Articles‎ > ‎

Correspondents' Reports

ICSA Today, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2018, 29-34

Correspondents’ Reports, IT 9.1

Report From

Austria

Friedrich Griess

Esotericism

The municipality of Gerasdorf equips kindergartens, schools, and the town hall with stickers designed to protect against electromagnetic radiation. The producer Waveex offered 120 stickers, with an ordinary price of 24,90 Euro, at no cost.

LAIS (Lower Australian International Schools (LAIS) and the Anastasia movement, based on the books of Wladimir Megre, are also popular in Austria, though they are heavily criticized by pedagogic experts.
Fiat Lux

The founder of Fiat Lux, Erika Bertschinger-Eicke, alias “Uriella,” now 88 and obviously seriously ill, sold her house in Müllnern (Carinthia).

Scientology

Wilfried Handl has been a Scientologist for 28 years, during which he was director of Scientology in Austria for 2 years. Around the year 2000, he left Scientology and since then hasa been serving as a consultant. He has written several books and has created a blog at https://wilfriedhandl.org/

Report From

France and French-Speaking Countries

Catherine Perry

Buddhism (France and Belgium)

The renowned Tibetan lama Sogyal Rinpoche, founder of Rigpa, an international network of 130 centers and groups that present the Buddha’s teachings in the West, is now “disgraced,” as the Dalai Lama stated on August 1, 2017 (Dalai Lama, 2017). According to a Rigpa press release, Sogyal, 70, officially retired on August 11, 2017. A tireless advocate of Buddhism in the West and author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (1992), which sold 2.8 million copies worldwide, he also founded the West’s largest Tibetan Buddhist temple, Lerab Ling, at Roqueredonde in southern France. The Dalai Lama formally inaugurated this temple on August 22, 2008, in the presence of Carla Bruni Sarkozy, then France’s first lady, and other dignitaries, including French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner.

For years before his resignation, scandals surrounded Sogyal; but hardly anyone, it seems, took notice, not even in August 2016, when he punched a nun in the stomach in front of more than a thousand students gathered at Lerab Ling to hear him preach. Previously, in 2015, the President of Rigpa France, Olivier Raurich, had resigned. As he explained in an interview to the French magazine Marianne, “[he] had come for teachings on humility, love, truth, and trust, and [he] found [him]self in a quasi-Stalinist environment and permanent double-talk” (Brown, 2017).

Furthermore, in September 2016, the French anthropologist Marion Dapsance had published a book entitled Les Dévots du bouddhisme [The Devotees of Buddhism], in which she denounced abusive behavior that she had witnessed personally during 2 years spent at Lerab Ling. Several scholars of Buddhism in France dismissed her study, which stirred intense controversy among French Buddhists (Lesegretain, Jan. 30, 2017).

It was only in July 2017, when a group of eight current and former followers wrote a letter to Sogyal accusing him of sexual, financial, and other abuses, and sent a copy of this letter to the Dalai Lama, that Sogyal had to resign from the position of spiritual leader, although he did not admit to the truth of any of the allegations. This letter obliged the distinguished French Buddhist monk and neuroscientist Matthieu Ricard to take a position on the matter, judging the comportment of Sogyal to be “inadmissible” (Ricard, 2017), while the Buddhist Union of France decided to exclude Rigpa. Daniel Sisco, President of the Association des Familles et Individus Victimes de Sectes [Association of Families and Individuals Victims of Cults], ADFI Paris IDF, pointed out how challenging it can be “to assemble proofs in the domain of psychological domination ... because it is the word of one person against another[,] ... but this can change when five or ten people say the same thing about an individual” (Evenou, 2017). In 2016, ADFI Paris IDF recorded 18 cases of abuse in the French Buddhist community (Evenou, 2017).

Meanwhile, after an initial application dating back to March 20, 2006, Buddhism is about to become recognized in Belgium, not as a religion but as a nondenominational philosophical organization, according to the second paragraph of Article 181 of the 1830 Belgian Constitution, which already recognizes laicity as a nondenominational philosophy. Article 181 also recognizes six religions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam. Conversations between the Minister of Justice Koen Geen and representatives of the Buddhist Union of Belgium (Union bouddhique belge, or UBB) suggest that the official recognition of Buddhism should occur before the end of the current legislature, in May 2019. With more than 100,000 practitioners and 28 UBB associations, Buddhism makes up an important community in Belgium, albeit a nonreligious one, as UBB’s president Carlo Luycks has clarified (Lesegretain, Apr. 25, 2017).

Once Buddhism is recognized, Union delegates such as monks and lamas will receive state salaries and will serve in prisons and hospitals, while courses on Buddhism will be taught in state schools, among other privileges that result from official recognition. It should be noted that, in funding religions and nondenominational organizations, the state also aims to control their activities and to prevent less transparent sources of funding.

Cults in France

Following the 1995 collective murder-suicide of the Order of the Solar Temple, the French government began to crack down on cults and, in June 2001, it promulgated the controversial About-Picard Law—updated January 2017—which allows for the ban of religious groups that "infringe upon human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Legifrance, 2017). In the past few years, however, it seems that the government has let down its guard: “French sects have continued to expand, with more than 600 groups active today compared with just 200 in the mid-1990s,” and “According to the latest report from the government’s cult-tracking agency, sectarian activity jumped from 954 incidents in the first half of 2015 to 1,266 in the first half of 2016” (Nugent, 2017). Didier Pachoud, president of GEMPPI (the Group for the Study of Thought Movements and Protection of the Individual), observes that smaller groups, such as holistic-healing or meditation groups, now tend to replace large groups and thus more easily elude identification and tracking (Nugent, 2017). Laure Telo, president of the CCMM (Center against Mental Manipulations), concurs, expressing her preoccupation with the rapid development of alternative medical treatments. On October 14, during its annual convention, the CCMM noted that patients increasingly turn to alternative medical treatments, which may be “entryways to [cultic] abuses” or “charlatanism” (CCMM, 2017). The CCMM also estimates that 40 percent of the French population has recourse to alternative medicine, among whom a great number are cancer patients.

The increase of smaller cultic groups might explain why MIVILUDES (the Interministerial Mission to Monitor and Combat Cultic Abuses) has remained largely silent since its last report in 2015, although between 2,500 and 3,000 cases per year were brought to the group’s attention (Mascret, 2017). Regarding major cults, on November 8, 2017, the Council of State approved the refusal by the National School of Magistrates to communicate to the Church of Scientology Celebrity Center (ASES-CC) the names of participants registered in its training sessions on cultic abuses. The Council explained that communicating these names to the ASES-CC could jeopardize both public security and the security of individuals. The ASES-CC wanted to use documents with these names to call into question the impartiality of magistrates who had participated in these training sessions and who had ruled on matters pertaining to the church (Legalis, 2017).

Jehovah’s Witnesses

April 19, 2017, marked the release in France of a Franco-Italian feature film that recounts the evolution of a Jehovah’s Witness after she discovers love for a man outside her community. Director Marco Danieli’s debut, La Ragazza del mondo [Worldly Girl], or in France, L’Affranchie [The Emancipated Woman], won the Lizzani Award at the 2016 Venice Film Festival. Basing his plot on the experiences of a friend, Danieli takes the viewer deep inside the stark world of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The film made an impression because this religious movement is not well known in France (Racque, 2017), although it was granted legal status in 1906 and officially counts more than 100,000 thousand followers in the country (jw.org).

MIVILUDES has not categorized Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult, although it closely watches the group’s activities, having received notifications from former members about abuses. Serge Blisko, President of MIVILUDES, asserts that, “In several respects, one may almost see them as a classical Christian religious minority” (Racque, 2017). French critics almost unanimously recognized the film’s balanced treatment of its subject matter and its avoidance of binary clichés. In the director’s words, “We discovered a very cohesive and organised community, they’re very determined.... We tried to be objective and realistic in portraying that world, we tried to make all the characters three-dimensional because they all have a dark side to them, including the protagonist” (Danieli, 2016).
Mormonism

On April 7, 2017, former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann attended the inauguration of the first temple in France of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Located in Le Chesnay, next to Versailles, this temple opened its doors to visitors for guided tours until its consecration on May 21, when it became exclusively a place of worship for Mormons. The presence of Mormons in France dates to 1849 (RFI, 2017), and the first French Mormon temple was founded in Tahiti, French Polynesia, in 1983.

Although there are already 110 Mormon churches in France, none of them may serve the sacraments of baptism, sealing—as marriage is called, or ordinances for salvation on behalf of deceased persons. Until now, Mormons in metropolitan France who wished to participate in such ceremonies had to travel to Bern, Switzerland, where a temple was dedicated in 1955. Today, Mormons claim 38,000 followers in metropolitan France and 22,000 in overseas departments, figures based on the number of baptisms (Laffargue, 2017). According to Bernadette Rigal-Cellard, professor of American Studies at the University of Bordeaux Montaigne and author of the 2012 book La Religion des Mormons [The Religion of the Mormons], it is more accurate to count approximately 20,000 practitioners in all French locations (Laffargue, 2017). The mayor of Le Chesnay, Philippe Brillaut, estimates that the new temple and its annexes cost 80 million Euros to build (Laffargue, 2017).

Though sometimes alleged to be a cult (Hassan, 2016), Mormonism is not considered as such by the French watchdog agency MIVILUDES (Segalas, 2017). What seems certain is that the existence of this new temple will serve to advance Mormonism as an institution in France.
Raëlism

On October 15, 2016, a hybrid fiction and documentary film was released in France that dramatizes the activities of Raëlians in their annual summer retreat in Croatia. Through the adventures of two French female protagonists who participate in this retreat, Bonheur académie [Happiness Academy], by Kaori Kinoshita and Alain Della Negra, also conveys the teachings of Claude Vorilhon, who calls himself Raël. Now 71 years old, Raël believes that a race of extraterrestrials called the Elohim, some of whom he alleges to have met in 1973, created life on Earth using cloning technology, with the final creation being humans.

Founded in 1974, and with its seat in Geneva, Switzerland, Raëlism claims to have more than 85,000 followers worldwide (rael.org), although the number of active followers may be closer to 2,000 (Bilodeau, 2017). Distinct from religious cults, Raëlism is atheistic and denies the existence of the soul. Its attraction lies in its promotion of peace, the progress of humanity, gender equality, sensuality, and sexual liberation—on August 26, 2017, women in Geneva celebrated the tenth international day “Go Topless,” which was initiated by Raëlism. In France the association dissolved itself on September 13, 2003, believing it was a victim of harassment by the government and various organizations.

In 1995, a commission of inquiry on cults had issued a report through the National Assembly that categorized the movement as a cult, particularly for its financial abuses. This categorization explains why its retreats—referred to as the Happiness Academy—take place in locations outside rance, such as Croatia, which is featured in the film Bonheur Académie. As though to show that the film does not endorse Raëlism, UniFrance—an organization for promoting French films outside France, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States supported the film’s release at the 2017 New Directors/New Films festival in New York, March 15–26.

Veganism and Antispeciesism

The launch in November 2017 of a Loving Hut restaurant in the heart of Paris, at 92 Boulevard Beaumarchais, close to Le Marais neighborhood, seems to have reopened a discussion about veganism as a cult (Hamet, 2017). The Loving Hut chain, founded in 2009 by a Vietnamese-born woman, “Supreme Master Ching Hai,” whom many perceive to be a cult leader, serves in part to finance the operations of Ching Hai’s international businesses. However, if Ching Hai promotes the vegan lifestyle, it does not necessarily follow that most vegans are cultic. And although veganism may be spreading in France, as evidenced by an increasing number of blogs and book publications, there is little in this movement that links it to cults. When the lifestyle is embraced for ethical reasons, veganism may appear to be a “religion of substitution,” as the German Protestant theologian Mai Funkschmidt argues (Roth, 2017), or it may even appear to be a religion, as Professor of Law and Ethics Lisa Johnson asserts (Johnson, 2015); but does this mean that it is a cult?

If veganism does include cultic characteristics, such as being a group that, in Michael Langone’s words, “considers itself to be an elite,” where “dissenting members are always wrong,” it is also the case that a cult is characterized as “a group or relationship [that] seems to enforce an exploitive compliance through subterfuge” (Langone, 2017). In addition, a cult typically shows one or more of the following behaviors: “psychological manipulation, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse, brainwashing, [and/or] mind control” (Langone, 2015). This cannot be said of ethical veganism, which is closely connected to antispeciesism as a philosophical outlook, in distinction to a religion. François Jaquet, researcher at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, states that “the philosophical beliefs [in antispeciesism]—for instance that the welfare of animals is as important as that of humans—do not proceed from faith because they are sustained by arguments” (Roth, 2017). For the historian of religions Jean-François Mayer, despite absolute imperatives, antispeciesism cannot be linked to religion because it has neither rites of passage, nor an explanation of the origin and destiny of the universe, nor a link to transcendence (Roth, 2017).
Jehovah’s Witnesses (Quebec)

The case of Éloïse Dupuis, who died in October 2016 from complications after giving birth to her son because she refused blood transfusions (see ICSA Today v. 8, no. 2), has continued to stimulate strong debates. Quebec law states that an adult who is sound in mind, conscious, and well-informed may accept or refuse a medical treatment. The patient’s decision must be “free and enlightened” (Bureau du coroner, 2017). According to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, everyone has the basic rights to freedom of conscience and religion. On November 14, 2017, Luc Malouin, the adjunct coroner in chief who investigated this case, announced his much-awaited report on Dupuis’ death: In five instances, he said, she refused blood transfusions with full awareness of the possible consequences. Far from setting this case to rest, the coroner’s report has rekindled some people’s determination to denounce as an aberration the Jehovah’s Witnesses rules in such cases. Michel Morin, a lawyer who is keenly interested in the religious movement and in Éloïse Dupuis’ death, is preparing a book on the subject. He declared that, “Free and enlightened consent is a consent without constraints, threat, or pressure. I don’t believe it. She was born in a Jehovah family. All her life, she was told that it was against Jehovah’s will to receive blood transfusions” (Agence QMI, 2017). The constitutionalist lawyer Guy Bertrand expressed his shock that the medical authorities did not rush to the courts:

The rights of the child should have been defended equally before the court. The child has the right to security, which includes the security of his mother, the security of a life system in which his mother plays an important role. (Boutros, 2017)

A former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Kristy Cuevas, whose life was saved by a blood transfusion, confirmed that “You really are going to lose your friends, your family, your community if you make that choice.... Which is another reason why it's really coercive. ... Where does religious freedom begin and the right to live end?” (Laframboise, 2017). In an editorial for the daily newspaper Le Soleil, Pierre Asselin blamed the Jehovah’s Witnesses for Dupuis’ death and highlighted a paradox in Quebec:

While we tear our shirts over state employees wearing a scarf in the name of religious neutrality, a religious group can prevent doctors from making the gestures that could prevent a death that is as avoidable as it is useless. This is absurd and aberrant. (Asselin, 2017)

The coroner’s report has also provoked a request from the deputy of the opposition, Agnès Maltais, that the Committee on Institutions study the indoctrination methods of structured cults and their impacts on members of these cults (Bussières, 2017). As for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec, they declared they were grateful for the coroner’s report (Boutros, 2017).
References

Agence QMI (2017, November 15). “Le consentement d’un témoin de Jéhovah de longue date n’est pas éclairé,” selon un avocat. Journal de Montréal. Retrieved from journaldemontreal.com/2017/11/15/le-consentement-dun-temoin-de-jehovah-de-longue-date-nest-pas-eclaire-selon-un-avocat-1

Asselin, P. (2017, November 15). Témoins de Jéhovah: le crime parfait. Le Soleil. Retrieved from lesoleil.com/opinions/temoins-de-jehovah-le-crime-parfait-9bf8343be454c589dd668f0a6480b09b

Bilodeau, M. (2017, July 29). Les Raéliens se réunissent en Beauce. Beauce Média. Retrieved from beaucemedia.ca/actualites/2017/7/29/les-raeliens-se-reunissent-en-beauce.html

Boutros, M. (2017, November 15). Transfusions sanguines chez les Témoins de Jéhovah: un coroner appuie le libre choix. Le Devoir. Retrieved from ledevoir.com/societe/actualites-en-societe/512936/transfusions-sanguines-la-liberte-de-choix-des-temoins-de-jehovah-a-ete-respectee-selon-un-coroner

Brown, M. (2017, September 21). Sexual assaults and violent rages... inside the dark world of Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. The Telegraph. Retrieved from telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/sexual-assaults-violent-rages-inside-dark-world-buddhist-teacher

Bureau du coroner (2017, November 14). Décès de Mmes Mirlande Cadet et Éloïse Dupuis - Dépôt des rapports du coroner. Newswire.ca. Retrieved from newswire.ca/fr/news-releases/deces-de-mmes-mirlande-cadet-et-eloise-dupuis---depot-des-rapports-du-coroner-657429563.html

Bussières, I. (2017, November 24). Endoctrinement des sectes: Mailtais veut une commission parlementaire. Le Soleil. Retrieved from lesoleil.com/actualite/endoctrinement-des-sectes-maltais-veut-une-commission-parlementaire-b31f81f04836e15f62f17bbbc6d522c2

CCMM (2017, October 12). Les dérives liées aux médecines alternatives alarment les organisations anti-sectes. AFP. Retrieved from ccmm.asso.fr/derives-liees-aux-medecines-alternatives-alarment-organisations-anti-sectes

Dalai Lama (2017, August 1). Dalai Lama comments on Sogyal Rinpoche at inauguration of seminar Buddhism in Ladakh. Retrieved from youtube.com/watch?v=0wP4rsM7AZQ

Danieli, M. (2016). Interview. Cineuropa. Retrieved from cineuropa.org/vd.aspx?t=video&l=en&did=315162

Dapsance, M. (2016). Les Dévots du bouddhisme. Paris, France: Max Milo.

Evenou, D. (2017, August 28). Le Scandale qui secoue la communauté bouddhiste tibétaine. France Inter. Retrieved from franceinter.fr/emissions/le-zoom-de-la-redaction/le-zoom-de-la-redaction-28-aout-2017

Hamet, C. (2017, November). Dans le restaurant vegan des adeptes d’une secte chinoise à Paris. Ulyces. Retrieved from ulyces.co/camille-hamet/dans-le-restaurant-vegan-des-adeptes-dune-secte-chinoise-a-paris

Hassan, S. (2016, April 9). An expert responds to the cult controversy re: Mormonism. Freedom of Mind Resource Center. Retrieved from freedomofmind.com/an-expert-responds-to-the-cult-controversy-re-mormonism/

Johnson L. (2015). The religion of ethical veganism. Journal of Animal Ethics, 5(1), 31–68.

Laffargue, A. (2017, April 7). Les Mormons français se montrent au grand jour. Le Monde. Retrieved from lemonde.fr/religions/article/2017/04/07/les-mormons-francais-se-montrent-au-grand-jour_5107957_1653130.html

Laframboise, K. (2015, November 15). Former Jehovah’s Witness says blood transfusion after childbirth saved her life. CBC News. Retrieved from cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/jehovah-witness-blood-transfusion-woman-speaks-out-1.4404193

Langone, M. (2015). The definitional ambiguity of cult and ICSA’s mission. ICSA Today, 6(3), 6–7.

Langone, M. (2017). Introduction. Cult recovery: A clinician’s guide to working with former members and families. L. Goldberg, W. Goldberg, R. Henry, & M. Langone (Eds.), xv–xxv. Bonita Springs, FL: International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).

Legalis (2017, November 22). La Scientologie n’obtient pas les noms des participants aux formations de l’ENM sur les sectes. Legalis.net. Retrieved from legalis.net/actualite/la-scientologie-nobtient-pas-les-noms-des-participants-aux-formations-de-lenm-sur-les-sectes

Legifrance (2017, January 27). Loi n° 2001-504 du 12 juin 2001 tendant à renforcer la prévention et la répression des mouvements sectaires portant atteinte aux droits de l'homme et aux libertés fondamentales. Legifrance. Retrieved from legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000589924

Lesegretain, C. (2017, January 30). Polémique autour d’un livre hostile au bouddhisme tibétain. La Croix. Retrieved from la-croix.com/Religion/France/Polemique-autour-livre-hostile-bouddhisme-tibetain-2017-01-30-1200821119

Lesegretain, C. (2017, April 25). Le Bouddhisme, une “philosophie non confessionnelle” ou une religion? La Croix. Retrieved from la-croix.com/Religion/Bouddhisme/Le-bouddhisme-une-philosophie-non-confessionnelle-ou-une-religion-2017-04-25-1200842299

Mascret, D. (2017, October 19). Alerte aux escrocs de la médecine. Le Figaro. Retrieved from sante.lefigaro.fr/article/alerte-aux-escrocs-de-la-medecine/

Nugent, A. (2017, August 17). Cults are making a comeback in France—Why? OZY.com. Retrieved from ozy.com/fast-forward/cults-are-making-a-comeback-in-france-why/79756

Racque, E. (2017, April 18). Que croient les Témoins de Jéhovah? La Croix. Retrieved from la-croix.com/Religion/Que-croient-Temoins-Jehovah-2017-04-18-1200840404

Radio France Internationale (RFI). (2017, April 23). France: un temple Mormon ouvre ses portes en region Parisienne. Retrieved from rfi.fr/france/20170423-france-premier-temple-mormon-paris-chesnay

Ricard, M. (2017, July 29). Point de vue. Blog. Retrieved from matthieuricard.org/blog/posts/point-de-vue

Rigal-Cellard, B. (2017). La Religion des mormons. Paris: Albin Michel.

Roth, G. (2017, August 31). Antispécisme: vouloir l’égalité entre homme et animal, une démarche religieuse? cath.ch. Retrieved from cath.ch/newsf/antispecisme-vouloir-legalite-entre-homme-animal-demarche-religieuse

Segalas, E. (2017, April 25). Les Mormons inaugurent leur premier temple en France. Le Monde des religions. Retrieved from lemondedesreligions.fr/une/les-mormons-inaugurent-leur-premier-temple-en-france-25-04-2017-6241_115.php

Report From

Germany

Friedrich Griess

Reichsbürger

The Reichsbürger phenomenon is very similar to the Freemen in the Anglican world. The Reichsbürger do not recognize the Republic of Germany, which they call a “company,” and they claim that their valid state would be the German Empire from 1937 (under Hitler, and with parts that today belong to Poland). A brochure has been published that analyzes the ideas of the Reichsbürger and suggests how to confront their ideas.

The increasing activity and number of the Reichsbürger is causing problems for the authorities. There are more members of the group than was known before now: The estimated number as of September 30, 2017, is 15,000, of whom 900 are on the extreme right, and 1,000 own weapons. A special figure in this connection is Peter Fitzek, in Wittenberg, who calls himself the “King of Germany,” now jailed for illegal banking. His property has been raided by the police.

A television documentary shows some similarity of ideas of “green esotericism” and the philosophy of the Reichsbürger.

Waldorf

Waldorf Steiner Schools have a problem that arises from their being attractive to far-right-minded parents, especially the Reichsbürger, or Reich Citizens, who seem to see a similarity between their ideas and those of Rudolf Steiner.

Germanic New Medicine

The inventor of the Germanic New Medicine, Ryke Geerd Hamer, died on July 2, 2017, at the age of 82 in Sandefjord (Norway), where he had taken refuge to escape prosecution in various countries. Trusting his theories caused the death of many people who abandoned conventional medicine.

Colonia Dignidad

Hartmut Hopp, previously a medical doctor in the Colonia Dignidad, a German criminal sectarian compound in Chile during the regime of Pinochet, is to be jailed in Germany.

Buddhism

The Diamond Path of Lama Ole Nydahl is drawing criticism for the leader’s lifestyle, including his claims of having had sex with 500 women.

Bhakti Marga

This movement, led by Guru Vishwananda from Mauritius, who has followers in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Poland, Latvia, and the Czech Republic, and who claims to be advancing in Slovenia, is trying to expand its property in Springern (Germany) and to have a higher tower than the nearby Christian church. The guru obviously does not meet his own spiritual and moral standards; for example, he seemingly did not read the scriptures of recognized Buddhist leaders, and although he originally prescribed celibacy to his pupils, he has same-sex relations with some of them.

Report From

Poland

Piotr T. Nowakowski

On November 18, 2017, a meeting with Mariette Lindstein, a Swedish writer, was organized in the Warsaw bookshop Świat Książki (“The World of the Book”). The meeting dealt with threats from cults. After 25 years of Mariette’s adherence to the Church of Scientology, she escaped from the organization, simulating mental illness. It is said that she was responsible for recruiting Tom Cruise to the cult. She has described her experiences in a bone-chilling trilogy about her life in the cult. The first two volumes of Lindstein’s trilogy have just been translated into Polish as Sekta z wyspy mgieł (A Cult From the Isle of Fogs) and Sekta powraca (The Cult Returns). The translator was Urszula Pacanowska Skogqvist.

Report From

Slovakia

Piotr T. Nowakowski

On September 24, 2017, the Slovakian website interez.sk focused on the problem of cults in this country, publishing an article titled “Sekty máme aj na Slovensku. Prečo majú neustále nových členov?” (“We Also Have Cults in Slovakia. Why Do They Constantly Gain New Members?”). The author added in the subtitle, “They’ll find you a partner but they may lead you to a suicide. These are cults in whom thousands of people believe in Slovakia.” The number may be exaggerated, but cults or new religious movements in Slovakia are not a myth. The examples given in the article are the followers of the Unification Church, who became active in Slovakia just after 1989. There are also more than 17 thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses in this country of 5.5 million people. Another organization is the Mormons, who appeared there in 2006. The author of the article writes that there is only a thin line between cult and religion. You can easily run from one to the other. We read in the article that

A cult does not violate anything in our laws. It is simply a religious community that is separated from the official Church. These are closed groups that, in most cases, reject outside cooperation and only devote themselves to their community. … Strong authority is gained by the leader – a charismatic personality, proclaiming salvation or protection of lost souls. To what extent his conduct is moral, it is questionable. (interez, n.d., para. 1)

There are very few cult awareness centers in Slovakia. The association Integra, which operates in Banská Bystrica, is the only one mentioned. The association’s representatives estimate that there are 25 to 40 communities in Slovakia that they call destructive.

Reference

Interez. (n.d.). We also have cults in Slovakia. Why do they constantly gain new members?” Retrieved online at https://www.interez.sk/sekty-na-slovensku/

Report From

Spain and Latin America

Luis Santamaria

Translated by John Paul Lennon

Groups of Christian Origin

In September, a judge in Asunción (Paraguay) authorized the lawyers of the Hospital de Clínicas to use blood transfusions for a woman suffering from serious anemia due to cysts in her ovaries; she was refusing the transfusions because she is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The hospital director stated that “the constitution guarantees right to life” above and beyond her beliefs.

A court in the Dominican Republic allowed a clinic to order a blood transfusion for a 2-week-old baby whose parents, members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were refusing that treatment. According to the country´s laws, the judge considered the transfusion necessary to protect the baby’s life.

Groups of Asian Origin

Guru Swami Jyothirmayah, close collaborator of “His Holiness” Sri Ravi Shankar, leader of The Art of Living Foundation, was in Spain in September, where he took part in a personal-growth festival in Marbella (Málaga); he was also at a conference organized by a Catholic school in Madrid.

Church of Scientology

In August, the Church of Scientology presented a request to the General Directorate of Religious Associations of Mexico to become a legal religious association. To this end, the Church handed in its statutes that state its aim is to “seek the religious freedom and salvation of its members by means of amplifying the individual’s spiritual conscience”; the Church also provided proof that this request is widely accepted among the populace.

Esoteric Groups and Afro-American Cults

Last July, a pregnant 26-year-old woman, Fernanda Pereyra, was murdered in Rincón de los Sauces (Neuquén, Argentina), and her corpse was burned during a ritual. Three suspects who are involved in drug trafficking and who practice Satanic and Afro-American rites were accused of the crime. Investigators point to the sacrificial cult of Santa Muerte (“Holy Death”), an Argentine version of the Mexican Santa Muerte, and to the worship of Destranca Rua, a Quimbanda cult.

In the month of August, the Argentine lawyer Héctor W. Navarro lodged a complaint in Madrid against the Peruvian citizen Felix Steven Manrique on the grounds of falsifying a public document, usurping titles and honors, and making aggravated threats. Manrique is the leader of a small Gnostic sect founded by himself in Lima, Peru, in which he calls himself “Prince Gurdjieff”; he is guilty of having kidnapped a young 18-year-old Spanish woman through the Internet who fled her home to join the Prince. On the Internet, Manrique has published a multitude of falsified documents, in one of which he proclaims himself successor to the Spanish throne.

At the beginning of September, Lima (Peru) city authorities searched a few esoteric centers and found medications not suitable for human consumption that are used by warlocks to “return sexual prowess” to clients. They also found two human hearts in a freezer.

A 19-year-old woman was murdered in an Umbanda temple in Billinghurst (Buenos Aires, Argentina) in September of this year. A pai (Umbandan priest) was detained together with other accused. The victim was found inside the temple with a knife sticking in her neck.

Chilean media have reported on the disappearance of Natalia Guerra, a member of the sect led by Antares de la Luz: Guerra stands accused of parricide (murder of a parent or other close family member) and has not been incarcerated yet. In November 2012, Guerra had given birth to a child fathered by the group leader, and the group sacrificed the infant a few days after birth because the end of the world was drawing near.
New Age, Shamanism, and Pseudotherapies

Spanish psychologist Enric Corbera, founder and leader of Bioneuroemoción (a pseudotherapy that garners three million Euro a year) has brought a lawsuit against the national platform for sect prevention, RedUne, and one of its spokespersons, Emilio Molina, for the association’s information and prevention work, and particularly for a dossier the organization put together and published on the Internet about Bioneuroemoción. Corbera describes RedUne’s actions and dossier as “a campaign of slander and defamation.”

In Ecuador, a Shaman of the Tsáchila indigenous people has been accused of an alleged sexual assault on a young female tourist who was participating in a healing ritual that included drinking ayahuasca (a vegetable hallucinogenic substance). The center where the alleged aggression took place has been closed until the events are investigated and clarified.

A court in France has convicted the owners of a tourist center in Peru of voluntary homicide. In 2011, a 43-year-old French woman was found dead in the center after consuming ayahuasca in a Shamanic ceremony. The trial was carried out in the absence of the accused.