Religion, Rights and Secular Society

Religion, Rights and Secular Society

European Perspectives

Edited by Peter Cumper and Tom Lewis

The expectations of many that religion in modern Europe would be swept away by the powerful current of secularization have not been realised, and today few topics generate more controversy than the complex relationship between religious and secular values. The ‘religious/secular’ relationship is examined in this book, which brings together scholars from different parts of Europe and beyond to provide insights into the methods by which religion and equivalent beliefs have been, and continue to be, protected in the legal systems and constitutions of European nations. The contributors’ chapters reveal that the oft-tumultuous legacy of Europe’s relationship with religion still resonates across a continent where legal, political and social contours have been powerfully shaped by faith and religious difference.

Chapter 15: Legal considerations concerning new religious movements in the ‘new Europe’

James T Richardson and Valerie A Lykes

Subjects: law - academic, european law, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights

Extract

New religious movements (NRMs) have been controversial throughout history, as they are often viewed as challenging extant societal values and authorities. Also, more recent NRMs have been accused of aggressive proselytising and ‘stealing children’, given that many have tended to attract young people, sometimes from relatively affluent families. This concern has fed the moral panic about so-called ‘cult brainwashing’ that has spread around the world. The ongoing controversy over NRMs has been amply demonstrated in recent decades within western societies, particularly the United States but also in Europe. Many times this controversy has resulted in legal actions of various kinds, as societal agents attempt to exert control over new religions or private parties (sometimes parents of young people involved) take ‘self-help’ actions to extricate their children that might involve or result in legal actions. And on occasion NRMs have attempted to make use of the legal system in defensive actions against those who would attack or criticise them, be they politicians and governments, journalists, deprogrammers, representatives of dominant religions, or even academics.

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