Religions are Sects and Sects are Religions
We, spokespersons of the IAFT, declare our complete agreement with the principle that it is impossible to establish a clear distinction between religions and sects which could justify conferring different status from the point of view of a secular state. Religions are sects and sects are religions. The various Christian sects, including the Catholic, are no more deserving of consideration than the Muslim, Scientologist, Jewish, Pastafarian, Hindu, Buddhist or other religions. The state has no need for these groups, and must not accommodate any of them.
Indeed, mainstream religions may have more adherents, longer histories or more professional esoteric practices than less recognized sects, but these differences in no way imply that the tenets and dogmas of some are more respectable than those of others, nor that their institutions or representatives merit greater recognition from the state. In all cases, we promote both total freedom of conscience, implying of course the freedom to join the religion-sect of one’s choice — or none —, and complete separation between the state and religions-sects.
The various religions-sects may be harmless or dangerous. Financial fraud or violations of the rights and dignity of individuals may occur in both minor or major religions-sects, or outside them. It is up to civil and penal codes to provide the legal resources sufficient to bring the perpetrators to justice and hold them accountable for their deeds, whether they are from a religious milieu or not.
Some governments utilise a religion-sect — especially the one which is traditionally dominant in a given country — as an instrument for political purposes. The United States thus uses evangelistical Christians. How can we not see them as the “spiritual” arm of the USA in Latin America and Africa? Saudi Arabia maintains it influence among traditionally Muslim countries using both Islam and oil revenues. The Putin clique has re-established an old alliance with the Orthodox Church in order to assure its hold on Russia. In each of these cases, and in many others, we denounce the privileged status given to one particular religion-sect, a status which threatens democracy and compromises the rights of the citizenry in general.
Keith Porteus Wood