Religious Discrimination against Groups Perceived as Cults in Europe and the West

Eti Peretz, Jonathan Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This study examines the comparative levels of discrimination against cults and other religious minorities in 37 European and Western democracies using the Religion and State-Minorities (RASM) dataset and data on four religions many governments consider cults—the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, the Unification Church, and the Mormons—collected specifically for this study. There is a considerable theoretical literature that argues that perceived cults experience more discrimination because they are considered new and strange in many countries as well as dangerous. Several violent events involving groups seen as cults in the 1990s such as those involving the Branch Davidians, the Order of the Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate, and the Aum Shinrikyo exacerbated this trend. Our analysis finds that perceived cults experience higher levels of religious discrimination by governments in these countries and this trend increased in the mid-1990s which is consistent with it being at least in part a response to the series of violent perceived cult-related events in the 1990s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-435
Number of pages21
JournalPolitics, Religion and Ideology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2021

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