Violating Personal Integrity

by Jan-Otto Ottoson, Professor in Göteborg (Sweden)
a translation from the german article "Schutzlose Kinder" by Joe Cisar

Defenseless Children

Problems like fear, apprehension, difficulty in concentrating, apathy, feelings of guilt, visual and audio-hallucination and contemplation of suicide have been reported by former cult members who were subjected to one-sided influence under authoritarian forms.  Under the protection of freedom of religion, personal integrity was violated and the United Nations conventions on the rights of children were not respected.
Children are easier made victims of indoctrination than are adults.  In the United Nations convention of 1989, it was determined about the rights of children that children have the full dignity of a person, beyond which they have a special right to protection and care to ensure normal physical, mental and social development.

Children may not be robbed of their rights to good health care and to prevention of illness. Shouldn't the minimum requirement for state support be respect for the conventions of the United Nations?


Destructive cults have an anti-democratic flavor in that thought, emotion and behavior are directed from above, questioning is condemned and intuition is hindered. Mental, physical and financial exploitation can turn a curious, idealistic young person into a one-sided, insecure, humorless robot.  Threat, punishment, obedience training and accusations are the methods used. Involvement in the cult hinders development and maturation and, in retrospect is experienced as a vacuum in life.  The crass motives of the so-called Scientology "Church" has recently been uncovered. [1]

The significance in religion or politics of indoctrination or brainwashing, in the sense of one-sided influence in authoritarian forms that permit no criticism or discussion, has long been known. [2] Aroused feelings of guilt and shame can lead to black-white thinking and evaluations that have no factual basis.  The strong effects of mass suggestion have been exploited in cynical fashion.

Indoctrination is carried out deliberately and is often done so that the subjects have no knowledge of what is happening. It would be difficult to assert that indoctrination does not also emerge in education, child-rearing or in information disseminated by the mass media. Healthy religiosity is built on a humanist image of people with an emphasis on freedom, reflection, responsibility and civic awareness.  In the same spirit, it enables the fundamental respect for equal values of all people and the freedom and dignity of individuals. The same foundation is prescribed by religious freedom.  Where should priorities lie when a religion (or rather its leaders and practitioners) violates human freedom and human rights?

It would not be appropriate to put religious freedom at issue when it is being abused as much as other freedoms.  Increased information and insight must, however, suffice for even the worst of scenarios. The daily decisions concerning people have to be respected in the interest of freedom.

[1] Behar R., The thriving cult of greed and power, Time 1991 May 6
[2] Sargant,  Der Kampf um die Seelen, Stockholm: Natur und Kultur 1958

UNICEF - The Convention on the Rights of the Child

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