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ICSA resources about psychological manipulation, cultic groups, sects, and new religious movements.


Cultic Studies Journal

The Council of Europe's Report  on Sects and New Religious Movements

Psychological Manipulation and Society: cults, cult groups, new religious movements

Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 9, No. 1, 1992


The Council of Europe's Report  on Sects and New Religious Movements

Introduction by the Editor of the Cultic Studies Journal

As part of its continuing attempt to keep readers informed about important developments in the field of cultic studies, the CSJ is reprinting the recent report of the Council of Europe and related documents. In order to acquaint readers with the Council of Europe, we are excerpting below, with minor editing, from a brochure prepared by its Directorate of Press and Information.

The Council of Europe is an international organization bringing together 21 democratic countries of Western Europe, including 12 Common Market countries. Its headquarters are in Strasbourg, France.

The Council was founded in 1949 to work for closer European unity, to protect democracy and human rights, and to improve living conditions. To do this, it organizes cooperation between European governments and parliamentarians in a wide variety of fields. Only the purely military aspects of defense are excluded.

The Council of Europe works through a Committee of Ministers, representing the governments, and a Parliamentary Assembly, representing national parliaments. These are assisted by an international secretariat of 80 officials, headed by a Secretary General who is elected for a five-year term. The Council's budget is provided by member governments.

The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It consists of the 21 member states' Foreign Ministers, who hold the chairmanship in turn. They meet in Strasbourg twice a year while their Deputies (Permanent Representatives) meet for about a week each month.

The Committee of Ministers decides on the Council's policy, adopts the intergovernmental work program, and approves the organization's budget. It also determines what action should be taken on proposals it receives from the Parliamentary Assembly or from its own committees of experts. Its main decisions take the form either of recommendations to governments to follow common courses of action or of European conventions and agreements which are binding on the states that ratify them.

The Parliamentary Assembly's 170 representatives, appointed by the national parliaments from among their own members, meet in Strasbourg three times a year. The President of the Assembly is elected for a one-year renewable term.

The Parliamentary Assembly makes proposals to the Committee of Ministers, debates general policy, and acts as the "conscience of Europe."

The Assembly's proposals to the Committee of Ministers are finalized at its public plenary sessions after preparatory work by its committees. Its debates cover general policy matters and European affairs as a whole. Major international issues are often discussed with the participation of leading politicians from other parts of the world.

The Assembly regularly holds public hearings on important topical issues such as violence in the media, genetic engineering, or vivisection.

All the main political movements are represented in the Assembly, which is thus a fair cross-section of European public opinion.

The sections below include:

the report prepared for the Parliamentary Assembly by Sir John Hunt (November 29, 1991);
the opinion of Mr. de Puig of Spain (January 20, 1992);
speeches and summarized speeches by various members (February 5, 1992);
the Final Recommendations adopted by the Assembly (February 5, 1992); and
an interim reply by the Committee of Ministers.

Report on Sects and New Religious Movements

(Rapporteur: Sir John Hunt, United Kingdom, Conservative)

The activities of certain sects disrupt public order.

Is there a need for legislation to curb the freedom of sects or even prohibit them? Or, on the contrary, is there a need for a framework within which sects can pursue their activities freely, provided that these match certain objective criteria?

Proposed measures
Consider the introduction of legislation to require the registration of all sects and new religious movements.

Provide the public -- and particularly adolescents -- with maximum information on the nature, activities, and aims of sects.

Draft Recommendation

The Assembly is concerned at certain problems connected with the activities of sects and new religious movements.

It has been alerted by various associations and families who consider that they have been harmed by the activities of sects.

It has taken account of the invitation, given to the Council of Europe by the European Parliament in the Cottrell report, to consider this problem.

It has asked all the member states to indicate what practices they follow and what the legal problems are.

It considers that the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights makes major legislation on sects undesirable, since such legislation might well interfere with this fundamental right and harm traditional religions.

It considers, however, that legislative and other measures should be taken in response to the problems raised by some of the activities of sects or new religious movements.

To this end, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers call on the member states of the Council of Europe to adopt the following measures:

i. consideration should be given to introducing legislation, if it does not already exist, which grants corporate status to all sects and new religious movements which have been registered, together with all offshoots of the mother sect;

ii. objective factual information on the nature and activities of sects and new religious movements should be widely circulated. Independent bodies should be set up to collect and circulate this information;

iii. to protect minors and prevent abductions and transfers abroad, member states which have not yet done so should ratify the European Convention on recognition and enforcement of decisions concerning custody of children and on restoration of custody of children (1980) and adopt legislation making it possible to implement it;

iv. existing legislation concerning the protection of children should be more rigorously applied. Additionally, those belonging to a sect must be informed that they have a right to leave;

v. persons working for sects should be registered with social welfare bodies and guaranteed social welfare coverage, and such social welfare provision should also be available to those deciding to leave the sects.

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