|Defined as violations of law, religious crimes vary according to
societies' positions on churchstate relations in addition to the general
expectations about civil behavior. In democracies, religious belief
remains unregulated, but religious action can be criminal. (For example,
late-nineteenth-century American Mormons realized that they risked
prosecution if they acted on their polygamous beliefs.) Authorities in
repressive regimes, however, likely will criminalize any religious beliefs
or activities that they fear will undermine the control of the state.
Paralleling what occurs in the political realm, crime in a religious context takes multiple forms. First, crimes against religions involve individuals or groups committing criminal acts against religious organizations for personal or ideological gain. Examples include theft of organizational funds or anti-Semitic slogans painted on synagogue walls. Second, religious crimes or crimes for religions involve acts performed in accordance with groups' operational goals. These crimes may be against (1) other religions (e.g., Islamic extremist group FUQRA's probable involvement in bombings against Hare Krishna temples); (2) governments (i.e., the Church of Scientology of Toronto's 1992 conviction on breach of trust charges resulting from its spy operations against police forces); (3) employees (the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation refusing to pay its workers minimum wage and overtime compensation); (4) congregants (e.g., clerical child abuse and the conviction of former PTL Ministries' Jim Bakker for conspiring to defraud his flock by overselling lifetime partnerships in his Heritage Grand Towers hotel); or (5) the public (e.g., Rajneeshees' poisoning of approximately 750 citizens, possibly as a test of plans to influence an upcoming election).
Finally, criminal religious organizations have basic goals or purposes that require the perpetration of illegal acts. Evidence is mounting, for example, that Japan's Aum Shinri Kyo religious sect will classify as such a criminal religious organization because of its probable poison gas murders along with criminal investigations into confinement, kidnapping, manslaughter, theft, counterfeiting and using stamped documents, wiretapping, and agricultural land law violations.
—Stephen A. Kent
J. Berry, Lead Us Not into Temptation (Toronto: Image, 1992)
A. Carnahan, "Sect Suspected in Crimes Across U.S.," Rocky Mountain News [Denver, Colorado] (Oct. 18, 1992): 6, 21
L. Carter, Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990)
T. Claridge, "Church Guilty in Spy Case," Globe and Mail [Canada] (June 27, 1992): A7
J. S. Conway, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches (New York: Basic Books, 1968)
J. M. Day and W. S. Laufer (eds.), Crime, Values, and Religion (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1987); "Raymond J. Donovan, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff v. Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation et al, Defendants," United States District Court , Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division. No. Civ 77-2183 (Dec. 13, 1982): 34, 317; "Raymond J. Donovan, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff v. Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation et al, Defendants," United States District Court , Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division. No. Civ 77-2183 (Feb. 7, 1983): 34, 326
J. L. Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987)
S. P. Freedberg, Brother Love (New York: Pantheon, 1994): J. Hubner and L. Gruson, Monkey on a Stick (New York: Harcourt, 1988)
D. E. Kaplan and A. Marshall, The Cult at the End of the World (New York: Crown, 1996)
M. Kleg, Hate, Prejudice and Racism (Albany: SUNY Press, 1993)
C. E. Shepard, Forgiven (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991).
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