The Federal Government should deal with them

St. Gallen
January 26, 2001
St. Galler Tagblatt

Confronting sects and assimilative movements in different ways in every Canton is said to be inadequate. The Federal Government should coordinate the proceedings against such movements, wrote the Thurgau administration in a hearing.

(sda) The National Assembly's Business Review Commission has pursued the question of whether sects and assimilative movements pose risks for individuals, the state and for society.

Something different in every Canton

The Thurgau administration even agrees with the Federal Assembly [the Upper house, while the National Assembly is the Lower house] that there is no reason to formulate a specific "sect politic." But it sees a need for action by the federal government. It does not find it sensible that such movements and phenomena are currently being treated differently in every Canton. The movements in question can avoid official measures simply by moving their offices and activities on to where they once again conduct their operations unmolested.

More Cooperation

Therefore the Thurgau administration welcomes the intensification of cooperation among the government posts and coordination through the federal government. On the other hand it was said that a federal information and counselling center could be done without, as suggested by the feds, since there were already plenty of information centers. The report also said that the word "sect" is still being used although it had been found that use of the word was disputed as it was said to hardly be value-neutral. The administration also criticized the central positioning of "sects" as religion. It would be better to deal with the topic under the general term of "assimilative movements."

Sect expert Hugo Stamm in "Stadtalk"

Disciples instead of medicine

Hugo Stamm took a position on issues of esoterica and sect in "StadTalk" and attract much interest in Albani

Winterthur, Switzerland
October 27, 2000
Der Landbote (Winterthur)

He considers today's situation in Switzerland as practically scandalous because the city is undertaking nothing against the rise of sects, stated Hugo Stamm. Even though there are 1,000 groups, prevention is practically unheard of. He said the "InfoSekta" counseling center in Zurich is funded primarily by private funds. Also that 40,000 franks a year for preventive work was too little, just compare that to the fight against drug addiction. "Hundreds of millions are being invested there - rightly," continued the sect expert. Stamm is convinced that membership in a sect is a mania, an addiction to religious-euphoric feelings of immortality.

Not infrequently Stamm is described as a guru and a cultist himself because he is very involved in the fight against esoteric and sect gurus. Stamm began his research 25 years ago, during which time he has written seven books, about Scientology and the VPM ("Verein zur Foerderung psychologischer Menschenkenntnisse") in particular. His first book on the dangers of esoteric groups appeared in August. Just for his first book alone (1982) he was sued 13 times. "But the more the sect organizations want to get rid of me, the more stubborn I get." Not even murder threats have kept the writer from his work. However he also says that in writing for the "Tages-Anzeiger," he has a good employer who supports him professionally as well as financially and who is able to withstand the organized structure of the sect well.

Uriella the major exception, Hugo Stamm has not succeeded in making personal contact with a guru in all this time; they isolate themselves too well. Long ago they stopped letting him attend gatherings. He stands out there like a sore thumb and, as a result, has had to gather information indirectly. Stamm says that the managers, gurus, messiahs and masters are also dependent. Dependent upon the deification which they are afforded by their adherents and for which they have to offer more and more abstruse ideas and messages. "And in place of psycho-pharmaceuticals, they have to continually assemble more new adherents around themselves in order to maintain a god-like feeling."

After the moderator Karin Landolt ended the round of talks, the audience were able to ask questions. Where would he separate a church from a sect, one member of the audience wanted to know of Stamm. He said the experts relentlessly condemned the church, especially the Catholic church, which has abused missionary work, the Inquisition and dealing in favors. However, he wanted to differentiate in the question of leaving the group. Those who want to leave the church submit their statement and do not have to fear threats or being shunned by society.

Leaving not mandatory

He gave advice to relatives of sect members, "You can only intervene by kidnapping the person in the group; but I cannot and will not recommend that because that is regarded as deprivation of liberty, which is an action prohibited by law." The single most sensible thing to do, he said, was to maintain contact with the person. "That way when the sect member doubts the message of his guru, leaving will be easier for him if he knows somebody outside of his group. After he leaves, the member of a sect has to re-build his entire social life."

Bern Health Law

Natural healers to have a free hand

Bern, Switzerland
August 26, 2000
Berner Zeitung

The new Bern Health Law is meant to promote natural healing methods and facilitate access to careers in the health field. The Grand Assembly discusses the proposal in the September session.

Theres Lagler

In Bern Canton alternative healing methods are still illicit - unless they have been carried out with the approval of a doctor. This is still the case even though many patients are no longer satisfied with classic school medicine. Bern Canton, however, does not stand alone in its restrictive regulations. In ten other cantons - Solothrun, Freiburg and Zurich among them - the practice of natural medicine without academic medical training is prohibited. New legislation has also been proposed in those areas.

Work in the Gray Zone

There is a considerable need for treatment. In spite of the ban, therapists are practicing their profession in their homes. Customers are obtained through word-of-mouth. These people are currently operating in a legal gray zone. Peter Gasser, chairman of the approving office in the Cantonal health directorate, does not have exact figures. He did stress, however, that it was impossible to gain oversight in the entire area.

Prior Approval Mandatory

The proposed Bern Health Law states that people who have no medical training can offer natural healing methods. The only activities for which prior approval is mandatory are those which contain a potential to put the health of patients at risk. These professions are not itemized in the law, but in the ordinance for practice in the health field. "In this way, we can react more quickly to new therapies and new providers," stated Health Director Samuel Bhen yesterday for the media. The proposed ordinance, which has not yet been discussed, currently has the following 17 areas of activity listed as requiring prior approval:

* Doctors
* Dentists
* Pharmacists
* Chiropractors
* Psychotherapists
* Midwives
* Nurses
* Physiotherapists
* Ergotherapists
* Optometrists
* Druggists
* EMTs
* Medical Practitioners
* Homeopaths
* Acupuncturists
* Therapists of the traditional Chinese TCM medicine
* Osteopaths

All other therapies and methods may be practiced freely in Bern Canton. Those include, according to Cantonal Doctor Anton Seiler, the laying on of hands, spiritual healing, foot reflexology and nutritional consultation. But crystal therapists and eye trainers can also practice on their own with no restrictions.

No obligation to report

But doesn't this leave the door wide open for charlatans, too? The preliminary commission of the Grand Assembly got deeply involved with that question. An obligation to report was reviewed and rejected. "That could have been counter-productive," stated Commission President Rolf Iseli (FDP). He said that if a layer-on of hands was required to report to the health directorate, that would have suggested a condition of false security.

Neither did the idea pass of having providers provide liability insurance. Iseli, with a grin, gave an extreme example, "Those who buy water from Uriella, who blesses the water in her bath tub and then sells it off in bottles, would hardly find assurance in having to sign an insurance contract." In doing this, the executive commission and council put the responsibility completely on the people. Every patient must judge for him- or herself what his health can take.

Rights of the Patients

This self-determination is also of primary importance in patients' rights, which are comprehensively regulated for the first time in the new health law. The patients must be informed, they have the right to look at the documents outlining the treatment and see what the source of the documents is. They determine for themselves what treatment methods they may receive.

Mandatory Measures

Also new in the proposal is a legal foundation for measures of force. These measures, however, are restricted to people who are deprived of liberty for reasons of welfare. The prejudice of a "medication straitjacket" was unfortunately widespread, Werner Strik, acting Director of the UPD Psychiatric Clinic, has found. But, he said, treatment with medication can quell fears and put a damper on violent activity. This procedure was more in tune to the situation, he said, than tying someone to a bed using physical force. Up until this proposed law, forceful admission, but not forced treatment was legally regulated.

When Religion becomes unavoidable


Jehovah's Witnesses

Lucerne, Switzerland
February 1, 2000
Neue Luzerne Zeitung

"Have you a reservation?" asked the smartly dressed Jehovah's Witness with a radio and a name tag. Mentioning the "Neue Luzerner Zeitung" newspaper was good enough, and the friendly gentleman smiled, "Please go right in." First we stopped by one of the nice ladies who took our jackets - in exchange for a numbered slip of paper. A darkly clothed man in front of the steps was almost a little unsettling: he wore an earpiece attached to a radio on his uniform. A body guard? "A member of the technical team," "Witness" spokesman Pierre Frezza answered when asked about it later.

Inter-religious Discord?

Two more bodyguards - pardon, members of the technical team - were conferring with each other about how things were going at the entrance of the grand cellar of the historical museum - in front of the same room in which witnesses of Jehova of both sexes, a Swiss officer, two historians, a publisher, a Catholic professor and a Protestant sect commissioner were discussing the theme "Dealing with Forgotten Victims - Spurring Tolerance." Well understood to be non-religious. At long last, the appeal for tolerance and memories of the "forgotten victims" were to resound from the exhibition in Lucerne. And not leave a stale aftertaste of interreligious discord.

Words of Caution

However the podium discussion did not remain free of expression of denominational opinion. Although entry into the rounds of the discussion aroused contrary appearances, Marlene Schnieper, editor at the "Tages-Anzeiger" newspaper and moderator for the evening, cautioned that one of the lessons learned for the evening must be that atrocities such as those during the Second World War should not repeat themselves. Then historian Hubert Roser from Germany rudimentarily described the persecution and the executions of the "Witnesses" under the Nazi regime.

First Critical Question

Reverend Martin Scheidegger critically inquired about the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses accept their beliefs because of the murders: "Can a belief be worth dying for?" That question remained unanswered.

A controversy arose around the question of the degree to which the Jehovah's Witness tried to adapt to and accommodate the Nazi regime. "Only marginally," Roser believed. Victor Conzemius, professor of church history at the Lucerne school of theology, interjected his similar thought, "In contrast to the accommodations made by the major churches, any made by the Jehovah's Witnesses were negligible."

Professed atheist and journalist Hans Stutz did not see things that way: "The Witnesses used to have a very coarse vocabulary. They are still intolerant today, of those who think differently, for example." Upon hearing of the Jehova's Witnesses derogatory language toward Jewry, high school teacher Juerg Stadelmann, historian and officer, was visibly shaken.

From that point on the real theme of the discussion was gradually overshadowed. Unfortunately. Suddenly it was about the acceptance of homosexuals, whether group coercion existed in the Jehovah's Witnesses and whether a Jehovah's Witness may belong to a political party.

The Final Vote

Before the discussion restricted itself even more to the religious beliefs of the "Witnesses," Marlene Schnieper introduced the final round of discussion. The participants of the discussion who were critical of the Jehovah's Witnesses paid their respects to the victims of the Nazi regime, heartily welcomed the presentation and appealed to the Jehovah's Witnesses to continue the clear-cult path of public work. "You have to learn to free yourselves from your self-imposed exile and come of age," Stutz said to the "Witnesses." High school teacher Max Woernhard interjected that, in Switzerland, there were exactly as many Jehovah's Witnesses as Jews and asked, suggestively, "Who do you hear more about, the 18,000 Jews or the 18,000 Jehovah's Witnesses?" And Witness Simone Liebster remembered the deceased in the Second World War in her closing words. The Jehovah's Witnesses in particular. She said they had the courage to say "no." And this had only been possible "because they took the Bible as a foundation."

Concluding Message

Then Dominique Matter, coordinator of the organizational committee, took the stage. He thanked everyone for the interesting discussion and gave the numbers of people who had visited their exhibition: about 4,400 visitors to the former concentration camp barracks on Bahnhof Square and about 7,200 people - among them 56 classes with a total of 984 students - had visited the exhibit and watched the presentation. "Anyone who closes his eyes to the past becomes blind to the present," Richard von Weizsaecker once said. The exhibit of "forgotten victims" took that message into account.

Michael Kuhn

Are Sects a Danger?

Weesen, Switzerland
January 19, 2000

Sect expert Hugo Stamm will speak on the danger of sects at the Weesen Women's meeting on January 25 and February 15. Two topics - "Sects - a Danger for Society" and "In the Spell of the Apocalypse" - will take place on the same evening.

pd. - The Weesen Women's meetings will tackle the themes of sects and the apocalypse for the months of January and February. They have managed to obtain renowned sect expert Hugo Staff for both discussions. So that all parents, men and women, have the opportunity of listening to the lectures, the women's meetings have been re-scheduled for the evening on both occasions. On Tuesday, January 25, the theme will be "Sects - a Danger for Society?", and on Tuesday, February 15, "In the Spell of the Apocalypse." Both presentations will take place in the Weesen parish building and begin at 8 p.m. Admission is free, but the women's group welcomes any voluntary contribution to cover the expenses.

"Sects - A Danger for Society"

For over 20 years, Hugo Stamm has been concentrating on sect-like movements, and has gotten involved with sect victims and public information. In answer to a reporter's question of how he continues to find motivation in his mission he answered, "It is the readers which drive me forward. I got involved with the topic in my career as a journalist. I soon noticed what risk potential was associated with it. In addition to that, relatives of sect adherents kept telling me about their experiences and concerns. In that manner I was more or less involuntarily turned into a consultant, and I became aware that I could accomplish something with my work." In his first presentation, Hugo Stamm will take up the question of whether sect-like communities can be dangerous for young people and adults, and how we all can protect ourselves against general proselytization and assimilation. He will also give parents advice on how they can prepare their children for potential risks. He tries to crack the sect code in that he points out the techniques of manipulation with which assimilative groups operate to draw people into becoming dependent upon them. We live in a time of upheaval. Anxieties about existence shake up young people and many adults as well. This temporal phenomenon, in Hugo Stamm's opinion, is the best breeding ground for sects and cults. The Evangelical Women's Groups and the Catholic Women's and Mothers' Society of Weesen cordially invite all to this presentation followed by discussion and look forward to many people attending.

Nidwalden: controversial sect meets on the "Buergenstock"

"Holy Ghost" Fraser pillaging souls

Nidwalden, Switzerland
November 9, 1999
Neue Luzerner Zeitung

"Buergenstock." That which is offered by the association as nourishment is seen by experts as a dangerous sect.

by Michael Kuhn

85-year-old Gordon Freeman Fraser and his esoteric-occultic group by the name of "Association for Health and Personality Development" are both widely unknown. That is amazing insofar as Fraser, according to what Hansjoerg Hemminger, Commissioner for Issues of Worldview of the Wuerttemberg Evangelical State Church, sees himself as the incarnation of the Holy Ghost. Fraser denies this statement. "His crew," as his closest acquaintances say, include souls who are no less significant. So, according to Hemminger, the soul of Jesus Christ belongs to Fraser's team, as do those of Saint Andreas and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Buergenstock: "bubbling joy"

The hotel management is not upset that Fraser has now held his seminar in Hotel Waldheim for the second time in a row recently. "We do not have any problem with this group staying with us," revealed Barbara Christen of the Buergenstock forest hotel. "We are a seminar hotel, and they have rented the seminar rooms; we don't know much more than that," she continued. The people who take the Fraser seminars mostly keep to themselves and are very calm. The special, lacto-vegetarian diet, which is exactly described at the seminar, is said to be very extraordinary. Proper, meatless nourishment is also the main theme of the seminar from Sunday to the next Friday. That this aspect is important is evidenced by the belief of the members that there would be no more war or violence if children were nourished from the first day of life in accordance with Fraser's teachings.

However, there is still the question of why Fraser has now held a seminar on the Buergenstock for the second time. The answer is given in an informational leaflet of the group: "The healthful advantages in the middle of impressive rural beauty" and "the cliff route with its unique emanation," which is said to be "a jewel of Europe." Along these lines "bubbling joy."

From Zero to Divinity plus

According to Fraser's teachings, most people on this earth have no soul, says Hemminger. They are said to be marionettes of god who uses them to test the people who have souls. Soulless people, according to documents from a former member from Germany, include all people who work in health care. Fraser and his staff do not talk about souls, but of an individuality which includes a soul. Fraser himself has a special individuality which enables him to make contact with an intelligence, the highest of his teachings. This is what people are reaching for in making decisions. It's just that most people have only a limited ability to profit from this intelligence. This is overwhelmingly due to improper nourishment and consumption of drugs, says Fraser.

Fraser also claims, according to a German former member, to be able to rob people of their souls and leave them only with biological hulls. On the other side, people's souls, according to Fraser's teachings, are graded on a scale of from 0 to 100, wrote Hemminger. If someone reaches 100 points - which allegedly only the "master" himself can determine - he has reached spiritual security, which is the equivalent of eternal life. Even after that, though, there are opportunities to go higher. According to Fraser's teachings, you can go on to steps G1, G2, G3 and then G4. After G4, one has the status of a divinity, another step higher is that of divinity plus, the next is a pure god. The last stop in this hierarchy is said to be the highly developed spiritual being of an Avatar. Fraser's closest staff are all Avatars.

Hitler said to be an Angel

In Hemminger's report about the groups around Fraser it says: the coming era of break-up will, according to his (Fraser's) predictions, lead to Hitler being reinstated. He was, in reality an "angel," and his alleged victims had been people without souls. Fraser took no position towards that. Nevertheless, he condemns fascism. As concerns this and other accusations, he said that people can only comprehend things in that they possess the necessary experience and intuition.

Martin Rausch, business manager of the Association for Health and Personality Development, stated that, in Switzerland, only 50 people belonged to the group, and another 350 people were interested in particular ideas of the group. The association also has members in Austria and Germany. The group has its center in Germany, in Meschede, Sauerland. Two thirds of the members are women. Rausch justified that by saying that women have a greater interest in questions of nutrition.

"Problematic Groups"

In contrast to Rausch, Zurich minister and sect specialist Georg Schmid estimates the number of members in Switzerland at several hundred. What is very problematic, in his view, are the elitist structure of the "association" and the large amount of time which adherents have to invest. He described Fraser's community as "one of the problematic groups which are currently having an effect in Switzerland. Sect advisor Hugo Stamm views the group around Fraser similar to the way Georg Schmid does. He explicitly advises avoiding his seminars: "They are not worth the money."

Permission which had been granted over the phone to photograph Gordon Freeman Fraser at the seminar on the Buergenstock was later withdrawn without explanation.

Looking at the movies through rose-colored glasses

Film Festival Queerview

Bern, Switzerland
November 9, 1999
Berner Zeitung

A cross view of actual gay-lesbian film creations is being shown from Wednesday to Sunday by Queerview. This year's best short film will again be given the "Rose-Colored Glasses" award.

There are more and more films with lesbian or gay content appearing in the Bern movie theaters. The movie-going public is especially enthused by "Fucking Amal," the moving coming-out story of two young lesbians. Next come "Lola and Bilidikid" by Kutlug Ataman and "Get Real" by Simon Shore. Ataman's film takes place on the Turkish stage in Berlin, "Get Real" portrays a group of English teenagers.

Focal point Coming-out

The advance showing of the British "Get Real" will also open the lesbian-gay Queerview Film Festival on Wednesday evening. Franziska Oliver, the DRS-3 film critic with the distinguished radio voice, will MC the opening. As with "Fucking Amal," secret love with the final coming-out is also the focal point of "Get Real." Coming-out forms the thematic focal point of the entertainment and documentary films in this year's Queerview Festival. Others which have received awards were "Blind Faith" (USA), a suspenseful court drama between racism and homophobia, and "High Art" (USA), a film about a lesbian addicted to drugs and to her career. In erotic hindsight, Queerview even offers lesbians a special titbit with a block of sex videos.

Central point short films

Besides the regular length films, numerous internal short films will be shown from Wednesday to Sunday. Short films, in particular, are rarely seen in home movies. It is even more difficult for gay-lesbian works. Therefore, the lesbian-gay Queerview Film Festival was founded three years ago, said Patrik Martinez, one of the founders. And mentioned: "On the one side it has to do with presenting the views and life-styles of homosexuals. On the other side, I am personally interested in how gays and lesbians live in other countries." Besides that, almost all the films are premiering in Switzerland, said Martinez.

Special point "rose-colored glasses"

In addition, every two years, Queerview presents the best short film with the "Rose-Colored Glasses" and 1,000 franks. The short films were presented in three blocks, one of them consisted exclusively of Swiss films. There were a total of 24 short and very short films in competition, eight of them were Swiss productions. Among them were "Ich brauche" by Bern artist Franticek Klossner, about diseuse Georgett Dee. Or the sect drama "Jimmy's Soul" by Reto Hauser. He and numerous other producers personally presented their own films. Hauser shot his 16 mm film in the USA, and is showing it to the general public for the first time in Switzerland. Besides that, "Jimmy's Soul" is a good example of a film which has a gay protagonist, but deals with a generally social theme. The strong autobiographical short film revolves around the fight of a gay man with sects a la Scientology. With production costs of 16,000 franks, the 1,000 franks prize money is only a drop in the bucket, "but this has to do with recognition," as he said. But first he'll have to win the prize. But his competition is tough and just as promising: in Luc Feit's "Piglet" (Germany) the Pfister family appears. A Norwegian narrates in "Dogma95 Tradition" about a weekend trip by two teenagers to the sea (Bolgene/ Waves). Rita Kueng is showing a metamorphosis animation film ("La Difference", CH), and Frederique Joux (F), in "Emma & Louise" resurrects Thelma and Louise as clay figures. Even Brandon and Dylan from the soap "Beverly Hills 90210" were not exempt and danced in "A Few good Ken" (USA) to gay hits from the 1960s and 70s. The film maker who can wear the "Rose-Colored Glasses" will, of course, be decided by the jury. This is international, that means there is an Englishwoman, a Swedish woman, an Italian man, and a Swiss man and woman [one each]. Some of the jury members also have their own films appearing in the festival (naturally not as part of the competition, though).

Also Claudio Cipellette, who was with Queerview last year, is showing his documentary film "Nessuno Uguale" (I), which is about homosexuality in schools. On Saturday, the decision of the jury will be given in the riding school's theater. As an added surprise, each of the jurors will show their favorite film which was not shown at the festival.

Final point party

A real film festival also includes much coming and going, that means celebrities, apertifs, film bars and parties. Queerview provides Cannes with several fringe arrangements. For instance, the Drag Queen Grace B. Lowe and her pianist see to the glamour by conducting the award of the prizes. Especially the men should not let slip the chance to use the women's room in the "Stars and Starlets" festival. That is one of the rare opportunities they will have to enter the room which is otherwise strictly reserved for women.

Urs Kueenzi

Sect information center "too academic"

Bern, Switzerland
November 8, 1999
Berner Zeitung

Since the Solar Templar catastrophe, sects have been discussed in detail. The day before yesterday, the church in Bern got involved.

Even though sects are hardly a danger to the state, they can exert considerable force on individual members. Or, said Alexander Tschaeppaet, Social Democrat of the Bern National Assembly: assimilative religious movements are turning more and more into catch basins for people who suffer from social isolation. An active sect politic is needed for their protection, Tschaeppaet stated the day before yesterday at the meeting of the Reformed Church of Bern-Jura on the theme of sects.

Not a private matter

Religion can not continue to be seen as strictly a private matter, said Tschaeppaet. However, the state, as protector of tolerance, must acknowledge the basic right of freedoms of belief and conscience, he continued. But it has to step in if groups exert force on their members. In order to be able to recognize dangerous assimilative groups in a timely manner, the Federal Assembly would have to create an information and counselling center for sect issues, he said. This requirement has been submitted to them by the Business Review Commission of the National Assembly, said Tschaeppaet.

Western Switzerland will handle

There is a consensus in western Switzerland that the influence of assimilative groups could be considerably reduced by distributing information, said Francois Bellanger from Geneva, President of the Inter-Cantonal Commission for Sect Issues. Therefore, there are plans to establish a neutral information and counselling center which would be supported financially by all cantons in western Switzerland.

Academic information centers

Zurich sect specialist Hugo Stamm voiced doubts about the effectiveness of an information and counselling center. An information center run by religious sociologists and theologians would be too academic, he said, and he was afraid that people who had been affected would receive too little actual help. Georg Schmid, Director of the Evangelical Information Center "Churches, Sects and Religions," noted that any psychological school, any political party or church could assume potentially sectarian characteristics. Therefore it was unavoidable that every religious group conscious of responsibility would have to exercise self-criticism. sda.

Turn of the Millennium the End of Time?

Prayer Day Celebration of the Officers Society of Lake and Visitors

Rapperswil, Switzerland
September 20, 1999
Südostschweiz Online

The turn of the millennium was the main theme at the Prayer Day Celebration which was organized by the Officers Society of Lake and Visitors, and which was held yesterday together with the Non-Commissioned Officers Association of Upper Zuerichsee in Rapperswil.

by Renate Ammann

From the year 1796 came the decision of the Assembly session to remember, on the third Sunday of September, in the religious and patriotic sense, those who have died in the line of duty. A special meaning has been ascribed to the event this year, as the President of the Officers Society of Lake and Visitors, Major Johannes Schlaepfer, let those present know. 75 years ago the first commemorative plaque for 16 service men from the lake district was dedicated in a simple ceremony. The second plaque, right by the main portal to the Rapperswil castle courtyard, followed in 1946 after the Second World War. He expressed his thanks to the color guard of the Non-Commissioned Officers Association of Upper Zuerichsee for the laying of the wreath on the anniversary. Not least of all, he welcomed the Rapperswil city band and its director, Bruno Erb, who set the musical tone for the solemn occasion.

Solar eclipse as a mediocre diversion in the summer lull

Like a red thread, the theme of the "Turn of the Millennium" wound its way through the events at yesterday's church event, and this was also taken up by theologian Georg Schmid of the Evangelical Information Center for Church-Sects-Religions in his address. He stated that, until recently, we had unanimously agreed that there was a higher being which preserved our world.

However, in connection with the full solar eclipse and the prophesies of Elizabeth Teissier, fear was sprouting up everywhere. Finally, the fear of catastrophe had developed into a mediocre diversion for the summer lull.

But he also recalled the Swiss woman sect leader [Uriella] in the white dress and black wig in whose bath tub hordes of people hoped to be healed. And they included people who, in contrast to Uriella, have not hurt themselves by falling on their heads. The Solar Templists behaved quite similarly; they also counted on the end of the world and established a refuge for themselves in Canada with a secret cache of weapons. After the trouble with the authorities, they had come to the decision to escape the anticipated catastrophe at the end of the world by taking a trip to the stars.

Sacrifices for Satan and future anxieties

His experiences with young people have shown him, continued Schmid, that they are of the opinion that evil will triumph and is stronger than good. They would like to be on the side of the stronger power, and if this does not work, they came upon the idea to bring sacrifices to Satan before he demands something else of them. Then they hope for his help.

Young people will find themselves in a difficult situation when it comes to choice of career and the accelerated technical development which will qualm future anxieties. Besides that he brought to mind the change of values in society in which there are no longer any generally binding regulations.

Most predictions are not so bad

And don't we all sometimes find ourselves asking the question of how things should keep on, continued Schmid. Whether it is population growth, advancing old age or super people who have been patched together with gene technology, all these things can unsettle us. On the other hand, one can see from previous events that every prediction does not at all turn out so badly as feared.

People without any confidence have frequently experienced a sort of end of the world in their private lives, opined the speaker, and he said he had found that talking these people out of their fear had no sense.

Assisting them to find a way out of their personal world ruination so that they, too, could gain confidence sometime [was the preferred action], concluded the speaker. Anything but world ruination reigned after the official part of the Prayer Day Celebration; at that time people enjoyed the rounds of Apero which were offered by the Officers Society and the City of Rapperswil.

Protecting Children from Sects

Bern, Switzerland
July 3, 1999

The Business Review Commission of the National Assembly (GPK) demanded that the Federal Assembly introduce a kind of consumer protection in the areas of sects.

by Hugo Stamm, Bern

The report on the problem of sects which was presented on Friday by the GPK demanded that the Federal Assembly finally formulate a sect politic, especially seeing to it that children are protected. This would be of special importance when their parents were active in sects or groups which produce an income. In this case, putting the children's interests ahead of those of their parents would be justified. It is primarily in separations that increased consideration must be taken with regard to children, wrote the GPK in its report.

The Federal Assembly should inform

The GPK hopes to bring about an informational effect in its work: "With a sect politic, the Federal Assembly should give to the general population a clear signal and to those affected [by sects] the courage to express themselves publicly and thereby contribute to prevention," said GPK President Alex Tschaeppaet (SP) at the presentation of the report. He recalls the aids campaign, which also broke a taboo theme. So that courts and government agencies will be able to decisively deal with the situation when laws are broken, a clear position by the state is of great importance.

The GPK urgently demanded from the Federal Assembly a central information and counselling center. The would not just serve the public, but also governmental agencies, including guardianship agencies, tax authorities and courts.

The Commission further determined that the legislative fundamentals for fighting abuses in the area of sects "appear to be, for the most part, satisfactory." However, when it comes to income produced by sect-like groups, these laws are hardly every applied or used. Therefore the GPK required that the Federal Assembly take over the mission of coordination at the federal and canton level.

Illicit Medical Practices

In their two years of work, the GPK has also discerned a legal dilemma, mainly in the individual canton health laws. Therefore it suggests measures to stem the abuse by groups which produce an income and healers from the esoteric environment. These would be applied to occasionally exploited or illicit medical practices and deal with pseudo-medical treatments.

Paperwork like small loans

The GPK also detected legal loopholes in the area of consumer protection. The problems consist of dependents or former sect members hardly ever being able to prove facts of the case like deception or overcharging. Because of this they can rarely count on support from the authorities, the report said.

For the protection of the consumer on the psycho-market, the report proposes a regulation which would clarify financial, duration and personal consequences. In violating the obligation to provide information the treatment of illnesses would be illicit, on which account the provider could be made liable for damages. In that regard the GPK has legal paperwork in mind such as that used in small loans or in the leasing industry.

Since various offices of the federal administration are confronted with sect issues, the Federal Assembly can no longer push the problem off onto cantons or private agencies, continued the report.

Incompetence and Alienation

The Commission did not intentionally get involved with individual groups, but with methods of obtaining income, the dependency of the adherents, the totalitarian structure and the financial, employment, social and mental damages which sect adherents can suffer. Specifically the GPK named mental incapacitation and the alienation of families. As the main reason for getting involved in the sect discussion, the GPK gave the sect drama of the Solar Temple in western Switzerland. The state must call things to a decisive halt when basic rights are at risk, said the report. "The public can get the impression that one can expect no help for all practical purposes from the state," wrote the Commission.

The GPK also mentioned, however, that the basic rights which include the freedoms of religion and belief may not be affected. When groups which produce an income or "sects" - the GPK consistently used quotation marks, because an exact definition of the term is hard to come by - violate basic democratic rights, the state must protect its citizens. Such movements affect, to some degree, the freedom of opinion, freedom of expression or even physical integrity of their adherents. In extreme cases things can lead to suicide. To be sure, these problems do not exist in all 700-800 groups; the degree and intensity also vary widely. The state government has until September of the year 2000 to review the requirements of the GPK and to take a position on them.

Lexicon: VPM

From: "Wochenblatt Online", Switzerland
Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Singen/Zurich (he). The Bohlingen Castle Boarding School ["Internat Schloss Bohlingen"] openly admitted on Monday that the school will not work with VPM pedagogues or the international work group "Courage for Ethics" ["Mut zur Ethik"]. For several years associations who have worked with the VPM have been defending themselves of having any connection with VPM. By taking this action, the supporters of the school are making it clear that they are speaking for themselves. The VPM (Association for Psychological Human Understanding, ["Verein fuer psychologische Menschenkenntnis"]) presents itself in the traditions of the psychological practices and ethics of the psychologist Friedrich Liebling, deceased as of 1982, who stated that he, in turn, was a student of Alfred Adler. VPM was founded in 1986 in Zurich. In the years previous to that, VPM had already been bringing technical correspondents into line with its way of thinking, and had, in the meantime, put in an appearance of being right (s) conservative, but mainly very restrictive in regard to drug politics: "Anti- Drug Liberalization" had turned into an organizational purpose. VPM has been dealing with its critics for a long time in the same manner as psycho-groups such as Scientology can call their own: they often put massive pressure on opponents. In the meantime, VPM has given the appearance of acting with more reserve. CDU members have also been "suspected" by various media of being sympathetic to the VPM. The group has many doctors, pharmacologists, psychologists and other academics. The German Psychology Association had clearly disassociated itself from the VPM by 1992: the professional association stated that neither the claims nor the practices of the VPM are compatible with the dignity of the individual or with psychology as a science or as a profession. It is said to not be compatible in that VPM adherents "tend to juveniles and follow social missions." In 1996 in Bohlingen, technical correspondents Holger Reile and Hugo Stamm said that the VPM management in Zurich had the capability of an almost perfect control from top to bottom. The secretary of "Courage for Ethics," moreover, has the same mailing address as that of the VPM in Zurich.


Many Crash Courses for Management's Souls

From: "Tages-Anzeiger"
August 4, 1998

Personality seminars are booming. However, some trainers inappropriately include their participant's psyches, warns psychologist Barbel Schwertfeger in her new book.*

by Paula Lanfranconi

The reorganization of business has taken on a hurricane-like tempo in some places. Authoritarian chiefs are no longer in demand, it is now personalities who show initiative and are capable of being part of the team - with assertiveness, if you don't mind. Not all the powers-that-be have managed this change in role: about 70 percent of these re-engineering projects fail, mostly because of the human factor.

That just makes the promises of the personality seminars all the more attractive. Instead of troubling oneself with dreary behavior modification or self-reflection, the participant is supposed to be transformed into a successful personality in several days.

That is not without risk. "A provider of seminars who explicitly promises a personality change," writes Barbel Schwertfeger in her book, which is to soon appear, "frequently works with methods of mental re-programming. The participant's conception of self is destabilized so that an entirely new perspective is forced upon him.

Caution is advised.

Experts sometimes describe this process as brainwashing. Schwertfeger, who has been occupied for years with sects, psycho- cults and personality training, describes how these mechanisms work in detail. Far be it from her to throw all her courses in one pot.

She advises precaution, for example: if the duration of the course is exceeded indefinitely; if the trainer adopts an authoritarian attitude and if those who deviate are put under group pressure; if neither communication with other seminar participants nor note-taking is allowed, or if bizarre rituals or humiliating confessions are compelled. In short, if the self- determination of the participants turns up missing.

Some of the readers will say, "something like that doesn't happen to me." Wrong! The reference list of some dubious seminar providers reads like the "Who's Who" of international business. Author Schwertfeger expresses amazement that many of those responsible for personnel evaluate these courses less thoroughly than they would a car they were planning on buying. Many lack the basic know-how of how to properly assess a personality seminar.

Black Sheep

As a matter of fact, it is difficult to uncover the black sheep, because many providers behave in a chameleon-like fashion. "Whereas some trainers several years ago proudly referred to their own training with EST/Landmark founder Werner Erhard, they won't mention that today. The more informed the personnel manager, the more the providers cover up and deceive," writes Schwertfeger. She does not shy back from naming controversial consulting companies by name, nor from describing their methods and their results in detail.

How does the situation look in Switzerland? "Basically, we have the impression that the psychological and esoterica providers are growing, and that businesses are forced into becoming involved," said Susanne Schaaf from the Infosekta counselling center. Infosekta is confronted primarily with the activities of Scientology and Landmark.

Controversial Adventure Providers

The names of esoteric consciousness expansion programs continue to come up, such as Avatar, IMC (International Marketing Corporation) with the power seminar givers, PME (Personal Motivation and Success Training), and NeoTech. The ones which are currently most popular are the so-called "adventure providers," who are supposed to strengthen team spirit. Infosekta advisor Schaaf refers to these establishments as "the political boy scout programs of personnel departments."

* Bärbel Schwertfeger: Der Griff nach der Psyche. Was umstrittene Persönlichkeitstrainer in Unternehmen anrichten. Campus Verlag, 1998, 38.80 Franken.

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