Why To Be Scared of the Anti-Cult Movement

This is an excerpt from Swantko, J. (1999) “The Twelve Tribes Communities, The Anti-Cult Movement and Governmental Response” in Social Justice Research Journal, 12 (4), pp. 194-195.

The anti-cult movement (ACM) has been referred to as an industry by scholars.1 It is not a reliable source when seeking the truth about the Twelve Tribes. After decades of harassment by the ACM, a review of the Twelve Tribes’ legal history2 reveals that anti-religionists have repeatedly influenced governments to unfairly prosecute or adjudicate controversies surrounding members of this religious minority. Religious discrimination by the government becomes apparent when one studies the facts and sees that, in case after case, anti-cult data was not a trustworthy source to rely on before making official judgments and taking public action.
The agenda of the former ACM-oriented Cult Awareness Network includes activities that have been well-documented. The following list, derived from a careful reading of James Lewis3 suggests a pattern of action that seems demonstrated by the experience of the Twelve Tribes Communities around the world. The steps include:

  1. ACM representatives, including deprogrammers, contact disaffected ex-members (who may be engaged in a custody dispute);
  2. They coordinate ex-members’ meeting with media representatives to stir up public opinion;
  3. After sufficient concern is aroused in the general public, they arrange for ex-members to give affidavits about abuse of some sort to social workers to begin regulatory and court proceedings;
  4. They use courts, sometimes in ex parte (one-sided) hearings, to get judgments against the group that might eventually cause great harm to the organization;
  5. They use the exaggerated and even untrue information to further promote the ACM agenda, which in turn causes more people to seek their services (which may be expensive); and
  6. Then they use this information to raise funds from the public to help fight the “cult menace.”

All of these methods have been demonstrated by the ACM industry’s effort to destroy the Twelve Tribes Communities.
In the face of such tactics, Twelve Tribes members have been vindicated time and time again in the courts, although not without considerable disruption and difficulties for members. Prosecutors and local law enforcement and social services workers entrusted to promote the public good repeatedly relied on untrustworthy ant-cult information, which resulted in an abuse of state authority directed toward the Twelve Tribes Communities.
The ACM destroys the delicate balance that maintains social and political order by breaking down the boundaries of rightful authority separating government and religion. This is especially a problem in societies such as France and Germany, where there is a close relationship between private anti-cult groups and the government.4 By effectively influencing governments to believe that certain religious groups are a social menace because of what they believe, the stage is set to pursue individual members on a selective basis because of their “dangerous” faith, without reliable evidence that criminal or anti-social activity has happened. In some countries, the law prohibits accusing someone based on guilt by association because guilt is personal, not communal.5
The ACM thrives in the gap created by a failure in both governments and religions to recognize the legitimate authority of the other and to properly define their own social and political boundaries. Governments have been deceived into police action by emotional misrepresentations, persuaded to believe them and trust that force is necessary to maintain the public welfare. Anti-cultists, sometimes motivated by religious orthodoxy or anti-religious sentiment instead of religious liberty, have sought to limit religious diversity, and cry “heresy!” or “abuse!” to provoke government interference in areas in which the state government should not tread.
The ACM takes advantage of both mainstream religions and insecure government officials by invoking fear and inducing “moral panic”6 in the public arena. The result is to convince governments that true religious diversity is unnecessary, and at the same time to convince established religions that anything outside the mainstream is dangerous and deserves to be destroyed. This trend is happening now and it is escalating around the world. To maintain a democratic social order, it is essential that false information, induced hysteria and fear, do not replace vigilant, conscientious, and effective law enforcement and government policies.
If you value freedom and democracy, you are justified in being scared of the anti-cult movement.

Read the entire article here

  • 1. Shupe, Anson (1998) “The Role of Apostates in the North American Anti-Cult Movement” in The Politics of Religious Apostacy, D. Bromley, Ed., pp. 209,212-213, Westport, CT, Praeger; Palmer, S.J. (1998) “Apostates and Their Role in the Construction of Grievance Claims against the Northeast Kingdom Community Church,” in the Politics of Religious Apostacy, Id. at p. 198.
  • 2. See Swantko
  • 3. Lewis, J. (1994), From The Ashes, Lanham, MD, Rowman and Littlefield.
  • 4. See articles by Massimo Introvigne and Hubert Seiwert in Social Justice Research Journal (1999)
  • 5. Scales v. U.S., 367 U.S. 203, 224-25 (1961)
  • 6. Goode, E. & Ben-Yehuda, N. (1994) Moral Panics: the Social Construction of Deviance, Cambridge, MA, Blackwell; Introvigne, M. (1998)

The Twelve Tribes is a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, composed of self-governing communities. We are disciples of the Son of God whose name in Hebrew is Yahshua. We follow the pattern of the early church in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, truly believing everything that is written in the Old and New Covenants of the Bible, and sharing all things in common.