Opposition to cults and new religious movements

Opposition to cults and to new religious movements (NRMs) comes from several sources with diverse concerns. Some members of the opposition have associations with cult-watching groups which collect and publish critical information about one or multiple groups they consider cults. Other opposition comes from traditional religion (notably the Christian countercult movement), from secular cult-critics, from skeptics, and from critical former members (sometimes referred to in literature as apostates).



Historical overview

Examples of religions and societies which feature mechanisms for expressing and/or implementing their opposition to heterodoxy include Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, mediaeval Roman Catholicism, nascent Anglicanism, and institutional Marxism.

Thus though ancient Athens tolerated groups of Sophists, gangs of Cynics and some Pythagorean sects, popular support for more traditional religion played a part in the execution of Socrates in 499 BC.

The Roman world generally treated different religions and mystery cults with toleration or acceptance — partly with the aim of consolidating control over and mingling the many different peoples and cultures of the Roman Empire. But religious practices deemed "foreign" or "anti-social" could meet with disfavor, as in the case of the Isis-cult. And monotheistic religions such as Judaism did not meld well with Roman Emperor-worship and its parade of fresh divinities, while the Judaic offshoot-cult of Christianity sometimes suffered active persecution (see, for example, Christian martyrs).

Christianity itself changed in response to the debates occasioned by various schools of religious thought, some of which schools the winning schhol or faction eventually won the right to dub as heresies. Orthodoxy gradually defined itself in ongoing contradistinctions to the various Christian sects/cults which it eventually succeeded in stamping out. The Church reached the point where it identified with the secular powers ( the Emperor Constantine I and his successors) and gave short shrift to religious innovation (see for example the fate of Arianism).

The emergence of Islam as yet another Abrahamic sect/religion resulted in more tolerance and acceptance of religious plurality, at least in the early periods of stable Arab control of the Islamic world.

Resurgent Western Christianity developed a militant attitude towards heterodoxy and alternate beliefs. Catholic crusades against the Arabs in the eastern Mediterranean, against "pagans" in the Baltic area, against Moors in the Iberian peninsula and against the Cathars in the Languedoc became precursors to the military struggles between Catholicism and Protestantism in the 16th and early 17th centuries.

The Enlightenment became a period of increased toleration, sometimes in the wake of secularism. But Protestantism in particular spawned numerous sub-varieties, with much opposition operating on the plane of theological diatribe. But active and violent opposition arose to some innovations (such as Mormonism), and pogroms and discrimination against Jews continued to have a religious element until racial/nationalistic motives overshadowed them in the 20th century.

Historical expression of opposition

Orthodoxies have countered cults with such concrete means as censorship (note especially censorship by religion), bans, internal crusades, show-trials, the imposition of "sharia", and legal penalties. The religious/theological strand of opposition to so-called "cults" has numerous predecessors in monolithic religions concerned with maintaining religious orthodoxy: the Inquisition, ecclesiastical courts, religious courta, penalties and fines for disbelief.

In societies not greatly given to principles of tolerance, groups perceived as socially harmful may come under the strictures of criminal codes and even face accusations of treason. More diverse societies have fined recusants (see "jizya", for example) and/or denied them civil rights (as with Nonconformism in early modern Britain). Marxist deviants in rampantly Communist societies have faced show-trials/execution or exile (internal or external) for their pains. But the increasing secularism of modern states, combined with awareness of the great variety of religious, semi-religious and psychological movements has seen the apparent response of a generalized "anti-cult movement" in multi-faceted Western culture (compare the reactions to NRMs in religiously-pluralistic modern Japan, secular and diverse India and homogeneous China). Whereas in the past most witch-hunters and inquisitors and heretic-burners each subscribed to a fairly definite and relatively well-agreed standard (often endorsed by governments) of what constituted "correct" belief and behavior, the modern "anti-cult movement", insofar as it exists as a coherent tendency, groups together strange bedfellows and a great variety of attitudes and reactions to socio-religious innovation.

Modern opposition

In the first half of the 20th century, some conservative Christian scholars, mostly Protestants, conducted apologetics defending what they saw as Christian mainstream theology against the teachings of perceived fringe groups. More-or-less mainstream churches and groups continue this activity today on various levels of theological expertise, collectively described as the Christian countercult movement. Members of this "movement" normally defined a "cult" as any group which provides its own, unconventional, translation of the Bible or which regards non-canonical writings as equivalent to Biblical teachings. (Such stigmatized groups included Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and their splinter-groups, such as the Branch Davidians.) Most proponents of the Christian countercult movement keep a distance from secular opposition to new religious movements. The modern forms of opposition to cults and new religious movements emerged in the 1960s in the United States.Fact|date=January 2007 FREECOG (founded in 1972 by concerned parents whose children had had involvement in the Children of God group) became one of the first organized anti-cult groups in the USA. Generalized opposition to NRMs and cults grew after the mass-suicide of the members of the Peoples Temple at Jonestown in Guyana in 1978.

:"See Anti-cult movement and Christian countercult movement for a more detailed treatment of the history of each of these concepts.

Cult-watching groups

Cult watching groups (CWGs) disseminate information about purported cults with the intent of influencing public and government perception of them and changing public policy regarding them.

The sociologist Eileen Barker identified five types of CWG [
Eileen Barker, CESNUR 2001, Conference, "A Comparative Analysis of the Roles of Five Types of Cult-Watching Groups", [http://www.cesnur.org/2001/london2001/barker.htm]
] :

;Barker model

Types of opposers

Traditional religions

Some groupsWho|date=March 2008 associated with traditional religions (such as Christianity and Judaism, for example) have formed specifically to counter what they view as heretical cultic versions of their respective religions, to prevent current followers from joining NRMs, and to convince former members of their respective religions who have converted to NRMs to return. For example, persons associated with the Christian countercult movement express concerns about heresy and about harm to members of purported cults and to society. Some perceived heretical schools and movements within the ambit of Islam may also get labeled as "cults" [See for example [http://www.themodernreligion.com/anti_muslim_main.htm "Pseudo-Islamic Cults"] .]

The so-called "anti-cult movement"

Some academics use the term "Anti-Cult Movement" (sometimes abbreviated as "ACM") to refer to a perceived collectivity of groups and individuals that pursue an opposition to cults and to some new religious movements (NRMs). Sociologists David G. Bromley and Anson Shupe initially defined the ACM in 1981 as a collection of groups who embrace brainwashing-theory, [Bromley, David G. and Anson Shupe "Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare". Boston: Beacon Press, 1981] but later observed a significant shift in ACM ideology towards a "medicalization" of the memberships of new religious movements. [Shupe, Anson and David G. Bromley. 1994. "The Modern Anti-Cult Movement in North America," pp. 3-32 in Anson Shupe and David G. Bromley "Anti-Cult Movements in Cross-Cultural Perspective", New York, NY: Garland, pp. 9-14.]

Many opponents of "cults" (such as Kropveld [Kropveld, Michael: [http://csj.org/infoserv_articles/kropveld_michael_anexampleforcontroversy.htm "An Example for Controversy: Creating a Model for Reconciliation"] , "Cultic Studies Review", Vol. 2 No. 2, 2003.] ) dispute the usage of the term, and most would prefer the label "cult critics" rather than "anti-cult" activists. [Langone, Michael D.: [http://csj.org/infoserv_articles/langone_michael_academicdialoguepreface.htm "Academic Disputes and Dialogue Collection: Preface"] , " ICSA E-Newsletter", Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2005.]

Critical former members

For details, see Apostasy in alleged cults and new religious movements

Scholars of sociology and of religion sometimes refer to critical former members of cults or of New Religious Movements as "apostates". Those scholars also use the term "defectors" to identify those former members who do not express criticism. [Bromley, D. G., Shupe, A., and Ventimiglia, J. C. (1979). "Atrocity tales, the Unification Church and the social construction of evil". "Journal of Communication", 29, 42-53.]

Regarding the appropriateness of the terms "apostate" and "defector", cult-critic Michael Langone writes that " [a] lthough, strictly speaking, these terms may not have been intended to be value judgments or statistical generalizations about the truth claims of critics (Bromley, 1998), they clearly came to be perceived as such in both camps." [ [http://www.csj.org/infoserv_articles/langone_michael_twocampsofculticstudies.htm "The Two "Camps" of Cultic Studies: Time for a Dialogue"] Langone (Retrieved Dec 2006)]

Critical former members sometimes form loose networksFact|date=July 2007, often with an active presence on the InternetFact|date=July 2007. They voice concerns about consequences for members of their former group: about wasted time and money, about psychological harm, and sometimes about physical harm. They watch and criticize their former group and provide to the general public information and their perspective, alleging a lack of disclosure on the part of such groups. Such "critical former members" often have the stated aim of enabling prospective or current followers to make an informed choice about joining and/or staying with the group. The motivations of these critical former members, the roles they play in the anti-cult movement, and the validity of their testimony, remain highly controversial.Fact|date=July 2007


Skeptics often express concerns about what they consider false miracles performed or endorsed by the leadership of certain groups. Skeptics may also criticize belief-systems which they perceive as irrational.

Hadden's taxonomy of opposition to cults

According to a taxonomy proposed by Professor Jeffrey K. Hadden from the University of Virginia's Department of Sociology, four distinct classes of opposition to cults exist:

Religious opposition

* the opposition views cults as engaging in heresy
* the opposition views its mission as exposing the heresy and correcting the beliefs of those who have strayed from "truth"
* the opposition uses a metaphor of deception rather than possession to explain cultic activity
* opposition to cults serves two important functions: it protects members (especially the youth) from heresy, and increases solidarity among the faithful

Secular opposition

* the opposition professes the autonomy of individuals as the manifest goal, achievable by getting people out of religious groups
* the opposition sees the struggle as about control (politics), not about theology
* the opposition sometimes self-organizes around families who have or have had children involved in a "cult"
* the opposition aims to disable or destroy the cult or NRM organizationally


("Apostasy" defined as "the renunciation of a religious faith". See Apostasy in new religious movements.)

* the opposition consists of apostates and those who engage in active opposition to their former faith
* the anti-cult movement has actively encouragedFact|date=July 2007 former members of religious groups to interpret their experience in a "cult" as one of suffering egregious wrongs; and encourages participation in organized anti-cult activities

Entrepreneurial opposition

* the opposition consists of individuals who take up a cause for personal gain
* "ad hoc" alliances or coalitions promote the entrepreneurial agenda
* a few entrepreneurs have made careers by creating organized oppositionFact|date=February 2008

Expressing opposition

Faced with the phenomenon of what they see as a cult or NRM, those opposed to such a group have a range of ways of expressing their opposition.


Apologetics and debates may serve to highlight perceived heretical behavior. Informational campaigns of greater or lesser stridency and/or logic may bring perceived facts to the attention of the public, of potential perceived victims, and of authorities.


Collectively, persecution of a scorned group can take the form of official campaigns such as overt inquisitions or more passive (often legalistic) discrimination. Less official-seeming action can take the form of apparently more spontaneous, grassroots-based pogroms.

On the individual level, perceived victims of alleged cults may face kidnapping, writs of guardianship, deprogramming and exit-counseling.

Academic study

Theologians have long studied heresies. Social scientists, sociologists, religious scholars, psychologists and psychiatrists have analyzed the field of cults and "new" religious movements since the early 1980s. Debates about any given purported cult (and about cults in general) often become polarized, with widely divergent opinions — not only among current followers and critical former members, but sometimes even among scholars as well. For example, the American religious scholar J. Gordon Melton holds the view that cults rarely do serious harm and that researchers cannot rely on the stories of apostates. In May 1995, in accordance with this view, Melton went to Japan just after the Aum Shinrikyo's sarin attack and declared the innocence of Aum Shinrikyo .

Academics who incline more to see cults as harmful and to regard apostates' testimonies against cults as generally reliable include David C. Lane, Benjamin Zablocki, and Stephen A. Kent. For example, according to Zablocki, cults run a high risk of becoming abusive to members, in part because members' adulation of charismatic leaders contributes to their becoming corrupted by the power they seek and receive. (Zablocki has defined a "cult" as "an ideological organisation held together by charismatic relationships and demanding total commitment". [Michael D. Langone: [http://www.iskcon.com/icj/7_2/72langone.html "Cults, Psychological Manipulation and Society: International Perspectives — An Overview"] in "ISKCON Communications Journal", Volume 7, Number 2, December 1999. Retrieved 2008-02-19 ] )

All academics, including Melton, agree that some groups have become problematic — and sometimes very problematic — but they disagreeFact|date=January 2007 to what extent new religious movements in general cause harm.

Reliability of the testimony of critical ex-members (apostates)

:"See Apostasy for a more detailed treatment of this subject.

Academics debate as to the reliability of the testimonies of critical former members (apostates). Some scholars challenge the reliability of apostates' testimony. For example Bryan R. Wilson, a professor of sociology at Oxford University, in a collection of essaysFact|date=February 2008 he edited in 1981, writes that apostates from new religious movements generally stand in need of self-justification, seeking to reconstruct their own past and to excuse their former affiliations, while blaming their former closest associates. Wilson introduces the concept of the atrocity story (compare the "atrocity tale" of Bromley, Shupe and Centimiglia, (1979) [Bromley, David G., Shupe, Anson D., Ventimiglia, G.C.: "Atrocity Tales, the Unification Church, and the Social Construction of Evil", "Journal of Communication", Summer 1979, p. 42-53] )that apostates rehearse in order to explain how, by manipulation, coercion or deceit, the group that they now condemn recruited them.

Other academics find such testimonies of former members generally reliable. For example, Benjamin Zablocki, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, when analyzing leaver responses, found the testimonies of former members as least as reliable as statements from the groups themselves. [Zablocki, Benjamin, "Reliability and validity of apostate accounts in the study of religious communities". Paper presented at the Association for the Sociology of Religion in New York City, Saturday, August 17, 1996.]

The APA, Margaret Singer and theories of brainwashing

In the early 1980s some U.S. mental-health professionalsWho|date=March 2008 became controversial figures due to their involvement as expert witnesses in court-cases against new religious movements, during which they presented anti-cult theories of brainwashing, mind-control, or "coercive persuasion" as concepts generally accepted within the scientific community. The American Psychological Association (APA) in 1983 asked the psychologist Margaret Singer, one of the more vocal proponents of coercive persuasion theories, to chair a task-force (the APA taskforce on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC)) to investigate whether brainwashing or "coercive persuasion" did indeed play a role in recruitment by such movements. Before the taskforce had submitted its final report, however, the APA pre-empted it in an "amicus curiæ" [http://www.rickross.com/reference/apologist/apologist24.html brief] in an ongoing case. The brief stated that " [t] he methodology of Drs. Singer and Benson has been repudiated by the scientific community", portrayed the hypotheses advanced by Singer as "little more than uninformed speculation, based on skewed data" and claimed that " [t] he coercive persuasion theory ... is not a meaningful scientific concept". [ [http://www.cesnur.org/testi/molko_brief.htm CESNUR - APA Brief in the Molko Case ] ] The brief characterized the theory of brainwashing as not scientifically proven. The brief itself suggests the hypothesis that cult-recruitment techniques might prove coercive for certain sub-groups, while not affecting others coercively. However, the APA withdrew as an "amicus" less than two months later. [ [http://www.rickross.com/reference/apologist/apologist25.html Motion of the American Psychological Association to Withdraw as Amicus Curiae ] ]

When the DIMPAC report finally appeared in 1987, the APA's Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychology (BSERP) rejected it as lacking "the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA imprimatur" because the Board did "not believe that we have sufficient information available to guide us in taking a position on this issue". [ [http://www.rickross.com/reference/brainwashing/brainwashing5.html APA Memorandum on Brainwashing: Final Report of the Task Force ] ]

In their collaboration "Religion and the Social Order: The Handbook on Cults and Sects in America : 1993", [David G Bromley: "Religion and the Social Order: The Handbook on Cults and Sects in America : 1993". edited by Jeffrey K. Hadden. JAI Press, 1993. ISBN 978-1559384773] Bromley and Hadden present ideological foundations of the theories of brainwashingFact|date=February 2008; they also conclude that such theories lack scientific supportFact|date=February 2008. They argue that the perceived simplistic perspective that they find inherent in the brainwashing metaphor appeals to those attempting to locate an effective social weapon to use against disfavored groups,Fact|date=February 2008 and that the relative success of such efforts at social control should not (in their opinion) detract from the lack of scientific basis for such opinions.Fact|date=February 2008

Psychologists, sociologists, many ex-members of purported cults, and most cult-critics now agreeFact|date=July 2007 that the term "brainwashing" does not properly apply to the recruitment- and retention-techniques used by so-called or alleged cults. Given the linguistic/semantic controversyFact|date=March 2008, some cult-critics like Steven Hassan, author of the book "Combatting Cult Mind Control" (1988), started using the term "mind control" as an alternative label. See also cults and mind-control controversies.

Social scientists who study new religious movements, such as Jeffrey K. Hadden (see References), understand the general proposition that religious groups can have considerable influence over their members, and that that influence may have come about through deception and indoctrination. Indeed, many sociologistsWho|date=March 2008 observe that "influence" occurs ubiquitously in human cultures, and some argue that the influence exerted in "cults" or in "new religious movements" does not differ greatly from the influence present in practically every domain of human action and of human endeavor.

The Association of World Academics for Religious Education (AWARE), in addressing and giving a definition of deprogramming, claims that "... without the legitimating umbrella of brainwashing ideology, deprogramming — the practice of kidnapping members of NRMs and destroying their religious faith — cannot be justified, either legally or morally". [See the undated quote via the new Cult Awareness Network by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (ReligiousTolerance.org) at http://www.religioustolerance.org/brain_wa.htm, retrieved 2008-02-19] The FACTNet (Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network) no longer considers forcible "deprogramming" an acceptable method for helping someone to exit a cult, and asserts that: "...today professionals often called exit counselors or intervention specialists use methods which are voluntary, in which cult members agree to meet with loved ones and a professional for open and honest discussion over a two to five day period." [ [http://www.factnet.org/cris_fdp.htm "Use of Forced Deprogramming"] Retrieved 2006-12-28]

Dr. James Richardson, a Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, claims that if the NRMs had access to powerful brainwashing techniques, one would expect that NRMs would have high growth rates, while in fact most have not had notable success in recruitment (most adherents participate for only a short time). Richardson characterizes the success of groups in retaining members as limited. In addition, Tom Robbins, Eileen Barker, Newton Maloney, Massimo Introvigne, John Hall, Lorne Dawson, Anson Shupe, David G. Bromley, Gordon Melton, Marc Galanter, Saul Levine and other scholars researching NRMs have argued — and established to the satisfaction of courtsWho|date=March 2008 and relevant professional associationsWho|date=March 2008 and scientific communitiesWho|date=March 2008 — that there exists no scientific theory, generally accepted and based upon methodologically sound research, that supports the brainwashing theories advocated by the "anti-cult movement".Fact|date=February 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) publishedFact|date=February 2008 a statement in 1977 relating to brainwashing and mind-control. In this statement the ACLU opposed certain methods "depriving people of the free exercise of religion". The ACLU also rejected (under certain conditions) the idea that claims of the use of "brainwashing" or of "mind control" should overcome the free exercise of religion.

Disputes about "cult apologism"

:"See Cult apologist for a more detailed treatment of this subject"

Some critics of cults, such as Anton Hein, severely criticize scholars like Melton who disagree with their views. Hein uses the term "cult apologist" for them. ThoseWho|date=March 2008 offering such criticism accuse such scholars of naïveté and poor scholarship; and above all they reproach them for not warning people who need warning, as well as of receiving funding from the cults themselves. Douglas Cowan quotes Hein as writing: [http://www.cornerstonemag.com/cart/txt/cowanSSR02.htm "Cult Apology: A Modest (Typological) Proposal"] , Douglas E. Cowan, Paper presented to the 2002 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Conference 'Boundaries and Commitments in NRM Research'", November 2002]

:"A cult apologist is someone who consistently or primarily defends the teachings and/or actions of one or more movements considered to be cults — as defined sociologically or theologically ... Cult apologists generally defend their views by claiming to champion religious freedom and religious tolerance. However, they tend to be particularly intolerant toward those who question and critique the movements they defend."

Scholarly cooperation between these "anti-cult" activists and scholars labeled "cult apologists" seems virtually non-existent.Fact|date=February 2008

In a paper presented to the 2002 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Conference, Douglas Cowan presents the political, ethical, economic and personal impact of such distinctions and the range of opinion about what "cult apologist" means in the context of three basic domains as follows:

# The Evangelical Christian countercult: " [I] n the context of the evangelical countercult, it seems that one does not actually have to "defend cults" to be labeled a "cult apologist." Rather, in the manner of "the one who is not for us is against us," as a second indicator simply critiquing the critics is sufficient."
# The secular anti-cult:" While the evangelical Christian countercult has very little use for the brainwashing or thought control hypothesis, the secular anticult movement's deployment of "cult apologist" is almost exclusively concerned with maintaining either the viability of that hypothesis or the validity of ex-member testimony as part of its anecdotal mainstay."
#The secular scholarship: "I take it as a simple axiom that we, as a scholarly community, are probably not going to come to consensus on most of these issues. We are not going to agree in our assessments of new and controversial religious movements, and in our own personal scholarly scales, the balance of freedom of religion vs. the potential danger posed by groups or "types of groups" is going to weigh differently."

The role of the media

The public often gets views about a new religious movement, controversial group or purported cult via the media; and the media may sometimes present such views negatively and/or in a sensationalized manner. Some sociologists detect what they call a "negative summary event" as a recurring theme that manifests as opposition to new religious movements. In the words of James A. Beckford, the concept of the negative summary event " [...] refers to the journalistic description of a situation or event in such a way as to capture and express its negative essence as part of an intermittent and slow-moving story. An apparently isolated happening is thereby used as an occasion for keeping the broader, controversial phenomenon in the public mind."Fact|date=July 2007 James R. Lewis writes in his book "Cults in America" that the media tend to focus on conflict, which focus leads to stories which perpetuate what he calls the "cult stereotype". []

An article on the categorization of new religious movements in U.S. print media published by "The Association for the Sociology of Religion" (formerly the American "Catholic Sociological Society"), criticizes the print media for failing to recognize social-scientific efforts in the area of new religious movements, and its tendency to use popular or anti-cultist definitions rather than social-scientific insight, and asserts that "The failure of the print media to recognize social-scientific efforts in the area of religious movement organizations impels us to add yet another failing mark to the media report card Weiss (1985) has constructed to assess the media's reporting of the social sciences." [van Driel, Barend and James T. Richardson. "Research Note Categorization of New Religious Movements in American Print Media". Sociological Analysis 1988, 49, 2:171-183]

Larry R. Moffitt, vice-president of the "Tiempos del Mundo" newspapers (owned by Sun Myung Moon), asserts that after an entire body of believers runs afoul of the law in a dramatic and sensational manner such as the mass suicides at Jonestown, the Branch Davidians and the suicide of the Heaven’s Gate group , " [...] it doesn’t take many of these episodes for the public to view any religion whose founding prophet is currently living, as being of one this dangerous ilk."Fact|date=July 2007

Newspaper columnist Cal Thomas makes reference to perceived stereotypes in journalism dictated by " [...] a raging, unforgiving, imposing, intolerant, arrogant secularism that claims that any idea or authority that comes from a source higher than the mind of humankind is to be a priori overruled as unconstitutional, immoral, illegal and ignorant."

Michael Horowitz, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, characterizes the dominant culture as an environment of religious persecution: "Today's elites find it hard to believe that Christians can possibly be the persecuted rather than the persecutors … Believing Christians have been patronized as polyester bigots against whom a modern, thinking, caring culture must protect itself."Fact|date=July 2007

A survey conducted in 1983 by John Dart and Jimmy Allen foundFact|date=July 2007 that an "unhealthy distrust exists between religionists and journalists. Religious figures fear that people may misunderstand and misrepresent them; journalists fear making mistakes and incurring religious wrath. [...] The resulting apprehensions inhibit the free flow of information and only add to misunderstanding."

A 1999 United Nations report, citing several mission reports, noted that "the media, and in particular the popular press, all too often portrays matters relating to religion and belief in particular religious minorities, in a grotesque, not to say totally distorted and harmful light." The U.N. Special Rapporteur "recommended starting a campaign to develop awareness among the media on the need to publish information that respects the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination." [ [http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/TestFrame/ec8751d1b835d9118025681f0058c117?Opendocument United Nations Interim report on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief prepared by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights] ]

A case-study: Scientology and the Internet

:"See Scientology versus the Internet for a more detailed treatment of this subject."

In the mid 1990s, the Church of Scientology tried by legal and technical means to close down several critical Internet sites and especially the Usenet news-group alt.religion.scientology. This brought Scientology into conflict with service-providers and with users who took up the cause of freedom-of-speech on the Internet. Some of these people, such as Karin Spaink, David S. Touretzky, and Ron Newman had a history of free-speech activism, and according to "Boston Herald" journalist Joseph Mallia most of them knew little about Scientology until the punitive actions of Scientologists roused them to anger. (Mallia, 1998)Fact|date=July 2007 During the following years some of the most active critics of Scientology came out of this group,for example: Andreas Heldal-Lund, Zenon Panoussis, and Keith Henson.

When the RTC first approached the Court with its ex parte request for the seizure warrant and Temporary Restraining Order, the dispute was presented as a straight-forward one under copyright and trade secret law. However, the Court is now convinced that the primary motivation of RTC in suing Lerma, DGS and "The Washington Post" is to stifle criticism of Scientology in general and to harass its critics. As the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric of its briefs and oral argument now demonstrates, the RTC appears far more concerned about criticism of Scientology than vindication of its secrets. — Memorandum Opinion of November 29, 1995, by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, (Religious Technology Center v. Arnaldo Lerma, "Washington Post", Mark Fisher, and Richard Leiby)Fact|date=July 2007


Further reading

* Anthony, Dick, "Brainwashing and Totalitarian Influence. An Exploration of Admissibility Criteria for Testimony in Brainwashing Trials", Ph.D. Diss., Berkeley (California): Graduate Theological Union, 1996, p. 165.
* Anthony, Dick. 1990. "Religious Movements and 'Brainwashing' Litigation" in Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins, "In gods we trust : new patterns of religious pluralism in America". New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0887388000 [http://www.religiousfreedoms.org/articles/article_brainwashing_elizabeth_smart.htm Excerpt available online]
* Beckford, James A., "Cult Controversies: The Societal Response to New Religious Movements", London, Tavistock, 1985, ISBN 0422796301, p. 235
* Bromley, David G., & Anson Shupe, "Public Reaction against New Religious Movements": article in "Cults and new religious movements: a report of the Committee on Psychiatry and Religion of the American Psychiatric Association", edited by Marc Galanter, M.D., (1989) ISBN 978-0-89042-212-0
* Bromley, David G. (Ed.) "" CT, Praeger Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0-275-95508-7
* Dart, John and Allen, Jimmy; "Bridging the G

* Hadden, Jeffrey K., "The Anti-Cult Movement" [http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/lectures/anticult.html Available online]
* Hadden, Jeffrey K., [http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/cultsect/brainwashing.htm "The Brainwashing Controversy"]
* Horowitz, Michael J., "Breaking the Chains Around the Gulags of Faith", acceptance speech on receiving the William Wilberforce Award, February 5, 1997.
* Moffitt, Larry R., "Media and Religious Intolerance: A Clash of Alien Cultures", Presented at the conference of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, October 10-12, 1998 – São Paulo, Brazil
* Robbins, Thomas and Dick Anthony, "Cults in the late Twentieth Century" in Lippy, Charles H. and Williams, Peter W. (eds.) "Encyclopedia of the American Religious experience. Studies of Traditions and Movements". Charles Scribner's sons, New York (1988) Vol II pp. ISBN 978-0-684-18861-4
* Thomas, Cal, remarks at a conference, "Religious Liberty in America: Crossroads or Crisis?", sponsored by the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, March 16-17, 1993
* Wilson, Bryan R., "Apostates and New Religious Movements", Oxford, England 1994

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