What does the word “cult” mean? Many people have labeled the FLDS a cult, and used it as justification for the State of Texas in taking the children away. Many other Christian religions have been labeled “cults,” perhaps the most ironic is various Evangelicals labeling Catholics as a cult. However, I am not sure if they actually know what the word means. I think it is used merely as a religious slur, just like “nig***” is used as a racial slur. Thus, the real definition of “cult” is irrelevant, as those who spew it forth are intentionally spreading hate speech.
I think cult could be used accurately in political and business circles. Perhaps it could be said that today Barack Obama and Warren Buffet have cults. This is not a denigration or judgment of either person, merely an observation that their followers are extremely loyal. In entertainment, it was often said that the Beatles had a cult following, and perhaps still have one today. Ideally, one could use the term “cult” in the religious sense. However, in the religious sense it has been used exclusively as a slur and a denigration. It is not meant to describe a religion but to persecute it, qualifying the use of cult as intentional hate speech.
If we want to move beyond religious hate speech, I think it would be very hard to accurately describe the FLDS as a cult, or Mormon Polygamists in general as cults. Their original leadership was by council, not by single leader, which certainly is not a form of cult leadership by any definition. The various groups have had multiple leaders pass away, and new leaders step up in their place. If these were truly cults, the groups would have ceased after the departure of the leader. Third, the principle they have taught, that of plural marriage, has survived as an intentional spiritual practice despite intense persecution, predates the formation of these groups by thousands of years, is practiced by other religions, and is legal in many nations. Fourth, their theology clearly indicates they worship God, not man.
It has been disturbing to see politicians and members of the media derogatorily labeling the FLDS as a “cult,” thus spreading hate speech. Supposedly, these people are educated, and should know the public deserves better than to have hate speech forced upon us. Their public bigotry is disturbing, but perhaps even more disturbing is that they have not been held accountable for such speech. I encourage you to oppose such bigotry, and to combat the entrance of religious slurs into what should be logical and reasoned conversations.