Increasing Religious intolerance in Europe

 

 

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  1. Rising religious discrimination in Europe

  2. Definition of religious discrimination and the subcategory
    "sectophobia"

  3. Documentation of governmental reports on sects
  4. Documentation of French anti-sect law
  5. The European network of anti-religious groups and their role in the French anti-religious law going European
  6. FECRIS view upon religious freedom and the risk for a Europe of "thought-police" with FECRIS-groups as the masters
  7. Documentation of the role of European anti-religious groups in creation of discrimination, restriction of liberty and violence from anti-religious groups
  8. Objective sources of information and dialog
  9. The need for investigation of religious discrimination in Europe
     

1. A rising religious discrimination in Europe

Several human rights bodies have reported a rise in religious intolerance in Europe the last ten years. Europe is very sensitive towards religious discrimination, due to the history of this continent and due to the fact that Europe is by many considered an

opinion leader in the field of human rights in the world. Legislation and government actions towards religious minorities in Europe, therefore causes repercussions all over the world. On the other hand there is also a rising awareness and protest about the discrimination against minority groups that is arising. Here is an excerpt from a hearing in CSCE (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe), from 5 years ago.

THE STATUS OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FOR

MINORITY FAITHS IN EUROPE AND THE OSCE

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 1997

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Washington, DC.

"The focus of today's hearing on the status of religious liberty for minority faiths in Europe and the OSCE is not to testify of documented widespread instances of torture and persecution. Instead, it is to testify to the reality of disturbing undercurrents of more subtle, but growing, discrimination and harassment of minority religious believers. In a number of European nations, countries in which the seeds of democracy sprouted, government officials seem to be working to restrict freedom of conscience and free speech in much of their government's actions. The Parliaments of France, Germany and Belgium have established ``Sect Commissions'' to investigate ``dangerous'' cults. In Belgium, the Sect Commission produced a list of 172 dangerous cults including charismatic, evangelical, Catholic, and Protestant groups. I am at a loss to explain how a charismatic evangelical church could be labeled dangerous'. "

The focus of this data collection is based on the above prediction of growing religious discrimination in Europe. It was written

already 5 years ago, and now the "subtle" discrimination has grown to laws that can put you in prison for having a "wrong" religious belief. People discriminating religious minorities have now become government advisers and so called "sect-filters" are used to stop people of a "wrong" belief to get jobs. These are all examples of the escalating discrimination. While on the surface there seems to be little to worry about, there is a great deal going on in reality under the surface, which is pulling away the carpet of human rights right under the feet of Europe. 

This data collection will reveal some of the so far uncovered growing transgressions against human rights. It will also cover some recent objective studies done on the subject, since a growing number of governments and non-governmental organizations are trying to remedy the growing intolerance. For many years there has been a huge disgust or even fear of looking into this subject totally objectively. Words such as "sect" and "cult" have successfully been used to scare people to look the other way. But now the ground is getting to bumpy to walk on for anyone. The label "sect member" is today applicable for virtually anyone who is disliked, since there is no scientific definition of the word, and thus the dystopia of Orwellian thought police can be said to happen right in front of our eyes. It is time to look under the carpet. 

2. Definition of religious discrimination and the subcategory sectophobia

"The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is probably the most precious

of all human rights, and the imperative need today is to make it a reality for

every single individual regardless of the religion or belief he professes,

regardless of his status, and regardless of his condition in life". 

Arcot Krishnaswami - Special rapporteur for UN of the Sub-commission

on prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities 

Religious freedom is protected by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights that says "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion". Virtually every democratic country within Europe has implemented Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights into their national law.

Any spiritual philosophy, political ideology, economic theory, any group or individual, any public speaker, writer or artist is due to persecution, should this freedom be taken away from the people of a society.

Actually also ethnic and racial minorities are at risk if this freedom should be taken away from them. A law forbidding Islamic or Jewish groups only because of their belief for instance would put a lot of people under risk, since they are born into Islam or Judaism, thus being both an ethnic minority and a religious minority. There are several examples of this both in Europe and in the World. Thus besides protecting religious freedom in article 13 of the Amsterdam treaty, The European Union also recognize, that religious discrimination and racism are tightly connected.

In a proposal for a "Council framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia", from the Council of the European Union (2001/0270), the following definitions were used: "racism and xenophobia: shall mean the belief in race, color, descent, religion or belief, national or ethnic origin as a factor determining aversion to individuals or groups" 

Several European countries also categorize religious discrimination as racism. The following is taken from the book "The EU and Human Rights" from the chapter by Conor A. Gearty:  

"French legislation defines racism as a manifestation 'of discrimination, hate or violence in regard to a person or a group of persons by reason of their origin or their belonging or not belonging to a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion". "The German Constitutional guarantee of equality before the law declares inter alia that 'no one may be disadvantaged or favored because of his…race, language, homeland or origin, faith, or religious or political opinions', and it is generally accepted that the term 'race' here must be understood broadly to prevent discrimination against a wide category of potentially oppressed minorities. In the same country's criminal code, 'racial hatred' is defined as hatred against 'a national, racial, religious or ethnically distinct group". 

The Council of Europe, that was founded in 1949 to uphold democracy, unity and human rights in Europe, and has the Foreign ministers of the 44 member states as deciding entity, found in 1999 the necessity to remind and underline religious freedom.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe wrote the following in 1999 as a reply to recommendations of the Parliamentary assembly members (Rec. 1396 (1999)):

"Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is of vital importance". "Religious pluralism is an inherent feature of the notion of a democratic society and thus a key reference for determining whether or not a restriction on religious freedom is acceptable under paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the Convention"

It was not a coincidence that Council of Europe found it necessary to remind of these fundamental freedoms 50 years after they were agreed upon, since a new wave of religious intolerance had emerged upon Europe from the so called anti-cultists.

This data collection is on a sub-category of religious discrimination, which could be designated sectophobia. Although international bodies and religious scholars do not recognize the distinction between religion and sect, this is very often the entrance point of discrimination.

 Massimo Introvigne writes in an article for the Danish Council for Ethnic Equality:

"Since religious freedom in Western Europe is considered an asset and enjoys constitutional protection (also by international treaties and declarations), the only way you can discriminate a religious minority, is to claim that the minority in question is not religious at all".

 The United Nations has been very clear on this point stating that religious discrimination based on stigmatizing religious minorities as sects is unacceptable. In 1996 the increasing  climate of religious intolerance, prompted them to state the following (E/CN.4/1997/91) on discrimination against religious minorities:

The term "sect" seems to have a pejorative connotation. A sect is considered to be different from a religion, and thus not entitled to the same protection. This kind of approach is indicative of a propensity to lump things together, to discriminate and to exclude, which is hard to justify and harder still to excuse, so injurious is it to religious freedom"

 The Council of Europe sent out two motions for investigation of religious discrimination in France (Doc 8860 and Doc 9064), that was signed by several prominent members of the Council of Europe. They found reason to remind the Council of Europe in Doc 8860 on this relevant point regarding the discrimination of citizens of Europe, due to their religious belief: „The word „sect" has taken on an extremely pejorative connotation. In the eyes of the  public, it stigmatizes movements whose activities are dangerous either for their members or for society. Today, this world contains dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of larger or smaller groups, with various beliefs and observances, which are not necessarily dangerous or prejudicial to freedom".

There has even been a court decision from the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, that made a clear statement on governments stigmatizing religious minorities. In the case of Manoussakis and others v. Greece (59/1995/565/651) it states: "The right to  freedom of religion as guaranteed under the convention excludes any discretion on the the part of the state to determine whether religious beliefs or the means to express such beliefs are legitimate".

 But none of this seems to have mattered to France.

3. Religions Targeted by a French Parliamentary Report: 

In 1995, a number of MPs comprising a French parliamentary commission assembled a list of those groups it considered "sects." The Commission has been severely criticized for ignoring expert scholarship and relying on information from militant anti-religious groups. There are 172 groups on the list. Some of the most notable and well-known of the groups listed are: 

Nimes Theological Institute (Baptist Christian)

Pentecostal and Evangelical Christian churches, including the Pentecostal Evangelical

Church of Besançon and the Universal Church of God.

Jehovah's Witnesses.

Soka Gokkai (a Buddhist group)

Paris Dharma Sah (Buddhist)

Sri Chinmoy (a major new Eastern religion)

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Hindu group also known as "Hare

Krishna")

Culture Office of Cluny (Catholic religious retreat)

Order of Invitation to Intense Life (Catholic group)

Fraternity of Notre Dame (Catholic order of nuns)

Church of Scientology

The Rosicrucians (old Christian movement oriented around mysticism and healing). 

This list of "dangerous sects" include such large and established movements as the Baptists. At the time of the report this was  the religion of the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. While baptism might be a major religion in USA, they are a minority in France. On the list can also be found Hindus and Buddhists, and while enlisting them as sects in Eastern countries would be ridiculous, in France where they are just a minority, they are listed as a sect. This clearly shows how unscientific the list is, and one could neglect it, if it wasn't for the fact that the list has been used as a serious documentation by the authorities in France and Belgium and they have taken actions based on this. 

In 1996 a National Assembly report evolved out of this, as well as a follow up 1999 parliamentary report, labeling 173 groups as "sects" (a more precise English translation of the French language in this case would be "cults"), actions which contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance toward minority religions. A few of the groups on the list can be considered dangerous, but most are merely unfamiliar or unpopular. 

In the US State Departments Human Rights report of 1999, the development of religious discrimination in France is summarized as this: 

"The report was prepared without the benefit of full and complete hearings regarding the groups identified on the list. Groups were not told why they were placed on the list, and, because the document exists as a commission report to the National Assembly, there is no mechanism for changing or amending the list short of a new National Assembly commission inquiry and report. The ensuing publicity contributed to an atmosphere of  intolerance and bias against minority religions. Some religious groups reported that their members suffered increased intolerance after having been identified on the list.  According to the International Helsinki Federation, in its November 1998 report to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Human Dimension Implementation meeting in Warsaw, the identification of the 173 groups "resulted in media reports libeling minority religions, the circulation of rumors and false information,  and incitement of religious intolerance." 

The Commission's findings also led to calls for legislative action to restrict the activities of sects, which the Government rejected on grounds of religious freedom. Instead, the Justice Ministry issued a directive to all government entities to be vigilant against possible abuses by sects, and all government offices were instructed to monitor potentially abusive sect activities. In 1996 the Government created an inter-ministerial working group on sects (known as the Observatory on Sects) to analyze the phenomenon of sects and to develop proposals for dealing with them. The working group's final report (issued in the summer of 1996) proposed to: (1) give legal standing to organizations that oppose sects, thereby allowing them to initiate civil actions against sects; (2) modify the law requiring associations to divulge information regarding the sources and management of their finances related to their effort to obtain tax-exempt status; (3) limit the allocation of public campaign funds to groups and parties with 2 percent or more of the eligible voting population's support, thereby limiting public financial support for small fringe groups; (4) place a "resource"  representative in each prefecture to communicate information to local officials regarding  sects; (5) create a permanent commission at the European Union level to reinforce  international and European cooperation in controlling sect activities; and (6) implement measures to restrict group members' entry into professional training programs. 

In October 1998, the Government issued a new decree disbanding the Observatory on Sects and creating an "Inter-ministerial Mission to Battle Against Sects" (mission interministerielle de lutte contre les sectes). Although the decree instructs the commission to "analyze the phenomenon of sects," it does not define what is meant by the term "sect," or how sects differ from religions. The Inter-ministerial Mission also is  charged with serving as a coordinator of periodic inter-ministerial meetings, at which government officials are to exchange information and coordinate their actions against  sects. Some observers assert that this commission targets groups not on the basis of their presumed illegal activities but on the basis of their religious or other beliefs. 

In December 1998, the National Assembly created a new parliamentary commission to study the way that sects are financed. At the same time, the Ministry of Justice issued a circular urging state prosecutors to cooperate with the Inter-ministerial Mission in bringing actions against sects. In December 1998, the National Assembly debated and passed a proposal that would allow two specific anti-sect groups, both classified as "public utilities," to become parties to court actions involving sects. The proposal was expected to be debated and voted upon by the Senate in the fall of 1999. 

On June 18, 1999, the National Assembly released its second report on "sects," which addressed the finances of the groups. This report was based on questionnaires sent to groups listed as "sects" in the 1995 parliamentary report. The questionnaires, which were sent out in March 1999, requested detailed information about the finances of these groups, including donations, investments, financial activities, and other sources of income. The report focused on multinational groups, especially Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists. The stated basis of concern was that these groups may use excessive or dishonest means to obtain donations, which are then transferred out of the country and beyond the reach of French tax authorities. The report also raised questions about volunteers, who should be compensated under the law for providing free labor to "for-profit" organizations". 

The courts although did not recognize the prejudiced and unscientific parliamentary reports of 1996 and 1999 that caused this discrimination. September 26, 2002 you could read in Christianity Today: "Four French administrative courts have turned back local attempts this year to deny the legal rights of Jehovah's Witnesses. The prosecutors in all four cases relied on the 1996 Parliamentary Report on Cults, but the courts said the report has no legal status and officials cannot use the report for making decisions". 

There were several instances of discrimination right after the report was released, and an organization called CAP (Coordination of Associations and Persons for freedom of conscience), which is a coalition of different religious groups have gathered quite some documentation regarding this. There are reports of religious minorities being bombed, getting fired from their jobs, beaten up, mothers getting there babies taken away from them and several other instances of violence and terror against minority religions. Some of the testimonies are included later in this data collection pack. 

A similar governmental report was made in Belgium, with similar ramifications. Germany has also had a similar commission to fight sects, although the most public figure of the German anti-cult commission, Ursula Caberta, has lost her credibility due to her privately receiving $75.000 from an anti religious attacker, for this she received a fine. France is never the less the first nation in Western Europe that has successfully bypassed human rights and created a law where you can be imprisoned for the wrong belief. 

4. Documentation of French anti-sect law

The parliamentary reports in France led to a law that was described in the following way by The International Helsinki Federation Report for OSCE Meeting on Freedom of Religion and Belief 2000:

"While the State has the obligation to protect its citizens against abuses by members of any groups or associations, this should not be done through creating discrimination, which is the case with the proposed law. Such abuses should be dealt with under the Criminal Code and other legislation and not through adopting a separate law targeted at religious minority groups. Such a law would pave the way for potential abuses by authorities, amounting to violations of freedom of religion and association, including through the disbandment of peaceful religious minority groups". 

It further states: "According to Human Rights Without Frontiers, the law approved by the Senate means that the government will be entirely free to dissolve and ban any unpopular association and any association it does not approve of". "The bill was publicly opposed by the President of the French Protestant Federation and the President of the Conference of Bishops in France". "A number of religious denominations and civil rights associations have expressed concern about the draft anti-sect law. 

The discriminatory intent is articulated in the title to the bill to "Reinforce Prevention and Repression of Sectarian Groups", although the law's provisions are in terms that could be applied to any group. The bill gives a court the authority to dissolve any group if it or any of its leaders have been found guilty of more than one criminal offense. It provides for the dissolution of any related group, if a leader of that related group has at least one conviction against him. (As a note, the bill also allows the government to decide who is a "leader" of a group.) It also provides for fines and jail sentences if there is any attempt made to reestablish the dissolved group under another name or corporation. It also creates a new criminal offense: causing "a state of psychological or physical subjection resulting from serious and repeated pressures or from techniques which can alter [a person's] judgment" - a description that could be applied to virtually any organization engaged in matters of opinion or belief, for example advertising, stock brokerage and entertainment. 

5 years imprisonment and 5 mio. FF fine for "serious pressures exercised"

In Chapter V the following section was added to the law: "Sect. 223-15-2. - The fraudulent abuse of the state of ignorance or the condition of weakness of either a minor or a person whose specific vulnerability, due to his age, an illness, a disability, a physical or psychological deficiency or pregnancy, is apparent and known to its author, OR of a person in a state of psychological or physical subjection resulting from serious pressures exercised or repeated or from techniques likely to alter his judgment, leading this minor or this person to an act or an abstention which are seriously harmful to him, is sentenced to three years in prison and a 2,500,000 FF fine". 

"When the offense is committed by the legitimate or de facto leader of a group which is pursuing activities with the purpose or effect to create, maintain or exploit the psychological or physical subjection of persons taking part in these activities, the sentences are extended to five years in prison and a 5,000,000 FF fine".

(Underlining and capital letters is added) 

There is no further definition of the wording "psychological or physical subjection", making it open for broad interpretation. In theory any religious group or even any ideological group could be imprisoned and fined with this definition. 

Acts that could lead to dissolution: 

The list of predicated penal acts set forth in the law is extremely broad. Moreover, the law does not even require that the convictions involve offenses committed when acting for the religious organization. It would subject a religious group to possible dissolution if two perceived leaders were, for example, convicted of relatively minor offenses, including:

×  Publishing an edited recording made with the spoken words or image of a person without his/her consent

×  Invasion of privacy by procuring, recording or disclosing, without the author's consent, confidential remarks or remarks    made in private or by procuring, recording or disclosing the image of a personin a private place without his consent

×  Violating data protection laws by failing to destroy address files on ex-parishioners when they leave a religious group

×  Breaching a professional secret

×  Recommending vitamins or other natural health measures which could be characterized as illegal practice of medicine

 

The law provides for expedited dissolution by requiring proceedings at a designated time and date in the court of first instance, requiring a fifteen-day time limit for entering appeal, and establishing procedures for an expedited appeal.

 

An individual convicted under the law may also be denied civil and family rights  and may be denied the right to participate in professional or social activity.

 

If the "crime" of "causing a state of subjection"  takes place on the premises of a religious organization, it is subject to closure for five years or more. In addition, religious organizations themselves are liable under this provision.

 

These are extremely drastic penalties for a "crime" based upon subjective, unscientific and arbitrary standards vague enough to encompass any religious activity, including teaching and proselytizing. Any form of education and any form of persuasion can be defined as "techniques, which can alter judgment". Yet, individuals will be subject to imprisonment and religious associations themselves to conviction, closure for five years or more and then dissolution (if there is more than one conviction) if a judge determines that the religious beliefs or practices are somehow harmful to a person-even if the practices and beliefs are lawful and freely consented to by the individual.

 

The law was passed with a dozen MPs actually present at the vote. Never the less the sentiments were high at the voting, where quotes such as the following could be found;

 

In the French National Assembly on May 30, 2001, French MP Rudy Salles stated:

"A 'great night' [NB: grand soir - a term that conveys a communist concept of violent overnight revolution involving violence and killing] of the sects unfortunately cannot take place that would allow us to handle it at once."

 

French MP Philippe Vuilque told the National Assembly on May 30, 2001, that: "The next battles will be delivered against more professional, more discrete, more difficult to identify enemies... I think of certain NGOs, the networks of psychotherapists, certain groups which cure or fight against the devil gathered around a charismatic leader who refers to the Bible, to the Koran, to the Talmud...."

 

But already in December 16, 1999, a vice president of the Senate Law Commission, Dinah Derycke, stated that a new law was intended to deny targeted religions their due process rights: "The dissolution, which is a political decision, gives the advantage of not using the judicial procedures in which sects are so skillful in maneuvering."

 

These last two statements sums it up, since the definition of "sect" is so broad that virtually any group could be designated as a sect and dissolved, with no legal protection what so ever. And it should also be clear that even though it is just smaller religions right now, the next targets could be anyone. It could be the reader of this report.

 

After the bill passed the National Assembly on May 30, Picard (co-author of the bill) told the media, as reported by Reuters New Agency, that it is aimed at groups of a "spiritual, ethnic and philosophical" nature. In other words, minorities, whether racial, religious or philosophical, can be directly threatened. She claimed that France was the "leader" in this field and that, "Foreign parliaments are closely observing our actions, such as Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal and former eastern block countries".

 

The legal analysis of the law indicates that this law is in fact a start to implement "thought police" in Europe. And this is the core of the whole discussion regarding these kind of laws.

 

5. The European network of anti-religious groups and their role in the French anti-religious law going European

 

But who will then be this "thought police". According to the French law, the groups that can initiate cases on which group is defined as a sect or not, would be the anti-cultists. In fact the only two groups that qualify for this is the two French anti-religious groups ADFI and CCMM, which are both renowned for their discrimination against religious minorities. These groups are now going to decide which religion the citizens of France can belong to and which groups will be persecuted and harassed, should they not obey to the dictates of these anti-religious movements.

 

This law is a result of the atmosphere created amongst others by the leading French anti-religious groups, CCMM and ADFI. For anyone living in France, it is clear that UNADFI (the umbrella organization of all the local ADFI groups) and CCMM is particularly the one´s who has stirred up the atmosphere of fear towards sects via the media. Testimonies included in this report, illustrate their history of discrimination, spanding over decades.

 

But looking into the law itself, their influence is much clearer. The law gives the opportunity that UNADFI can suggest to the prosecutor to initiate a case to dissolve a group, which they consider a sect. In the analysis of the law by Center for Studies on New Religions (www.cesnur.org) it says on Section 11. "This is one of the most dangerous provisions in the bill, since it enables private anti-cult associations to become party of court cases against "cults" on behalf of allegedly brainwashed "victims" (even if the latter would not even dream of entrusting their representation to these associations: since they are brainwashed, their opinion does not count) and to collect damages. The anti-cult MPs explained very clearly that the number of court cases against "cults" in France, notwithstanding several years of propaganda, is quite low. Apparently public prosecutors are often unenthusiastic about the anti-cult campaigns. The remedy is to encourage anti-cult movements to take themselves the lead". It says in the law Section 11 who these anti-cult movements are: "Any association recognized as serving public interests regularly registered since at least five years at the date of the facts...". CESNUR explains on this point that "Only two anti-cult associations qualify: ADFI and CCMM".

 

The American State Department wrote in their Human Rights report 1999: "In December 1998, the National Assembly debated and passed a proposal that would allow two specific anti-sect groups, both classified as "public utilities," to become parties to court actions involving sects. The proposal was expected to be debated and voted upon by the Senate in the fall of 1999".

 

ADFI and CCMM are not only spreading religious intolerance in France against what they called "cults", but in fact they are trying to spread this intolerance all over Europe. This is done via an organization called FECRIS (the European Federation for Information on sects), ADFI was a key initiator to this group. FECRIS member-groups has already so big influence in France that you could name them as a kind of "thought-police", due to the new French anti-religious law.

 

Now they are trying to achieve the same status in the rest of Europe, through  European Union and Council of Europe. But the record of FECRIS only show a record of discrimination and this is very well documented.

 

In a document from FECRIS called "Meeting of European Lawyers of June 9, 2001" they even brag about their part in the creation of the law. "This was a very important law that went through thanks in particular to the work of associations that combat sects".

 6. FECRIS view upon religious freedom and the risk for a Europe of "thought-police" with them as the masters

FECRIS has made it very clear where they stand in regards to religious freedom. FECRIS member groups record of discrimination throughout the years, with documented violence, restriction of liberty, verbal threats and derogatory statements is not that different from other hate groups. 

The German FECRIS-member AGPF, represented by its leading member Ingo Heinemann, board member of FECRIS, has publicly stated on their homepage that the criteria of religion should be excluded from the national implementation of the European Directive on Anti-discrimination (2000/43/EG, 2000/78/EG). The first directive requires measures to be taken   against racism. The second directive require that the member states implement measures concerning discrimination on the work place, which also includes religious discrimination. These directives are passed with broad agreement within the European Union and the member states are obliged to implement these directives that are considered as vital to prevent discrimination against minority groups. But FECRIS are actively working against this. 

Their attitude towards minority religions is very clear. A founding member of FECRIS Frederich Griess says: "Sect people are 80 percent primitive and stupid people". "The people there are becoming more and more stupid and it is easy to realize from one hundred meters that they belong to a sect". This group cannot be considered serious, with no expert background or qualifications - other than a track of human rights abuse. They are promoting the "danger" of "sects" without any clear definition - as of course there are no legal definitions that fit their intended meaning of the word. Their web site is full with this word - this in itself runs contrary to Council of Europe and United Nations statements on the issue. 

As an example of how they relate to totalitarian ideologies it should be mentioned that a representative of FECRIS and the French group CCMM attended an anti-sect conference in Beijing in November 2000. The Chinese authorities warmly welcomed the French delegation and expressed that France is an example in these issues. On their return, the FECRIS member group CCMM issued a newsletter with two pages of propaganda from the Chinese authorities on Falun Gong, explaining why Falun Gong "is a sect". In the same newsletter it was also reported that in China "France is often mentioned as an example because of its large and coherent moves against the danger of cults".  This visit in China happened after the heavy Chinese persecution of religious minorities had been made public and where members of the Falun Gong were already heavily harassed, wrongfully imprisoned in prisons and psychiatric hospitals and where evidence of numerous deaths had been exposed. These abuses were strongly protested against in most Western countries and by many human rights organizations because of their brutality. 

In Europe FECRIS not only seek new laws against religious minorities, as the French About Picard law, but also work against already existing anti-discriminatory legislations and directives. From FECRIS meeting with lawyers in June 2001 they state, in the sense of a complaint, the following concerning the UK: "Whenever a sect is associated with an ethnic minority, the latter plays on the race issue to persuade authorities that they should not interfere". This statement makes it very clear that the protection from government discrimination that ethnic minorities have won today in the UK, is considered an obstacle to the work of FECRIS, in getting the "authorities" (i.e. their own sect experts) to be able to "interfere". 

FECRIS argues with the term "psychological subjection" as though this was a scientific or legal argument, yet academics and psychologists have widely discredited theories that claim the existence of such a concept. It states in the summary of the meeting of FECRIS lawyers in June 2001: "Under Spanish law, the child's interest always prevails, and if a child is maltreated by means of group psychological manipulation practices (via one of the child's parents for instance), there are a number of mechanisms that provide for measures to be taken by the public authorities although it is more difficult to prove psychological than physical maltreatment". But as FECRIS do not define "group psychological practices" anything could go under this definition. Especially proselytizing of ones religious belief would come under this definition. As it could be "via one of the child's parents", if a father tells his son to be a Christian (though in practice it would probably be a small minority religion), it could be considered to be "psychological manipulation" that would require "measures to be taken by public authorities". 

FECRIS is working towards promoting the French About-Picard law to the rest of Europe. And they have already shown in which degree they are able to pressure governments to adopt these kind of measures by the French law approval. Groups such as FECRIS are not new for Europe. And FECRIS core member groups have existed for decades, terrorizing religious minorities. 

 7. Documentation of the role of European anti-religious groups in creation of discrimination, restriction of liberty and violence from anti-religious groups 

Amongst religious people, the names of the member groups of FECRIS, are synonymous with terror, violence and discrimination. Sometimes they have even been able to deceive the local police authorities or even the State to help them in their actions against religious minorities. This earned Spain a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights, as can be read below. FECRIS member groups have actually several times received verdicts for their human rights abuses. Here are just some of the examples. 

Spanish FECRIS anti-cultists receive verdicts from amongst others Human Rights Court of Strasbourg

In Spain a young Catholic Mr Santiago Canals was kidnapped in 1995 by the group AIS (Pro Juventud). Its president at the time, Maria-Rosa-Boladeras, is now the Vice President of FECRIS. AIS made an attempted deprogramming on Santiago which was carried out in a psychiatric hospital where he was involuntarily committed. This was challenged in Spanish court and the ruling stated that "On the pretext of a clearly non-existent mental illness an adult citizen was deprived of liberty solely for his religious beliefs, and an attempt was made to give this the appearance of legality, which constitutes a patent abuse of the law". "It is evident that Mr. Santiago Canals Coma does not suffer from any type of mental illness that would justify his mental incapacitation, (and to) guarantee his right to religious freedom, which is enshrined not only in Article 16 of the Constitution, but also very especially in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights". 

In 1999 there was another judgment issued by the European Court of Human Rights (Case of Riera Blume and Others -V- Spain Application number 37680/97) which condemned Spain for the deprogramming of  members of a minority religion. The court wrote that "it is true that it was the applicants families and the Pro Juventud association  that bore the direct and immediate responsibility for the supervision of the applicants 10 days loss of liberty". ProJuventud/AIS was, as mentioned above, headed by the current Vice-president of FECRIS Ms Maria-Rosa Boladeras. 

French FECRIS anti-cultists and a suicide case

In France a doctor called Yves Jullien was very successful at his work, he was however falsely labeled as a "sect-member" and suffered badly due to the hysterical climate created around the word "sect" in France. The propaganda spread by anti-sect organizations is a factor explaining how this hysterical climate has come about.  Dr. Jullien committed suicide on the 6th of March 2000 after false rumors had repeatedly been spread about him being a "sect member". In a TV interview after the death of Mr Jullien, the president of UNADFI, Ms Tavernier, admitted that declaring Dr Jullien to be a member of a sect was a "mistake". 

This is just one of many testimonies that illustrate how UNADFI and CCMM have created a climate of intolerance and discrimination and spread false derogatory information about many different kinds of religious and philosophical groups.

In 1993 major raids were done against the Christian group, "the Family" in their homes in Lyon and Marseilles where over 200 police officers participated with axes and machine guns. Parents were handcuffed and dragged away in front of their children. The authorities were responding to charges leveled by the French anti-cult organization, ADFI. ADFI had unfoundedly accused The Family of child abuse, prostitution and various other unlawful activities. Six years after the raids, the Court of Aix-en-Provence found that all allegations were without basis and threw the case out of court. All defendants were found not guilty and acquitted. But ADFI continued undisturbed their attacks on religious minorities. 

April 28, 2000 (Lyon, France): A deputy mayor of a village and certified teacher of electrical engineering was removed from his post, as he was accused of belonging to a cult. In reality the so called cult was Horus, which is just an organic farming community. The incident started in 1991 when Christian was the Deputy Mayor of a village. A letter from ADFI was received by the Town hall. That was all that was needed. In a closed door meeting he was accused of setting up a cult (Horus agricultural community), and he lost his post as the Deputy Mayor. One does not need to imagine hard on how the sect stamp can be misused by political opponents. 

ADFI have rarely, if ever, attempted to generate dialog and create understanding between different parties in order to resolve what they see as conflicting or problematic circumstances. They have rarely, if ever, taken the path of bringing the parties together to the end of having a friendly resolution. The end result is a trail of trouble and discrimination for the people concerned. 

Swedish FECRIS anti-cultists attacks religious minorities with axe

In 1997 the chairman of FRI (Swedish FECRIS-member) had a person from a smaller Christian group (The Family) in his home under the pretext of "rehabilitation". The Christian person (Buckley) was not in agreement with the FRI chairman (Kristensen) and suddenly the Christian person was attacked physically from the FRI chairman with an axe. Police was called to the place and one of the policemen arriving there wrote the following in the police report about the incident: "Kristensen has chopped the door with an axe when Buckley was standing inside the door. Later Kristensen tried to hit Buckley with the axe when they both were lying on the floor, after that Buckley had overpowered Kristensen. Kristensen was caught 4.40 pm and was brought to the police station. The axe was confiscated." 

In 1990 FRI-member Eva Pehrsson was convicted by Gothenburg district court for the illegal deprivation of liberty of Sara Gustavsson, who belonged to another small Christian group called "the Bridgebuilders". Sarah was kept in an isolated place against her will for 13 days before she managed to escape and was able to report what had happened to the police. 

One night in 1987 a female member of a religious group from Stockholm was woken up as several unknown people entered her bedroom along with her mother where they wanted to persuade her to change her belief.  One of these people was FRI-member Ake Wiman. The lady was not interested to talk to them and tried to leave the room. However, she was forced to her bed and restrained from leaving. She screamed and when she did not stop, one of the deprogrammers puts his hand down her throat to silence her. She also gets a cushion pressed over her face. Later she tried to leave the room again and this time she was badly hit on the cheek and ear. It was later found that her eardrum had been damaged due to this assault .

 

German FECRIS anti-cultists getting people fired and destroying peoples lives

So called "sect filters" are used by some German authorities and companies to stop persons who have the wrong belief from getting a job.

Before a person gets employed, companies and official authorities make them sign a so called "sect-filter", attesting that they are not a Scientologist. Another example of the discrimination, caused by the campaign towards religious minorities in Germany, is the "S"-mark in public computers, ordered by the former labor minister Norbert Bluem. This means that the company is owned by a Scientologist, and the official authorities would know better than to purchase at a sect member. If this leads the readers mind to another similar kind of categorization many years ago in Germany, it is up to the reader.  

Caberta, who is an employee from Hamburg in the so-called "AGS" (Working Group Scientology), has been one of the key people promoting sect filter to German companies. The same Caberta has been strongly involved with FECRIS, for instance she gave a speech to FECRIS meeting in April 1999, where she proposed new discriminatory laws for Europe. Right now, as described before in this report, she is not considered very reliable, since privately receiving $75.000 by an anti religious attacker, for which she received a fine by the court. 

Inge Mamay was a speaker at the latest FECRIS meeting May 2002. She was earlier also involved in a very scary case, where she got a person out of the "Children of God" and isolated him in Germany for deprogramming, and 4 months later he killed a 83 year old woman. In the following court case about his crime, the judges strongly criticized AGPF member Inge Mamay and stated that Emmanuel felt well in the youth-sect he earlier belonged to until he was lured away with blatant and false promises from Mamay, and it was considered that his isolation in Germany was one part in explaining his crime. Inge Mamay is still one of AGPF's most active members. To be noticed is that AGPF used this case in their own promo-material about their activity, it was even referred to in a book afterward, without any mentioning at all of the tragical final consequences of this case. 

Lawyer Ingo Heineman of AGPF has earlier for years been receiving taxpayers money to "inform" about new religions. Ingo Heineman provided addresses to two British deprogrammers, Vosper and Matthewson, who brutally kidnapped members of religious minorities. Vosper wrote to a colleague about the German deprogramming victim: "this looks like some potential business" and concluded that it would enable them to have "caviar on cornflakes" and an "Audi Quattro 200". Instead they were arrested in October 1987. 

Together with Caberta, the most well-known anti-cultist from Germany is Renarte Hartwig. Hartwig is the only anti-cultist who have gotten a book up on the top 10-list in Germany. Hartwig has now realized she has been on the wrong track for 11 years, and she just wrote a new book called "The Shadowplayers" (in German "Die Schattenspieler") where she describes in detail how she was manipulated and lied to, by the German intelligence service (Verfassungsschutz) to attack Scientology. Probably they were looking for new targets after the cold war was over. In the book she also reveals many other remarkable details about the dirty games behind the scene amongst the persons who attack minority religions in Germany.  

Swiss FECRIS anti-cultists receiving verdicts on violence against religious minorities

Two of the members of SADK, the Swiss FECRIS group, received prison sentences in 1990 for the violent attempted deprogramming of a Hare Krishna member. A spokesman for SADK,  Marko Rossi, spoke out loudly in favor of the deprogramming action, in which the victim had been subdued with tear gas.  

SADK in a letter to Swiss politicians has openly demanded that laws should be enacted that would make it possible to isolate "sect-members" for up to 30 days by taking them away from their group against their will.

In 1995 Elsbeth Bates, SADK member, distributed stickers with "Death heads" on them and the name of a religious minority group to children in schools. She held a lecture against minority religions, which she derogatorily termed as "sects". In the speech she further targeted a specific person and even mentioned in a derogatory way his son, who was going in this school.  After her actions in the school, the concerned persons car was covered with "deaths head" stickers and the front window was smeared with animal dung. On several later occasions his car was damaged, the antenna was torn off, four fenders were dented and the bonnet was damaged.

This is just some examples of the terror that FECRIS have exposed religious minorities with all over Europe.

 This group is also promoting their intended cooperation and utilization of Eurojust (a new cooperation of juridical authorities in Europe) and the European justice network from which they can push and possibly influence judicial authorities to adopt measures which breach their obligations regarding human rights, specifically in the area of religious discrimination. As per FECRIS own document entitled 'Meeting of European Lawyers June 9 2001' "FECRIS intends to take part in creating this new European judicial space by asking that its research and studies be considered for the purposes of devising new provisions".

8. Objective sources of information and dialog 

Their whole discrimination is targeted on new religions being sects. But this very argumentation is brushed aside by United Nations and several objective scholars. Many governments across Europe promote dialog and tolerance. Amongst them is the Swedish government. Here are some excerpts from a Swedish government report done in 1998, which proposes increased dialog instead of confrontation and discrimination. 

I GOD TRO, samhællet och nyandligheten

"IN GOOD FAITH, The society and the new spirituality" 

Publisher: NORSTEDS TRYCKERI AB, STOCKHOLM 1998

ISBN 91-38-21006-1, ISSN 0375-250X

 

International experiences

The Commission has made study visits to several countries. We have met representatives of organizations, state- and municipal institutions and private initiatives. Private researchers and several people with different experiences of this area has been contacted by the Commission. We have met with defectors as well as active members of new religious movements. We have also participated in conferences abroad.

The following countries have been visited:

France: Paris. Anti-cult organizations, representatives of the governmental commission and from the government´s "Observatoir", defectors, CESNUR, ADFI, among others.

England: London. INFORM, Eileen Barker, among others.

Germany: Bonn, Berlin. The German government commission on new religious movements, the Senate Administration in Berlin, two initiatives on religious basis, among others.

Italy: Turin. Scholar Massimo Introvigne at CESNUR.

Switzerland: Zürich. INFOSECTA organization.

Austria: Vienna. Government Administration.

USA: New York, Bonita Springs, Athens. Wellspring Retreat Center, AFF, INTERFAITH, Philadelphia, conference on children and new religious movements.

Denmark: Copenhagen. Church Ministry, Mikael Rothstein at the University of Copenhagen.

 

Considerations and proposals presented by the commission.

The commission has had as one of its tasks to judge on the need for support from the society to people who have abandoned new religious movements. In order to make such a judgment possible, lots of research and work was made in order to understand the phenomenon as such. Big parts of the work has dealt with questions such as how the society is influenced by the new religious movements' activities, what do the new faiths embrace, what possible problems do they create and for whom? 

The main conclusions drawn by the Swedish commission after having been to several countries, which are active within the realm of new religious movements, is not to contribute to an increased opposition between the movements and society at large. In opposite, the society should contribute to the creation of a dialog between the different parties. The dialog is needed out of different reasons: The polarity in the discussion is big, either one is considered to be pro or against. Different parties throw suspicion on each other. Further, with an incisive wording, did some countries declare war against the new religious movements, which rather leads to increased isolation and so a risk for a destructive development.

Center for Knowledge on Philosophy of Life and Faith

The debate on new religious movements is in general dominated by false ideas, exaggerations, and now and then pure disinformation from different parties. Contacts with researchers, people working within health care, members and others indicate unequivocally on the need of an increased dialog between the society and the need of true knowledge about the new religious landscape. 

Because of this the commission suggests the creation of a foundation with the name KULT - Kunskapscentrum for Livsaaskaadinigs- och Trosfaagor (Center for Knowledge on Philosophy of Life and Faith). Except from functioning as a knowledge center one of the main tasks of this foundation will be to build bridges between movements and the society, between the minorities and the majorities. Further, the foundation will organize reconciliation between individuals and movements in case of conflicts.

 

Summary and conclusions

On one hand the society may of course not show indulgence for suspected crimes against tax legislation, against the Penal Code or other laws, through a false adopted respect for peoples' faiths. Laws and rules may of course not be violated in the name of religion. Sweden must not become a country, which attracts fortune hunters, or less scrupulous organizations, which, while protected as a faith, economically exploit people's needs for an existential searching, and a spiritual residence.

On the other hand there is neither any need for running a crusade against faiths, which might appear to be unusual or strange, viewed in the light of the our Swedish traditions. There is no need for "harsh measures" against new religious movements. On the contrary, many reasons exist which speak in favor of a debate, which is less prejudiced, an openness, and about dialog between researchers, believers, anti cult organizations, civic movements, authorities and others which are involved in the issue.

Some of the conclusions we have drawn from the studies in other countries can be found in the section about the need of what we in the commission call "KULT" ("Kunskapscentrum for Livsaskadnings-och Trosfragor", "Center for Knowledge on Views of Life and Faith Issues", see chapter 4).

 Another conclusion to be drawn out of the volume of statements, which are rampant in relation to empirical knowledge, is that research within this area must get a priority, not the least when concerning the situation of children. The only basis for a civic action which neither violate the freedom of religion nor the protection of the individual rights, is knowledge about the real circumstances, about the real proportions and about the philosophies.

 In several European countries the new religious movements are discussed out of perspectives which amongst themselves are totally different. Just like in Sweden, the issue is strongly polarized. The dominating religions have created their counter-movements, from a catholic or a Lutheran perspective. Individuals' relatives, who experience that they have lost someone in a new religious movement, have created their own organizations. Disappointed, failed or disillusioned defectors and expelled members can also be found in the so called anti cult movement.

 Irrespective of the origin, the anti cult organizations - out of understandable reasons - are often almost hateful in their argumentation against new religious movements. On the other side of the line of demarcation researchers of religion often can be found - people who via their research have a perspective which strongly moderate and sometimes ridicule the critics which researchers experience as unfounded and which strongly exaggerate ideas of how dangerous the movements actually are. Researchers refer to that all religions, including Christianity, in the beginning have been considered to be exactly a sect, whose activities have been considered dangerous for the individual. They also tell that just a few of those who show interest for a movement finally become members. The most common development is that a person joins a movement, gets experiences which often are positive and that they after a while leave the movement and thereafter, without any bigger problems, continue a life outside the movement".

 

9. The need for investigation of religious discrimination in Europe

What is happening today is the stamping of groups and individuals as sects and sect members, not because of a crime the group has committed, but because a group of self-appointed experts decide that they are a so-called sect and thus should be persecuted. This is by no means new to the history of Europe. The Romans persecuted the Christians, the Christians persecuted the witches, the Nazis persecuted the Jews. To accept persecution on the basis of a stamping of groups as a sect, which no one can define what is and which criterias designates a group to be a sect, would be to accept a dim future for the rights of the men and women in Europe. The stamping of sect has scared many from speaking out against these obvious atrocities, due to fear of being stamped as such themselves.

In its 23 June 2000 editorial, the French daily newspaper "Le Figaro" wondered if the Catholic Church would not be targeted by the anti-cult law in the future: "A young girl who has chosen to live outside of the world, who has given up her belongings, left her clothes, cut her hair, who obeys without a murmur to anything, works hard without any salary and gets up several times a night to recite prayers learned by heart may be considered one day, by a judge, as the victim of 'mental manipulation'. Nevertheless, that is the way Carmelites live".

Father Jean Vernette, the episcopates delegate on the cults issue, said in an interview with the daily Catholic paper "La Croix" on June 22 that he fears that the fight against cults would become "the vector of a new fight against religion".

Reverend Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the French Protestant Federation, said in the June 22 "La Croix," "Where is the limit between the persuasive speech, the passionate sermon and mental manipulation? In fact, all the religious movements must feel threatened by the anti-cult fight. I am still waiting for an accurate definition of mental manipulation. Is it possible that one day I will be suspected too?"

In October 2002 (Doc 961231) the Council of Europe wrote in a report on the French anti-sect law "The Assembly invites the French government to reconsider this law and to clarify the definition of the terms 'offense' and 'offender'. "

An intensive investigation of the discrimination against religious minorities is recommended, where the religious people concerned, are actually asked. The government report of Sweden recommends dialog, not conflict and this is what this is really about. That is the only way there can be religious pluralism and religious freedom in Europe. The alternative is a Europe controlled by thought police. Which Europe do we want?

With the evidence from the cases regarding religious discrimination against religious minorities, covering among other things European legislation threatening religious freedom and groups causing the discrimination becoming government advisers in European countries, an investigation of religious discrimination in general and specifically sectophobia should be initiated. Through such an investigation an escalation of intolerance and an undermining of the human rights in Europe can be avoided, that have been adopted after the hardest learned lesson in history of WWII.