Religious Transparency – A Legislation Proposal

Should governments ban all religious cults?

When people hear this question, should religious cults be banned and made illegal by governments, a common response is no, because it would be taking away religious freedoms and giving the government unwanted control over more and more of our freedoms.

I agree, however, I believe there is an extremely significant factor that has to be considered, that WOULD ban and criminalise certain cults, and in this video, I shall put out this proposal for you to give your feedback on and if possible, try to shoot my proposal down in flames, if you can.

Here’s the summary. I believe in Freedom of Religion, yes, freedom to believe what you want, but, and here’s the big but, I don’t believe in freedom to divide and destroy families and freedom to incite hatred and discrimination, using the Freedom of Religion to do such things. That’s what I’m addressing and exploring here.

First, the context:

Imagine a son or daughter is suddenly separated from their father and mother.  What was once a  happy family living together, sharing life with each other, there for each other, who had always celebrated special occasions and all the important events in life together, comes to an abrupt end. The family is now separated. This separation could last for months, years or even for life.

As the reality of this terror sinks in, that son or daughter feels like a dagger has severed their heart in two. Instead of familiar smiles and hugs from their parents and siblings, an icy shield has now come down. There is now an emotional disconnect, a feeling of loss and the heavy heart that a bereavement brings. What was once happiness and acceptance has suddenly turned to suspicion, awkwardness and condemnation. They are being judged as evil, they have been cut off from their family and are now shunned. No more eating together, no more living in the same house, no more holidays, birthdays or wedding invites. Something has had a powerful influence over that once happy family.

What is that powerful influence?

These separations cause great suffering. When an infant is separated from its mother, for whatever reason, as the awful reality sinks in that the relationship is no longer there, that child can experience great anguish. That child may scream with the pain and the loss of its mother. Well, adults that are cut off from their loved ones feel that pain too, but often, they just suffer in silence.

I was one of those people.

I have often wondered…. Should there not be governmental protection?

May I ask you a question?

What should we do when something is socially unacceptable yet it is legal? I did a survey on LinkedIn to find out the public perception of cultic separation. The question was:

In your view, how acceptable and ‘right’ is it for families to be separated by ‘cult law?’

The following are all the comments by people that answered the question. All were asked if they wanted their name or initials included. Some wanted to remain anonymous:

1: Family are the MOST important support network you can have. Unless your entire family are abusers, cutting all contact seems to me, abusive and constitute “cruel and unusual” treatment. I don’t know how I would have coped without siblings and parents/grandparents. Anon

2: I struggle to imagine enforced separation and my imagination certainly doesn’t stretch to anyone believing it could ever be a good idea (except where literal danger is present). FB

3: How acceptable? Completely and entirely Unacceptable. Any “religion” that seeks to divide, control and manipulate its members and followers is a cult based on its own power and not the higher power or love of any god or the greater good. D Walker

4: Separation of families like many other cultic behaviours is a mechanism of control. Jill Mytton.

5: It’s not as it impinges basic freedoms. Religion and faith are supposed to embrace love, aren’t they? Sarah Jones

6: It’s all about control, power and money. They will do anything to obtain this absolutely anything even if it means separating families. Because if you have unity with family this gives you power and they fear this. It’s very wrong and all cults like this should face some type of criminal punishment. Sharon Byrne

7: The Jehovah’s Witnesses cult that I was raised in proclaims ‘God is Love’ but turns their members against those ‘Apostates’ that reject the JW teachings. Brian Hunt

8: I’d agree with separation of families (or anyone) for protection from abuse, negative influence etc. In my view, it’s just cruel to impose this within a cult setting and maybe should be illegal like in other areas of life where deprivation of liberty is not acceptable. Kris M

9: It is not ‘right’! End of. This subject makes me very unhappy. To have your true emotional needs replaced by counterfeit ones imposed by others is toxic. This is the way the leaders of cults can control others. Anon

10: I don’t find that acceptable. Hearts must break constantly. I’ve watched a documentary on this and it’s just so difficult to watch. Cults to me are control and power. Nichola Robinson

11: I watched Leah Remini’s documentary on it, truly frightening how easy it is to con people with a vision……….when you take a weak person and strip them back to nothing. Mike Wagstaff

12: Can’t think of anything worse John. Family is everything and the rest of work enablers to be with family. Mike Holmes

13: It’s just so cruel John, I can’t imagine what kind of monsters would do this to children. Jeanne Hatton

14: It’s wrong, John. This is where authorities should intervene because separating children from family members without good reason (e.g. if they’ve subjected them to assault or failed to protect them from harm such as by allowing a violent person to live with them) amounts to emotional abuse. Those children grow up to be adults who have been conditioned to think they can’t make their own choices and the cycle continues. Kate

15: I have friends who were in religious groups and they got out. It’s so sad to hear them talk about their parents, children and grandchildren that they are barred from seeing. So sad. Gail Page

16: It’s wrong, wrong, wrong. We know that people need people so anything that advocates isolation and reliance on only a small, segregated community should immediately set alarm bells ringing. This should be the first part of any training that we do for children on keeping safe. Don’t keep secrets, be a part of as many groups and communities as possible and be very wary of anyone who tells you that is a bad thing. Anyone who cares for your wellbeing would want you to be engaged with others and included in their lives, not isolated. Helen Hart

17: It makes my blood boil John. I believe people should be able to do what they want, as long as it does not impact on others. This behaviour is the total antithesis of my interpretation of humanity, enacted by ego-driven megalomaniacs. Chris Gilsenan

18: Not acceptable at all … I’m sure the God or Gods these religions look up to were as evil as these laws they wouldn’t be getting looked up to at all. When humans have power it does strange things to some. Mick Ryan

19: These so-called “rules” are not designed to consider the emotional needs or rights of members. They are abusive control strategies with far-reaching psychological implications. Anon

20: I find your story fascinating and can’t imagine what life would be like being separated from family members. Paul Corcoran

21: TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.  Gosh John – I didn’t know THAT bit.  Where the hell do these cults get their wacky and damaging ideas from? Pam Case.

22: The belief in strength in a united family is, I would have thought, is a globally acceptable norm…save for the cults and other anomalies. Ches Moulton

23: That’s astonishing John – and utterly unacceptable. Anon

24: It’s taking away peoples right for a choice……you can only have one or the other and not both. As a parent I don’t understand what could be stronger and more important than the want to be with your child?? Christina Smith

25: Personally, I would have nothing to do with such ‘cult’ or ‘religion’ that separates human, let alone families. Ashualec

26: This is such a huge subject. In my personal life, I lost my mother and her new family when they entered a religious sect and in my professional life, I mostly encounter the adult children of JW family groups, who have been ostracised and cut off from all the social and peer groups they grew up with. Steve Cordingley

27: Social services do their best not to do this when removing children from dangerous familial situations…..presumably for good reason. My friend adopted a son and they still maintain contact with his siblings through the foster family. And they’ve been encouraged to do so. So if this is the case in these situations I can’t accept that cult law should be allowed to usurp the right to retain familial relationships where safe to do so. Jo S

28: It is so sad to cut people off because they think or want to do things differently. Kaye

29: I can’t imagine being separated from mine. I don’t imagine most people would even know this happens to be honest. Lorna

30: Cult laws don’t supersede the law of the land. They don’t have the right to separate families because some ‘guru’ says so. It’s manipulation and mind control. Clayton Jones

31: John, religions of all types invent their own man-made rules to maintain power and control over their members, and others.  Any rules that cause pain and suffering should be condemned as inhuman. John Legg

32: I very strongly disagree with the separation due to cult ‘laws’/ restrictions. Lydia Hill

Whilst the sample size is small, I don’t think it is unreasonable to conclude that most people generally find cultic separation totally unacceptable.

Is this how you feel about it?

Cultic law can influence families to separate from members who disobey them. These cultic laws are not implemented and enforced by the governments of where these people live. They are imposed by religious cults that have indoctrinated their followers and have got into their heads. Such is the power that some cults can have over their followers, parents and children will abandon each other, husbands and wives will leave each other, and families will separate. This power over people has even led some groups to commit mass suicide. I say this not to be dramatic but because it has actually happened in the past. Could it happen in the future?

But can anyone start a religious cult and start imposing their own laws on vulnerable followers?


The right to do this is supported by The Human Rights Act 1998 in which are the following two Articles:

Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Everyone is free to hold a broad range of views, beliefs and thoughts, and to follow a religious faith. The right to manifest those beliefs may be limited only in specified circumstances.

Article 10: Freedom of expression. Everyone has the right to hold opinions and express their views on their own or in a group. This applies even if these views are unpopular or disturbing. This right can be restricted only in specified circumstances.

If you read these two articles in full, you will notice that the words ‘protection and rights’ are used many times.

Because of the freedoms in the Human Rights Act, it is not illegal for anyone to start a religious cult and effectively control their followers to give them their money, adopt their peculiar belief system, die rather than take blood and if the rest of their follower’s family do not also obey, then they may find that they end up ostracising and split from them. This can result in a family destroyed by separation.

I am not suggesting that government bans religious organisations that split families. People have the freedom to join whatever group they want to. However, where is the protection for vulnerable people who are born into, or are recruited into religious groups which results in their vulnerable family being split? Specifically, what are their rights?

Is there something that can be done……?

Governments have the difficult job of striking a balance between being too restrictive which can infringe on freedoms, and being too liberal which can also infringe on freedoms.

The purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of its citizens. This covers most departments of our life including Health and Safety. When a government deems something to be a potential danger it issues what are known as Government Health Warnings. Such warnings are not always bans but they are put in place to educate and protect. This is what responsible government does and it is what we expect and vote for them to do.


  1. ‘Prevent’ is part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. It draws attention to ideology that supports terrorism with a view to protecting vulnerable people. It highlights sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation.
  2. Government believe it necessary to enforce the publishing of health warnings on cigarette packets. They have not banned tobacco, but maybe it was enough destroyed lives that eventually motivated them to legislate a warning to all who smoke, or who might be thinking of smoking.
  3. The PPI scandal in principle was that people were not informed about what they were paying for. When what was happening came to light, banks were told to pay back what was due resulting in millions seeking compensation. To prevent this from happening in the future, the Financial Services Authorities brought in a new regime in 2011 which included customers having to be told in writing that PPI was an optional extra.

I think it is imperative that there is consideration for new legislation in the UK that seeks to a) promote awareness and b) to be a warning to all people about religious cults who have laws in place, that result in the SEPARATION of FAMILIES. Specifically, I’m referring to the separation that results in cult members not being allowed to have ‘normal family life’ with non-members. (definition below).

My definition of ‘normal family life’.

  1. Families are allowed and free to live together if desired.
  2. Families are allowed and free to visit each other in their homes and stay with each other.
  3. Families are allowed to freely celebrate the birth of their grandchildren and family weddings.
  4. Families are allowed to fully join in freely with the funeral arrangements of family members.
  5. Families are allowed to freely celebrate birthdays and special occasions.
  6. Families are allowed to eat or drink freely with each other anywhere.
  7. Families are allowed to freely go out shopping together.
  8. Families are allowed to freely go on holidays together.

With this in mind, I would like society and the government to consider the following:

I would like to see religious groups that impose laws, whereby members/followers cannot have or are unable to maintain this ‘normal family life’, having some form of religious transparency warning on all literature and as a readable sign on any buildings where they meet.

I would also like to recommend that the first time anyone comes into contact with such a group, they must be read this warning in full and sign a document indicating that they have understood it. I would also like to see this applying to all existing members.

The Goal of the religious transparency warning:

1: The public will be better placed to able to make informed decisions, should they choose to join such religious groups that separate families, resulting in there being a protective measure in place for this socially unacceptable destruction of normal family life.

Now since I wrote this, in February 2021, a Jehovah’s Witness congregation was taken to court and charged with inciting hatred and discrimination against those who had walked away from their religion.

The person who brought the charge claimed that it wasn’t just about their religious beliefs, it was that their faith teaches people there’s something inherently problematic with former members. All cults teach this. He said that once a member had left the group, they were disowned and completely isolated socially, by order of the organisation, again, a hallmark of cults.

Cults use different language in their incitement. It was reported during this case that the Jehovah’s Witnesses ex-members should be ‘shunned like the plague.’ The cult I was born into were told by their leader that they should ‘utterly hate the world.’

Well, the verdict was that the court found the JWs guilt as charged and fined them 96,000 euros.

The wheels are turning, society is starting to speak out. What are your views? Should there be a religious transparency warning on all religious groups that divide and destroy families? Shouls inciting hatred and discrimination towards ex-members of a religious group be illegal?

(The above was partly taken from Chapter 24 of the book Cult Escape by John Spinks)