Norway - Lying to outsiders OK for cults

Verdens Gang (VG), February 2, 2004, Katrine Lia

Involved: For years Dag Hareide has worked with children and young people who grew up in cults. Hareide was there in 1999 to launch the "Go On" project, a support program for children who grew up in cults. Over the course of several years he had much contact with children and young people who grew up in cults, but then left. Hareide worked out a ten-point checklist of what characterizes a cult.

If many of the points on the list can be applied to a group or community, then that is reason to be watchful, says Hareide. Today working as project director in police high school, he reports that many cults are active in Norway. VG gives a few examples of them here. We maintain that cults are not necessarily manipulative nor destructive, even if several of them are described as such.

Hareide's Cult Checklist

  1. The cult has the Truth.
    - The insights administered from cult management are sacred, similar in form to revelation.
  2. The cult leader has the power.
    Normally there's a leader and the organization is built like a pyramid, with a strong leader at the top.
  3. The cult has a strong and simple image of its enemy.
    - The external enemy and evil are outside the cult, while the good is inside. Those outside the cult have an inferior existence and are going to hell.
  4. Members alter their identity after joining.
    - This happens through ceremonies. They like to choose new names. The old identity is downplayed, and old connections with business, family, work and friends are radically changed.
  5. The cult takes over social control.
    - The requirement for purity means that time, money, access to other information and the reasons for decisions have to be controlled by the cult's organization.
  6. The cult maintains an internal enemy in life.
    - These are the sins or mistakes committed by cult members. The cult holds confessions for when you have done something wrong. Those who do not participate in this are expelled.
  7. The end justifies the means.
    - The goals of the cult are more important than the commandments commonly applied in world religions or philosophical moral systems. Lying comes first. Outsiders may be addressed in ambiguous terms. It's OK to mislead outsiders, but not other members. Later the other commandments come into play, such as those of theft, sexuality, family coherence, and in extreme cases, death.
  8. The cult develops its own jargon that turns into a closed universe.
    - This jargon tends toward irrational and contains mystic manipulation.
  9. Cult knowledge is hierarchical and esoteric.
    - Beginners down have the same access to the perceptions and information the leaders have. Perceptions are hidden and under the control of the management and are constructed so that one has to earn them through obedience.
  10. Leaving the cult results in sanctions.
    - This can mean anything from social disconnection to physical persecution.

Poland - Mormons and Buddhists on mission in the Wild East

Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 7, 2004, Gernot Wolfram

John, the Mormon missionary, speaks Polish in an excited squawk. For days, the steadily smiling Australian has been wandering Breslau's market square with his comrade, wrapped up in a heavy anoraks. They share the square with the Jehovah's Witnesses and the sandwich-board people from the Polish Telekom. John talks to people who he thinks might be in urgent need of contact with the Book of Mormon. As I ran to the street from the university, he came up to me, first speaking hectic Polish, then persuasively in English. John asked me what I was doing in Poland. I replied that I was teaching at the university here for a year. Then would I perhaps be in contact with all sorts of young people?

John is one of many Mormon missionaries who are presently making their way through Poland. These missions are conceived and financed in America or Australia. The didactic material is simple to translate into Polish - the translation assignments are given to young Poles - then the scriptures are brought among people with loud enthusiasm. On the market square John tells the story of the "brilliant prophet of the new era," Joseph Smith, who founded the "one true Church of Christ on Earth" in 1830. What he doesn't tell is that Smith, who allegedly found a mysterious seer-stone in Vermont in 1822 that he carried in his hat from then on, in his time was scoffingly referred to as "Peepstone Joe." Neither did he bring up the the charming fact that despite everything else, Smith lived his beliefs with 48 women in passionate intimacy.

What did stand out though, was the perspective that John brought with him. It is symptomatic for many churches and sects who at this moment are arriving in Poland with plans of bliss for the natives: the country is seen as a big Eldorado in which everything is still possible. A country for great mental conquests. The enthusiastic keepers of the cornucopia distribute colorful brochures, issue invitations and establish churches and prayer halls. Because the Poles have been getting more skeptical about the competition for their attention, most of the missionary zealots have had to blaze new trails. In this regard, the Mormons have perhaps had the most clever ideas in gaining more influence and power in Poland.

John told me that I should instruct my students that they could learn English for free in the Mormon office, twice a week. In view of the increasingly expensive language schools that are springing up in Breslau like mushrooms, that is indeed a wonderful offer. Neither the Catholics nor the Evangelicals nor anyone else would offer that. As a matter of fact, I think, that is refined cleverness. People like John, in their unsophisticated way, are bringing English among the people, and Mormonism is implanted in the lessons like yeast in bread. Those who become members of the Mormons have to, monthly, give ten percent of their wages to the head of their Stake, as the major community structure is called. Seen in this measure, more money is obtained in this manner than would ever be possible by charging the usual fees of a language school.

John, however, is not underway just to gain more heads in Poland, where despite the weekly strikes, bankruptcies and financial outcry, there is still a wonderful optimism for the future. Recently the Buddhists have also shown up, although without the aggressive missionary urgency. One day after the confrontation with John when I came into the classroom, a student who was supposed to give a talk about Buddhism in Poland, lit a candle. Around her neck she wore a belt-like orange-colored chain. As she spoke, I noticed how much for her the idea meant of distance, gained from silence, from things that are now all-present in Poland: a life away from the noise of the big market, from the advertising boards and the performance strategies. When she then said that the Breslau Buddhists wanted to use their own money to build a Stupa, a small pagoda for meditation, in the vicinity of the city, I imagined this as an earthy structure going upwards in the middle of lower buildings on the city outskirts.

Many students tell me that people like John or the Buddhists are merely curious fringe apparitions of their society. On the other hand, one can can observe how skillfully these very groups dodge in and out of the countless social shadow zones and vacuums. With many Poles, especially the younger ones, the feeling is growing that not just any job at a gas station or a fast-food chain means the same thing as inner peace and security. This is the hour of the market square missionary. Smiles, pats on the shoulder, free offers and feigned interest. Having a feeling that man is meant to be like the Mormons suggest, or coming to experience a having-to-deal-no-more world, like the Buddhists propagate, are perhaps two determining viewpoints of an increasing yearning for new self-assurance.

"You known, people here just don't go to psychologists that much," said John with a wink as he took his leave. Now I contemplate as to whether the smiling Mormon had in mind the strength or the weakness of people.

The author has most recently published "Der Fremdlaender" narratives (DVA 2003).

Norway - Power and Charismatics

Vartland.No, January 30, 2004

In all communities, some have more power than others. The dangerous thing is giving God as the reason for this power.

The charismatic theology has come into the public eye after the murder in the Pentecostal congregation in Knutby. That might be too narrow a view, because it was mainly about the condition of power.

When the "Class struggle" published its series on abuse of power in the ACP (communist party), there was conspicuously much that was comparable to what we have seen in Christian settings. The combination of very high goals, strong requirements for classification to meet these goals, and a close social community to prepare the path for the abuse of power and for encroachment against individual people.

There was, however, an important difference: in the ACP it wasn't God that stood behind the power. The dream of the communist ideal society could probably have a religious dimension, nevertheless it was about humanity and the here and now. It cost something to have another opinion, but people put only their relationship within the movement at stake.

It's a lot more dangerous being critical when God is standing behind the pastor and the community management. Because then you aren't just putting your standing inside the community at stake, but salvation itself and your relationship to God.

That is the reason people take a step further into the power game, in that it is defined as a theological issue. Often conflicts and power structures stand out much more clearly if we pose the question of: how would we describe what is happening in other than theological terms?

There's no doubt that charismatic theology is more susceptible to misuse by power people, because so much of it revolves around being filled with power. It's easy for the attention to land on a powerful charismatic leader. Besides that people are engaged in listening to God's voice. That can give the one who says he can hear God great power. When a prophet is associated a strong pastor, the we attain a concentration of power that nobody can withstand.

But even if charismatic theology is susceptible to abuse of power, that is no argument against this theology in and of itself. Without doubt, the early Church was charismatic. Rejecting charismatics would mean rejecting a basic concern for the Bible. So we have to talk about theology after all. Indeed, the lack of theological reflection in charismatic circles is one of the reasons that diversion and misuse come so easily into play.

Theologically, it's about attaining a correct understanding of the power of the spirit - that means putting spirit theology in context with creation theology and Christianology. As whole people and not just as spiritual beings we have a relationship to God. Being a truly spiritual person means being in this world and in human society as a person with body, mind and spirit. Being spiritual does not mean living for oneself in a supernatural world. Being spiritual means being a responsible person who uses the mind God gave us.

The power of the spirit is not about making the weak strong, but about God using the weak in their weakness. Jesus gave the example in saying the spirit-filled person is the servant of all, who bows before the lowest and the outcast, the one who makes sacrifices. He rejects temptation to use the power of the spirit to attain power over others.

In the Christian context, "power" has a bad ring to it. Pastors and preachers fidget and turn away when people ask them questions about their power. It's necessary, though, to talk about power, since we want to be truthful. Anyone who speaks in the name of God will have power. Doing as if that were not the case would be deception of self and others.

The most important thing is to see about power correction. That is why the ability to be critical is necessary for life. One of the criteria of a Christian community being on the verge of going down the wrong path is when criticism is dissimulated as something negative. If a "critical spirit" becomes something that we must convert or be freed from, then danger is around the corner. The ability to tell the difference between spirits is a critical gift.

Charismatic theology ought to be democratic because it deals with providing for all believers. Charismatics should lead to the allocation and not the concentration of power. That would be why it's necessary to talk about power, and to have a critical relationship where charismatics are applied.

Erling Rimehaug is a society editor with Vårt Land.

Germany - sect commissioner slot - benefit or danger?

Hartwig agentur, February 1, 2004

"Weltanschauung work" is what the people who are utilized in the church and state slots for the subject of sects call it. Marginalization is what those call it, who are affected by this work. More transparency can reveal the background. A public discussion about the consequences of failed "weltanschauung work" is necessary to properly clear the matter up.

Without evidence, numbers are cited in public discussion: "By estimates 600 sects with about 1.2 million adherents" exist in Germany, according to what sect advisors tell the media

The basic question is why such slots should be allocated? What benefit are they? Why aren't tangible numbers based on proof cited? Who is the one who decides what a sect is? How do those numbers work? What groups and persons have files kept on them as sects by the sect commissioners? What are the names of these estimated 600 "sects"? All these questions are unanswered after detailed inquiries to those who occupy these positions.

Inquiries as to how many positions have been established with tax money and how high the actual costs (personnel, as well as office and supply expenses) have proved difficult. A cloak of silence unfurls itself over these questions.

Even inquiries in the Berlin Ministries (Family/Interior) return only estimated figures. So we are told that per German state (16 in all), an average of 3 persons are employed on the theme of sects. In addition to that are still several ministries that have established special slots on the theme. But precise figures were not cited. We were told we could check with the budgetary committee of each state.

OK, we will ask.

The first information makes it clear that this is a painful theme in the ministries. That explains the walls and locks. When things get tight, committees come into play "that really should know more"! The need for explanation from the side of those who ought to know is widespread. "For that theme another committee is responsible, you need to go to ....", becomes the magic sentence and the list of people that need to be approached grows ever longer. So comes without fail the proof about who knows everything but does nothing. Karl Valentin becomes reality; in the government apparatus one passes the buck to another and no one takes responsibility.

This much can be determined today: in addition to the state slots that are occupied come the slot in the cities and communities plus the sect commissioners of both the churches, Evangelical and Catholic. Counting only the lowest personnel expense (without office and supplies), millions of dollars are being used for this weltanschauung work. On top of that comes hundreds of thousands in tax dollars that are being used to subsidize private publicity work.

The state money bags, filled with tax dollars, have turned into self-service shops. That is reminiscent of the cobra-effect in Asia. When the state began to pay for catching cobras, in order to limit them, cobras were raised to keep the money flowing from the state. Out of misunderstood solidarity silent masses arose in these circles. No sort of proof is demanded from the circles of experts for their statements. The accusations of businesses and persons affect, who have been subjected to this libel campaign show that there is no control, as soon as a slot has been established. The cartel has succumbed to the drug of power. They decide who is branded as a sect or sect adherent.

When a "Work community for religion and weltanschauung issues" was founded in 1965 by the deceased Reverend Hack, there was a need analysis done, as to which ground one's own church members could orient themselves to other groups. This issue assured the existence of a new professional branch, namely that of sect commissioner.

After the Evangelical and Catholic Churches then employed sect commissioners on a wide scale, these sect commissioners founded "parents initiatives," mostly without recognizable activity from "parents," but with vehemence against groups that had come under observation of the sect commissioners as "sects." These "initiatives" were the tool that the sect commissioners used to ensure their own positions. And tax money came from the government in support. The channel was open. Now the idea was to keep it open. At regular intervals the so-called first-hand reports were published. These brought the effect that these "sect commissioners" actually needed. Inquiries as to what legal consequences the accusations against the named sects would be remained unanswered.

When the first state sect commissioners were established, there were some sore points. Initiatives with other background motives, which were also supposed to be subsidized with state monies, rose. It was about money and power, but never about clarification in matters of "sects"!

[ ... several paragraphs snipped]

On December 18, 2003, even the US State Department released a report from the office for democracy, human rights and labor, about the evens on the theme of publicity in Germany, which indicates various scandals on the scene. *

(German translation offered, contact given)

Several state churches and dioceses have now deleted the slots for sect advisor. Officially these are declared "savings measures," unofficially those in charge of the state and church are aware that the people who occupy these slot have themselves become a problem to the state due to their own methods of operation.

-- end of Hartwig excerpt --

*Here is the scandalous part. Ursula Caberta is considered to a "sect commissioner." For more on this particular case see - ed.

In January, the Hamburg Administrative Court ruled for the Church of Scientology Germany and the Church of Scientology Hamburg against the City of Hamburg and the Hamburg Ministry of Interior. In a public decision, the court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Interior Ministry from allowing Ursula Caberta, head of the Ministry's "Working Group Scientology," from repeating certain public statements of a false and derogatory character about the Church. The court criticized the Interior Ministry for its failure to reprimand Caberta for violating her duty of neutrality as a government employee by accepting a personal loan of $75,000 (approximately 66,250 euros) with no terms of repayment from a private individual funding anti-Scientology litigation. An earlier criminal investigation into this matter resulted in Caberta being fined approximately $8,490 (7,500 euros) in June 2002; however, the Hamburg Interior Ministry made no requirement that she pay back the $75,000 loan.

The latest update on this topic comes from Scientology (not their translation. ed.):

Press release, 16 January 2004

Hamburg superior state court busy with Caberta's bribery bog

Appeal process on Scientologist demand for damages against the Interior office (Az OLG Hamburg 1 U 99/03)

(Hamburg) In a complaint Scientology Church Deutschland and Scientology Church Hamburg are demanding 4,200 euro damages from the Interior office. The Scientologists filed an appeal with the Hamburg superior state court, which heard the case Friday, against the decision of the Hamburg state court of last year that dismissed that complaint.

The basic grounds given by the Scientology attorneys: the director of the Work Group Scientology, which resides in the Hamburg Interior office, Ursula Caberta, took an interest-free and non-cancelable loan from a declared Scientology opponent in the amount of 75,000 dollars, which would mean she's been bribed.

Between Caberta and the loan provider there existed close work-connected cooperation. The loan has still not been paid off as of today. The investigative process, which was initiated because of a criminal charge against Caberta for "Vorteilsnahme" (accepting favors) was suspended upon a payment of a fine in the amount of 7,500 euro. Although the Interior office has known in detail all the facts of the case for years and although the unmistakable legal situation was repeatedly pointed out, the office let Caberta, who was perceived as partial through corruption and appearances, continue to operate on her post against Scientology, which requires strict neutrality. Caberta continued to attack Scientology in public in an unprofessional manner.

The state court dismissed the demand for damages on the basis that the Scientology Church would first have to prove its claim against the media that spread Caberta's statements. The Interior office therefore was not liable, since the state's liability was secondary.

The superior state court did not share this view. First the court commented that the inactivity of the Interior office in the case at hand could be cause for a claim for damages, because Caberta's mission area included Scientology in particular. The provision for a claim for damages against the Interior office was therefore not also a claim against the media, and a claim against a government office in this sort of case was to be considered. It was nevertheless the task of the administrative court, as the competent court in this matter, to decide whether Mrs. Caberta had leaned too far out the window with her appearances and statements and her use of money. The civil court was bound to the decision of the administrative court as the competent court. Therefore the superior state court suspended the civil proceedings until the administration court could draw a legal conclusion.

The president of the plaintiff, Scientology Church Deutschland, Helmuth Bloebaum, welcomed this decision of the superior state court with the words, "This was an important step to make it clear to the Hamburg Interior office that the superior state court is not prepared to unconditionally tolerate the corrupt behavior of Mrs. Caberta and the inactivity of her employer."

Frank Busch listed as point of contact with contact information

(Here is another quote from the latest US State Department report. The accuracy of these reports has increased dramatically, and this year's presentation is a vast improvement over past reports. ed.)

The Church of Scientology, which operates 18 churches and missions, remained under scrutiny by both federal and state officials, who contend that its ideology is opposed to the democratic constitutional order. Since 1997 Scientology has been under observation by the federal and state OPCs. In observing an organization, OPC officials seek to collect information, mostly from written materials and firsthand accounts, to assess whether a "threat" exists. More intrusive methods would be subject to legal checks and would require evidence of involvement in treasonous or terrorist activity. Federal OPC authorities stated that no requests had been made to employ more intrusive methods nor were any such requests expected.

Within the federal system, the states showed large differences with respect to their treatment of the Church of Scientology. Two states, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, did not monitor Scientology, stating that Scientology does not have an actively aggressive attitude towards the Constitution, the condition required by the states' laws to permit OPC observation. Bavaria, on the other hand, announced in November 2002 that it may seek to ban Scientology based on recommendations of a report and indicated that it would ask the Federal Interior Ministry to consider a federal ban. Bavaria has cited medical malpractice associated with Scientology's "auditing" techniques as one possible basis for the ban. At a convention of state interior ministers in March, Bavaria found no support among other states, except for Hamburg, for the idea of a ban against Scientology. Other organizations under OPC observation are right-wing extremist, left-wing extremist, or foreign extremist and terrorist groups; Scientology is the only religious community under OPC observation, and Scientologists contend that inclusion in the list of totalitarian and terrorist groups is harmful to the Church's reputation.