Anti-cult conference planned in Scientology’s backyard

Family support groups are meeting in Copenhagen on Thursday to discuss how to tackle cults and support the friends and families of individuals affected by controlling groups

The organiser of an anti-cult conference being held on Thursday has called on the government to do more to protect citizens from the threat of manipulative organisations.

The conference is organised by FECRIS, an umbrella organisation for European family support groups whose members help the families and friends of cult members.

FECRIS president Tom Sackville told The Copenhagen Post that few European governments had enacted legislation to protect citizens from controlling groups that call themselves religions.

"These organisations wreck lives to an extent that normally would lead governments to take some action,” Sackville said. “But by posing as religions, they succeed in convincing civil servants and politicians to back off and fail to take a principled stand."

Sackville was particularly critical of the Danish government for allowing the Church of Scientology, which was started by the science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1952,  to establish its European headquarters in Copenhagen.

The organisation is known for its controversial practices that include urging its members to “disconnect” from friends and family who are not members.

"Scientology is a massive scam that benefits people at the top while those at the bottom suffer. We have seen time and time again that families are blighted when members are sucked into these organisations," Sackville said. "They take people in, brainwash them, take what they want and then spit them out."

Scientology is treated differently across Europe. France, the UK and Germany do not classify it as a religion while Spain, Sweden and Portugal do.

Despite having its headquarters in Copenhagen, Scientology is not classified as a religion in Denmark. The city is also the location for the organisation's Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) where members that have deviated from Scientology's teachings are sent.

Last September, however, the RPF was accused of functioning as a labour camp and "private prison" by Scientology critic and researcher Ursula Caberta, who recently retired from the Scientology Task Force of the Hamburg Interior Authority.

In an interview with tabloid BT, she questioned why the Danish government hadn’t intervened. But Scientology spokesperson Anette Refstrup replied that the ten people who were participating in the programme at the time were there voluntarily.

Sackville argues, however, that specific legislation is needed to help people exit groups like Scientology.

"Because the government doesn’t take a stand, it’s hard for the many ex-members who are mentally damaged by their experiences to seek help from the health service,” Sackville said. "We are holding a conference on Scientology's doorstep to make the point that if the Danish government will not do it someone has to stand up to the vile organisations.”

Around 100 attendees from 20 countries are expected to attend tomorrow's conference, which will be held at the Kosmopol Conference Centre.

Neither the Ministry for Integration and Social Affairs, nor the Church of Scientology returned a request to comment for this article.

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