Serial 676

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 676 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978STATE303865_d.html.]

UNCLASSIFIED
PAGE 01
STATE 303865
ORIGIN ARA-15
INFO OCT-01 EUR-12 ISO-00 SCS-06 DODE-00 CA-01 CIAE-00
INR-10 NSAE-00 SS-15 NSCE-00 SSO-00 ICAE-00
INRE-00 H-02 L-03 PA-02 TRSE-00 MCT-02 SY-05
USSS-00 AID-05 /079 R
DRAFTED BY ARA:GBROWN:PGA
APPROVED BY ARA:SGIBSON
S/S-O:JTHYDEN
——————038176 010430Z /14

O 010202Z DEC 78
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY PANAMA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY CARACAS IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO IMMEDIATE
FBI WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0047
JUSTICE IMMEDIATE
CINCSOUTHCOM QUARRY HTS CZ IMMEDIATE
CINCMAC SCOTT AFB ILL IMMEDIATE
US REDCOM/RCJ2 MACDILL AFB FLA IMMEDIATE
USCINCRED FT MCPHERSON GA IMMEDIATE
CRD 82ND AIRBORNE CORPS FT BRAGG NC IMMEDIATE
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE IMMEDIATE ATTN J-2
UNCLAS STATE 303865
E.O. 11652: N/A
TAGS: CASC, GY
SUBJECT: PRESS BRIEFING

There were no questions on Guyana at the department’s noon press briefing, Thursday, November 30.

At the president’s press conference, November 30, only one question on Guyana was asked. Following is text:

Q: Does the nature of that cult say anything about America and secondly what can the government do to avoid future Jonestowns?

A: Well I obviously don’t think that the Jonestown cult was typical in any way of America. I think these were people who became obsessed with a particular leader’s philosophy, they were obviously misled, a tragedy resulted, it did not take place in our own country. In retrospect all of us can deplore what did occur. It’s unconstitutional for the government of our country to investigate or to issue laws against any group no matter how much they might depart from normal custom which is based on religious belief. The only exception is when there is some substantive allegation that the activities of those religious groups directly violate a federal law. I might point out that Congressman Ryan and other congressmen did go to the Justice Department several weeks or months ago to go into the so-called brainwashing aspects of a few religious cults around the country. My understanding is that the so-called people’s temple was not one of those thought by them at that time to be indulging in brainwashing. It was a recent, late development that no one so far as I know was able to anticipate or to assess adequately so I don’t think that we ought to have an over reaction because of the Jonestown tragedy by injecting the government into trying to control peoples’ religious beliefs; and I believe that we also don’t need to deplore on a nationwide basis the fact that the Jonestown cult, so called, was typical of America, because it is not. End text

Vance [Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State]

UNCLASSIFIED

Originally posted on April 14th, 2019.

Last modified on July 1st, 2022.
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