Federal Office on Sect Issues
Information work by the State
The information work carried out by state bodies by no means intervenes in the freedom of conscience and opinion or the religious freedom of the individual. The information offered must refer to the system and the structures of a so-called sect and its effects on the individual or group. The task is to provide more diverse information as a balance to the often one-sided portrayals given by some groups themselves. The goal must be to supply the individual with a broad basis for deciding whether to join; the decision itself has to remain the responsibility of the individual. Information on sects from state institutions below the threshold of violation of the law is possible when:
- it points out the existence of a threat to mental or physical health
- it serves to protect the integrity of family life
- it points towards extreme financial entanglement
- it thus ensures the free entry into and leaving of the group and particularly
- when the issue of the well-being of children and young people is involved, who enjoy a particular level of protection in our legal system.
Federal Office of Sect Issues
The “Federal Act on the Establishment of a Documentation and Information Office of Sect Issues”, Federal Law Gazette Nr. 150/ 1998, [Bundesgesetz über die Einrichtung einer Informations- und Dokumentationsstelle zu Sektenfragen - Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen, Bundesgesetzblatt Nr. 150/98] established the Federal Office of Sect Issues as of 1 September 1998 as an independent institution under public law.
The task of the Federal Office is to document and provide information on dangers which can stem from "sects" or activities which are similar to sects, provided that there is a reason for suspecting their existence and provided that these dangers affect goods or interests which are worthy of special protection.
Within this framework, the federal office has the right to collect information, evaluate it and pass it on, to counsel those affected, to cooperate with other bodies at home and abroad and to develop, coordinate and lead research projects. The data required for this work is obtained from sources which are open to the public or from information provided voluntarily.
When carrying out its work, particular emphasis is given to basic freedoms and human rights including the freedoms of belief, religion and conscience. In addition, great importance is attached to strict adherence to the law on data protection. The obligation to maintain objectivity and provide truthful information is a basic element of its activities. The Federal Office is a religiously independent institution which does not follow government directives. It is subject to the rights of supervision set out in the federal act, which are exercised by the responsible minister (currently the Federal Minister for Women, Families and Youth).