Christa Raab, an Austrian mother of four and a schoolteacher for nearly half her life, has been banned from her classroom. Government officials in Aschach, a village of about 4,000 people west of Vienna, suspended her last year for her association with a new charismatic church. To authorities, Jedidja Church is a sect, and Raab has been accused of being a "fanatic," scaring children with talk about the Devil.

Raab's suspension because of her religious affiliation with Jedidja (Hebrew for God's friend) is one of many indications that freedom of religious practice in Europe is under attack. "Storm clouds are gathering over Europe," says Stuart McAllister, general secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance in Vienna.

In southern and central Europe, where the majority are either Roman Catholics or Lutherans, the sectarian or cultic label has long been applied to evangelical or charismatic Christians. But McAllister sees signs that Western Europeans are increasingly attracted to new laws restricting religious practice. "There is a strong lobby at work, and it won't rest until new religion laws have been passed," he says.

CHRISTIANITY A CULT? In April, the Belgian Parliamentary Commission on Cults issued a 600-page report identifying 189 religious groups as cults. Included were 21 evangelical denominations, such as the Assemblies of God, Evangelical Free Church, and Religious Fellowship of Friends (Quakers). Many Protestant congregations not belonging to the officially recognized United Protestant Church of Belgium are a part of the list.

Likewise, in March the State Secretariat for Cults in Romania issued a letter forbidding issuance of construction permits for any place of worship not recognized by the state. Romania identifies ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.