2

Was there some law formed in US after Jonestown mass suicide, regarding religious or such kind of clique/sect/cabals? or what actions were taken regarding limiting and monitoring cult activities by US government?

  • 4
    I do not think any such law was established. It would be considered an unconstitutional violation of freedom of assembly, speech, and religion. The other activities of the People's Temple (intimidation, coercion, murder) are already illegal under state law. The problem is that of enforcement. – Mike Supports Monica Nov 20 '14 at 3:39
  • so there is no any cult related law in existence? I just changed questions title actually my interest in more in any law that limits or monitor cult activities. – Tab Nov 20 '14 at 3:50
  • 1
    France has the About Picard Law, but I am not aware of any US equivalent. Maybe someone else knows of one... – Mike Supports Monica Nov 20 '14 at 3:53
  • 1
  • 1
    It is very difficult to define "cult". Even more difficult to define "cult" in a way that won't violate the first amendment. I can't assert that there is no US law, but I am willing to bet my reputation that any such law would not stand court scrutiny. Plus, Jonestown occurred outside the United States; no US law would have had any effect on actions taken outside the US. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 20 '14 at 11:59
9

What the current Wikipedia entry says on this is accurate and succinct:

In the United States religious activities of cults are protected under the First Amendment, however cult members are not granted any special protection against criminal charges.

In other words, no law is allowed in the USA that abridges anyone's right to join a religion of their choice, or to pick who they can or can't associate with. Laws are certainly allowed against poisoning children and murdering congressmen, but those laws already existed.

Of course even that amount of freedom from government oversight wasn't enough for Jim Jones and his cult, which is why they removed themselves from the jurisdiction of US law entirely by relocating to Guyana (in South America). No US law could reach them there.

  • Wikipedia I have read but there is no any clear statement like as they say in France About-Picard law so it will be helping if you can give me name of such law. regardless of jim jones case. my point is law to monitor cult activity if they are going wrong and not about one that bound people to not join such thing. – Tab Nov 21 '14 at 8:00
  • 2
    @Tab - A large amount of that law would be impossible in the USA, due to the First Amendment. The best you could do here is take the approach that RICO takes: make lawsuits against the organization easier and allow for multiplicative damages and extra prison time for leaders. – T.E.D. Nov 21 '14 at 18:22
  • thanks for link, it is like indirect law against cult if they found involved in some wrong activity. – Tab Nov 23 '14 at 6:57
  • 1
    ...by relocating to Guyana (in South America). No US law could reach them there. - Interestingly no longer the case as as least tax and "national security" legislation have a global reach these days. – James Jan 5 '15 at 17:30
  • Despite your claim that "No US law could reach them there," Jonestown was quickly visited by a U.S. Congressional delegation.... (insert rest of story here) – Aaron Brick Jun 17 '17 at 17:57
6

The citation in the Wikipedia entry is an excellent paper on cult law in the US. There are no laws to "monitor" anybody to see when they go wrong; the standard law-enforcement and judicial procedures used to catch other wrong-doers apply to cults as well. Who decides what is a cult anyway? Freedom of expression is other peoples' freedom to say/preach things you find nasty. Otherwise that freedom means nothing.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.