Governmental lists of cults and sects
The application of the labels (cults or sects) to 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. Government reports which have used these words include those from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France (in 1995), Germany, and the United States. 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 Australia
- 2 Austria
- 3 Belgium
- 4 Canada
- 5 China
- 6 France
- 7 Germany
- 8 Russia
- 9 United States
- 10 Controversies
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
Beginning in 2011, the United States Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report, as released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor no longer distinguishes 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. In the most recent year for which sects were officially recognized in Austria, the groups included the Church of Scientology, the Unification Church, the Divine Light Mission, Eckankar, Hare Krishna, Osho movement, Sahaja Yoga, Sai Baba, Sri Chinmoy, Transcendental Meditation, Fiat Lux, Universal Life, and The Family.
Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (1997)
The Justice Commission of the Belgian House of Representatives set up a parliamentary inquiry commission to work out a policy concerning cults. On April 28, 1997, the parliamentary commission issued its 670-page report that contained a list of 189 movements, and stated that "[t]he fact that a movement is listed here, even if at the instigation of an official instance, does not signify that the Commission regards it as a cult". The parliament failed to adopt the report as such and only voted to accept the conclusions and recommendations (19 pages), and not the list. Despite the lack of adoption of the list, the commission published the whole report, including the list. According to Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a Brussels Appeals Court in 2005 condemned the Belgian House of Representatives on the grounds that it had damaged the image of an organization (the Universal Church of God's Kingdom) listed in the 1997 parliamentary inquiry commission on sects.
The Belgian list of groups (French-language naming or primary naming, with numbering as in the original document):
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:
- the Branch Davidians
- the Tin Yat lineage
- Canada's Order of the Solar Temple
- Aum Shinrikyo (called the "Aum cult")
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 Foundation 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.
The General Office of Ministry of Public Security of the government of China maintains a list of what it considers "evil cults," entitled "Information Regarding the Organizations Already Identified as Cults." Among the groups listed is Christian-based Eastern Lightning. The followers of Watchman Nee (the Shouters) are said to be the first group put on the list, in 1983. Other Christian-based groups on the list include: The Shouters 2 (Chinese Shouters), Established King, the Lord God Sect, the Lingling Sect, the All Scope Church, the South China Church, the Disciples Sect, the Three Ranks of Service, the Cold Water Sect, the Commune Sect, the New Testiment Church, the Resurrection Sect, the Dami Evangelism Association, and the World Elijah Evangelism Association. In 2001, Falun Gong was added to the list.
In 1995, a parliamentary commission of the National Assembly of France on cults produced its report (in French: compare an unofficial English translation). The report included a list of purported cults compiled by the general information division of the French National Police (Renseignements généraux — a French police service) in association with cult-watching groups.
In May 2005 the then Prime Minister of France, in a circulaire, which stressed that the government must exercise vigilance concerning the cult phenomenon, 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, and that the government needed to balance its concern with cults with respect for public freedoms and laïcité (secularism). Subsequent French parliamentary commissions on cults reported on specific aspects of cult activity in 1999 and in 2006.
French parliamentary commission report (1995)
Opinion in France varies as to the applicability of the 1995 Parliamentary report. A provincial court case noted that all such Parliamentary reports have no juridical impact. And as stated above, a Prime Ministerial circulaire warned that name-changes had reduced the usefulness of this particular Parliamentary report.
French parliamentary commission report (1999)
The French Parliamentary report of 1999 on cults and money concentrated its attention on some 30 groups which it judged as major players in respect of their financial influence. It underlined the non-exhaustive character of its investigations, seeing them as a snapshot at a point in time and based on informatiion available.
- Anthroposophie (Anthroposophy)
- Au Cœur de la Communication (At the Heart of Communication)
- Contre-réforme catholique (League for Catholic Counter-Reformation)
- Dianova (Ex-Le Patriarche) (Dianova (formerly: the Patriarch))
- Église du Christ (Boston Church of Christ)
- Église Néo-apostolique (New Apostolic Church)
- Énergo-Chromo-Kinèse (ECK)
- Fédération d'agrément des réseaux (ex-Groupement européen des professionnels du marketing) (Federation of the networks of agreement (formerly: European Grouping of Marketing Professionals (GEPM))
- Fraternité blanche universelle (Universal White Brotherhood)
- Invitation à la Vie (Invitation to Life)
- Innergy (Insight Seminars)
- Krishna (Hare Krishna movement)
- Landmark (Landmark Education)
- Mahikari (Sûkyô Mahikari)
- Méthode Avatar (Avatar Method)
- Moon (Unification Church)
- Mouvement du Graal (Grail Movement)
- Mouvement Raëlien (Raelian Movement)
- Nouvelle Acropole (New Acropolis)
- Office culturel de Cluny (Cultural office of Cluny – National Federation of Total Animation)
- Ogyen Kunzang Chöling
- Orkos (Anopsology)
- Pentecôte de Besançon (Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon)
- Prima Verba
- Rose-Croix - AMORC (Rosicrucian Order)
- Rose-Croix d'Or (Gold Rosicrucian Brotherhood)
- Scientologie (Scientology)
- Soka Gakkaï (Sōka Gakkai)
- La méthode Silva (The Silva Method)
- Témoins de Jéhovah (Jehovah's Witnesses)
- Tradition Famille Propriété (Tradition Family Property)
Berlin Senate report (1997)
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 — subdivided "selected suppliers" (ausgewählte Anbieter) of its objects of interest as:
In 2008 the Russian Interior Ministry prepared a list of "extremist groups." At the top of the list were Islamic groups outside of "traditional Islam," which is supervised by the Russian government. Next listed were "Pagan cults". In 2009 the Russian Ministry of Justice created 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. Large sects listed included: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, and what were called "neo-Pentecostals." 
Committee on Government Reform (August 1999)
- Suspect Organizations and Individuals Possessing Long-Range Fifty Caliber Sniper Weapons
A report to the United States House of Representatives, Section VI is entitled "Montana Doomsday Religious Cult - "Church Universal and Triumphant".
Project Megiddo (October 1999)
Project Megiddo consisted of an FBI analysis, with a report released on October 20, 1999. The report warned against: "the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the year 2000." Its analysis focused on apocalyptic religious groups, doomsday cults and (New World Order) conspiracy theories.
The report discussed the potential for violence in groups that it called "biblically-driven cults" The report warned that "less time spent on Bible study and more time spent on physical training - indicate that the cult may be preparing for some type of action." Groups singled out and analyzed in the report under the heading "Apocalyptic Cults" included the Branch Davidians, the Concerned Christians, and Law Revue. The International Asatru-Odinic Alliance accused the FBI of violating its First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, free speech, and peaceful assembly. The reason given for this accusation was the propagation of "numerous false statements and innuendos" about Odinism in the Project Megiddo report.
Assessing the Threat (December 1999)
On December 15, 1999 the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction presented a report called Assessing the Threat to the President of the United States and to the United States Congress. The report discusses the 1984 contamination of salad bars in Oregon by the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh group, and the Aum Shinrikyo Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway of 1995. Both groups are referred to as cults in the report.
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. 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. The absence of Opus Dei or the Freemasons also raised questions. 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". 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.
In France, Antoinism was classified as a cult in the 1995 parliamentary reports which considered it one of the oldest healer groups. 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. 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". 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". 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. 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." 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".
In France, the 1995 parliamentary report listed the Shri Ram Chandra Mission. 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". 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". 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.
- 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.
- 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): 169–76. doi:10.1111/0021-8294.00047.
- 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."
- Enquête Parlementaire visant à élaborer une politique en vue de lutter contre les practiques illégales des sectes et le danger qu'elles représentent pour la société et pour les personnes, particulièrement les mineurs d'âge. Rapport fait au nom de la Commission d'enquête par MM. Duquesne et Willems. Partie II. [Parliamentary Inquiry with the aim of detailing a policy for combating the illegal practices of cults and the danger they represent for society and for people, especially minors. Report made in the name of the Commission of Inquiry by Messieurs Duquesne and Willems. Part 2.] available online -- bilingual report in French and Flemish, retrieved 2007-01-08.
- "Doomsday Religious Movements", PERSPECTIVES, a Canadian Security Intelligence Service publication, Report # 2000/03, December 18, 1999. available online, last updated November 1, 2000.
- French report, 1995, English translation, National Assembly of France, Parliamentary Commission report.
- Rũhle (ed.), Anne; Ina Kunst (December 1997) . "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) 1 (2nd ed.). Senatsverwaltung für Schule, Jugend and Sport. [Senate Administration for School, Youth and Sport]. Retrieved 2007-02-06. Unknown parameter
- Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (December 15, 1999). Assessing The Threat: First Annual Report to The President and The Congress of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (PDF). DIANE Publishing. pp. 18, 24, 26, 28, 38, 40, 46–51. ISBN 1-4289-8112-8.
- Hon. S. B. MUTCH (November 24, 1992). "Kenja Cult". Parliament of New South Wales, transcript (www.parliament.nsw.gov.au). Retrieved 2008-08-10.
- "International Religious Freedom Report for 2012". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- "Austria". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2011-09-13. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- Fautré, Willy (2002). "The Sect Issue in France and in Belgium" (PDF). Human Rights Without Frontiers Int. Retrieved 2007-01-23.
- Human Rights Without Frontiers International: Human Rights in Belgium Annual Report (Events in 2005).
- 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.
- Jason Kindopp, Carol Lee Hamrin (editors), God and Caesar in China, Brookings Institution Press, 2004, ISBN 0815749368, page 73
- Daniel H. Bays, A New History of Christianity in China, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, ISBN 9781405159548
- Fenggang Yang, Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, 2011, Oxford University Press, ISBN13: 9780199735648, pages 102-195
- US Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2001, US GPO, page 28
- 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.
- ASSEMBLÉE NATIONALE (1999-06-10). "Les sectes et l'argent [Cults and money]" (in French). République Française. Retrieved 3007-07-26. "La typologie de 1995 garde toute sa pertinence [The 1995 analysis remains totally relevant]"
- Fenech, Georges (2006-06-21). "RAPPORT FAIT AU NOM DE LA COMMISSION DES LOIS CONSTITUTIONNELLES, DE LA LÉGISLATION ET DE L'ADMINISTRATION GÉNÉRALE DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE SUR LA PROPOSITION DE RÉSOLUTION (n° 3107) DE M. VUILQUE ET PLUSIEURS DE SES COLLÈGUES tendant à la création d'une commission d'enquête relative à l'influence des mouvements à caractère sectaire et aux conséquences de leurs pratiques sur la santé physique et mentale des mineurs" (in French). République Française. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- "TRIBUNAL ADMINISTRATIF DE CAEN N° 0500913" (PDF) (in French). Le Tribunal administratif de Caen, (1er Chambre). 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-26. "... un rapport établi par la commission d’enquête de l’Assemblée nationale classant les Témoins de Jehovah parmi les sectes, un tel rapport étant dépourvu de valeur Juridique ..."
- Cults, Religion & Violence 2002 ISBN 05216689805, (Listed as "Dangerous" by the French Parliamentary Commission (1996), also defined as "enemies of the state" in Greece, 1993).
- 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]"
- 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.]"
- 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.]"
- The new nobility : the restoration of Russia's security state and the enduring legacy of the KGB, Author: Andreĭ Soldatov; I Borogan, Publisher: New York, NY : PublicAffairs, ©2010. pages 65-66
- Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Google eBook), Paul Marshall, 2013, Thomas Nelson Inc
- Suspect Organizations and Individuals Possessing Long-Range Fifty Caliber Sniper Weapons, United States House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, August 17, 1999., VI: Additional Cases: "Montana Doomsday Religious Cult - "Church Universal and Triumphant", Page 8.
The GAO investigators found a 1989 case in Montana in which members of a "doomsday religious cult" had stockpiled many weapons, including several fifty caliber weapons. The cult is called the "Church Universal and Triumphant" (C.U.T.), and its leader is Elizabeth Clare Prophet. The cult was in the process of building underground bunkers to prepare for the end of the world. This investigation began because Ms. Prophet's and another cult member used birth certificates of deceased individuals to obtain driver's licenses so that they could purchase and stockpile weapons.
In an ATF crackdown, agents found that the cult members had illegally acquired hundreds of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Among this stockpile was ten semi-automatic fifty caliber weapons purchased with false identifications. The cult members were convicted of illegally purchasing firearms. According to GAO, Ms. Prophet continues to lead the cult and was not charged in connection with these offenses.
- Project Megiddo, FBI Strategic Assessment, October 20, 1999, retrieved 2007-07-03
- "Project Megiddo" (PDF). FBI. p. 4. Retrieved 2008-10-13. "The potential for violence on behalf of members of biblically-driven cults is determined almost exclusively by the whims of the cult leader."
- IAOA news release
- Étienne, Bruno (2002). Les sectes en France (in French). Hachette littératures. p. 213. ISBN 2-01-235569-2.
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- Bromley, David G.; J. Gordon Melton (2002). Cults, Religion, and Violence. Cambridge University Press. pp. 113–116: "Government–Religious Movement Confrontations". ISBN 0-521-66898-0.
- Whittier, Charles H., The Cultic Phenomena: New and Emerging Religious Movements in America, "Addendum II: Religious Cults in U.S. and Abroad.", Page CRS-45., Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Report No. 79-24 GOV., January 24, 1979.