Law and order: Cult-busting bill gets ministerial approval

Proposal includes first legal definition of an abusive cult; leading a cult would be considered a crime carrying a 10-year prison sentence.

February 14, 2016 17:14
1 minute read.

The Knesset plenum . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Legislation defining abusive cults and giving authorities the tools to fight them was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu) called the bill, which she proposed, “the first step toward formulating an overarching policy and building a broad and effective system to fight abusive cults.”

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If the bill becomes law, it will be the first time a cult is defined by law and differentiated from other, non-abusive religious groups.

The bill states that an abusive cult is “a group of people, incorporated or not, who unite around a person or idea in a way that takes advantage of a relationship of dependence or authority or of emotional distress of one or more members by using methods of control through thought processes and behavioral patterns and acts in an organized, systematic and sustained pattern while committing crimes according to Israeli law.”

Holding a leadership position in a cult would be considered a crime with a sentence of 10 years in prison.

In addition, the bill will create a system to allow confiscation of property obtained as a result of an abusive cult’s activities, which is similar to that in the Law to Fight Organized Crime.

The legislation also proposes that the Welfare Ministry create an online database of information about cults, their leaders, their activities and locations, as well as a department for helping victims of abusive cults.

Levy-Abecassis said that over the past two decades, two committees have recommended that the government do more on this matter, including passing laws, but that nothing had been done until now.

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