New Organizations Operating Under

Cultic Studies Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, 1985, pages 275-277

New Organizations Operating Under the Protection Afforded to Religious Bodies

On May 22,1984, the European Parliament Adopted the Following Resolution:

On a common approach by the Member States of the European Community towards various infringements of the law by new organizations operating under the protection afforded to religious bodies, the European Parliament.

  • accepting the principle laid down in Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

  • having regard to the EEC Treaty and in particular Article 220 thereof,

  • having regard to the International Youth Year 1985,

  • having regard to the motions for resolution on:

distress caused by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (Doc. 1-2/82),

the activities of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (Doc. 1-109/82),

  • having regard to the report of the Committee on Youth, CUIMM Education, Information and Sport and the opinion of the Legal Affairs Committee (Doc.147/86),

  1. having regard to the concern felt by individuals and families in the community at the activities of certain organizations described as “new religious movements” insofar as their practices infringe human and civil rights and are detrimental to the position in society of those affected;

  2. stressing that full freedom of religion and opinion is a principle in the Member States and that the Community Institutions therefore have no right to judge the value of either religious beliefs in general or individual religious practices;

  3. convinced that, in this instance, the validity of religious beliefs is not in question, but rather the lawfulness of the practices used to recruit new members and the treatment they receive;

  4. whereas the problems arising from the emergence of the above mentioned organizations have attained worldwide dimensions, occurring in all Member States, although to different degrees, and having already promoted investigations, government action, and court judgments in various Member States;

  5. whereas the abandonment of their previous way of life by the members of these organizations raises social issues and issues connected with labor law, possibly adversely affecting not only the individuals involved, but also the Community and the social system;

  6. whereas it is very difficult, given the different terms used to describe these organizations in the Member States, to find a neutral expression which win be universally understood in the same way;

Considers it necessary for the Councils of Ministers responsible, that is to say the Ministers of the Interior and Ministers of Justice meeting in European Political Cooperation, and the Council of Ministers for Social Affairs, to hold an exchange of information as soon as possible on the problems arising from the activity of the above mentioned organizations with particular reference to the following arm;

(a) procedure applied in conferring charity status and tax exemption on such organizations;

(b) compliance with the laws of the individual Member States, for example Labor Law and social security legislation;

(c) consequences for the social system of failure to comply with these laws;

(d) attempts to find missing persons and the possibilities of cooperation ,with third countries for this purpose;

(e) ways in which the rights of members to personal freedom may be infringed;

(f) creation of centers to assist those leaving these organizations by providing legal aid and assistance to reintegrate in society and find employment;

(g) existence of legal loopholes owing to the differences in legislation of the individual countries, which enable possibly proscribed activities to be pursued from one country to another;

Calls on the Member States to agree to pool data on the international ramifications of the above mentioned organizations, including those using cover names and front organizations, and on their activities in the Member States;

Calls on the Commission,

(a) to submit a report on the matters set out in paragraph 3 above with particular reference to the measures taken by government bodies, especially the police and the courts, in response to infringements of the law by these organizations, as well as the findings of government commissions of investigation into such organizations;

(b) to develop ways of ensuring the effective protection of Community citizens to this field;

Invites the Councils of Ministers responsible to discuss on the basis of the data collected and the Commission’s report the problems arising from the activities of the above mentioned organizations and to enable the Member States to cooperate with each other in protecting the rights of their citizens;

Recommends that the following criteria be applied in investigating, reviewing and assessing the activity of the above mentioned organizations:

(a) persons under the age of majority should not be forced on becoming a member of an organization to make a solemn long-term commitment that will determine the course of their lives;

(b) there should be an adequate period of reflection on the financial or personal commitment involved;

(c) after joining an organization contacts must be allowed with family and friends;

(d) members who have already commenced a course of education should not be prevented from completing it;

(e) the following rights of the individual must be respected: the right to leave an organization unhindered; the right to contact family and friends in person or by letter or telephone; the right to seek independent advice, legal or otherwise; the right to seek medical attention at any time;

(f) no one may be incited to break any law, particularly with regard to fundraising, for example by begging or prostitution;

(g) organizations may not extract permanent commitments from potential recruits, for example students or tourists, who are visitors to a country in which they are not resident;

(h) during recruitment, the name and principles of the organization should always be made immediately clear;

(i) such organizations must inform the competent authorities on request of the address or whereabouts of individual members;

(j) the abovementioned organizations must ensure that individuals dependent on them and working on their behalf receive the social security benefits provided in the Member States in which they live or work:

(k) if a member travels abroad in pursuit of the interest of an organization, it must accept responsibility for bringing the individual home, especially in the event of illness;

(l) telephone calls and letters from members” families must be immediately passed on to them;

(m) where recruits have children, organizations must do their utmost to further their education and health, and avoid any circumstances in which the children’s well-being might be at risk;

Considers, moreover, a common approach within the context of the Council of Europe to be desirable and calls, therefore, on the governments of the Member States to press for appropriate agreements to be drawn up by the Council of Europe which will guarantee the individual effective protection from possible machinations by these organizations and their physical or mental coercion;

Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and Council of the European Communities, to the Governments and national parliaments of the Members States, and to the Council of Europe.