OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Intervention of Tom Sackville, President of FECRIS, at the

Round table organised at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

9/10 July 2009 in Vienna

I am here today in my role as newly elected President of FECRIS. We are a federation of voluntary groups in thirty countries across and beyond Europe. We and our members have as our sole aim the support of individuals, and their families, who have been damaged by contact with manipulative cults. We take no view on religion. The fact that most of what we call cults claim to be religions is incidental. We are interested only in the human consequences of cults’ actions, and the harm they do to individuals and their families, examples of which we see every day in our work.

For those with personal knowledge of how cults work, it is ironic, and even shocking, that well meaning, highly respected bodies dedicated to opposing human rights abuses find themselves, as we do here today, sitting side by side with organizations who if they did not succeed in cloaking themselves in the guise of religions and were judged solely on their actions, would be reviled as deeply inimical to the public interest.

So in speaking about commitments on “freedom of religion” I believe we need to consider whether giving blanket protection to any organization that calls itself a religion, actually damages the achievement of OSCE objectives. Unless we can find appropriate language to qualify the term “religion”, we risk inverting the whole concept of human rights by strengthening malign, oppressive organizations at the expense of those many benevolent bodies whose sole aim is to support the oppressed.