Won't accept sects

Only sect members

Bern, Switzerland
September 26, 2000
Berner Zeitung

The group association of abstinence-oriented drug politic (DaD) will tolerate individual members of sects or of other controversial organizations in its ranks, but no sects will be accepted into the DaD association. DaD spokesman Gerd Josef Weisensee is being more precise as to the statement he made in yesterday's edition of the Berner Zeitung.


Is Religion more than just a private matter in the final analysis?

Bern, Switzerland
November 8, 1999
Der Bund Verlag AG, Bern & Autoren / www.eBund.ch

Sects / At long last the feathers flew at a podium discussion: at a meeting in Bern on the theme "Do sects endanger our state?" sect critics on the one side and representatives of independent churches ("Freikirchen") and special groups on the other side demonstrated that consensus will probably never be reached on the issue: while the critics demand the state take action, the critics of the critics plead for reserve. "One does not have to immediately call for help from the state."

db. "Do sects endanger our state?" The title of the event itself could be regarded as "somewhat overdone," said discussion leader Donald Hasler, Director of the Theology Department of the Reformed Churches of Bern-Jura, right at the start. With that statement he could be right. Of the something over 100 people that participated in the event in Bern, it did not occur to anybody to assert that any sort of large danger was connected with sects.

The event, conducted by the Theology Department and the by the Ecumenical Work Group "New Religious Movements in Switzerland," was held in connection with the report of the Business Review Commission of the National Assembly (GPK) on assimilative movements in Switzerland. In the report, which was published on July 2 of this year, the Federal Assembly was called upon to formulate a sect politic, to establish an independent information and counselling center and to conduct an information campaign.

"Probably the last holy cow"

Alexander Tschaeppaet, who, as GPK President, coauthored the sect report, did not hold back criticism for the Federal Assembly. He stated that religion could not be regarded simply as a personal matter - that view, he said, was "increasingly questionable." He is waiting for "the courage to make a sect politic" from the Federal Assembly. As to a clear position by the Federal Assembly, Tschaeppaet promised "at least the removal of the taboo on the subject." This could give the courage to people who had been affected to speak up. And if the Federal Assembly would cooperate in breaking the taboo, then that would be a first step to prevention. Hugo Stamm spoke of it as "probably the last holy cow" in Switzerland. He stated that the authorities are still struggling to take a position on the theme. The sect specialist from Zurich, to be sure, is against a general ban on assimilative groups. Society's laws of freedom he said, are of greater value. But that did not mean that the state should not do anything, even though the legal path for doing anything was difficult. There was a great danger that "thought police" activity could result. Therefore the problems with sect would have to be understood as a "situation of addiction," Stamm said, and noted that millions were distributed for drug prevention.

"Absolutely extreme hawk"

The podium discussion, in which, besides Tschaeppaet, Stamm and four other speakers participated, including one representative each from Jehovah's Witnesses and from Scientology, made it clear how controversial the sect issue is. Fred Borys from the Jehovah's Witnesses first mentioned that his denomination "did not fit in the scope" of the discussion as far as sects and endangerment of state went. And Juerg Stettler, press speaker for Scientology, used the podium to parry the accusations handed down in the course of the meeting. He stated that the quotations from Scientology documents which Hugo Stamm - "an absolutely extreme hawk" - had cited did indeed sound "brutal," but then one could just as well take quotations out of the Bible. And compared to that, Scientology founder Ron L. Hubbard, he said, looked "like an orphan boy."

Stettler demanded a "neutral ombudsman agency" which minority religions could also turn to "when they were discriminated against." The discussion was supposed to be objective. "One does not immediately have to call for help from the state" to help one state church "to keep others away." The podium discussion, as a result, was marked primarily by "Scientology versus everybody," he said. Hugo Stamm accused Stettler of wanting an ombudsman agency for the purpose of obtaining a public platform. He also said that a discussion would not be possible at all, because Scientology made up its own truth. Georg Schmid, of the Evangelical information center of "Churches, sects and religions," put Stettler on the spot: "In what way are you liberal? Where did Hubbard err?" Stettler said, however, that he did not come to discuss Hubbard. "This is about misuse -- of quotation marks."