A German parliamentary commission of inquiry into "sects and psycho-groups" has wrapped up two years of work by declaring that new religious and psychological movements generally pose no real danger to state and society.
The commission, composed of a dozen representatives of the country's main political parties and a dozen public religion experts, found that a fraction of the religious movements indeed had the potential to cause "conflicts" with some individuals. But commission members, in a 600-page report, concluded that the country's constitution, guaranteeing religious freedom, need not be amended. It called for tolerance and understanding within society, and demanded discontinuation of the "derogatory" term sect. Instead, such groups should be referred to as "new religious and ideological communities."
In its recommendations, the commission encourages parliamentarians to set up a federal foundation dealing with new religious and ideological communities. It further suggests that lawmakers pass legislation for state support of private counseling and information centers and look into profiteering by the new groups.
JUSTIFICATION FOR PROBE? Even though the outcome does not trample on individual religious freedoms, some German observers are upset at the scope and purpose of the study. During a June parliamentary debate on the final report, commission chairperson Ortrun Schatzle, of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's ruling Christian Democratic Union Party, refuted criticism that the commission targeted "fringe Pentecostal, charismatic, and end-times" churches.
"The Commission of Inquiry always oriented itself on the areas of conflict and not on individual groups and certainly not on any set of religious beliefs," she stressed.
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