Zum Inhalt springen

New Religious Movements and the State

Panel Chair: Catherine Wessinger | Thursday, August 27, 9-11 a.m.

NRMs and states relate to and interact with each other in many ways. Some NRMs may be in tension with certain states. States may control which religions receive the benefits of registration, and a religion that is regarded as unconventional may be subjected to discrimination. An NRM may have the goal of establishing a theocracy, and therefore take theological and political positions in opposition to the state. States may seek to exercise social control over NRMs in various ways, including interventions to protect allegedly endangered children, and law enforcement raids to address alleged firearms violations. Members of an NRM contribute in different ways to interactive conflicts with a state, but the state holds the greatest power to enforce the decisions of its officials. Comparison of diverse NRM-state interactions may reveal overarching social dynamics in situations involving tension between NRMs and states. A respondent will address the four case studies.

Liselotte Frisk

State Support of Registered Faith Communities in Sweden: The Question of “Basic Values of Society”

After the separation of church and state in Sweden in the year 2000, the possibility to register as a faith community was offered to religious organizations. Registered faith communities could also apply for economic support from the state, as well as the opportunity to collect the membership fees through the tax payment process. Just over 40 faith communities received economic support in 2013. This paper will study the conditions on which economic state support is given, and also which applications have been turned down, and the reasons for this. Among the applications from religious groups that were turned down were those submitted by the Church of Scientology and Jehovah´s Witnesses. The condition that the faith community has to “contribute to maintain and strengthen the basic values of society” will be a particular focus.

Julie Ingersoll

Theocracy, Christian Reconstruction, and the (Re)conception of the Category “Politics”

Christian Reconstructionists insist that their goals are not essentially political, yet most observers (scholars, reporters and pundits) focus on the question of whether they seek to establish a biblical theocracy. This paper will introduce Christian Reconstruction, note some of its key sites of influence in the United States, and then explore its rather distinct (and distinctly limited) notion of what counts as politics, situating that category in the larger totalizing discourse they call “sphere sovereignty”. In their view God ordained three separate, sovereign, spheres of authority to govern human life, each of which is to function autonomously from the others, with “politics” pertaining only to the sphere of the civil government, but with all three under “biblical law.” The larger discourse includes the assertion that there is no such thing as neutrality and that biblical law is irreconcilably and inescapably incompatible with any other value system.

Susan J. Palmer

Sekten in Germany: The Case of the Twelve Tribes

In September 2013 in Bavaria, the Twelve Tribes community was targeted by a massive police raid organized by the Jugendamt in which 40 children were seized and placed in temporary state custody. The children have not been returned in spite of an investigation that found no evidence of abuse. This study analyzes this NRM–state conflict and explores the erosion of religious freedom since the 1998 final report of the German Enquete Commission on “So-called Sects and Psychogroups,” which recommended that the term Sekte should not be applied to religious groups. This paper documents the convergence of forces that led to the raid, the draconian application of the “anti-spanking law” of 2000, and the responses of the child-centered Twelve Tribes community driven by its millennial, perfectionist aims. The various roles of the parties involved in the Kulte opposition are examined: the “EKD” and German Lutheran and Catholic countercult Sekte experts, the Jugendamt and the media.

Catherine Wessinger

FBI Memos on the Branch Davidians’ Apocalyptic Theology

After the botched assault of the Branch Davidians outside Waco, Texas, by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on 28 February 1993, which resulted in the deaths of four BATF agents and six Branch Davidians, FBI agents took over the siege. On 19 April 1993 the FBI carried out a tank and CS gas assault, which culminated in a fire in which 76 Branch Davidians of all ages died. FBI agents pleaded ignorance of the Branch Davidians’ apocalyptic theology of martyrdom. However, FBI internal memos and reports in the Lee Hancock Collection at Texas State University indicate that during the siege agents interviewed people who provided information about the Branch Davidians’ theology. Information in these documents indicates that FBI officials who planned and directed the final assault were well informed of the significance of the Branch Davidians’ theology for the outcome.

Eileen Barker


Eileen Barker will respond to the issues raised in the previous papers of this panel.


B  C  D 
E  F  G  H 
I  J  K  L 
M  N  O  P 
Q  R  T 
U      V      W     XYZ 


A  B  C  D 
E  F  G  H 
I  J  K  L 
M  N  O  P 
Q  R  S  T 
U      V      W     XYZ 


Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)