Anti-cults

FECRIS Russian accomplices' activities highlighted at the OSCE 2022

After two years of online activities due to COVID-related problems, finally OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was able to organize again a in-person yearly Human Dimension Meeting in Warsaw held from September 26 to October 7. One of the issues discussed was the anti-cult activities by FECRIS and its Russian's accomplices.

Why dozens of NGOs and individuals ask that FECRIS' Consultative Status with the United Nations ECOSOC be revoked

The following is an appeal promoted by Bitter Winter, an online magazine on religious liberty and human rights published by CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions. OB, signatory of the appeal, over the years has published a number of articles on FECRIS and its role in spreading anti-cult ideology.

How the anti-cult movement has participated to fuel Russian anti-Ukraine rhetoric

Far from endorsing any political stance on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, aware of the old adage that warns that "between the two quarrels there is always a third who enjoys", we publish this article taken from The European Times by Jan Leonid Bornstein, which illustrates the role of the anti-cult movement in fomenting intolerance and division between religions, cultures and peoples.

Human Rights Day: a Story to Think About

How far can the hatred generated by intolerance towards religious minorities go? The article of which we repropose here below some excerpts provides an eloquent answer. In this case to pay the costs of the murderous hatred of ignorant Muslim crowds are faithful Hindus and Christians, i.e. the faithful of two of the major religions on Earth, in the Islamic world, however, they are often in the minority.

Kyrgyz Jehovah's Witnesses can continue to use their books

On November 30 we reported on the proceedings against the Kirhisi Jehovah's Witnesses, guilty of using publications that, according to the General Prosecutor's Office, are "extremist", in accordance with the intolerant and anti-cult line of neighboring Russia. Today we are pleased to announce that the District Court of Pervomayskiy has rejected the request of the Prosecutor's Office, also thanks to an expert opinion written by Massimo Introvigne and Rosita Šorytė, respectively director and deputy director of Bitter Winter.

Russia sentenced once more by the European Court

Once again the European Court stigmatize and condemns the intolerant behavior of Russia towards the new religious movements present on Russian territory disliked by the ruling Orthodox class and the Russian anti-cultists headed by Alexander Dvorkin, vice-president of FECRIS and director of the Saint Irenaeus of Lyons Centre for Religious Studies, a Russian association affiliated to FECRIS. We publish below an article by HRWF about the ruling of the European Court.

When Belgian media wrongfully stigmatize and fail to publish the judicial truth: the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2)

HRWF — Human Rights Without Frontiers has identified three well-known TV channels – RTBF, RTL and VRT – and several major newspapers such as La Libre Belgique, La Dernière Heure and Het Laatste Nieuws which have failed to report the dismissal of the case against the association of Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongfully suspected of hiding cases of sexual abuse in its midst and holding so-called internal trials, generally favourable to the alleged perpetrators.

When Belgian media wrongfully stigmatize and fail to publish the judicial truth: the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses (1)

HRWF — Le Soir, La Capitale Sud-info, Bruxelles News, Nieuwsblad, VRT Nieuws and Bruzz who had very imprudently reported in 2018-2019, as a breaking news, the alleged failure of the Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses association to report sexual abuse in their midst were the only media outlets to report about the 5th October 2021 court decision dismissing the charges against this religious group.

UNADFI reported to the French National Court of Audit

Our French associated CAP LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, NGO with ECOSOC consultative status) has reported the UNAFDI to the French National Court of Audit. CAP LC has repeatedly denounced the conduct of anti-cult movements aimed at limiting the activity of religious minorities they dislike, if not eliminating them as required by the controversial French law About-Picard (Law 2001-504 of June 12, 2001), or the Russian Yarovaya Law on Extremism.

A New Book on “La Famille”

by Massimo Introvigne — After Suzanne Privat’s book, another journalist, Nicolas Jacquard of Le Parisien, has published a book on the French Christian community of Jansenist origin known as “La Famille” (Les inspirés, Paris: Robert Laffont, 2021). This book is much more ambitious than the one by Privat, the author having performed a considerable amount of work in reading academic sources on the Jansenist ancestors of La Famille. He is also to be thanked for having raised several questions that were not addressed in the previous literature on this little-known subject. The book remains, however, the investigation of a journalist, which is by definition something other than an academic study, and of a French journalist. This means that he shares a certain negative attitude typical of French society, politics, and the media regarding groups described as “cults” or at least suspected of “cultic deviances” (dérives sectaires). This attitude also leads to privilege information coming from “apostates.”

FECRIS Admits: Hamburg Case Lost Against Jehovah’s Witnesses Was “A Lesson”

by Massimo Introvigne — On November 27, 2020, FECRIS, the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, an umbrella organization for anti-cult movements in Europe and beyond, significantly funded by the French government, lost a landmark case at the District Court of Hamburg, in Germany, where it was found guilty of 18 counts of untrue factual allegations against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On May 24, 2021, Bitter Winter published a commentary of the decision. On May 30, 2021, i.e., six days after Bitter Winter’s article (and six months after the decision, proving that it was indeed answering Bitter Winter, and without our article it would never have commented the judgement in public), FECRIS published a press release about the case.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: Some Want the “Plagio” Back

by Massimo Introvigne — In previous articles, we explained how the 1981 Constitutional Court decision on “plagio” made it impossible in Italy to prosecute religious leaders for the alleged crimes of “brainwashing” or “mental manipulation” of their followers. The decision concerned the leader of a Catholic group, but the Constitutional Court ruling also saved Eugenio Siragusa from the charge of “plagio,” leveled for the first time against the leader of a new religious movement. Siragusa was the founder of the Cosmic Brotherhood, a UFO religion. He had been arrested in 1978 and accused of “plagio” against two rich American members of the Cosmic Brotherhood, who had made important donations. The Court of Catania, Sicily, acquitted him in 1982, acknowledging that “plagio” no longer existed in Italian law.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: “It Does Not Exist,” Said the Constitutional Court

by Massimo Introvigne — In the previous articles, we discussed how article 603 of the Fascist Criminal Code of 1930 incriminated what would be later called “brainwashing,” and how its use in 1968 against Aldo Braibanti, a gay Marxist philosopher accused of “brainwashing” its pupils into homosexuality, generated a long-lasting controversy. Today in Italy many of the older generation confuse in their memories the Braibanti case and the Grasso case that occurred ten years later, in 1978. Many “remember” that it was the Braibanti case that brought the Italian Constitutional Court to declare the illegitimacy of the crime of plagio, but their memories are failing them. The Constitutional Court never reviewed the Braibanti case. It did, however, review the case of Father Emilio Grasso, a Catholic priest and the leader of a Catholic community called Redemptor Hominis.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: The Braibanti Case

by Massimo Introvigne — In the previous articles of the series we saw how, at the end of a century-old legal evolution, in 1930 Mussolini’s Justice Minister Alfredo Rocco, prevailing against the opinion of the committee that was drafting the new Italian Criminal Code, included in it an article 603 incriminating what would later be called “brainwashing.” The committee was concerned that the provision may be arbitrarily used against those who would persuade others of ideas some judges or prosecutors might regard as unacceptable. It was, however, much ado about nothing. If Mussolini believed that the new provision could be used against opponents of the regime, he was up for a disappointment. In the Fascist era, nobody was convicted for “plagio.” In fact, the “plagio” provision never led to convictions even after the end of the Fascist regime, until things changed in the 1960s.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: The Fascist Law on “Plagio”

by Massimo Introvigne — In the first article of the series, we have seen how the term “plagio,” which also means in a different context plagiarism or copyright infringement, was used in Italian law to identify the enslavement of human beings, and the 1853 code of the Grand Duchy in Tuscany had included for the first time a provision incriminating psychological, rather than physical, enslavement, although it was never enforced and was not included in the Italian Criminal Code of 1889, known as the Zanardelli Code. In 1930, the Zanardelli Code was replaced by the Rocco Code, named after the Fascist Minister of Justice, Alfredo Rocco.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: The Birth of “Plagio”

by Massimo Introvigne — In Italy, we often hear the expression “plagio,” coming from the Latin plagium, used as a synonym for “brainwashing” or “mind control.” We may read, for example, that a “victim” was “subject to plagio” by a “cult.” This use of the word “plagio” is rooted in the old article 603 of the 1930 Italian penal code, which under the heading “plagio” mandated a jail term of five to fifteen years for those who reduced one or more other persons to a “total state of subjugation,” depriving them of their free will. Article 603 was repealed by the Constitutional Court in 1981.

Gnosticism, “Dark Legends” on Scientology Founder Discussed by Scholars

The session "Gnosticism and New Religions: The Case of L. Ron Hubbard" held on August 30th during the first day of the annual meeting of the European Academy of Religions at the University of Münster (Germany), was chaired and moderated by a member of our Scientific Committee: Rosita Šorytė; one of the speakers, Professor Aldo Natale Terrin, is also part of the same Committee. It is therefore necessary to give space to this article written for Bitter Winter by FOB's President Alessandro Amicarelli. But this is not the only reason for publishing this paper.

Are “Brainwashing” Theories Coming Back?

by Massimo Introvigne — In the fourth article of this series, we saw how the combined action of scholars of new religious movements and courts of law marginalized both theories of “brainwashing” and their use as a legal weapon against “cults.” The idea that “cults” practice mental manipulation or “brainwashing” survived in the popular media, and inspired laws and court decisions outside the United States, particularly in France. However, the arguments formulated by a large majority of the leading scholars of new religious movements, and mentioned in the Fishman decision, do not refer to the United States only. “Brainwashing” and mental manipulation remain concepts rejected as pseudo-scientific by a vast majority of the scholars of religion (although accepted by a minority, and by some psychiatrists and psychologists who do not specialize in religion). In the second half of the 1990s, James T. Richardson, who had played an important role in criticizing anti-cult “brainwashing” theories, systematically surveyed with some colleagues all American court cases where the word “brainwashing” appeared.

The Fall of “Brainwashing” Theories in the Late Twentieth Century

by Massimo Introvigne — One of the most tragic consequences of “brainwashing” theories applied to religious minorities is that they were used to justify the illegal practice of “deprogramming,” created by Ted Patrick in California and flourishing in the 1970s. If their sons and daughters had been “brainwashed,” these parents felt justified in hiring “deprogrammers” who claimed to be able to kidnap the “cultists,” detain them, and persuade them, more or less violently, to abandon the “cults.” In the same years, the academic study of the new religious movements was born, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. The scholars who studied the movements criticized as “cults” found that conversions to them happened much in the same way as conversions to any other religion, and only a small percentage of those attending the courses and seminars of groups like Unification Church, studied in depth by Eileen Barker and where allegedly miraculous techniques of “brainwashing” were used, joined the groups. Empirical evidence confirmed that there was no “brainwashing” or mental manipulation, and these labels and theories were not less pseudo-scientific than the ancient claims that “heresies” converted their followers through black magic.