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ABOUT THE "MINISTRY OF TRUTH" OF AMERICAN CULT APOLOGISTS OR AN ANSWER TO JASON MORTON - 06.08.20

ABOUT THE "MINISTRY OF TRUTH" OF AMERICAN CULT APOLOGISTS OR AN ANSWER TO JASON MORTON

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”

George Orwell

They say that if you add 1 percent of lie to 99 percent of truth, the result is 100% lie. In the recently published document "Anti-cult movement and religious legislation in Russia and the former Soviet Union"[1] published by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)[2], grains of truth are so intertwined with lies that the result is almost 200 percent false. The author of this paper is one Jason Morton – a full-time policy analyst of the Commission. Since his article was published on the official USCIRF page, it should be taken as the opinion of the Commission itself.

The infamous former Italian and now Lithuanian cult apologist Massimo Introvigne immediately advertised this document[3] on his website "Bitter Winter"[4], simultaneously adding an additional portion of lies[5]. So, the result came out to be a 200 percent lie squared. But as conclusions from this lie, there are recommendations to the US government, in which, among several other points, it is called upon to publicly censor my activities personally (I never thought of myself as such an important person) and to put pressure on the government of the Russian Federation to dismiss me and my "anti-cultists" colleagues from all of our official positions.[6]

Since at least half of Morton's text is dedicated to my humble person, I will try to comment on at least some of those statements that refer to me. I hope that the rest of his statements will also not remain unanswered by those whom he "analyzes".

***

Morton is not original when he categorically asserts that the anti-cult movement in Russia is " supported locally by the ROC, the government, and concerned citizens." Only one third of this applies to the truth – "concerned citizens". During the entire existence of our "Religious Studies Center" (since 1993), we have not received any subsidies from the Russian Orthodox Church, and practically none from the government of the Russian Federation.[7] As hard as it may seem to an outsider to believe, our Center has survived without regular funding for 27 years and continues only thanks to the help of "concerned citizens" and the enthusiasm of volunteers. The situation is exactly the same with other small counter-cult groups in our country. I think Mr. Morton is well aware of this, or he would have given at least some proof of his claim. As expected, he gives none.

Mr. Morton wrote that in 1977 I "left the Soviet Union to study in the United States." He probably knows that in those years such a thing was absolutely impossible, and that I emigrated from my country at the insistence of the authorities[8] and was deprived of Soviet citizenship. Whether I would be able to study or even how I would live in a completely unknown world where I didn't know a single person, I had no idea. Contrary to Morton's claims, I did not study cults during my time in the United States and had the vaguest idea about them (all I knew came for the most part, from the usual publications in the American media, for example, in the New York Times), and never suspected that I would ever be professionally engaged in cults. So, I could not bring the whole set of ideas that Morton writes about from the United States to Russia.

I have written about this in many publications (which should be known to Morton), as well as the fact that I did not return to Russia to "to work at the ROC’s new Department of Religious Education." I just returned to a new country (after the fall of the USSR), unknown to me, to work in it and benefit it. How and in what capacity it would be, I had no idea. I started working with cults in 1992, almost "accidentally", mainly because I was moved by the tears and suffering of people whose loved ones were recruited into these inhumane, totalitarian organizations. I studied the basics of cultic studies not in the United States, but in Denmark, Germany, and Greece: with Professor Johannes Aagaard, my good friend pastor Thomas Gandow, and a man with a rare gift of love and compassion – Protopresbyter Antony Alevizopolous. Moreover, I met Professor Aagaard, one might say, "accidentally" (or "providentially") and it was, in principle, impossible to plan all these meetings in advance and the development of events.

After my initial meeting, I studied this new subject intensively and for a long time. A whole series of training seminars, discussions with specialists, conferences, as well as personal study of cultic, religious and other works in the field, then extensive field research (in the early 90's I was not yet a media person and my face was unknown) in Russia and abroad, meetings with victims and their relatives, discussions and debates with members of cults and leaders gave me the necessary knowledge that I did not get in the Theological Seminary or the university PhD program in medieval studies. Perhaps this understanding is not the same as the ideological position held by Mr. Morton, and even more so by the Italian-Lithuanian Introvigne (assuming that he has any ideology at all), but this does not in any way refute my studies, as Mr. Morton tries to do, a priori claiming that I lack "religious, psychological and sociological qualifications" in the "study of NRMs". I grew up in the USSR and I know well what happens when adherents of the dominant ideology declare an entire scientific school "anti-scientific" and begin to slander it. First the harassment, then the dismissal from work, then the incarceration, and finally the firing squad. So USCIRF is on a well-trodden path.

***

Here, for example, is a typical manipulation technique used by the author of this paper: Morton claims that my comparison of "Jehovah's Witnesses" with “a commercial cult organized like a pyramid scheme that exists off of the sale of its publications and multimedia productions” (which is true!) puts me in the position of an Inquisitor (from my statement "it is a short leap" to it), to asserting a duty to intervene [obviously, in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies] in cases of heresy ". Maybe Morton really wants to take this "short leap", but I do not see where and how this ever happened, nor do I see how my statement can become a platform for such unreasonably wild fantasies.

In a long-standing dispute between the secular and religious wings of the anti-cult movement "Creeds, not deeds" or "Deeds, not creeds" , I consider both positions not fully adequate and adhere to the opinion of my teacher Prof. Johannes Aagaard's "Deeds through creeds" – that is, sectarian actions can be most fully understood primarily through understanding their doctrines and ideology. Yes, I criticize the creeds of various sects, but Religionskritikk is an integral part of freedom of faith. Of course, I have my own religious beliefs and of course they shape my worldview and my research methodology, but what does the Inquisition have to do with it?

In fact, Mr. Morton, using such "loaded terms" is engaged in the very manipulation of which he “prudently” accuses me of. So, there were no facts, no reasons for them, but in the mind of the reader remains a link: "Dvorkin-Inquisitor".

***

I, indeed, considered the "Gorbachev" law on freedom of conscience inadequate for Russia and advocated the adoption of a new law. But the main reason for its adoption was not my articles and talks, but the actions of the cults themselves, in particular, the gas attack by "AUM Shinrikyo" (which flourished in Russia under the old law) in the Tokyo metro. I have never held any public office, and have not worked in the Russian Orthodox Church since 1997.

I don't know how "the advent of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and his United Russia party at the turn-of-the-century only increased Dvorkin’s influence", because I did not hold public office before this event, and I continue to remain an absolutely private person. I am not a member of any Presidential Commission, and all programs, including those on "spiritual security", were developed without my participation. No one asked for my advice, either. If they had asked, the program would definitely be different.

I was interested to read about the further significant increase of my "official influence … in the late-2000s”. If this was truly the author's judgment, I would think that he was simply misinformed. But the next sentence contains an obvious lie:

" In 2009, [Dvorkin] was appointed head of the government’s Council of Experts, tasked with monitoring religious activity and approving legal registration. The Council was created in 1998 to help enforce the 1997 law. The amended law of February 18, 2009 expanded the Council’s reach, giving it authority over the activity, structure, and religious content [?] of registered organizations alongside its oversight of the registration process. " That sounds powerful!  However, what is the Council and its competence really like?

So, "the Expert Council of the Ministry of Justice [not "government" as Morton called it] for conducting State Religious Studies Expertise", where I was elected (not appointed) Chairman in 2009[9] in fact, it is a voluntary group. None of its members are civil servants, and the work in the Council is not paid by the Ministry of Justice. The Council is convened only at the request of the Ministry of Justice and only (with one specific exception)[10] in cases when a new organization, declares itself religious and applies for registration. When employees of the Ministry of Justice (who are not qualified in Religious Studies) can't determine whether an organization is religious, and whether the information that it reported agrees with reality, it is these two questions that the members of the Council are expected to answer. The opinion of the Council is advisory in nature and the Ministry of Justice may not take it into account when making a final decision on registration as a religious organization or refusal to do so. During the 11 years of the Council's work, we have examined at least 40 organizations (Muslim, Buddhist, Evangelical, Jewish, Karaite, etc.). As far as I remember, we answered both questions negatively only in one case – when we considered one Neo-Pagan organization. In all other cases, both questions were answered in the affirmative.

All this information is available from open sources (for example, on the website of the Ministry of Justice), and Jason Morton could easily acquaint himself with them. So why didn't he, rather than making up an outright lie? This suggests one of two conclusions: either the full-time analyst Morton did not bother to find out anything about the subject of his research, or he is intentionally lying. In the first case, he shows official incompetence, in the second, he shows that the ideological attitudes of his employer are more important for him than the truth.

Here is another example of how Morton" gracefully " distorts facts: The lecture "Totalitarian cults as a threat to national security" was delivered by me to the staff of the Center for countering extremism in Novosibirsk in 2010[11]. The lecture was attended by several cadets of the Novosibirsk Institute of the FSB of Russia. And this was one of no less than fifteen other lectures in the course of four days of hard work with a variety of audiences in Novosibirsk. Morton claims that it was a special lecture “to students at the Institute of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB)—the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB”, without specifying either the city or the fact that the lecture was given in another place and for employees of another Department.

Then he writes about the "law of Yarovaya". First of all, my name is not Yarovaya. I do not even know the state Duma Deputy Irina Yarovaya. When she created her bill (whatever opinion we may have of it), she did not ask for my opinion, nor did she consult me. I have no idea what Morton means by his completely erroneous assertion.

Nor did I have anything to do with the trial of “Jehovah's Witnesses” in 2017. All the records are available, anyone can check them: I was not summoned by this court, my articles and books were not referred to, and I was not even physically present in the courtroom. Mr. Morton noted that I welcomed the court's decision to ban the totalitarian and violent cult of the "Jehovah's Witnesses", which grossly violates the rights of its members, but for some reason he forgot to write that I was strongly opposed (and still am) to the arrests and prison terms of ordinary Jehovah's Witnesses, about which I published several statements and appeals to the Russian authorities. If Morton was monitoring Russian publications on this topic (or at least looked at my internet site, which he mentions in his material), he could not have failed to notice these articles of mine[12].

***

Mr. Morton then recalled Prakash Kumar, whom he calls Guru Ji, accusing me of an intense campaign to harass a poor Hindu. In fact, the story is as follows: Prakash Kumar –who was dismissed from a medical degree course settled in the Moscow province, where he created his own pseudo-Hindu cult. Yes, Mr. Morton – exactly that. Pseudo-Hindu, because Prakash has no parampara (transmission from other gurus), and he declares himself among other things, to be the reincarnation of St. Sergius of Radonezh, as along with several other Orthodox saints. I don't know if Mr. Morton has a religious education, but I hope he can guess that such "Hinduism" is, to put it mildly, a little unusual. About six years ago, several former followers of Mr. Prakash, who were significantly abused by him,[13] opened a topic on our Forum (not on the website), where they shared their experience of being in the cult. When Prakash found out about this, instead of trying to resolve the issue with the people who alleged abuse and loss of funds, negotiate, compensate for the damage, or at least apologize, he sued me, demanding 20 million rubles for damage to his reputation. On our Forum there are thousands of pages and, unfortunately, before receiving the statement of claim, I had not read the allegations against Prakash and knew nothing about him. I now had to study this topic, and at the same time I told the journalists about the cult that sued me. The court ruled against Prakash, but as a result of the trial and the subsequent media coverage, the police took an interest in him. As far as I know from public sources, he is suspected of serious financial improprieties. So, if Prakash is looking for someone to blame for the authorities' interest in him, I would recommend that he look in a mirror. He drew the attention to himself, and now he may be wishing he had let sleeping dogs lie.

As to an "intense campaign of harassment", then Prakash himself is engaged in such a campaign against me. This includes paid articles in the media (Russian and foreign) slandering me, jointly with events organized by Scientologists on the sidelines of conferences in the UN building in Geneva (dedicated to my humble person), demonstrations in India which included the public burning of my effigy, and articles like this written by Mr. Morton, with so many lies about me and my activities that it makes one suspect a financial interest. To my knowledge, Prakash has paid handsomely those he has engaged in an "intense campaign of harassment" directed against me. Maybe he made a donation to USCIRF as well? Or did he personally pay a humble fee to Jason Morton?

I will not respond to Mr. Morton's other accusations, both concerning FECRIS and those in which he talks about other post-Soviet countries and their legislation. I think they can answer for themselves if they see fit.

***

In conclusion, it can be noted that Morton (and the USCIRF along with him) obviously prefers not to notice the real violations of human rights that occur in "NRMs", as well as categorically denying states the right to regulate their own activities, and denies traditional religious organizations the right to criticize them (an aspect of free speech).  There is a deafening silence in all USCIRF publications about blatant violations of the rights of believers in the United States. This is especially true for members of totalitarian cults, and those people who manage to leave them. They are left with nothing and do not have a real opportunity to sue rich and influential organizations. Has the USCIRF or any other similar body ever helped such people? The question is rhetorical. There was no political order for this. And, as we all know, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Morton's recommendations to silence me and other counter-cult activists, as well as to prohibit a number of public and religious organizations and silence their freedom of speech (and factual reporting) on the issue of cults, constitute a real "witch hunt". In other words, according to Morton and his organization, any "new religious movement" can do whatever it wants, but if anyone else - whether it's me, a counter-cult NGO or a traditional religious organization - expresses a critical opinion about the creed or affairs of an "NRM", it becomes a criminal act in itself. And from here – “a very short leap” to the Stalinist purges.

Strangely enough, organizations that were initially created to protect persecuted Christians in different parts of the world (and that have had very little success in this task) quickly became cult lobbying structures that interfere in the internal affairs of countries where there is no persecution of the faith, and even require public condemnation and dismissal from their positions of people[14] who hold different opinions to their own.

We see that George Orwell's words remain as true as ever:

"…men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves.

“War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength”.

Isn't that right, Mr. Morton?

                                                                                                             

[1] https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2020%20Anti-Cult%20Update%20-%20Religious%20Regulation%20in%20Russia.pdf

[2] The USCIRF organization positions itself as an independent, bipartisan government structure founded by the US Congress to constantly monitor the observance of religious freedom in other countries, and its employees prepare an annual report with recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and Congress. USCIRF leaders are appointed by the President of the United States and approved by congressional leaders.

[3] https://bitterwinter.org/uscirf-exposes-who-support-ccp-campaigns/

[4] A website and magazine with very abundant funding from unknown sources, created specifically for the aggressive PR campaign of the Chinese destructive cults "Church of Almighty God" and "Falun Gong".

[5] I will not refute hardened cult apologist Introvigne: too much honor for him. It is enough to say about the quality of his text that he writes about my “many trips to Hong Kong” as about an established fact, while I have never been to that city, and also he falsely attributes to me papers which I supposedly delivered in China.

[6] For all my “official positions”, see below.

[7] The exception is three years (out of 27 years of the Center's existence) when we received small presidential grants for educational programs, which we won along with other NGOs. By the way, all these three years, I am sure, the sector-defense organization "Slavic Center of Law and Justice" (an affiliate organization of the "American Center of Law and Justice"), well-known to Mr. Morton and the entire USCIRF, received the same, or even much larger grants from the same source.

[8] For participating in the hippie movement.

[9] In 2014 the Council was re-constituted and I am now its Vice-Chairman.

[10] If it is found that the activities of a registered religious organization do not comply with its stated Charter, the Ministry of justice may call a Council and ask it to conduct a second examination. However, for the 11 years of existence of the Council, it has never met for this reason.

[11] http://www.sektoved.ru/news.php?art_id=719

[12] Here are some of them: https://iriney.ru/dolgozhiteli/«svideteli-iegovyi»/novosti-o-svidetelyax-iegovyi/novosti-o-«svidetelyax-iegovyi»-za-2019-g/kommentarij-a.-l.-dvorkina-k-saratovskim-prigovoram-«svidetelej-iegovyi».html ; https://iriney.ru/dolgozhiteli/«svideteli-iegovyi»/novosti-o-svidetelyax-iegovyi/novosti-o-«svidetelyax-iegovyi»-za-2018-god/kommentarij-k-prigovoru-dennisa-kristensena.html ;https://iriney.ru/dolgozhiteli/«svideteli-iegovyi»/novosti-o-svidetelyax-iegovyi/novosti-o-«svidetelyax-iegovyi»-za-2020-g/kommentarij-a.-l.-dvorkina-po-povodu-osvobozhdeniya-dennisa-kristensena.html .

[13] They spoke of large-scale financial extortions, physical and sexual exploitation, harassment, beatings, and many other abuses and human rights violations in the Prakash sect.

[14] Although, the demand to dismiss me from my official positions is ridiculous, because, as I wrote above, I have never held any official position.

Alexander Dvorkin

29.07.2020 г.

Russian version: (https://iriney.ru/main/polemika/o-«ministerstve-pravdyi»-amerikanskix-sektozashhitnikov-ili-otvet-g-nu-mortonu.html).

IRINEY.RU

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