From: email@example.com (Neil Muspratt)
Subject: Re: NEWS, Oct 14, 1998 The Australian: Legal crackdown on cults
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 21:26:53 GMT
On Wed, 14 Oct 1998 12:00:02 GMT, Bob@Not.Here.com (Just Wog) wrote:
Legal crackdown on cults
By NATASHA BITA
RELIGIOUS cults could be prosecuted for causing "mental harm" to their disciples under legal recommendations to the States and Territories.
An official committee of federal, State and Territory governments' top legal advisers has recommended that "significant emotional harm" inflicted by religious groups be classified as a criminal offence.
"'Freedom of religion' is not freedom, for example, to defraud, nor is it freedom to cause significant psychological or psychiatric harm to any person," the committee says in its report to the nation's attorneys-general.
[whack!] Pay attention in class, $cientology.au!
The report cites a California Supreme Court finding that "coercive persuasion" by religious sects may cause "serious physical and psychiatric disorders".
Don't believe it? Try asking Lisa McPherson, Noah Lottick or Patrice Vic for an opinion.
"The techniques involved may include isolation, manipulation of time and attention, positive and negative re-inforcement, peer group pressure, prohibition of dissent, deprivation of sleep and protein and the inducement of fear, guilt and emotional dependence," the committee reports.
Sound awfully like a certain cult we all know? I wonder what sort of reference materials the committee had at hand?
It notes the Church of Scientology had argued the activities of religious groups should not be singled out in the definition of criminal harm.
Typically twisted $cientology logic. Why shouldn't the activities of certain "religions" be singled out if they are fraudulent, immoral or otherwise criminal? It makes common and legal sense. One law fits all. Do the crime, do the time.
"The committee is not concerned with, nor does it make any judgment on, the question whether the Church of Scientology causes criminal harm to other people in its evangelical activities," the report says.
Of course not. That will be for a court to decide.
"It is concerned that the criminal offence proposed (in the proposed national criminal code) catches the causing of significant psychological harm to people, accompanied with criminal intention.
"If a religious organisation does that, it, like anyone else, should be guilty of the appropriate criminal offence."
In other words, cults like $cientology are not above "wog law".
Church of Scientology spokeswoman Virginia Stewart said yesterday the committee appeared to be supportive of constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom.
"We support any changes that bring about greater responsibility for criminal culpability whilst retaining inherent civil and religious liberties," she said.
But of course, she would say something like that, wouldn't she?
I wonder what Virginia will be saying when the first prosecution under any new laws arising from the committee's recommendations is brought against her "religion" in this country? You can bet your BTs her tone won't be anywhere near as conciliatory. And it's only a matter of time before something like this happens.
The committee was commissioned by the federal, State and Territory attorneys-general to harmonise their conflicting laws in a "model criminal code".
Its latest report, Non Fatal Offences Against the Person, also recommends criminal sanctions apply to people who:
INTENTIONALLY or recklessly transmit a serious disease;
SET traps to kill or seriously harm intruders;
STALK another person;
PERFORM genital mutilation or send a child overseas for genital mutilation.
The full report is available in PDF format from the Attorney-General's Department web site:
$cientology appears on pages 29-31:
The Committee invited submissions on whether this sort of harm should be included within the definition of harm for the purposes of the criminal law. The result was three kinds of submission. The first kind, which was the majority and came from legally trained respondents, thought that the general definition proposed covered the sorts of harms described sufficiently without making special provision for them. A second group of submissions came from those who had had personal experiences of some kind with such groups and argued for the inclusion of such harms - although they did not address the question whether the Committee's proposed definition sufficed for that task.
Third, the Church of Scientology produced a very lengthy submission which argued that the activities of religious groups should not be included but rather that the activities of "de-programmers" should be included. The manifest inconsistency in such an approach did not appear to occur to them. There was also apparent a letter writing campaign to similar effect. Neither the Church of Scientology nor the letter writers addressed the undoubted fact that some groups employ such harmful and extreme techniques, whether or not a particular group does in fact do so. It is likely that some groups from both sides of the contest between religious groups and "deprogrammers", employ harmful and extreme techniques.
Of more concern is the assertion by the Church of Scientology that the above use of Molko is wrong. They said:
"The entry... summarises the so-called 'expert testimony' submitted on behalf of Molko in this case. The opinion was in fact provided by psychologist Dr Margaret Singer and Prof Ofshe. ... this testimony was not accepted by the court concerned nor have the theories of Singer and Ofshe been accepted by their professional associations. Their theories have been discredited formally by their peers as lacking scientific merit.".
Much of the lengthy submission amounts to a critique of these named two persons and a group called the Cult Awareness Network. But that does not alter the position that the statement made in the Discussion Paper remains factual. Further, in Wollersheim v Church of Scientology of California (1989) 212 Cal App 3d 872 260 Cal Rptr 331, a civil suit, the defendant was found liable for damages (originally $3m) for the intentional and negligent infliction of severe emotional injury on the plaintiff and that, despite two attempts by the defendant to get the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, both failed (see 111 S Ct 1298).
The Committee is not concerned with, nor does it make any judgment on, the question whether the Church of Scientology causes criminal harm to other people in its evangelical activities. It is concerned that the criminal offence proposed catches the causing of significant psychological harm to people, accompanied with criminal intention. If a religious organisation does that, it, like anyone else, should be guilty of the appropriate criminal offence. "Freedom of religion" is not freedom, for example, to defraud, nor is it freedom to cause significant psychological or psychiatric harm to any person. The Committee adds that the same statement applies to those who are sometimes referred to as "deprogrammers".
In the result, the Committee was persuaded that its definition caught the causing of such harm as ought to be caught and that it did not need to make specific and repetitive provision for this particular area of psychological "harm".
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At least the Raelians are proud of being a UFO cult.
- Hud Nordin in alt.religion.scientology