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PHILADELPHIA, Dec 12 (LSN) – On Dec. 7, the European Parliament began a debate on approving a Europe- wide document identifying “dangerous sects.” According to an article in the December 12 issue of the Washington Times, groups such as “Catholic charismatics, Hasidic Jews, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, Buddhists and the YWCA [are] now being listed as ‘dangerous sects’ by state panels.” The Times reported that “A network of psychiatric, legal, media and socialist groups are pressuring European governments to outlaw or curtail the activities of well-known religious organizations, a new report states.” These “anti-sect” groups “propose laws to list groups, outlaw “mindcontrol” by sects, bar them from opening bank accounts or renting meeting halls and to set up government bureaus to monitor groups.”

The event took place as the Helsinki Commission, a US governmental body which monitors European affairs, was holding a hearing on the religious liberties of minorities in Europe. Karen Lord, legal counsel for religious freedom at the Helsinki Commission, acknowledged receiving reports of “a live intolerance in Europe, especially under the sect commissions.” She also noted that “Some of the groups they list are Opus Dei, which is blessed by the pope, and Campus Crusade for Christ [an evangelical student organization].”

Massimo Introvigne, a Roman Catholic scholar from Turin, Italy issued a report on religious liberty at a Washington press conference last week. In it he called for an international discussion on the issue. He noted that Europe’s anti-sect movement is made up of “liberal rationalists,” who believe religion is irrational and want to fight the “rising tide of irrationality.”“We don’t claim it is a real persecution,” he said, but added that “these things are escalating to a kind of avalanche.” Introvigne noted that a “sect” in European parlance is comparable to a “cult” in American use, both suggesting “a monstrous group” that harms people. He reported that the Catholic bishops in France and Italy have criticized the lists, and “alarm bells went off in Vatican circles” when Belgium’s list came out.

The Washington Times noted that “The Council of Europe—which differs from the European Parliament by including East European governments—also has an anti-sect commission headed by Romania’s former communist ministry of religious affairs director.”

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