The Cult Phenomenon in the United States (1979)/Giaimo

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Senator Dole. Congressman Giaimo?

Mr. Giaimo. The proliferation of cults in the United States in recent years is an issue fraught with confusion, emotion and misunderstanding.

I would like to see this informal forum used to discuss rationally the phenomenon itself, problems resulting from it and the role of government, if any, in dealing with it.

We have a healthy and proper tradition of separation of church and state and of government noninterference in religious beliefs.

That is as it should be. I doubt we will be hearing calls for changes in the First Amendment.

I am convinced, however, that a distinction must be made between religious beliefs and certain actions taken in the name of religion.

Our society must tolerate unorthodox religious beliefs; that's a basic component of freedom; but society cannot tolerate all actions taken in the name of religion.

We do not permit assaults, fraud, or other similar illegal acts simply because they are motivated by religious beliefs.

The problem arises in trying to define this narrow area of impermissible action. All of us have heard, and we will hear again, charges against certain new religious groups. Because of our strong reverence for the First Amendment, there has been little formal intervention of these charges; but the charges persist and they have persisted throughout the years.

Public interest has increased in the past few months. So this meeting is being held to a large degree in response to the petition of thousands of Americans for some kind of action by their government, itself a protective right.

I'm not here to question religious beliefs. As a legislator, I must determine if a problem in fact exists, if present laws can deal with the problem, if new laws are necessary, bearing in mind at all times the Constitution that protects all of us.

I'm seeking answers to what may be unanswerable questions. This meeting may shed some light on the subject. Even if it leads to more questions than answers, it is an issue that cannot be ignored.

Senator Dole. Thank you, Congressman Giaimo.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).