Friedrich Griess: The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and its jeopardising by totalitarian cult organisations

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

and its jeopardising by totalitarian cult organisations


Friedrich Griess

Former President of the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism


The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was proclaimed, during the Nice European Council, on 7 December 2000 by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. The preamble to the Charter outlines the Member States’ decision to ‘share a peaceful future based on common values’ and states that ‘conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law’. The Charter of Fundamental Rights brings together in a single text all the civil, political, economic and social rights of European citizens and of all those living in theUnion. These rights are divided into six main chapters: Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens’ Rights and Justice. The inclusion of the fundamental rights in the Lisbon Treaty will mean that, if the Treaty enters into force, the European institutions and the Member States will be legally bound to uphold them.


If we can take it seriously that European and member state authorities are obliged to protect these fundamental rights then, in addition, they will have the duty to prevent non-governmental organisations from violating those rights. This means that they will have an enormous amount of work to do, because there are quite a number of totalitarian organisations who feel entitled to jeopardise those rights. Those organisations, commonly called cults, usually operate on (pseudo-) religious, (pseudo-) scientific, political or commercial basis, and their activity contradicts in various ways the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as follows.


They jeopardise human dignity (article 1 of the Charter) by extreme hierarchical structures and the unconditional submission of their adherents to a despotic leader or guru.


Some of them jeopardise the right to life (article 2) by refusal to medical treatments, ritual murders, killing by purification, collective suicides and indirectly caused individual suicides, as sad events during the last few decades have shown. Also symbolically announced death sentences against supposed “suppressive persons”, or the collective desire to annihilate everybody who is not a member, constitute violations of the Charter.


The right to the integrity of the person (article 3) also explicitly includes the prohibition of reproductive cloning of human beings, which is propagated by at least one such organisation.


Concentration camps, corporal punishment and raving “cleaning rituals” contradict the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 4).


The exploitation of human beings under the pretext of alleged voluntary readiness for service contradicts the prohibition of slavery and forced labour (article 5). It is close to trafficking if people, based on photos, are married across continents or children are “given away” to foreign families.


The fundamental right to liberty and security (article 6) is considerably reduced by the submission under the arbitrary rule of a leader or guru and his or her orders, also with respect to every day’s agenda being rigidly set at the expense of freedom of choice.


The respect for private and family life (article 7) is undermined by interference as practised by several cults, an example being the “separation order”.


The protection of personal data (article 8) falls prey to the “cult of confession”, where adherents must totally disclose their inner life, which is often recorded and later may be used for extortion or blackmail.


The right to marry and the right to found a family (article 9) are both either replaced by demanded unrestricted promiscuity or by exaggerated prudishness, where choice of the partner for life is also commanded from above, or by total abstinence. (The argument that the latter is also true for monks and Catholic priests is not justified, because according to this doctrine, different from the cults, it is not required for salvation to become a monk or priest.)


Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (article 10). This right includes freedom to form our own beliefs without pressures or deception; freedom to change religion or belief; and freedom, either alone or in association with others, and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, whether in worship, teaching, practice and observance. To exercise this type of freedom, it is necessary within the groups upon which the individual depends to do everything for the unfolding of a true freedom, which for the individual includes an opening, an exchange, a dialogue, a critical spirit and the prospect of asking questions. All this does not exist inside cults. The paradox lies in the fact that cults, within the scope of their group structure, demand to benefit from the protective freedom designed for individuals, for themselves as a social group, thus demanding an inversion of these same values which are protected by the European Charter.


Similar considerations could be made about most of the remaining 40 articles of the Charter.


The European Union and the governments of its member states should therefore:

  • deny those organisations which violate the Charter of Fundamental Rights any privileges as charity status or recognition as a corporation under public law or religion;
  • deny those organisations also the participation of national and European representatives at their events, and vice versa the invitation of their representatives to official events, in order not to revalue them;
  • warn the public and especially the youth in a suitable manner against these organisation, as it happens already in many ways – also in Austria ;
  • attempt a homogenous treatment of those organisations by the authorities within the European Union;
  • make violations of the Charter of Fundamental Rights also punishable according to national penal law.