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The Cult Phenomenon in the United States (1979) ("Statement of James LeBar.

") Joint-Congressional Proceedings, statements by Father James LeBar INFORMATION MEETING ON THE CULT PHENOMENON IN THE UNITED STATES, February 5, 1979, 318 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. P.103-107. of Transcript of Proceedings. Note: Though written as "James La Bar" in transcript, official bio page lists as "James LeBar", and is correct spelling of name. Senator Dole. The next witness is Father James LaBar, Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of New York. I don't want to take away time from the witnesses, but we are under some time constraints because of other commitments. If anybody -- we have -- we are down to the last two witnesses. Some of the panel would like to submit questions. If we can speed it up, it would be helpful. STATEMENT OF FATHER JAMES LA BAR. Mr. LaBar. Members of the Senate and the House, it is indeed a privilege to be here today. I hope that the points raised today by all the speakers will be considered very carefully. Speaking of the religious cults, it is important to make some basic definitions. I certainly feel that the term "cult" can be applied to various offshoots of established churches as well. I would have to disagree considerably that the term pseudo-religious cult is inappropriate, because the very idea of the First Amendment and religion, we have to first determine was religion is. So I use the term pseudo-religious cults to describe those groups that purport to call themselves a religious movement, but in fact are only using religion as a shield for their true purpose. Four basic characteristics I see in them: A close allegiance to a person rather than to God. An inordinate preoccupation with the attainment of money, which is not used for the poor or charity, but for the enrichment of the leader. Deceptive practices in recruitment. And deprivation of freedom within the group, and in particular the lack of freedom when it comes time or a desire to leave the group because of what has been taught. I am sure that all of you know that the Roman Catholic Church has a high regard for religious liberty. Together with the World Council of Churches, there is common agreement with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 that religious liberty, that is an immunity from coercion in religious matters, is an inviolable human right. There is agreement, too, that it is the duty of government to protect and promote human rights; and that includes religious liberty. I come to you today as an American citizen, a parish priest, a Catholic, with years of experience in education, youth programs, and counseling. I come to tell

you there is great danger to our young people, to society as a whole in the activities and some practices of pseudo-religious cults. I ask you today to consider the human rights of the children of many of your constituents. These young people have been enticed with false promises and empty ideals and their freedom has been taken away from them in a process you have already heard described. That process is so subtle and so devious that the recruit is not even aware of what happens. Oftentimes leaders of the pseudo-religious cults will try to equate their practices with some of our Roman Catholic seminaries and religious orders, but the absolute falsehood of a charge like this is found in an examination of any of our orders. Let me point out just one difference: Before a candidate for holy orders or the religious life is allowed to make a permanent commitment or accept ordination, a period of years must elapse. During that time, the constant questioning of the individual's own motives and his or her realization of the importance of such a step must take place. Often the director or the novice master will almost try to dissuade them from continuing in the order. Constant reflection is needed and frequent review of the candidates progress is made. Contrast this with the instant membership, the deceit, the empty ideals promised the pseudo cult recruit. The government has no buisness investigating religion. Everybody opposed to the cults will agree readily to this statement. But when the practices of any group deprives the individual of basic human rights, then as the 1965 Vatican Council II Declaration on Religious Liberty states, "Society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion." A court order today can give a blood transfusion to a minor whose parents profess the faith of Jehovah's Witness. The Mormons were required to give up polygamy as a condition for joining the Union. Both of these examples show how society, that is government, can step in when it is needed for public order, public morality, and the respect of the rights of others. It is not the province of the government ot declare that the Unification Church is not Christian. Both the National Council of Churches, their Faith and Order Commission, and the Catholic Church have come to that conclusion and stated it publicly on several occasions. Others can determine whether hari krishna is true Hinduism or not; but not the government, not the Catholic Church, not the Judiasm. But the government can investigate the practices of any group, pseudo-religious or others, that has upset the public order. We must not be misled or hesitant because a certain group hides under the mantle of religious movement. It is important, doubly so in such cases, to protect the

legitimate exercise of the First Amendment by out citizens. A true religious movement will be able to withstand any investigation. It is the ones that are falsely labeled that will fall. Finally, let me advise you that a prerequisite for any understanding of pseudoreligious cults is a realization that what we say and we mean in our words is not always that they mean or they say. Since our value system differs from theirs, we must be on constant guard for the truth. Thank you very much. [Applause.] Senator Dole. Thank you.