Governmental lists of cults and sects

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The application of the labels "cults" or "sects" to (for example) religious movements in government documents usually signifies the popular and negative use of the term "cult" in English and a functionally similar use of words translated as "sect" in several European languages.[1][2][need quotation to verify] Government reports which have used these words include ones from Austria,[3] Belgium,[4] Canada, China, France, Germany, and Russia. While these documents utilize similar terminology they do not necessarily include the same groups nor is their assessment of these groups based on agreed criteria. Other governments and world bodies also report on new religious movements but do not use these terms to describe them.[1][need quotation to verify]


The Austrian government does not always distinguish sects in Austria as a separate group. Rather, religious groups are divided into three legal categories: officially recognized religious societies, religious confessional communities, and associations.[5] In 2010, the most recent year for which sects were officially distinguished[by whom?] in Austria, the groups included the Church of Scientology, the Divine Light Mission, Eckankar, Hare Krishna, Osho movement, Sahaja Yoga, Sai Baba, Sri Chinmoy, Transcendental Meditation, Fiat Lux, Universal Life, and The Family International.[6]


A Canadian Security Intelligence Service report of 1999 discussed "Doomsday Religious Movements espousing hostile beliefs and having the potential to be violent.." Groups classified as "Doomsday Religious Movements" included:

In 2005, the Hate Crimes Unit of the Edmonton Police Service confiscated anti-Falun Gong materials distributed at the annual conference of the American Family Association by staff members of the Calgary Chinese Consulate (Province of Alberta, Canada). The materials, including the calling of Falun Gong a "cult," were identified as having breached the Criminal Code, which bans the wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable religious groups.[8]


The General Office of Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China maintains a list[citation needed] of "heterodox teachings," (邪教) entitled "Information Regarding Organizations Identified as Cults e.g. the White Lotus Sect and the Red Lantern Sect."

Buddhist-based proscribed sects include Lu Shengyan's Taiwan-based Lingxian Zhenfozong (灵仙真佛宗, True Buddha School), Ching Hai's Guanyin Famen, and Yuandun Famen.[12]


French parliamentary commission report (1995)[edit]

In 1995, a parliamentary commission of the National Assembly of France on cults produced its report[13] (in French: compare an unofficial English translation). The report included a list of purported cults based upon information which may have been provided by former members, the general information division of the French National Police (Renseignements généraux — the French secret police service) and cult-watching groups.[14]

The criteria chosen by the French Renseignements généraux to establish the potential dangers of a movement were criticized since they were considered vague and may include many organizations, religious or not. One of the first criticisms came from bishop Jean Vernette, the national secretary of the French episcopate to the study of cults and new religious movements, who stressed that these criteria can be applied to almost all religions. Moreover, sociologists such as Bruno Étienne emphasized that the mental manipulation should not be defined by the policemen of the Renseignements généraux.[15] The list of cults was based on the criteria defined by the Renseignements généraux, but without specifying which of their practices are specifically criticized. In addition, the secrecy of the work made by the RG led to questions about the presence or absence of certain organizations in the list. Étienne questioned the presence of the CEDIPAC SA company, formerly known as European Grouping of Marketing Professionals (GEPM), as its activity is not in the religious field.[16] The absence of Opus Dei or the Freemasons also raised questions.[17][18] In 2007, Yves Bertrand, General Director of the Renseignements généraux from 1992 to 2003, spoke about his collaborative work with the parliamentary reports on cults, and said: "Alongside genuine and dangerous cults practicing removal of school, abuse of weakness or pedophilia, some groups have been a bit quickly dress up of the word cult".[19] Furthermore, on 27 May 2005, the 1995 list of cults of the French report was officially cancelled and invalidated by Jean-Pierre Raffarin's circulaire.[20][21]

In France, Antoinism was classified as a cult in the 1995 parliamentary reports which considered it one of the oldest healer groups.[22] However, in a 1984 letter, the French Minister of the Interior wrote that the movement was considered, from an administrative point of view, as having for exclusive purpose the exercise of a religion, thus complying with the 18th and 19th Articles of the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. He added that antoinism had always been allowed to receive bequests or donations, which meant that its religious nature was never challenged.[23] In addition, many anti-cults activists, associations or watchers said they had not noticed cultic deviances in this group. For example, when heard by the Belgian commission on cults, philosopher Luc Nefontaine said that "the establishment of a directory of cult movements (...) seems to him dangerous, because it would also give a bad image of quite honourable organizations such as (...) Antoinism".[24] Eric Brasseur, director of Centre for information and advice on harmful cultish organizations (Centre d'information et d'avis sur les organisations sectaires nuisibles, or CIAOSN) said: "This is a Belgian worship for which we have never had a complaint in 12 years, a rare case to report".[25] Similarly, in 2013, the Interministerial Mission for Monitoring and Combatting Cultic Deviances (Mission interministérielle de vigilance et de lutte contre les dérives sectaires, or MIVILUDES) made this comment: "We have never received reporting from Antoinists. They heal through prayer, but as long as they do not prevent people from getting proper treatment by legal means..." In addition, the Renseignements généraux stopped monitoring the religion given the absence of any problem.[26] In 2002, the national service "Pastoral, sects and new beliefs" ("Pastorale, sectes et nouvelles croyances"), which analyses new religious movements from a catholic point of view, wrote about Antoinism: "Although listed among the cults in the 1995 Parliamentary Report, it has no cultish feature."[27] Similarly, the French sociologist Régis Dericquebourg, who deeply studied the religion, concluded that Antoinism is not a cult: it "has no totalitarian influence on its members, and do not dictate their behaviour to get in the world; it is not exclusive [and] shows no hostility towards social systems".[28]

In France, the 1995 parliamentary report listed the Shri Ram Chandra Mission[citation needed]. This has been criticized by lawyer Lawrence Hincker, who said that "this system of meditation, called Sahaj Marg, does not lead to a life away from the world. It integrates all aspects of man, whether physical, mental or spiritual, without charge or austerity or penance or self-negation".[29] According to the sociologist Bruno Étienne, an expert on religious issues, the SRCM publishes books as any other group but does not proselytize, and has never been convicted: "To us, it is fully a NMR (new religious movement), modern religious group, although based on an ancient tradition, and subject to serious arguments advanced by others more knowledgeable, we do not understand why it is criticized on the list of the damned".[30] Raphaël Liogier, Director of the Observatory of religious and university professor at the Institut d'Études Politiques in Aix-en-Provence, said he did not understand the inclusion on the cult list of an association that is fully recognized in India.[31]

In May 2005 the then Prime Minister of France, in a circulaire,[32] which stressed that the government must exercise vigilance concerning the cult phenomenon,[32] said that the list of movements attached to the Parliamentary Report of 1995 had become less pertinent, based on the observation that many small groups had formed: scattered, more mobile, and less-easily identifiable,[32] and that the government needed to balance its concern with cults with respect for public freedoms and laïcité (secularism).[32]

French parliamentary commission report (1999)[edit]

The French Parliamentary report of 1999 on cults and money[33] concentrated its attention on some 30 groups which it judged as major players in respect of their financial influence.[34] It underlined the non-exhaustive character of its investigations, seeing them as a snapshot at a point in time and based on information available.[35]

The groups examined included:[33][34]


Berlin Senate report (1997)[edit]

An official report of a Senate Committee of the city and state of Berlin in Germany listed and discussed cults (German: Sekten), emphasizing with its sub-title their categorization as "entities espousing a world view and new religions". The 1997 Berlin Senate report — entitled Cults: Risks and Side-effects: Information on selected new religious and world-view espousing Movements and Psycho-offerings[36] — subdivided "selected suppliers" (ausgewählte Anbieter) of its objects of interest as:

  • 7.1: Groups with a Christian background (Gruppen mit christlichem Hintergrund)
    • 7.1.1 Fiat Lux
    • 7.1.2 Parish on the Road Evangelical Free Church (registered association) (Gemeinde auf dem Weg Evangelische Freikirche e.V)
    • 7.1.3 Parish of Jesus Christ (registered association) Boston Church of Christ (Gemeinde Jesu Christi e.V. (Boston Church of Christ))
    • 7.1.4 Universal Life (Re-gathering of Jesus Christ) (Universelles Leben (Heimholungswerk Jesu Christi/HHW))
    • 7.1.5 Unification Church (Moon movement) (Vereinigungskirche (Mond-Bewegung))
  • 7.2 Groups with a pagan background (Gruppen mit heidnischem Hintergrund)
    • 7.2.1 Teutonic Belief Association (registered association) (Germanische Glaubengemeinschaft e.V. (GGG))
    • 7.2.2 Pagan Association (registered association) (Heidnische Gemeinschaft e.V. (HG))
    • 7.3.2 OSHO-Movement (Osho) (OSHO-Bewegung (Bhagwan))
    • 7.3.3 Ruhani Satsang of Thakar Singh (Ruhani Satsang des Thakar Singh)
    • 7.3.4 Transcendental Meditation (TM) (Transzendentale Meditation (TM))
  • 7.4 Suppliers of Life-Help (Anbieter von Lebenshilfe)
    • commercial: (kommerziell:)
    • 7.4.1 The Circle of Friends of Bruno Gröning (Bruno Gröning-Freundeskreise)
    • 7.4.2 Context Seminar Company Limited (Kontext Seminar GmbH)
    • 7.4.3 Landmark Education (LE) (Landmark Education (LE))
    • 7.4.4 Art Reade
    • 7.4.5 Scientology
    • 7.4.6 The Natale Institute (TNI)
    • non-commercial: (nicht kommerziell:)
    • 7.4.7 Union for the Enhancement of the psychological Knowledge of Mankind (Verein zur Förderung der psychologischen Menschenkenntnis (VPM))
  • 7.5 Occultism/Satanism (Okkultismus/Satanismus)
  • 7.6 So-called Multi-level Marketers (Sogenannte Strukturvertriebe)


In 2008 the Russian Interior Ministry prepared a list of "extremist groups". At the top of the list appeared Islamic groups outside of "traditional Islam", which is supervised by the Russian government. Next listed were "Pagan cults".[37]

In 2009 the Russian Ministry of Justice set up a council which it named "Council of Experts Conducting State Religious Studies Expert Analysis". The new council listed 80 large sects which it considered potentially dangerous to Russian society, and mentioned that there were thousands of smaller ones.[38] Large sects listed included: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, and what the council called "neo-Pentecostals".[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Richardson, James T. and Introvigne, Massimo (2001). "'Brainwashing' Theories in European Parliamentary and Administrative Reports on 'Cults' and 'Sects'". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 40 (2): 143–168. doi:10.1111/0021-8294.00046.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Robbins, Thomas (2002). "Combating 'Cults' and 'Brainwashing' in the United States and Europe: A Comment on Richardson and Introvigne's Report". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 40 (2): 169–176. doi:10.1111/0021-8294.00047.
  3. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2006 - Austria, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State.
    "The vast majority of groups termed "sects" by the Government were small organizations with fewer than 100 members. Among the larger groups was the Church of Scientology, with between 5,000 and 6,000 members, and the Unification Church, with approximately 700 adherents throughout the country. Other groups found in the country included Divine Light Mission, Eckankar, Hare Krishna, the Holosophic community, the Osho movement, Sahaja Yoga, Sai Baba, Sri Chinmoy, Transcendental Meditation, Landmark Education, the Center for Experimental Society Formation, Fiat Lux, Universal Life, and The Family."
  4. ^ ENQUETE PARLEMENTAIRE visant à élaborer une politique en vue de lutter contre les pratiques illégales des sectes et le danger qu'elles représentent pour la société et pour les personnes, particulièrement les mineurs d'âge [Parliamentary Inquiry with a view to developing policy on combating the illegal practices of sectes and the danger which they pose for society and for people, especially minors], 1997.
  5. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report for 2012". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  6. ^ Compare: "Austria". U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2011-09-13. Retrieved 2017-10-17. The vast majority of groups considered "sects" by the government are small organizations with fewer than 100 members. Among the larger groups is the Church of Scientology, which claims between 5,000 and 7,000 members, and the Unification Church, with approximately 700 adherents. Other groups termed "sects" include Divine Light Mission, Eckankar, Hare Krishna, the Holosophic Community, the Osho Movement, Sahaja Yoga, Sai Baba, Sri Chinmoy, Transcendental Meditation, Center for Experimental Society Formation, Fiat Lux, Universal Life, and The Family.
  7. ^ "Doomsday Religious Movements", PERSPECTIVES,
    • the Eather Legion
    a Canadian Security Intelligence Service publication, Report # 2000/03, December 18, 1999. available online, last updated November 1, 2000.
  8. ^ Edmonton Police Report of Wilful Promotion of Hatred by Chinese Consular Officials against Falun Gong, Appendix 8 to "Bloody Harvest: Revised Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China," By David Matas, Esq. and Hon. David Kilgour, Esq.
  9. ^ Kim-Kwong Chan (2004). "Accession to the World Trade Organization and State Adaptation". In Kindopp, Jason; Hamrin, Carol Lee (eds.). God and Caesar in China: Policy Implications of Church-State Tensions. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 9780815796466.
  10. ^ Yang, Fenggang (2011). Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780199735648, pp. 102–195.
  11. ^ Yang, Fenggang (17 Sep. 2018). "Atlas of Religion in China: Social and Geographical Contexts". BRILL. [2019-01-23].
  12. ^ US Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2001, US GPO, p. 28.
  13. ^ French report, 1995, English translation Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine, National Assembly of France, Parliamentary Commission report.
  14. ^ The New heretics of France Susan J. Palmer, p 10
  15. ^ Étienne, Bruno (2002). Les sectes en France (in French). Hachette littératures. p. 213. ISBN 2-01-235569-2.
  16. ^ Étienne, Bruno (2002). Les sectes en France (in French). Hachette littératures. p. 224. ISBN 2-01-235569-2.
  17. ^ Étienne, Bruno (2002). Les sectes en France (in French). Hachette littératures. p. 182. ISBN 2-01-235569-2.
  18. ^ Raphaël Verrier (February 2001). "La loi anti-secte : remède empoisonné d'un mal imaginaire" (in French). Les mots sont importants. Retrieved 9 September 2009.
  19. ^ Bertrand, Yves (1997). Je ne sais rien mais je dirai (presque) tout (in French). Plon. p. 166.
  20. ^ "La fin des listes noires". Le Point (in French). Paris: Artémis. 23 June 2005. Retrieved 10 September 2010.
  21. ^ The New Heretics of France: Minority Religions, la Republique, and the Government-Sponsored "War on Sects" Susan J. Palmer 2011
  22. ^ "Rapport fait au nom de la Commission d'enquête sur les sectes — "Les sectes en France"" (in French). Assemblée Nationale. 1995. Retrieved 10 September 2010.
  23. ^ Kounkou, Dominique (2003). "Chapitre 2: Les enfants dans la tourmente "sectaire"". La religion, une anomalie républicaine? (in French). L'Harmattan. p. 98. ISBN 2-7475-4094-4.
  24. ^ "Rapport fait au nom de la Commission d'Enquête par MM. Duquesne et Willems (partie I)" (PDF) (in French). Chambre des Représentants de Belgique. 1997. p. 92. Retrieved 10 September 2010.
  25. ^ Taminiaux, Déborah (1 November 2012). "L'antoinisme, seul mouvement religieux né en Belgique". La Libre Belgique. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  26. ^ Mourez, Justin (23 March 2013). "Faut-il se méfier des fidèles du Culte Antoiniste ?". Le Progrès (in French) (Édition du Roannais ed.). Loire: 15.
  27. ^ Pastorale, sectes et nouvelles croyances (October 2002). "L'Antoinisme" (in French). troumad. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  28. ^ Dericquebourg, Régis (1993). Les Antoinistes (in French). Belgium: Brépols. p. 139. ISBN 978-2-503-50325-7.
  29. ^ Hincker, Laurent (2003). Sectes, rumeurs et tribunaux (in French). La nuée bleue.
  30. ^ Étienne, Bruno (2002). La France face aux sectes (in French). p. 86. ISBN 2-01-235569-2.
  31. ^ "Transcription intégrale de l'interview de Raphaël Liogier" (in French). Centre d'Information et de Conseil des Nouvelles Spiritualités. May 2006. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  32. ^ a b c d Raffarin, Jean-Pierre (2005-06-01). "Circulaire du 27 mai 2005 relative à la lutte contre les dérives sectaires". JORF n°126 du 1 juin 2005 page 9751 texte n° 8 (in French). République Française. p. 9751. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
  33. ^ a b Assemblée Nationale (1999-06-10). "Les sectes et l'argent [Cults and money]" (in French). République Française. Retrieved 2009-04-20. enquête sur la situation financière, patrimoniale et fiscale des sectes, ainsi que sur leurs activités économiques et leurs relations avec les milieux économiques et financiers [inquiry into the finances, property and income of cults, as well as into their economic activities and their connections with economic and financial circles]
  34. ^ a b Assemblée Nationale (1999-06-10). "Les sectes et l'argent - Annexes (Cults and money - Appendices)" (in French). République Française. Retrieved 2009-04-20. La Commission a choisi de sélectionner une trentaine de sectes (1) qui lui paraissent disposer d'une influence économique et d'un poids financier significatifs, et pour lesquelles elle a pu rassembler des informations qu'elle juge utile de rendre publiques. [The Commission chose to select some thirty cults which appeared to it to have significant economic influence and financial clout; and for which it could assemble information which it judged useful to publicise.]
  35. ^ Assemblée Nationale (1999-06-10). "Les sectes et l'argent - Annexes (Cults and money - Appendices)" (in French). République Française. Retrieved 2009-04-20. La Commission tient donc à souligner le caractère non exhaustif des éléments figurant ci-après : le fait qu'une secte ne soit pas mentionnée ou qu'une rubrique la concernant ne soit pas renseignée ne signifie nullement qu'elle soit dépourvue de toute importance économique et financière. ... Il s'agit donc d'une photographie réalisée à un instant donné à partir des informations dont la Commission a pu avoir connaissance. [The Commission however underlines the non-exhaustive character of the data below: the fact that a cult gets no mention or that a detail concerning it remains unreported in no way signifies that it may lack any economic or financial immportance ... Thus it becomes a matter of a snapshot made at a given point-in-time on the basis of information which the Commission could take into consideration.]
  36. ^ Rũhle (ed.), Anne; Ina Kunst (December 1997) [1994]. "Sekten": Risiken und Nebenwirkungen: Informationen zu ausgewählten neuen religiõsen und weltanschaulichen Bewegungen und Psychoangeboten. [Cults: Risks and Side-effects. Information on selected new religious and world-view Movements and Psycho-offerings] (in German). Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Senatsverwaltung für Schule, Jugend and Sport. [Senate Administration for School, Youth and Sport]. Retrieved 2007-02-06. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  37. ^ Soldatov, Andrei; Borogan, Irina (2010). The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia's Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB. PublicAffairs. pp. 65–66. ISBN 9781586489236.
  38. ^ Compare: Marshall, Paul A.; Gilbert, Lela; Shea, Nina (2013). "Post-Communist countries: register, restrict and ruin". Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9781400204410. Retrieved 2017-06-18. In 2009, the Ministry of Justice created a new official body, with the Orwellian name 'Council of Experts for Conducting State Religious Studies Expert Analysis' (alternately referred to as the 'Experts' Religious Studies Council'). The council was instrumental in expanding the focus of antiextremism activities from Muslim groups to all so-called dangerous sects. While Muslims continued to face severe repression, the Council ominously declared that there were more than eighty 'large' sects operating in Russia, with 'thousands' of smaller sects.