Falsifying statistics to scaremonger

The scaremongering propaganda campaigns
of “anti-cult” groups

Is it correct to base on the numbers given by the associations that oppose non-traditional religious movements to judge their actions without any other evidences? Is it correct that the Government listens to these campaigns and uses their data to violate civil rights sanctioned by constitution? Is the confidence, which is attributed to them, also requiring use of public money, well placed?

The mediatic and propagandistic activities of the “anti-cults” groups seem to culminate and find their biggest expression in the convention engaged in Rome the 12th of December 2007 at the European University, otherwise known as Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum

Since the beginning, the sensational way by which the convention was advertised, seems very emblematic; here is an example in this article shown in Internet on “Sabaudia In”.

Sabaudia in

The image of the hooded people on a dark background has the clear purpose to give the idea of a dangerous atmosphere, a sensation of risk, a perception of insecurity.

Within a so-prestigious and almost sacred frame, even the maximum officiality of Italian Republic has expressed, since amongst the speakers, present in addition to other important representatives of GRIS and of Association “Pope Giovanni XXIII community”, there were even the then senate vice president MP MARIO BACCINI, doctor GIOVANNI SALVI (general substitute prosecutor of Supreme Court of Cassation) ), FRANCESCO GRATTERI (director  of D.A.C. – Central Anticrime Direction of State Police), TIZIANA TERRIBILE (officer of Central Operative Service of Internal Minister) and the lieutenant of the police ENZO MOLINARO.

Even if the infamous Report of Internal Minister on “Religious cults and new magic movements in Italy” of February 1998", has been discredited and criticized since years, and itself being the result of a faked scaremongering fueled by the media that were paying attention to those so named anti-cults groups, the purpose of the convention was, another time, the alleged “cults alarm” and the approach was completely in line with the ministerial report.

Il già citato Dottor FRANCESCO GRATTERI, infatti è un alto dirigente del Dipartimento di Pubblica Sicurezza del Ministero dell'Interno, lo stesso dipartimento che ha prodotto il Rapporto e che dirige la S.A.S. (“Squadra Anti-Sette”) di cui Don Bonaiuto e colleghi son referenti.

The declared purpose of the convention was to analyze the “cults phenomenon” from a safety and minors safeguard point of view, and to evaluate the judicial instruments for contrast. Since the beginning of the works, the advancement of other religious realities, since the beginning classified as “cults”, was considered exclusively a negative fact, ascribed to the excessive rationalization that Catholics did of God, going far as a consequence from the Catholic Church itself, and it has so proposed a return to predication and a revolution of the Church liturgy more enchanting and with more answers.

The speech of GIOVANNI PAOLO RAMONDA (laic sexologist lately elected president of Association “Pope Giovanni XXIII Community”) has been since the beginning channeled his speech into the propagandistic and generalist line forwarded by the “anticults groups”: as he said, to join a “cults” means to join a mad people world, people enslaved, manipulated and in a certain way alienated. It’s his opinion (but no real statistic data has been given about) that there are lots of young people in “cults” and that in Turin 44% of teenagers live a life made of drugs, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, etc.

Under this aspect, the wanted assimilation of the use of drugs (behavior universally recognized and scientifically turned out as dangerous for the person) to the belonging to a movement arbitrarily catalogued as “cult”, is source of wonder.

Dr. FRANCESCO GRATTERI, on the other hand, hinted at SAS (the “Anti-cult Squad”), saying that “the institution of the latter was possible thanks to a memorandum of understanding written just with the Association Pope Giovanni XXIII Community” (exactly!) and the institution of a toll-free number thanks to which there have been sues to members that were guilty of crimes.

Later in the convention, Drs. TIZIANA TERRIBILE did a more detailed description of SAS and, as first thing starting speaking, thanked Don ALDO BUONAIUTO defining him a referenec point for the State Police on the matter of “cults problem”.

Mentioning the already cited Report of Internal Minister on “Religious cults and new magic movements in Italy” of 1998, Drs. Terribile specified that those data are not any more of today. I.e., she considered the Report and his general posting correct, but she thought that the statistical data were not up to date. In fact, during the convention it has been presented the statistics of the anti-cults group “Toll-free number against Occult Cults “ employed by the Association “Pope Giovanni XXIII Community”, directed by the same Don Buonaiuto.

We won’t get into the details of the various speeches done by the various speakers since, without exceptions, they talked about the need to face an emergency: that one of “cults”, of which they took the existence for granted.

The statistics presented by Don Buonaiuto, as it seems, were supposed to represent the up to date information on “cults danger”, that provided for the fact that the data of the ministerial report of 1998 weren’t any more up to date. Those statistics were referred to the first five years of activity of the “Toll-free number against Occult cults” of Association “Pope Giovanni XXIII Community”. Let’s examine some excerpts of them.

Numero verde antisette occulte

“8423 calls received at the Toll-free Number”
“1853 cases covered, at times accompanied and followed by the Police”

Since the beginning, a critic observer would note an incongruity, that is the total of the “cases covered, at times accompanied by the Police”, obtained getting the sum of the partials divided for 99 cities reported in the document, should be not 1,853 but 1,268.

This number, also, doesn’t fit with the totals obtained summing the “warnings by region” and “by macro-area”, that instead between them are right and sum up to 1,290 cases.segnalazioni-macroaree

We wonder with what seriousness and attention those statistics about presumed “victims of cults” have been compiled? It should be about people with difficulties that turn to this “Toll-free number against Occult Cults” to receive help. What is the grade of competence of these “experts” that mistake simple additions increasing hundreds of “cases” that ask them assistance? The total of “cases” that they promote during an eminent national convention differs from the real sum of one third more.

In any way, passing over what can be classified a mistake by hypothesis, there’s still the fact that those statistics show a totally new and almost alarming problem, since they demonstrate the complete non-existence of the motivations held in support of the mediatic campaign of 20 years against the “cults”.

Considering valid the total of “1853 cases treated” , it is anyway a 370 cases year, scattered into 99 Italian towns.

In some towns as Asti, Benevento, Nuoro, Oristano, the association declares just one case “treated” in 5 years, while in a lot of other provinces just 2 or 3 cases for year. Cities of millions of people like Rome and Milan had , in 5 years, 24 and 22 cases “treated” for year.


Eventually, such 1,853 “treated cases” are about 0.003% of Italian population.

Using the official data from Health Minister, domestic accidents where one breaks a leg stumbling into a doormat or falling from stairs are more dangerous to public health.

In essence, based on the statistics of those same “anti-cults groups”, no cults emergency exist at all, because there’s no scientific or really licensed demonstration of the so named “mental manipulation”!

Notwithstanding this, on the basis of the works of the “anti-cult groups”, the Internal Minister, well represented in this convention, considered necessary to constitute the SAS (“Anti-cult Squad”) deploying police personnel in the headquarters along with psychologists, scientific police experts, operators for violent crimes and agents of mobile teams made available from the local police stations.

Another question rises spontaneously, if we read with critical sense the statistics of “anti cults front” spread by the Association “Pope Giovanni XXIII community” and it’s this: could be that those “treated cases” correspond simply to the phone calls received by the toll-free number? Indeed, we should understand how, at page 2 of the booklet that they spread, the totals related to the  “macro-areas” are identified as “warnings” while the same totals, divided by regions, are called “cases”. A licit doubt arises, that those statistics are simply the total of the phone calls received and may be just a simple conversation more or less intensive.

There’s still the fact that, on the base of those statistics, some parliament members proposed law bills for the reactivation of the manipulation violation (otherwise called “mental manipulation”) or to establish inquiry commissions or start inquiries. There have been organized dozens of conventions, often paid by public authorities, so as hundreds of press articles scaremongering inspired by those data. Books from apostates or alleged experts are published. Always and only on the base of an alleged “cults alarm”.

It doesn’t seem a case that some of the parliament members that presented or supported those law bills are in contact with anti cults groups listed before.

Yet an impartial analysis of a statistical report could even not stop at this point. That’s why, with critical sense, we tried to suppose fundamental errors in pessimistic sense. For example, let’s try to multiply for 10 the number of treated cases, getting to 18530 instead of 1853 (as cited by Don Buonaiuto). It’s still a 0.03% of national population, very far from something that can qualify as social emergency, national plague, epidemic and else.

At the end, there’s an aspect of undeterminedness that regards the initial number, the “8423 calls received by the toll-free number”: we can’t know if between those there are even the phone calls received from other “anti-cults groups”. And we can’t even know if in them there are the phone calls from relatives that don’t bear the religious choice of a relative that abandoned the “family” religion to join the Soka Gakkai or the Adventists or to the Witnesses of Geova, or even Scientology, or the Cammino Neocatecumenale or the Hare Krisna.

As we see a great quantity of propagandistic material (specially in internet) that hurls abuse against catholic religion and against various little religious movements with Christian-catholic inspiration or matrix (and some of the “anti-cults groups” seem certainly to have in the gunsight even those), we can’t even know with certainty if the numbers given by the Association “Pope Giovanni XXIII Community” gather or not the phone calls on topic, or if those contacts have been ignored.

Another question that one can ask – but that can exceed in a next problem and, if engaged, it would open a wide range of questions consequent – is when and based on which parameter it is established or it was established that a “case” must be or not “treated” and who is called to establish it? Who does evaluate if this not better specified “treatment”, violates or not a fundamental human right universally recognized as such, as the free will and free choice of a person to qualify as loyal of a religious movement?

Going to the opposite side of the criteria of evaluation of the problem, one should (and probably we should) investigate more deeply to determine if those statistical data have been distorted or in any way modified – so to tell – in a hyperbolic way, even if we can talk about hyperbolic since the very low quantity in relation to the base-set (Italian population).

In this viewpoint, it’s worth of note that , in some provinces where there have been noted “treated cases”, the number of cases result higher than that of other provinces, in the 5 years taken into account. Those provinces are just the ones where there are the “anti-cults groups” or their activists, for example Bari (“CeSAP” with Lorita Tinelli), Bologna (headquarters of “GRIS” with Giuseppe Ferrari), Cagliari (“Telefono Antiplagio” or “Anti-mental-manipulation Telephone” with Giovanni Panunzio, “CARIS”, branch of “GRIS”, managed by Mons. Ottavio Utzeri), Grosseto (“ARIS Toscana” with Maria Pia Gardini), Milano (ambrosian Headquarters of “GRIS” with Roberta Grillo), Novara (“SOS Anti-mental-manipulation” with Giovanni Ristuccia), Roma (roman headquarters of “GRIS”), Rimini (“FAVIS” with Maurizio Alessandrini, local Headquarters of “GRIS” with Adolfo Morganti, and the same Association “Pope Giovanni XXIII Community” with don Aldo Bonaiuto), Torino (headquarters “GRIS” of near Saluzzo, with Laura Rossi), Treviso (“ARIS Veneto” with Milena Bolgan, e local headquarters of “GRIS” with Giuseppe Bisetto), Verona (local headquarters of “GRIS” with Antonio Fasol and Beatrice Marazzi):


Shouldn’t be so illogical to think that for the most part of those warnings, that are anyway so few to talk about “cults emergency”, have been guided to the toll-free number by the same “anti-cults groups” or their activists.

A so deep analysis is what one should expect not just in consideration of the officiality of the data and of the continuous involvement of public offices, but even because it is about constitutional freedoms and human rights sacred and secured. Anyway , based on the exam done up to now, we can say that there’s not a so deep and meticulous control.

And after if one would want to object that even those statistics are dated, one can observe the fact that don Buonaiuto and his association, and even Maurizio Alessandrini with FAVIS, are today the principal referents of SAS in first line on the propaganda for the reactivation of the violation of mental manipulation.

So, why did they published those statistics? Maybe an excusatio non petita (non-required excuse)?

22 may 2012