Missionaries and Deprogramming

While the right to proselytize in our society is protected by constitutional guarantees of religious liberty, we are concerned, nonetheless, by the current intensification of missionary activity directed toward Jews in many parts of this country. Those guarantees neither legitimize nor justify the tactics that some missionary groups and cults use when directing their efforts toward Jews: coercion, misrepresentation of the meaning of religious symbols, and abuse of religious rites and practices. This deception and manipulation often violate the civil rights of those members who are its victims. Membership in some cults is frequently sustained by tactics of physical and emotional coercion that represent a violation of civil liberties, specifically freedom of choice and freedom of religion.

We are also concerned with the false assertion that it is possible for Jews, without leaving Judaism, to accept the basic principle of Christianity and/or cults that Jesus or any designated leader of a cult is the messiah. Judaism rejects the theological belief that Jesus was the Christ-the messiah. Since one cannot be a Christian without subscribing to that notion in some form, it follows that one cannot be both a Christian and a believing Jew at the same time. Judaism further rejects any suggestion that one is "fulfilled" as a Jew by becoming a believer in or follower of Jesus or any designated leader of a cult. To teach otherwise is to teach false doctrine, to misrepresent Jewish belief, and to distort Jewish teaching. Such misrepresentations and abuses are offensive. They should be exposed and vigorously opposed. We commend the efforts of those in the Christian community who have demonstrated their sensitivity to this problem by refusing to endorse or cooperate with "missions to the Jews" that engage in these practices. They realize, as do we, that the danger of these groups is not so much that they will convert Jews as that such approaches stigmatize all Christianity and jeopardize legitimate interreligious communication and efforts.

We further oppose the practice of those cults that use deceit, fear, satanism, and the distortion of our Bible in their attempt to lure youngsters from their family and their faith. We find particularly abhorrent the assertion that the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust were paying indemnity for having killed Jesus. Such "teachings" are outrageous and intolerable. We commend those Jews and Christians who have brought to public attention the dangers and deceits in such groups.

We affirm the right of the usage of "legal" deprogramming efforts. We fully identify with the motivation of and empathize with Jewish families who have lost a child to a missionary movement or to a cult. But we cannot affirm the right of the usage of "illegal" deprogramming efforts that use "illegal" coercive measures even when they are designed to return an offspring to the family faith. The Book of Proverbs 22:6 teaches "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it." It is an admonition worth our serious effort.

We recommend that our movement:

  1. Sponsor education programs for youth and adults on comparative religion with specific attention to the historical period at the beginning of the Common Era and to the development of such religious ideas as the meaning of the Messiah and messianism in Judaism, which distinguish Judaism from Christianity;
  2. Develop programs and materials that would enable Jews to respond to missionary pressures.
  3. Disseminate information to our youth and adults concerning the approaches used by missionary and cult groups and suggest techniques to deal with them;
  4. Oppose rescue efforts that illegally use force, violence, or restraint;
  5. Call upon the proper agencies of government to investigate alleged violations of civil liberties and the rights of victims of religious cults;
  6. Consult with and take advantage of the resources of the UAHC's Department of Interreligious Affairs;
  7. Work locally and nationally with others both in the Jewish and Christian communities who are concerned with missions to the Jews and with the implications of these efforts on Christian beliefs and practices and on interreligious relations in this country; and
  8. Work locally and nationally with individuals and groups concerned with the activities of cults; join in an effort to remove the influence of such groups from within our communities.