Govt probe into fringe religious groups
The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has recommended to Federal Parliament that the Attorney-General convene an interfaith dialogue to formulate minimum standards for the practice of religious cults, according to The Catholic Leader.
A report on Australia's efforts to protect religious freedom was tabled by the joint Committee's Human Rights Sub-committee on 27 November. It was produced following public hearings, and input from 98 groups including the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC), Australian Catholic University, and the Jesuit social justice centre Uniya. The enquiry found that more than 500,000 Australians are members of fringe religions or cults, and a number of Christian and Jewish groups complained of being persecuted for their beliefs.
The ACSJC told the enquiry: "It is hoped Australia's international diplomacy will increasingly draw attention to problems experienced in the effective protection and promotion of freedom of religion and belief and will assist in dealing constructively with these human rights issues."
Meanwhile a former member of the Queensland-based cult, the Magnificat Meal Movement, said that government scrutiny of cults was 'long overdue'. Mr Wal Maggs of Heildon, west of Brisbane, left the cult with his wife 18 months ago. He told The Catholic Leader that the cult is 'money-oriented', and that there are young people who work day and night to sell products for the cult leader Mrs Debra Geileskey.