Cults must be outlawed to protect young
Daily Express (UK), 14 July 2000
By Louise Jones
Young people must be prevented by law from being brainwashed by cult movements, campaigners said yesterday.
Catalyst, a charity set up to help families rescue loved-ones from the clutches of mind-control groups, is calling for a Royal Commission to be set up to investigate the problems in Britain.
Graham Baldwin, 47, a former university chaplain and army intelligence officer, is one of the charity’s counsellors.
He said: “It is an increasing problem in this country but we find the Government is doing nothing about it.”
In many other countries, including Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, research is conducted into such groups and public warnings are issued.
Only last week the French government announced plans to make “mental manipulation” a criminal offence in a move to outlaw cult movements.
Support organisations believe the British Government should take similar steps to stamp out the menace.
There are at least 500 groups in Britain, according to the Cult Information Centre in London, which provides help for families whose loved ones are recruited by religious and new age movements.
Ian Howarth, himself an ex-member, said: “The Government needs to acknowledge this is a very serious problem – it needs to make a firm stance about the exploitation of innocent lives in this country.” His staff receives 3,000 to 4,000 telephone calls and letters a year from families who have “lost” loved ones to a cult.
“Most people think it is young people that get involved but that’s just not dealing with the reality of the problem. It is effecting people of all ages,” added Mr Howarth.
He said the people who are most likely to be recruited are from well-off backgrounds, with above average intelligence, well-educated and idealistic.
“They use mind-control techniques and once someone controls your mind they control your bank account and everything you do in life,” he warned.
“We are receiving an increasing number of calls,” Mr Howarth added. “We are also seeing people being recruited in big companies like British Airways.”
The new millennium has brought increasing numbers of new age and religious fringe groups to Britain, expert counsellors warned. Cult recruitment is now spreading to industry and commerce with professional people in large companies being targeted, according to Catalyst.
A number of groups have already infiltrated university campuses where young, intelligent, middle class students are recruited.
Lawyer Clare Kirby, of Kirby & Co in Wimbledon, South-West London, represents former cult members in court.
She said: “Young people get warned about the dangers of drugs and alcohol but no-one warns them about these pernicious groups. It is a growing problem that people don’t know about until it affects their family.”
One of the fastest growing movements is the International Churches of Christ, which has already been banned in 34 universities in the UK.
Its official website claims the group has grown by almost 200,000 since 1987.
Ayman Akshar was a student in London when he was recruited by the London Church of Christ.
Today he runs the support group Triumph Over London Cults. He said: “Students are a perfect target because they are often lonely and open to ideology.”
Music festivals are also good recruiting grounds. The right-wing Twelve Tribes movement handed out anti-semitic literature at this year’s Glastonbury Festival at its 24-hour Common Ground Cafe. The group has since been banned from next month’s Reading Festival.