Anti-cults

Chairman Lee and the Hwaseong Stadium Incident: Flogging a Dead Horse

by Massimo Introvigne — In late Winter last year, Shincheonji, a religious movement few non-Koreans had ever heard about, became a household name overnight as the ultimate “plague-spreading cult,” after one of its members was identified as an (involuntary) “superspreader” of COVID-19 in South Korea. Shincheonji and its leader, Chairman Lee Man Hee, were accused of having obstructed the anti-COVID-19 effort by not cooperating with the health authorities. Chairman Lee himself was arrested.

The improper use of the tax authorities to persecute spiritual minorities

The French and Taiwanese experiences are not isolated. The tactic of using the tax system (very often already oppressive for all citizens) is used practically everywhere. Stigmatizing the target of one's aggression a tax evader has the obvious purpose of making him unpopular and justifying the limitation of his rights. Today we publish this interesting analysis by Christine Mirre, deputy director of FOB sister company CAP-LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience), a United Nations ECOSOC-accredited NGO.

Debunking the Myth of Religious “Brainwashing”

The practice of deprogramming is one of the sad - and sinister - topics denounced by FOB and other friendly organization and part of the battle for the respect of freedom of belief. Recent reports recounting the abuses suffered by believers of Shincheonji in South Korea, have brought the practice back into the public eye. In a ruling issued on November 27, 2020, the Hiroshima High Court confirmed that the abduction and detention of believers for the purpose of coercively "de-converting" them, is a crime.

Marlène Schiappa entrusts MIVILUDES to write a report on "sectarian drifts imported from the United States"

During the program "Dimanche en politique" Marlène Schiappa, Minister Delegate at the Minister of the Interior, in charge of Citizenship, declared that "More and more families influenced by Evangelical branches from the United States are asking for certificates of virginity".[1]

New Religious Movements, COVID-19, and Media: The Case of Scientology

by Alessandro Amicarelli — “We put a lot of enthusiasm in our work as volunteers. If we said we were Scientologists, we were accused of proselytizing for our church. If we didn’t say it, we were accused of hiding our identity for some sinister purpose.” This was Luigi, an Italian Scientologist, raising his hand and offering a comment during the Webinar organized on January 5 by the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions on “New Religious Movements in the time of COVID-19: Actions, Counteractions, and Consequences.”

Opposition to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia: The Anti-Cult Context

Despite criticism it has received from mainline international scholars of new religious movements, anti-cultism is a dominant force in Russia. Its origins date back to the repression of groups labeled as sekty in the Russian Empire. In Soviet times, the State dealt directly with religious groups it regarded as dangerous, and offers of collaboration by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) were rejected. However, cooperation between the ROC and the State in the fight against “cults” was resumed in the 21st century, and focused particularly on Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Deprogramming in Japan: Damages Awarded in Unification Church Case

Japanese judges confirm that kidnapping and detaining believers for the purpose of coercively “de-converting” them is a crime.

by Willy Fautré — On 27 November, the Hiroshima High Court in Japan found guilty five persons involved in the kidnapping and confinement of a married couple for the purpose of forcibly de-converting them. The accused will have to pay damages to the victims: 610,000 yen (about 6,100 EUR) to the husband and 1,110,000 yen (11,100 EUR) to the wife.

Associations of “Victims” of Spiritual Groups: Some May Be False

by Alessandro Amicarelli — In these days, there are associations for “victims” of everything, from bullying in school to defective electronic products. As an attorney, I am sensitive to the fact that in the U.S. there are even associations of “victims” of lawyers. Several of these associations exist in the field of spirituality and religion. For example, groups such as Catholics Anonymous or Recovering Catholics gather “victims” of Catholicism—not of sexual abuse or with other specific grievances, just ex-members claiming that being part of the Roman Catholic Church was a victimizing experience.

The German “Sect Filters”: A Gross Violation of Religious Liberty

In parts of Germany, to work for the government and for several private companies, or even play violin in an orchestra or obtain a bonus for buying an e-bike, you should declare you are not associated with a certain religion. Claudia is a violinist. She had started a promising career when she defended her religion, which had come under criticism from certain quarters, in a TV show. Then, all hell broke loose. She started losing job opportunities, and the director of one orchestra she worked with, a personal friend, was threatened until he was compelled to fire her.

Article 38: New French Anti-Extremism Draft Law Discriminates Against Foreign-Based Religions

A provision allegedly introduced to cut foreign funding to Islamic radical groups may in fact severely limit the activities of hundreds of different religious movements.

by Alessandro Amicarelli — Bitter Winter has covered the new French draft law on extremism, explaining why, as it previously happened in Russia, measures intended to contain Islamic radicalism and terrorism create dangers for freedom of religion or belief in general. One provision of the draft law that was overlooked by many, and which is no less dangerous than others, is Article 38.

French Anti-Extremism Law: State Council Shares Scholars’ Concern

Administrative liquidation, harassment of groups labeled as “cults,” total ban on home-schooling are deemed as being against the French Constitution.

by Massimo Introvigne — French Council of Ministers will examine on December 8 the controversial draft law against “religious extremism.” I am among the authors of a White Paper arguing that, while some provisions of the draft law make sense in a country plagued by terrorism using ultra-fundamentalist Islam as its ideology, several provisions are dangerous for religious liberty. Bitter Winter also called the attention on the religious freedom problems of the text.

700 days in detention

A 66-year-old Jehovah's Witness has already been given nearly two years in pre-trial detention. From the mists of this controversial judicial case now comes to light an outrageous detail that confirms the worst hypotheses feared by the defenders of religious freedom: the Vice President of the French FECRIS (Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d'Information sur le Sectarisme, i.e.

Assisted bias and the blood transfusion case inside of Jehovah's Witnesses

Too often the media report incorrect or incomplete news, if not bluntly false, in relation to religious minorities. Evidently, such news is the result of prejudice by certain unscrupulous journalists. Mind you, this prejudice does not arise from a closed mentality but, in its own way, "honest", that is, from stupidly fixed ideas in which one believes "honestly".

France: The “Law Against Separatism” Targets “Cults” as well as Islam

By Massimo Introvigne — Anti-cultism is back in France. Media around the world have covered President Macron’s announcement of a new law against “separatism,” explaining it as a measure against radical Islam. It is surely true that Islam is targeted but, not for the first time, a law introduced to fight Islamic radical groups is then used against other religious movements. The Russian law against extremism is an obvious example.

The good rules against hoaxes

by Steno Sari — A few weeks ago I talked about fake news, starting the article with a quote from George Orwell on the courage of truth. Even today I would like to ask Orwell for help in resuming the talk left pending: "True freedom of the press is telling people what people don't want to hear." In other words, a journalist must know how to go against the tide if necessary. And it's not exactly easy.

Fake news used to discredit minorities

by Steno Sari — George Orwell wrote: "In times of universal lies, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
Lately I often cite Treccani [encyclopedia] to deepen a topic, outline the hidden or revealed meaning of an expression, and reveal its beauty or its dangerousness. Today I would like to talk about fake news, about this unstoppable tide of false news that is drowning our civil life.