(Extract from the Official Gazette of the Council of Europe
1. The Assembly recalls its Recommendation 1178 (1992) on sects and new religious
movements, in which it considered that major legislation on sects was undesirable on the
grounds that such legislation might well interfere with the freedom of conscience and
religion guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as
harm traditional religions.
2. The Assembly reaffirms its commitment to freedom of conscience and religion. It
recognises religious pluralism as a natural consequence of freedom of religion. It regards
state neutrality and equal protection before the law as fundamental safeguards against any
form of discrimination and therefore calls upon state authorities to refrain from taking
measures based on a value judgment concerning beliefs.
3. In Recommendation 1178 (1992), it simply recommended that the Committee of Ministers
take measures to inform and educate young people and the general public and requested that
corporate status be granted to all sects and new religious movements which had been
4. Since that recommendation was adopted, a number of serious incidents have taken
place which have prompted the Assembly to study the phenomenon once again.
5. The Assembly has come to the conclusion that it is unnecessary to define what
constitutes a sect or to decide whether it is a religion or not. However, there is some
concern about groups that are thought of as sects, whatever religious, esoteric or
spiritual description they adopt, and this needs to be taken into account.
6. On the other hand, it takes the view that it is essential to ensure that the
activities of these groups, be they of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature, are in
keeping with the principles of our democratic societies and, in particular, with the
provisions of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as being
7. It is of prime importance to have reliable information on these groups that emanates
neither exclusively from the sects themselves nor from associations set up to defend the
victims of sects, and to circulate it widely among the general public, once those
concerned have had the chance to comment on the objectivity of such information.
8. The Assembly reiterates the need to include specific information on the history and
philosophy of important schools of thought and of religion in academic curricula,
especially those for teenagers.
9. The Assembly attaches great importance to protecting those most vulnerable, and
particularly the children of members of religious, esoteric or spiritual groups, in case
of ill-treatment, rape, neglect, indoctrination through brainwashing and non-enrolment at
school, which makes it impossible for welfare services to exercise supervision.
10. Therefore, the Assembly calls on the governments of member states:
i. where necessary, to set up or support independent national or regional information
centres on groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature;
ii. to include information on the history and philosophy of important schools of
thought and of religion in general school curricula;
iii. to use the normal procedures of criminal and civil law against illegal practices
carried out in the name of groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature;
iv. to ensure that legislation on the obligation to enrol children at school is
rigorously applied, and that appropriate authorities intervene in the event of
v. where necessary, to encourage the setting-up of non-governmental organisations for
the victims, or the families of victims, of religious, esoteric or spiritual groups,
particularly in eastern and central European countries;
vi. to encourage an approach to religious groups which will bring about understanding,
tolerance, dialogue and resolution of conflicts;
vii. to take firm steps against any action which is discriminatory or which
marginalises religious or spiritual minority groups.
11. Furthermore, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i. where necessary, provide for specific action to set up information centres on groups
of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature in the countries of central and eastern
Europe in its aid programmes for those countries;
ii. set up a European observatory on groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual
nature to make it easier for national centres to exchange information.