[This is the Swiss National Assembly's recommendation to the Swiss Federal Assembly. The National Assembly is the larger of the two, and the number of its members is proportionate to the population of the cantons. (Switzerland is a confederation of cantons.) The smaller assembly has two representatives from each canton, or one from each "half-canton." Deadline for review and recommendations of action is September, 2000.]

National Assembly's

Business Review Commission (GPK)

"Sects" or
Assimilative Movements in Switzerland

The Need for State Involvement or:

Route to Federal "Sect" Politics

Report of the Business Review Commission
of the National Assembly of July 1, 1999
Original text: German

Do not remove this Translation Note: This is an unofficial translation of a publicly available Swiss government document. That means that the Swiss government makes no guarantee about the accuracy of this English translation. This translation is for non-commercial use only. The original Swiss document in German is available at http://www.parlament.ch/Poly/Framesets/E/Frame-E.HTM as a pdf file. If French is your language of choice, Roger Gonnet has a zipped French version at http://home.worldnet.fr/gonnet/rapport-suisse1.zip. In this translation, which originated at http://cisar.org, "Vereinnahmende Bewegung" is translated as "Assimilative Movement."

Closing statements: July 2, 1999, 0930 a.m.
"If the Swiss government wants to come to terms with the people of this country and receive their support, it has to realize that religious obligations for many people come ahead of anything else and at any cost. This dimension has to be taken into consideration because it is part of the people of our time. On the other hand the state must show that it also takes religious categories seriously: It must be able to say No!"
- Quote from the hearings


Table of Contents

Synopsis 4
I Assignment, Organization and Procedure 7
1Initial Situation7
2The Mission of the GPK and its Limits8
3Organization and Procedure8
4Findings of the PVK9
II Actual Problems11
1"Sect": an unclear concept11
2 "Sects": Facts and market phenomena in a pluralistic society12
3 Taking Inventory14
4Analysis of the Commission15
4.1Preliminary Remark15
4.2A Glance at Structures and Characteristics17
4.2.1.Dynamic Components17
4.2.2."Acquiring" Concepts of World and People 18
4.2.3.Assimilation as a central criterium20
4.3General Problems21
4.3.1.Inadequate Pool of Information21
4.3.2.Incomplete Research and Cooperation23
4.3.3.Problems in enforcing applicable law24
4.3.4.Restrictions in the power of the state25
4.3.5.Alleged "Free Will"25
4.3.6.Unclear Responsibility26
4.3.7.Fear and Financial Dependence27
4.4 Special Problems for those directly affected 27
4.4.2Excessive attachment28
4.4.3Health Hazards28
4.4.4.Risking Children's Welfare29
4.4.5.Other Hazards or Encroachments on Self-Determination29
4.5The Attitude of the Authorities30
IIIConclusions of the Commission and Possible Measures33
1The Commission's Work as the Process of building Awareness33
2Political need for action: Formulation and Implementation of "Sect" Politics34
2.1Coordination as the core mission of the federal government35
2.2Establishment of a Swiss Information and Counselling Center36
2.3Promoting Research and Cooperation38
2.4Protective Measures 39
2.4.1Protection of Children40
2.4.2Consumer Protection: Regulation of commercial life management programs40
2.4.3. Health Legislation42
2.5Further Measures43
IVRecommendations 44
VOther Procedures44


VIAttachments 45
List of People Interviewed46
List of Groups interviewed and their representatives46

Quotations taken from the interviews or from literature are designated as such in the report and are in bold print.



The Business Review Commission (GPK) of the National Assembly pursued the issue of whether "sects" or assimilative movements in Switzerland pose a danger for individuals, state or society. Further, it inquired into whether state and/or private centers fill the requirements of social groups and take care of people who have become involuntarily dependent. Finally, it dealt with the central issue of whether a need to act exists on the part of the state and - if yes - which measures to take and to verify.

The Commission basically affirmed the need for action by the state. At the same time it found that existing laws are, by and large, adequate. The necessity for action exists in the area of enforcement; in isolated instances there are loopholes in the legislation.

Therefore the Commission recommends that the Federal Assembly formulate a "sect" policy, establish a Swiss Information and Counseling Center, launch an information campaign, promote interdisciplinary research, and, in this regard, coordinate the cooperation of researchers and informational and counseling committees.

It requires the Federal Assembly to coordinate the work of various administrative centers, both inter-cantonal (based on cantonal endeavors) and between the federal government and the individual cantons, and to establish a cooperation across borders. In addition, the Federal Assembly should coordinate relevant cantonal legislation in the area of assimilative movements, health legislation in particular. As concerns enforcement, the Commission recommends that the Federal Assembly implement action to ensure, in particular, the safety of children. It has also been determined that there are loopholes in areas of consumer protection and a corresponding need for action. So-called "sects," "new religious movements" and psycho-groups are a national and social reality which are manifested worldwide and which cover all ages, classes, income and education levels. They are appearing not only in the highly industrialized nations but also in the countries of the so-called "Third World." They can - at times intentionally - put on different faces and show themselves in a multitude of features and facets which make recognition of their form more difficult: they can be Christian fundamentalist congregations, new religions from Japan, Afro-Brazilian cults from Latin America, independent African churches, spiritist communities, varied cultic phenomena, UFO believers, satanic groups, etc, but also include loose, unstructured groups who flock around the same "guru," or around hidden promises of salvation on the immensely booming esoterica market. When faced with criticism in primarily liberally constructed societies and democratically organized states, they mostly invoke the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of belief and of religion. The phenomena discussed by the Business Review Commission mainly arose on the fringes of religious (and pseudo-religious) categories or outside the major religious traditions. When the national or international media refer to them, it is practically without exception negative - be it because of spectacular events such as murders or collective suicides or be it on account of not less disturbing individual fates. Their backgrounds include psychic manipulation and dependency upon the group or totalitarian infrastructure within the movements which manifests itself


in real forms ranging from financial, employment, social or mental damages to individual spiritual discouragement and, not infrequently, alienation from family. Reports of experiences of those affected (and their close circle of acquaintances), psychological evaluations and investigative reports of foreign government and parliaments have served as proof of such practices for a long time now. While the victims are here complaining, there reign the spiritual fathers of such movements, thanks to a mixture of part Far Eastern philosophies and part market philosophies, over their own business empires.

This investigation, then, does not deal expressly with individual groups or religious content, but with methods which touch upon rights of freedom which are socially relevant and protected by the state. A separation between content and method is not always possible, however, such as with groups which have express or latent racist, anti-Semitic or fascistoid tendencies which are punishable under the anti-racism criminal code.

In the course of its work, the Commission experienced a change of consciousness. It was confronted with a central finding of fact which put its investigation in an historic as well as a current context: Switzerland is a multi-cultural and a multi-religious society with the stamp of religious pluralism. Religious conviction and denominations which do not correspond with the traditional, Christian world picture conveyed by state churches and schools have always been a component of our culture and have contributed somewhat extensively to the formation of our nation for centuries.

Included in that, as well, are not only the large world religions like Christianity of the Catholic and Protestant types, the Jewish religion, Islam and both traditional and more recent non-denominational churches but also denominations which have been denounced (and sometimes alienated) as "mob piety."

For their adherents their faith is their religious homeland and Switzerland is their political and emotional homeland. They pay taxes, serve in the military, graduate from schools and form, as employees and employers, a part of our society and of our federal and cantonal governments. They want to be acknowledged in their current religious identity and to be taken seriously. As far as that is concerned, the state did not come here today factually prepared to discuss issues of religion.

In the past few years politicians in foreign countries (Germany, et al.) have entered the discussion at the highest levels, taken clear positions and have sometimes made unpopular decisions. France, Sweden and the European Parliament have published "sect" reports, and in Austria and Germany, information campaigns have been launched. As far as spin-offs of so-called "sects, called "dérives sectaires" in French, including new religious movements and psycho-groups as well as their practices, the Swiss nation has not yet made its position known. The Federal Assembly has referred the issue to the Constitution (freedoms of belief and religion), to the federalist element (issues of faith are matters for the cantons) and to private initiatives. Political and judicial authorities have also been suitably reserved on the matter.

In contrast to that, a portion of the press, mostly in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, has for years been critically, and sometimes emotionally and aggressively, involved with the phenomena. The French-speaking Swiss press has been aware of the explosiveness of the situation at least since the Solar Temple drama of October 1994 and has since then given it more coverage. Also since then Cantonal politics have gotten involved to some degree: at the initiative of Geneva Canton, an inter-cantonal work group has begun


the establishment of information and documentation centers. The Cantons of Basel City and Geneva have enacted legislation or have proposals in progress and the Cantons of Geneva and Tession have published their own "sect" reports. In Waadt Canton, high school students in their third year will be able to take an elective called "Religion History and Science."

A necessity for action does not arise exclusively from international efforts and the activities of individual cantons, but also from a feature which is characteristic of today's society: what is changing the quality of religious pluralism at the end of the 20th century is the fact that the global religious landscape, as well as that of Switzerland, has fanned out broadly, has splintered innumerable times, and is simultaneously subject to rapid change. On top of that the turn of the millennium has produced a doomsday mood and makes people especially susceptible to the most various types of offers of salvation and healing. The problems associated with this, in the opinion of the Commission, are socially and socio-politically relevant and thus require - contrary to previous, historically founded practice - the state to take a clear position: It acknowledges known world religions and smaller congregations which operate in the framework of socially and officially tolerated limitations and treats them as partners who have equal rights.

This is how it sees to it that these groups will be able to avail themselves of the freedoms of belief and religion mentioned in the Constitution. This is not about where this Basic Right sets limits, but intervenes where that same Basic Right in Article 15 paragraph 4 prohibits the exploitation of force of this type: the state must call a decisive halt when the rights of groups, individual group members or individuals outside the group are endangered or being suppressed. At the same time the state simultaneously introduces into Switzerland, which is characterized by religious pluralism, a social discussion and makes it particularly clear that universal human rights form the least common denominator in the functioning of our society (and even of our state). In this function it takes the role of a protector of tolerance and takes a vital role in the further development of the playing rules by state, society and religious congregations, and provides a contribution to the identity of Switzerland for the 21st century.


I Assignment, Organization and Procedure

1. Initial Situation

The question of responsibility for "sect" issues at the federal level, and especially the Solar Temple drama, led the National Assembly's Business Review Commission to decide to get involved with the problems of "sects," assimilative movements and new religious movements. What triggered this in particular was the fact that more and more cases were becoming known and discussed in public in which individuals were being obstructed from exercising basic democratic rights, such as the right to form an opinion or the right of voluntary expression.

Upon the observation of a GPK member that (in February 1997), in the central office for joint defense, there was no reference either to the Solar Temple drama or to the associated issue of the ethical principles of security politics, a representative of the EMD (today the VBS) commented that the understanding of the concept of "threat" included not only a military but also "social and religious aspects."

In their intention to review the question of the necessity of action by the state, the Commission has been strengthened through:

1. "Scientology in Switzerland," a report by the State Security Advisory Commission (KSK), published by the Swiss Federal Police, July 1998. An unofficial English translation is available at http://cisar.org/books/trn1030.htm.


2. The Mission of the GPK and its Limits

It is the mission of the GPK to review the fulfillment of federal missions. Hence the Commission traces the [authorizing] legitimization in the examination of an assignment not observed by the Federal Assembly and its administration. Even if no service agency is systematically involved with the theme of "sects," "new religious movements" or "psych-groups," there are very likely common points of contact in this connection, not least of which was the (dissolved at the end of 1998) Central Office for Joint Defense. The Secretary of the position conference was intensely concerned with the theme, even if he confirmed for the Commission that "personne ne s'occupe spécifiquement de la question des sectes au sein de cet office".

The Commission discussed issues which included the following:

Discussions regarding content material of individual "sects," "new religious movements" or psycho-groups were not a component of this inspection, insofar as that was generally possible. The GPK concentrated, first and foremost, on the goals, practices and methods along with their effects of conflict independently of individual groups. This report is meant to summarize the general potential for danger and conflict, contribute to the technical expertise of the discussion, make recommendations and so provide a contribution to clarification and to the formation of opinion by authorities and by the public.

3. Organization and Procedure

3.1 The Administrative Section of the GPK-N included the following members: National Assemblyman Fulvio Pelli (President), National Assemblymen and women Pierre Aguet, Angeline Fankhauser, Christiane Langenberger, Hubert Lauper, Walter Schmied, Luzi Stamm, Alexander Tschaeppaet (President of the Section until 31 Dec 97) and Milli Wittenwiler. The Section was supported by the Secretary of the Business Review Commission and her staff. In dealing with special questions the section called upon attorney Dr. Urs Eschmann as an expert.


3.2 The Administrative Section of the GPK-N met on the following days: May 28, 14-15 August, 15-16 October 1997, on September 8, on October 20, and on 12 and 17 November 1998, on January 20, February 23, March 16, and on June 15, 1999. It heard a total of 23 people (designated in the report as "interviewed person" or "interviewee").

The professional spectrum of the persons interviewed - law, psychology, sociology, theology, history science, journalism -, their actual involvement with the theme - state financed research at universities, legal advisement, church and primarily volunteer private counseling - along with the various methods of consideration in the international settlement are evidence of the multiplicity possible and of the altogether legitimate methods of consideration which were taken. This wide range of relations, which also had input from attempted influence by individual "sects," "new religious movements," and "psychogroups" in politics and business, made obvious the emotional explosive power of the subject. - even the GPK did not remain untouched by this. The Section heard testimony from the Federal Data Security Commissioner and a representative of the Federal Tax Administration as well as a representative of the Federal Office for Culture. They also invited a few groups in to be heard, including some which had expressed a desire to be heard. Four out of six organizations made use of the invitation to speak. The subject of these meetings were neither [religious] conviction nor religious content, but the issue of whether and to what extent new religious movements, assimilative groups or "sects" would tolerate a need for action from the side of the federal authorities.

3.3 The Section commissioned the Parliamentary Administrative Control Center (PVK) to answer the following questions:

4. Findings of the PVK[2]

The PVK came to the following conclusions in their task report of 20 February 1998:

2. PVK's Task Report of 20 February 1998, attached to this report.



II. Actual Problems

1. "Sect": an unclear concept

The definition of the historically oppressed term of "sect" is difficult and remains problematic. Any attempt to view it with a clearly outlined content free from evaluation must fail due to the numerous kaleidoscopic aspects from which it can be viewed. The following selections may make that clear:

Terms used besides "sects" are "youth religions" (from the 1960s), "psychogroups," "destructive cults," "Far Eastern guru movements," "occult organizations," "organizations which operate under the protection of religious freedom," or (on the political plane) "religious communities, so-called youth sects and psychogroups," "so-called sects and psychogroups," and even - in general - "new religious movements." The latter also contains the terms "audience cult," "client cult" and "cult movement," which is more of an expression of organizational form and which corresponds more to the "wish for religious lack of obligation and consumer dealing with the offerings of a religious supermarket." Another difficulty is the fact that there is no legal definition of the term "cult" in all of Europe.

"Sects" is a "theological term for smaller congregations which have splintered off from a mother religion, and also for world philosophical groups which make religious claims without having arisen by splintering off from a major religious congregation. "Sects" however, has always been a term used from outside of the group, since the group does not see itself as a sect." [3]

In general speech usage it is equivalent with using the terms "radical," "extremist," "profit-oriented," "totalitarian" or "destructive" which inherently conceals the danger of wholesale disparagement and indiscriminate stigmatization of communities of faith. Presumably groups who have been branded or feel as though they have been branded reject the term "sect" and prefer the scientifically neutral term used by theologians and religious sociologists, "new religious movements," not least of all to lend themselves an air of religious authority. Even this term raises questions: is a group which describes itself as a "church which sees itself as a victim of "religious persecution" really a "new religious movement" even though it is lacking in religious substance in even the most favorable case? May a movement which presents itself as a religion despite opposing indices be described as a dangerous association which has disguised itself as a religion? Individual movements adapt their labels from nation to nation depending on the circumstances: a movement calls itself a "church" in one country, in another a "Center for Applied Philosophy," and declares itself, approved by the justice officials, to be a "persecuted religious minority." While honest groups have no conflict at all, questionable associations also exploit the term "new religious movements" for the purpose of claiming the protection of religious freedom. The term "sect" is neither neutral nor is it a "scientific category with precisely defined characteristics for certain forms of belief or life styles." [4]

3. According to Meyers Lexicon.

4. Flammer, Philipp: "'Sekte': Können wir auf dieses Wort verzichten?" Referat in der Paulus-Akademie Zürich vom 16./17. März 1996 zum Thema "Missbrauchte Sehnsucht. Oder: Was ist eine Sekte?", in: infoSekta, Tätigkeitsbericht 1996, p. 20f.
["Sects: Can we do without this word?"]


It has turned into a word used in political disputes which - exactly for this reason - makes it all the more necessary to scrutinize it as a social phenomenon and as a subject of research.

2. "Sects": Facts and market phenomena in a pluralistic society

The "sect" phenomenon must be taken in context in today's society - increasing splintering and individualization, a tapering professional specialization with simultaneous transformation of the professional world as well as a marked pluralism as concerns religious and philosophical issues. Certain basic human needs get less and less space: social networks sunder, the creative components are disappearing from the work place, the material side of existence is growing at the cost of the common sense, the rapid changes promote insecurity and raise the potential for frustration. On top of that, (western) society no longer orients itself to a common standard of values. "Sects," in these times of changing values, offer themselves as an overflow valve for the insecurities associated with change: they offer a feeling of community, compensate for social isolation, give an identity to individuals who feel like they are only numbers, and provide (often absolute) answers to issues of meaning, i.e. they satisfy the need for security, as was determined by a study done in 1982 about sects in Romandie in 1982. [5]

Parallel to the rapidly increasing operation of local, regional and national commercial units in the global dimension of commerce ("world economy") with the socio-cultural changes, a globalization on the plane of religious belief can be observed which "is characterized in that certain 'religious undertakings' are pursuing an international strategy." It is therefore obvious that the religious change is also taking place in its own religion market in which consumers can select denominations or whole systems of belief. The complexity and vast number of movements, from a sociological perspective, amounts to one of the characteristics of the modern and post-modern era. Along with this a unique "cultic milieu" has arisen: "In English, the word 'cult' primarily describes groups which have 'deviated' from reigning religious traditions. However, they can only come about in large numbers with the cooperation of a favorable milieu. This 'milieu' is the heterogenous selection of "deviating" systems of belief and their associated practices. This does not absolutely have to do with 'religions' in the narrow sense. In the "cultic milieu' you face alternative medicine, parapsychology, exotic spiritual movements, interests in aliens, esoteric-occultism, etc. Even though there is no explicit relationship among them, these very different groups, in actuality, have a tendency to mutually strengthen each other. They are enveloped in an atmosphere which promotes the search for new values, and anyone who has an interest in one area will sooner or later necessarily come into contact with the others, because their information sources are frequently the same

5. Campiche, Roland F.: Les sectes religieuses: sociétés dans la société suisse romande, in: Repères, Revue romande, Nr. 4, 1982, p. 8f.


book stores, the same magazines, the same gathering spots (Campbell 1971)."[6] At this point it would be worthwhile to confront a widespread misunderstanding: the global market for issues of belief is not directed towards a certain, clearly defined and structured set of customers, as suggested by the term in widespread use at the end of the 1960s, "youth sects" (with the associated beginnings of "sect" information by concerned parents' associations). The significance of the "sect" phenomenon as a "crisis of the individual" should not be mistaken for having to do with social dimensions or having been formulated by a relative. "All are susceptible to sects." People convinced by their perceptions will give up an active life more quickly than one would generally suppose. Others go so far as to mix up scientifically proven facts and pseudo-scientific claims.

Continued splintering and spread of religious or pseudo-religious form and content will hardly be checked in the future. Consequently, outgrowths - be they "unspectacular" and therefore "silent", individual, or "spectacular" and therefore explosive dramas - are on the rise. Because of the variety of groups, however, it is not appropriate to speak of an "epidemic": one such method of consideration first suggests the equivalent of a vaccination, in other words, "a simple solution." Secondly, the extremely "rich" religious market and the extremely pervious cultic milieu - a heavy "tourism" among the groups by the adherents can be observed - do not allow it to be regarded and evaluated en bloc. Thirdly those concerned may not be declared incompetent, but must be taken seriously. Fourth, the problem is too dynamic; the development alone poses an enormous problem for the observer: "Will what he writes today still be valid tomorrow? Will the tendencies remain as they are? Will groups which are unknown today one day attain a prominent position in the scene of minority religions?" [7] The increase of techniques and denominations does not mean, though, "that the number of their adherents is increasing proportionately. The number of members of many groups remains, in contrast, rather modest." [8] The real and objective dangers which include not only real-life tragedies but also an alienation and de-politicalization of the people may nevertheless not be underestimated and regarded as isolated, local occurrences, but must - in view of everyone's potential susceptibility - be regarded as a social and socio-political problem. The social mission therefore consists of confronting aberrations and outgrowths with suitable preventive means on a wide scale. As a result every structure, characteristic and method must be identified which lends a quality ranging from problematic to dangerous, for which a potential of conflict exists, not only to the religious, spiritual and esoteric markets, but also to the providers of the life management [assistance] market.

6. Mayer, Jean-François: Sekten und alternative Religiosität, in: Hugger, Paul (Hg.): Handbuch der schweizerischen Volkskultur. Leben zwischen Tradition und Moderne – ein Panorama des schweizerischen Alltags, Band 3, Zürich 1992, p. 1482.
7. Mayer, Sekten und alternative Religiosität, p. 1472.
8. Mayer, Sekten und alternative Religiosität, p. 1472.


3. Taking Inventory

As concerns quantitative statements, these statements are at odds with each other. Based on the Swiss federal census of 1990, Jean-François Mayer stated that fewer than 2% of the population say they belong to denominations („croyances") "as chartered groups" outside of the major religions; these adherents then divide themselves up into about 300 religious groups. In a different spot the same author speaks about "less than 3%" and "at least 200 to 300 groups" [9], in yet other spots "300 to 600 groups." The Ecumenical Work Group of "New Religious Movements in Switzerland" states the number as being over 600 groups [10], as does journalist Hugo Stamm. According to statements by Prof. Georg Schmid of the Information Agency of the Evangelical German-Swiss Churches and from the 7th edition which is being prepared of the handbook by Oswald Eggenberger, 700 to 800 groups are mentioned. The diverging numbers [11] are due in part to the various interests of the authors, but also go back to the phenomenon itself. Not all groups are constructed as such, statistically accounted for or respectively understandable.

The danger involved with directing attention toward little known groups is part of an uncontrolled, unstructured and indecipherable gray zone. Statistically speaking, Switzerland (along with Great Britain and the Netherlands) appears most strongly affected by the multiplicity of religious movements.

According to the 1990 Swiss census, 39.98% of the population (about 2.7 mil.) were Protestant [12] (1980: 44.3%) and 46.32% Catholic [13] (about 3.1 mil)(1980: 47.9%). About 58,000 people belonged to "other Christian denominations" [14] and another 30,000 to "other religious denominations and philosophies" (which include Buddhists and others). 17,500 people said they were Jewish and 152,000 Mohammedan. About 51,000 people stated "no affiliation," while 100,000 people made no statement as to their religious preferences.

The number who described themselves as not belonging to any religion grew from 3.8% in 1980 to 7.4% in 1990. The two major Christian churches no longer represent the standard for an ever growing number of religiously oriented people in issues of faith, and it is estimated today that about a fifth of Swiss men and women would describe themselves as not belonging to any religion or denomination. These numbers, coupled with evidence that the Jehovah's Witness and others have contributed to the social integration of immigrants from Italy, Spain and Portugal, lead one to the following conclusion: The religious landscape in Switzerland differentiates itself in its complexity only unessentially from the religious models of other states of our cultural circle - a "new situation in a country which has never had a colonial tradition and has not designated itself as an immigrant country." [15]

9. Mayer Jean-François, La liberté religieuse à l'heure du pluralisme. Rutherford Institute, Rapport sur la Suisse, Paris, août 1997, p. 3.
10. Oekumenische Arbeitsgruppe „Neue religiöse Bewegungen in der Schweiz" – Entwicklungen 1979-1997, p. 5.
11. The difficulty of quantitative recording was also pointed out in a report by a French Parliamentary Investigation Commission; Les sectes en France. Rapport Parlementaire, Paris 1996, p. 41.
12. Evangelical Reformed Church, Evangelical Methodist Church, the rest Protestant churches.
13. Roman Catholic Church, Christian Catholic Church, Eastern Christian Orthodox and Oriental Christian Churches
14. New Apostolic Church (about 30,000), Jehovah's Witnesses (19,500), the rest Christian denominations (8,300).
15. Roland Campiche and Claude Bovay, cited from: Mayer, Jean-François: Suisse: La liberté religieuse ..., p. 2.


Today Switzerland amounts to an "import country for practically every movement" and has it own groups (Methernita, Uriella, etc.), but exports practically no mysticism. A study on membership in faiths and denominations in Switzerland [16] conducted by the Institute for Social Ethics in Lausanne, and which was cause for much comment by the media, called the rising number of people who do not belong to a denomination (about 12 percent or 500,000 people) the "Un-faithful."

Even if more and more people declare no affiliation to a church-like organization, they have their faith regardless, so that "our society can be characterized much more as having a surplus of faith - appearing in varied and numerous forms - rather than a shortage. Groups included under the collective term "new religious movements," which no longer contain Christian concepts in the widest sense, started to get their foothold in Switzerland in the 1950s and 1960s. Part of them were "cultural imports" from India, Japan or the Asiatic cultural regions and the esoteric intellectual world; others were "cultural innovations" from within the Occidental intellectual world which did not invoke the Christian tradition (e.g., Scientology).

New indigenous religious are getting more rare. Even if Switzerland amounts to a "turntable" in the so-called religion market, the developments do not essentially differ in comparison to other nations because "in view of the crisis of the individual, every western society today is susceptible to sects" - to be sure the relative material wealth has an effect on the susceptibility to sects, "The rich and unhappy person can rather frequently be encountered in Switzerland."

For the religions market of Switzerland with a spiritual demand and a suitably wide selection of orientations and movements several of the interviewed people are not pursuing self-regulation on two grounds: for one thing an abundance of the offerings do not present the best cultural medium for a stable and lasting anchorage, [17] for another "political and religious extremes in normal business relations" tend to regulate themselves. "The Swiss are not inclined toward extremes."

The opinion of those interviewed that there are differences between French and German Switzerland in the attitude toward assimilative movements - French Switzerland was said to be more tolerant - has been compromised after the Solar Temple tragedy. Interestingly enough it is western Switzerland which strives for inter-cantonal cooperation. Besides that, references were made to the influence of the current neighboring countries on the attitude of the language groups in Switzerland, i.e., Germany, France and Italy.

4. Analysis of the Commission

4.1 Preliminary Remark: Human rights, Basic rights and Constitutional sovereignty as guarantees of freedom, equal opportunity and tolerance

From the beginning the Commission unanimously agreed that its investigation could not revolve around content of a religious or a world or other view by which people have been trying to explain their existence since time immemorial. The freedom necessary for the search for the truth


along with the development of irrevocable space for spirituality are equally irrelevant themes in its work.

In regards to the role of the state, this means for the Commission that: the fundamental right and extensive protection of the individual from state intervention - one of the oldest basic rights in the constitutional tradition of European states - may not be infringed upon. Article 15 of the new federal Constitution of 18 December 1998 maintains this basic principle which is relevant in this connection: it guarantees the freedom of belief and conscience, guarantees the free choice of "religion and world view convictions" along with their exercise, "alone or in company of others" and gives the right "to enter or belong to a religious denomination or hold religious instruction." Moreover these guarantees are maintained by Article 9 of the European Human Rights Convention (EMRK) and Article 18 of the International Treaty for Civil and Political Rights: the states are obligated - also in their own interest - to fight discrimination and intolerance based on religious and convictions of faith so that they "can live within their borders and with the other states in peace." [18] As counterpart to the guarantee of religious freedom, Article 15 paragraph 4 of the new federal Constitution forbids force in this regard: "Nobody may be forced to enter or belong to a religious denomination, to undergo religious treatment or to follow religious instruction." [19] It is on the last point in which the Commission was established. From its view point human rights, recognized basic values, the core contents of freedom (e.g., freedom of decision) as well as the basic points of democratic principles may not be influenced or done away with entirely in the name of religion. At the same time it is aware that restrictions of constitutionally guaranteed basic rights require special provisions: they must be in the public interest, based on a a legal foundation and take proportionality into account. Even Article 9 EMRK and Article 18 of the International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights explicitly states the contingency for restrictions as well as the appropriate provisions. [20] This report as presented would not be necessary if the search for truth in religious form actually led to more freedom in every case. Unfortunately sometimes the opposite happens; cases can come about in which democratic basic rights of the individual - for instance the free formation of opinion, the free expression of will or even bodily integrity - can be encroached upon.

18. See in regards to this the Position of the Swiss Delegation to the OSCE meeting on religious freedom of March 22, 1999 in Vienna.
19. The corresponding vote on the international plane can be found in Article 18 paragraph 2 of the International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights.
20. Article 9 paragraph 2 EMRK reads, "The freedom to profess his religion or world view may only be subject to restrictions which are legal proscribed or necessary in a democratic society for the public security, for the protection of the public order, health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
Article 18 paragraph 3 of the International Treaty for Civil and Political Rights reads, "The freedom to manifest his religion or world view may only be subject to legally proscribed restrictions which are necessary for the protection of public security, order, health, morals or basic rights and freedoms of others."


4.2 A Glance at Structures and Characteristics

4.2.1. Dynamic Components

The phenomenon of "sects is not specifically Christian in nature but occurs inside and out of large religions.

From the sociological perspective the term contains the meaning of a "dissenting minority," and is characterized by attitudes like intolerance and aggressive proselytizing (importunate recruitment for a belief or philosophy). Such characteristics are not restricted to "sects" as special religious communities, but can also be found in traditional religions, churches, political parties, associations, etc - in short: ultimately any community which overestimates itself [is] potentially a sect: any 'upper village' is better than a 'lower village' ... The self-perception of the special group grows to the point of having a unique value and meaning." These characteristics are not to understood in the static sense, but are indicative of the dynamic components and the vertical dimensions in conversion to sectarian behavior (and - seldom recorded - the departure from it): there is just as much tendency towards a stronger sectarianism as there is towards development of openness and a readiness to have dialogue. In this connection, Prof. Georg Schmid has developed a model used by the Commission in the form of a "sect thermometer" which graphically presents the stages of sectarianism:

Stage 1: The feeling of being something special is normal for any human community, for state churches, political parties, sport associations, etc.

Stage 2: Man and wife a not only something special, but better than the others - that is also normal: but if I were to find that my state church or political party were not better than the others, I would no longer be a part of them. The others also belong to a community which they believe to be better than the others.

Stage 3: I belong to the best group of all which all others should emulate: there is a sense of mission and a missionary pressure towards recruitment for one's own group. Not the state churches as organizations, but probably the currents within them could be counted as part of this: the non-denominational churches demonstrate extensive recruitment operation and emphasize membership in step 3, for instance with their Christ testimonials, in that everybody should believe in Christ the way they do.

Stage 4: (Fundamentalism step): one has sole salvation and has divine truth (even if not exclusive). The teaching is perfect and comes from heaven. He who teaches and believes as I do also stands in the truth - he who teaches or believes differently is being ruined by his own or demonic thoughts. He who does not cooperate "is lost." Fundamentalists worship their teachings; fully developed sects have even deified the group itself. [...] The state churches are no longer in this category, but once were (large communities can also deviate into the high sect stages). Sect step 4 is reached by many people, including psychological groups. [...]


Stage 5: "We alone can make people happy and are the only ones in heaven": Other people are objects of missionary work or thoroughly worthy of damnation; people who do not believe are to be avoided. Their non-belief is demonic.

Stage 6: The group tries to ban non-believers from their field of vision - it begins with the separation from the world: only the sect has the right to life on earth (key word: persecution complex); not everybody has a right to it, for those people destruction is certain: they will burn anyway - so why not help them along a little bit? The "divorce" from other people manifests an inquisitional manner of thinking in the form of psychic inquisition. [...] Anybody who leaves a group which is in this stage is seen (even by relatives) as non existent - the people in the village look the other way when they pass him by.

Stage 7: The delusions of the sect turn into persecution complex when operating externally and, at the same time, into megalomania internally ("If I think a thing is, then it is"). [...] Without criticism, megalomania develops almost automatically. Anyone who takes note of the delusion becomes (thanks to the persecution complex) an arch enemy. The persecution complex develops from the ever-growing unawareness of the outside world. The sect begins to demonize any criticism from the outside world; the consequence is

Stage 8: A trigger leads to a catastrophe by which the group, but not the world, perishes. Megalomania and persecution complex meet and collectively run amok.

Central criteria for the tendency to go in the direction of the dynamic are internal discussion and open debates: these are guaranteed and stay with the group in the lower stages; if they are eradicated, it drives the group upward. The connection between the possibility of having internal discussion and the the degree of sectarianism is easily recognizable.

4.2.2. "Acquiring" Concepts of World and People

Besides that, formal and structural characteristics as well as concepts of people and the world make clear the dealings of groups with their members and with society:

- Reduced, black-white - and as a rule - schematic view of reality, partially enriched by "secret knowledge"; compromises and or moderate positions are made impossible;

- Universal - individual as well as global - and system immanent closed problem solving models;

- Hierarchical structures with subordinate and mutual control characteristics lead to a forced increase of dependence upon authority: decision and responsibility are delegated to a "higher competence." [21] An absolute guru, a prophet, a messiah or bringer of salvation - man or woman - at the top claims to be familiar with absolute salvation or he or she praises a preformulated concept of salvation with a comparably absolute claim to bring known human experiences into harmony in the mystical-spiritual area.

21. Gasper et al. (Lexicon ...), p. 977.


Such a "higher instance" can be somewhere living or already dead - but is unattainable in either case. Invoking unquestionable teaching independent of persons is also possible.

Radically bringing about a private, irrevocable reality which does not tolerate criticism, sometimes with extreme means: conspiracy theories [22] (from an external source) are created, fear (of the individuals within) is fomented and exploited, dependencies (through daily meetings, compartmentalization of the group, isolation of the members, inspections by the group, etc.) are made and strengthened and institutionalized by means of assimilation and manipulation techniques (dynamic group procedures or rituals, artificial vocabulary). The emphasis of these characteristics is dependent upon the size, the age and the organizational structure of the group as well as on the diversity of levels of the teachings. They can also be applied in the evaluation of fundamental currents or categories within recognized religions and are basically applicable as identifying basic elements and schematic mechanisms in communities with widely varying and diverse objectives which are seen from the surface. If several of these characteristics match up to a significant degree within a group, it can, from experience, be concluded that assimilation, manipulative influence and indoctrination are occurring to a varying extent, even if these are not easily followed up in individual cases. Using these characteristics, it is possible to do without terms such as "sects," "psycho-groups," "new religious cults," "Far East guru movements," "occultic organizations," etc., and their definitions.

The same goes for the general terms "congregations" or "churches" which groups use so as not to be described as a "sect" and fall into the light of criticism. Conversely, churches could also have sect-like characteristics. In the opinion of the people interviewed, the presence of one of the presented characteristics or internal structures does not affect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of belief or conscience; this would taking the state out of the line of fire of criticism for evaluating and judging philosophies and ideas.

Structures, methods and content, however, are not always easy to separate from each other.

A discussion based on content or ideology cannot be avoided if the - always based on a concept of people - ideology is part of the method, if it is racist or fascist or if it is publicly distributed, then intervention can take place based on existing legal precedents (article 261 criminal code book, anti-racism criminal standard) (but not their allegiance in closed circles and in private groups, which strengthens the necessity for information). The danger of racist / anti-Semitic or rightwing extremist / fascistoid tendencies can be manifested on various planes [23].

- Groups / Publications which openly argue with racist, anti-Semitic or negative campaigns.

- Teachings which uncritically relate traditions which - some conditional upon era - would be anti-Semitic or racist (they are even more dangerous, but more difficult to detect).

22. In our degree of latitude, conspiracy theories are almost always along the lines of anti-Semiticism; see Tangram: Bulletin of the Swiss Federal Commission against Racism, Nr. 6, Themenband "Religion und Esoterik auf Abegen?"
23. Details on this are available in various paragraphs in Tangram, volume 6.


In this connection a critical discussion is necessary with those claiming the traditional line, as is a clear separation and a religious or theological redefining of racist elements of the teaching in any case.

- Anti-democratic teaching which put the foundations of our self-understanding in question.

A clear separation is not possible where a method compromising one of the Basic Rights is derived from the ideology. That includes, for example, the interpretation of internal criticism of the group as a "temptation of Satan" or as a lack of group loyalty, group loyalty being sanctioned by a private "rights committee."

Sexual exploitation can also have a subordinate rank on the group's internal structure of power and obedience, or be based in the ideology: it becomes a "sacred act" or is turned into a privilege to be chosen by the guru and regarded as such. These practices - which often involve children - are different from sexual exploitation in society insofar as the doers do not operate in isolation or from from individual motivation.

4.2.3. Assimilation as a central criterium

In consideration of the structural characteristics of the dynamic components of sect formation and dissipation, an assessment of values as to destructiveness and danger of groups cannot be avoided. They must indeed continue to be reviewed by outsiders in order to allow for the dynamics and to justify the high claim which the protection of basic values brings with it.

With that a first conclusion can be drawn as concerns the subject of research.

An extensive transcription of the phenomenon is apparently faced with a considerable need for definition which entails various and not always comparable methods of consideration, regards dynamic as well as structural components and covers the most varied aspects without, however, leaving gaps. Finally there is a "hard core" of movements with a matching potential for conflict which can be described with the term "assimilative movements" or "assimilative groups." Any group which exhibits the described structural characteristics in their particular, problematic manifestations is included under the one term of "assimilation." This classification can be made independently of the question of whether it is a new movement (sectarian tendencies can also be distinguished in traditional churches), a religious, spiritual, esoteric category or one disguised a such in the Life Management market. In the report the term "assimilative movements" will be principally used. However, the Commission is aware that the mere avoidance of the word "sect" may not be adequate, because "sect" has long taken on a political dimension as a buzz word and has become a "part of political speech."

By abandoning the word "sect", one may have


"any person confronted with an organized, powerful group who has been left out in the cold." [24] The same difficulties of a quantitative grasp that have already been determined also apply here. It would be misleading to restrict the discussion about the methods and structures of assimilation of the membership into societies. In the nebulous offerings of esoterica an actual organizational structure is often lacking - a magician can simply have a handful of people flock about him. In the wide-open, fragmented market of philosophical applications, the providers use mainly sectarian methods without recruiting or having members in the strict sense. In the market the borders fluctuate - the followers of the Solar Temple, according to an interviewee, developed from an inner esoteric circle - and are outwardly pervious.

Members of small groups can obtain high positions in business for the purpose of exercising influence. The potential also exists for political stonewalling.

"Sect" members in the management level of business or their activity as "economic advisors" is a theme [for discussion] in any case. Along with that goes the fact that there appears to be a real market phenomenon which opens financial dimensions: locked-in, individual debt with its known consequences over here, over there the structure and the effect of actual financial empires. Whether a - structured or unstructured - group or an individual provider on this market is religious, describes itself as esoteric or works in the psycho[logical] area, makes promises of salvation using unscientific means or relies on New Age theories, all this is irrelevant in light of their background. Their structures and methods must be able to be evaluated independently of religious content and promises of salvation of any kind, even if that is not always possible.

4.3 General Problems

In the following [sections] anything seen as a problem in the context of society, expert centers and government agencies is written down. Problems which are to be settled by those directly concerned will be dealt with in section 4.4 (Special Problems with those directly affected). In the view of the Commission, a clear separation between general (social) and special (individual) problems is not always possible. Certain problems touch upon the social, as well as individual, areas.

4.3.1. Inadequate Pool of Information

Besides the large amount of information which has been collected by individual persons and both church and independent counseling centers, organizations of those affected and government offices, large gaps exist, mainly in regard to the majority of smaller, new or constantly changing groups. But even with larger groups which have been known for a long time, the level of knowledge is always hovering behind the actual situation. In addition the available real statements mostly come from a few sources which only allow a general view or a broad assessment with considerable time-consuming extra research. The reason for this shortage is due, for one thing, to the small work capacity of the expert centers, for another, the great majority of the groups in question

24. Flammer, ... p. 27.


are in a state of transition, and several of these groups do this constantly. Many groups also intentionally maintain their nebulousness in that they do not release information to the outside, release only information which deviates strongly from the actual picture of the organization, or are constantly changing outward appearances. In the extreme case groups intentionally appear "in disguise." Some of this behavior is founded in the teachings of the group: when the essential ideas are only accessible to a dedicated circle of people, are distributed only verbally or among personal acquaintances, or are associated with sanctions for violating secrecy. The groups profit, then, from the nimbus of mystery.

The shortage of information brings manifold problems with it: first, competition of ideas, which is indispensable to a pluralistic, liberal democracy, cannot occur with "secret teachings," or can occur only with restrictions, because the teachings and methods are withdrawn from critical reflection or discussion. Without being aware of the actual situations, internal conflicts can come to a head, like with the Solar Temple; they will not be known or suggested and will not be reliably judged. When groups constantly appear under new names and in new forms of organization, that will contribute to the undermining of the effect of preventive information. Irrelevant or out-dated information heightens the risks for information and counseling activities. The risk, specifically, is that of giving out advice which is not relevant, not being able to adequately help, or to be sued. In order to give the quality of counseling the highest priority, information and counseling may not, in the end, be regarded as separate from each other.

Even the Federal Assembly and the federal administration do not appear to have an adequate information system at their disposal. As the PVK maintained in their work report and the Commission was able to determine, no agency in the federal government deals explicitly with the theme, even if some are occasionally confronted with it. For instance, projects in the Youth Advancement Law were turned down, since democratic participation was not guaranteed. However, the offices responsible would want to have solid criteria to recognize misuse. Specific problems in regard to the storage of information present themselves with data security: only individual organizations comply with the requirement mandated in the data security law to report to the Federal Data Security Commissioner (SDSB) on private data collections with sensitive personal data - which includes data on religious and weltanschauung views and activities - which permits the production of personality profiles.

According to the statement of the EDSB, however, his means and alternatives are limited: he is not in the position to make systematic unannounced inspections, nor can he follow up on known data collections which have made reservations against him, for instance, when the relationship is not given (e.g., data on health, wealth and capital, personal difficulties). These restrictions also apply to the control of the also legally prohibited transfer of sensitive personal data between states without equivalent data security regulations. Because of its experiences, the EDSB does not give the obligation to report first priority, the data register of the EDSB is only rarely consulted. The brunt of the load, therefore, must be carried by the Information Law or by the individual with the holder of the data; that is the only way the people affected (but not this or another responsible organization) can control the accuracy of the data or validate the adjustments to them.


If religious or like communities are acknowledged by cantonal law, the obligation to report is to the canton and not the federal data security regulations.

In addition to the findings of the PVK, it has been shown that the reserved information practices among the cantons lead to a mutually varying tax or tax-exemption practice for foundations and associations, and not only among the cantons (for diverse reasons), but even between federal and cantons. The federal tax administration considers desirable, in hindsight, a type of Swiss tax register which contains a uniform as possible interpretation of the direct federal taxes, but reminds us, however, that a data bank of this sort - it currently exists in individual cantons - can be realized only with difficulty, and for various reasons cannot be constantly kept up to date: associations, as most religious and similar movements are organized, are not known to tax and other offices and often do not intend to report themselves as potentially taxable.

4.3.2. Incomplete Research and Cooperation

The scientific involvement with New Religious Movements is limited in this area of scientists of varying schools, and essentially depends upon their personal interests. For instance, the relationship of youth to religious issues is not covered by research, only one (and that not covered by the nature of the entire youth) of the recruitment questions asked by the VBS addresses that [issue]. The lack of research is also seen in connection with federalism - issues of religion are a matter for the cantons. A study by the National Funds from 1987 to 1989 (National Research Program 21, "Cultural Pluralism and National Identity"), which partially investigated the non-conventional religious movements in Switzerland and their effects on society, no longer corresponds to the events of the day, and could, in the view of the Federal Assembly "be brought up to the latest position." [25] Manipulative methods in Switzerland (in contrast to the USA, where an entire branch of science is concerned with it) has barely been researched. Psychic consequences from psychic effects (as opposed to psychic consequences of physical effects) are poorly explained. Associated with that is a lack of inter-disciplinary thought concerned with setting up research. Additionally, actual basic research would be necessary as "the question of what a sect is, is justified", as one of the interviewees stated.

Analogous to the scientific deficit, a lack of cooperation exists between university research and the church and private counselling centers, even though it is completely available. Ultimately it is not manifest based on the various estimates: while the former is directed toward research results, the latter is oriented to psychic, health and financial problems of those directly and indirectly affected by the assimilative groups. In this a fact, which appears paradoxical, is that the research is subsidized by public means and is therefore financially secure in the long-term, while the church and private counselling centers, which are primarily operated only with use of volunteers, have to struggle with acute financial problems

25. Interpellation Effective Fight of Sectarian Outgrowths of 20 March 1998 (98.3136).


and a shortage of personnel, on which account they cannot always properly answer inquiries. (It was clear among the interviewees on this subject that the departure of experienced counsellors would result in a large loss of know-how which could not be made up for by new hiring.

The Swiss National Funds for the Advancement of Scientific Research supports a project for an "Observatorium for religions in Switzerland" under the title of "Religion and Social Commitment" ("religion et lien social"). Under the figurehead of overlapping faculty in the Department for History and Theology of the University of Lausanne, a wide-sweeping analysis in regards to religions in Switzerland is planned from the aspect of the social sciences of religions. Among other things, it is planned to establish a data base and to develop a network of researchers and expert organizations. The project's objective is not directed towards researching misunderstandings and conflict potential.

4.3.3. Problems in enforcing applicable law

The existing legal foundation appears, in the opinion of the Commission, to be for the most part adequate. However it is not put into effect often enough (missing charges) or is utilized inadequately, e.g., in individual cantonal health legislations in connection with healing practices or other pseudo-medical care providers.

Limits also exist in the utilization [of the law] where, for example, racist / anti-Semitic statements are not subject to the anti-racism criminal code (article 261 bis StGB), because they are made in a closed circle of people. In addition, gaps exist in the legislation, such as minimal legal regulation in the scope of consumer protection (e.g., minimal standards for legal contracts).

Experienced attorneys who represent the interests of former "sect" members as well as their relatives indicate that even court (including guardianship) agencies are of the opinion that "sects" affect only those who are susceptible, and are extremely reserved in basing the causes in an assimilative movement - regardless of whether it has to do with the welfare of a child, with divorce, or physical or psychic injuries. When it happens in a religious context, according to the experts, the hesitancy has a tendency to grow.

The reasons for this great hesitation are at times based on insufficiently explained concepts on the content and bounds of religious freedom. Often, too, there exists a fear of counter-attacks by the group in question either legally, in print or in unclear definitions. There is also a lack of recognition about the effectiveness and the risks of the structures and methods typical of a "sect," as well as a consequent understanding for the problems of persons affected by assimilative groups. In individual cases, these problems can cause a person who has been affected not to receive the protection which the state is able to offer in today's legal position, and there are other far-reaching effects. The public can receive the impression that no help can be expected from the state in regards to assimilative groups. Several of the assimilative groups exploit this feeling of powerlessness, or even intentionally strengthen it in the scope of their internal disciplinary system or in connection with external threat characteristics. This type of feeling of powerlessness heightens the relatively large number of harmful effects today by assimilative groups.


In the opinion of one of the people interviewed, numerous problems were not represented or were not represented to their full extent because the laws had been not been utilized, which would also lead back to the underassessment of the (insufficiently researched) methods. The following chapters, " Restrictions in the power of the state," "Alleged 'Free Will'," "Unclear Responsibility" - show obstacles which stand in the way of the application or interpretation of legal decisions, and in any case they give a general indication of the existing loopholes.

4.3.4. Restrictions in the power of the state

The following chapter describes any legal or technical limit which, from the experiences of those affected and their attorneys, could be problematic in practice. Limitations of state dealing with the Constitution (freedoms of belief and of religion) and other self-restrictions of the state are, as already mentioned, explicitly not regarded as objects of investigation nor are they put in question by the Commission.

Even if misunderstandings are recognized and the applicable laws are utilized, state intervention or protective measures more often than not prove impossible, or prescribed measures cannot be put into effect.

The reasons often lie in the fact that the injuries often affect the private sphere which escape state control or influence. Furthermore, abuses of constitutionally guaranteed basic rights, e.g., freedoms of religion and opinion, can only be fought when a certain threshold has been crossed, for instance when other basic rights have been seriously violated or endangered. In certain assimilative groups the chances for and efficiency of state measures are anticipated in advance in that the "group teachings" refuse state authority or at least put it subordinate to group authority. The consequent, progressive development of this tendency leads, internally to the group, to legitimization of civil disobedience or even to release of responsibility for keeping state rules.

Internationally organized groups are also in the position to avoid state measures by pulling back into other countries.

Further obstacles in getting state help arise when the group obligates its members/partners-in-contract to internal group justice. This problem also produces a feeling of powerlessness in those affected which often exacerbates the original problems and which makes discussion with the assimilative groups more difficult, among other things. This used to lead to individuals who were affected advocating or even employing illicit self-help measures (so-called "deprogramming").

4.3.5. Alleged "Free Will"

The attitude of the individual and of individuals does not only depend upon the current way of looking at things, but also on the difficulty of recognizing dependency when it happens, because


"modern psychology teaches us that there often exists a barely perceptible tendency in people to subject themselves to social claims to power which have been unavoidably experienced, and to justify this subjugation with good reasons and conviction or to voluntarily have it explained by false prophets. This gives the equivalent, to inner appearances, of constructing a free obedience which allows the experience of the inescapable, existing relationship of power and force to be not all too undignified."[26] The most predominant characteristic of assimilative groups is the damage to free self-determination up to the point of systematic undermining of autonomy. In view of the fact that there is practically no completely uninfluenced, stand-alone determination, and that exerting influence is tolerated (at times even desired) to a certain degree, the definition of excessive influence which is no longer tolerable to society proves difficult.

On one side the reasons may be sought in the internal effects of manipulative and indoctrinating methods which can not be easily seen from the outside. The external intervals often occur in a small or at least an internal group environment and can hardly be reconstructed or even proved. On top of that, too little is known about the manner of implementation in the occasionally very subtle manipulative methods in this context (as opposed to in connection with torture or POWs and in advertising), and there are (unclear) diverging opinions about it. Evaluation continues to be made difficult in that the manipulated person also has an interest, in that his unsatisfied needs and necessities prepare the path on which manipulation can take effect.

The problem lies in the person who has been affected failing to receive state help because the fulfillment of the specification (e.g., fraud, undue influence) cannot be met or because he has not convinced the officials that protected legal rights were at risk. The criticism of assimilative movements must therefore focus on the central question of how far free self-determination will be respected, how voluntary are membership (and obedience), and how far the community allows its members to leave at any time and without pressure or to renounce other non-binding obligations which were easily entered into. It is of particular significance for the state when individual groups go so far as to refuse secular authority, such as keeping children out of state elementary schools or to avoid state oversight of private schools, which is a matter for the cantons.

4.3.6. Unclear Responsibility

When criminal acts occur in the internal context of assimilative groups, the conditions are often fundamentally different from the situation of offenses in other connections. The offended person neither notices immediately that he has been the victim of a criminal act, nor is it clearly evident who is responsible for it.

Some of the reasons for this are that the perpetrator's and victim's roles are often entangled: either the person affected has taken part himself in similar dealing against other group members

26. Joerg Paul Mueller: Religious freedom - its significance, its internal and external risks. Opening statement at an OSCE seminar of 16-19 April 1996 in Warsaw, in: Reformatio, December 1996, p. 420 ff.


or he has "voluntarily" agreed to the treatment. The crimes do not usually happen as a result of an individual's failure, but may be at the order of a ranking person or committee which is not always known by name, is in a different country, or is part of the operating instructions used in the teachings. Often in the teachings structures or establishments are prescribed which intend the destruction of self-responsibility or "healthy human understanding." The absolute precedence of the group's own values over what is covered by law in the outside world, together with the super-motivation resulting from a view toward salvation of the world or from persecution, produces perpetrators without consciousness of injustice and without limitations.

The problem lies in a situation such as this only being recognizable with an awareness of the inner structure of the group or when the psychic mechanisms are visible. If the type of knowledge needed to to this is missing, the result may be that the investigative authorities unjustly take no action. If the teachings prescribed the criminal conduct, and if the author is unknown or unavailable, then the person who carried out the action is left to be punished, which may be adequate neither from the idea of justice nor as a general preventive measure. The educational aspect of punishment has no effect on the convictions of the doer if the criminal proceedings lead to closer association with the group or teachings.

4.3.7. Fear and Financial Dependence

From the counselling work it is evident that "victims" very often are afraid to defend their rights by taking all the available steps possible.

The reasons, in the opinions of the experts, are primarily because separation from an assimilative group seldom takes place in a single step, but consists of a long process. Frequently the remnants of "group-think" have their effect, along with feelings of shame and guilt. Because of this, those who wish to depart often have difficulty in recognizing and maintaining their own self-interests. The long duration of the separation often exceeds the statute of limitations. Because many groups' systems bring isolation upon their adherents from social contacts outside the group, the environment after the departure is lacking in being able to offer the necessary support. Several groups incite this fear by means of a strategy of aversion or an outwardly aggressive appearance.

But even with a sober method of consideration from the outside, the economic excess of power and the stubbornness of certain assimilative groups driven by over-motivation - in attack as in defense - endangers or prevents the pursuit of justified interests of individuals or of the public criticism of such groups. This causes problems on the individual and social levels in that after many violations, neither sanctions nor settlements ensue. Additionally this strengthens the group in their convictions of power and of being on the right path.

4.4 Special Problems for those directly affected

In the following chapter - unlike chapter 4.3, which concerned general, social problems - questions are posed which have a serious, direct affect upon those concerned and about which most of the public discussion is:


Exploitation, excessive attachment, health hazards, risking children's welfare and other hazards or influences upon self-determination. It is determined in advance that not all problems which are presented can be observed in assimilative groups as a whole. Also, the actual effects as regards degree and intensity vary widely among individual groups. Nevertheless, these problems constitute typical effects of symptomatic restriction of free self-determination for assimilative groups.

4.4.1. Exploitation

Exploitation is one of the most obvious aspects which the general public tend to be aware of. In the normal case it can be concluded that the work which was done was voluntary. Nevertheless, mention is made of cases in which there was little or no wage, of pressure to transfer wealth (e.g., savings or inheritance) to the group, of insufficient insurance or social security or indebtedness in the group's favor. Besides that, exploitation also takes place on the human level in that idealism is abused or former relationships are utilized to recruit more adherents or to exercise other types of influence.

4.4.2. Excessive Attachment

Characteristics of assimilative groups include the limitation or systematic undermining of the free self-determination of their adherents in order to produce, as soon as possible, a dependency of the member upon the group. The recruitment methods themselves are sometimes directed toward this goal, but in the main it is certain practices and structures of the groups, which often include a rigorous disciplinary system, which are directed towards it. Besides economic dependence as a consequence of the mentioned exploitative circumstance, psychic dependency is also very effective, because the groups often control and regulate the total, even the most private, spheres (family, intimate life, even "internal" thinking). From that also arises, especially with a lengthy membership, a social dependence, since adherents from assimilative groups - as a side-effect or intentionally produced by the teachings - by breaking off prior relationships, fall into a social isolation. Besides such "internal" hindrances to departure external hindrances are also occasionally added, such as legal provisions (restrictive or gag contracts), (less often) structural / geographical measures (e.g. physically remote locations) or even the application of physical force. In addition, on-going endeavors are taken to prevent the consideration of one's own situation.

4.4.3. Health Hazards

The teachings of many assimilative groups include healing practices, sometimes openly declared as such, sometimes disguised or even denied altogether. On occasion healing is asserted to be only a side-effect of a "spiritual development." Exactly where the healing practices are associated with hazards are where they are most frequently denied by the teachings and - because the "teachings" can never be wrong - are not regarded as part of the belief of those practicing it. Often the scientific warning signs


resulting from the anti-scientific attitude of the teachings are disregarded or even demonized. With regard to the over-valued goal (salvation of the soul / the world), risks are often undertaken which the average common-sensical person recognizes and avoids. This is where the danger potential of such practices fundamentally differ from healing attempts which are also sometimes fraught with danger when undertaken by professional medical practitioners (which does not just include traditional medicine).

Further health hazards result from practices whose goal is not healing (e.g., certain meditations, intensive interrogations, "marathon" events, excessive endeavors). The dangers in these are also denied or disregarded in favor of a more highly valued goal.

4.4.4. Risking Children's Welfare

If there is some doubt shown above in the "voluntariness" of entrance into or remaining in the group, in the participation in activities of an assimilative group in regards to adult members, then children, because of the special influence of their parents, have their self-determination even more strongly restricted, or a private decision by the child is completely missing. In part, outside determination is legally docked because the parents or, in any case, the home community may decide upon the religious training of a child [27] until religious majority is reached at age 16 [28].

Children in assimilative groups are affected the most by the harmful effects, which can also be observed in adults. As a result they are sometimes victims of practices directed especially against children (e.g., sexual abuse, forced meditation for infants) or "teaching ideas." [29]

Certain disadvantages affect children particularly seriously and sustainedly (e.g., "lost years" instead of diverse self-development and education; isolation from other children and other influences; as practiced by individual groups, keeping children out of state elementary schools or avoiding state control of private schools, already mentioned in chapter 4.3.5.). Because of their lower position and lack of experience, children cannot defend themselves as well as adults.

4.4.5. Other Hazards or Encroachments on Self-Determination

It is already characteristic to hear from the individuals' problem areas that assimilative groups give priority to their own interests and sometimes work against the individual interests of their adherents, or demand a corresponding subjugation of individuals.

The alienation from a socially tolerable involvement by a movement (which can also be thoroughly associated with victims) lies in the methods applied with which the necessary preparedness and the accompanying conviction are produced in those affected. If, in this connection, misleading deceptive

27. Art. 303 ZGB for parents, Art. 378 Abs. 3 ZGB for the home community of minorities.
28. Art. 49 Abs. 3 BV, Art. 303 Abs. 3 ZGB
29. Because of a lack of space here, the numbers here will have to be incomplete. The German Enquete Commission addressed in detail the problem areas concerning children, compare EBS p. 200ff. and the Study of Work Circle 4 "Child Welfare / Child Abuse" in EZB p. 86ff. Also the Swedish "sect" report emphasizes the protection of children; "In Good Faith – Society and new religious movements." See the English edition of 1998. (Original publication in Swedish: 392 pages).


indoctrinating methods are used, then the partial or entire "exercise" of self-determination is no more a matter of the individual - the state may and must step in (insofar as is possible). Extreme examples are those cases in which a group internal deliverance or persecution scenario drives the adherents into a collective suicide or another self-made mission (e.g., Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate) or to induce the commission of crimes (e.g. Aum sect). But even in less spectacular events (e.g., "instant" conversions; complete turnarounds of life after a course of several days duration, e.g., by leaving a previously intact family; inability to have a discussion, since the instruction of the group must always be adhered to or only sentences of belief may be stated without entering into a counter-argument) gives the outside observer, at least, the impression that the ability of self-determination is strongly restricted or even neutralized.

Since not just the civil and criminal codes, but also democracy, is based on the axiom of one's own responsible self-determination, even a liberal constitutional state may not idly stand by if assimilative groups systematically attempt to undermine the autonomy of the individual or to neutralize them.

4.5 The Attitude of the Authorities

The constitutional background of the involvement with religious issues and organizations is formed by the freedoms of belief and conscience in article 49 and 50 BV (or article 15 of the new Federal Constitution), which attained their primarily (historical) meaning in the satisfaction of the population and in the protection of the individual from the attack of larger religious communities after the separatist war and performed a central contribution for the unity of the federal state. Religious freedom is also guaranteed by article 9 of the European Human Rights Convention (EMRK) and article 18 of the International Treaty for Civil and Political Rights. With these, religious life is fundamentally and extensively protected. Citizens decide on religious issues, can express their views of faith, spread religious teachings and convictions in the form of performing church activities (freedom of culture).

Although the Constitution in the 19th century ascribed arbitration competence in the area of religion to the state, its mission today is limited to the guarantee of the freedoms of belief (incl. weltanschauung) conscience, as well as culture. Regulation of the relations between church and state is incumbent upon the cantons, which all recognize the major religious communities; the Cantons of Neuenburg and Geneva recognize the separation of church and state. The acknowledgment as a church procures the legal protection of the state as well as privileges such as tax exemption (very reservedly by the federal government and handled diversely in the cantons), freedom from military service, or presence in the schools and in public life, however it also obligates constitutionality and acknowledgment of the supervision of the state in their external interests. Non-denominational churches without legal public status, sects and practically all non-Christian religious congregations are subordinate to the Private Law (Art. 60 ff. ZGB). [30]

30. Neues Staatskundelexikon für Politik, Recht, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft. Aarau und Zürich, 1996.


In 1989 the Federal Assembly referred the answer to a simple inquiry - it explicitly made reference to personal freedom and the protection of those underage - to the private initiative. [31] The Federal Assembly and Parliament turned down - after the Solar Temple tragedy - the creation of a federal office for religious issues due to the canton's responsibility in matters of church. [32] Further answers by the state government to parliamentary proposals were always marked with restraint and contained the following elements: basic rights (in particular freedoms of faith and conscience), sovereignty of the cantons in church matters, provisions for state handling (in particular criminal acts, endangering the security of the state), effectiveness of existing laws (criminal and civil law, cantonal commercial and health police instruments).

The Federal Assembly has previously refused a coordinated operation by the state for financial reasons; it saw no kind of indication of a corresponding necessity by the cantons in March 1998, and it doubted the effectiveness of a harmonization of the individual cantonal laws. [33] The restrained practices of the judicial authorities was already discussed in chapter 4.3.3. With few exceptions, Swiss parliamentarians and administration members followed suit in their restraint in issues of faith. Even persistent, involved coverage by several print media, in contrast to Germany, have born little fruit. This same attitude predominates in the political parties: the sect counselling centers and parents' initiatives which have been in operation since the 1980s have not built any real political lobby at the federal level.

Viewing religion as a private matter, according to one of the people interviewed by the Commission, is legally speaking completely proper, but increasingly questionable, because socio-cultural changes in society in the past 20 years have been underestimated. It was said that today one must regard religion as an aspect of social life: "That is precisely what legitimizes the intervention of the state in this area." The retreat of the state also was said to contain "an inherent danger, as the state is obviously watching the current religious transformation and the tendency of various cantons to handle it sporadically and incompletely." In contrast not only to Germany and Sweden, but also to France, Swiss politics have not yet taken the opportunity to break the taboo on the theme and to take it away from being an affair of sheerly private responsibility and to make it a public matter.

With a glance at Germany, the Commission indicated that activity by the state does not contradict the offering of freedoms of belief and conscience. By that is not meant a radical attitude toward groups which - in Switzerland unthinkable and also unwished for in the eyes of the Commission - leads to demands for bans, but the fact that the politicians as well as the executive and legislative branches are personally exposed to the theme. They have accepted the fears available to the public which have been dramatized by the media and

31. Simple Inquiry 88.1068 Membership in religious sects and personal freedom.
32. Motion: creation of a federal office for religious issues of 14 December 1993 (93.3606) and Interpellation Federal Office for religious issues of 6 October 1994 (94.3418)
33. from the answers to following proposals: Interpellation influence of the Scientology Church in Switzerland of 3 October 1996 (96.3505); Interpellation Effective fight of sectarian outgrowths of 20 March 1998 (98.3136); Simple Inquiry Activities in the environment of Scientology of 27 April 1998 (98.1050).


have thereby recognized the social-political dimension of the problem: department ministers have commissioned studies, countries have started wide-ranging information campaigns, the German Federal Assembly employed a professionally endowed Enquete Commission, courts and political parties have made clear decisions, and even the former Federal Chancellor Helmuth Kohl made public statements. One minister even gained a legal reprieve - he was permitted to continue to describe one group as an "economic octopus," as a "commercially criminal organization," and as a "money-laundering organization."

Such political positions amount to a "signal to the people and simultaneous prevention," however those affected (including parents) would rather get involved with the theme, and that was also evaluated as a sign by the legislature.

Various cantons have, in the meantime, introduced corresponding steps:

- As a result of a motion from 1996, the Grand Assembly of Basel City Canton augmented the criminal violations code. According to it, those who attempt to recruit or advertise to pedestrians on public land by unfair or deceptive methods will be punished. The vote took effect at the end of November 1998.

At the end of June 1999, the Federal Court turned down a legal complaint by Scientology in regard to this.

- in Geneva Canton, a vote is foreseen in the criminal procedure law in connection with "sectarian offshoots" ("dérives séctaires"). Specifically it would allow people who have been harmed by an assimilative movement to claim help from an acknowledged expert organization as a civil party or as a witness in the proceedings.

- Since September 1997, the inter-cantonal work group for "sect" issues has been cooperating in the Cantons of Geneva, Neuenburg, Jura, Freiburg, Bern Tessin, Wallis and Waadt. The most important project (which the Cantons of Jura, Freiburg and Bern are not participating in) is an information center for issues of faith ("Centre d'information sur les croyances").

- On 19 October 1998, Tessin Canton published its own comprehensive report on "religious sects" ("sette religiose"). This puts the brunt of the load on the inter-cantonal work group, of which it is a member, for the application of existing law and the necessity or information, advise and counseling.

- One project for high school students in Waadt Canton is planning an elective subject "Religious history and Science" for third year students. It goal is to gain the suitable general education and advancement of "overlapping technical awareness and know-how." Religious science studies are to "promote mutual understanding in schools and to enhance the discussion of values of integration." The various categories indicate concepts such as "Esteem for one's fellow person, solidarity, civil and social responsibility." The project is scheduled to be for the 2000/2001 school year.


III Conclusions of the Commission and Possible Measures

1. The Commission's Work as the Process of building Awareness

The Commission, in the course of the interviews and discussion on the theme of "sects" and assimilative movements, became aware that it was dealing with a phenomenon which was as many-layered as it was controversial. Despite much information and intensive discussion, it could not form a conclusive picture. For instance it saw itself confronted with a contradiction whereby it was accused of having gaps in information and a deficit of research, but at the same time impressive individual cases of abuse were described. Another contrast stood between documented abuses in individual associations and their own presentation of the situation for which the Commission had given them opportunity. Besides that, the experts themselves are not always in agreement as concerns the actual religious character of groups and their possible sectarian tendencies, or the assimilative, manipulative and deceptive transactions with those seeking meaning, cure, or salvation. Several lay claim to freedoms of belief and religion in order to "pursue their purposes in the slipstream [of belief and religion] - in a method which has nothing more to do with the individual's rights to freedom."

"Sects", assimilative movements and other structured and unstructured groups, including those with a religious veil, and market-oriented providers of salvation operate in a very rapidly changing environment of religious pluralism. It is the discussion about religious freedom (and other liberal basic rights) which has broadened the field - and made clear their social (and socio-political) relevance: unusual religious convictions and stances of faith which are strange to our traditional Christian culture can be found in Switzerland along with other world religions.

Representatives of these religions, meanwhile, have come to make up a constant component of the Swiss resident population. Because of this, one has to be aware that numerous native Swiss also identify with religions which include Islam (today the third largest denomination in Switzerland), the Jewish religion or other denominations in Switzerland as a political and emotional homeland. As a consequence, the state will not get around the regulation of its relationship to the members of all religious beliefs - including the definition of "religion" or "church"; it has already been confronted with the consequences of the religious convictions of citizens (military service, dress codes, nutrition habits, etc.) The Commission is aware that:

- the way today's cultural and religious pluralism came about has a basis on our liberal, democratically constructed society,

- the further development cannot be made retroactive, nor can it be influenced by a certain direction, nor can it otherwise be prevented or even stopped altogether, and

- laws, regulations or other means could and would only meet with abuse. For this reason it has gained the insight that only a culture of tolerance can bear the current dynamics of the social process of figuring out issues of faith or religion.

Universal human rights is turning out to be the total, social common denominator and measuring staff at the same time. [34] Taking these into account "involves the recognition that groups have various characteristics in their current cultural existence. The basis is the request to carry out a discussion with individual religions from other cultures. It is valid to state that - because we are not in China or in Saudi Arabia, but in Switzerland - the human rights which apply here are those of middle European culture."

The state sees to it that not only religions, religious communities and groups - recognized by the state as having equal rights - but also the members inside their congregations, observe the constitutionally guaranteed basic rights to more actively take part in the political process and be able to maintain their integrity. That is how it does justice to positively understood religious freedom. As protector of tolerance it immediately intervenes when rights of groups or individual group members are endangered or suppressed. That is how it pursues a critical, defined understanding of religious freedom. Statements by the state have a ripple effect and can - to the extent it is entitled - clear the path to a culture of tolerance, as has been envisioned in the (educational) plan in Waadt Canton. [35] Since potential dangers are not dependent upon whether a group represents a religious or other concept, general, politically defined criteria should be considered on the basis of universal human rights which move toward the limits of not only state, but also social tolerance: open picture of humanity, preparedness for dialogue, transparency, revelation of financial documents, a structure which imparts democracy and partnership without restricting them, esteem for personal integrity, respect for applicable law and social roots, etc. [36]

34. The Expert Commission followed one such sentence "Religion and Television"; see the final report "Religious Television Broadcasters" of September 1997 on commission of the EVED.
35. The cantonal study plan has scheduled for the 3rd high school year a supplementary optional subject "Religious History and Science" with the goal of advancing general education and "technically extensive awareness and know-how" and "obtaining insight into other cultures and clarifying one's own attitude."
36. Revelation of religious desires or the attainment of religious satisfaction are other specific criteria for religious TV establishment; s "Religious Television Broadcasters" final report of the Expert Commission "Religion and Television" of September 1997 on commission from the EVED, p. 10.


2. The Need for Political Action: Formulation and Implementation of "Sect" Politics

The private initiatives alone, to which the Federal Assembly referred in the above mentioned simple inquiry, no longer, from the view of the Commission, appear to be adequate today. This is indicated not only by the efforts of individual cantons in various areas (legislation, information coordination, official positions), but also by the fact that the federal government is confronted by issues of this nature. Even the Federal Assembly has moved to take a position in regards to this in answer to a parliamentary inquiry. Therefore the Commission regards it as a deficit when administrative positions are involved in manifold ways with the problems of "sects" without being able to support the state administration on a uniform basis in the form of political points.

In the course of the investigation it became clear that no systematic exchange of information is taking place among the involved administrative positions. In this connection, in the opinion of the Commission,


it is also problematic that the Federal Assembly apparently addresses the issues of assimilative movements primarily upon one official who has made "sect" problems his private area of expertise. This person has been accused of not keeping the necessary distance from assimilative movements. Along with that is the danger that a generally rapidly produced risk analysis - turn of the millennium doomsday mood - is inadequate and has itself become a risk. Also one such information source is no guarantee of being seen as reliable by the public or of being accepted, and it can be a source of friction.

The Federal Assembly is first requested to seriously look at the problems presented in this report and take them as a mission of the state. The Commission anticipates that the Federal Assembly will use this as a basis for formulation of a state "sect" politic; for that it has looked for extensive handling at article 15 of the new Federal Constitution in general (and paragraph 4 in particular): a clear attitude by the authorities is a signal to all concerned who see themselves aided in their efforts in defending themselves against assimilation, against the violation of fundamental rights of freedom as well as against empty promises of healing and salvation. A clear attitude by the state is also of great significance for the application of law: courts and administrative officials should decisively step in if protected rights are endangered or violated, as the case may be, and at the same time help to prevent state intervention from exceeding the limits of basic rights.

As the examples of Germany, Austria, France or Sweden show, (co)operative information, explanation and prevention work by the state contributes to a social debate on the theme, however the assimilative movements or "sects" are regarded as taboo (the AIDS campaign of the nation impressively demonstrated the effect of removing the taboo through information work). In order to do justice to the importance of the theme of formulating and implementing a "sect" politic, the following steps, in the opinion of the Commission, need to be done by the Federal Assembly:

- Coordination of the mission of the federal state (see the following chapter 2.1),

- Establishment of an information and counselling center (see the following chapter 2.2),

- Advancement of research and cooperation (see following chapter 2.3.). Moreover, from the perspective of the Commission, the Federal Assembly is bound to take measures to direct the path, particularly in the areas of consumer protection, children's safety and health legislation (see chapter 2.4 and the following).

Coordination as the core mission of the federal government

One of the chief characteristics in dealing with the theme of assimilative movements and "sects" lies in the multiplicity of the agencies involved (administrative positions, government agencies, cantons, courts / guardian authorities, research centers, church and private counselling centers), in which various and for the most part isolated methods of procedure have little or no cooperation amongst each other.

In the opinion of the Commission, the Federal Assembly must assume, as core mission, a triple function of coordination in order to do justice to a "sect" politics and in order to


gather information in a uniform, technically accurate and objection-free basis:

1. Administrative coordination between the individual agencies, i.e.,

- among individual federal offices,

- between federal and cantonal governments,

- among the cantons,

- among university researchers and private and church research centers of the respective technical organizations and

- establishing cooperation at the international level (which also corresponds to a request by the European Parliament).[37]

Coordination of Content

The Federal Assembly, in particular, see to it that

- an interdisciplinary application is assured in research and the findings and experiences of other countries can also be made use of in Switzerland (and vice versa) [38],

- the various fields of study and interests work more closely together in research and (private and church) counselling in regards to a homogenous information politic and a uniform method of operation (see following chapter 2.3).

Coordination of content can be assured under the federal establishment of a working agreement (then a performance agreement) worked out by the federal government, which is also tied to the authorization of public, financial subsidies.

Coordination in Cantonal Legislation

The Federal Assembly sees to coordination in the area of legislation relating to assimilative movements, in particular to health legislation (see following chapter 2.4.3).

Establishment of a Swiss information and counselling center

The Commission regards it a necessity to create a Swiss information and counselling center [39]. It is aware that the Commission is concerned with racism and phenomena like racism, anti-Semiticism and with fascistoid tendencies which can also occur as partial aspects in "sects" and assimilative movements. In any case, synergy can be used in relative forms of cooperation between information and counselling centers in "sect" issues and the Commission against Racism.

37. The Federal Assembly has indeed recognized the international dimension of the problem, but, paradoxically, it is used to present doubt in the effectiveness of a harmonization of the relevant cantonal laws; the interpellation of Effective fight against sectarian abuse of 20 March 1998 (98.3136). The federal attorney made a reference in the same connection to the necessity of multi-national cooperation in the area of police work.
38. When one looks at the long list of research themes recommended by the German Enquete Commission, many results could be expected from Germany, even if only a small portion of the project would be realized, see ESB p. 389-391.
39. From the perspective of the Federal Justice and Police Department, a legal precedent is lacking for this.


It can be preliminarily determined that much information on assimilative movements indeed exists (e.g., at counselling centers), and religious groups also inform themselves. At the same time these sources of information continue to be faced with accusations of a lack of objectivity or insufficient credibility. In addition there is no guarantee with private centers that they could not be infiltrated. The danger of losing valuable know-how has already been mentioned in regard to loss of personnel in this construct of information.

The problem of assimilative groups consists primarily in the free self-determination of the people affected being put under influence. For this reasons, one of the counter-measures which presents itself is to support the distribution of critical information to assimilative groups. By doing that, prospective customers (at least theoretically) are offered the chance to obtain information to supplement the self-presentation of the groups in making up their own minds. Also the environment of the adherents of an assimilative group which often suffers strongly from its effects can be better understood and more adequately reacted to through factual information about the situation. Finally, agencies (guardianship, tax officials, courts, etc.) are also advised to obtain information about the groups, their practices and teachings, as far as is needed for state operation.[40] Even if one such position must apply itself with the greatest possible objectivity, one may not conceive that information which is exclusively objective or even neutral is possible. Therefore this position would present an "opinion" to the necessary social discussion about the problems of assimilative groups. For this reason it is important that the applied standards agree with the values protected by law and the image of people and society grounded in legal rights.

The standards must also be openly stated.

In the establishment of an information and counselling center, the following points are to be considered. [41]

- A center for all of Switzerland

As of yet there is no institution for all of Switzerland which concerns itself with the problems at hand. These, however, concern all parts of the country, so that construction of regional centers would lead to overlap and application of resources would be uneconomical. The establishment of this center would be an effort to advance cooperation among the cantons by the federal government.

- Ideal outfitting of the centers

As far as state participation or support is a part of discussion, the information and counselling centers must be absolutely independent of creed so that support by the public arm does not

40. Such a position obtaining a function in connection with the mentioned opening of the TV selection for religious television broadcasters can, however, hardly be assumed to maintain responsibility criteria and be able to judge license documents from the licensor himself. See "Religious Television Broadcasters" final report.
41. The German Enquete Commission also recommended the "establishment of a foundation in the area of 'New religious and ideological communities and psycho-groups,'" ESB p 363 ff. In addition to that, this proposal corresponds to a recommendation for operation by the EU to its member state, see "Report on sects in the European Union, Correspondent Mrs. Maria Berger of 11 December 1997, Doc. A4-0408/97, Nbr. 5 p 8 "recommends ... member states, through independent committees to establish information and counselling activities, which facilitate a free and informed decision without content bias of the individual and offer a structure for help to sect members and their families who wish to leave."


come into conflict with state neutrality in issues of religion. [42] The distribution of information and counselling would happen under the face of protection of the people with the goal of enabling an involved but factual discussion about assimilative groups, their methods, and risks.

The operation would have to run according to the appropriate laws. The constitutional rights, and not just those of the criticized groups or their adherents, but also those of the other participants [43] would have to be maintained.

- Missions of the Center

Besides fulfilling the needs of information and counselling it performs preventive work, observes how groups and their activities develop and change and it coordinates the care of former assimilative group members and the technical accompaniment of self-help groups. [44] It appears essentially that the information mission and the counselling activity will reside in the same center - both are conditional upon each other: information on assimilative groups and their methods are indispensable for adequate counselling while real-life experience with the problems of those affected provide feedback for information work.

According to today's views the legitimization principle applies in the theory and the federal legal language not only to the intervention, but also to a certain degree to performance administration. A regular state support of the center in question would need a legal foundation [45], which extensively and clearly outlined the provisions and the purpose of results. [46] The financing would therefore insure the proper mission. For obvious reasons a data bank or an archive would be set up at this center so that a hinge function for research, counselling and state centers (federal and canton) could be observed.

Promoting Research and Cooperation

The necessity of advancing and coordinating scientific research in various disciplines or the receipt of foreign research results [47] has already been presented. Reviewed findings on the effects and the dangers of

42. The operation of private information centers could not directly be accounted for with (co-) financed state entities, BGE 118 Ia 57.
43. In BGE 118 Ia, the Federal Court determined that even the criticism of content of belief - of course within the scope of applicable criminal and civil limits - is protected by basic law. In addition, the support of one of those kind of information centers pursues a "social, human purpose," "in that abuses in the exercise of religious freedom" will be countered. see above, p 60.
44. In Germany, according to the will of the Enquete Commission, the support is supposed to cover an extremely extensive field of missions: besides the counselling of individual people and counselling center, creation of a "contextual and financial scope" for the relevant counselling centers, public information as well as coordination and continued training of the other counselling centers; planning, execution or contracting out of research assignments; systematic registration of existing material which should be made accessible to the general public; arranging the socio-academic or psychological literature, etc. ESB p. 364
45. The German Enquete Commission also recommended the introduction of a clear legal basis on which the Federal Administration Court with the decision of 27 March 1992 (see NJW 1992 p. 2496) declared illicit the current support of the cover association of German parents' initiatives AGPF for lack of special legal basis. see ESB p. 364-36. In Austria on 20 Aug. 1998 a federal law for the establishment of a federal center for "sect" issues passed (BGBI 1998, Nr. 150, p. 1799). The center was already in operation by November 1998.
46. BGE 118 Ia 46 ff., esp. 61 f. = "InfoSekta Decision". Scientology and the Unification Church suggested that a contribution by the canton of Zurich for start-up assistance to InfoSekta was a violation of Constitutional rights. Their complaint was dismissed by the federal court.
47. One example is the dissertation by Ulrich Knoepfel, "Formation of will, Influence and Contract-closing" (Diss. Zurich, publishers Paul Haupt Bern and Stuttgart 1989), where the finding of the American communications and persuasion scientists were referenced.


the various methods of influence, indoctrination or manipulation, i.e., the so-called 'psycho-technologies" would be helpful in various hindsights. On one side such findings would provide the principles to define and understand the limits of influence tolerated by society [48] and measures against the undesired effects of such technologies. Finally, scientifically verified facts would improve the execution of applicable (and proposed) laws in that the general burden of proof of those harmed would be improved in making in their claims.

In view of ever more scarce resources, basic attention should be paid to the selection of research themes which are expected to have relevant and realizable results in practice - not least of all because of the requirement which has been in effect for several years that universities must orient themselves more strongly toward social realities and needs.

In order to do justice to this attachment, the cooperation between university research centers, church and private counselling centers (or an eventual group association) and the proposed information and counselling center would have to be institutionalized. Because results relevant in practice can be realized only by a common basis of operation which depends upon a harmonization of cantonal legislation as it demands in an interpellation [49], in the research efforts not only the criminal justice views of the cantons, but also othe international environment would have to be considered.

Protective Measures

The Commission is not of the opinion that the fight against the harmful effects of assimilative groups must primarily result from the way of legislation.

It regards the existing legal regulations by and large as adequate; the lack of their enforcement has been mentioned repeatedly. In this the Commission does not regard the police as the primary means with which abuses will be handled; preventive surveillance of individual groups is not a pressing need. On this point the Commission shares the opinion of the consulting State Security Commission.

Nevertheless the Commission still has the view that individual aspects of the legislation or its application could and must be improved in order to support - again, as a political signal - the government's "sect" politics. As concerns lack of enforcement of the law or specific possibilities of improvement, the following areas are affected:

- Protection of Children (see chapter 2.4.1)

- Consumer protection in the form of regulation of commercial life management courses (see chapter 2.4.2.)

- Health legislation (see chapter 2.4.3.)

48. compare to the difficulties which arise without such clear limits under III 2.3.2
49. Interpellation: Effective Opposition of sectarian Abuse of 20 March 1998 (98.3136)


2.4.1. Protection of Children

The new federal constitution explicitly plans for the federal government, like the cantons, to take action for the protection and advancement of children (article 41 paragraph 1, letter g; article 67 paragraph 1). In addition, Switzerland has also ratified the UNO Children's Rights Convention. As already detailed (especially in chapter II, 4.4.4), the interests of children are often put at risk or violated in connection with assimilative groups. However, state intervention is only limited possibly because, besides the religious freedom (in the religious context) and the protection of family life in accordance with article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention (EMRK) and article 23 of the International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights, parents' rights must also be taken into consideration. Parental right to care for their children justifies and obligates the parents to make the necessary decisions for the children not of age. This parental decision-making ability is restricted by the child's welfare as the highest maxim of all children's rights, by the child's own ability to function, as well as by special protective measures in favor of the child. Also the public order can serve as a reason to limit the exercise of parental force. Because, however, the parental decision-making ability is part of family life which is protected by law, every restrictive measure must fulfill the provision for permissible basic rights restrictions.[50] In judging the question of whether state intervention is in the interest of the child's welfare, it will be considered that one of the factors of the child's welfare consists of not being forced to have a conflict of loyalty with the parents. [51] The Federal Court has described the threshold of intervention as follows: "First, when the child's welfare is actually and measurably adversely affected in following instructions of creed, putting the child's welfare over the parents' right is justified. This would be the case if the health of the child were endangered or if the child's education would be restricted to a degree so that equality - including that between the sexes - would no longer be guaranteed or if the course content did not include the standard values currently accepted as indispensable." [52] The Commission regards an expansion of the possibilities of intervention in the applicable law (i.e., court jurisdiction in the scope of separations/divorce, children's protective measures) as unnecessary. The recommendation is directed much more in seeing to it that in every case in which the judge or an administrative official makes a decision about the relationship to children or measures for the protection of the child, that the interests of the child have also been extensively determined and will be able to be broadly advanced according to the principle of fair procedure.

2.4.2. Consumer Protection: Regulation of Commercial Life Management programs

In the view of the Commission, legal regulation is to pursued for the protection of consumers on the psycho-market and of life management courses, so that they are in the position to clearly recognize

50. That means the public interest, legal foundation and proportionality; compare Peter Haenni/Eva Maria Belser, "The Rights of Children," AJP 2/98, p 139 ff., especially p. 152.
51. The Federal Court mentioned this aspect in connection to the decision on school exemption on religious grounds, compare BGE 114 Ia 129; BVP 1992, 264.
52. BGE 119 Ia 178


the financial, durational and personal consequences of their involvement. This can happen with like means, as they have already had settlement or the consumer credit law in force for a long time. Besides that, health risks have to be taken particularly into account, the more so since promises of healing not only occupy an important place in the teachings and practice of various assimilative groups, but also play a large role in establishing and maintaining dependency relations (see chapter 2.4.3).

The mission of the provider includes the obligation that he give notice of all general risks concerning the methods which he uses, in which he also takes into consideration findings outside of his own discipline (e.g., from school medicine).

The Commission does not propose an increase in the usual liability for execution of care in the arrangement contract, but does propose a legal obligation to inform as to the risks as a provision for the licit application of methods which are connected with potential health hazards. Violation of the obligation to inform would make the treatment illicit and a liability for damages incurred would exist - so far as the remaining liability provisions are given.

With such a regulation, no additional state control expenses would arise and, in particular, the state would not even have to take a position as to the desireableness or the effectiveness of methods. The provider of commerical life management courses would only be bothered with a justifiable administrative share of costs, and would not be limited in his operations. It could be concluded from this that serious providers are already fulfilling the essential requirements of consumer protection, but the consumers are not considerably better protected from risky or unprofessional offers. The Commission states for the record that with such regulation the existing and future offerings will be neither restricted nor will they be subject to state control or even to a review of methods.

A legal regulation would cover the following points in detail:

- area of coverage: remunerative contracts on services with the goal of establishing or improving spiritual existence or mental-spiritual abilities; [53]

- written form of the contract and delivery of a duplicate as a condition of validity [54]

- right to terminate

- recall right

- irrevocable competency at the residence of the participant or at the place of provision

- Explanation about general health risks of the provider couple with sanctions that make the provider liable for incurred damages in case of omitted explanation [55]

This proposal contains no reverse of burden of proof [56] in that the person injured

53. This (abridged) wording is taken from P. 1 of the proposal of the German Federal Assembly.
54. With the following specifications: exact designation of the provider and, as the case may be, associated mother organization; description of the service, the method of execution as well as its goal; reference to the methods applied or the theoretical principles; duration in time of the offer; price of specified services and total price; reference to coincidental and subsequent obligations and their costs (material, instruction, further services by a third party, etc.)
55. This proposal is fashioned after the current situation for medical liability. With omitted explanation, the doctor answers for every, even coincidental, injury of the operation since the latter is a consequence of non valid consent, and is therefore illicit.
56. In Germany, in a proposal originally from Hamburg, there was a general reversal of burden of proof in the injury of a participant (independently of an explanation). The provider would have had to prove that he had not caused the incurred damages. This was later droped, because the "risk profile of methods and techniques" were not researched well enough. ESB p. 370.


would have had to prove, no different than before, that the provider had caused the damage, however, the illegality and in any case the responsibility would be fulfilled solely with the omitted explanation. Eventually the obligation to inform could be restricted to "known" risks. By doing that the provider would be released from the liability for risks which have not been researched, but at the same time would be prevented from putting aside existing findings on the dangers in blind confidence in the applied "teachings."

2.4.3. Health Legislation

It is a fact that promises of healing take an important place in varioius assimilative groups. Even if it is abundantly clear that, in Switzerland, the authority to regulate health entities is essentialy a matter of the cantons, [57] the Commission sees a necessity to act by the federal governemnt in the area of coordinating cantonal legislation.

Most of the cantons have reserved the identification and treatment of physical and mental illnesses for doctors or for other acknowledged professions in any case. It is obvious in connection with the problems with assimilative groups that many of the cantons only apply their laws inadequately. A gray area results in which a majority of persons or organizations conduct medical treatment openly although they are really not permitted to do this. For clarity it is stated in reference to this that not all of these activities in the gray area are to be regarded as unprofessional. [58] The establishment and retention of dependency relationships are based on various elements: considerable suffering, no improvement from other providers of help (e.g., school medicine), prepayments out of gratitude of the patients for promises of alleviation and healing, an enormous (often not rationally comprehensible) readiness for martyrdom produced by the group for the patients, as well as a special fascination because a fast, comprehensive and certain cure is promised.

Therefore, it is apparent from the view of the Commission that patients need state protection from:

- practices hazardous to health (besides the direct additional health hazards also the efforts to keep patients from seeking help from recognized source, e.g., doctors).

- financial exploitation

- deceit or delusion

- assimilation through connection with healing practices with continued teaching content which limits self-determination and freedom.

57. Compare Art. 3 BV, federal authority is relatively tightly limited, e.g., health and accident insurance, epidemic law, poison law, expert identification, see Honsell, Handbuch des Arztrechtes, p. 216, 216 ff., 236 ff.
58. In each canton in which the independent operation of psychologists are not regulated, there are also employed professional psychologists in this gray area.


In regards to the necessity for protection mentioned above the Federal Assembly, in the scope of its coordination mission, should see to it that the cantons orient their state dealings in the health areas along the following guidelines [59] :

- the applicable legal situation is to be applied or the modified conceptions are to be adapted.

- if a canton decides to tolerate non-scientific healing practices, it must be ensured that the allowances, registration or simple licensing of those who practice these healing methods can not be misused so that the public would get the impression that the state had reviewed their effectiveness for any objection.

- legal obligation to inform about the risks association with non-scientific healing practices

- ban on making unprovable, false or otherwise misleading statements (in advertisements, publications or in talking with the patients) about private healing methods or about competing methods (e.g., school medicine).

- obligation to reveal the applied methods or in any case the teachings behind them, combined with a prohibition on using methods not declared (e.g., hynosis).

- It should be ensured that the regulations can not be circumvented by the healing treatment being applied by a group within a participating organization instead of being applied directly by the provider to the patient. This principle would hardly limit serious users of the healing practice; at the same time it could, with them, effectively oppose the abuses in connection with assimilative groups.


2.5 Further Measures

The Commission has gotten involved with the fringes of other possible measures, namely with the protection of the designation of "church," the obligation to register for associations (proposal of Geneva Canton), a general new criminal standard on the application of the technology of consciousness control, the introduction of a children's attorney, the expansion of aid to victims (proposal of Geneva Canton) or the introduction of an entity which is legally punishable. Individual measures will or already have been discussed in the realm of cantonal legislative proceedings. The measures, however, have been rated in differing ways by experts. The Commission is of the opinion that individual measures not in connection with assimilative groups should be brought up, even if their purpose in this scope is regarded as completely a matter of circumstance (namely the introduction of an entity which is legally punishable), and it regards other measures are not yet ripe for decision.

59. The Great Assembly of Basel City Canton had taken over these principles in an appeal of cantonal "law concerning exploitation of the profession of medical personnel," with which the permission of acupuncture, Ayur Veda, healing practice, traditional Chinese medicine and other non-scientific methods of healing was to have been regulated. The law was passed in May 1997, the time limit for referendum went by unused. The above mentioned lines are in law and are in effect and contained in the ordinance as per 1 July 1999.


IV. Recommendations

The Commission submits the following recommendation to the Federal Assembly:

  1. The Federal Assembly formulate a "sect" policy.
  2. The Federal Assembly coordinate its implementation.
  3. The Federal Assembly create an information and counselling center and keeps the public regularly informed. It introduce an appropriate information campaign.
  4. The Federal Assembly advance interdisciplinary research on assimilative movements and coordinate the cooperation necessary for that in research and counselling
  5. The Federal Assembly see to it that existing law, in particular for the protection of children and consumers be increasingly regarded and makes an effort in the area of uniform practice by the cantons in the area of health legislation.


Further Proceedings

The Business Review Commission requests the Federal Assembly to take a position on this report and on the recommendations by the end of September 2000.

The Section Officials
The President: Fulvio Pelli
The Business Review Commission
The President: Alexander Tschäppät
The Secretary of the Business Review Commission
Mariangela Wallimann-Bornatico




List of Interviewed Persons

Agner Peter, Abteilung Rechtswesen Direkte Bundessteuer, Eidgenössische Steuerverwaltung
Prof. Campiche Roland, Sociologist, Institute for Social Ethics, Lausanne
Del Ponte Carla, Federal District Attorney
Dr. Eschmann Urs, Attorney for Information and Counselling Center for Sect and Cult Issues Association (InfoSekta)
Frasa Mario, General Cultureal Issues Section, Youth Issues Dept., Federal Office of Culture
Dr. Guntern Odilo, Federal Data Security Commissioner
Haller Susanne, Great Assembly Representative, Basel-City Canton
Huber-Schlatter Andreas, General Secretary EJPD, President, State Security Advisory Commission
Lötscher Bruno, Department Secretary, Justice Department, Basel-City Canton
Mayer Jean-François, Central Office for General Defense, Fundamental Studies Section (Secretary of the situation conference)
Kaplan Müller Joachim, Ecumenical Work Group "New religious Movements in Switzerland"
Pitteloud Jacques, Referat Gst, Zentralstelle Gesamtverteidigung, EMD (resp. VBS)
Schaaf Susanne, Verein Informations- und Beratungsstelle für Sekten und Kultfragen (InfoSekta)
[Information and Counselling Center for Sect and Cult Issues Association]
Dr. Schmid Georg, Information Center of the Evangelical German-Swiss Churches, Greifensee
Stamm Hugo, Editor "Tages-Anzeiger" newspaper
Tanner Samuel, Stv. Direktor Eidgenössische Steuerverwaltung


List of Interviewed groups and their representatives:

Christian Churches Work Group in Switzerland:
- Mr. U. Friederich, Mr. E. Wildbolz

Jehovah's Witnesses:
- Mr. F. Borys, Mr. M. Wörnhard

- Mr. J. Stettler, Mrs. G. Arm

Pentacostal Community:
- Mr. M. Schläpfer



AGPF Aktion für geistige und physische Freiheit
(Association of Parents' Initiatives)

BGE Bundesgerichtsentscheid
Federal Court Decision

BV Bundesverfassung
Federal Constitution

EDI Eidgenössisches Departement des Innern
Federal Department of the Interior

EDSB Eidgenössischer Datenschutzbeauftragter
Federal Data Security Commissioner

EJPD Eidgenössisches Justiz- und Polizeidepartement
Federal Justice and Police Department

EMD Eidgenössisches Militärdepartement (seit 1.1.1998: VBS: Eidgenössi-sches Departement für Verteidigung, Bevölkerungsschutz und Sport)
Federal Military Department (since 1.1.1998: VBS: Federal Department for Defense, People's Protection and Sports)

EMRK Europäische Menschenrechtskonvention
European Human Rights Convention

ESB Enquête Kommission Schlussbericht
Enquete Commission Final Report

EVED Eidgenössisches Verkehrs- und Energiewirtschaftsdepartement (seit 1.1.1998: UVEK: Eidgenössisches Departement für Umwelt, Verkehr, Energie und Kommunikation)
Federal Traffic and Energy Business Department (since 1.1.1998: UVEK: Federal Department for Environment, Traffic, Energy and Communication)

EZB Enquête Zwischenbericht
Enquete Interim Report

GG Grundgesetz
Basic Law

GPK-N Geschäftsprüfungskommission des Nationalrates
Business Review Commission of the National Assembly

InfoSekta Verein Informations- und Beratungsstelle für Sekten und Kultfragen
Information and Counselling Center for Sect and Cult Issues Association

KSK Konsultative Staatsschutzkommission
State Security Advisory Commission

NB Nota Bene

NJW Neue juristische Wochenzeitschrift
New Legal Weekly Magazine

PVK Parlamentarische Verwaltungskontrollstelle
Parliamentary Administration Control Center

Stgb Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch (SR 311.0)
Swiss Criminal Code Book

SVG Strassenverkehrsgesetz (SR 741.0)
Roadway Traffic Law

UWG Bundesgesetz vom 19. Dezember 1986 gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (SR 241)
Federal Law of 19 December 1986 against unfair competition

VPM Verein für psychologische Menschenkenntnisse
Association for Psychological Human Understanding

ZGB Schweizerisches Zivilgesetzbuch (SR 210)
Swiss Civil Law Book

ZR Zeitschrift für Zürcherische Rechtsprechung
Magazine for Zurich Legal Terminology

This is an unofficial translation of a publicly available Swiss government document. That means that the Swiss government makes no guarantee about the accuracy of this English translation. This translation is for non-commercial use only. The original Swiss document in German is available at http://www.parlament.ch/Poly/Framesets/E/Frame-E.HTM as a pdf file.
This personal translation originated at http://cisar.org.
The url of this personal translation is http://cisar.org/990702a.htm
This is the August 21, 1999 version.

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