Fringe sects spread to Europe
BONN, West Germany (AP) -The Rev Moon, Hare Krishna, Scientology, Children of God The guru sects that earlier beguiled young Americans have spread to Western Europe, and government leaders are alarmed.
These fringe religions are active in Britain, West Germany, France, Holland, Denmark and Italy, an Associated Press survey shows.
Authorities have been disturbed by news reports from some of these countries linking several sects to allegations about "brain-wash" conversions, sexual abuse, fraud, visa violations and suicides.
Ten Hare Krishna monks were heavily fined in Frankfurt, West Germany, last April for begging $12 million under false pretenses - claiming the money was destined for starving children in India, while it actually went to the sect's castle commune.
The Bonn government became so worried about crime reports involving the cults that it launched a campaign this summer to warn young Germans. It estimated 150,000 persons, most in the 14 to 28 age group, have joined a dozen various sects.
"The common aim of these sects in West Germany is the pursuit of power and money The leaders scarcely believe the ideals they proclaim," said the Ministry of Youth, Family and Health, which is leading the drive against the fringe religions.
Named in the warnings are the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, the Society of Transcendental Meditation, Hare Krishna monks, the Divine Light Mission of Maharaj Ji, Mose David Berg's Children of God, and L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology.
"All these groups share fixation on an authoritarian, patriarchal leader, total obedience, strictly regimented community life and uncompromising rejection of the 'old society,' " the ministry said.
German parents' groups are working with traditional churches to rescue their youngsters "You get the impression the followers are bewitched, dazed and intoxicated," said one mother of a sect member.
The sects have been able to flourish in Western Europe - and the United States -under guarantees of freedom of religion "Unless there is some evidence of criminal activity there is very little the government can do," said a British spokesman, summing up government policy.
Only Scientology is barred m Britain. In 1968, the Home Office found the sect "socially harmful," and foreign Scientologists were effectively barred from living in Britain.
A member of Parliament appealed for a clampdown on the Moonies and other sects in 1975, but Shirley Summerskill, undersecretary of state at the Home Office, replied:
"We may as individuals take the view that the doctrines advanced by Mr. Moon are lunatic. We may be particularly suspicious of the motives of people who, while claiming to benefit humanity, have substantially enriched themselves. But these are matters of opinion, and surely it is one of the principles of a free society that people may propagate ideas which the majority of us ... do not believe."
Moon is now resisting efforts to remove him from Britain, where some 3,000 Moonies are believed to be living on farms and in communes.
Transcendental Meditation followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi are said to number 80,000 in Britain, growing at 10,000 a year This sect's country estate is an Elizabethan mansion in Kent.
The Hare Krishna movement has its mansion, bought for it by former Beatle George Harnsion, in Hertfordshire, and the Divine Light Mission claims more than 6,000 followers in Britain.
The French Interior Ministry said the sects are "watched with a magnifying glass" and prosecuted when laws are broken. Hubbard, the American founder of Scientology, is appealing a conviction on fraud charges in France.