Human Rights Track Details


Cults and public policy: a comparison of regulatory frameworks and national models for protecting the victims of cultic abuse
Stephen Mutch PhD, LLB (UNSW)

This paper looks at various national models for the protection of victims of cultic abuse. It examines how those responses might be grouped according to regulatory frameworks consistent with broader philosophical approaches to the relationship between cults, religion, and the state. It compares and contrasts the efficacy of various models and explores what philosophical approach and resulting regulatory framework seems best equipped to protect the victims of cultic abuse.

Discussion: a series of dialogues with new religious movements
MIchael Kropveld, Moderator; Eileen Barker, Anuttama Dasa, Martin Gurvich, Brigitte Knobel, Julie Montandon

The presenters and several colleagues have participated in structured one-day dialogues with select new religious movements (NRMs) over the past few years. Each discussion focused on a specific theme, e.g., taking care of older group members in their retirement years. This presentation will discuss the content of these dialogues and the implications of the process for bringing about positive changes in NRMs.

Empirical research on social influence: what it says (and doesn’t say) about legal claims of cultic persuasion
Linda Demaine

This talk is based on a chapter I’m co-authoring with Dr. Robert Cialdini for the forthcoming Oxford University Press Handbook on Social Influence. The chapter offers the first conceptualization of “social influence and the law” and discusses the main topics that psychologists and others have empirically investigated within this realm. We suggest that there are three main areas of social influence and the law: (1) social influence in the legal system, (2) the legal regulation of social influence in everyday life, and (3) law as an instrument of social influence. This categorization facilitates a view of where researchers have directed their investigations. The vast majority of studies fall into the first category. These studies address instances in which legal actors—attorneys, judges, jurors, and legislators, for example—exert influence and are the subjects of influence. The studies uncover important factors that drive and, at times, derail legal decisions at key junctures in the legal process. To date, the primary subjects of psychological research in the second category are the law of deceptive advertising and, at a more macro level, our tendency to experience reactance when the government attempts to regulate in this area. Research in the third category also is relatively scarce, with the exception of one issue—obedience to the law. This conceptualization and research review is relevant to legal claims of cultic persuasion insofar as it underscores the general vulnerability of different categories of individuals to different social influences in different contexts. More importantly, the conceptualization and literature review highlight the lack of research directly on topics relevant to legal claims of cultic persuasion, which would fall into the second category. Without a well-developed research base to substantiate these claims, it is easier for the legal community to continue to view them with skepticism and readily dismiss them.

ISKCON and Abuse: From Confrontation and Denial to Dialogue and Reform
Anuttama Dasa; Martin Gurvich

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has been at the forefront of cult controversies since it first appeared in the western world in 1966. Known for an exotic culture, attracting young converts, overzealous proselytizing, and the abuse of power by some of its early leaders, ISKCON has attracted both well-warranted criticism and undue misrepresentation and discrimination. This session will provide an overview of abuse within and by ISKCON—child abuse, discrimination against women and families, power abuses of leaders—as well the misrepresentation and persecution of ISKCON by some governments, media, and social organizations. Abuse by religious communities, and against religious communities, are both harmful and need to be understood and overcome. One way that can be achieved, as demonstrated by the ongoing dialogue between ISKCON and ICSA, is through open communication, honest self-reflection, and an ongoing commitment to reform.

Mental manipulation and mind control in some decisions of the European Court
Willy Fautre

The paper will address the way the European Court has covered the issues of mental manipulation or mind control explicitly or implicitly in three cases: Kokkinakis v. Greece (1993), Leela Förderkreis and Others v. Germany (2008) and Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia (2010). The paper will focus on the arguments used by the plaintiffs against the religious movements involved in judicial proceedings before domestic courts, and the paper will analyse the latter’s decisions at various levels.

Overview: how the social context can lead to violations of human rights
Raffaella Di Marzio

The aim of this panel is to show how press reports and popular prejudices can violate the human rights of former and current NRM members and their children. The panel will show how media accounts that reflect popular prejudices can abuse and discriminate against current and former members. Such media presentations may reinforce popular prejudices, thereby creating a vicious circle. My presentation will provide an introduction to and overview of these issues.

One of the most common popular prejudices, which is often reinforced by the media, is the tendency to judge people on the basis of their group identities, rather than as individuals. This can constitute an abuse of individual dignity because, for example, a current or former cultic group member is deemed to be a completely unreliable source because of the group with which he is affiliated, even though there may be much variation of opinion within groups and valid claims made by members of different groups. When people are treated as group stereotypes rather than individuals, many problems can arise, e.g., difficulty in finding or keeping a job, unnecessary strains in family or romantic relationships, ridicule or isolation of children at school, antagonism by neighbors. Moreover, stereotyping people can easily lead to objectification and demonization, which in turn can lead to hurting behaviors that abusers would never consider inflicting upon those whom they see as individual “persons.”

Abuse that results from stereotypes may constitute a violation of the spirit, if not sometimes the letter, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 7, which begins: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” Treating all former cultic group members as “unreliable sources” because they are presumed to be merely “disgruntled” or treating all current cultic group members as “unreliable sources” because they are presumed to be “brainwashed” constitutes a form of discrimination, because the individuals in question are not treated as human beings worthy of respect and individualized attention.

One of the most serious violations of human rights that may result from the objectification and demonization of one’s opponents is the suppression of free speech. Attempts to suppress free speech have been observed in a variety of settings: cultic groups against their critics, cult critics against cultic groups, and even cult critics against other critics. Speech is endangered whenever one party believes that legal pressure, harassment, or coercion is an acceptable way of relating to somebody with whom one disagrees.

I will illustrate some of these points by discussing my experiences during the past 18 years, including my providing help and consultation to worried families, former cultic group members, journalists, law enforcement authorities, and current members of controversial religious and spiritual movements. I will describe the suffering I have witnessed in current as well as former members.

Paul R. Martin Lecture: Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give: a happy childhood
Lois Kendall, PhD

The violation of rights in the field of sects, cults, and NRMs is too common. Cults, sects, and NRM’s hold vehemently to and shout about their right to freedom of belief, and rightly so; freedom of belief and conscience is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an inalienable right. However, these groups have individual members who also have rights. Each and every adult in the group has rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Some members of sects have their rights violated and/or are harmed as a result of their sect membership, and some are very distressed. Clinicians, such as the late Dr Paul Martin, have been speaking about the harm and distress occurring as a result of cult membership for decades. Harm has also been documented through research studies, such as those based on data collected at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, which was founded by Dr. Martin. This paper will address the distinctions and correlation among rights, harm, and distress. Further, each and every child in a sect, NRM, or cult has rights. The rights of children do not constitute an add-on; rather, they should be afforded special and extra protection by the state. Given children's special need for protection, care, and assistance, the paper will pay special attention to the rights of children in nonmainstream religious groups. The title for this paper has been taken from the preamble to the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959). The presentation will conclude with a poem entitled, "Children’s Rights Charter."

Physical and psychological implications of cultural indoctrination in a high-demand environment: The life-world of the Xhosa boy in South Africa
Rienie Venter, PhD

The white painted faces of the Xhosa initiates on the cover of tourist magazines are evident of adolescents who are undergoing an age old custom to gain the status of manhood in their society. Although the custom is a deep-seated tradition of the amaXhosa, the reality is different. Circumcision related complications such as sepsis, ischaemia (starvation of blood supply), gangrene, and dehydration regularly occur due to neglect by guardians. More than 230 Xhosa boys have died in failed circumcisions in the Eastern Cape in the past four years and since 2006 more than 150 had to have their penises amputated.

The following questions will be addressed: Why do the boys and their families choose the route of traditional circumcision and risk their lives, instead of undergoing circumcision in hospital? Why do some steal money and run away from their homes to join an initiation school? Why do fathers and guardians at the schools refuse to seek medical attention and why do they wait until it is often too late for a boy who has developed medical complications? Why are women (mothers) not involved or even informed, even when their son’s life may be in danger?

To answer these questions one has to understand the religious and cultural value system of Xhosa speakers and the importance to attain the sought after status of manhood. By comparing the eight elements of thought reform according to Lifton, I will explain the high-demand environment of the Xhosa boy and the ideologies, customs, and beliefs with regard to male initiation. It will be argued that there is a false perception of choice as the Xhosa boy’s only choice is between possible physical harm and betraying his culture.

RAN DERAD: a European First-line deradicalisation interventions”
Robert Orell

This session will present the work of the RAN-DERAD working group within the RAN - Radicalisation Awareness Network - of the EU Commission. RAN aims to gather first-line practitioners within the EU with the focus to collect best practice, methods, and interventions on how to engage and intervene with extremists and motivate disengagement. The session will explore key principals in practice interventions, the role of civil society, and statutory practitioners, the relational aspect in disengagement work and how it be can developed further. The talk will also examine the challenges in southern and eastern EU compared to the north-west.

Religious liberty and new religious movements: the Italian experience and the Observatory of Religious Liberty
Massimo Introvigne

While the Observatory of Religious Liberty was created in 2012 in Italy in order to monitor religious discrimination and persecution primarily outside of the country, with a focus on Africa and Asia, it has also promoted initiatives on domestic matters. Its action is based on the belief that there is an Italian model of religious liberty, whose study can benefit developing countries that have a situation comparable to Italy, i.e., where one religion is supported by a large majority of the population, yet there are also significant and growing minorities. One pillar of the Italian system are the Constitutional provisions concerning the Concordat with the Catholic Church, whose unique status is recognized, and the “intese”, concordats with other churches and religions. The second pillar is an attitude somewhat more favorable than elsewhere to religious liberty, whose ground has been identified by case law in the decision to avoid any statutory definition of religion, considering this concept as dynamic and evolving. Cases about new religious movements evidence how this notion may lead to a favorable Italian environment for some of them, although limits to religious liberty are also recognized.

Storytelling by terrorism survivors: a counter-narrative for preventing radicalisation
Luca Guglielminetti

It has been increasingly recognized that civil society and the victims of terrorism can play an active and positive role in preventing the radicalization leading to terrorism. What is that role? We know that the foundation of terrorism can be found in various instance of radicalization in different fields (political, religious, ethnic, social) that, through new media, target young people with propaganda messages of hate, violence, intolerance, and despair. The primary role that victims of terrorism can play is to counter the extremist and fundamentalist narrative with their own voices and stories. The stories of victims, survivors, and family members using the same pervasive medium, the Web, can build a “counter-narrative” with alternative values: dialogue, peace and nonviolence. Today several initiatives at the European and International level are trying to develop the methodology of this perspective through two main networks: the Global CounterTerrorism Forum set up by the U.S. Department of State and Radicalisation Awareness Network set up by the EU Commission. This paper will describe three European projects in this area.

The cultic experience in the program of the RAN DERAD of the European Commission
Cristina Caparesi

In 2011 the European Commission has set up EU-wide Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), with the objective of helping the first-line local practitioners to facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practices between them. The first-line deradicalisation looks into all forms of extremism, including religious extremism and gangs. Non-governmental workers are usually more successful than governmental employers because they share the same cultural background of their clients and they can build mutual trust, respect and confidentiality. This paper will discuss common concepts in this field of work, such as undue influence, recruitment and others, and will try to highlight how lessons learned in the cultic experience may be relevant to RAN DERADICALISATION’s goals..

The cultic origins of America’s troubled teen industry: the use of junk science and the misuse of mental health language to manipulate vulnerable parents and harm kids
Philip Elberg, Esq.

The American civil justice system has been the model for the use of tort law by lawyers working for contingent fees seeking financial compensation for the victims of abusive corporate practices and consumer fraud. Yet there has been little successful litigation on behalf of the victims of cultic practices, and there are no lawyers that specialize in such work. The talk will discuss in practical terms the American civil justice system and the approach of American courts to the concepts of undue influence, thought reform, and brainwashing.

The Friuli-Venezia-Giulia Law to Protect Victims of Manipulation: A Balanced Government Intervention
Roberto Asquini

Perceiving and supporting a person’s right for his or her intellectual, psychological, and moral liberty must be an obligation of a public administration to all citizens. To guarantee the absence of “forgotten areas,” where it is truly difficult to support these principles, there is a need for promoting and realizing “positive projects” of support to citizens, to strengthen them against manipulation and control from others.

Unfortunately, these kinds of abuses are always more common in modern societies than many people realize; and they are often manifested in organizations such as so-called cults that exploit individuals and tend to manipulate their will when they are weak.

This model doesn’t intend to intervene in arguments and matters that are not within the competencies of a region; instead, it intends to promote educational and psychological support first, and then legal assistance when people or families ask for an intervention. Such actions will prevent the spread of these forms of abuses by offering assistance to victims of abuse.

The prototype is based upon two concepts:

The promotion and realization of positive projects for supporting citizens against any form of manipulation and control in their relationships through life, thereby preventing or ending the induction of dependency through behaviors and techniques that modify the self-determination of individuals.

The institution of support centers that will operate with the contribution of professional experts with proven experience in their specific fields in the sociological, pedagogical, psychological, and legal areas, who will directly assist citizens and their families in need of such support.

The model consists of seven articles. Article 1 defines the objectives of the law; articles 2, 3, and 4 define the criteria for and the form in which to present the projects of prevention and assistance. Article 5 defines the criteria for direct interventions in educational, psychological, and legal areas for the victims, and the requirements for persons to qualify to receive free psychological and legal assistance. Article 6 responds to the financial norm, and Article 7 defines the terms of application of the norm.


The impact of the media on the members and families of the Arkeon association
Pietro Bono

This paper will report on the adverse experiences of the members and families of the Arkeon movement as a result of media and judicial investigations. I will discuss some of the difficulties encountered by individuals and families that, in varying degrees, have participated in the seminars after accusations were made and disseminated that Arkeon was a “dangerous psycho-cult” with a destructive character. The media war unleashed against this movement and the resulting prejudices in the public at large affected not only people directly interested in Arkeon but also many others who did not attend seminars, such as children, families, friends, work colleagues, and others who had contact with seminar participants. I will describe the difficulty, and often the impossibility, for falsely accused persons and families to demonstrate the inconsistencies or inaccuracies of the charges against them. In other words, I will show how a “monster” constructed out of the media-judicial connection was able to turn upside down, and in some cases destroy, individual lives, families, and careers

The protection of children living in cults: how cults thwart child protection interventions
Gerard Webster, PhD; Jude Butcher, PhD

The pathological psychodynamics of cults expose children to a heightened risk of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, particularly by those who are in positions of power. The group dynamics that operate to increase the potential for child abuse in cults also serve to ensure that abuse and maltreatment continue even after detection. Group strategies of manipulation by cult leaders and their supporters make the task of protecting children more complex and less successful. This paper presents research findings (undertaken with grounded theory methodology) that explore the experience of ex-members of cults who have been abused as children within the cult environment and/or who have observed the manipulative conduct of cults when parents, grandparents, or statutory authorities attempt to protect children from ongoing harm. Through this research, ex-members mobilize their collective voice from their position as victims of abuse to take their place as advocates for the protection of children who continue to be at heightened risk. Recommendations for investigators and child protection specialists emerge from the experience of these ex-members and their families.

Italian Human Rights Sessions

Gli atti persecutori (stalking )da parte dei gruppi para religiosi od all'interno delle sette. Normativa e pratiche investigative
Fabio Pasquariello

Brevi cenni sulla normativa penale afferente gli atti persecutori.
  • profondimento sulle metodiche dei persecutori , con particolare riferimento agli stalker, associati in gruppo, sotto l'egida di un'ideologia, un fanatismo religioso etc ; 
  • il percorso della consapevolezza del perseguitato mediante l'avvicinamento alle istituzioni ( forze di polizia, autorita' giudiziaria, autorita' locali o sanitarie) ) 
  • la prassi di polizia giudiziaria e le tecniche investigative circa l'acquisizione delle prove finalizzate alla qualificazione illecita dei comportamenti eda ll'individuazione dei comportamenti ; 
  • gli elementi fondamentali per la sussistenza del reato.
Il ruolo della Guardia di Finanza nel contrasto alle psico-sette e tassazione dei proventi illeciti
Salvo Salvatore

La Guardia di Finanza, come Forza di Polizia a competenza generale su tutta la materia economica e finanziaria, ha, tra l’altro, lo scopo di vigilare sulla corretta applicazione delle norme che disciplinano le entrate tributarie. Di contro, la funzione di polizia giudiziaria svolta dalla Guardia di Finanza riguarda, in particolar modo, tutte le fattispecie criminose che hanno una prevalente componente finanziaria e/o economica. Infatti, grazie alla sua particolare qualificazione professionale e alle specifiche competenze, il Corpo è il principale referente dell'Autorità Giudiziaria in grado di approfondire le complesse problematiche di diritto societario, tributario e finanziario normalmente connesse a tali reati. In relazione al contrasto alle attività poste in essere psico-sette, ci si è trovati, in pregresse esperienze operative, innanzi a reati di natura sessuale, fiscale e di abuso della professione medica. Il legislatore, con la Legge nr. 537 del 1993 ha disciplinato l’imponibilità, ai fini delle imposte dirette, dei redditi derivanti da fatti, atti che costituiscono illeciti penali, da determinarsi secondo le regole del testo unico delle imposte sui redditi.

La consulenza legale nei Centri di sostegno contro gli abusi dei gruppi coercitivi e la tutela della vittima prevista dal diritto italiano
Teresa Dennetta

La relazione si articolerà in due parti. Nella prima parte verrà spiegata l’attività del consulente legale nei Centri di sostegno contro gli abusi dei gruppi coercitivi. La professionalità dell’avvocato è impiegata per l’ascolto delle richieste di aiuto provenienti da famigliari ed ex-membri di tali gruppi ai quali viene fornito il sostegno utile a fronteggiare la situazione di disagio individuando strategie e tecniche di difesa. La seconda parte sarà un’applicazione pratica delle opportunità offerte dal diritto italiano per la tutela della vittima e della sua famiglia.

La legge regionale del FVG 11/2012 ed il suo iter nel parlamento regionale
Roberto Asquini

Il Consiglio Regionale del Friuli Venezia Giulia ha fatto un buon lavoro in materia di tutela delle persone vittime di abusi psicologici. La proposta di legge che avevo presentato nell’estate del 2010 (firmata anche da alcuni colleghi di centro destra) è stata esaminata dalla commissione competente e ha raccolto anche il consenso del centro sinistra. Nella scorsa estate è diventata la legge 11 del 2012, e ora è definitivamente attuata. La legge è stata scritta ascoltando molti pareri di soggetti esperti del settore, e in particolare dalla dottoressa Cristina Caparesi ci sono state importanti indicazioni. La legge ha tre linee di intervento:
  • Il sostegno a eventi informativi, per far conoscere i termini del problema e permettere ai cittadini di capire un loro eventuale coinvolgimento e attivarsi in termini preventivi per sé e per i propri cari;
  • L’organizzazione di help desk perché gli interessati o persone a loro vicine possano trovare il necessario supporto; 
  • L’erogazione di benefici economici diretti a chi ha bisogno di ulteriore assistenza psicologica o tutela legale per liberarsi da condizioni di abuso psicologico o economic
Per l’attuazione della legge la Regione ha messo a disposizione sufficienti risorse economiche e può intervenire anche in modo coordinato con i sistemi pubblici di assistenza. Fondamentale sarà il ruolo di associazioni senza fini di lucro per l’organizzazione sia degli eventi informativi sia degli help desk.

La testimonianza delle vittime del terrorismo nella prevenzione della radicalizzazione: progetti ed ipotesi di lavoro
Luca Guglielminetti

Viene sempre più riconosciuto che la società civile e le vittime del terrorismo possono avere un ruolo attivo e positivo nella prevenzione della radicalizzazione che porta al terrorismo. Qual è il loro ruolo? Noi sappiamo che il terrorismo trova il suo fondamento nei diversi esempi di radicalizzazione in vari campi (politici, religiosi etnici, sociali…) che vengono investiti dalla loro propaganda la quale, attraverso i nuovi media come internet, arriva ai giovani con i propri messaggi di odio, violenza, intolleranza e disperazione. Così, il primo ruolo della vittima, è quello di contrastare la narrativa estremista e fondamentalista con le proprie voci e storie. Le storie delle vittime, i sopravvissuti, i membri della sua famiglia, usando lo stesso mezzo pervasivo, la rete, possono costruire una “contro-informazione” con valori alternativi: dialogo, pace e non violenza.

L’educazione come contrasto ai radicalismi
Gianfranco De Lorenzo

L'educazione alla coesione sociale diviene, nella società attuale, un obiettivo associato e complementare dell'autonomia e dell'emancipazione, "correggendo" sia l'individualismo, sia i particolarismi. La cittadinanza, che chiede un lavoro dinamico di memoria e di integrazione in una storia, comporta un progetto di inclusione e fonda il riconoscimento degli altri in una interdipendenza reciproca. L'obiettivo di inclusione riguarda, quindi, il rafforzamento del legame sociale a livello dell'uguaglianza dei cittadini ed alla richiesta di una maggiore attenzione per gli interessi di uguaglianza e giustizia, che sembra una strada ancora difficile da perseguire, si può suggerire la possibilità di coniugare, nella cittadinanza, libertà positive e negative, mobilità individuale e responsabilità sociale. Una condizione necessaria è però la rinuncia alle ideologie, accettando di praticare strade diverse da quelle della radicalizzazione. L'educazione può quindi agire in tal senso, verso il potenziamento della società civile e di tutte le forme di associazione e di solidarietà, favorendo l'impegno civico, soprattutto se libero e volontario. Può altresì contribuire a ridurre il peso della dimensione economica conducendo a leggere il legame sociale fuori dalle leggi del mercato, facendo emergere il cittadino dietro il consumatore.

Le implicazioni psico-sociali nella nozione di setta
Raffaella Di Marzio

Questo contributo tratterà la controversa nozione di “setta” attribuita a gruppi religioso/spirituali di varia origine che si configurano come realtà minoritarie caratterizzate da credenze e prassi “diverse” rispetto a un determinato contesto sociale. La diversità di queste associazioni favorisce l’etichettamento e la creazione di “devianze multiple” percepite come “pericolose” dal contesto sociale in cui nascono e operano. L’etichettamento di gruppi innocui come “sette”, può generare, nei membri di queste organizzazioni, vittime di una “devianza” creata ad hoc, una serie di disturbi della sfera psichica come disorientamento, senso di colpa, senso di impotenza, isolamento, disadattamento e altri disturbi di varia entità, fino a vere e proprie forme di depressione, nevrosi ansiogena che, in persone già affette da disturbi o predisposte, potrebbero condurre a gesti estremi e autodistruttivi. Lo stato di sofferenza dei singoli si ripercuote sulle famiglie e il contesto sociale più generale, e ha una importante ricaduta anche nell’ambito delle attività professionali. Le ripercussioni negative sui minori o i giovanissimi sono ovviamente significative e possono incidere sul loro sviluppo cognitivo ed emotivo compromettendone lo sviluppo armonico particolarmente importante in età evolutiva.


L’esperienza sul fenomeno settario nel programma RAN DERAD della Commissione Europea
Cristina Caparesi

Nel 2011 la Commissione Europea ha istituito il Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) una rete per la prevenzione della diffusione della violenza e degli estremismi in Europa che raccoglie operatori, esperti, lavoratori sociali, insegnanti, associazioni, società civile, vittime del terrorismo, autorità locali, forze dell’ordine, accademici. Il gruppo DERAD comprende gli operatori impegnati in prima linea nella deradicalizzazione e desensibilizzazione della violenza. Il gruppo di lavoro si occupa di tutte le forme di estremismo, inclusi gli estremismi religiosi e le gang. Solitamente questi operatori hanno maggiore successo rispetto agli operatori governativi perché, condividendo uno stesso background culturale, riescono a costruire rapporti di fiducia, rispetto e confidenza con i propri clienti. Questo contributo cercherà di mettere in risalto i concetti comuni, ad esempio influenza indebita, reclutamento ed altri, ed evidenziare come le lezioni imparate nell’esperienza settaria possano essere rilevanti per il raggiungimento degli obiettivi del gruppo del Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).

La nozione di setta: quali implicazioni giuridiche?
Maria Chiara Zanconi

Una giustizia autoreferenziale risulta già di per sé un paradosso se poi non possiede un’adeguata consapevolezza metacognitiva corre il rischio di essere più vulnerabile in caso di errore.

E’ naturale che il diritto penale debba rispondere alle esigenze sociali, tuttavia in non rare occasioni il rischio è che finisca spesso di perdere il fine della tutela, che gli è proprio, per diventare un mezzo di controllo del comportamento sociale.

Tuttavia, se da un lato il compito difensivo del diritto penale presuppone naturalmente un ordinamento giuridico da difendere, dall’altro in questa funzione di salvaguardia deve trovare il proprio limite, diversamente si produrrebbe una distorsione funzionale che finirebbe per inficiare il valore stesso dello strumento che ogni cittadino ha a disposizione.

In criminologia si dice che chi vuole modificare la società partendo dalla giustizia penale si comporta come chi in campo pedagogico vuole creare un programma educativo basandosi sul castigo (L. Ferrajoli, Diritto e Ragione. Teoria del garantismo penale, Laterza), nello stesso modo se si utilizza la denuncia e il processo penale per affermare principi culturali anche se rispettabili, o creare falsati presupposti normativi significa snaturare la pena dalle funzione che le sono proprie.

In particolare, di fronte a certi argomenti, non ultimo quello dell’aderenza a gruppi - anche religiosi - affidarsi troppo o addirittura esclusivamente alle spinte sociali o al fervore culturale che un certo fenomeno suscita in un preciso momento storico, comporta il rischio della creazione di una giustizia etica che abbia il solo compito di educare, finendo per perdersi in più o meno note distorsioni finalistiche che non appartengono e non dovrebbero appartenere all’idea di giustizia propria di una società civile.

Processi penali spesso alterati dal fervore emotivo e cognitivo degli operatori che vogliono a tutti i costi “giudizializzare” certi fenomeni che faticano ad essere intrappolati in rigide dinamiche nomologiche rischiano di creare una giustizia eccessiva che non raramente diventa ingiustizia.

Sette religiose: il ruolo dei media nel problema sociale
Camillo Maffia

La parola "setta" è divenuta, nel linguaggio comune, un termine dispregiativo con cui indicare un culto. Benché oggi il diritto di professare liberamente la propria fede sia un diritto riconosciuto, in Italia e in Europa, dalla Costituzione e dalla Carta dei diritti dell'uomo, e nonostante il Consiglio d'Europa abbia apertamente sconsigliato di utilizzare il termine "sette" proprio in quanto dispregiativo e dunque discriminatorio nei confronti dei movimenti religiosi, nel nostro paese e in altri Stati membri esistono vari movimenti anti-sette. I casi sollevati da tali organizzazioni e dalla Squadra Anti-sette della Polizia di Stato nei confronti di movimenti religiosi o presunti tali hanno portato all'assoluzione delle persone coinvolte dalle accuse riconducibili all'attività di "setta". Gli imputati hanno subito violente campagne mediatiche, carcerazione preventiva e danni psicologici, economici e sociali. Fortunatamente, non è stato scoperto in Italia nessun caso di formazione religiosa in cui i comportamenti della leadership o dei singoli fossero tali da poter estendere all'intero movimento accuse criminali. L’esistenza di una criminalità strettamente connessa all’ambito religioso e psicologico è stata trasportata in modo fuorviante sulle testate generaliste. La divisione tra movimenti religiosi settari e movimenti che non lo sono, indipendentemente dall’effettiva incidenza criminale di tali fenomeni, dà allo spettatore la rassicurante certezza di uno stigma dottrinale che separa i culti “buoni”, definiti mediaticamente “religioni”, da quelli cattivi, indicati come “sette”, creando in lui l’errata convinzione di potersi difendere da azioni delinquenziali che invece, in base alle sentenze passate in giudicato, sono nella quasi totalità dei casi imputabili al singolo individuo, indipendentemente dalla confessione che pratica o che rappresenta.