Edited by Peter Cumper and Tom Lewis
Chapter 15: Legal considerations concerning new religious movements in the ‘new Europe’
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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