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Anti-Cult Campaigns: Chile Threatens to Follow France

The following series of news articles from Chile highlight the steps being taken by Chilean government/legislatures since March of this year to regulate and/or ban the activities of what some consider to be "dangerous sects and/or cults." The Commision set up by the government had apparently already turned in it's official report sometime in April. The Chilean government has already canceled the legal status of the Center for Tibetan Studies and is now conducting investigations of the following religious movements: Unification Church, Children of God/The Family, Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and the Church of Scientology, amongst others.
The connection to the recent French legislation is mentioned in the articles. As the French legislation has now been considered both in Hong Kong and now in Chile, it is clear that the French legislation is having an impact on a global scale.

"Members of Parliament seek to cancel the legal status of these organizations - 20 cults under investigation"

by O. Santa Maria/H. Cossio (“El Mercurio”, Santiago Chile, April 5th, 2001)

The Chamber of Deputies commission investigating cults gave the Minister of Justice the background to 20 cults qualified as “destructive” to Chilean society, by which it requested the Government to investigate and cancel their legal status.
Deputy Alberto Espina explained that the commission received some 30 testimonies of persons that had belonged to cults, which led the commission to conclude that 100 organizations of this type operate in this country, concentrated in the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Ninth regions.
Member of Parliament, Fanny Pollarolo, explained that “a psychological and sexual dependency on the guru is created, presented with some ideological content, called sexuality or holy prostitution that transports to a superior spiritual state”.
The Focus
Amongst the cults investigated are: Moon; Children of God; Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and Scientology, amongst others.
Sergio Castillo, ex president of the Unification Church of Chile (the Moon cult), said that “two or three years ago, the Justice Department inspected us and didn't discover any anomaly. We are a church with legal standing since 1976 and any person can belong to it without forsaking their faith. We believe that Christ is the son of God and the Reverend Moon is our spiritual leader.”
Last January, Deputy Nelson Avila denounced physical aggression and dishonest abuse against a minor, supposedly perpetrated by members of the group “Save Me Virgin of Fatima”.
This organization splintered from the Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), better known as “Fiducia”. The society, ultraconservative and of mediaeval inspiration, holds the right to private property as “divine” and are attributed with holding contacts with extreme right and neonazi European parties.
In 1985, TPF was banned in Venezuela once it was proven that the organization offended family values by instilling discriminatory values, turning youths into fanatics.
The Department of Justice resolved to cancel the legal status of the Center of Tibetan Studies, with head office in Valparaiso, for recruiting women and convincing them to accede to maintaining sexual relations with the leader of the group, Luis Moreno Aros, known as the “Manasa Putra”. In the accounts of the young women who were in the cult, given to the Chamber of Deputies investigative commission, they stated that the “guru” claimed that Jesus had been in Tibet “and that all the damned priests were thieves.” According to the testimonies, Luis Moreno said, “It would be best to get a machine gun and kill all the Catholics, particularly the priests.

"BEFORE THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: They request the Investigation of 20 Cults"

("El Mercurio de Valparaiso", Santiago, Chile, April 15, 2001)

The Research of the Special Commission of the Lower House of Parliament established characteristics of these groups
The investigation of 20 cults of a "destructive profile", according to the deliberations of the special commission for the Chamber of Deputies to investigate these groups, was solicited by the Ministry of Justice after the cancellation of the legal registration of the "Tibetan Center of Studies", which motivated the creation of the parliamentary commission.
After the disappearance of two youths in Vina del Mar, who traveled to Spain, pressured by a member of the "Tibetan Center of Studies", the Chamber of Deputies agreed on the formation of a commission integrated by 13 members of parliament, amongst them Fanny Pollarolo, Felipe Letelier and Alberto Espina, who presides over the commission.
This commission received testimonies of experts and people recruited by 20 groups, determining that these groups were of a "destructive profile", and their legal registration should be canceled.
Member of Parliament Espina remarked that besides Chile, the only other places where serious studies had been carried out on cults was in France, Germany and Spain, where one of the young people still resides after being captured by the Tibetan Center of Studies.
He added that next Monday, the conclusions of the study will be submitted, detailing how cults operate in Chile, what factors influence in their acquiring followers and how to control them.
Member of Parliament Pollarolo explained that due to the psychological and sexual dependency of the group with the "being" that runs it, this person acquires the status of "divinity" in the cult.
Letelier, also, warned that one of the young girls recruited affirmed to have been the victim of serious pressures to leave the country. As such this situation merits a deep analysis.
"Destructive Profile"
According to what was established in the draft agreement by the Chamber of Deputies, resolving to create a special commission to investigate cults, these are characterized, amongst other aspects, by the following:
a) Fanaticism, inflexibility, exclusive group, revealed leader
b) The faithful break ties with the world, specifically with their families, their friends and their educational surroundings
c) The faithful are conditioned by means that violate human dignity and generally, unacceptable behavior is required, such as perverse sexuality, slavery, sleep deprivation and rejection of the biological family.
d) The leaders are illegally made wealthy by exploiting their followers, requiring them to work without pay, quotas of daily income, without submitting to labor laws.
e) Manipulated sexuality as a way of behavioral control, especially of women, which is known as "holy prostitution" and which is added to other forms of sex for commercial ends.
f) The children of the group are educated to reproduce the ideology and the practices of this organization and in many cases they are the victims of sexual abuse.
g) Grave injuries to the physical and mental health of the followers.
h) Aggressiveness against traditional churches, such as defiling temples and places that are of significance to Christian entities
i) Practices of defiling cemeteries and tombs; practices of necrophilia and mass and individual suicides.

"A LAW WAS APPROVED BY PARLIAMENT - The French are Determined to put an end to Cults"

by Andrea Desormeaux ("El Mercurio de Valparaiso", Chile, June 16, 2001)

The new legislation has provisions for punishing psychological persuasion and to dissolve groups that commit illegal acts.
PARIS- Eighty-eight members of an American cult died by suicide after a confrontation with the police in Waco (Texas) in 1993; 71 followers of the Solar Temple cult perished in five "group suicides" organized between 1994 and 1997 in Switzerland, France and Canada; 11 deaths and 5,000 wounded in a gas attack on a Tokyo metro by the Aum cult. The list of criminal acts committed by some cults alarmed worldwide public opinion.
In France, the debate about the so-called "cultic movements" began several years ago and several organizations were brought to court. But the members of parliament wanted to go further than that. For this, they voted definitively on May 30th in favor of a law specifically crafted to fight against cults.
The initiative intends to lead the forefront for Western Europe. Together with Germany and Spain, France has been one of the few countries of the EU to react vigorously to detain this phenomenon.
The bill, presented by the conservative Senator, Nicholas About, and the Socialist Deputy, Catherine Picard, was approved unanimously by the parliamentary groups. It was a synthesis of several legislative texts that had been presented to parliament with the same objective.
The text "tends to reinforce the prevention and repression of cultic movements." It will empower the courts to dissolve cults that have been found guilty of harm done to persons by the illegal exercise of medicine, deceptive publicity or fraud. It will also apply a sentence of three years of prison and a fine of 2,5 million francs (more than 300,000 dollars) for the "fraudulent abuse of the state of ignorance or weakness."
This crime consists of the repression of a vulnerable person (such as minors, handicapped or those who are in a state of psychological or physical subjection) who is induced to commit "a dangerously harmful act or abstention".
Originally, the intent was to condemn "mental manipulation", but during the parliamentary discussion, the text was changed for a less explicit definition. This was because it ran the risk of "opposing fundamental freedoms", according to the words of the Minister of Justice, Maylise Lebranchu.
Nearly 170 Cults and over 100,000 Followers
The first study regarding cults in France was carried out at the request of the Government in 1985 by Alain Vivien. But 10 years later, the National Assembly still lamented that the measures foreseen by the expert had not been applied.
"Cults continue to prosper and exploit, to their own advantage, and in their growth in our society, they have caused the fall of several people, who were willing to allow themselves to be deceived by the apparent spirituality of a discussion that leads them to believe that they have the answer to their hopes", pointed out the report.
The members of parliament composed a list in this report of around 170 organizations of this kind. From the Center of Gnostic Studies (with less than 50 members) to the Jehovah's Witnesses (more than 130,000 members), the document includes such famous cults as Scientology or the Hare Krishna, but also other religious or laical movements (Mormons, humanists) that in other countries are not considered as such.
The Gallic Service of Investigations (DCRG) carried out a detailed analysis of this phenomenon, defining the cult according to its supposed degree of dangerousness. The organism must simply meet one of ten criteria established - mental destabilization, exorbitant financial requirements, rupture with original environment, aggressions to physical integrity, isolation of children, antisocial discourse, disturbance of public order, judicial problems, diversion of financial circuits, infiltration of public powers - to be considered a "cultic movement".
Although it is difficult to give a precise figure (since it is difficult to distinguish between a true member, an occasional disciple or a simple sympathizer), it is estimated that in France the members, at least occasional ones, would be about 160 thousand, and the sympathizers about 100,000.
In its fight against cults, the Government created in 1996 an Interministerial Observatory regarding Cults, replaced in 1998 by the Interministerial Mission to Combat Cults (MILS). At the same time, the Ministers of Justice and the Interior elaborated pamphlets to reinforce the struggle against these groups, while the Ministry of Education initiated preventative tasks.
Financial Interests
Two years ago, the National Assembly adopted a second report, "Cults and Money", in which it denounced the "true motivation of many of these movements."
"Beyond a discussion of esoteric or religious inspiration, the cultic phenomenon rests on an organization intended to ensure the opacity and the profit of its activities. This has allowed it to acquire an important economic and financial standing, which rests on the very widespread practice of fraud", affirms the document.
Taking advantage of the laxity of countries like the United States, the majority of the cults present in France have their headquarters outside the country. Scientology is the most well known of these due to the notoriety of several of its members (many actors from Hollywood). Japan, India, Brazil and some European countries such as Austria, the Lower Countries, or Belgium as well serve as a residence for several cults. Others, due to the advantage of their tax systems (Luxembourg, Sweden), also attract these organizations.
"Repressive Hysteria"
The severity of the French police has been described as "repressive hysteria" by the cults. To defend themselves, they have gone to international organisms such as the UN or the European Court of Human Rights, to condemn France for opposing the freedom of belief, thought or association.
Up until this point, they have only obtained the support of the International Federation of Human Rights of Helsinki, an NGO affiliated to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), often considered as the representative for the United States in Europe.
"Legislation against cults cannot be prohibited in the name of human rights.
It is absurd when it is known to what point these movements can violate the more elemental rights", pointed out Alain Vivien, who now presides over the MILS.
Ecclesiastical Concerns
PARIS-The new law against cults approved in France has not only these movements themselves concerned, but also the traditional churches. Cardinal Bille, president of the Gallic Episcopal Conference and Pastor Clermont, of the Protestant Federation, sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, in which they manifested their reservations respecting the About-Picard bill.
The religious representatives fear that, in the long term, their own practices can fall under this law.
"What will the judge think about the life of the congregation and its requirements (vows of obedience and chastity, fasting, isolation from society)? The person who has chosen this can appear to be manipulated and his consent would lack value", said Monsignor Vernette of the Episcopal Conference.
"Irreproachable Protestants have been subject to such offensive measures.
Some municipalities have denied them the use of a ballroom or to subsidize "classic" activities because the word "evangelical" appears to them to be suspicious", commented Pastor Clermont.

"Survey reveals ample support for the proposition of a group of Congressmen - The Majority supports the shutdown of cults considered dangerous"

by Fernando Marambio ("Diario Las Ultimas Noticias," Santiago, Chile, April 8, 2001)

81.1% approve the shutdown of these groups, 75.6% say that this would not be a symptom of intolerance and 61.1% think that the clause would not oppose the Law of Equality of Worship
The parliamentary proposal seeking to ban the functioning of 20 cults accused of assaulting their members, and some of them of immoral sexual practices, received wide support from the citizenry.
People think that a ban of this kind is an affair pertaining to the public realm and not intolerance, and as such would not contradict freedom of religion. Nevertheless, nearly 50% of people believe that the government will not end up shutting down these groups.
This is evidenced in the survey carried out this week by "Ultimas Noticias" which spoke with 650 people who previously declared that they were aware of the controversy aroused by the request to shut down these groups. This initiative was set forth by a group of Deputies who investigated the supposed dangerous cults after the case of a young woman who was induced to abandon her home to be married to a polygamous guru in Spain.
An interesting aspect of the survey is that Chileans believe that sexual conduct within a cult does not pertain to the realm of individual privacy and that the State should repress them if they are considered immoral.
On the other hand, parents manifested a very strong rejection to the idea of their children joining a cult, since they affirmed that the recruiting of its members was carried out by deceptive means. Meanwhile they did a "mea culpa" in recognizing that part of the responsibility of the disorientation of their children was theirs.
In general, the toughest group against cults was women and the least rigid was young people.
According to the sampling, 81.1% of those surveyed affirmed to be favorable to the shutting down of cults with reprehensible behavior. Women proved to be more convinced of this point, and 82.4% were inclined to shutting down these communities, surpassing men by almost 3 percent.
Amongst socioeconomic groups, the most convinced in favor of shutting down the cults was the middle class, in which 82.2% of those surveyed went in that direction. As far as age, people between 36 and 45 made known their fervor in supporting this request, reaching 88.5%.
The other side was represented by those surveyed amongst the upper class and those from 21 to 25 years of age, which displayed respectively 25.3% and 26.8% rejection of this proposal, manifesting their less conservative nature.
Public good vs. intolerance
75.6% affirmed that in their opinion, the shutting down of the cults would respond to seeking the "public good" and not intolerance towards non-traditional religious groups. Those who mostly supported this position were women, 80.9%, surpassing men by 11%.
The upper class segment was the group that pointed more to the possibility of the motivation being intolerance. (31.3% of its members see it this way).
As far as the older group, there is an increase in the acceptance of the parliamentary motion seeking to put an end to cults. While the support of the initiative amongst those over 46 reaches 85.3%, it lowers to 65.5% in the case of youngsters between 18 and 25 years.
Despite the massive rejection of cults, for 38.9% of those surveyed, the possibility of terminating these organizations can redound to an assault against the freedom of worship.
Those who most insisted in this were men (41.2%), persons from lower social strata (41%) and those between 18 and 25 years of age (47.9%). As such, the profile of those that don't consider that it would be negative corresponds to women (36.8%), members of high class (34.9%) and those over 46 years of age (32.1%).
63% of those surveyed considered it the "duty of State" to intervene in cults that patronize sexual behavior considered immoral amongst their members, named "holy prostitution" by the members of parliament that investigated the phenomenon. The petitions for control were concentrated amongst the women, with 69.6% in favor of intervention, far from the 55.8% indicated by men.
The lower strata was the socioeconomic segment most convinced that the State cannot accept the "free sex" in cults (66.3% request intervention). The upper class was 11% lower on this point, traditionally reticent towards government control.
Once again, the curve descended amongst age groups. 76.3% of those over 46 required that the state curb non-traditional sexual behavior in groups. This figure lowers to 54.2% amongst youth of the same opinion.
My Kid? No way
Where the opinions start to balance out is when those surveyed were asked if they would allow one of their children to join one of these groups: 87:6% were opposed. On this item, the differences in responses between sex and social groups is very small.
In contrast, 29.2% of women believe that people who join these groups do so of their own free will, 28.9% of the upper class and 39.4% of those from 18 to 15 years of age.
The parents were willing to take responsibility for having generated the conditions that led to their children joining cults, since 87.6% admitted that they would also bear the blame for not adequately guiding their minors.
The most open to acknowledging this responsibility were men (90.4%) and not women (85.1%).
In any case, 77.7% of parents say that, if necessary, the authorities will assist in getting their children out of these cults. The groups that showed the greatest tendency of soliciting help were women (80.9%), middle class (80.1%) and adults between 36 and 45 years of age (86.5%).

Pedro Zabala, president of the Christian Confraternity of Churches
"Control is negative for freedom"

Much care must be taken in dealing with the topic, proposed the president of the Christian Confraternity of Churches, Pedro Zabala, since as he affirmed, "not all cults are harmful". At the same time, he warned that the way to avoid dangerous groups is not to increase control, since this could endanger freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by legislation and which concerns the Protestant world very much.
Zabala, a Lutheran theologian, asserted that the ideal is to create dialogue between representatives of diverse persuasions, to face the phenomenon in a deeper way, and not to lament in the future possible harm done to persons that subscribe to these groups.
-Do you view the term "cult" as pejorative?
-Of course. In the past, evangelicals suffered unjust attacks from people who had catalogued us as cults, as a way of attacking us. Also, the dictionary of the Royal Academy of Language defines the term "Lutheran" as a cult. It's always the case that whomever holds the power has defined what can be considered respectable and who should be called a cult.
-But here groups are being questioned that offend people's dignity and liberty
-We must be careful, because not every cult is the same. With the Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, we have a lot of differences, we consider them to be cult-like, but they don't commit crimes nor immoral behavior, since they are even very drastic along those lines.
So how then do we identify those who cause harm to their followers?
-We propose that in the future the name "new religious movements" be established for these groups that arise. That way they won't be labeled by calling them cults.
Is it possible to tighten controls on these types of groups?
-I don't think so. We are free citizens and we can't have this kind of offense. Any kind of control can be fatal, a true retrocession. We must maintain the freedom of worship, avoiding that any other entity questions that for any reason.
-But you believe that the authorities should just do nothing when faced with abuses?
-No, because the Department of Justice can revoke legal status, besides applying penal punishment for immoral behavior, or outright abuses.
-What solution do you propose?
-We must divulge our ideas to the youth, so that they are not misled. We must focus on a serious dialogue between experts, to determine how to combat this worrisome phenomenon. The answer is to devote ourselves to education, not to repression.
Alfredo Soiza, Episcopal Delegate for Ecumenism and cults
"The Law of Worship is a Mixed Bag"
The Episcopal Delegate for Ecumenism and Cults of the Archbishopric of Santiago, the priest Alfredo Soiza, sees little possibility for combating cults by legal means. For him the legislation guaranteeing freedom of worship establishes a series of difficulties for the regulating of actions of some of these groups that he describes as "pseudo religious".
For Soiza, who has worked on this subject for over 15 years, boundaries cannot be established on the actions of these entities without taking away the freedom of belief consecrated in the new Law of Worship, by which these groups can allege that intervention is illegal.
-How to put a stop to groups that could abuse their members?
-The truth is that in all this the law of worship has functioned as a mixed bag. In virtue of a very important principle of freedom, a series of harmful groups can be harbored. I don't believe in civil control, because this could lend itself to a determined government gaining control of religiosity and establishing prohibitions. To avoid this, we have to value the independence of religious entities.
-What then?
-The law does not permit regulation, and there we arrive at a sensitive point, because it may lead to the appearance of more cults in the future.
-What's happening with the controls of the Department of Justice?
-When a group requests legal recognition, it present a request in which it outlines its goals, inspiration, principles. Nevertheless, we all know that much slips by on paper. Besides, an investigation cannot be carried out unless a concerned party files a complaint.
-Have you discussed this topic with other denominations?
-We have been in touch with evangelical pastors. We are concerned because abuses against people exist, caused by individuals who impose their charisma and use the scriptures for their own ends.
-Will you take measures conjointly?
-I couldn't say. The Catholic Church is very concerned in taking adequate measures to ensure that abuses are not repeated through education and prevention, especially amongst young people, who are more likely to fall.
UDI Deputy Gonzalo Ibanez
"Denounces that a Witch Hunt will be caused"
At the end of April, the report of the investigative commission of the Lower Chamber of Parliament that inquired into the associations of religious or philosophical nature that, for different reasons, could be involved in illegal activities and immoral behavior.
Thus maintained Deputy Gonzalo Ibanez (UDI party), who is in disagreement and upset with his colleagues Alberto Espina (RN), Fanny Pollarolo and Felipe Letelier (both PS) for giving information that they have collected in this case to the Department of Justice to request that the legal status of these groups be canceled. In Ibanez's opinion, this advance could motivate the initiation of a witch hunt.
-Why are you so upset?
-They were very rushed and skipped steps, since the agreement of the commission hasn't been drafted yet which has to be voted on by the Chamber of Deputies and will determine how to proceed.
-But if a member of parliament, as any citizen, has knowledge of illegal actions he must place them at the disposition of the law?
-Yes, that is true. But in this case, the possible knowledge is furnished by the antecedents that have been collected by the commission. These have to be presented to the House so that decisions may be adopted in each case.
Skipping this stage can provoke public alarm and an atmosphere of a witch hunt that is not a good idea to incite.
-What can be decided in this case?
-The State's Security Council can be advised to adopt measures against cults, or the Department of Justice to better control this type of situation. But the legislative capacity of the Chamber of Deputies should not be confused with the work carried out by the police or the Judiciary. Legislators can only control organisms and public officials as far as knowing how adequate they are in the carrying out of the law.
-Could the Government be request to shut down these cults?
-Yes, we could advise this, but the Chamber of Deputies would have to be in agreement.
-How many groups of this kind are there?
-We had access to information on several of these groups, but we don't have a register of them.
Humberto Lagos, expert on cults
"Let's not wait for a mass suicide"

Psychologist and cult expert, Humberto Lagos, gave a message to parents to be alert to the behavior of their young people. For him, the investigation by the Chamber of Deputies is an important milestone and not persecution of religious groups.
He affirmed that it is necessary to end the possible abuses of some cults "before we have to lament mass suicides as in other countries." He sustained that the main threat are satanic cults that commit acts of necrophilia, and not the Jehovah Witnesses, who he describes as inoffensive and victims of an unjust attack.
-What are the main errors in the way that the subject of cults has been handled?
-The Chilean people are very ignorant along these lines. We're all very observant of what was occurring with the Tibetan cult, but once it's not in the news, we forget about it, risking that this phenomenon repeats itself.
This is not acceptable, because tragedies as have happened in other countries could occur.
-Do you think the response has been passive?
-I would like to think that every effort was made with the investigation, but it is not yet the case. A greater education of the people is necessary before we have to lament mass suicides as in other countries.
-What cults are the most dangerous for Chilean society?
-Experience tells us that we must be alert, especially with satanic cults that often attract unstable youths, emotional, without work or suffering family problems. These groups occasionally go to cemeteries and take advantage of the bodies of young women who have just died. Also, the Children of God are dangerous, as they make women believe that prostitution is an act of salvation.
-And what's happening with the Jehovah's Witnesses?
-No, they do not commit atrocities. They are strict and cult-like, but they don't denigrate people. In any case, the results of the Commission of the Chamber of Deputies investigating this topic will be ready on Monday, which will conclude a process of fact finding that has been extremely important in our country.

The following editorial is short legal analysis of the Chilean anti-religious legislation now being pushed in parliament. It is written by Jorge Enrique Precht Pizarro, Professor of Public Law at the Catholic Pontifical University of Chile. Professor Pizarro also makes mention of the French legislation as it relates to the situation in Chile.
We have also included information on Humberto Lagos Schuffenege, who is a Chilean academic/lawyer and counter-cultist who is one of the leading proponents of the proposed anti-religious legislation.

"Cults and the Status of the law"

by Jorge Enrique Precht Pizarro (“El Mercurio”, Santiago, Chile, April 12, 2001)

The cancellation of the legal status of the “Center of Tibetan Studies” has renewed interest in the so-called “destructive cults”. According to State law, only associations that are supposedly religious and whose practices offend public order, are immoral or use psychological coercion to such a degree that fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience are violated, should be considered cults, since these annihilate the autonomy and individuality of the members.
Only in these precise cases of pseudo religious socially destructive groups does the State have the right and the constitutional duty to intervene, taking care that the measures taken protect the individuals involved and society at large, without affecting legitimate constitutional rights such as freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and freedom of association.
In particular, it has the duty to intervene in favor of children of the members of destructive cults that are given by the parents to the organization or to the cult leader to be “brought up”, forsaking their paternal rights and duty to educate and bring up their children.
On the other hand, the selectivity, adjustment and rigor of the legislative, administrative and judicial measures that should be taken, can not be easily attained if due to social or political contingencies, a climate of sensationalism and suspicion towards all new religious groups exists, labeling as “cult”--without research or basis--groups that are innovative or that distance themselves from the large church paradigm or historic religions, or are outside of the Judeo-Christian framework in which the majority of Chileans were educated and continue to adhere to.
The Law requires that secular force not be employed to enforce ideas and much less religious beliefs. The State itself requires that a judicial regime not be created or special penal sanctions for determined groups or individuals, but rather that common law be applied to all. For this reason, the vast majority of countries have not resorted to the classification of a specific legal nature to the “formation of cults” (as if they were “private militias”) or “manipulation of conscience”, and has preferred to perfect the habitual judicial arsenal, such as crimes of fraud, inducing the abandonment of home, using religious judicial registration for profit or pseudo-therapy, offenses to psychic or physical health, sexual crimes, illegal association, etc.
The case of France in attempting since 1999 to create a penal character for the “formation of cults” and “manipulation of conscience” is an isolated affair in Europe and has led rise to a great deal of polemic in the interior and exterior of the Gallic Parliament which has yet to end.
The French parliamentary practice of producing a “list of cults” has been equally strongly opposed. Groups that are not destructive, nor could ever be and religious entities that are without question members of established and fully recognized churches are included. With this list thus discredited, the truly destructive groups benefit from the doubt implanted due to the methods employed.
Therefore, except in the case of crimes and behavior that is likely to violate the constitutional limits of religious freedom, the State must not intervene, leaving in the hands of society, especially of men and women with a religious background, to organize and coordinate, to avoid that in the name of the social legitimacy provided by religion, individuals without scruples commit crimes or profit from public credibility and profit at the expense of the weaknesses of individuals or the tragedies of life. There is room here for inter-religious dialogue that, as is well known, exceeds ecumenical discussions. This dialogue should be translated into private initiatives of social protection against cults.
It is known that the majority of cults operate as de facto associations.
Nevertheless, some of them, and the most important of them feverishly seek judicial recognition as religious entities. In this case, the State should deny such registration. It's not enough for a group to qualify itself as religious for that to be the case. Such self-denomination can be entirely fictitious and can cover other purposes, even criminal ones.
If the administrative branch of the State doesn't have the faculties to avoid this flagellation or to supervise to ensure that there is no deviation from the original objectives of the entities already granted legal status, the Government who oversees this administration can exercise its faculties in presenting legal initiatives. And to avoid any administrative discretionary powers, let the judicial recourses available be made clear.
On the other hand, citizens have the right to be able to identify with all transparency which groups and under which proceedings, are being conceded or have been conceded legal standing as religious groups, in order to be able to oppose such petitions or denounce excesses, abuses or negligence. But as long as even the most conscientious lawyers must continue searching for religious registrations in the muddle of the more than 200 daily associations the Official Bulletin publishes under the title of “Other Societies”, or it continues to be maintained that any association that denominates itself as religious, can send supposed “ministers” to hospitals, prisons and military facilities, despite the lack of any legal status that gives society the minimum security that they will not abuse of public faith, the correct social reaction cannot be carried out and we will just be moved by the plight of those “fallen in battle” left behind by the destructive cults.
As such, religious experience will continue to be discredited, despite the almost unanimity of Chileans who declare their adherence to some belief of that nature and many of which have made these beliefs the focus of their lives.

Jorge Enrique Precht Pizarro
Professor of Public Law
Catholic Pontifical University of Chile

"An Entity with 200,000 members could be Banned"

by O. Santa Maria/H. Cossio (“Las Ultimas Noticias”, April 6th, 2001)

According to police reports, they isolate their member from society. They respond that they only teach the Bible.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, who habitually knock on doors to announce the soon coming end of the world, appear in the list of cults that are a danger to society, turned in on Wednesday by a special commission of the Chamber of Deputies to the Minister of Justice.
The members of Parliament on the Commission of Religious Cults--that studied the charges against the Tibetan Center of Studies--received reports and testimonies from the police that motivated suspicion that some 26 organizations can have a harmful profile. (see list at end of article).
The deputies requested that Jose Antonio Gomez, Minister of Justice, order an investigation and, if the antecedents were proved, to cancel the legal registration of these organizations.
According to the information obtained, police reports exist that arrived at Parliament characterizing the Jehovah's Witnesses as a group that isolates its members from society (forbidding the reading of novels, newspapers and magazines, not allowing them to watch television, amongst other forms of communication) and foments the rejection of patriotic symbols such as the flag and the national anthem. Plus, their members consider the honoring of these symbols to be pagan rituals.
The reports suggests that punishments exist for whomever transgresses these norms. Besides this, it comments on some of their characteristics, such as falsely announcing the end of the word in 1914, 1925 and 1975; their refusal of blood transfusions and a wide variety of celebrations, such as birthdays and Christmas.
“We are not a cult”
Yesterday, the legal representative for the Witnesses, Pedro Lobato, refuted the mention of their group in this category. “We are not a cult, our focus is the Bible. We believe that it is not God's will to take everybody to Heaven, only the meek. We are 60,000 Witnesses in Santiago and 200,000 in the whole country,” he briefly commented.
He pointed out that they will not have a formal opinion about their inclusion in the list of cults until they receive an official notification from the Department of Justice.
At their Congregation in Cerrillos, the Witness member Rebeca Jara responded very upset: “Cults are satanic and we don't even believe in spiritism like evangelicals, who scream and jump, and the Catholics. Our job is to help people to learn about the Bible. We don't have any rituals and we don't harm anyone.” Jara added that the Elders (pastors) guide the congregations.
Concerning the religious association “Our Lady of Fatima”, which at first had connected them to the list of cults, the leader at their headquarters in Santiago, Felipe Lecaros clarified that “we are a laic organization, with pontifical rights, recognized by the Holy See as well as the Archbishopric of Santiago.”
Our Lady of Fatima, or Heralds of the Gospel received the approval of the Pope February 28th of last year, after a ceremony at Saint Peter's Church.
Unification Church (Moon cult)
Church of Scientology
Children of God/The Family
Church Universal of God
New Acropolis
Universal Christian Gnostic Center
Osho-Bhagwcan Rajneesh
Nchiren Soshu Soka Gakkai
International Association for Krishna Consciousness
Transcendental Meditation movement
Jehovah's Witnesses-Watchtower Editorial
Lumen Dei
Neocatecumenal Way
Supreme Truth
Revolutionaries for Christ
Revolutionary Movement of Jesus Christ-Theocratic Movement and Martin Luther
Tamntrical Circle of the Supreme Ecstasy of the Divine Union
Hare Krishna
Church of Scientology
Nevara or the Consecrated to God
Amanda Marga
The Holy Ones
Followers of Satan
The Mission
Spiritual Congregation of Peace and Love

Anti-Cult Campaign in Chile - Index Page

Anti-Cult Law in France - Index Page

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