I didn't intend to have a second post on religious freedom but the situation with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) piqued my interest. This is the church/compound that law enforcement authorities raided this week in Texas and removed hundreds of women and children. Members of the church are accused of polygamy, and physical and sexual abuse.
The guarantee of "free exercise" of religion obviously does not provide protection for unlawful behavior. That's a good thing....Right? In this case involving the FLDS the answer is obviously and emphatically Yes! Law enforcement should have stopped this cult's activities years ago.
There is an interesting article regarding the FLDS on MSNBC titled "Is Texas Group a Religious Sect or a Clear-Cut Cult?" From this article:
Janja Lalich, a sociologist at California State University, Chico...told LiveScience she definitely thinks the Texas compound should be called a cult. "If you've got a group that's abusing hundreds and hundreds of women and children, let's call it what it is," she said....the distinction between a legitimate sect and a cult is simple: It depends on what or whom you worship. "In a healthy or legitimate religion or sect, you are presumably worshiping some higher principle or some higher authority," Lalich said, "whereas in a cult people tend to end up worshipping that living human leader." She added, "Your salvation is tied up with that particular living leader, and obeying orders and not breaking the rules, and subjecting yourself to whatever personal transformation you're expected to go through to be on that correct path to salvation."
She hits on some of the hallmarks of a true cult:
1. Abuse or violence used against those who disobey, disagree or try to leave.
2. Leaders who claim to have the key to salvation. Outside of the cult there is no hope for salvation.
3. Leaders who claim to have a mandate from God, to speak for God. (The FLDS leader claims to be a prophet.)
4. Separation from those who do not believe as you do.
5. Teaching that obedience to the laws of the cult will result in personal transformation
Cults exist and have existed in small scale and in large scale throughout history. This isn't the first and it surely isn't the last. Plenty of cults exist and go unnoticed because members are not overtly breaking secular law. Yes, even cults are guaranteed freedom to practice their religion.
Now that I think about it, in some ways the Texas authorities who broke up the compound were acting much like Martin Luther. :-)