LEGAL PERSPECTIVES

ON

THE F.E.C.R.I.S. "LEGAL PLAN" ON "SECTS".

 

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FECRIS Masters of Discrimination

Legal perspectives  on FECRIS "Legal
Plans" on "Sects".

Report on increasing Religious
Discrimination, the France - FECRIS     
connection.

Vice-president FREDERICH GRIESS

ADFI: the originator of Fecris

FECRIS website.

Documented abuse case histories:
     a) France
     b) Sweden
     c) Spain
   

 

United Kingdom:  In the entry on the United Kingdom noted in the 9th June 2001 FECRIS Lawyers conference document., the person talking about the United Kingdom clearly has a very intolerant attitude towards certain religious groups. He or she does not define the groups which are religions, and those which are said to be "sectarian associations". (The dictionary defines a sect simply as a non-established or nonconformist church.) It is said that the criminal law is not applied to sects because the government does not understand the scope of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is completely untrue. Indeed, the government, while stressing the importance of freedom of belief, has always been at pains to emphasize that if anyone has any evidence of a crime being committed, then it should be reported to the authorities and action would be taken.

 

The ideas espoused in this text are extremely dangerous, in that they clearly promote harsh discrimination towards religious minorities, and also ethnic minorities. If such ideas were adopted by national governments it would no longer be safe to have any kind of slightly unusual belief. One would either be designated as a criminal, or as a victim who has had his freedom of choice "annihilated by mental manipulation techniques". In either case it is suggested you would not be a fit parent, and should have your children removed.

 

Reference is made to the Charity Commission granting religious status and respectability to groups "even where child pornography has been ascertained". This is a gross falsehood. The Charity Commission has never supported in any way whatsoever any group which promotes child pornography. If it is suggested that action should be taken against a group simply because a professed member of that group has committed such a crime, then one should outlaw popular music stars, teachers, and Church of England and Catholic priests. Members of all of these groups have been convicted of child pornography offenses.

 

The assertion that minority religious associations are not required to keep official accounts is false. The conclusion that a suggested lack of a requirement to keep accounts has led to retired people being targeted and stripped of their assets is patently absurd. The person also has no understanding of the English law regarding undue influence. In fact there is a presumption of undue influence whenever any money is given to any religious body (new or old), and the burden is placed on the religious body to prove otherwise if it is challenged.

 

Overall the views of this person are extreme, and for the most part entirely wrong on matters of fact and law.

 

 

Germany: The entry on Germany states that the German contingent of the convention stressed the need of permanent European legislation. The need of a consumer protection law for psychological products" is stressed. The adoption of this legislation already failed under the Kohl administration in 97. It had resulted in a broad public protest and scholarly criticism. It was nothing but an attempt to impose legal burdens on the new religions that other religions were explicitly to be exempt from, which is a violation of human rights on its own as it seeks to single out a particular group of people and subject them to legal restrictions and burdens solely for the purpose of restriction and with no demand at all by reason of a particular factual abuse. This demand constitutes an unequal treatment before the law and the establishment of a special law for particular segments of society.

 

This approach was made unconstitutional under German law expressly by reason of the NAZI atrocities employing this legislative method.

 

It is also of interest to note that the FECRIS report of 3 Dec 2000 from their Conference in Paris shows their hypocrisy by making reference to their participation in Chinese affairs. In fact this refers to the tacit, if not overt, support for Chinese repression of the religious minority group Falun Gong who are being murdered and incarcerated for their belief. Yet FECRIS supports the attitude of the Chinese Govt towards the Falun Gong and justifies their actions. This is illustrated by the following taken from the CESNUR web-site:

 

           While the U.S. and other governments, mainline churches and international human rights watchdogs are protesting Chinese persecution of religious minorities under the pretext of fighting "evil cults", the French anti-cult organization CCMM (Center Against Mind Control), the European federation of anti-cult movements FECRIS and the French governmental Mission to Fight Cults (MILS) are actively supporting the Chinese. The internal newsletter of CCMM Regards sur dated November-December 2000 cheerfully reports on an "International Symposium on Destructive Cults" organized in Beijing on November 9-10 2000. Jean-Pierre Bousquet represented both CCMM and FECRIS; the CCMM delegation also included Hayat El Mountacir and Patricia Casano. MILS president Alain Vivien was also in attendance, although "as an observer" and "without speaking". Regards sur is happy to report that in China "France is often mentioned as an example because of its large and coherent moves against the danger of the cults". The French were less happy when certain foreign guests "kept mentioning the polemical argument, now even too much well known, connecting religious liberty and immunity for the cults". China, where believers of all faiths are routinely jailed (and some die in jails in very suspicious circumstances) certainly do not grant "immunity to cults", "cults" being defined as all religions not regarded as "acceptable" by the government. In fact, the CCMM newsletter notes, "every country is different in its history and traditions; hence we should not stop at defining what a 'cult' is but consider how each cult makes a nuisance of itself". Falun Gong may be a controversial subject, but the fact that the CCMM newsletter simply reproduces two pages of Chinese propaganda about Falun Gong (with no mention whatsoever of scholarship on the matter, or of different points of view) speaks volumes about CCMM's methods, and how it is ready to support totalitarian regimes of any kind providing that they in turn support the international anti-cult crusade. Ironically, the Chinese article against Falun Gong mentions "brainwashing", a concept firstly introduced in Cold War anti-Chinese propaganda. CCMM is proud that "the Chinese have told us that they want to create a non-governmental organization with aims and structure similar to CCMM". Too bad that in the West anti-cultists cannot find governments as determined as the Chinese when it comes to deny "immunity to cults".

 

That FECRIS (and consequently FECRIS groups) claim to be politically and religiously neutral per art. 2 of their corporate statues is manifestly not so. 

 

The Founding Fathers of the European Convention on Human Rights did so in light of the cruelties of WW II on 4 Nov 1950. In the knowledge that justice and peace in the world can only be guaranteed on the basis of the protection of these fundamental freedoms, which are inherent rights of man, not granted by the state or government and which governments should protect against incursions of these rights - such as those portrayed by the FECRIS.

 

The denial and destruction of human rights by FECRIS is evident from its following legal demands as contained in its legal memo:

 

They wish to deny the right of any member of a sect to educate his/her children in or according to his/her own beliefs and want to fight this human right as an alleged "moral endangering" or "psychological manipulation" of the children.

 

Thus after divorce, the non-sect member shall obtain the custody rights automatically. This demand is in direct violation of precedents already established by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (as for example the Jehovah's Witnesses case precedent on child custody vs Austria has made very clear which had denied child custody to a Jehovah's Witness on the basis of the rejection of blood transfusion).

 

They, as a matter of principle, want to impose a legal arbitrary on group that could be labeled as a "sect" in the context of inheritances in that such shall be invalid, per se, as mental manipulation "must have" preceded the act for it to have occurred in the first place (though it would be difficult to prove, as they admit, since the state of mind of a person cannot be established any more when the testament is opened as the person is then dead).

 

The FECRIS position on this subject completely violates the first additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights which explicitly protects a person's property. Obviously this right of a person would be destroyed as he would not be able to use or dispose of his property according to his own discretion, choice or determination.

 

They want to sensitize and "enlighten judges" so they appreciate the "problem correctly". This practice was condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee as a violation of the fundamental basics of a free democratic society based on the independence of the judiciary, separation of the powers and the Convention on Civil and Political Rights. At the time Germany was reprimanded for this practice and told to put a stop to it.

 

This demand especially also violates Art. 6 of the ECHR which explicitly requires that every human being has a legal claim to be tried by an independent and impartial court of law.

 

All above violations show a disregard for fundamental human rights. Taken altogether, the above outline shows that Art. 14 and 17 of the ECHR are being violated as well. Art. 14 forbids discrimination by reason of race, color, language, religion, political or other beliefs, national or social origin, membership in a national minority, property, birth or other status. FECRIS demands and recommends that discriminatory conditions are created and that people are no longer treated equally before the law.

 

 

Switzerland:  FECRIS has as its stated purpose to defend the "victims" of sects. With this basic idea the following remarks are to be understand. It is also to be understood that Switzerland is not part of the European Union so it will be and is still not fully clear what influence European coordination will have as influence onto the Swiss situation.

 

FECRIS is asking that a network of judges and prosecutors is to be organized to strengthen court cooperation.

 

With strengthening this cooperation Swiss constitutional rights are endangered as Art. 30 of the Swiss constitution protects the right of a person to an independent and unbiased court. Coordinated briefing to judges and prosecutors about "victims" of sects endangers the unbiased position of at least the judges. Additionally the prohibition of discrimination based on Art. 8 al. 2 of the Swiss constitution is endangered too.

 

"Education of judges and prosecutors" engages also the risk that governmental bodies as courts will act arbitrarily on the members of "sects" or so labeled religious communities.  The network of judges and prosecutors with cooperation with governmental bodies will definitely violate the obligation of the state to act neutrally in the religious field and religious freedom will be violated in the case that the government bodies do not behave in a neutral way.

 

In the field of right to visit, divorce and other family situations the proposals of FECRIS could put the protection of private life in danger. All these proposals of FECRIS violate constitutional laws.

 

It is not impossible that the lawyers having taken part in the FECRIS conference and supporting these proposals could be faced with a complaint before the bar association. In Switzerland a lawyer swears or promises to protect the constitution and constitutional rights. The proposals made go directly against the constitution and the constitutional rights of members of religious minorities and put them at risk.

 

 

ITALY (Translation):  From the study of the documentation about the FECRIS, related to the meeting of 23 jurists, it appears appalling that the Non Governmental Organization status is granted to an organization or confederation of organizations that represents itself under the "Preliminary remarks" - introducing the report on the meeting - like an organization which is prejudicial against the cults and, as a consequence, against new religious experiences, in violation of the Western international law and, as far as Italy is concerned, against the law of 13 October 1975, # 654 and the Law Decree of 26 April 1993, converted in law # 205 of 25 June 1993 as well as against the Ministerial Decree of 4 August 1994 implementation number 569.

 

Of similar seriousness - based on the counseling function that the NGOs can perform on behalf of the European states or European Community bodies - as far as Italy is concerned, appear to be the statements of the attorneys quoted in the report of the meeting. Their tone, in fact, is such to get one to believe that possibly those called to report where not really attorneys or that no jurists were part of the meeting in the first place.

 

 As far as the Italian legal system is concerned, in fact, the statements contained in the report not only are not exact or are incomplete, but contrary to the truth, and they relay and communicate to all concerned a false representation of the issue.

 

 1.      Having done the above preliminary remarks, one can observe that as far as family is concerned, the report, referring to Italy, quotes two statements:

 

        "In Italy the belonging to a cult could justify, in theory, a divorce for guilt, even if no judge would be willing to take on himself such a responsibility"

 

        and

 

        "there are however temporary provisions aimed to protect minors, but also a right to appeal, which makes the proceedings duration long, and which creates practical difficulties"

 

        None of the two sentences (and the second one is incomprehensible) can have been formulated by an Italian attorney or even by a student of law.

 

1.1 Considering that the so called "cults", from a legal viewpoint, are mostly associations or religious confessions, as far as the first sentence above is concerned, leaving alone the wrong terminology utilized which can be a mistake of the rapporteur or of the person doing the transcription, it can be excluded that the belonging to a "cult" in Italy - and this also applies to any other ideological association, political group or movement - can be indicated, in itself, as a reason for the separation between two persons (institution by the way already undergoing a serious crisis both from a practical viewpoint and from a legislative one) for the fact that such reasoning should be aligned to the violation of the familiar duties and not to the ideological beliefs or the religious practices of one of the two partners, practices which, based on the constitutional law, have equal dignity, which ever they are (article 19 of the Italian Constitution). It is therefore to be excluded that the belonging to a cult in itself can constitute a reason of guilt - both on a theoretical and on a practical level - and this is also valid when the change of the religious faith takes places during the matrimonial life. This opposite opinion, which is against the Constitution, is also disproved by the current and constant law of merit and the existing jurisprudence (ex pluribus Cassation 07.02.1995, # 140; Court of Naples 07.07.1998, on "Ecclesiastic Law", 1998, II, 516; Court of Minors of Venice, 10.05.1990, on "Il Foro Italiano", 1991, I, 271).

 

 No judge would consider a reason of guilt for a separation between two partners the belonging to a cult or to any ideological association or movement, because, in order to do that, he should violate the law and, would he do that, he would violate the law and his decision or ruling would be instantly reformed or nullified.

 

1.2.    As far as the second sentence above is concerned, this is, as already stated in the preliminary remarks, an incomprehensible statement. The sentence as such does not mean anything. In Italy there is a very large legislation safeguarding minors and the safeguard of minors utilizes, varying from case to case, and often with a superimposing of jurisdictions, 3 judges of whom two are specialized ones (the Ordinary Court, during the separation or divorce of the two partners, the Safeguard Judge and the Court of Minors). The action to safeguard minors is an official one, i.e. it can be promoted autonomously by the judicial authorities, even against the will of the parents and at any moment. Furthermore, differently from other sectors of the law which are undergoing a crisis, the laws on minors in Italy is working very well. The typical proceedings on minors, the one performed before the Court of Minors of willful jurisdiction is, by the way, very  rapid (the motion before the Minors Section of a Court of Appeals has to be done within 10 days from the notification of the proceedings and the Court decides about it in Chamber).

 

2.       As far as the financial issue is concerned, the report quotes a statement which again, is incomprehensible.

 

 "Italy (rectius: the two Italian attorneys allegedly present) mentions the actual difficulties in legislating in the field of financial interests and to declare somebody not fit to inherit. The financial movements of the cults and in favor of the cults should be put, above anything, under control if the amounts concerned are high. From a corporate viewpoint, it is profitable to make a distinction between cults, not recognized, non profit associations and the numerous commercial activities which are active behind them".

 

In Italy some tens of laws are being issued yearly to discipline the "financial interests" of any kind and the assessment about the non fitness to inherit is also disciplined in each of the subjects. Also here, apart from the confused language used - which puts on the same level social religious entities (cults) and juridical institutions (non recognized associations), which are described as being something different from the non profit entities (according to the Italian law all the associations are, per their own nature, non profit entities, articles 36, 37 and 38 of the Civil Code) and "commercial activities which are active behind them", excluding, due to the institutional incompatibility, that inside a non recognized association can exist a commercial activity, one assumes that the reference made is basically related to the commercial activity performed by a non recognized association on the market, and referring to the qui vis civium and, in such a case, according to the Italian law system, the association is considered commercial in nature, like any other similar entity.

 

In summary, in Italy does not exist any of the problems denounced and the legal position of the so called "cults" is, from a private law viewpoint, exactly the same one of all the groups, associations, organizations or entities and, from a tax law viewpoint, the same that that of the political parties, unions, cultural associations, charitable or sport associations. Both these subjects are disciplined in a very complete and detailed way.

 

3.      As far as the crime of "plagio" is concerned, with the same consideration about the language used, which is very much inexact, the report states:

 "Italy envisions  the crime of plagio, which consists of the circumvention of an individual. The only crime that exists is the "abuse of popular credulity", rarely applied, which results in unrelevant penalties. The proof of the existence of plagio is given by psychologists, but this is a very imprecise concept. Furthermore the criminal responsibility, in this case, is personal and referred to the individual and his behavior. There are no ties on the subject of establishment of the associations and one is faced with a deprivation of responsibility of the legal representative. Italy declares itself favorable to prolong the statute of  limitation. On this it is important to make a distinction between civil and criminal statute of limitation".

 

        This is a jam of wrong information.

 

3.1     The crime of plagio - which is not the circumvention of an incapable person, was covered by article 603 and was something introduced by the Fascist legislation in Book II, Count III "crimes against the individual freedom", section I, "about the crimes against the individual personality" of the Italian Criminal Code.

 

The article stated: "anybody who submits a person to own will, so to put him in a total state of subjugation, is punished with jailing from five to fifteen years".

 

This Italian law article gave birth just to one decision of condemnation (Braibanti case), which was heavily criticized. When in 1978 a criminal proceeding for plagio was started against a religious groups headed by a charismatic Catholic priest, Don Grasso, who was accused of separating his followers from their families and of conditioning their will and self-determination, the Court of Rome raised an unconstitutionality nullity about this article and the Italian Constitutional Court, with a decision issued on 8 June 1981, # 96, declared "The article 603 of the Criminal Code, punishing the crime of plagio, defined as "anybody who submits a person to own will, so to put him in a total state of subjugation" is illegal as it violates article 25, subpara 2, of the Constitution." That Court considered that such an article was violating the principle that "nobody can be punished if not based on a law which was in force before the fact was committed" and which envisions that particular behavior like a crime (article 25, subpara 2, of the Constitution), while in the case "it is a very imprecise concept" (Ordinance of the Court of Rome, on "Il Foro Italiano, 1979, II and Constitutional Court, decision of 8 June 1981, # 96, on "Il Foro Italiano" 1981, I, 815)

 

As a consequence of the declaration of constitutional illegality of article 603 of the Criminal Code, the crime of plagio is not anymore in existence in the Italian law system.

 

3.2     It exists instead the crime of circumvention of incapable persons, which also applies to minors (article 643 of the

Criminal Code) which is, by the way, a crime against the patrimony and not against the freedom to act, and which is an autonomous crime that nothing has to do with the crime of plagio. In addition, such a crime has often been ascribed - giving birth to very rare condemnations - to the traditional churches; it envisions the assessment of the incapability if the adult person and of a financial damage. Furthermore it exists the crime of "abuse of popular credulity" which has even less to do with cults, religious or ideological movements, because it punishes those who publicly, by mean of various tricks, abuse the credulity of people, if the fact can "upset the public order".

 

 

3.3     The criminal responsibility is personal, not only "in this case" but in general, and there is a complex discipline about the associations. Naturally everybody can establish associations stating any aim, but once established, the association and its associates must respect the rules envisioned by the law with specific limitations and possibilities of control. There has been no privation of responsibility of the legal representative of the associations, who answer up based on the general principles, like all the legal representatives, and this is so since when the Civil Code and the Criminal Code were put in force. By the way, with the law decree of 8 June 2001, # 231, also in Italy was introduced a discipline about the responsibility of the collective entities as well as of the associations, for administrative illegalities which are depending from a crime.

 

In conclusion, the report gives a false representation of the legal discipline of the religious associations or "cults", which, in Italy, have instead the exact and same specific regime of all the other associations. It seems that what this report wants to suggest or what it wants to utilize, are indeed "special laws". Tragic "special laws", dramatically promoted with the usual false arguments. Laws that have marked the history of Europe and of Italy and which it is a duty of all fair men to oppose strenuously.