FINAL REPORT OF THE ENQUETE COMMISSION ON "SO-CALLED SECTS AND PSYCHOGROUPS"
4 Information and counselling
4.1 Information provided by governmental bodies
In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Affairs (BMFSFJ - Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) is in charge of questions relating to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups on behalf of the German Federal Government. This ministry also publishes relevant information pamphlets for the public.
In 1993, the German Bundesverwaltungsamt (BVA - Federal Administrative Office) established a new department called "Youth Sects and Psychogroups" to act as a source of information for the German Federal Government. The role of this department is to generate reports, analyses and evaluations for the German Federal Government with a view to developing the necessary legislative initiatives and preparing statements and reports to be submitted by the German Federal Government to the German Bundestag and its committees. At present, providing information to other governmental agencies and the public is not yet within the scope of responsibilities of the new department. However, the Enquete Commission would welcome a decision that would enable the department to supply information to other interested parties, in particular to other governmental agencies.
In addition, all of Germany's federal states inform the public about new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. In most cases, such information is provided by permanently established departments which are responsible not only for public relations but also for internal information. The Federal State of Bremen, for instance, has merely established a contact point in one of its departments where citizens can go to obtain advice. In many cases, however, it is necessary to provide the necessary material resources to the state-level commissioners in charge.
The primary purpose of the interministerial working groups of the Federal Government and the state-level governments in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups (Bund-Länder-Gesprächskreis) and specifically concerning the Scientology Organisation is to exchange information across departmental borders. Another function of the interministerial working group is to identify areas in which there is need for action and to co-ordinate specific actions (e.g. the publication of educational brochures) involving several departments. In some federal states, there are also specific interministerial working groups dealing with this subject (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Thuringia). Interministerial working groups dealing with the Scientology Organisation exist in the states of Hesse, Mecklenburg - Western Pomerania, and Saxony-Anhalt.
The sections of the various state-level ministries responsible for such issues cooperate with local apex organisations, the police, etc. Information is also collected by Church-run and private counselling and information centres. All the specialised sections of ministries and the contact points in the various federal states have at least informal contact with those institutions.
Legal background to the activities of governmental information centres Under the German Constitution, the government is obliged to be neutral in religious and ideological issues. Government can only intervene in the freedom of religious and ideological beliefs after weighing conflicting interests: on the one hand, the protection of constitutional rights of others, and on the other hand, the protection of the constitutional order. The German Federal Government provides information on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in compliance with its constitutional obligations; to be more specific, the Government "expresses opinions and submits recommendations and warnings to the public within the limits of the proper execution of the powers granted by the Constitution" (Federal Constitutional Court decision of 15 August 1989, 1 BvR 881/89). 112 ) This ruling was triggered by a constitutional complaint (which ultimately was not accepted for a court ruling) against a judgement handed down by the Federal Administrative Court on 23 May 1989. In this decision (Federal Administrative Court judgement of 23 May 1989, 7 C 2.87, in: Decisions of the Federal Administrative Court - BVerwGE - Vol. 82, pp. 76ff.), the Federal Administrative Court unequivocally ruled that the German Federal Government was entitled to provide information and publish warnings by virtue of the Government's constitutional responsibility to inform and educate the public with regard to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.
This view is shared by the European Commission of Human Rights, which had to rule on the complaint filed by an applicant whose activities were described in a brochure on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and whose group was warned against. The complainant felt that this was a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, ideological beliefs and religion) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In its decision, the European Commission of Human Rights came to the conclusion that a government was entitled to provide "information on religious communities and sects in an objective, but critical manner". 113 ) The Commission felt that the intended publication would not have any "direct impact on the freedom of religion" of the complainant and that, hence, the freedom of religion as protected under Article 9 was not affected. For this reason, the Commission ruled unanimously that the application was not admissible as defined in Art. 27 of the Convention because it was obviously unfounded.
This right to provide information and publish warnings must also be granted to the federal states in Germany because similar constitutional rights apply to their area of jurisdiction (Regional Administrative Court Hamburg, NVwZ 1995, 498, 501).
The court decisions mentioned above show that there is no need for separate legislation governing governmental activities in the fields of information and education. All the activities carried out by the German Federal Government and the state-level governments are based on this legal assessment. 114 )
The Federal Administrative Court has made a clear statement on public funding of private information initiatives. In its decision of 27 March 1992 (the so-called Osho judgement, Federal Administrative Court 7 C 21.90 in: BVerwGE, Vol. 90, pp. 112ff.), the Court ruled that by providing funding for a private association "which is designed to warn the public with regard to the activities of certain religious and ideological communities, government intervenes in the fundamental rights of the groups affected". 115 ) The Court pointed out that, hence, funding could only be provided on the basis of relevant legal provisions; in this case, the obligation of government to protect the legal rights of the citizens concerned did not eliminate the need for governmental interventions to be properly authorised by law. Furthermore, the Court stated that government would violate its constitutional obligation to be neutral if it provided funds to associations which themselves worked on a religious or ideological basis, and which hence were not neutral but partial in the religious/ideological controversies.
In addition to the findings obtained at the hearing mentioned above, there are many case reports and some general articles and activity reports published by several counselling centres. 117 ) However, the reports published invariably provide descriptions of practical cases; they are not systematic studies of this problem area. So while it is possible for counselling centres to assess the quality of the conflicts involved based on case reports, it is hardly possible for them to determine the quantitative need for counselling. However, the reports published by the counselling centres have shown that when specific professional services become known, the demand for such services is often greater than the available supply of counselling capacity. For this reason, many counselling centres are currently being established or consolidated by private operators or initiatives. In addition, the hearing as well as the activity reports published by counselling centres also suggest that at least half of the inquiries are aimed at obtaining information and clarification. In many cases, individuals contact the counselling centres for orientation to prepare their personal decisions. What they expect the counselling centres to provide, for instance, is an assessment of the risks involved, or an ethical appraisal of a given practice. Many individuals also want short psychosocial counselling which only requires one session. In some cases, however, more intensive counselling (2 or more sessions) is also considered to be desirable or necessary. In these cases, it can be assumed that the desire for counselling is caused by massive, in some cases chronic, inner psychological and social conflicts.
On the other hand, the question as to what groups give rise to the greatest demand for information and counselling in their environment can only be assessed on the basis of the activity reports. A generalised estimate covering several counselling centres shows that the greatest demand for information and counselling is generated by so-called "psychocults", at present usually Scientology (in some centres, the single, most frequently cited group). Number two includes a wide variety of extremist Christian groups such as Gemeinde Christi (Christ's Congregation), radical charismatic groups, as well as the so-called traditional sects (primarily Jehovah's Witnesses). In some of the counselling centres, these groups are the single most frequently cited group). The presence of political groups (VPM, LaRouche movement) varies widely from one region to another, while the demand for counselling created by guru groups, special esoteric communities, Satanists, etc. is lower, albeit at a constant level. This ranking has been subject to major variations over the years: Schmidtchen (1987) 118 ) found that the most important group was the Bhagwhan movement which was expanding at that time; however, after the death of the guru, this movement is virtually negligible in statistics.
However, the conflict-proneness of the various groups can be assessed not only by means of the demand for counselling documented. 119 ) The cases recorded by a counselling centre are almost exclusively accounts of private problems and conflicts of individual biographies. Potential political and societal conflicts (e.g. economic conflicts) are hardly recorded. The only thing that can be safely said currently is that - relative to all other types of communities - the so-called psychogroups create a high demand for counselling by individuals, probably because they directly intervene in the individual's personal life and because they are particularly attractive for individuals with prior psychosocial problems. In the activity reports of many counselling centres, for instance, Scientology is cited more frequently than Jehovah's Witnesses although Jehovah's Witnesses can be assumed to have about five to fifteen times more followers than Scientology.
Furthermore, the activity reports and an expert report prepared on behalf of the Enquete Commission 120 ) have shown that it is not possible to draw a clear-cut line between esoterics, occultism and free spiritualism in terms of the demand for information and counselling generated. This means that orientations that are ideologically alien to the individuals concerned or exotic therapies - even when offered by communities which are not closed - lead to requests for information and counselling. Finally, the analysis of the activity reports has shown that the demarcation line between requests for information and requests for counselling in the narrower sense is blurred and that it is often impossible to distinguish the two. For the individuals concerned, the desire to be given an explanation for what has happened to oneself or to a relative is often the first step on the way to coming to grips with their experience. For this reason, the quality of the help that can be given depends not only on the knowledge with regard to the communities and movements involved but also on the knowledge-gathering theories and, generally speaking, the perception patterns of the counselling staff.
In addition to the sociological, psychological and psychotherapeutic concepts which are commonly used in counselling, the perception of conflict structures and conflict histories requires not only theories as to why individuals join radical groups (conversion theories) but also sociopsychological or sociological concepts which are aimed at identifying how a group contributes towards an escalation of internal and external conflicts. Such theories also determine how counsellors assess an individual's situation in life, as well as the internal psychological condition, etc. of followers; how psychological problems in connection with the deconversion of so-called drop-outs are explained and treated; and how conflicts are perceived and influenced in a group's environment (family, work). 121 ) Progress was achieved in this field as a result of the Commission's research project which is described in greater detail elsewhere in this Report (Chapter 3.6). The findings of this project with regard to the perception of the need for counselling can be described as follows: Four sub-projects were conducted to obtain information about the reasons why some individuals leave their groups while other stay in their groups. The purpose of the studies was to contrast the motives of the two groups of individuals in order to find out what interactions there are between the individuals' own actions, their need to find meaning in, and to be able to shape, their own lives, and the activities and structures of groups. The methodology used was derived from the field of qualitative social research; in one sub-project, a standardised personality test was used in addition. Although the four sub-projects varied somewhat in terms of the methods used and the research fields covered, they produced the same findings: They showed that it is not possible to generalise the attractiveness of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups or the reasons why individuals convert to, or leave, such communities and groups; instead, there are several different and unexpected ways in which individuals go through the social processes of conversion, acculturation and possibly leaving their group. In addition, the four sub-projects showed that the biographical consequences of conversion are not at all only dependent on the convert's mindset (i.e. a "searcher model"); nor are they only determined by the groups (i.e. a "manipulation model"). Against the background of the complexity and the diversity of the biographical problem constellations identified and the relevance of an individual's life theme, it is possible to conclude for those cases in which there is a clear need for counselling because of worsening crises or conflicts that counselling must certainly not be limited to the period when an individual is a group member or when he or she has decided to leave the group.
The problems involved in such counselling become suddenly clear if one bears in mind that in some of the cases interpreted the biographical problems were not "resolved" when the individual left the group; instead, they continued to be relevant in a different social context, and the individuals concerned had to continue working on these problems. In fact, the processes of conversion, acculturation and possible deconversion involve complex interactions. Overall, the sub-projects showed that religious or ideological claims to validity and intellectual plausibility of group doctrines, etc. only play a minor role for individuals who decide to stay in or leave groups. It was found that an individual's conversion and possibly deconversion largely depended on the "fit" between the group's social structure and orientation on the one hand, and the individual's personality and situation in life. Such interaction can apparently lead to conflicts as a result of which the individuals concerned look for help and counselling. Such help can be obtained from providers of psychosocial services.
It should also be mentioned that there is an unpublished study, which was conducted at the University of Hamburg, regarding the state of mind of drop-outs from the Neuapostolische Kirche (New Apostolic Church) and Jehovah's Witnesses. 122 ) The respondents' retrospective assessments confirmed the crucial role which the social "homes" offered by the two communities played in their conversion and the important role which social frustrations and constraints played in their deconversion. In this context, the discrepancy between the social ethics taught and actual practice was a crucial experience; however, while this finding appears to be plausible with regard to the two communities mentioned above, this can probably not be generalised. Furthermore, the findings obtained in the study suggested that there was a difference between women and men with regard to deconversion processes; this hitherto unknown finding should be further investigated in future scientific research.
It was important for the Enquete Commission to clarify the situation in the Federal Republic of Germany with regard to counselling and information provided in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. The Commission was primarily interested in the specific counselling and information activities carried out by non- governmental centres.
In order to obtain such information, the Commission awarded a contract to the Information and Counselling Service of the Department for Sects and Ideological Issues in the diocese of Aachen to prepare an expert report on "The need for counselling and the underlying conflicts as observed in the cases collected by a so-called sects counselling service, based on case categories and case development patterns". The counselling centre involved provides orientation and help to any individual who is affected by a crisis or conflict; the centre is available for both individuals and groups, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, and it is also available for all staff members of the Church, be they in pastoral or educational work.
The centre provides the following services:
The purpose of the report prepared on behalf of the Commission was to identify and analyse the causes of an individual's need for counselling; to distinguish, where possible, between different types of underlying conflicts; to identify the skills which staff need to help individuals who come for advice; to find out if the centre involved co-operates with other centres, and if so, with which; and to draw conclusions with regard to future work in this field.
The report prepared by the Information and Counselling Service in Aachen describes 50 cases of individuals who needed counselling and the respective underlying conflicts in the period between 1992 and 1997; these cases typically involved individuals who were seen by the counselling staff as facing severe conflicts and needing a lot of time and effort for counselling. The minimum counselling period was 1 month, with the average ranging between 4 and 7 months; each counselling period involved more than three contacts. Counselling was provided in accordance with the same professional rules which also apply to psychological counselling of individuals suffering from major internal and external conflicts. The Commission hoped that this report would enable it to identify particularly severe and long-lasting problem constellations within the spectrum of potential interaction patterns which occur in the context of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and which therefore are in particular need of treatment. For this reason, the report did not consider crisis interventions, short counselling periods or individuals who came for information and orientation; the same applied to counselling provided for families and couples, etc. However, when evaluating the findings of the report, it must be borne in mind that (in addition to the severe cases) such contacts where individuals come for help and advice represent a major portion of what counselling centres do in practice. The cases described in the report show that there are some features which apply generally or are found very frequently:
However, only about half of them had a case history of chronified emotional disorders or psychotic symptoms or personality disorders.
A preliminary evaluation of the 50 case studies by the Commission confirmed the plausible assumption that need for counselling develops when a given community has a particularly high conflict potential -- either in terms of its doctrine or practice -- or when such a community with its doctrines and practices interacts with particularly vulnerable individuals and circumstances. In the cases studied, the following typical conflicts were observed (which can currently be described in a preliminary fashion only): An individual's family and social environment is burdened by his or her conversion (indirectly affected people) The conversion and the associated re-orientation of an adult or an adolescent which comes as a surprise for his or her environment puts a burden on members of the core family and on spouses or partners in life. The conversion can be interpreted as an attempt (subjectively and/or objectively threatening for those who seek advice) by the directly affected individuals (who do not come for counselling) to come to grips with inner psychological and/or social conflicts and development problems. A severe conflict can arise if an individual's coping efforts prove to be ineffective and if the original problem worsens under the influence of the group, e.g. if the group downgrades current human references, if it encourages the individual to act out inner conflicts, and if the individual loses touch with reality, etc. A need for counselling can also arise if those who come for advice refuse to adopt an approach which would actually be reasonable, or if both sides instrumentalise the group for their conflict in a given relationship. In some cases, counselling enables the individuals concerned to turn the conflict into an opportunity to re-organise, repair or pacify the relationship with their family or partner. In these cases, the individuals directly affected opt for deconversion. In other cases, the conflict leads to separation or a loss of the burdened relationship for those who come for advice; in such cases, the individuals directly affected do not opt for deconversion.
An individual's personal relationships are burdened by his or her conversion As in the first type of conflict, the conversion and the associated re-orientation which comes as a surprise for the individual's environment considering his or her biography put a burden on the individual's current relationships with members of the core family, with a spouse or partner in life, and possibly also in professional life. This leads to role conflicts and identity problems. As a result, the individual soon has doubts with regard to his/her own decision and with regard to the group's doctrine and practices. The conversion can again be interpreted by those come for advice as an attempt (which is incompatible with the individual's social environment and with his/her own development) to come to grips with inner psychological and/or social conflicts, or the consequences of a physical ailment, or developmental problems. A need for counselling arises when the individual's coping efforts as such prove to be ineffective and when the individual's difficulties -- in particular the problems with personal relationships -- grow worse under the influence of the group because the emotional and social "costs" incurred due to resistance from reference persons become too high or because both sides instrumentalise the group for their conflict in a given relationship. In the course of counselling, the individual directly affected opts for deconversion.
Unbearable curtailment of an individual's viability and quality of life in a community The individuals who seek counselling have experienced an unbearable curtailment of their quality of life and of their ability to deal with everyday problems, despite or because of their involvement in a group and the use of life-counselling services in this group. Such an experience can be caused, for instance, when individuals are overtaxed by the temporal, financial or emotional strains they are exposed to in the group; other causes include mental disease, as well as severe financial and professional crises. In many cases, there is a cause/effect relationship between the unsuitable help provided by a group to cope with problems, the group context which is perceived as a burden, and the worsening of disorders. Sometimes, individuals also instrumentalise a group to satisfy their own needs in the context of their own psychodynamics. Often -- but not always -- this leads to deconversion. It may turn out that the conflicts cannot be influenced by counselling. Some of the individuals who come for advice are afraid of aggression and reprisals from their communities, some of which deliberately frighten their followers with regard to the consequences of deconversion; others have had practical experience with such consequences. Ritual sexual abuse in a cultic context is an extreme case in point. In isolated cases, individuals who came for advice themselves showed aggressive reactions, and in extreme cases even criminal reactions, to the actions taken by the group.
Individuals dissociating themselves from, and leaving groups because of personal development processes
The individuals who fall into this category come for advice because they are in the process of dissociating themselves from the context of a community or from the leader of such a community; these individuals have already embarked upon their deconversion, but they have not yet entirely finished this process. They are completing a development phase during which they were able to satisfy some of their needs within the community; however, these needs are now irrelevant or outdated. Some of them dissociate themselves from a community into which they were born and socialised. If the individuals involved are unable or unwilling to achieve the adaptation which this process requires, they will need counselling. From time to time, the dissociation process is not triggered by the personality development of the individuals who come for advice but by developments in the individual's community (e.g. radicalisation, change of course).
In connection with the former two categories of conflict (relationship conflicts triggered by conversion), it was often necessary to provide follow-up care or additional assistance such as marriage counselling, psychotherapy, clinical treatment, etc. This applied even more to the third conflict category (unbearable stress in the community). In connection with the fourth conflict category, however, therapeutic follow-up care was necessary in isolated cases only. Even if there was no need for intensive follow-up care, it proved to be useful in most cases for the individuals who came for advice to attend self-help activities.
Furthermore, the authors of the expert report also pointed out that it was not possible (with one exception) to involve the groups concerned in the counselling process to play a mediating role (probably because of the severity of the cases). However, in many less severe conflicts- especially in the fields of public information and education - mediation seems to be possible, and it was wanted in many cases.
a) Expert report on the "Qualifications required for counselling work in the field of so-called sects and psychogroups: Criteria and strategies" 123 ) In order to find out the most suitable skills profile that meets practical counselling needs, and to identify the specific requirements to be met by counselling work, and to establish whether it is necessary and possible for staff working in counselling centres to acquire specialised skills, the Commission awarded a contract for the expert report cited above.
The authors of the report examined the points listed above by analysing the concepts and structures currently found in counselling centres, based on empirical data obtained from statistics compiled by the Informations- und Doku-mentationszentrum Sekten/Psychokulte (IDZ ± Information and Documentation Centre on Sects/Psychocults) and on analyses of individual cases. As a result of their studies, the authors came to the following conclusions: They found that there was a lack of empirical studies on the subject of "sects counselling". However, they pointed out that there were a number of handbooks for individuals affected and publications on this topic.
According to their findings, current counselling activities in the field of sects is based on three pillars: initiatives by parents and individuals directly affected, Church commissioners for sects, and experts in the fields of science, social counselling, the judiciary and committed private individuals. However, the authors pointed out that the term was not very clearly defined because it was associated with highly diverging assessments, depending on the vantage point of the observer. In addition, they said, there were also diverging views about the purpose which counselling in the field of sects fulfils or should fulfill.
The authors stated that the spectrum was very wide, ranging from a very narrow interpretation (according to which counselling in the field of sects should be exclusively designed to help individuals leave their groups) to a more moderate approach (which, while being more moderate in the choice of methods, also implicitly pursued the objective of deconversion). In this context, the authors said, the term "sect" was largely perceived as being negative and harmful for the personal development or the family constellation of the individuals concerned. According to the authors, this type of counselling was exclusively directed against sects.
On the other hand, the authors found that there were also a number of counsellors who were pursuing an unbiased counselling approach, i.e. they appealed to the personal responsibility of the individuals affected, built upon existing resources and defined a counselling objective that could be achieved jointly with those who came for advice; at the end of this process, the individual concerned could either reassess his or her sect membership or accept the status quo.
In addition to being very active in making presentation and organising information events at schools, community centres and other adult education institutions, many counselling centres in the field of sects were also providing advice to the media.
According to the authors of the expert report, the counselling services currently available in the field of sects provided necessary, albeit insufficient help for people who were in a difficult situation in their lives due to the influence of "so-called sects and psychogroups". In many cases, counselling services helped to settle conflicts; however, they could also be a source of conflicts, especially in conjunction with publicised opinions. The term "sect counselling" as used in the current discussion referred to very heterogeneous fields of activity so that it was very difficult to agree on objectives and to delineate specific areas of responsibility. As a result of this situation, there were repeated misunderstandings which led to new problems.
For this reason, the authors recommended that agreement should be reached with regard to the range of responsibilities, as well as the objectives and the limits of sect counselling services, and that binding definitions should be adopted for this purpose; and that qualification criteria and profiles for counsellors as well as qualification strategies could only be developed as a subsequent step.
When defining the various areas of responsibility, the authors of the report identified three major fields for counselling services:
They suggested that these three fields should not be seen in isolation from each other; instead, they were interlinked. This interdependency is illustrated by the following triangle:
According to the authors, information and education is the basis for any counselling work, based on professional competency, a detailed and responsible documentation, as well as an intensive exchange of information among the various players involved in the counselling process, i.e.:
The authors pointed out that there was a consensus to the effect that for individuals who were directly or indirectly affected the term "sects counselling" also implied psychological counselling, and that there was a need for such services.
The third area of responsibility arose from the fact that many of the conflicts developing in connection with "so-called sects and psychogroups" could not be resolved by means of currently practised forms of counselling. Instead, an obvious choice would be the use of mediation methods, i.e. exchanging contrary positions with the help of a neutral and impartial mediator and identifying points of conflict in order to work out alternatives and options in a common dialogue and to develop a consensual result, based on the responsibility of the parties involved.
Mediation was already successfully being applied in many fields of societal problems (divorce, neighbourhood conflicts, environmental conflicts, etc.).
The basis of any information, education and counselling activities must always be knowledge on the part of the staff involved and an extensive and up-to-date documentation on the groups concerned. Since the various counselling centres are rarely able to do this by themselves and since the necessary objectivity can only be achieved by comparing information from a variety of sources, the centres should be attached to a (formal or informal) network of institutions whose data flow they can use. Currently, the work of the centres is hampered by the fact that centralised and readily available scientific archives and collections of documents either do not exist or are inaccessible for many of the counselling centres. However, effective information and counselling activities also require personal experience and possibly contacts with the groups concerned. People seeking information and advice expect the staff in the counselling centres to know enough in order to be able to put themselves into their position and to share their perspective. Based on this platform, it is also possible to describe a number of specific responsibilities for information, assistance and counselling centres:
It is obvious that it is not possible for one centre, let alone one person, to pursue all the objectives in the same way. This is due, among other things, to the fact that this would require an unrealistic accumulation of communication structures and professional competencies. In addition, the skills required for an effective implementation of the functions are mutually exclusive. Crisis intervention calls for different structures and skills than conventional psychological counselling. Furthermore, public education can conflict with therapeutic objectives.
Overprofessionalised staff can even hamper effective help for self-help, etc.
Moreover, individuals who come for advice will only ask for orientation if they have confidence in the counsellors' judgement, i.e. the counsellors' own ideological views must be close to the views of the people who come for help. For these reasons, it is necessary to have a network of organisations and support institutions which vary in terms of their institutional and professional background; this network, in turn, has access to existing institutions (psychothera- peutic services, rehabilitation, psychological counselling, youth welfare departments, social welfare offices, citizens' legal advice bureaux, bureaux providing advice for individuals in debt, etc.). The purpose of this co-operation is not full alignment of skills, positions and objectives; instead, this co-operation is designed to serve people in need of help. To this end, efforts should be stepped up to develop and cultivate useful contacts.
More specifically, the various skills required can be described as follows:
Staff working in professionally operating centres should have the ability and the skill to mediate between the groups and the individuals affected or -- via media contacts -- between the groups and the public; however, such skills cannot be expected from self-help groups (see below). All in all, there is hardly any practical experience with mediation; for this reason, greater attention should be paid to this function in the future.
Since individuals seeking advice -- even if the contact is short -- often want more than just mere factual information; they also expect all kinds of practical and personal advice; hence, the counselling centres must either be able themselves to provide psychosocial and psychological counselling, or they must be able to refer the individuals concerned to others who can provide such counselling. If individuals need psychotherapeutic treatment, the centres must also be able to recognise this and provide the help which these individuals need. Some counselling centres are run by institutions which have a clear ideological bias, in particular the major Churches. Others acquire a public ideological profile due to their media presence (action groups of individuals affected, etc.). Such counselling centres are often expected to provide not only concrete help and psychological counselling but also orientation, help to enable individuals to take their own decisions, ideological orientation (spiritual welfare in the case of counselling centres run by the Churches). The most frequent case in this kind of centre seems to be that members of radical Christian groups or their relatives turn to counselling centres run by the major Churches. Providing orientation is not incompatible with providing objective information and quality advice, as long as the individuals who come for advice can clearly recognise what institution is running the counselling centre and what its ideological positioning is; and as long as the individuals have deliberately chosen a given centre; and as long as the position of the counsellors can also be discussed during the counselling process.
While it is not possible to draw a clear line between psychological counselling in the narrower sense and ideological orientation as well as psychosocial counselling on the one hand, and psychotherapy on the other hand. However, psychological counselling should retain its independent character, and it should only be provided by the counselling centre itself if the staff of the centre have not only the necessary knowledge in the field but also the counselling skills required.
These skills which professional counsellors must have include (aside
from the indispensable factual knowledge with regard to the group or
movement concerned) primarily the abilities and professional
qualifications which are normally
Under certain conditions, lay people can also have the skills required for counselling. Because of the major role played in this field of work by self-help groups and initiatives of affected individuals, this point is discussed in greater detail below: In the wake of the movement of the 1968 generation, self-help groups developed into a major/important factor in the fields of social affairs and health.
The oldest, still active initiatives of affected individuals date back to those days.
In the context of a self-help group, the term "lay person" first of all means that the individual involved is not a trained professional with a given title, and secondly that the person involved works in this field as a volunteer instead of exercising a profession. Within the spectrum of lay helpers, there is considerable variation in terms of the level of knowledge and skills acquired by the individuals concerned. With regard to problem- elated skills, it is possible to find all kinds of transitional forms, including -- at one end of the scale -- "pure" self-help groups composed of people without any professional knowledge at all and -- at the other end of the scale -- volunteers who may be far more knowledgeable, due to their practical experience, than professional counsellors. Hence, the terms "lay people" and "experts" can be defined to a limited extent only on the basis of differences in skills in terms of information and help. However, there are other differences: Lay helpers are typically not oriented towards acquiring the kind of general competency which a training curriculum will provide; instead, they are interested in acquiring specific problem-solving skills in keeping with their commitment. Against this background, lay helpers stand for a specific objective of helping, rather than for a sector of helping. In addition, the roles played by lay helpers are different from those played by professional helpers, and lay help is based on different communication structures. Lay helpers, for instance, tend to leave more responsibility for what happens to those who come for help than professional helpers do. This is fostered by the fact that lay helpers are more similar to those who seek help than professionals can ever be.
The principle often is that lay persons who have been affected themselves help other affected individuals based on their experience and their insights. Even where this is not the case, the problem perception of lay helpers is closer -- in terms of the complexity and the assumed cause/effect relations -- to the perception of those who come for help. In so far, lay helpers can be expected to be objective, but not neutral or uninvolved. On the contrary, under certain circum- stances it may be beneficial to blend personal contacts with the provision of help.
The features used in literature to describe lay helpers can be summarised as follows:
Such a lay status obviously involves both advantages and disadvantages with regard to the solution of the issues listed above. Self-help groups and counselling centres run by groups of affected individuals, etc. are primarily able to build up a relationship of trust quickly with the individuals who come for help; on this basis, they can provide information and education, offer orientation, carry out short and pragmatically-oriented counselling sessions, help other centres quickly and unbureaucratically, suggest or possibly implement crisis interventions, and in a longer-term perspective help individuals to help themselves.
Except for self-help groups, there is hardly anyone else who can provide the supportive involvement of personally affected individuals who enter into longer-term relationships with other people who have had similar experiences. However, most self-help centres would be overtaxed if they were asked to provide extensive counselling with substantial therapeutic elements, let alone carry out psychotherapeutic interventions (see the cases analysed in 4.2.3 above); or they would have to co-operate with professional service providers.
The information and counselling services available in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are found in a grey zone between social issues and ideological controversy. Maybe it is for this reason that the supporting professional and scientific framework for this field is still insufficient. This has been clearly demonstrated by the two expert reports discussed above.
However, they have also shown that counselling is seen in a broader context.
The findings obtained from the expert report on "The need for counselling and the underlying conflicts" have underlined that the professionalisation of this work is being tackled "bottom up", i.e. at the initiative of self-help groups.
However, full professionalisation of information and counselling activities cannot be an objective. In this case, self-help would lose its strengths. 124 ) On the other hand, the provision of information and counselling should not be left exclusively to personally affected individuals. Instead, professional help and self-help should be promoted in the framework of a comprehensive concept and in recognition of their respective strengths. In practice, however, there should always be a clear line between the different roles of lay helpers and professional counsellors. In addition, the objectives and limits of the counselling activities of either group must also be clearly defined. This clarity of the relationship is necessary not only for those who help and those who seek help but also for the persons concerned in their environment in order to work out common problem solutions.
The question as to how the necessary combination of skills and the right distribution of responsibilities between professional and lay helpers can be achieved in a given case is not yet clear. The above-mentioned study on the "Promotion of self-help by means of self-help contact centres", for instance, does not mention "sects counselling centres" at all. However, both in psychology and in sociology attempts have been made to apply methods to this problem area. 125 )
The Enquete Commission feels that the availability of information and counselling services can only be guaranteed by means of co-operation among lawyers, doctors, psychotherapists, pastors, scholars of religious studies, debt counsellors and experts from other fields concerned.
However, the purpose of providing a professional and scientific framework for information and counselling activities cannot be to formulate a type of ideal self-help group. This would negate the strengths of self-help. Instead, it is not only conceivable but also desirable that centres with various skills and priorities exist side by side in a network of institutions which provide help.
Governmental information and education programmes for individuals and associations focused on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups should be aimed at several objectives: first of all, to ward off dangers; secondly, to protect the individual's freedom of religion and ideology by carrying out information or education activities which enable the individual to take informed decisions; thirdly, to protect the free expression of opinion in the religious/ideological discourse by creating a favourable general setting; and fourthly, to promote peaceful coexistence among various religious and ideological communities, and where applicable, their integration into society. The first two points play a particularly important role in the fields of training/education (school, university, etc.) and statutory protection of young people in public places.
Information provided by government
Governmental education and information on specific groups by means of brochures, press releases, conferences, etc. continues to be necessary. However, these activities should be focused on those groups which are particularly problematic and/or particularly widespread and whose risk potential is well documented and clearly identifiable. Cases in point include the risk of sexual abuse of children on the part of the "Children of God" (now: Family) 126 ) and the hazards posed by the Scientology Organisation for the health and the property of individuals. Aside from this, governmental information should be oriented towards specific conflicts, e.g. the conflict between the civil rights and the right of self-determination of individuals on the one hand, and the insistence of a religious group on rigid compliance with their rules of life, on the other. In this case, the social characteristics of groups that create dependency, as well as the characteristics of personality cults, etc. would be important issues to be dealt with in educational campaigns in the field of statutory protection of young people in public places. The Commission's report contains a detailed account of other fields of conflict and the associated target groups for educational activities.
A particularly high conflict potential is currently ascribed to the numerous problematic life-counselling services available in the so-called psycho-market; some of these services are provided by organised communities. This would be an area that governmental education measures should concentrate on. Governmental education should also be considerably enhanced by providing counselling and help. Elsewhere in this Report, the Commission proposes that for this purpose, public funding of relevant research, counselling and education should be bundled and co-ordinated by establishing a foundation. The recommendations made here should be seen in a wider context together with this proposal.
While there is a need for public information, some controversial groups are pursuing a policy of disinformation -- and some (VPM, Universal Life, and especially Scientology) even intimidate critics, if only by inundating them with lawsuits. For this reason, the involvement of governmental agencies in the flow of information must also be seen as a contribution towards ensuring that public opinion can flow unhindered. In addition, public education measures carried out by governmental agencies should have a de-escalating effect in the public debate because of the government's special obligation (subject to judicial review under administrative law) to maintain neutrality; in addition, such public education measures put into perspective or provide a useful addition to the opinions expressed by other parties to a conflict. The network of well-informed counselling centres -- which is also necessary for other reasons -- should be enabled by means of appropriate measures to collect and exchange information/knowledge (networking), so that this information can be made available to governmental agencies, individuals who seek advice, institutions responsible for the administration of justice, etc. In addition, the network of well-informed counselling centres should participate on a large scale in the dissemination of information to the public at large.
School education currently does not prepare individuals for life in a religiously and ideologically pluralistic society with all the problems involved. Against the background of increasing cultural and religious pluralism, school education should increasingly promote intercultural learning processes. The purpose of such learning processes is to facilitate intercultural tolerance and a reflected, critical examination of pluralistic life- styles and ideologies. It is also in this framework that the world religions and new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups should be examined in detail. There is one aspect which has not yet been sufficiently considered to date: Because of our society's individualisation -- which is associated with a loss of the individual's integration into the community and the life world -- there is an increasing likelihood that individuals will switch their religion and ideology in the course of their lives, and that individuals will be more readily susceptible to "quick conversions" than in the past.
Religion belongs to those convictions (and the resulting practices in life) that enjoy special protection under the German Constitution. For this reason, teaching is a matter of the religious communities involved. It is the responsibility of the Churches and the other religious communities which teach religious education in public schools to examine the curricula for this school subject, and to introduce or extend the scope of courses that deal with the subject of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, where this has not so far been done.
Since many young people opt out of denominational religious education as a subject taught in schools, it is obvious that the schools cannot remedy the shortcomings mentioned above. Instead of denominational education, schools should therefore generally introduce a teaching unit on religion, where this has not yet been done. The purpose of teaching this subject should be to provide information on the world's major religions, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, and also on the fundamental issue of religion.
What is often lacking in school curricula is background information on the world's major religions and on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. In this context, it would also be necessary to discuss the conflict-proneness of groups caused by radical or problematic structures. What should never be overlooked when such teaching units are introduced is that imparting cognitive knowledge about traditional and new forms of religion cannot replace denominational religious education which is also aimed at generating a religious awareness and religious commitment; instead, general information on religion can only prepare the ground for a tolerant and critical stance towards ideologies and religious beliefs.
In addition, such a teaching unit would have to be embedded in a subject-related yet interdisciplinary school culture of a moral discourse on the ethical/cultural and ideological/religious orientation patterns of foreigners. Furthermore, such a teaching unit should also consider the everyday experience of young people in their lives.
As a rule, the teachers who teach ethics or "values and norms", etc. (as a substitute for religion) did not receive any academic training in this subject at a university. For this reason, the introduction of a regular course of studies in this field is indispensable. The topic of "contemporary, new religious movements" should be given adequate attention in such a new course of studies. At present, the subject is taught by teachers who are either personally interested or who could not refuse when they were asked to teach this subject. It is not acceptable that the teachers of this subject are the only teachers in German schools who have to rely almost exclusively on attending sporadic continuing education courses. Some of Germany's federal states (e.g. Thuringia) have taken action to improve this situation. However, since the subject has by now been introduced in almost all federal states, albeit under different names and with different concepts, it is necessary to provide scientifically-based training.
While "world religions" is a topic which is dealt with in the teachers' academic training in the framework of theology and religious studies, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are even less well represented at universities than in school education. An international comparison has also shown that despite the social and intellectual importance of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, only scant attention is paid to them at German universities in the fields of research and teaching. Hence, there is also need for action at this level: Relevant courses should be made available, for instance, for students of social sciences, religious studies and theology, but also for students of psychology and law.
The Enquete Commission feels that it is desirable that the state-level governments in Germany -- and more specifically, the Conference of the Ministers of Education -- should create the conditions for the provision of qualified teaching in this field by allowing teachers to obtain proper academic training.
Often it is not so much a lack of legal opportunities that prevents the judiciary, administrative bodies, etc. from taking necessary and sufficient action; instead, it is a lack of knowledge with regard to new religious and ideological communities and psychocults. For this reason, higher priority should be given in future to internal further education. This will be particularly important for: I institutions responsible for the administration of justice, I investigating authorities (public prosecutors' offices, criminal investigation departments),
For all of Germany's judges, there is currently only one further education course organised by the German Academy of Judges which lasts several days and which can be attended by approximately 30 participants per year. The further education opportunities for members of the administration, the police, etc. are similarly limited. While this shortcoming is remedied in part by the provision of written information, some of which is of high quality, this information material is not centrally co-ordinated or utilised, and it is not (yet) available from one central source. Individual committed experts -- primarily employed in the administration of Germany's state-level governments -- are regularly inundated by the large number of inquiries and requests for information. For this reason, they should be effectively supported by a central unit providing information material and further education courses. Once again, however, there is a lack of research in some areas; hence, it is necessary to make funds available in order to foster the gradual development of a sound research base.
Furthermore, the Commission has found out in the course of its work that the skills available in counselling centres vary widely; the same applies to the counselling concepts used, most of which have been pragmatically developed by the counsellors themselves, due to the lack of scientific groundwork. What is missing is the application of research findings (some of which have yet to be developed) and systematic experience in practice. For this reason, government should organise or provide funds for the continuing education of voluntary and paid counsellors, and for the development and testing of scientifically-based counselling concepts. In a longer-term perspective, such activities may lead to the development of yardsticks to assess the competency of counsellors, i.e. quality criteria for the provision of public funding for information and counselling centres.
In the Federal Republic of Germany, research is largely financed by means of third-party funds (i.e. resources not included in the basic budgets and personnel resources of universities and other institutions) from various sources.
According to 1990 data, German universities received 37 percent of their third-party funds for research from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG -- German Research Foundation), which obtains a total budget of approximately DM 2 billion per year from the German Federal Government and from Germany's state-level governments. About 29 percent of the third-party funds came from other federal budgets; 15 percent came from industry and associations, and 10 percent was made available by foundations and other funding bodies (VW Foundation, Robert Bosch Foundation, etc.). According to the 1998 facts sheet on so-called third-party funds published in the Federal Research Report (actual amounts spent in 1995), German universities had a total budget of DM 14.4 billion for research and development, of which DM 4.5 billion were third-party funds which came from the following sources: DM 1.7 billion from DFG; DM 1.1 billion from the German Federal Government; DM 0.1 billion from state-level governments; DM 0.3 billion from abroad/international organisations; and DM 1.2 billion from industry and foundations. However, the funds for the basic budgets of the universities are made available by Germany's state-level governments or by institutions sponsoring the universities. In Germany, research and development are financed by the German Federal Government, the state-level governments and industry; and research and development are carried out by industry, the universities, and non-university institutions. Such non- niversity institutions include: the Max Planck Institutes, the centres of the Hermann von Helmholtz Gemeinschaft and of the Fraunhofer Institute, as well as federal and state-level research institutions.
Hence, there are several options for governmental action designed to promote a specific research sector: direct funding made available primarily by the German Federal Government (funding of projects, prompting the establishment of research institutions); recommendations made to DFG; and co-operation with relevant societies and foundations.
Indirectly, the universities -- which are financed by Germany's state-level governments but which are independent with regard to the establishment and funding of specific departments -- can be asked to pay greater attention in future to "new religious and ideological communities and psychocults" when planning the appropriation of their basic budgets and the use of their personnel. However, a more detailed discussion of the concrete steps to be taken in order to implement the Commission's recommendations made below would go beyond the scope of this Report.
In its work, the Enquete Commission was able to rely on extensive literature sources and practical experience, which -- taken together -- enabled the Commission to analyse the problems associated with so-called sects and psychogroups and to describe political actions required in several problem areas.
Lack of scientific findings can therefore not be used as an argument to justify any failure to act; quite useful data were found, for instance, especially in certain conflict areas in which there was a particularly urgent need for action. On the other hand, the Commission found considerable research deficits in several of the fields which it had studied; these deficits imposed limits on the Commission's ability to describe and analyse problems. In some cases, there were no pertinent findings in international scientific literature; in other cases, Germany lagged behind the international state-of- the-art in science. In yet other cases, the knowledge gained in practice (e.g. by counselling centres and governmental agencies) was not centrally collected, or sufficiently systematised and scientifically studied. Hence, research in this area suffers from shortcomings both structurally and in terms of the subject matter covered (see Chapter 6.2.9).
112 ) Cf. Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (NJW) 1989, p. 3269.
113 ) Cf. Council of Europe, European Commission of Human Rights, First Chamber, Decision as to the Admissibility of Application No. 29745/96.
114 ) Only the State of Schleswig-Holstein has adopted separate legislation for its information activities. It was felt that these activities also involved the storage and processing of personal data and that this would have to be backed up by the introduction of specific provisions in the Data Privacy Protection Act of Schleswig-Holstein.
115 ) Cf. Chapter 188.8.131.52.
116 ) Cf. minority opinion of Commission members Dr. Jürgen Eiben, Prof. Dr. Werner Helsper, Dr. Angelika Köster-Loûack, MP, Prof. Dr. Hubert Seiwert, p. 296.
117 ) E.g. Klosinski, G.: Psychokulte - Was Sekten für Jugendliche so attraktiv macht. Munich 1996; activity reports are available from Infosekta Zurich, Sekteninfo Essen, Sekteninfo Bochum, Sinus Frankfurt/M., Arbeitsstelle Weltanschauungsfragen beim Ev. Gemeindedienst Stuttgart, Referat Weltanschauungsfragen der Evangelischen Kirche im Rheinland (Düsseldorf), EZW Berlin, IDZ Cologne.
118 ) Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur. Freiburg/Basle/Vienna 1987
119 ) Only in a few cases (Jehovah's Witnesses) are there any reliable data regarding the size of the membership. Cf. Interim Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", German Bundestag, 13th legislative period, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, 1997.
120 ) Beratungsbedarf und auslösende Konflikte im Fallbestand einer sog. Sektenberatung an-hand von Fallkategorien und Verlaufsschemata, Report prepared for the German Bundestag's Enquete Commission by the Information and Counselling Service of the Department of Sects and Ideological Issues in the Diocese of Aachen, 1998.
121 ) A summary and critical assessment of current conversion theories with literature references is provided by Klosinski 1996 loc. cit. and Hemminger, H.: Psychische Abhängigkeit in extre-men Gemeinschaften. Materialdienst der EZW 60 1997, pp. 257- 266 and pp. 290- 297.
122 ) Schwab/Möller/Schirm 1997.
123 ) Roderigo, B.: Zur Qualifizierung von Beratungsarbeit im Spannungsfeld sogenannter Sekten und Psychogruppen: Kriterien und Strategien, Report prepared on behalf of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", 1998.
124 ) For a more detailed discussion, see Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and Senior Citizens (ed.): Selbsthilfeförderung durch Selbsthilfekontaktstellen, study conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and Senior Citizens, Cologne, 1992.
125 ) Cf. inter alia Roderigo, B.: Sektenberatung als gesellschaftliche Herausforderung, Materialdienst der EZW 59, 1996, pp. 324 -- 331; Utsch, M.: Kooperation von Information und Beratung in der Weltanschauungsarbeit, Materialdienst der EZW 61, 1998, pp. 129 -- 136; Eiben, J./Krekel, E.M./Sauerwein, K.-H.: Soziologische Beratung im Alltag, Sozialwissenschaften und Berufspraxis 19, 1996, pp. 223 -- 241.
126 ) Cf. Hemminger, H./Thiede, W.: Kindheit und Jugend bei den "Kindern Gottes", EZW 131/1996.