Europe’s Secte Reports: A Post Christian Response To Faith

In the 1980s Europe began to fight back against religious groups, particularly those coming from America.  The main recipient of the angst from Europe was Scientology.  Now, I will begin by saying that I do not believe Scientology is a religious movement.  At best it is what even Americans would label a cult.  Were it not for people like John Travolta and Tom Cruise and other Hollywood types we would never have heard of Scientology.  It would be a small fringe group with a sad following.  The Hollywood types have taken this group from a small fringe group to a large fringe group.  It is hard to pin down just what Scientology is, but it is clearly not a well defined religion.


The pressure began to grow from the mid-80s into the 1990s.  Then several countries, France in 1996, Belgium in 1997, and Germany in 1998, created Parliamentary groups to look into new religious movements and determine what should be done to “protect” their citizens from these groups.  Of course, the German commission was a secret commission that never officially released its findings.  The findings of the German commission managed to be made public nonetheless.


The theory behind these reports was that the government needed to protect the people from religious groups.  The idea was that people cannot make a proper decision about their religious beliefs and need someone to protect them.  This thought flies in the face of religious freedom.


In France the Parliamentary Report, which was not officially adopted by Parliament, was the precursor of what was originally called “The Law Against Mental Manipulation.”  After a long fight, led by the Catholic Bishops of France, the language of the law was changed and it became known as the “Anti-Cult Law.”  This law was another step in the completing the original goals of the French Revolution, the eradication of religion from public life.


The French Parliament followed up this report by passing their anti-cult law that made it a crime, punishable by a huge fine and time in jail, to even give literature to a minor, an older person, a sick person, and a pregnant lady.


There were 172 organizations listed on the French report.  Most of them were extremist organizations that many of us would agree were dangerous or at the very least sects or cults.  Then, sprinkled throughout the list were legitimate Christian organizations.  Organizations like, the Church at Besancon, a Southern Baptist accredited Bible College, and a Charismatic Catholic Nuns organization.  Some of these organizations began to experience real problems following their inclusion on the list.


And then there were the changes in attitude that followed the list being publicly released.  Pastors, mainly from America, who had been in France for decades as missionaries, suddenly had their visas not renewed.  Even though they owned property in France and had served France for a long time, they were being forced to leave because of immigration problems.


One final note on the French report, the French approach to religion was so inspiring Communist China sent a group to meet with the Parliamentarians who sponsored the study hoping to implement the law in China.


Then comes the Belgians, following in the French shadow they went a step further and labeled some very mainstream organizations—not just individual ministries—as dangerous sects.


The Belgians labeled Youth With a Mission, Operation Mobilization, and the Young Women’s Christian Association as dangerous sects.  This again creates a spirit of suspicion that these organizations must battle against everyday.  It makes it more difficult for those who work with these organizations to do their jobs because people naturally trust their government.


Then the Belgian Parliament began to look at following the French Parliament and adding a law that protected people from religious groups as a general principle.


Then come the Germans.  True to the government of Germany’s nature, they formed a secret commission.  The Enquiry Commission met in private, their findings were kept private, and they never officially did anything.  Yet, they produced a list with over 170 dangerous sects.  These sects included a non-denominational church in Cologne that experience a variety of legal problems from the time of the Enquiry Commission until today.


This approach to religious freedom is outrageous.  Nonreligious practitioners met together to determine what religious groups will be permitted to meet.  Often these leaders are anti-Christian in their worldview.  Yet they are considered appropriate people to head up committees whose sole purpose is to protect us from religion and its negative affects.


This is the new world we live in.  It is a world where religion is treated with suspicion and a low level of tolerance.


What this means is that it is now an uphill battle for religious freedom in Europe.  Like what America will be in another generation, Europe is already a completely post-Christian world with little tolerance for anything Christian other than the state church which is tolerated partly because it is as much political as it is spiritual.


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Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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