Articles

The Anti-Cult Ideology and FECRIS: Dangers for Religious Freedom. A White Paper

Six scholars look at the European anti-cult federation, and conclude it is seriously dangerous for religious liberty.

By Luigi Berzano (University of Torino, Italy), Boris Falikov (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia), Willy Fautré (Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium), Liudmyla Filipovich (Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University, Lutsk, Ukraine), Massimo Introvigne (Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy), and Bernadette Rigal-Cellard (University Bordeaux-Montaigne, Bordeaux, France)

The Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal Rules that Applying the “Sect Filter” is Illegal

by Massimo Introvigne — A historical decision was rendered by the 4th Senate of the State Administrative Court of Appeal of Bavaria, with reasons communicated on August 3, 2021, overturning a first instance judgment by the Administrative Court of Munich dated August 28, 2019, on the controversial issue of a “sect filter” used by the City of Munich. ”Sect filters” are documents required by local governments, businesses and political parties in some areas of Germany. Anybody looking for a job, or for doing business with these institutions and companies, should sign a statement that s/he is not a Scientologist nor does s/he “use the technology of L. Ron Hubbard” (the founder of Scientology).

Giuseppe Macrina, obituary

FOB Scientific Committee member Dr Giuseppe Macrina passed away in Florence on 12 August 2021.

A legal consultant specialising in tenders, author of manuals on legal subjects and a journalist, he was interested in religions and collaborated in this field with CESNUR, the Centre for the Study of New Religions, in Turin.

FOB expresses its closeness to his family, trusting that his commitment and passion can be carried on by new generations.

European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB)

Jehovah’s Witnesses in the French MIVILUDES Report: Five Mistakes

by Massimo Introvigne — In a previous article reviewing the recently published report for the years 2018–2020 of the French MIVILUDES, the French Inter-ministerial mission for monitoring and combating cultic deviances (dérives sectaires), I noted how it suffers from a fundamental methodological problem. The report is a building built using as bricks the saisines, i.e., the complaints against a religious movement that everybody can send to the MIVILUDES by letter or by using an online form. For pages and pages, the report summarizes and quotes the saisines. There is no indication that the saisines have been verified by confronting them with the existing scholarly literature on the accused religious movements, or by interviewing members in good standing of the religious organizations, who may have a totally different point of view.

The Defector’s Syndrome

by Fabrizio d'Agostini — The ‘defector syndrome' refers to the behavior, considerations and reasoning of individuals who, having left a group, party, religion, denomination, turn against their past friends and comrades and recount negative facts or events in which they have participated, making criticisms and becoming witnesses to a variety of accusations. The syndrome does not affect all former members, in fact proportionally very few. With reference to religious movements, which appear to be the most studied and monitored trend groups, and in which the turnover is greatest (statistically, participation or affiliation lasts two years, both incoming and outgoing), the defector’s syndrome affects about 15% of the 2%.

The New MIVILUDES Report: Bad Methodology, Unreliable Results

by Massimo Introvigne — The MIVILUDES, the French Inter-ministerial mission for monitoring and combating cultic deviances (dérives sectaires), which is now part of the Ministry of the Interior, published last week its report for the years 2018-2020. Like Diogenes wandering with his lantern in search of an honest man, the MIVILUDES wanders around France with the anti-cult ideology as its lantern looking for dishonest “cultic deviances.” Dérives sectaires is a quintessentially French formula and invention, of which MIVILUDES is no less proud than of the Tour Eiffel. It comes out handy to find “cultic” dangers even where no “cult” (which should be translated into French with the corresponding derogatory word, secte) exists.

Munich condemned by Bavarian Admin Court for discriminating a member of Scientology

by Juan Sanchez Gil — The written judgment of the Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal (file no. 4 B 20.3008) in the case of a Munich Scientologist against the city of Munich is now available. The case dealt with the city E-Mobile Funding Directive, issued for the purpose of environmental protection, and the city´s refusal to provide a grant for the purchase of an E-Bike to the plaintiff, solely by reason of her adherence to Scientology. The Bavarian State Admin Court condemned the city practice with unmistakable words as an unjustified interference in the religious freedom guarantee of Art. 4 of the German Constitution and as a violation of Art. 3 of the Constitution which prohibits unequal treatment before the law.

Religious Books Publicly Burned, DVDs Bulldozed in Yunnan

by Hu Zimo — Totalitarian regimes have a thing for burning books, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) joyfully burn dissident books and destroys other material not approved of by the regime. In the festive climate of the 100th anniversary year of the CCP, it is recommended that this is done in public ceremonies to “educate the masses.” To explain how these modern auto-da-fés should be organized, a “pilot” book-burning and DVD-destroying ceremony was organized by the Ministry of Public Security in Kunming, Yunnan province, on July 16, in two locations. The aim was to show how to publicly destroy illegal religious material, in this case coming mostly from Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God.

Guru Jára: Why Philippines Should Grant Asylum

by Massimo Introvigne and Alessandro Amicarelli — The first three articles of our series presented two conflicting, irreconcilable narratives about Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková, who are currently detained in the Immigration Detention Center of Bagong Diwa, near Manila, in circumstances international NGOs have described as unsanitary and dangerous. Plášková was separated from her son, who is also in the Philippines, when he was ten months old, and has been able to see him only twice during her six years of detention. According to the authorities of the Czech Republic, the rituals of “unhooking” in the Guru Jára Path performed by its leader Dobeš with the assistance of Plášková, which as we have explained were based on ritual intercourse within a framework of sacred sexuality rooted in the Tantra, amounted to rape in the case of at least one woman, for which a final decision has been rendered sentencing Dobeš and Plášková to jail terms respectively of five and a half and five years.

Guru Jára: The Czech Court Case

by Massimo Introvigne and Alessandro Amicarelli — In the first two articles of this series, we presented the history of the Guru Jára Path, its interaction with the Czech anti-cult movement, and its teachings on sacred sexuality that led to the criminal prosecution. As we mentioned in the second article, the police’s attention focused on the ritual of unhooking, where female devotees were “cleansed” of the negative psychic residues of their past sexual experiences through ritual intercourse with the guru. The anti-cult movement had put the police on the track of the Guru Jára Path since the early 2000s, but the situation precipitated after Guru Jára and his main co-worker Barbora Plášková announced that they were leaving Europe definitively and move to Asia in 2007. A preliminary investigation of Jára had been started based on the complaint of a woman who had been unhooked but, rather than to the ritual, objected to Jára’s alleged misrepresentation of his own Tantric qualifications and initiations. Although before their departure Jára and Plášková had been interrogated, but no charges had been filed at the end of the preliminary investigation, the police placed both Jára in 2007 and Plášková in the 2009 in their wanted list since their whereabouts were unknown.

The Controversial Teachings of Guru Jára

by Massimo Introvigne and Alessandro Amicarelli — Guru Jára, the Czech spiritual teacher Jaroslav Dobeš and his main co-worker Barbora Plášková are seeking asylum in the Philippines and fighting extradition to the Czech republic, where they have been found guilty of seven counts of sexual abuse of female disciples. In our first article, we told the story of the movement Dobeš founded, the Guru Jára Path. In a third article, we will discuss the Czech court case. But the latter is inseparable from Jára’s teachings, which are the subject matter of this second article. The main source of the teachings of Guru Jára is Shivaite Tantrism, although his books also include references to Egyptian, Tibetan, Christian, and Kabbalistic teachings. While he quotes several authors and masters, Jára believes that all genuine esoteric teachings can be traced to one source, which started being spread throughout the world during the reign of pharaoh Nyuserre Ini, the sixth ruler of the Egyptian Fifth Dynasty, who lived in the second half of the 25th century BCE.

The Odyssey of Guru Jára

by Massimo Introvigne and Alessandro Amicarelli — In the Philippines, two Czech citizens, Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková, who have lived in detention centers for immigrants for six years in very difficult conditions, are seeking political asylum and invoking religious liberty. On the face of it, it may seem an unlikely claim. Dobeš has been sentenced in the Czech Republic for having raped or molested seven women, and Plášková for having helped him. The Czech Republic is obviously a democratic country. So, what is the asylum request all about? We claim some knowledge of the case, having been the only non-Czech scholars to have written or lectured about the Guru Jára Path, the group Dobeš founded in 1996. Some have objected that we took at face value statements by members of the group, and certainly we did interview them, but we also read court proceedings, articles by critics, and the largely hostile coverage by Czech media.

International Religious Freedom Summit: Why It Was A Great Success

by Massimo Introvigne — Once, there were the Ministerials to Advance Religious Freedom, where the U.S. Department of State invited foreign ministers of dozens of countries to gather and discuss religious liberty. Once, too, there was a U.S. Ambassador-at-large to promote international religious freedom, which during the Trump administration was former governor Sam Brownback. So far, the Biden administration has not appointed an Ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, nor has it organized additional Ministerials on the subject. But this has not prevented Ambassador Brownback, now as a private activist, to continue his work and gather 1,000 religious and human rights leaders in Washington DC for an International Religious Freedom Summit on July 13-15, 2021.

TIBET: The Brazen Hypocrisy of the Chinese Communist Party

Following the invasion of Eastern Tibet by Mao's troops, euphemistically called the People's Liberation Army, on May 23, 1951 a 17-point agreement was signed between the representatives of Tibet and the authorities of revolutionary China, with which the Tibetans recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet under the threat that otherwise all of Tibet would be invaded. On the 70th anniversary of the agreement, Chinese President Xi Jinping went to Tibet to legitimize the persecutory work of his regime and his predecessors.

Sometimes, Fake News Kills

IInteresting article by Andrea Menegotto. He is a scholar of history, sociology of religions and religious sciences, and a researcher and director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions) - founded and directed by Massimo Introvigne) and president of CESPOC (Centro Studies on Popular Culture). Member of the SIPR (Italian Society of Psychology of Religion), he is the author of numerous publications and volumes, he collaborates with various periodicals, universities and training institutions and has held various consultancy positions in the field of security related to religious phenomena at various Italian police institutions.

Russian Orthodox Church: Internecine Struggle About “Cults”

by Massimo Introvigne — I had never heard of Professor Roman Kon, from the Moscow Theological Academy, until somebody called my attention on the fact that he got in trouble after having been accused of “taking the side of Massimo Introvigne,” apparently a serious crime in Russia. From the answer he posted among the comments to the article attacking him by Vladimir Martinovich, lecturer on “cults” in Belarus’ Minsk Theological Academy, it seems that Kon did indeed his homework in reading what I wrote on the issue of brainwashing, and came to conclusions that are a matter of course among Western scholars of new religious movements.

On July 8, the Court of Kemerovo ruled against the Falun Gong movement in what may become a crucial case

by Massimo Introvigne — Bitter Winter has reported in the past about the maneuvers of Russian anti-cultists such as Alexander Dvorkin and Roman Silantyev to have Falun Gong banned in Russia as an “extremist” organization. Falun Gong has been active in Russia for many years without causing any problems, and the only reason it is labeled as “extremist” is the close cooperation between Russian anti-cultists and their Chinese counterparts. On November 10, 2020, the Fifth General Court of Appeal of Novosibirsk designated Falun Gong as an “extremist organization,” and “liquidated” its branch in the Siberian region of Khakassia. The judges also recommended a nation-wide “liquidation” of Falun Gong in Russia, which they were however not competent to pronounce.

Court of Rome: Jehovah’s Witnesses “Ostracism” Is Not Illegal

by Massimo Introvigne — On May 23, 2021, the Justice Court of Rome issued a decision in the case RGN 76320/2016 whose grounds have now been published, in a case of “ostracism” of a former member by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Ostracism” and “shunning” are the terms normally used by the opponents of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and are also often used by the media, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves do not use them. The plaintiff had sent a letter in 2011 to both his local and the national Italian organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses resigning as a member of the Association Christian Congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the letter, he stated that he still believed in the main doctrines taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, although he no longer wanted to be a member of the organization (a contradictory statement, because that a believer should be part of the organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is precisely a “main doctrine” for them).

Chinese clumsy attempts to stifle religious freedom in China and its supporters everywhere

The long hand of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tries, in ways that are as clumsy as they are desperate, to silence any voice of dissent to the single party thought, which is the only true religion allowed in China. In the following article, Professor Massimo Introvigne, director of the online magazine Bitter Winter as well as founder and director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), tells with the irony that the case deserves, of the treatment he has been subjected to by some diligent and clumsy Chinese officials, revealing how a "respected" and feared government like the Chinese one is the source of fake news that threaten the fundamental freedoms of every human being.

Fake News: FECRIS sentenced for slanderous statements in Germany but claiming victory in a press release(!)

HRWF (Human Rights Without Frontiers) has published on its website an article on the condemnation of FECRIS (European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects) for defamatory statements against the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Nonetheless, in one of its press releases, FECRIS sang victory (sic!), thus extending the series of artfully crafted fake news to give the inattentive reader – or not accustomed to the language of jurisprudential texts – a distorted idea of the truth.