Here}

Text Directories with Addresses

Directory of Groups Challenging the Right & Building Equality Directory of Right Wing Groups & their Allies

Links to Web Sites of Selected Groups Challenging the Conservative & Theocratic Right

View a chart showing different sectors of the US political right Scan a list of other key links & resources

National Progressive Pro-Democracy Research Network

Center for Democratic Renewal Center for New Community Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity Data Center Also visit Culture Watch The Data Center's monthly bibliography on culture, art, and political affairs. FAIR Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting Also visit FAIR's magazine: Extra! Hatewatch.org Institute for First Amendment Studies Institute for the Study of Academic Racism

Regional and State

Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy Public Good Wisconsin Research Center (414) 272-9984

Challenging the Christian Right and Religious Right

Equal Partners in Faith Institute for First Amendment Studies Fighting the Religious Right - Compiled by Greg R. Broderick for the Queer Resource Directory People for the American Way National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Data Center - Also visit Culture Watch The Data Center's monthly bibliography on culture, art, and political affairs. The Interfaith Alliance Americans United for Separation of Church and State PRO-S.O.C.S: Pro-Separation of Church & State Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy c.c. watch's daily reports Christian Coalition Watch monitors the Christian Coalition

Other Key Colleagues and Allies

Western States Center Citizen Activist Corporate Accountability Project National Campaign for Freedom of Expression United for a Fair Economy

A Somewhat Random & Eclectic List of Other Nifty Sites

The Abortion Rights Activist Page Albion Monitor Body Politic Magazine CARAL Reproductive Rights and Health Resource Center Center for Millennial Studies Drug Reform Coordination Net Electronic Frontier Foundation IGC Network's Progressive Directory Liberal Constitutionalist Millennium Monitor Nuvo Focus Progressive Populist Working Assets Newsbite Voyager Webcast of Media & Democracy Congress

Please read our Terms & Conditions for downloading, copying, printing, & linking.

Other Key PRA Resource Pages:

Links to Sites on the Internet

Challenging the Far Right & Hate Groups Challenging the Conservative & Theocratic Right {You are Here} Building Equality Spreading Anti-democratic and Right Wing Agendas

Text Directories with Addresses

Directory of Groups Challenging the Right & Building Equality Directory of Right Wing Groups & their Allies


National Council of Churches

Religious persecution is a scourge that has afflicted humankind for most of its history. With varying degrees of intensity, persons of faith have been subjected to discrimination, imprisonment and, in some cases, torture and death. In religious terms, where the powers of the world claim for themselves what is finally God’s sovereignty, believers are unavoidably in jeopardy.

At the close of the bloodiest century in history, it is fitting that Congress would turn its attention toward the goal of reducing, if not eliminating, this most fundamental violation of human rights.

Legislation has now been introduced in both chambers of Congress (and passed by the House) that is intended to alleviate the suffering of persons around the globe who wish to exercise their God-given right to worship as they see fit.



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"France … shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law … It shall respect all beliefs." Article 2, Constitution of France.

Topics covered in this essay:

Overview of the Counter-cult movement

1981: Cult hysteria begins in France

Prohibiting wearing of headscarves by Muslim women

Taxing the Jehovah's Witnesses

Other cases

Government anti-sect mission

Recent developments

Overview of the Counter-Cult Movement:

In the 1960's, a Anti-Cult Movement (ACM) was founded in the United States. It was created in response to the many small new religious movements (NRM) - often headed by a single charismatic leader. Young adults flocked to these groups, seeking an intense spiritual experience and inter-personal intimacy. Some of these movements encouraged their followers to sever relationships with their friends and families of origin. Many followers abandoned their academic pursuits in order to devote more time to the movement. Some parents became alarmed, fearing that their children had become the mindless victims of mind control techniques and brainwashing. A movie The Manchurian Candidate (1962), dealt with mind control. Although it was a work of fiction, and based on non-existent science, it convinced much of the public that such control was possible.

A series of incidents involving loss of life in small destructive, religious groups (including those at Jonestown and Waco) raised public concern about "cults" in general. However, by the late 1990's, the ACM had largely run out of steam in the United States. Some within the movement had committed very serious criminal acts, assaulting and brutally kidnapping members of NRMs and forcibly confining them. A series of legal cases put the largest of these groups out of business.

But even as fear of "cults" started to diminish in North America, it was on the ascendancy in some European countries - particularly in Russia, Germany and France. Public fears were greatly increased by a religiously motivated mass suicide-murder of members of the Solar Temple group in southeast France on 1995-NOV-16. 13 adults and 3 children died. The government of France responded with oppressive measures directed against various benign religious groups.

In the French language, the English phrase "destructive cult" can be translated as "sectes". The French word "cultes" refers to religious rituals of faith groups, and does not carry a negative meaning. This is the original meaning of "cult" in English, before it developed it present pejorative meanings.

1981: Cult Hysteria Begins in France:

In 1981, an Information Mission on Cults was formed within the French Law Commission . This was followed by a report written by Alain Vivien at the request of the Prime Minister during 1982 and 1983. It was published in 1985 as: "Cults in France: Expression of Moral Freedom or Factors of Manipulation." It is commonly referred to as the Vivien Report.

There was little official interest within the government of France concerning new religious groups until the mass murder-suicide by the Order of the Solar Temple in 1994, and the gas attack in Tokyo by the Aum Shinri Kyo in 1995. On 1995-JUN-29, the National Assembly established a parliamentary inquiry commission into new religious groups. The commission started its activities on JUL-18. It had no "ethnologists, sociologists and historians of religions." on staff 6 They held 20 hearings during a secret session lasting 21 hours. Such secrecy is normally applied only in matters of national security. They presented a report on 1995-DEC-22 to the National Assembly. 11

Jacques Guyard, of the Socialist Party, was the vice-chairman of the commission on cults during the interval 1995-1996. Jean-Pierre Brard, of the Communist Party, was Rapporteur. They prepared what has been called the "Guyard Report," which includes a listing of 173 new religious groups. Included were Baptist denominations, the Charismatic Catholic Renewal Movement, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Jesuits, Opus Dei, the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church. Many people consider this a "black list" of harmful or dangerous sects; it appears to be a simple list of NRMs. The report was leaked to the press in 1996, who have been using it to circulate "rumors and false information, inciting religious intolerance with impunity." 6 Much of the data that went into the report came from the "Renseignements Generaux," the French intelligence service. These data remain classified to the present time; faith groups on the list have been unable to challenge their inclusion. The committee also based its findings on French anti-cult groups such as the National Union of Associations for Defense of the Families and the Individual (UNADFI, The Associations of Defense of the Families and the Individual (ADFI) and the Center Against Mental Manipulation (CCMM). Input from academics who have specialized in the study of new religious movements was not included; the commission refused to hear them.

The International Department of the Rutherford Institute, tracks anti-Christian discrimination in countries outside the United States. In 1997-MAY, they expressed concern about the Guyard Report. 1 At least one Evangelical pastor complained that his church has lost both staff and members as a result of the inclusion of his church on the list.

The Rutherford Institute asked French President Jacques Chiraq to have the list reviewed and revised, in order to "remove organizations that prove to be reputable." John Whitehead, president of the Institute, said that "France's 'list' is the first step towards tyranny. Its government must ensure that religious freedom is reaffirmed and no further steps taken."

Human Rights Without Frontiers, (HRWF) a European group dedicated to civil rights, believes that persecution of religious minorities is increasing in France. They believe that:

Minority religions have been marginalized. They find difficult, or more expensive, to rent halls for public meetings. School children from small religious groups have been stigmatized.

Jehovah's Witnesses have been targeted by the government. HRWF feels that they will be a test case. If there is little reaction from the public, then the persecution will expand to other religious groups.

The government plans to eliminate minority religions one at a time.

In early 1998-JUL, the French Observatory on Cults released its annual report. They conclude that "Cults represent a real threat for the State, the society and individuals; it is therefore the task of the Observatory to fight against this threat." 9 In common with anti-cult groups worldwide, the Observatory has tended to consider all "cults" to be dangerous. They reported that 50 organizations in France are indoctrinating children. This they believe is an increase from 28 in 1996.

Prohibiting the wearing of headscarves:

In the mid 1990's, the French Minister of Education ordered the expulsion from schools of all female students wearing the Hijab. This is a scarf that covers a woman's head, neck and throat. It is traditionally worn by adult Muslim women for protection, and to display modesty. The French government took no action against Roman Catholic students wearing crucifixes, Protestant students wearing crosses or Jewish male students wearing yarmulkes (skullcaps). Some of the students who were expelled from school because they wore the Hijab successfully sued the French government and were reinstated.

Taxing the Jehovah's Witnesses:

Jehovah's Witnesses are well established as a large Christian religion in France. They have been active there as the "Association Les Témoins de Jehovah " since 1900. There are approximately 220,000 Witnesses in that country, and almost 15 million worldwide. Many French families have belonged to this group for over five generations.2 They have a separate company that prints and distributes magazines and books. The latter pays taxes to the state as a commercial organization. But until now, the main religious organization has been free of taxes.

Incredible as it may sound, the French Tax Administration has ruled that the Witnesses are not a "worship association." Rather, they are considered to be a potentially dangerous sect. Fiscal services determined that "the association of Jehovah's Witnesses forbids its members to defend the nation, to take part in public life, to give blood transfusions to their minor children and that the parliamentary commission on cults has listed them as a cult which can disturb public order."

In 1998, the government of France imposed a 60% tax on religious offerings given by Jehovah's Witnesses to their organization, the local branch of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (WTS). A lien has also been established against their headquarters and printing plant. The intent appears to be to bankrupt the group. The Interior Ministry has refused to register the Temoins de Jehovah as an "association cultuelle" or "association culte." Thus they assert that member's contributions are taxable at the normal 60% rate for gifts in that country, under a 1992 law. The government has calculated that 303 million in French Francs ($50 million in US funds) is owed to the government. This represents 150 million in tax plus 60% in penalty charges and interest). This represents taxes not collected for the past 5 years. The Minister of Finance has refused to confirm this assessment, citing the confidential nature of the information. They do acknowledge that negotiations continue with the WTS.

On 1998-JUL-1, a demonstration was organized at the Esplanade of Human Rights near the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Jehovah's witnesses from 15 EU member countries protested the tax. They also visited embassies, foreign ministries and selected members of the French parliament.

Spokesperson Lyman A. Swingle, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses said: "If taxes are owed, the religious organization should pay. However, if our religion is targeted unfairly and illegally for exorbitant taxes, then it has a right to protest...When the law grants exemption from taxes to religious organizations and that exemption is allowed to the two largest Christian religions in the country but withheld from the third largest Christian religion, then we feel that something is seriously wrong." Swingle also wrote an open letter to Jacques Chirac, the President of France. He said, in part: "The ability to practice religion freely is a basic human right, supported by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Constitution of the French Republic. Yet the tax authority believes it has the right to use its power of taxation arbitrarily to restrict some religions but not others." He asked for the President's "support in removing this unjust and discriminatory tax...avoiding a dangerous threat to religious freedom and human rights in France".

The WTS took out full-page advertisements in the New York Times 7 for 1998-JUL-5 and in the International Herald Tribune for 1998-JUL-8. They accused the French government of a "shocking display of religious discrimination."

Washington Times columnist, Mark Kellner, commented: "I do not agree, doctrinally, with the Jehovah's Witnesses. But having been born in a land founded for religious freedom -- and having seen in my lifetime the effects of a lack of such freedom -- I am very concerned that we as Christians speak up, online and in person, against unfounded persecution."3

The Jehovah's Witnesses won their case before the High Administrative Court. The ruling in 2000-JUN stated that listing Witnesses as a "sect" is insufficient grounds for denying it tax exemptions which have traditionally been given to religious bodies.

The WTS has a long, historical record of successful court battles in the U.S. and Canada which have gone a long way to define religious freedom in these two countries. The next few years may see them forced to accomplish the same task in France.

The government also took action against a small church, the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besancon. The government does not class it as a worship association either. The church has been assessed a tax of about $80,000 USF. (Another source 9 says $500,000 USF) Like the Witnesses, this church is included in the Guyard Report list.

According to data published in 1993 by the Interior Ministry, only 149 out of a total of 1,053 Protestant associations and only 2 out of thousands of Muslim associations in France are currently entitled to tax exempt status. All of the groups which are not recognized are presumably now at risk of losing their freedom of religion and of assembly.

Other Cases:

The French government claims to have about 150 investigations of new religious groups underway. However, no charges have been made because there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

Cases were brought against individual members of the Church of Scientology. The court decision found some individuals guilty. However, it acknowledged that they were not following church policy at the time. The court ruling also found that the Church of Scientology had every right to exist as a religion according to the European Convention on Human Rights. The French government has appealed this decision to the French Supreme Court

The Family (a.k.a. Children of God, Family of Love) were raided in the mid-1990's and charged with child abuse. Child welfare officials in other countries did as well. All charges have been dropped; there was no evidence of child abuse; the charges were unfounded.

French government anti-sect mission:

On 1998-OCT-7, in response to the report of the French Observatory on Cults, the President of France issued DECREE No. 98.890: "Establishing an Inter-ministerial Mission to Fight Against Sects." 8 The document revoked an earlier decree (#96.387, 1996-MAY-9) which created an Inter-ministerial Observatory on Sects. The new mission will:

consolidate information that various Government department collect about sects

be authorized to require other departments to conduct surveys or research into cults.

inform other departments of instances of "sects that violate human dignity or threaten public order."

inform the Public Prosecutor of any acts by sects that should be prosecuted.

educate public representatives on "methods to fight against sects"

educate the public on the "danger that the sect phenomenon represents"

attend international meetings on sects

The Mission will be led by Alain Vivien, the author of one of the original anti-sect reports published in 1985. He is currently the president of an anti-cult group "Center Against Mental Manipulation" (CCMM)

Recent developments:

For centuries, France has had an excellent reputation in the preservation of human rights. Freedom of speech, religion, and assembly now appear to be vaporizing in that country.

1998-NOV-17: The Inter-ministerial Mission to Fight Against Sects appears to be a major first step towards a significant loss of freedoms of thought, religion, and assembly in France. The European Human Rights Office of the Church of Scientology commented: "...it is clear that there is a campaign ongoing to sensitize public opinion against minority religions by labeling them indiscriminately as 'dangerous sects' thus marginalizing and attempting to criminalize them. This manipulation of public opinion is done almost daily at the moment with press, radio and television articles centering on the supposed dubious activities of sects whilst interviewing the main opponents of minority (and majority) religious movements." 9 "...the Minister of Justice announced in the National Assembly that...a 'Mr. Sect' (as it was dubbed in the media) - a magistrate - was to be placed in every Court of Appeal to co-ordinate the fight against sects."

1998-OCT-28: A Human Rights Without Frontiers speech to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Implementation Meeting in Warsaw stated that a Parliamentary Inquiry into the "assets, financial and fiscal aspects of sects; their economic activities and their relations within economic and social fields" is expected to be set up in 1998-DEC or 1999-JAN. "Two laws are now to be voted by the National Assembly. The first one is meant to control the finances of 'cults' more strictly. The second one is dealing with the control of home schooling practiced by the children of members of so-called 'cults'." 10

1999-DEC-17: A news release by the Foundation for Religious Freedom states that "On December 16, the French Senate, the upper house of the French legislative system, voted on a law proposal from Senator Nicolas About which provides a means to dissolve groups which 'cause trouble to public order." The bill is not yet law but has passed its first major legislative hurdle...It is entitled 'Law proposal to reinforce the penal measures against associations or groups which, through their illegal acts, constitute a trouble to public order or a major threat to the human being or the security of the State.' The bill originally stated 'groups with a sectarian character' but the words 'with a sectarian character' were removed. In theory, therefore, the bill could apply to any group, though its real intent to target 'sects' was clear during the debate in the Senate." ("Sects" in French is equivalent to "cults" in English.) "It gives power to the President of the Republic to issue, after discussion with his Cabinet, a decree of dissolution against any group which: A) has been condemned, as a group, by a court of law twice; B) whose leaders have been condemned by a court of law twice for certain types of offenses and constitute a threat to public order or a major threat to human beings." 13

2000-JUN-15: According to ReligionToday: The federal government has approved a law which allows individuals to sue "marginal religious groups" who practice "mental manipulation." The law, entitled Human Rights and Public Liberties, is considerably more draconian than the law passed in 1999-DEC in the Senate. It has the potential to impoverish religious groups by endlessly tying them up in litigation -- at least until a court decides that the law is unconstitutional. 14

2000-JUN-22: The bill approved by the federal government on JUN-15 passed the National Assembly unanimously on JUN-22. It will be voted upon by the Senate in the Fall of 2000. The Explanatory Memorandum to the bill, states that the purpose of the bill "is to paralyze" the activities of new organizations with a "sect-like character". The legislation is based on the belief that new religious groups create a state of mental dependence in their members, and infringe on "human rights and fundamental liberties." The law is very vaguely worded and uses many ambiguous terms that it does not define. Any local mayor or chief of police can deny a group a permit to open a religious house of worship. Any literature that is regarded as "propaganda" can bring criminal penalties. It introduces a new term: mental manipulation which includes any activity "with the goal or the effect to create or to exploit the state of mental or physical dependence of people who are participating in the group's activities and to infringe human rights and fundamental liberties; to exert repeated pressure in order to create or exploit this state of dependence and to drive the person, against his will or not, to an act or an abstention with is heavily prejudicial." This provision of the law could be used to charge the Roman Catholic church for its teachings on abortion, birth control or co-habiting. This need for this law seems to be built upon hype and public fears; it is unsupported by any valid scientific studies.

"The law would create the offense of 'mental manipulation,' and give the state power to dissolve religious groups and imprison and fine members found to be 'creating a state of mental or physical dependence' among participants." 15

A group found guilty of "mental manipulation" would be prohibited from setting up churches or offices within 200 meters of a school, hospital, nursing home or retirement home. This would effectively ban any such group from the inner cities.

Under the law, the state could disband a religious organization if two representatives of the group were found guilty of one or more legal infractions. "The law would also make the group liable for civil penalties, restrict its right to advertise or proselytize, curtail the travel freedom of group leaders, and prohibit the groups from owning property, holding services or reincorporating themselves under another name." 16

2000-JUL: A number of religious denominations and civil rights associations expressed concern about the new anti-sect law.

Bruce Casino, president of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, notes that the legislation might be applied to religious groups of any size, whether new or established. "It would, by its terms, give enormous discretion to French prosecutors and civil litigants to go after religious organizations, political parties, trade unions and other groups that call for contributions or volunteer efforts from members."

John Graz, the Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association and a Seventh Day Adventist, said "The real target of this law is religion in general. It's naive to think that only the listed groups are in danger."

Pope John Paul II alluded to the proposed law when meeting with the French ambassador to the Vatican. He said that: "religious liberty, in the full sense of the term, is the first human right ... To discriminate religious beliefs, or to discredit one or another form of religious practice, is a form of exclusion contrary to the respect of fundamental human values and will eventually destabilize society, where a certain pluralism of thought and action should exist."

Heber Jentzsch, president of the International Church of Scientology, noted that individual Scientologists have been arrested and interrogated throughout France. Businesses operated by Scientologists have been forced into bankruptcy after being "outed" in the local press. 16

Rev N J L'Heureux, religious liberty moderator of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. said that "Overly aggressive evangelical preaching could be interpreted by some as mental manipulation."

Etienne Lhermenault, general secretary of the Federation of Evangelical Baptist Churches (FEBC) said that the situation in France "has been made infinitely more complicated by the vast ignorance of the French as far as religion is concerned and the resulting fear of all that is not firmly rooted in society." He also blames the media for their "confusing generalizations and by the mediocre level of their information on Protestantism and the evangelical churches." 17


1.Anonymous article, "Religious Groups Face French 'Blacklist'", Action Magazine, The Rutherford Institute, Charlottesville VA, Vol. 2, No. 5, 1997-MAY 2.Judah B. Schroeder, "Representatives from 15 European Union countries decry discrimination against Jehovah's Witnesses in France: Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States join efforts to visit embassies," Watch Tower Public Affairs Office, 1998-JUN-30. 3.Mark Kellner, "Then They Came for Me," Column in The Washington Times; exact date unknown 4.Associated Press, "Jehovah’s Witnesses would be the object of a tax assessment," 1988-JUN-29 5."Jehovah's witnesses pay a price for lack of cult status," The Independent (London UK), 1998-JUL-9. News section, Page 13. 6.News Release, "France: New Dramatic Developments in the Sect Issue," Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium, 1998-JUL-7 7.Free Minds, "France Moves to Tax Religion!" advertisement in the New York Times, 1998-JUL-5. See: http://www.freeminds.org/news/nytimes.htm 8."Establishing an Inter-ministerial Mission to Fight Against Sects," (English translation) at: http://www.cesnur.org/decree98.htm 9.Quoted in Martin Weightman, "Religious Hysteria in France," European Human Rights Office, Church of Scientology, 1998-NOV-17. 10."Religious Intolerance and Discrimination," speech delivered by Human Rights Without Frontiers to the OSCE Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, 1998-OCT-28. See: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/english/pressrelease/hrwf28-10-98.html 11."Report of the Inquiry Commission into New Religious Groups," 1995-DEC-22 at: http://www.assemblee-nat.fr/2/cenq/rap-enq/2cca.htm This is the original document; in French. An English translation is available at: http://cftf.com/french/Les_Sectes_en_France/cults.html 12."1997 Annual Report of the Inter-ministery Observatory on Cults" is at: http://www.multimania.com/tussier/ois2.htm (original document; in French) 13."France: New discriminatory law proposal," Foundation for Religious Freedom news release, 1999-DEC-17. 14.ReligionToday news summary for 2000-JUN-15 15."Rights groups fear French cult bill would curb religious liberty," Newsroom, 2000-JUL-5. Online at: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/fr2K_july1.htm 16."French 'Cults law' draws fire from religious groups," CNSNews.com, 2000-JUL-14, at: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/fr2K_july2.htm 17."French Baptists concerned about religious freedom," Evangelical Press News Service. Online at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00b/20000817e.htm

Copyright © 1996 to 2000 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance Essay created: 1996-SEP-27 Latest update: 2000-AUG-18 Author: B.A. Robinson

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The Anti-Cult Movement

(a.k.a. ACM)

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"Religious Cult: The church down the street from yours." Quotation taken from a B.C. cartoon, 1994-APR-30

Topics covered by this essay:

Definitions of Terms

History of the Anti-Cult Movement (ACM)

What the ACM Believes

The Cult Awareness Network (CAN™)

The old CAN

The new CAN

"Heaven's Gate" suicide and the appearance of cult "experts"

Recent ACM activities:

Activities in North America

Growth of the ACM in Europe

Is an ACM needed?

Religious movements that require strict discipline

References cited

ACM groups

Books and articles on New Religious Movements

Definitions of Terms

The anti-cult movement (ACM) is composed of a number of individuals and agencies which attempt to raise public concern about what they feel are serious emotional, spiritual and physical abuses by religious and other groups.

Terminology is confusing, as it is in many other areas of religion. People frequently assign different meanings to various terms. We recommend the following definitions:

Cult: A vicious "snarl" word used:

By the media to refer to dangerous, destructive religious groups.

By the anti-cult movement, mainly to refer to a wide range of mostly benign new religious movements who they feel engage in psychological abuse.

By the counter-cult movement, mainly to refer to benign Christian groups that hold one or more non-traditional religious beliefs.

The term is always hurtful. No group will willingly accept being called a cult. Since the term has so many different and mutually exclusive meanings, we recommend that it not be used as a stand-alone term. If you do use it, we suggest that you carefully modify the word to make its meaning clear, as in "benign cult" or "destructive cult." Even better is to use the emotionally neutral term "new religious movement."

Counter-cult movement: (CCM) A group composed of many hundreds of conservative Christian ministries. Their prime goal is to hunt down and expose heresy within their religion. Most people in the CCM believe that they personally follow true Christianity. They attack Christian faith groups which have one or more fundamental beliefs different from their own. (e.g. belief in the nature of Jesus, belief in the virgin birth, resurrection of Jesus, criteria for salvation, etc.) Their motivation is to preserve the purity of Christian belief by eradicating heresies. Their goal is to prevent individuals from accepting what the CCM groups believe are deviant, mistaken and dangerous beliefs. CCM activities can become confusing. One group's heresy is another group's orthodoxy. If faith group "A" regards group "B" as heretical, then "B" probably considers "A" to be also promoting heresy.

Anti-cult movement: (ACM) A group dedicated to raising public awareness of what they perceive are the dangers of cults. They see cults as engaging "in 'brainwashing,' 'mind control,' 'sinister manipulation,' 'creation of environments of totalism,' etc." 1 They consider the theological beliefs of new religious groups to be of lesser importance. Some in the ACM have attempted to convince individuals to leave religious groups. Some have engaged in criminal acts, such as kidnapping, assault, attempts at non-consensual brainwashing, etc., in order to force them to leave.

New Religious Movement: an emotionally neutral term used to refer to recently created and usually small faith groups. We feel that this term is preferred to "cult."

Cult Apologists: "Snarl" term used by some in the anti-cult and counter-cult movements to criticize Sociologists, Theologians, other academics, etc. who study new religious groups, find most of them to be quite benign, and advocate religious freedom.

History of the Anti-cult Movement

There are groups in North America, which engage in frightening activities:

kidnapping adults;

assaulting them;

holding them for days against their will;

attempting to forcibly brainwash them, so that they will abandon their religious faith and adopt the belief systems of the kidnappers;

deprive them of sleep, food, etc. in order to facilitate their emotional / mental / spiritual breakdown;

prevent them from communicating with the people in their support network;

charging large sums of money for their services.

We are not referring here to evil, destructive religious groups, but to some organizations and individuals within the Anti-cult Movement (ACM).

The ACM started as a response to spiritual developments of the 1960's. Countless new religious movements (NRMs) were created; many were headed by a single charismatic leader. Numerous young adults flocked to these groups, seeking an intense spiritual experience and inter-personal intimacy. Some of these movements encouraged their followers to sever relationships with their friends and families of origin. Many followers abandoned their academic pursuits in order to devote more time to the movement. Some parents became alarmed, fearing that their children had become the mindless victims of mind control techniques and brainwashing. The movie The Manchurian Candidate (1962) followed this theme; many viewers believed that the degree of control over brainwashing victims which was shown in the movie could be attained in real life. A very successful book on new religious groups was published in 1965 by an Evangelical Christian author, Walter Martin.2 Although primarily a counter-cult book, it contains a chapter "The Psychological Structure of Cultism" which heightened many parents' concerns. (The book went through 36 printings between 1965 and 1985!; a new edition was published in the late 1990's and is still in print in 1999).

Many non-profit, minimal-budget anti-cult agencies sprang up throughout the country, during the early 1970's. They considered many NRM's to be illegitimate religions which were a potential mental health hazard to young people. Rumors spread that some religious groups kept their members in a sort of prison and engaged in brainwashing techniques to convert them into "zombies". (The American Psychological Association and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion 3 have expressed doubts that this is possible).

The tiny, local ACM groups coalesced into a smaller number of well-organized agencies:

Some concentrated on educating the public about what they perceived as mental and physical health dangers within new religious movements. The information that they disseminated is valid with respect to dangerous, mind control cults; however they often lumped many benign religious groups together with doomsday cults. One result was to raise public hysteria against all small religious groups.

Still others became more radical and took direct action against members of what they called "cults". They attempted to "liberate" members from their groups. This has caused considerable emotional damage to members of new religious movements. Some parents of "cult" members, some disillusioned former members, and some "kidnappers for hire" have become "Deprogrammers". For a fee which can exceed $10,000, they kidnap members of NRM's, hold them against their will and subject them to intense and abusive manipulation in order to break their allegiance to the group. The goal is to return them to their family of origin. It is ironic that the deprogrammers use the same practices that they accuse the "cults" of engaging in. They appear to have been generally successful in avoiding being criminally charged. This is largely because their victims realize that such charges would implicate members of their family in a criminal conspiracy. In many cases, the deprogrammers convince the former members to leave the group, and to get on with their lives with no residual animosity towards the deprogrammers.

Many Child Protective Services in North America became caught up in the hysteria, suspected that children were being physically or sexually abused within religious groups and intentional communities. Many children were taken into care on suspicion of abuse, without any evidence of wrongdoing by the adults.

The counter-cult movement promoted the inclusion of "cult induced disorder" in DSM-III (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). This manual is in general use by psychiatrists, psychologists and other therapists throughout North America. Under the title "atypical dissociative disorder", the manual describes a variety of dissociative states:

"that might occur in persons who have been subjected to periods of prolonged and intensive persuasion (brainwashing, thought reform and indoctrination while the captive of terrorists or cultists)."

The radical part of the counter-cult movement continues today, but at a lower activity level. The use of kidnapping and abuse has lessened, particularly since some of the deprogrammers have been convicted of criminal activity and given jail sentences. The Family, formerly called The Children of God, estimated in 1997 that 1000 deprogramming attempts per year are still made in the US. Illegal activities have been largely replaced by "exit counseling" of NRM members who have already left their religious group on their own initiative. Seizure of children by state child protective agencies has decreased, due to greater understanding by child protection officers of the realities of communal living and due to their embarrassing losses in court.

What the ACM Believes:

Various groups within the ACM have differing concepts about what defines a cult. They often list a group of factors that a cult exhibits. "Characteristics of a Destructive Cult" at reFOCUS lists five. They do not say how many of the 5 must be present in order for a faith group to be called a cult:

1.An authoritarian power structure, with authority concentrated at the top 2.Charismatic or Messianic leader(s) (They define Messianic as meaning that the leaders identify themselves as God or state that they are the only persons capable of interpreting the Bible properly 3.The use of deceitful methods in recruitment of new members and/or raising of money 4.Isolation from society; filtering of information 5.The use of mind control methods on the membership.

Mind control can involve many techniques. Robert Lifton describes eight of them in his book "Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism:"

Milieu control: control of the group environment and communication

Manipulation: Leaders are perceived as being chosen by God, history or some supernatural force. Salvation can only be attained through the cult

Purity demands: An us vs. them mentality is developed, in which cult members are the only pure and good.

Confession: group confession and self-criticism is used in order to produce personal change

Sacred Science: The cult's doctrines and ideology are considered sacred and must not be doubted or questioned.

Loading the language: Conventional words and phrases are given special, in-group meanings.

Doctrine over person: Members are conditioned to feel guilt if they ever question group doctrine. One must subject one's experience to the "truth," as taught by the group.

Dispensing of Existence: The group contains the elite; outsiders are evil, unsaved, and may not even have the right to exist. Leaving the group will have devastating consequences.

Many in the CCM promoted the idea that mind-control groups went well beyond making high demands on their members. The groups were seen as reducing their members to "zombie-like" status through severe psychological methods. These beliefs were often supported by testimony from disillusioned former members. This propaganda was readily believed by the general public, who reacted with fear. Cults were seen as kidnapping vulnerable youth and brainwashing them until their self-will was destroyed.. The public had mistaken beliefs about the effectiveness of psychological "programming." This came from a number of sources of misinformation:

movies [e.g. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)] in which an individual was brainwashed and trained to become a political assassin. An exciting movie, but one that is not based on any psychological reality.

inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of brainwashing techniques used by the Communists during the Korean War. American soldiers were not brainwashed; some were physically tortured until they broke.

Some feminists, conservative Christians and others have promoted the concept that Satanic cults exits as highly abusive cults. They were seen as programming their victims to respond as robots without self-will, when triggered in various ways.

The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and other professional groups have expressed doubts that this level of mind-control is possible. Sociologists Bromley, Shupe and Hill 13,14 demonstrated that this type of brainwashing cannot be achieved. A special investigator for the Ontario government agreed. 15 Unfortunately, many people believe otherwise.

The "Old" Cult Awareness Network (CAN ™) - prior to 1996-JUN-22:

The "old" Cult Awareness Network was perhaps the world's largest and most successful counter-cult organization. They had a staff of 4 and a network of volunteers. CAN described themselves as "a national, tax-exempt non-profit educational organization, dedicated to promoting public awareness of the harmful effects of mind control." CAN stated that they only dealt with "unethical or illegal practices" by cults; they claimed that they did not judge a group's "doctrine or belief". They operated a support group for former cult members, called Focus. CAN estimated that "five million people...have been seriously affected by what they estimated to be more than 2,500 destructive cults."

In 1996, they offered for sale a number of counter-cult books and videos. They also sold information packets for US$18.00 on:

Specific Groups:


Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT)


International Church of Christ

Jehovah's Witnesses




Church of Scientology)

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

Unification Church

The Way International


Child Abuse in Cults

Cults on College Campuses

New Age

New Age in Business

Some of the organizations that they targeted are simply "high intensity" religious groups which expect a major commitment from their followers. Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church are two examples. However, none of these are destructive, doomsday cults.

There seems to have been a dark side to CAN. They were dragged into legal difficulties over the abusive deprogramming of Jason Scott. Jason was at the time a member of the Life Tabernacle Church. The church is affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church International.

In 1995-SEP, CAN, Rick Ross and two others were found guilty of conspiracy to violate the civil right to freedom of religion of Jason Scott. Ross was ordered to pay more than $3 million in damages; CAN was ordered to pay in excess of $1 million. Ross had been involved in hundreds of interventions with members of various religious groups over a 15-year period. He estimates 5 that in about 20 cases, an intervention involved an adult held against their will. Scott was one of these: after a brutal kidnapping, he was forcibly confined for five days. Ross attempted to get Scott to abandon his church's beliefs. According to a 1998-APR-8 decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals:

"Kathy Tonkin withdrew from the Life Tabernacle Church, convinced that it had a destructive effect on her six children. Three of Tonkin's sons refused to join her. Tonkin contacted Shirley Landa, a "contact" person for appellant Cult Awareness Network (CAN). A CAN "contact" is an unpaid volunteer who is available to speak to members of the public on behalf of CAN. CAN operates nationally through a network of contacts and affiliates, and has only four paid staff members.

Landa referred Tonkin to Rick Ross, a person who conducted involuntary "deprogramming" of people who had become involved with religious cults. Landa was aware that Ross engaged in involuntary deprogramming because she had seen him do so on the television program "48 Hours." Ross was known to, and received referrals from, other CAN members as well. Tonkin hired Ross to deprogram her three sons.

Ross "successfully" deprogrammed Tonkin's two minor sons. Tonkin, Ross, and Landa knew that it would be difficult to deprogram Tonkin's eldest son, appellee Jason Scott, because he was over 18. Landa advised Tonkin that although there were legal problems involved, the only way to deprogram Scott was to abduct him and let Ross do his work. With the aid of two confederates, Ross abducted Scott and held him captive for five days. Scott feigned acceptance of Ross' deprogramming and escaped." 4

Ross charged about $3,000 for the kidnapping. (Some foes of CAN claimed $25,000, but that number appears to be fictitious.) Jason settled his claim against Rick Ross for $5,000 and 200 hours of Ross' time. Scott is now reunited with his family.

At the urging of Church of Scientology lawyers, Rick Ross was charged separately with the unlawful imprisonment of Jason. The jury acquitted him. 6

The Life Tabernacle Church certainly does have some non-traditional beliefs, and appears to require strict discipline from its members. In her testimony, Kathy Tonkin (Jason's mother) testified and wrote in an affidavit about suspected sexual abuse with a minor child by a church member, extreme authoritarianism, undue influence and family estrangement. 7

The crippling damage award, plus a large number of additional civil cases brought against it by the Church of Scientology International drove CAN into bankruptcy. Their office closed on 1996-JUN-21. They expressed concern on their web page that their records and cult archives may get into the wrong hands, that the information might be destroyed and that their donors, supporters and callers might be harassed. It appears that their fears were groundless.

The original CAN subsequently suffered a series of legal defeats:

Their 1998-APR-8 request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the 1995 ruling. The court ordered the old CAN to pay Jason Scott $875,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages plus interest, dating from 1995. The court found that a CAN agent in Washington state made referrals for what they called "involuntary deprogramming" in which a person is held against their will and an attempt is made to alter their religious beliefs. The court found that "CAN members routinely referred people to deprogrammers." The court held that "under Washington law and 42 U.S .C. § 1985(3), referral of a parent to a 'deprogrammer' by an anti-cult group's volunteer 'contact' person is sufficient to establish vicarious liability to an involuntarily "deprogrammed" child." 4

On 1998-JUL-30, the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the bankruptcy court sale of the CAN name, hotline telephone number and other assets. 9,10

The old CAN's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court also failed. Their lawyers commented: "A decision [by the Court of Appeals] that silences the message of an advocacy organization has serious nationwide consequences.'' Jason Scott's lawyers said that the old CAN's arguments were "factually and legally without merit.'' On 1999-MAR-22, the U.S. Supreme Court took no action, thus allowing the Appeal Court decision to stand. 16

The "New" Cult Awareness Network (CAN ™) - after 1996-OCT-23:

On 1996-OCT-23, in an ironic twist, some of CAN assets were sold in bankruptcy court to the highest bidder, Steven L. Hayes, of the law firm "Bowles & Hayes". This included rights to their name, logo, PO box and hot-line phone number. The CAN files and library resources were not included in the purchase. Hayes had collected money from a coalition of religious freedom advocates, among the most active of which were a number of Scientologists. Hayes, himself a member of the Church of Scientology, said he was working with a group who are "united in their distaste for CAN." All of the $20,000 that he used to purchase the rights came from private donations; none came from the Church of Scientology.

Hayes licensed the CAN™ name to a new corporation which was registered in California in 1997-JAN. It is called "Foundation for Religious Freedom" and is run by a multi-faith Board of Directors. The initial chairperson is Dr. George Robertson, a Baptist minister from Maryland Bible Collect. Their goals are to attack religious bigotry and promote respect for individual religious freedom. They have established a Web site 8 and operate a "hot line" (1-800-556-3055) for anyone worried about involvement a religious group. They have available a list of over 50 religious scholars and religious freedom advocates who act as referrals for the new CAN.

Since the verdict against the old CAN by the district court was originally announced, the numbers of kidnappings and attempts at deprogramming in the US have dropped sharply. Scott's attorney, Kendrick Moxon, commented: "This decision is a milestone for religious and civil rights in America and the end of an era of anti-religious fanaticism." Dr. George Robertson said, "We applaud this decision as the death blow to a former reign of religious terrorism, fueled by lies, fear and bigotry. We feel religious liberty is America's most important freedom." He also said, "Having now helped over 6,000 callers we are extremely pleased to continue our work repairing the damage of the old CAN. We provide people with factual information and reconcile families. The old CAN only fomented disharmony."

The "Heaven's Gate" Mass Suicide and the rise of cult "experts."

Following the suicides of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate religious group in San Diego County, CA in late 1997-MAR, the media exhibited a feeding frenzy for even the smallest scrap of news about the group. Various TV networks even interviewed two employees of a local car wash used by the members, and some waiters at a restaurant frequented by the group.

"Cult experts" came out of the woodwork in droves, some promoting religious intolerance against a wide spectrum of new emerging religions. The media appears to have accepted at face-value each person who came forward, claiming to be an expert in this area. As a result, the public's fear about widespread dangerous cults increased greatly. Each "expert" had his or her own theory; many were mutually exclusive:

Keith Andrew Kovacs of DAWN, Inc. circulated a posting on the Internet which claimed that the suicide was really a mass-murder - "just the latest slaughter of peaceful people by a government frantically trying to conclude plans to implement a police state here in the US." His theory is that the Heaven's Gate group were highly skilled hackers and cryptography crackers who broke into computers of highly secure military and government sites and thereby learned about high tech weapons, devices, and implants which had been developed by US intelligence agencies. They then wrote an interactive computer game called Cyberpunk, using the names and correct descriptions of the various devices. Fearful that news of the new devices would be publicized, the FBI raided their commune, confiscated the computer programs, killed the members and made it look like a group suicide. Kovacs predicts that the Federal Government will propose new "legislation to protect families from the menace of cults that can invade the home and drive people to commit suicide or even murder their own parents."

This rumor is not based on fact. The Cyberpunk game was written by Steve Jackson Games in Austin, TX. The employees there are role-playing game authors, not hackers or cryptography specialists.

Dr. Carl Raschke of the University of Denver seems to believe that there are many cults from different religious backgrounds who have coordinated a series of mass suicides. They were to start at the spring equinox on 1997-MAR-20, accelerate at the time of the Buddha's birthday on MAY-22, and cease around the summer solstice JUN-21. Of course, no such mass suicides followed.

Some conspiracy theorists are promoting the concept that the Heaven's Gate suicide was orchestrated by the CIA, as part of its continuing mind-control programs.

Hal Mansfield, of the Religious Movements Resource Center in Fort Collins, CO indicated that millenniallism has spawned many New Age groups, ranging from UFO enthusiasts to survivalists and Neo-Christians. He stated that some estimate there are 2.5 million adherents in these groups.

On MAR-28, Gina Smith, an Internet specialist on Good Morning America attempted to link Heaven's Gate with Satanism, Neo-Paganism, and the Unification Church. The implication was that all are dangerous, both to society and to their own membership. She pulled up the World Pagan Network home page and mentioned that Paganism is something that parents should watch out for (i.e. protect their children from). No explanation was given why Pagans are dangerous. She later apologized on her computer radio program for misrepresenting Pagans. She felt that Good Morning America would not permit her to apologize on their TV program.

The New York Post for 1997-MAR-31 contained an article titled "Freudian Sect - Experts: Cult's road to suicide was driven by sexual torment." The concept that a spiritual group would be driven to suicide by sexual frustration does seem a bit of a stretch.

According to a Zondervan News Service posting of 1997-APR-3, Billy Graham referred to Heaven's Gate during a press conference in San Antonio where he launched his South Texas Crusade. Usually, Dr. Graham promotes tolerance towards other Christian groups. This time he seems to have demonized mind-control groups. He said: "These sects and cults are worldwide. Cults are made up of people who are fanatically following a leader who lead them astray. I believe that in back of it all is the Devil, who has his plans and counterfeits of Jesus Christ."

The media has been using strange terminology when referring to the mass suicide group: "Techno Pagan" is one. "Techno" is a valid descriptor, because the Heaven's Gate group financed itself by writing high quality web pages. But "Pagan" is in no way accurate; the group is basically Christian, onto which UFO beliefs were grafted.

Recent ACM activities in North America:

The Anti-Cult Movement in North America appears to be dying, due to a combination of:

public awareness of high-profile, illegal deprogramming efforts by some groups.

rejection by professional mental health organizations and the public of the danger of mind control and brainwashing by small religious groups.

However, many media reporters and the public generally still appear to believe in widespread, dangerous "cults." Some activities:

1998-MAY-21: An impressive victory was achieved by the ACM in Maryland. They had mounted a successful stealth campaign which resulted in the creation of a "Task force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Educational Institutions." The resolution which created the task force commented that "college students who become involved with cults undergo personality changes, suffer academically and financially, are alienated from their families and friends, and are robbed of the very things universities were designed to encourage." The resolution does not define the term "cult"; it does not identify any particular organization as a "cult." The task force will "...study the effects of cult activities on the University of Maryland System, St. Mary's College, and Morgan State University..." 17 The law requires the task force to "communicate with and obtain information from cult awareness organizations, former cult members, college administrators, campus security personnel, campus ministers, families of cult members and other interested parties..." It does not direct the task force to collect any information from existing members of NRMs, from NRMs themselves, from civil liberty groups, or from academics specializing in NRMs.

The Appropriations Committee conducted hearings on the Maryland House Joint Resolution 22. They heard from 9 witnesses: 8 identified themselves as proponent of the bill; the 9th said that they were both a proponent of the bill, and also took no position. (Quite an difficult task). Those opposed to the bill did not learn of its existence until it had passed the lower House and was two days away from being passed in the Senate. It passed in a flurry of other bills as the session closed. The final vote was 110-9 by the House and 38-7 by the Senate. It was signed into law by the Governor on 1998-MAY-21. The International Coalition for Religious Freedom reported in its 1999-APR repot that: "no civil libertarians or scholars of new religious movements have been named" to the task force. 18

By early 1999-JUN, the task force has held its first meetings. They are to report their recommendations to the state governor by 1999-SEP-30. 19

Growth of the Anti-Cult Movement in Europe:

The ACM appears to be alive, and well, and growing in Europe particularly in:

Austria: This country has had a three-tiered religious structure. A few religions are recognized as "state recognized religions;" they receive free broadcast time, government funding and tax exemption. At a lower status are those religious groups which have "legal recognition." They can own property, have a bank account in their name etc. New religious groups have no recognition and essentially no rights. To obtain recognition, they have to prove that they have at least 300 members and must wait for 6 months after applying. Non-religious groups in Austria are only required to wait 0 to 6 weeks. "Legal status may be denied to religious communities by the Federal Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs if it deems that youth will be adversely affected by it, that psychological methods are used improperly to disseminate religious beliefs, or in the interest of public security, public order, health, or morality." 11

France: Their federal government is attacking religious minorities via the tax system. Prime victims are the Jehovah's Witnesses and a small Evangelical Pentecostal church. They have prepared a list of suspect religious groups.

Germany: There appears to be a concerted attack on the Church of Scientology by political groups, and by governments at the local, state and federal level. Germany's Interior Minister, Manfred Kanther, announced in early 1997-JUN that "All means available to the state" will be used to monitor Scientology's 30,000 members in that country, because the government believes that the church is a threat to democracy. Counterintelligence agents will be used.

Russia: Recent legislation that severely curtails religious expression in Russia was passed in that country. It was motivated largely by the public's fear of dangerous "cults". The Japanese Buddhist/Christian destructive cult, Aum Shinri Kyo, had established a local office in Russia. But otherwise, that fear appears groundless. Anti-cult feeling among the public appears to exist independently of any hard evidence to support it. The largest New Religious Movements have memberships totaling only a few thousand. Yet, the public perceived them much larger than this. No religious group in Russia has ever been convicted of activities of which the ACM accuses them: mind control, stealing member's property, kidnapping people, being a threat to the state, etc.

Particularly alarming is the linkage between the ACM and state governments. Religious repression will probably grow within Europe in the near future. We expect that the panic will finally collapse, perhaps by 2010 CE, from lack of any evidence that religious groups pose a significant danger to individuals or to the state.

In referring to the 1998 CAN/ Ross/ Scott decision by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 4 Dr. Massimo Introvigne, managing director of CESNUR, commented that the decision "is another crucial blow to the credibility and the very existence of an organized anti-cult movement in the U.S. Its effects will sooner or later be felt also in Europe". (CENSUR is the Center for Studies on New Religions. It "was established in 1988 by a group of religious scholars from leading universities in Europe and the Americas.") 12

Is a Anti-cult Movement Needed?

An ACM is needed to raise public awareness of the danger of some doomsday religious groups which are/were clearly destructive and even life-threatening to their membership. During the past 20 years there have been a number of groups that have caused very serious losses of life:

The mass murders and some consensual suicides by 913 members of the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana

The Branch Davidians may be another example; however it is currently impossible to separate fact from fiction in the events at Waco TX. Some members appear to have been murdered by others in the group. Others died as a result of the fire that most likely was lit by arsonists within the group.

Leaders of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Aum Supreme Truth) group in Japan have apparently organized poison gas attacks on the public.

Dozens of members of the Solar Temple were convinced to commit suicide or were murdered in Quebec and Europe. They believed that death would allow them to go to another level of existence.

Over three dozens of members of the Heaven's Gate group in San Diego county CA were convinced to voluntarily commit suicide. There were no indications of murder at the scene. They also believed that suicide would elevate them to a higher level of existence.

But these represent a very small minority among new religious groups. And they do not appear to be the groups that the ACM primarily targets. In the past, attacks have concentrated on legitimate new religious movements, like the Unification Church, Hare Krishnas, Children of God, the Church of Scientology, the Mormon church, etc. and the nonexistent underground movement of abusive Satanists, etc. To get an understanding of the type of harm that anti-cult beliefs can do to benign religious groups, consider the experiences of the Messianic Communities (a.k.a. Twelve Tribes Communities). They have documented their victimization by ACM groups, deprogrammers, social service workers and the police. 22

Most ACM groups seem to take the legitimate public fear of destructive, doomsday cults, raise that fear to a fever pitch, and then direct it against benign new religious groups. But almost all of the groups that they victimize have only committed two main "crimes": they are new, and they still have a small membership.

Religious Movements which Require Strict Discipline

Much of the confusion over new religious movements relates to a misunderstanding of the conformity and discipline which is often required of its members. Sociologists D. Bromley and A. Shupe once described the Tnevnoc Cult which recruited young women, required them to shave their heads, wear special uniforms, gave them new names in a foreign language, required them to give up their personal possessions and sleep on hard pallets. During their initial membership in the cult, they were isolated from family contacts. They were later required to ritually marry the dead founder of the cult. They received many inquiries about this abusive cult from sociologists and others concerned about psychological manipulation within cults. They did not realize that "Tnevnoc" spelled backwards is "Convent". 20 This same theme appeared in a paper delivered in 1989. 21

Down through history, many religious groups (like convents, monasteries, intentional communities, etc.) have required their members to adhere to strict diets, schedules, repetitive praying, abstinence from sexual activities, isolation from former friends and their family or origin and other disciplines. To the casual outside observer, this might appear to be abusive. However, members accept the rules, enter and stay with the group because they find it a generally positive experience. If it becomes no longer positive, they leave and move on.

One of the opportunities of living in a democracy is that people are free to believe what they wish and to enter into religious associations with other individuals. This sometimes leads to unpleasant experiences; in rare cases, it can cause death. But that is one of the risks of living in a society which has freedoms of religion, association and speech.

References cited above:

1.Jeffery Hadden, "On Cults and Sects," an essay in the "New Religious Movements" site at: http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~jkh8x/soc257/cultsect.html#2 2.Walter Martin, "The Kingdom of the Cults", Bethany House, Minneapolis MN (1965) 3.The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion: "SSSR Resolution on New Religious Groups", SSSR Newsletter, 1990-DEC. Available at: http://www.psych-web.com/psyrelig/sssrres.htm 4.The CAN/Ross/Scott decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on 1988-APR-8 is at: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/3803/wpage03.html and at: http://www.cesnur.org/Scott.htm 5.Rick Ross, personal E-mail 1997-JAN-12 6.Rick Ross has a personal web page containing "over 270 articles, letters, and book excerpts." See: http://www.rickross.com 7.An affidavit of Katherine L. Tonkin dated 1994-DEC-12 concerning her family's experiences with the Life Tabernacle Church can be read at: http://www.rickross.com/reference/Witness5.html 8.The new Cult Awareness Network as reorganized by the "Foundation for Religious Freedom" has a Web site at: http://www.cultawarenessnetwork.org The "old" Cult Awareness Network (CAN) had a home page at: <http://www.xnet.com/~can/index.htm> This link has been dead for some time. Someone has placed a copy of that site at: http://home.icon.fi/~marina/can/canpage/ 9.A copy of the CAN decision of 1998-JUL-30 is on-line at: http://www.cesnur.org/CAN-name.htm 10."CAN Legal Status Continues," by CENSUR is a review of recent developments involving the "old" and "new" Cult Awareness Networks at: http://www.cesnur.org/CANname.htm 11.Alex Colvin, "New Austrian Legislation Creates Formula for Discrimination" a Religious Freedom Report by the ICRT (International Coalition for Religious Freedom) at: http://www.religiousfreedom.com/nwslttr/Austria.htm 12.CENSUR's home page is at: http://www.cesnur.org/ An essay describing the mandate and goals of CENSUR is at: http://www.cesnur.org/whatisit.htm 13.D.B. Bromley, A.D. Shupe, "Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare," Beacon Press, Boston, (1981). This book describes the counter-cult movement that had its origins in the 1970's. It explodes the "brainwashing" scare. 14.D.G. Hill, "Study of Mind Development Groups, Sects and Cults,", Toronto (1980) 15."Study of Mind Development Groups, Sects and Cults in Ontario", Ontario Government (1980) 16.Reuters, "Supreme Court denies appeal by anti-cult group," 1999-MAR-22 17."House Joint Resolution 22" at: http://mlis.state.md.us/1998rs/billfile/hj0022.htm 18.Dan Fefferman, "Will Maryland lead U.S. into European-style 'Sectophobia'?" Religious Freedom Report, Vol. 2, #1, 1999-APR. 19."International Coalition for Religious Freedom's report on Maryland Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education Institutions," at: http://www.religiousfreedom.com/tskfrce/tfrcindex.htm 20.D.G. Bromley et al., "The Tnevnoc Cult," Sociological Analysis, 40(4): Pages 361 to 366, (1979) 21."Satanic cults: A skeptical view of the law enforcement approach," reprinted by Y Tylwyth Teg - Welsh Tradition in America Religions" at: http://www.tylwythteg.com/lawguide3.html 22."An issue of control: Conflict between the Church in Island Pond and state government," at: http://www.twelvetribes.com/issueofcontrol.html

Anti-Cult Groups:

The AFF was founded in 1979 as the American Family Foundation. They educate the public and professionals about "cults" and assist people who have been adversely affected by cult membership. They publish the Cultic Studies Journal (CSJ) and the Cult Observer. See: http://www.csj.org

Cult Awareness Resources (CARES) concentrates primarily on the International Churches of Christ. See: http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/9100/

The Cult Awareness & Information Centre - Australia has information on cults, including information on recovery from heavy involvement in religious groups. This is a major site; they include information on dozens of faith groups and psychological movements: e.g. the Unification Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Multiple Personality Disorder, Satanic Ritual Abuse believers, etc. See: http://www.caic.org.au

Cult Information Centre is a group in the UK at: http://www.infoman.demon.co.uk/cicmain.html

Thought reform consultant Carol Giambalvo publishes "Carol Giambalvo's Cult Information and Recovery Internet site at: http://hometown.aol.com/~carol2180/index.htm

Cult Information Service is a volunteer-run group in New York city. See: http://members.aol.com/shawdan/cis.htm

Dialog Center appears to be both a counter-cult and anti cult group at: http://www.dci.dk/engelsk/welcome.html

The .ex-cult archive is at: http://www.ex-cult.org/

FACTNet International (Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network) "Cults and other users of mind control," at: http://www.factnet.org/coergrps.htm

Free Minds concentrates primarily on the Jehovah's Witnesses which they view as a mind control cult. See: http://www.freeminds.org/

Recovering Former Cultists' Support Network (reFOCUS) supplies "recovery resources for folks hurt by their involvement with abusing and controlling organizations and relationships" See: http://www.refocus.org/index.html

Rick Ross has a personal web page containing "over 270 articles, letters, and book excerpts." See: http://www.rickross.com

Trancenet.org is an anti-cult group "championing psychological freedoms in cults, corporations and family groups." Their site has up-to-date news reports. See: http://trancenet.org/

Understanding Cult Mind Control is a web site of Steve Hassan, author of the book "Combatting Cult Mind Control." See: http://www.shassan.com/

Books promoting the Anti-Cult message:

Daniel Shaw, "Traumatic Abuse in Cults: An Exploration of an Unfamiliar Social Problem" at: http://www.cyberpass.net/truth/essay.htm This essay discusses SYDA (Siddha Yoga).

Armand DeWayne Pack, "The Cult Handbook," at: http://www.internetpro.net/~armandp/

Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman, "Snapping: American's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change," Lippincott, Philadelphia, PA, (1978) Read reviews and/or order this book from Amazon.com

Ronald Enroth, "Churches that Abuse," Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI (1992)

Ronald Enroth, "Recovering from Churches that Abuse," Out of print, but may be available

Steve Hassan, "Combating Cult Mind Control," Park Street, Rochester, VT, (1988) Review and/or order

Steven Hassan, "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves,'' Aitan Publ., (2000), Read reviews or order this book

Robert Lifton, "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China," University of North Carolina Press, (1989). Order this book

Robert Lifton, "The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide," Basic Books, (Reprinted 1988). Order this book

Margaret Singer, "Cults in Our Midst," Jossey-Bass, San Francisco CA, (1995) Review and/or order

Thomas Streissquth, "Charismatic Cult Leaders (Profiles)," Oliver Press (1995) Review and/or order

Madeleine Tobias & Janja Lalich, "Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships," Hunter Publ., (1994) Review and/or order

Keith E. Tolbert and Eric Pement, "1996 Directory of Cult Research Organizations", American Religion Center, PO Box 168, Trenton, MI 48183 (313)692-7772.

Books and Articles about New Religious Movements

These are references that are not part of the anti-cult movement. They take a positive approach to new religious movements:

D.G. Bromley & A.D. Shupe, Jr., "Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare", Beacon Press, Boston MA (1981)

S.J. Gelberg, "On Leaving the 'Hare Krishnas'", Communities, Issue 88, Fall 1995, Route 1, Box 155, Rutledge MO 63563. Cost is $4.50 in the US, US$4.50 elsewhere.

T. Miller, Ed, "America's Alternative Religions", SUNY Press, Albany NY (1995)

"The Crisis of the U.S. Anti-Cult Movement: Cult Awareness Network Loses its Appeal," at: http://www.cesnur.org/can.htm

CAN Press Release, "Court Strikes Death Blow to Hate Group," issued 1998-JUL-30

Rob H. Nanninga has a bibliography of articles and books on "Cults & New Religious Movements." See: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/nanninga.htm

Copyright © 1996 to 2000 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance Latest update: 2000-OCT-20 Author: B.A. Robinson



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We define Doomsday/Destructive/Apocalyptic cults to be religiously based, very high intensity, controlling groups that have caused or are liable to cause loss of life among their membership or the general public.

It is important to realize that out of the tens of thousands of new religious groups worldwide, only a very few meet these criteria.

What is behind the death of members of destructive cults?

No consensus exists concerning the motivation for the loss of life within this handful of cults:

Some in the Anti-Cult Movement claim that much of this loss of life among cult members were the result of mass suicides ordered by the group leadership. That opinion fits well with their now-discredited belief that cult memberships have been the victims of mind control techniques. Having little self-will, they have been willing to follow any order from the leadership -- even one leading to self destruction.

The loss of life by the Heaven's Gate membership was definitely a suicide. The members were convinced that they would be transported, at death, to a space ship where they would evolve to a higher level of existence. There is overwhelming hard evidence that all of the deaths within the Ugandan Movement for the Restoration..., and many of the Solar Temple deaths were actually murders to cover financial fraud by the leadership. This may also have been the motivation for the Jeffrey Lundgren murders as well. All of the Branch Davidian victims appear to have been murdered by their leaders -- either by being shot or as a result of the arson-set fire. Many, perhaps most, of the People's Temple victims were also murdered. Details are sketchy because of the advanced state of decomposition of the bodies when investigators arrived.

Details of destructive doomsday cults:

Homicides directed against the public:

Aum Shinri Kyo

The Family (Charles Manson)

Suicides or homicides of their own members:

Branch Davidians

Heaven's Gate

Jeffrey Lundgren

Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (Uganda)

The People's Temple (Jim Jones)

Solar Temple

Religious groups with the possible potential to be destructive:

Concerned Christians

House of Yahweh

White supremacist groups:

These do not fit the mold of the destructive cults listed above. However, they do preach hatred of gays, lesbians, Afro-Americans, communists and other minorities. Even though the group may preach non-violence, their message of hate appears to inspire some of their members to commit murders and serious terrorist acts:

World Church of the Creator

Essays on the Aryan Nation and similar white supremacist groups will be described at a future date.

Other related topics:

Common Factors Among Doomsday Cults

What Does the Immediate Future Hold?

Predictions of the end of the world:

Other interesting essays on this site:

If you found this essay of worthwhile, you might find some of these others of interest: abortion, Christianity, death penalty, female genital mutilation, homosexuality, human cloning, physician assisted suicide, nudism, and Witchcraft (Wicca) These are the 8 most popular essays on our web site.





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Definitions of terms:

Cults, Sects and Denominations

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"...if you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps the religion; and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect; but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult." Leo Pfeffer. A humorous quotation, but one that is uncomfortably close to reality.

Meanings of the Word CULT

Religious groups and individuals are notorious for assigning multiple meanings to a single word. The term "Unitarian" is a good example:

Pre-1776 CE: Belief in a single God and the rejection of the Christian concept of the Trinity.

Post-1776: A creedless, dogma-free religious organization. The Unitarian Universalist Association, (UUA) is an association of Unitarian groups.

Utter confusion reigns when an author is using one definition of "Unitarian," while a reader assumes the other meaning. Misunderstandings also happen when an author assumes that both definitions refer to the same organization or belief.

Perhaps the most confusing and dangerous religious term is "Cult". We have found that the word has at least 8 very different meanings. One is positive; some neutral; some negative; one is even extremely negative:

Positive Meaning:

Theological usage: Oxford English Dictionary defined "cult" as:

"worship; reverential homage rendered to a divine being or beings"

"a particular form or system of religious worship; especially in reference to its external rites and ceremonies"

devotion or homage to a particular person or thing."

This is the historical meaning of the word, but is rarely today heard outside of religious circles. A reference to the "Cult of Mary" appeared in a newspaper report on the Pope's 1999 visit to the Americas. It simply means that the Pope devotes special attention to the Virgin Mary.

Neutral Meanings:

Sociological usage: A small religious group that exists in a state of tension with the predominant religion. Hinduism might be considered a cult in North America; Christianity might be considered a cult in India.

Additional sociological usage: An innovative, fervent religious group, as contrasted with more established and conventional sects and denominations.

The Observer: An English newspaper seemed to use the term to refer to any small religious group, no matter what its age or teachings. 1

General religious usage: A small, recently created, religious organization which is often headed by a single charismatic leader and is viewed as an spiritually innovative group. A cult in this sense may simply be a new religious movement on its way to becoming a denomination. The Christian religion, as it existed in 30 CE might be considered a cult involving one leader and 12 or 70 devoted followers. The Mormon denomination was started in the 19th century by Joseph Smith and a few followers; it later grew to become an established denomination.

Negative Meanings:

Evangelical Christian and Counter-Cult Movement usage: Any religious group which accepts most but not all of the historical Christian doctrines (the divinity of Jesus, virgin birth, the Trinity, salvation, etc.). The implication is that the cult's theology is invalid; they teach heresy. Under this definition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), Unification Church and Jehovah's Witnesses to be cults. But they would not classify Wicca as such, because it is not associated with Christianity. The earliest use of this meaning of the word "Cult" is believed to be a 1938 book "The Chaos of the Cults" by J.K. VanBaalen. On the other hand, new religious groups such as the Mormons, Unification Church and Jehovah's Witnesses generally regard themselves to be the true Christian church. They view all other denominations as being in error. Thus, one groups true church is another group's cult.

Fundamentalist Christian usage: Some Fundamentalists would accept the Evangelical definition of cult defined above. Others might brand any religious group which deviates from historical Protestant Christian beliefs as a cult. This definition would include the Mormon Church, Wicca, mainline and liberal Christian denominations, Islam, Hinduism, and all of the other religions of the world. Over 70% of humanity would belong to cults, by this definition.

Mental Health Groups and anti-cult movement usage: A small number of therapists, research psychologists, self-taught individuals, etc., form the anti-cult movement (ACM) They attempt to raise public consciousness about what they see as dangerous and authoritarian mind control cults and doomsday cults. Many do not care about the faith group's theology. They target only what they see as deceptive practices, and dangerous psychological pressure techniques, such as brainwashing. The ACM appears to hold opinions about the effectiveness of brainwashing that are not shared by the mental-health community generally. They see mind control/doomsday cults as a widespread social problem.

Very negative meaning:

Popular, media usage: (very negative meaning) a small, evil religious group, often with a single charismatic leader, which engages in brainwashing and other mind control techniques, believes that the end of the world is imminent, and collects large amounts of weaponry in preparation for a massive war. Often used as a synonym for mind control religious group or for doomsday cult. The earliest use of this meaning of the word is believed to have been in a 1965 book by Walter Martin "The Kingdom of the Cults" (revised and expanded in 1985).

We have seen "cult" used to refer to Evangelical denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, Unification Church, Church of Scientology, United Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wiccans, other Neopagans and many other faith groups. The term is essentially meaningless.

We recommend that the word be rarely used. We would recommend substituting the term new religious movement, alternative religious movement, emergent religion or faith group. These terms are more precise and have not (yet) been burdened by so many negative connotations, as has "cult." An even better usage is to simply refer to the group by its name. In 1998-MAY, the Associated Press decided to avoid the use of the word "cult" because it had acquired a pejorative aura; they have since given preference to the term "sect."

This web site normally refers only to "doomsday faith groups" as "cults." We feel that use of the word "cult" without careful definition in advance leads to confusion and misunderstanding. Of course, if you are an author, public speaker or teleminister who wants to direct public fear and hatred against a new religious group, then "cult" is an ideal word to use. But the use of the term may be irresponsible and immoral, depending upon your system of values.

Meaning of the word DENOMINATION

A Denomination is an established religious group, which has usually been in existence for many years and has geographically widespread membership. It typically unites a group of individual congregations into a single administrative body. Denominations differ greatly in the sharing of power between individual congregations and the central authority. Baptist churches have historically allowed individual churches to hold diverse beliefs. (An exception is the Southern Baptists Convention who reversed centuries of tradition and expelled some congregations over the homosexual issue.) Other denominations centralize authority, and allow congregations little freedom to deviate in beliefs or policies.

Meaning of the word SECT

A Sect is a small religious group that is an offshoot of an established religion or denomination. It holds most beliefs in common with its religion of origin, but has a number of novel concepts which differentiate them from that religion.

Many religions started as Sects. One well-known example was the Nazarenes. This was an reform movement within Judaism formed by Jesus' apostles after the execution of Jesus circa 30 CE They were largely dispersed or killed some four decades later when the Romans attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.

Perhaps the most obvious North American example of a sect that evolved into a denomination is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. Their founder, Joseph Smith, had a revelation from God that the ministry of Jesus Christ continued after his crucifixion, as described in what is now called the Book of Mormon. The Mormon sect has since evolved into the Mormon denomination of Christianity with the passage of time and the gathering of increasing numbers of followers. Within a few decades, it is expected to become the dominant faith group in the American west. When statehood was being considered for Utah, a major impediment was the beliefs and practices in the Church regarding polygamy. Shortly after a new revelation from God banned the practice, statehood was granted. This caused a number of small sects to break away from the established church, in order to allow their male followers to continue to have multiple wives. Some of these sects continue to this day in the United States and Canada, although they have been excommunicated by the main Mormon Church. A similar crisis occurred in the mid 1970's when a new revelation from God abolished the church's institutionalized discrimination against Afro-Americans. This time, the membership accepted the new ruling; there were no breakaway sects.

Sects can therefore be considered a normal mechanism by which new religious movements are generated. Most sects die out quickly; others linger; still others grow and evolve in to a new established religious movement and are properly called denominations.

There remains a negative connotation for many people to the word sect; they would much rather refer to their faith group as a denomination.


1.An English newspaper, the Observer maintained a page dealing with what they call "cults". Unfortunately, they mixed together a variety of new religious groups, dangerous life threatening cults and small established faith groups. The only common factor among the faith groups that they describe is that they are all small in membership. Many of their essays were not particularly accurate. They were at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/observer/cults/a-z-cults/index.html Unfortunately, this link appears to now be dead. their web site was once a useful example of the misuse of a emotionally biased word to raise public fear and hatred against benign religious groups.

Copyright © 1996 to 2000 incl. Latest update: 2000-MAR-31 Author: B.A. Robinson

Article 18. United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.




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The term "cult" is generally used as a hateful snarl word that is used to intentionally devalue people and their faith groups. It creates fear and loathing among the public, and contributes greatly to religious intolerance in North America. The word "cult" carries a heavy emotional content. The word suggests is that this is a group that you should detest, avoid, and fear. In reality, the only "crime" of most "cults" is that they they hold different religious beliefs from whomever is doing the attacking.

Individuals and organizations have assigned many meanings to the word "cult." The result is mass confusion:

The Counter-cult movement (CCM) classifies all non-traditional Christian faith groups as cults simply because their beliefs differ from historical Christian doctrine. They are looked upon as heretics. Examples are: Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons. This Website simply refers to them as denominations, or faith groups.

Some Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians describe most non-Christian religions as cults or as Satanic religions, simply because they are non-Christian. Examples are Wicca and Hinduism. We simply refer to these groups as religions or faith groups.

The Anti-Cult Movement (ACM) targets religious groups that make high demands on their membership. They are accused of mind control techniques which reduce their members to near zombie-like status, who are unable to think clearly and become trapped within the group. Examples are the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Two-by-twos. Evidence indicates that the charges of the ACM have very little or no merit. We simply refer to these groups as high-intensity or high demand faith groups.

Many information sources use the term "cult" to refer to destructive, doomsday religious groups whose members have been murdered or committed suicide. Examples are The Solar Temple and Heaven's Gate. We do refer to such groups as "cults"


We recommend that people develop a healthy skepticism when they hear someone refer to a religious groups as a "cult". A new faith group may be being attacked:

because they don't believe in the Trinity, or

because they are non-Christian, like two thirds of the world's population, or

because they expect a major commitment from their membership, or

because they are one of those rare, destructive, doomsday groups that are actually dangerous to their membership.

Topics covered in this section of the Website:

General Information about "Cults":

Definitions of terms: cults, sects and denominations

Levels of mind control within religious groups

Brainwashing in religious groups - is it possible?

Academic studies of new religions

Joining a "cult": Religious conversion to a legitimate faith group, or criminal entrapment by an evil cult?

Negative aspects of dangerous new religious groups:

Dangerous, destructive cults

FBI "Megiddo Project" about doomsday religious cults

CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) report on dangerous cults

Safe sects? Early warning signs of "bad religions"

Common signs of destructive cults

Organizations targeting new religious movements:

For their unorthodox religious beliefs:

The Counter-Cult Movement (CCM)

The groups that the CCM Targets

For allegedly criminal activity:

The Anti-Cult Movement (ACM)

The Satanic mind control Hoax

Federal Governments

Decline of religions freedom in parts of Europe






U.S. statement on government religious oppression in Europe

The main faith groups targeted by the ACM, CCM and oppressive governments:

The Brethren

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons)

Christian Science

Church of Scientology


Falun Gong/Falun Dafa

The Family, formerly called The Children of God

The "Garbage Eaters": common derogatory name for The Brethren

Hare Krishna - ISKCON

Jehovah's Witnesses


New Age



Unification Church

Vodun (Voodoo)

The Way


Other topics:

Churches that reject medical treatment in favor of prayer

Are the ACM and CCM a positive or negative influence?

Articles on cults culled from the media by Quotemedia:

Cult News · SyCoNet.com Retains Public Adjuster - (BW ) 15:40ET · North Koreans Hold Mass Rally - (AO ) 11:02ET · North Korea holds rally, vowing loyalty for Kim Jong Il - (AW ) 06:20ET · DISNEY MAKE SEQUEL TO FIRST VIRTUAL REALITY MOVIE - (WN ) 09:15ET · DENVER ALBUM GOES DIGITAL - (WN ) 19:53ET Provided by Quotemedia

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Some books about cults:

Nancy O'Mera, "Cult Alert; a practical handbook for saving families." Foundation for Religious Freedom, (1999) The author is a volunteer at the new Cult Awareness network. She advises parents, family and loved ones who fear "cult" involvement to calm down, stay in communication and get more information. A very inexpensive book. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

Lorne Dawson, "Comprehending cults: the sociology of new religious movements," Oxford Univ. Press, (1998). A book about new religious movements written from an academic perspective. An excellent antidote to the misinformation and intolerance found in anti-cult and counter-cult books. Review/order this book.

Alex Heard, "Apocalypse pretty soon: Travels in end-time America," Main Street Books, (1999) A humorous book about cults and individuals with very unusual beliefs. He "gets inside their closed systems to poke fun from within, and often puts things in historical context." (from an Amazon.com review). Very highly regarded by reviewers Review/order this book.

S.J. Palmer & C. Hardman, Eds., "Children in new religions," Rutgers Univ. Press, (1999). A study by a professor in religious studies of children of parents who joined new religious movements 30 to 40 years ago. Review/order this book.

Anti-cult book:

M.T. Singer, et al., "Cults in our midst," Jossey-Bass Publishers, (1996). A book by perhaps the best known supporter of the Anti-Cult Movement. Her ideas are now met with massive skepticism by sociologists and psychologists specializing in religion. Review/order this book.

Steven Hassan, "Combatting cult mind control," Inner Traditions Intl., (1990). A book by one of the most active deprogrammers. He promotes the concept of brainwashing by new religious movements - a theory now largely discredited by mental health professionals. Review/order this book,

Counter-cult books:

Richard Abanes, "Cults, new religious movements and your family: A guide to ten non-Christian groups out to convert your loved ones," Crossway books, (1998). The author attempts to raise a public panic against faith groups that don't teach traditional Christian beliefs. Review/order this book,

Hank Hanegraaff, "Christianity in Crisis," Harvest House Publishers, (1993). A book by perhaps the best known promoter of the Counter-Cult Movement. The author attacks many benign Christian charismatic faith groups because some of their beliefs differ from historical Christianity. Review/order this book.



Many tens of thousands of people have recovered memories of Satanic ritual abuse during therapy sessions or through self-hypnosis. But, we are trying to locate persons with such memories which have always been present since the abuse occurred. If you are one, please send us a message with the subject "SRA". We will keep your information in strictest confidence. (We have had this message in place since 1995-AUG with only one lead found to date.)






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"Religious Cult: The church down the street from yours." Humorous quotation seen in a B.C. cartoon, 1994-APR-30

"A cult is a religious perversion.... A cult distorts the [biblical] word of God by perverting the truth into a lie." Ben Alexander 7 ESP Ministries http://www.espministries.com

Topics covered by this essay:

Definitions of Terms

History of the Counter Cult Movement (CCM)

What motivates the CCM?

Quality control within the CCM

What the CCM believes that cults teach

A list of some CCM groups in North America

The CCM in Europe

Books on New Religious Movements


Definitions of some terms:

The counter-cult movement (CCM) is composed of conservative Christian individuals and agencies which attempt to raise public concern about religious groups who they feel hold dangerous, non-traditional beliefs. They are sometimes called heresy hunters. They teach that any group which rejects one or more of the historical Christian beliefs is a danger to the welfare of its members, and to Christianity itself. Most groups within the CCM target groups that regard themselves as Christian but hold some unorthodox beliefs. Examples of the latter are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the "Mormon church), the Unification church, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses. Some within the CCM also attack non-Christian faith groups. e.g. Agnosticism, Atheism, New Age Movement, Eastern religions.

Religious terminology is confusing. People frequently assign different meanings to various terms:


Within the CCM the term "Christian" generally means an individual or religious organization which accepts all of the historical beliefs of Protestantism, including the inerrancy of the Bible, the Trinity, deity and resurrection of Jesus, virgin birth, heaven, hell, salvation by grace alone, etc. Such groups as the Roman Catholic church, Mormons, liberal and some mainline churches are not considered full or true Christians; they are sometimes referred to as "sub-Christian." This is similar to the definition that conservative Christians generally use.

Liberal Christians, many mainline Christians and non-Christians generally regard all persons and groups who sincerely believe that they are following Christ to be Christian. We use this definition on this web site.

Cult: This is generally interpreted as a vicious "snarl" word. Some meanings are:

By the media to refer to dangerous, destructive religious groups.

By the anti-cult movement, mainly to refer to faith groups who they feel engage in deceptive recruiting methods and inflict psychological abuse on their members.

By the counter-cult movement, mainly to refer to Christian faith groups that hold one or more non-traditional religious beliefs.

The term cult is always hurtful. Few groups willingly accept being called by that term. Since the word has so many different and mutually exclusive meanings, we recommend that it not be used as a stand-alone term. If you do use it, we suggest that you carefully modify the word to make its meaning clear, as in "benign cult" or "destructive cult." Even better is to use the emotionally neutral term "new religious movement." One sociologist, Jeffrey Hadden, uses the term "weird religion," 1 and finds that that term "opens minds more readily than either the language of new religious movements or cults and sects." Because the term "cult" is so ambiguous, we recommend that writers refer to groups by their actual name, rather than categorize them with the name "cult."

Counter-cult movement: (CCM) An almost uncoordinated group of many hundreds of conservative Christian ministries. Their prime goal is to locate and expose what they perceive as the hazards of diversity of theological belief within their religion. Most people in the CCM believe that they personally follow true Christianity. They attack Christian faith groups which have one or more fundamental beliefs different from their own. Their goal is to educate the public and prevent them from accepting what the CCM groups believe are deviant, mistaken and dangerous beliefs. CCM activities can become confusing. One group's heresy is another group's orthodoxy. If faith group "A" regards group "B" as heretical, then "B" probably considers "A" to be also promoting heresy.

Anti-cult movement: (ACM) A group dedicated to raising public awareness of what they perceive are the dangers of cults. They see cults as engaging in deceptive recruiting techniques, and "in 'brainwashing,' 'mind control,' 'sinister manipulation,' 'creation of environments of totalism,' etc." 1 They consider the religious beliefs of new religious movements of minor importance. Some in the ACM have attempted to convince individuals to leave religious groups. Some have engaged in criminal acts, such as kidnapping, assault, attempts at non-consensual brainwashing, etc., in order to force them to abandon their beliefs.

New Religious Movement: (NRM) an emotionally neutral term used to refer to recently created and usually small faith groups. We recommend this term in preference to "cult."

Cult Apologists: A "snarl" term used by some in the anti-cult and counter-cult movements to criticize Sociologists, Theologians, other academics, etc. who study new religious groups. Unlike the CCM and ACM, most mental health professionals and religious academics find that almost all new religious movements are quite benign; they advocate freedom from religious harassment.

History of the CCM in ancient times:

The CCM has existed in some form since the dawn or organized religion. It has historically come in two forms:

Intra-religious conflict is inevitable within any established orthodox religion. Various denominations may promote different spiritual beliefs, theological beliefs and ritual practices. Often, one group will become dominant, and declare the others to be heretics. Their motivation is to maintain doctrinal purity. In earlier years, the losers were forced to conform, jailed, exiled, or exterminated.

Inter-religious conflict appears most frequently in countries lacking a wall of separation between church and state. Here, the dominant religious group may attempt to gain a religious monopoly by oppressing and persecuting minority faith groups - often with the help of the federal government.

Perhaps the largest and most harmful counter-cult religious group in the West was the Christian church itself, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. They engaged in intra-religious wars of extermination, against Christian groups which they considered heretical, such as the Cathars, Knights Templar, etc. But their prime targets were inter-religious. They engaged in mass murders of Jews for not accepting Christianity. They hunted down people who they called "Witches" and who allegedly worshiped Satan. The Christian churches burned alive (or hung) uncounted thousands of innocent people. Inspired by the teachings of the Church, civil courts in Western Europe judicially murdered hundreds of thousands of persons accused of Witchcraft. This religious animosity continues today, at a much muted, and less vicious level. It is largely directed against Jews, Muslims, Wiccans and other Neopagans, other minority religions, and homosexuals.

The CCM in modern times:

Although much inter-religious conflict continues today in North America, the CCM is now largely focused on combating heresy within Christianity. There are now hundreds of groups 2 in the United States alone whose prime mandate is to preserve the doctrinal purity of Protestantism, as they view it to be. They attempt to raise awareness among other Christians about the existence of new religious groups - those which are teaching beliefs different from traditional Christianity. They are sometimes referred to as "heresy hunters" or "witch hunters." Although these terms are sometimes literally true, we advise against their usage, because they are emotionally laden, snarl words. They see cultic activity as intentionally misleading individual believers away from the established faith to their eternal doom.

The CCM appears to be found exclusively within the conservative wing of Christianity, among Fundamentalists and other Evangelicals. This is to be expected, because conservative Christians tend hold fast to fundamental, historic Protestant beliefs. They also believe that only a small percentage of the human race will attain heaven after death; those that are not "saved" will go to Hell. This motivates those in the CCM to try to get as many people out of NRMs as possible. While a person is in a NRM, CCM groups believe that their salvation is in doubt. Any groups that do not meet their minimum standards of belief are called sub-Christian, cultic or non-Christian. On the other hand, liberal and mainline Christian groups rarely, if ever, join the CCM; they tend to be more inclusive; they accept as Christian, groups whose beliefs and practices vary greatly from their own.

Many individuals in the CCM are ex-members of new religious movements. They entered a faith group because it appeared to offer advantages over more established denominations at the time. But, after some months or years, they became disillusioned and left. Some terminated their membership with a great deal of animosity - perhaps fueled by anger at having invested so much time and effort in what became, for them, a spiritual blind alley. Other CCM members are parents. Often their children had entered a faith group against the parents' wishes and were seen as wasting their time on spiritual matters when they should be obtaining higher education.

"...counter-cultists and anti-cultists speak to different audiences. The counter-cultist aim their message at conservative Christian groups. They are prolific producers of books and pamphlets, as well as audio and video tapes from Christian radio and television. Most Christian book stores have a special section of cult literature.... Many of them are skilled communicators and they are often permitted to present their views virtually unchallenged to large television audiences." 1

Some groups in the CCM offer positive support services to persons who have recently left NRM faith groups. Sometimes, a person will be deeply involved in a religious organization and obtain most of their economic, social, spiritual, relationship, accommodation and other supports from that group. When they leave, they may have to establish replacement support systems.

What motivates the CCM?:

People in the CCM seem heavily dedicated to their work of raising public awareness of "cults". Every group within the CCM that we have studied believes that:

NRMs are a major threat to the eternal destiny of the unsuspecting public.

The natural destiny of humans is to be eternally punished in Hell after death.

If an individual repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, then they will be saved. Their destination will be Heaven.

Many NRMs teach either Universalism (that nobody spend eternity in Hell) or that salvation is earned by good works.

Membership in NRMs will often cause incorrect beliefs, and lead to an eternity spent in Hell.

The stakes in fighting NRMs are very high.

Quality Control within the CCM:

CCM literature varies greatly in quality, objectivity and balance. Some exhibit careful analysis and critique. Others appear to be poorly researched and filled with factual errors, and even hate. We have documented some really vicious hate sites directed against Wiccans and homosexuals. Some equate evil and even non-existent religions with gentle, benign faiths; and they condemn all.

The Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) is "a consortium of Christians in North America, seeking to help people distinguish authentic from in-authentic Christianity and strengthen evangelical Christian ministries to new religionists and cultists." One of their goals is to "Maintain worthy theological, ethical, and missiological standards" among its members. They are run by an all-male board of directors who are counter cult movement leaders and founders, seminary professors and authors. They publish a Manual of Ethical and Doctrinal Standards which requires its members to adhere to a high level of personal integrity. With reference to their descriptions of other faith groups, they recommend the following:

"In public criticism of non-Christian religions and systems, we must bear in mind that our goal is...to reach them in humility, not to repel them in haughtiness...We must avoid the use of "loaded language" or emotional terminology which will breed contempt in the audience rather than compassion. After our presentation of another religious movement, listeners should be incited to prayer and evangelism rather than moved to pity or revulsion by our manner of portrayal."

By "non-Christian religions and systems" they would include many groups which consider themselves to be Christian, such as Roman Catholicism, the Mormon Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.

After visiting many of the CCM web sites, it is obvious that CCM groups rarely if go outside their group to have their essays critiqued. If, for example, each had their article on the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) reviewed by a few active Unitarian Universalists (UUs), then the accuracy of their essay could be greatly improved. Without outside help, it is almost impossible for an author to write an accurate, balanced, and clear essay about a religion that is not her/his own. The results can be quite comical. Using the UUA example again, many CCMs:

State that no UUs believe in the Trinity.

List the UUA as a Christian denomination.

Quote beliefs by Unitarian authors and conclude that the UUA requires its members to believe accordingly.

All of these are false statements. Because CCM groups do not generally have their writings reviewed by outside authorities, the quality of their material suffers, along with their credibility.

Many CCM articles about Wicca and other Neopagan religions are quite ludicrous. They often contain material that is traceable back to the Witch burning times of the 15th to 18th centuries, which bears no resemblance to Neopagan religions as they are practiced today.

What the CCM believes that "cults" teach:

Counter-Cult groups frequently quote Biblical passages that warn of false prophets that will arise and confuse many. They believe that these warnings refer to present-day cults. Many religious liberals believe that at least some of these references target Gnostic Christianity -- one of the main threats to Pauline Christianity in the early years of Christianity. Among the CCM's favorites verses are:

Matthew 7:15: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (KJV)

Matthew 24:11: "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many."

Matthew 24:24: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."

Mark 13:22: "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect."

2 Peter 2:1: "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction."

1 John 4:1: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

A listing "The Characteristics of a Cult: Theological Characteristics" at Different Gospels says that a cult's teaching includes one or more of the following:

Devaluation of the Bible; the nature of God; the person, life and work of Christ;

Denial of the Trinity;

False, non-Biblical teachings about the Holy Spirit, criteria for salvation, after-life. etc.;

Exalted view of humanity;

Overemphasis or denial of demonic activity.

Another listing is at "Why is a Cult a Cult?" at Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. They specify that a faith group is a cult if it denies any of the following:

The deity of Jesus or the nature of the Trinity.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Salvation by Grace alone.

Some "cults" are Christian groups, like the Mormons, who add an extra book or books to the Bible. At least one, the Jehovah's Witnesses modifies the text of the Bible to produce its own translation. Others are accused of developing non-orthodox interpretations of Bible passages: they take passages out of context, pick and choose certain verses while ignoring others; mistranslate key words, etc.



A list of some CCM groups in North America:

The following are arranged in alphabetic order:

Apologetics Index (formerly called the Christian Ministry Report & Apllogetics Index) at: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/

Biblical Discernment Ministries, P.O. Box 679, Bedford; IN 47421-0679. See: http://rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/ This group has 168 reports available, which deal with a variety of topics: cults, new age, whether Christmas is Christian, etc. They publish a bimonthly newsletter: The BDM Letter for a donation of $5/year

The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry at: http://www.carm.org/index.html This is a very large web site. It is rated by Hitbox.com as the most visited counter-cult website, and about #14 in the list of most-visited religious web sites.

The Christian Connections has many zip files about sects, cults and non-Christian religions at: http://www.webzonecom.com/ccn/cults/cults.htm

Christian Research Institute, (CRI) PO Box 500, Aan Juan Capistrano, CA, 92693. See: http://www.equip.org/ CRI has come under attack recently over allegations of plagiarism, heresy, shady financial arrangements, etc. See: CRI in CRIsis at: http://idt.net/~dougg/crisis/crisis.htm and On the Edge at: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Boulevard/1108/index.html

Cult Information Service at http://members.aol.com/shawdan/cis.htm

Dialog Center appears to be both a counter-cult and anti cult group at: http://www.dci.dk/engelsk/welcome.html

Different Gospels is primarily a counter-cult group but has aspects of anti-cult beliefs. See: http://www-personal.si.umich.edu/~rlm/cults.html

Eternity Online Magazine has a series of articles on cults and a Cults Mailing List at: http://www.eternitymag.com/bk_cults.htm This website is currently unreachable, but may become accessible in the future.

Evangelical Outreach has a menu of "Cults and False Teachings" at: http://www.voicenet.com/~gospel/cat4.htm

MacGregor Ministries, at: http://www.macgregorministries.org/

Modern Oriental Cults at: http://religion-cults.com/Cults/Eastern/E-CULTS.htm

The "Online Guide to the Major Cults" attacks mainly large non-traditional Christian denominations, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, Unity, etc. See: http://www.holyscriptures.com/cult.htm

Spiritual Counterfeits Project, PO Box 4308, Berkeley CA, 94704. See: http://www.scp-inc.org/

TruthQuest Institute is the result of the merger of the American Religion Information Center, and Sierra Institute. They are at: P.O. Box 227, Loomis, CA 95650. See: http://www.truthquest.org

Watchman Fellowship, PO Box 7681, Columbus, GA, 31908. (404)576-4321. See: http:www.watchman.org

The Counter-Cult Movement in Europe:

A few European governments appear to have accepted the teachings of the ACM and CCM. They are becoming increasingly involved in persecution and oppression of new religious groups. In the 1930's, the Nazi government of Germany raised public hatred against Jews and Roma (Gypsies). Today, a few governments in Europe are whipping up similar hatred against sects and cults. It will be interesting to see whether the world has learned anything from the experience of the past 70 years. Examples of oppression are:

Austria: This country has had a three-tiered religious structure. A few religions are recognized as "state recognized religions;" they receive free broadcast time, government funding and tax exemption. At a lower status are those religious groups which have "legal recognition." They can own property, have a bank account in their name etc. New religious groups have no recognition and essentially no rights. To obtain recognition, they have to prove that they have at least 300 members and must wait for 6 months after applying. Non-religious groups in Austria are only required to wait 0 to 6 weeks. "Legal status may be denied to religious communities by the Federal Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs if it deems that youth will be adversely affected by it, that psychological methods are used improperly to disseminate religious beliefs, or in the interest of public security, public order, health, or morality."

France: Their federal government is attacking religious minorities via the tax system. Prime victims are the Jehovah's Witnesses and a small Evangelical Pentecostal church. They have prepared a list of suspect religious groups.

Germany: There appears to be a concerted attack on the Church of Scientology by political groups, and by governments at the local, state and federal level. Germany's Interior Minister, Manfred Kanther, announced in early 1997-JUN that "All means available to the state" will be used to monitor Scientology's 30,000 members in that country, because the government believes that the church is a threat to democracy. Counterintelligence agents will be used.

Greece: The constitution of the country forbids proselytizing by followers of any religion other than the Greek Orthodox Church. The Greek government is chronically in conflict with the European Commission of Human Rights over religious freedom issues in their country.

Russia: Recent legislation that severely curtails religious expression in Russia was passed in that country. It was motivated largely by the public's fear of dangerous "cults". The Japanese Buddhist/Christian destructive cult, Aum Shinri Kyo, had established a local office in Russia. But otherwise, that fear appears groundless. Anti-cult feeling among the public appears to exist independently of any hard evidence to support it. The largest New Religious Movements have memberships totaling only a few thousand. Yet, the public perceived them much larger than this. No religious group in Russia has ever been convicted of activities of which the CCM accuses them: mind control, stealing member's property, kidnapping people, being a threat to the state, etc. More recently, the Russian government has been persecuting Jehovah's Witnesses.

Books on New Religious Movements:

The following books have been published by CCM authors. Their prime focus is to compare the theology of various new faith groups with what they believe to be Biblical Christianity. They often contain the snarl word cult in their title. The books are generally published by Fundamentalist or other Evangelical publishers. They vary greatly in objectivity:

Richard Abanes, "Cults, New Religious Movements and your Family: A Guide to Ten Non-Christian Groups out to Convert your Loved Ones." Crossway Books, (1998) Read reviews and/or order this book from Amazon.com

Richard Abanes, "Defending the Faith: A Beginner's Guide to Cults and New Religions,." Baker Book House, (1998) Review and/or order

John Ankerberg & John Weldon, "Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs," Harvest House, Eugene OR, (1996)

Hubert Beck, "The Cults: How to Respond ," Concordia, St. Louis, MO, (1995) Review and/or order

Ron Carlson & Ed. Decker, "Fast Facts on False Teachings," Harvest House, Eugene OR (1994) Review and/or order

Bob Larson, "Larson's New Book of Cults" Tyndale House, Wheaton IL (1989) Review and/or order

Walter Martin, "The Kingdom of the Cults", Bethany House, Minneapolis MN (1997) Review and/or order

Texe Marrs, "Texe Marrs Book of New Age Cults & Religions," Living Truth Publishers, Austin TX (1990)

Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, "The Occult: The Authority of the Believer over the Powers of Darkness," Here's Life Publ., San Bernardino CA, (1992)

Irvine Robertson, "What the Cults Believe," Moody Press, Chicago, IL, (1991) Review and/or order

Ruth Tucker, "Another Gospel: Alternative religions and the New Age Movement," Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI, (1989) Review and/or order

William Watson, "A Concise Dictionary of Cults & Religions," Moody Press, Chicago IL, (1991) Out of print but may be available

William Whalen, "Strange Gods: Contemporary Religious Cults in America," Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington IN (1981) Out of print but may be available

Eldon Winker, "The New Age is Lying to You," Concordia, St. Louis, MO, (1994) Review and/or order

The following books are mostly by academic authors. Their prime focus is to explain objectively the theology of various new faith groups:

David Barrett, "Sects, 'Cults' & Alternative Religions," Blandford, London UK, (1996) Order this book from amazon.com

B. Beit-Hallahmi, "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Active New Religions, Sects and Cults." Rosen Publ., New York, NY (1997) Covers 1200 active new religious movements. Read reviews and/or order this book from Amazon.com

John Biermans, "The Odyssey of New Religious Movements: A Case Study of the Unification Church," Edwin Mellen, Lewiston NY (1986) Order it

George Mather & Larry Nichols, "Dictionary of Cult, Sects, Religions and the Occult," Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, (1993) Read reviews and/or order (Compares group beliefs with traditional Christianity)

Frank Mead & Samuel Hill, "Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 10th ed.," Abingdon, Nashville TN (1995) Review and/or order

J. Gordon Melton, Ed., "The Encyclopedia of American Religions, 5th ed." (3 volume set), Gale Research (1996) Review and/or order

J. Gordon Melton, Ed., "Religious Bodies in the United States: A Directory," Garland Publ, (1992) Review and/or order

Timothy Miller, Ed, "America's Alternate Religions," SUNY Press, Albany NY, (1995) Review and/or order

John Saliba, "Understanding New Religious Movements," Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, (1995) Review and/or order

J.R. Lewis & J.G. Melton, Eds., Church Universal and Triumphant, in Scholarly Perspective", Center for Academic Publication, Stanford CA (1994)

S.J. Gelberg, "On Leaving the 'Hare Krishnas'", Communities, Issue 88, Fall 1995, Route 1, Box 155, Rutledge MO 63563. Cost is $4.50 in the US, US$4.50 elsewhere.

Internet References, Books, Magazines, etc.:

1.Jeffery Hadden, "On Cults and Sects," an essay in the "New Religious Movements" site at: http://www.religiousmovements.org 2.Keith E. Tolbert and Eric Pement, "1996 Directory of Cult Research Organizations", American Religion Center, PO Box 168, Trenton, MI 48183 (313) 692-7772. 3.Michael Rogge, "On the Psychology of Spiritual Movements," This is an interesting WWW site dealing with common psychological mechanisms which are seen within spiritual movements of all types. See: http://www.xs4all.nl/~wichm/psymove.html 4.G. R. Thursby of the University of Florida has list of associations that support the study of new religions at: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/newrels.htm 5.George Chryssides of the University of Wolverhampton (UK) has a religious studies page at: http://www.wlv.ac.uk/sed/rsnet.htm It includes a listing of "Minority Religious Groups." 6.Leo Pfeffer, "Equal Protection for Unpopular Sects," 9(1) N.Y.U. REV. L. & SOC. CHANGE 9-10 (1979-80). 7.Ben Alexander, "The challenge of the cults," ESP Ministries http://www.espministries.com/previous.htm

Copyright © 1997 to 2000 incl. Latest update: 2000-SEP-11 Author: B.A. Robinson

What this book brings out is the interesting way in which the extremists of the Left and Right suffer from the same totalitarianism. For both of them, political "freedom" is not satisfying unless it includes the "freedom" to force you, against your will, to actively support their religious view: the Right by theocracy, and the Left by forcing Christians to pay (in taxes) for anti-Christian art, abortions, and secularist education. What both seem unable to grasp is, that "Government," as George Washington put it: "is force." "Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Nor can democratic majority rule alter this fundamental reality, since "an elective despotism is not the government we fought for." (Jefferson) The moderate, conservative, classical, laissez-faire liberalism of the American founders knew the only hope for social peace lay in the principle of "live and let live," the idea that the purpose of government must first and foremost be to prevent anyone from using force or the threat of violence to compel others, whether it be to force them at gunpoint to be baptized or to buy Robert Mapplethorpe a new car. When government undertakes to do all and to be all, it creates strife. Whether the State undertakes to erect crosses on public land, or to submerge them in jars of urine, the principle is the same: social peace is violated. Of all the political experiments in the history of the world, the American experiement in religious freedom has been the most unequivocally successful. Radical extremists like Craycraft should not be trying to destroy it.






1 : to harass in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict;

specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief

2 : to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches (as attacks, pleas, or

importunities) : PESTER



Twenty years ago, on November 18, more than 900 Americans destroyed their children, their parents, and themselves in a remote agriculture project in the South American country of Guyana. People around the world watched in horror as news about Jonestown trickled out slowly.

My family viewed events in particular fascination, since my two sisters, my nephew, and many friends were living in Jonestown as members of a religious group called Peoples Temple. What struck us then, and continues to haunt us today, is how the news media and the government demonized the people who died that day. When the Heaven's Gate deaths occurred last year, the media icon for Jonestown re-appeared: an aerial shot of brightly colored bodies lying out under the jungle sun.

Because we had known those bodies as living human beings, my family and I tried to humanize the Jonestown victims in discussions with the news media, with officials, and with strangers. Part of that humanization process resulted in writing and editing five books, published by Edwin Mellen Press, which are currently housed in the Chester Fritz Library's regular holdings and in Special Collections.

A wave of instant paperbacks came out after November 18, 1978, purporting to tell "what it was really like" inside the "suicide cult." Most of the accounts came from Peoples Temple apostates, that is, former members who had turned from being extremely pro-Temple to extremely anti-Temple. Needless to say, the accounts focused on the lurid and the sensational, and failed to provide any real explanations for why people might leave America and set up a new life in a new land. They also made the deaths inexplicable, the product of people who must have suffered mass delusion, brainwashing, or both.

Because accounts of the idealistic individuals who belonged to Peoples Temple did not correspond to what we personally knew, we felt a need to provide an alternative vision of the people and the community. This led to a ten-year quest to obtain documents from U.S. government agencies under the Freedom of Information Act, which resulted in a landmark FOIA lawsuit against the CIA. It also led to five books that presented primary source documents - including letters, diaries, and photos - as well as government documents obtained from Jonestown, and our own insights and views.

The titles tell part of the story: A Sympathetic History of Jonestown; The Jonestown Letters; and, most provocatively, In Defense of Peoples Temple. The first is the longest, the most encyclopedic, and, thirteen years after publication, still valuable for readers trying to see the human face of Jonestown. The second book consists of letters that my sisters, my parents, and myself wrote over a period of fifteen years. The last book is a collection of essays, a distillation of my own views and concerns in one short volume.

My husband, Fielding McGehee III, and I also co-edited two volumes of essays. One was New Religious Movements, Mass Suicide, and Peoples Temple, a scholarly look at the historical and sociological issues surrounding New Religious Movements (NRMs) in general, and Peoples Temple in specific. The other, by laypersons who had some connection to Peoples Temple, presented essays based on ten years of reflection on the events. I think that this book, The Need for a Second Look at Jonestown, is perhaps my favorite because it includes a diversity of voices and viewpoints concerning Peoples Temple and the impact its members had on others.

It is not quite accurate to say that our books, written in a journalistic style, are scholarly. They lack the standard academic apparatus of footnotes and bibliographies. Scholars studying Peoples Temple have nevertheless found them useful in depicting the daily life and ideas of Temple members.

Before our books appeared, beginning in 1985, only a single scholarly publication on Peoples Temple had been published: Judith Weightman's Making Sense of the Jonestown Suicides. Since Weightman's and our own volumes, however, a new wave of scholarly publications on Peoples Temple has re-examined the organization, the events, and the people involved. This spring, Mary Maaga's book The Most Intimate Other: Hearing the Voices of Jonestown looks at the role of women in Peoples Temple. It will be published by Syracuse University Press.

The Chester Fritz Library holds a number of other scholarly works on Jonestown. John R. Hall's Gone From the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History is the best academic work on People's Temple to date, in my opinion. Salvation and Suicide, by David Chidester, is an interesting look at the ideology of Jim Jones, the Temple's leader. My criticism of it is that it does not examine the views of Temple members, ranging from believing Christians who grew up in the Black Church tradition, to 1960s activists who wanted to change the world by creating a secular, inter-racial utopian community. While Shiva Naipaul's Journey to Nowhere: A New World Tragedy tends to focus on the madness of Jim Jones and his followers, it does provide an interesting perspective by a non-Westerner.

The library also carries James Reston, Jr.'s book, Our Father Who Art in Hell. When Reston appeared on a radio program discussing the final thought of my sister Annie, I called the station to ask him how he knew what her final thought was. He replied by calling his work "a fiction of reality." This made me so upset that I wrote the Library of Congress, asking that his book be catalogued as fiction rather than nonfiction. The ironic response from the Library was that shelving books next to Reston's would undoubtedly challenge his analysis.

In addition to books on Peoples Temple, the Chester Fritz Library holds a number of other scholarly investigations of New Religious Movements. Susan Jean Palmer's Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lovers describes the role of women in several NRMs. The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing by Eileen Barker is quite possibly one of the best books written on the Unification Church. The Satanism Scare, edited by three scholars of NRMs, looks at the evidence, or rather lack of evidence, that exists to support the media's search for Satanic cults. I would also add the very entertaining work by the Department of Philosophy and Religion Chair Scott Lowe and David Lane, DA: The Strange Case of Franklin Jones. Lowe provides an insider's view of cult life in the 1970s that typifies most people's experiences with New Religious Movements. Interested persons may also check the UND Philosophy and Religion Department's website, Alternative Consideration of Peoples Temple and Jonestown, at www.und.edu/dept/philrel/jonestown.

Anti-cult books appear on the Library's shelves as well. These include Min S. Yee's bizarre account of the Layton family and Peoples Temple, In My Father's House, as well as Cults in Our Midst, the most recent book by the doyen of the Anti-Cult Movement (ACM) Margaret Singer. These and other works are balanced by J. Gordon Melton's excellent Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America, which is housed in the Library's Reference Collection.

Researchers may examine all aspects of New Religious Movements by reading these books. Certainly, Hall's, Chidester's, and our own works challenge the popular stereotypes of cults and cultists. They reject brainwashing and mind-control hypotheses and attempt to deal seriously with NRM's implicit criticism of society and traditional religious organizations.

Rebecca Moore, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion

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