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Deterioration of Religious Liberty in Europe

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Wednesday July 22, 1998;
Thursday July 30, 1998

Washington, D.C.


 

The July 22 briefing convened in Room HC-5, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., at 1:10 p.m., Wayne Merry, Helsinki Commission Staff Member and Senior Advisor to the Commission presiding. Testimony was offered by Mr. Willie Fauntre, founder and chairman of Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels; and Mr. James McCabe, Assistant General Counsel of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

  

    Contents of July 22, 1998 Briefing

      Opening Comments
      Mr. Wayne Merry

      Prepared Remarks
      Mr. Willie Fauntre

      Prepared Remarks
      Mr. James McCabe

      Question and Answer Period

      Submissions for the Record by Mr. Fauntre

      General Constitutional Guarantees Relating to Freedom of Religion and Beliefs (Belgium)

      The Historical Process of State Recognition of the Majority Religion and a Number of Minority Religions (Belgium)

      Equity Commissions on Cults in Western Europe
      France
      Belgium
      Germany
      European Parliament
      Council of Europe
      Preliminary Draft Recommendations
      Conclusions

      Submission for the Record by Mr. McCabe

      Jehovah's Witnesses in France


     

    Mr. Merry. Good afternoon, and welcome to this public briefing by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. My name is Wayne Merry, Senior Advisor to the Commission. 

    I've started a little late on the view that some people might have as much difficulty finding this room as I did, but I would like to proceed now. 

    For people who are not familiar with the Commission and its work, let me briefly describe the procedure we will use today. The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a small, but independent, U.S. government agency created by law for the purpose of monitoring implementation of the commitments of the Helsinki Final Act and of other documents of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE. 

    The focus of our activities is very heavily on human rights questions. We have been in existence for over 20 years, and I think have a laudable track record over that period. 

    The work of the Commission is all public; we do no classified work. A good deal of what we do is conducted in public briefings and public hearings of this type. This session is being transcribed and will be published and available both in hard copy and on the Commission's web site, however, not too soon, it takes a while for the transcriptions to come back from the printers. 

    There is information on the Commission available on the table outside, and if any of you wish to be on our addressee list or find out more about us members of the Commission staff here will be happy to help you. 

    Our procedure today will be to hear statements from our two visiting guest experts, and then we will have an open discussion session, in which there can be comments and questions from members of the audience on the very important theme that we are dealing with today. 

    Let me say that the question of problems of religious liberty is one which is occupying an increasing priority and attention from the Helsinki Commission. This is by no means a new theme in our work. During the Cold War, however, most of the attention that we gave on questions of religious liberty were focused in the eastern countries, countries with at least formerly communist and atheist ideologies, and the problem was one of the situation of religious believers in state political systems which were either overtly hostile or discriminatory toward those believers and towards organized religion. 

    Today, in the aftermath of the Cold War, and regrettably the geographic scope of our interest has widened, as we are concerned with what we see as a developing pattern of discrimination against religious minorities and other belief groups in a number of countries in the OSCE region. 

    I will note a number of specific cases on which the Commission has been very active. Most of you are aware of the new law in the Russian Federation on religious activities. This is one which members of the Commission and Commission staff have had an active dialogue with Russian Government officials and legislators, and while there have been some positive developments on that legislation in recent months it is certainly one which we follow with concern and which we will be continuing to monitor very closely. 

    Recently, Uzbekistan has promulgated a new rule on religious activities which we find very disturbing, both because of the actual content of the statute and because in some of the public statements made by senior government officials at the time that it was introduced, and this is a case which I think we are going to be following with great attention. 

    Many of the other former communist countries have similar problems which are the focus of a good deal of our efforts. However, unlike during the period of the Cold War, we now must devote a fair amount of our attention to countries further west. It is not new for the Commission to express concern about problems with religious minorities in some of the western countries. For example, we have been concerned about problems with religious minorities in Greece for many years. 

    More recently, however, we have had to spend time and attention on countries where traditionally this had not been much of a subject of concern for us. There is, however, for example, a new law in Austria, which members of the Helsinki Commission spoke directly with members of the Austrian Parliament during a trip in January, which is a subject of concern. 

    More recently, the Inquiry Commission of the German Federal Bundestag issued its final report, which we have been examining, and which certainly has some very disturbing elements. 

    Also, there have been practices in France and in Belgium, which we shall hear more about today, which are disturbing to us. 

    Let me say that the Helsinki Commission proceeds always on the basis of those principles contained in the Helsinki Final Act and in other OSCE documents, so this is not the case of a United States organization trying to apply American standards to European countries. We are very well aware of the fact that most European countries proceed from a tradition of a state sanctioned or state sponsored church, but the principles contained in the Helsinki documents are internationally accepted principles by all of the states party to the Helsinki Final Act, and they involve, with great priority, fundamental freedoms of religious belief and other belief and of practice. And, it is these principles which we seek to monitor and where we hope to improve compliance. 

    Let me note that today's briefing is only one in a series of public sessions sponsored by the Helsinki Commission on this important subject. The Helsinki Commission will be in collaboration with the House International Relations Committee sponsoring a joint public hearing next week, on Thursday, July 30th at 10:00 in the morning, in Room 2172 in the Rayburn House Office Building, on continuing religious intolerance in Europe, and you are all certainly invited to attend that session. 

    Let me also note that the priority and interest which the Helsinki Commission devotes to this important question is reflected in the recent creation in the Helsinki Commission's permanent staff of a position, counsel for religious liberties, occupied by Karen Lord who is with us today. If any of you have any specific questions concerning the Commission's work in this area, I suggest you may wish to be in touch with her. 

     

    Today we are honored to have two expert witnesses, who will give us their views on this subject. These are Mr. Willy Fautré, Director of the Human Rights Without Frontiers organization in Belgium, and Mr. James McCabe, who is the Assistant General Counsel of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and I will ask each of them to speak in turn. 

    Mr. Fautré, who was born in Belgium in 1944, is both the founder and the chairman of Human Rights Without Frontiers, which is a secular organization promoting rule of law, democracy and human rights. The organization was created in 1989, fortuitously, the year which the Berlin Wall came down, and it gives priority to the field of religious liberty, and it has a press service in both English and French. 

    Mr. Fautré. 

    Mr. Fautré. Thank you for giving me the floor, Mr. Chairman. 

    I want to thank the OSCE for giving me this opportunity to brief you about the deterioration of religious freedom in a number of West European countries since some parliamentary and European Commission on Cults have been set up in the last few years. 

    The European continent is multicultural, multilingual and multireligious, and it can be said that religious pluralism really exists within the borders of the Member States of the European Union, 15 countries, and more widely of the Council of Europe. However, most European countries have a two-tiered system, and even a three-tiered system, in which religions have different statuses and in which citizens are not treated in the same way and even suffer from various forms of institutionalized inequalities and discrimination on the basis of their religious or philosophical beliefs. 

    This background, on which recent massacres committed by groups such as Aoum or the Order of the Solar Temple, have left their mark should allow one to better understand the sudden emergence and development of parliamentary commissions on cults in Western Europe. So, I will brief you very shortly--between 15 and 20 minutes-- about such commissions in France, in Belgium, in Germany, at the European Parliament, and at the Council of Europe. 

    Mr. McCabe will talk extensively about the situation in France and more precisely about Jehovah's Witnesses. You have certainly read the advertisement that they have put in an American newspaper, so he will talk about that; but the situation in France is not only serious for the Jehovah's Witnesses, but also for a number of other minority religions. 

    In fact, thousands of religious associations may now or tomorrow be targeted by the fiscal services, as Jehovah's Witnesses, because they are not worship associations recognized as such by the Ministry of Interior. According to statistics published in 1993 by the Ministry of Interior, only 109 out of 1,138 Protestant associations, 15 out of 147 Jewish associations, and two out of more than 1,000 Muslim associations are currently entitled to benefit from legacies and exemption on donations. 

    Tomorrow, Catholic associations may also fall under the guillotine blade of the Internal Revenue Services, including the Youth World Days, through which huge amounts of money were collected to cover the expenses of the Pope's last visit to France, and a small evangelical pentecostal church of Besançon, with which I am in contact, is already hit by the fiscal measures of the IRS and is being pressured to pay about $500,000 on donations received between 1994 and 1997. 

    It remains to be seen, if collectors of the Internal Revenue Services will limit their action to the 172 cults, or so-called cults, listed in the French Parliamentary reports. Jehovah's Witnesses are on the black list; that small evangelical, pentecostal community of Besançon is also on that black list. 

    If such is the case, then it would be quite discriminatory and contrary to the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, which forbids the state to establish a category of good religions and a category of bad religions. 

    Moreover, there's no reason for fiscal services to fail to apply the measures to hundreds of thousands of secular non-profitmaking or philosophical, cultural, or some other associations which collect donations to finance their activities, an action that would then jeopardize, not only the freedom of religious association, but also in a much wider sense the right to association. 

    One more attack is now threatening minority religions in France. In the first days of July, 1998, the French Observatory on Cults publicized its yearly report. It noted that, according to them, about 50 organizations were indoctrinating children in 1998, against 28 organizations in 1996. In this general climate of anti-cult hysteria which started in 1995/1996, the French Law Commission adopted two draft laws introduced by Mr. Jacques Guyard of the Socialist Party and Jean-Pierre Brard of the Communist Party. 

    One asks for an inquiry about the finances of cults, and proposes a financial control of those who have budgets superior to $80,000.00. The other is supposed to control if children of cult members abide by the laws on compulsory education. Mr. Gest, Mr. Brard and Mr. Guyard, who were respectively chairman, vice chairman and rapporteur of the French Parliamentary Commission on Cults in 1995/1996, have asked for cults to be included in the category of combat groups and private militias. 

    By the end of 1998, the French Parliament will have to vote a resolution creating two more inquiry commissions, one about the financial situation of cults and another one about their influence on children. 

    On this background, we can see a threefold pattern of real persecution which is developing in France. First, minority religions have been marginalized, stigmatized and lynched. Access to public halls for meetings has been denied to a number of them, has been made more difficult or more expensive than for other organizations. Officials have become pernickety in fulfilling their administrative duties. Children at school and adults in their neighborhood have been stigmatized as members of cults. 

    Secondly, we now see an ``unpopular'' minority religion isolated from all the others and targeted by the fiscal administration: Jehovah's Witnesses now in France. But before that it was Scientology. The reaction of public opinion, or the lack of reaction, may be a testing ground for the treatment to be applied tomorrow to other minority religions. 

    And, thirdly, it can be feared that plans are being carried out to crush and kill minority religions one by one. 

    As the first country to have attacked minority religions, France is today paving the way to new subtle forms of religious persecution in Europe. In the '80s, the Hare Krishna movement was killed financially by the fiscal services for a number of reasons that will not be analyzed here. Today, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon are targeted by the same service. Tomorrow, other countries may think of forging new fiscal laws, new fiscal weapons, against minority religions. 

    The second country that set up a parliamentary commission was Belgium, the country I'm coming from, and where most of European institutions are based. The Belgian Commission on Sects--we usually use the word sects in Europe--started its work in April, 1996 and released its report in April, 1997. In one year's time, it held 58 meetings and heard 136 witnesses. 

    The most striking recommendation of the Sect Report is certainly the draft law that the Parliamentary Commission has proposed to introduce into the Belgian Penal Code and that provides for a sentence of two to five years in prison and/or a fine for those who use beatings, violence, threats, psychological manipulation to persuade an individual of the existence of false undertakings, imaginary powers or imminent fantastical events. This is the literal translation of that draft law. 

    Another astonishing fact is that some Catholic organizations are also targeted by the Belgian Commission, the Charismatic Renewal, Opus Dei, The Work (which is an association recognized in 20 European dioceses and which has its headquarters in Rome), the community of San Egidio and the small Opstal community led by Jesuit fathers mistakenly mentioned in the list of 189 controversial movements, and it is on purpose that I don't use the word sect or cult. Maybe I will answer some questions about that terminology later on. 

    Now, on the Protestant side, more than 20 Protestant movements are also victimized by the report: the Evangelicals (globally, just the Evangelicals without any distinction), the Pentecostals (also globally), the Adventists, the Amish, the Darbyists, Operation Mobilisation, Youth With A Mission, YWCA, and for some mysterious reasons not YMCA, and so on, many others. So, attacks must also be deplored against the Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist movement of about 15 million members, and the Satmar, a Jewish community which has become the symbol of religious freedom and freedom of education in the United States. 

    So, this is, in a nutshell, what happened with the Belgian Report. 

    But, since the publication of that report, that was a bit more than one year ago, an Information and Advisory Center was created by the Parliament. That was in April of this year, and it will soon be operational. On that occasion, a group of Belgian Protestant Satmar and Baha'i leaders whose movements were labeled as cults by the Belgian Parliamentary Report, set up a so-called Belgian Citizens' Forum against religious intolerance, discrimination and inequalities in Belgium in May, 1998, at the initiative of our organization. 

    It held a press conference about their plight at the European Parliament in Brussels under the patronage of Mr. David Hallam, who is a member of the European Parliament, British and a member of the Labor Party. 

    A conclusion about Belgium: in many societal matters, Belgium is prone to follow the example of its French neighbor. In the struggle against so-called ``cults,'' the Belgian Parliamentary Commission had the same prejudices and made the same methodological errors as their French counterpart. This can already be noticed from the repressive measures that are being studied, such as a draft law to penalize mental manipulation, protection of children of cult members, special control of bookkeeping of cults, ban on tax exemptions on places of worship, and so on. 

    The third country chronologically that set up a Parliamentary Commission was Germany. In June last, after 2 years' work, the Enquiry Commission, ``So-called Sects and Psychogroups,'' passed its report with a large majority. The report represented quantitatively and qualitatively the most intensive analysis to date of the phenomenon of new religious and ideological groups. 

    In its conclusions, the Commission stated that sects and psychogroups do not represent any danger to the democratic state, which basically corresponds to the conclusions drawn out by a Parliamentary Enquiry Commission in the Netherlands in 1984. However, a special provision concerned the Scientology organization which the Commission did not consider a religious denomination, but rather, as they phrased it, a ``political-extremist'' movement. This is why an extension of its observation, the observation of Scientology, by the Constitutional Defense Office was requested by the Commission. 

    The chairman of the Commission, Ortrun Schaetzle (CDU), also stressed that there is no undermining of economy by religious and ideological associations. However, the Commission shared the opinion that it is the duty of the state to protect the individual against exploitation and harm. According to the report, the extent of state action in relation to new religious and ideological groups and psychogroups ranges from education and information on the one hand to concrete measures on the other. This spectrum reflects the course of action recommended by the Enquiry Commission. The Commission recommended the establishment of a federal foundation which would tie together the various aspects associated with new religious and ideological groups and psychogroups, and the introduction of a legal arrangement for the state sponsorship of private advisory and information offices. Moreover, it recommended improving the protection of consumers, consumers of religious services and psychological services, by voting a law which should deal with transparency about psychotherapist qualifications, their methods and financial obligations. 

    The conclusion about Germany: the German report was surprisingly less negative than it had been feared from the interim report that had been publicized before. 

    The German Commission was the first to approach the issue from the point of view that it is the state's duty to protect consumers against illegal or unfair practice of cults and psychogroups. It now seems that consumers protection is originally typical of the German-speaking sphere of the European Union, as a member of the European Parliament, Maria Berger, who is Austrian, also took over the idea in a report on cults in the European Union. 

    But now this concept is extending its effects to other European institutions, such as the Council of Europe, which comprises 40 Member States. 

    Fourth on the list is the European Parliament. There were quite recent developments about their work, because about a week ago, exactly on the 13th of July, Mrs. Maria Berger's report on cults in the European Union was rejected for the second time by plenary session of the European Parliament. 

    According to David Hallam (Labour MEP), it seemed that while some MEPs were still flapping about the cult issue, more took on board arguments about religious liberty concerns and decided that it was not for them to make judgments on religious matters. 

    Others thought that the cult issue was not a problem. As the draft report was saying, the representatives of national parliaments in most Member States regard the existence and activity of cults in the Member States as insignificant or unproblematic and there is no reason to fear that the firmly established democratic institutions, based on the Rule of Law in the Member States, are in immediate danger. 

    So, we could have expected from the report of the European Parliament that it would at least have gone as far as the German report, which professed to drop the concept of cults because of its bad connotation and its stigmatizing effect. It could have also been expected that the word ``cult'' be replaced by religious and philosophical movements. 

    The European report, unfortunately, failed to sufficiently investigate the terminology issue and just piled up opposing amendments, which deprived it of any coherence and led to its rejection. Now it remains to be seen what lesson the Council of Europe will draw from this failure, because the Council of Europe is preparing a report on cults which should be released, if everything is all right, this year at fall. 

    Just some extracts from the recommendation of the draft report. It's written in the recommendations that the Assembly calls on the governments of the Member States to set up independent national information centers on cults; also to penalize systematically illegal practice of medicine; to encourage the setting up of nongovernmental organizations for the victims or families of victims of sects, particularly, in Eastern and Central European countries, and other things like that that I can quote if there are any questions about the work of the Council of Europe. 

    So, with regard to the terminology issue, the Council of Europe solution is to refer not to cults, but to groups of religious, spiritual and esoteric nature, because according to them the word ``cult'' has a negative effect. We could also add of philosophical nature of such groups. 

    Now, general conclusions about all those reports and the basic issue that is behind those reports. In fact, as I told you at the beginning, there is a two-tiered system in most European countries, with recognized and non-recognized churches, and the cult issue is inseparable from the recognition issue and the financing of religions by the state. 

    In the current two-tiered system, state recognition implies access to state financial support. This explains why most religions, whatever their historicity or their size, apply for state recognition. However, state subsidies are provided by all the taxpayers, including those that profess a non-recognized religion, or do not profess any religion. Such a system of state recognition is quite unfair and we think that it should be dismantled. 

    It's simply not fair that members of minority religions, atheists, agnostics and so on, pay for religions which do not tolerate them or are openly opposed to them. As Europe has a long history of welfare state in most sectors of society, including the religious sphere, it is more pragmatic to plead for a reform of the system which can awaken synergies between various segments of society than for a radical change such as putting an end to state financing of religions, which would trigger much opposition from the religious establishment and would not find any political support. 

    Germany, Italy and Spain have introduced a system that partially allows taxpayers to allocate a part of their income taxes to the religion of their choice. However, there are big disparities between the systems of these countries. I will not analyze them here, but the philosophy behind those systems is that the taxpayer should be allowed to finance the religion or the philosophical movement of his or her choice and should not have to contribute to the financing of religions they do not profess or they do not like. 

    So, we have a proposal to make, a solution to recommend, with this regard. First point: replacing the two-tiered system with recognized and unrecognized religions by a system in which all religions, whatever their historicity or their size, should apply for juridical status of their choice. Religions with small memberships, maybe some hundreds of adherents, could be requested to provide a number of signatures of people supporting their application. 

    Second point: allowing taxpayers to allocate a part of their income taxes to one of the religions or philosophical movements enjoying a juridical status (this proposal follows the Italian model but goes beyond it). 

    And third point: granting tax exemption to citizens making donations to religions enjoying a juridical status. 

    Such a fundamental reform would put an end to the two-tiered system with two or sometimes more categories of religions and citizens and the cult issue as such would then become quite irrelevant. 

    I thank you for your attention. 

    (Applause.) 

    Mr. Merry. Thank you very much, Mr. Fautré. 

    I would note the publication of Mr. Fautré's organization, Human Rights Without Frontiers, for anyone interested we can give you the address where it may be obtained. 

     

    Our next speaker is Mr. James McCabe, who is the Associate General Counsel of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. Mr. McCabe is an experienced lawyer who has argued a great many religious liberty cases before the American courts. 

    Mr. McCabe. 

    Mr. McCabe. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you on behalf of the Jehovah's Witnesses for inviting me to present a picture of the tax situation of Jehovah's Witnesses in France. 

    It's interesting that the 21st chapter of the Bible book of Luke describes a very poignant scene where a needy widow drops two little coins of small value into the contribution box at the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord commended this woman's generous spirit. Today, in the nation of France, if this woman is a member of a small pentecostal congregation or a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, the Ministry of Finance wants to impose a 60 percent tax on those two coins of little value. How was this determination made? Why are Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious minority groups under this fiscal attack? 

    Well, it should be noted at the outset that Jehovah's Witnesses are not a new religious movement in the country of France. As far back as 1891, the first president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, a legal corporation, used worldwide by Jehovah's witnesses, visited France. By 1913, there were religious assemblies of Jehovah's Witnesses being held in many different cities and departments of France. By 1928, there were 400 active members of the faith and participating with others in some 45 congregations in France. And, in 1939, six weeks after the beginning of World War II, Jehovah's Witnesses were banned as a religion in France. 

    During the next several years, the Witnesses faced extreme persecution, and many were deported to concentration camps. Today there is a group of them known as ``the deportees'' of France that survived that ordeal. Oppression that was heaped upon the witnesses during this time period was because of their Bible-based conscientious stand on neutrality and their refusal to cooperate with the Nazi Regime. Some of the Witnesses were even executed during this time period. 

    But, despite the extreme difficulty emerging after the war, the group had grown from 1,004 in 1939 to over 2,000 in 1945. And, the religion has continued to grow steadily over the past few decades and is now the third largest Christian religion in the country of France. 

    In November of 1997, a special one-day religious assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses was held in a facility called Villepinte in Paris, where a total of 95,000 Witnesses and their associates attended. The latest yearly report for France indicates that the number of Witnesses and their associates is now well over 220,000 with some 1,685 congregation in the villages, towns, and cities throughout France. Now, in addition to their Bible-educational community service, Jehovah's Witnesses in France have been active in the organization of humanitarian aid to several African countries over the last ten years. 

    Despite the clear religious nature of their activities, Jehovah's Witnesses along with other so-called ``sects'' that are mentioned in the report that Mr. Fautré has described for us, have been the subject of widespread media attacks. In a climate that stems no doubt from growing concern about so-called ``dangerous cults'' following mass suicides of the adherents of the order of the Solar Temple in the forest of France, the subway gassing in Tokyo, events that took place in Waco, Texas, and even more recently the suicides of the Heaven's Gate group in San Diego, cult-watch groups in France urged official inquiries be made by the government into the activities of the so-called ``sects'' or ``new religions.'' As Mr. Fautré has indicated, the National Assembly formed a Parliamentary Commission on Cults. 

    After a year-long study, they issued their report in January of 1996, which I believe interestingly enough did not list the Order of the Solar Temple as being one of the cults under investigation. The report is largely based upon hearsay and has no legal characteristics in France, yet it is frequently cited as an official determination that the list of groups, the 172, are dangerous cults. The religious groups that are singled out and classified by some individuals in governmental agencies are then described as not being religious at all, they come under the nomenclature of dangerous cults. 

    So, the report concluded, among other things, that the laws on taxation should be used to control, suppress and eliminate these dangerous cults in France. 

    Not surprisingly, in January of 1996, the tax authorities in France began an official audit of ``Association les Témoins de Jéhovah'' (ATJ), the principal legal corporation used by Jehovah's Witnesses in France. The audit was extended beyond the normal one year statutory period to a period of 18 months, and during this time period no irregularities were found in the Witness books of accounts, and it was determined that there was no commercial activity being engaged in by the group. 

    Nevertheless, a ruling was issued that a transfer tax applies to the religious offerings received from the faithful. A similar determination was made by the local tax officials in both June and then in November, and ATJ was held to be liable to pay the ``transfer tax'' of 60 percent of the donations it has received. 

    So, the scope of this decision eventually covered all offerings received from the contribution boxes from the Kingdom Halls, which is what Jehovah's Witnesses call their houses of worship, during the period from January 1, 1993 to August 31, 1996. After adding the penalties and interest, the total figure sought by the Ministry of Finance was in excess of 303 million francs or in excess of $50 million. 

    Now, the law on manual donations, or this transfer tax, is normally applied only to estates or is comparable to what we have in the United States known as a gift tax. Now, the law simply provides that any deeds containing either a declaration by the donee or his representatives, or a judicial acknowledgement of a manual donation, are liable to the donation tax. Article 795 of the same law provides an exemption from the tax for donations and bequests made to religious corporations, unions or religious corporations and recognized congregations, and that's where the problem comes in because the Ministry of Interior refuses to recognize the Jehovah's Witnesses and many of the other 172 listed organizations as religious, so the Ministry of Finance has determined the tax applies. 

    Well, despite the clear exemption that religious organizations have from the tax, an additional measure was taken on May the 14th of 1998, the tax official sent a bailiff to the headquarters of the Witnesses in France located near the coast of Normandy in Louviers and presented them with a lien on all of their real property and moveables. This lien means that they cannot move their moveables or sell or encumber their property in any way. 

    It's interesting, in obtaining the judicial approval for the lien, the Ministry of Finance lawyer alleged that the Jehovah's Witnesses were arranging their insolvency, somehow trying to dispose of their assets to avoid paying the tax. No facts were supported or supplied to support the allegations, and yet the judge granted the lien. 

    The imposition of such a tax is clearly unconstitutional on its face and it has technical problems even within its own framework. To date, the Ministry of Finance has not presented the religion with an official bill to pay the tax. French lawyers inform me that until this event takes place, an actual court case challenging the constitutionality of the tax cannot take place. That such a tax has been imposed on just one religion, while a vast majority of other religions and religious organizations are not similarly taxed on the contributions provided by the faithful, reveals its discriminatory nature. Surely, such an inequality cannot survive the scrutiny of the French Constitution, let alone the European Convention of Human Rights or other international treaties to which France is a signatory. 

    It's the intention of the Witnesses to challenge this infringement on their religious activities through the courts of France and in the European Court of Human Rights should that become necessary. 

    It's also interesting to note from a recent historical perspective, though, that already in the courts of France Jehovah's Witnesses have had their places of worship recognized as such by nine different administrative courts. These numerous rulings have meant that in the various courts view, Jehovah's Witnesses are a religion and their buildings are thus exempted from the habitation and property taxes imposed on non-religious buildings. Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled as far back as 1992 in the Kokkinakis case and several times since then discussing the situation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Greece, that they are a well-known religion. 

    On the face of this jurisprudence internally and externally, it's hard to fathom how the Ministry of France can continue the attack under the guise that Jehovah's Witnesses are not a religion of France. 

    In the words of former Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Supreme Court, ``The power to tax involves the power to destroy,'' and he also went on to say, ``... (and) to carry it to the excess of destruction would be an abuse.'' Certainly, that's the way we view the Ministry of Finance attempt to impose a tax on the ``widow's mite'' in the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in France. It is surely an attempt to destroy the religious activities of this group. It is also an attempt to destroy the congregations' generous spirit that in the past ten years has risen to meet the dire needs in the face of disaster and trouble in Burundi, Rwanda and some eight other African nations. Surely, it is a serious violation of the fundamental human right of freedom of worship. 

    While I have attempted to, in these brief remarks, to focus on the very recent activities of the tax authorities in France, I think it's also of note to point out the disturbing results directly attributable to the climate of intolerance growing in France. Virtually every week over the past three years, a segment of the French Government has caused to be published information in the popular media in which Jehovah's Witnesses are presented as a religion that breaks up families, that there's somehow a higher incidence of mental health problems among Jehovah's Witnesses than in the general population, and an old baseless lie that comes from a faulted study from the United States by a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, that they have a higher rate of suicide than the general population in France. 

    Results of all of this media campaign and this misinformation has had a tremendous impact on the lives of a number of Jehovah's Witnesses, and it's noteworthy, I think, that numerous teachers who are Jehovah's Witnesses lost their employment specifically due to their adherence to their religious faith. 

    One example involves Mrs. Maryline Bouchenez who, after teaching at one school for 18 years was forced to undergo severe scrutiny from the school authorities simply because she is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. In their findings, the authorities found that ``Mrs. Bouchenez carries on her work in a satisfactory manner. The children are happy in her class. When observing the professional action of Mrs. Bouchenez, it is impossible to say that the neutrality of the public teaching is at stake here.'' Yet, in spite of this favorable official report, she was forced to transfer to another school and told that she should not let those working there know of her religious affiliation. 

    A second example involves Mrs. Catherine Guyard, who, incidentally, had been a teacher for 18 years. A meeting was organized by the parent-teacher association in 1996. The purpose was worded thusly, ``Your children will be entrusted to a school teacher who is a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, who are a sect organization. We invite you to discuss this matter on September 2, 1996, at 8:30 p.m. at the school.'' The academy forced Mrs. Guyard to teach at another school, and when she was to return to the school she taught at for 18 years she learned that a tract was being distributed to the parents and posted on information boards outside the school. According to the judge who examined the case, he said, ``The tract was written to harm the reputation of Mrs. Guyard and to provoke discriminatory attitudes.`` 

    Weekly, the central offices of Jehovah's Witnesses of France received reports from Witnesses living in six different French departments that they had lost their employment as day care specialists. 

    With increasing frequency, we are finding that French authorities are refusing to allow Jehovah's Witnesses to rent facilities for use of religious services. For example, in Lyons, where the Witnesses have rented the same facility for over 20 years, they were recently denied access to that facility. 

    Mayors of numerous French towns have also refused to extend building permits to local congregations to construct houses of worship. In nine cases, ``Kingdom Halls,'' as the centers for religious worship of Jehovah's Witnesses are called, could not be built. The congregations affected either continued meeting in private homes or in other facilities other than municipal facilities. 

    Also, it's interesting to note, too, that in at least 11 cases that we are aware of mothers going through painful divorce proceedings were denied custody to their children, on the simple basis that they were members of Jehovah's Witnesses. 

    In conclusion, I think we can say that today religious liberty is definitely under attack in France. Added to the personal toll of living in an environment of religious intolerance as mentioned, the Ministry of Finance in France is attempting to control and destroy the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in that country by the imposition of a 60 percent tax on its contributions. These contributions have been voluntarily donated by members of the faith to support their places of worship and carry out their religious charitable activities in France and in French-speaking Africa. Jehovah's Witnesses see this as a direct result of the Enquete Commission's report. 

    Equally disturbing is the fact that as Mr. Fautré has brought out, Belgium and Germany have commissioned similar reports in their respective lands, and we are awaiting the other shoe to drop shortly in those countries. 

    If similar fiscal restraints result from the Enquete Commission reports in Germany and Belgium, ominous restraints and protracted legal battles to ensure basic freedoms and fundamental human rights among the member states of the European Union are sure to follow. 

    In a speech last month at the inaugural luncheon of the French-American Business Council here in Washington, Madeleine Albright noted that, ``Both France and the United States must stand together for peace and human rights.'' No doubt our distinguished Secretary of State had in mind helping less developed nations adhere to the lofty principles of fundamental human rights embodied in international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Rights, the Helsinki Final Act, the European convention on Human rights, but today, we see the need and we see support of all lovers of religious liberty and freedom to demand that France itself respect the human rights of more than 200,000 French citizens associated with Jehovah's Witnesses within its borders. 

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

    (Applause.) 

    Mr. Merry. Thank you very much, Mr. McCabe. 

     

    The floor is now open to members of the audience to address comments and questions to our two expert witnesses. I would ask people please to stand and use one of the two available microphones in the aisles, and please to identify yourself for the--as a courtesy to our guests. 

    Anyone can be first. 

    Questioner. My name is Jim Andrik, I'm with the General Counsel's Office of Jehovah's Witnesses. I had a question for Mr. Fautré. You mentioned the word ``cults'' and ``sects'' that's often used in Europe and you had some information about using a different term, movement, religious movement and so forth. Did you mention that? 

    Mr. Fautré. Yes, yes. There is a whole debate about the terminology issue, because members of Parliamentary Commissions try to give legal contents to the word ``sect.'' They haven't managed to do it, and so they propose various alternatives. 

    For example, in Germany survey talked about groups having philosophical--esoteric, religious and philosophical contents. In Belgium, they have transformed the denomination of the observatory--the so-called ``Observatory on Cults,'' into an advisory and information center on illegal and harmful sectarian organizations. So, these examples show that they don't feel at ease with the word ``cult.'' But, in France, they keep the word ``cult.'' So there should be an alternative to that word, which has a very negative connotation. The European Parliament says, for example, ``we keep on using the word cult but we don't give a pejorative connotation to that word,'' but never do they say that they give a positive connotation to the word religion. 

    The tendency in most Western European countries is to make a distinction, it's not openly said, between religions and cults; and those who are members of a religion should be entitled to enjoy the benefits of international instruments on religious freedom, religious rights and so on, and those who would be in the category of cults or sects wouldn't enjoy the same rights in that field. 

    Questioner. Okay, thank you. 

    Questioner. My name is Robert Buckley, and I've been a Consultant at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. I've been in Europe probably since 1988, a number of times interviewing Communist prisoners, Jehovah's Witnesses, as a matter of fact, I had the privilege of interviewing--DeGaulle and Madame Simone Veil. Interestingly enough, I found that in my interview with Madame DeGaulle the Jehovah's Witnesses assisted her in arriving at their concentration camp. 

    So, in these reports about these religions, these sects or cults that are being referred to as minority religions, have been found in underlying areas in the continent, that they should be so concerned about these people, if they obey the laws and so on? What has been your exposure to that? Is there some type of theory of that, or is there some type of influence? 

    Mr. Fautré: I think that general anti-cult climate started after the massacres committed by Aoum, the gas attempt of Aoum in Tokyo's subway, and also after the homicide/suicides of the Order of the Solar Temple. 

    Before that happened, there were already forces, ideological forces or political forces, which did not sympathize with all that was connected to religious groups or religiosity in general, and which were sometimes hostile to what was religious. 

    But, they hadn't got an audience in the media. When those massacres were on the front pages of the press, journalists were looking for people who had some experience about those groups, and so they tried to find former members of those groups, or families who had members in those groups, and who didn't agree with such a situation or who had to complain about that. 

    So, it's the way it started in the media in public opinion, but according to the country, those ideological, political forces present some variety. If we take the example of France, which has a tradition of separation between church and state, churches are not openly, at least, supported financially by the state, so there seems to be a stricter separation. The state is secular, public schools are secular, there have been a number of issues that have been taken to court, such as wearing a veil as a Muslim and so on. So they are very sensitive on that issue. 

    Behind the issue of what they call in French ``läcité,'' I would say secular humanism, it's impossible to translate that concept into English, behind that concept we have political forces, such as the Communist Party, which is still rather strong in France. Its anti-religious position is been known; it was like that all over the world, where Communists were in power. Then, you have the Socialist Party. Socialist Party is rather much divided, you have all sorts of opinions, but also inside it you have people who are anti-clerical, anti-Catholic Church and things like that, but you also have Protestants. Prime Minister Jospin is Protestant, for example, and also Michel Rocard. 

    The second force consists in all those movements, anti-cult movements, where you find members, former members of religious groups who at a time of their own personal history started to disagree with the movement of which they were adherents, and so they probably wanted to take revenge. That's for France. 

    Also, a third group in France is the extreme right. Being from the extreme right means that you are nationalistic. If you are nationalistic, you don't like immigrants, you don't like asylum seekers, you keep the faith of your ancestors, and you don't want new religious movements to come into the country because they threaten your national identity. 

    And all those forces are working in France. There's no objective visible alliance between all of them but there's an exchange of information in one way or another, through internet, through the publications and so on. 

    In Belgium, you also also have such forces, but the historical content, the historical perspective is different. In Belgium, you have Catholic parties, political parties, that have been in power since the independence of the country in 1830. So if you didn't want to be in that Catholic political party you joined the Socialist Party. Being in the Socialist Party meant to be anti-clerical, anti-Catholic, anti-religious, anti-Christian in general. Also, joining the liberal party put you in that category of anti-clericalism, grossly said. 

    Now, as there have always been alliances between those parties, so the anti-religious positions, or sentiments, feelings of some of the politicians were down played, but on a number of occasions you see them come to the forefront. 

    For example, the members of the Parliamentary Commission on Cults in Belgium were, number one, President Serge Morout, who is Socialist, and is atheist. One of his rapporteurs, Mr. Duchenes, is from the liberal party and he is a free mason. 

    If you look at the composition of the French Parliamentary Commission, you also find such people who have anti-religious sentiments, such as the Socialist Guyard, who is the head of that commission, then you have Brard, the Communist who is really anti-religious, and he made statements in the media which were really insulting to believers in general. 

    And so, according to the Cantry, because European Continent is a very--there is much diversity, every country, every nation state has its own history, but in every country you have that secularism and those anti-religious sentiments. 

    And so, those forces existed and the sect issue was a wonderful opportunity for those people to come to the forefront in the media and to take care of their publicity as politicians, as they ask to chair such commissions or to be rapporteurs and so on and so on. 

    I don't know if I answered your question, but those issues are so much complicated that you have to put them in historical, and political and even sociological perspective. 

    Questioner. James Polechia, Director of International Public Affairs for Jehovah's Witnesses. 

    Listening to you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Fautré, and Mr. McCabe, I have some notes and I'd like to make a statement and an appeal to what this portends, what I think it portends. 

    Four hundred years ago, I witnessed an important document of religious liberty being born, it was the Edict of Nantes, the place was in France. The first time I was shoved aside when there were severe persecutions of the Hugenots, the French Protestants, and 200,000 French Protestants had to flee the country in order to save their lives. Many went to England. So, today, will France give due honor to the Edict of Nantes on its 400th anniversary? 

    Apparently, the stark answer is a no. The religious freedom of Jehovah's Witnesses are seriously threatened, but not only the religious activity of Jehovah's Witnesses, not only this religious group, but the--for religious intolerance to reign over other religious groups and charity organizations in France, and if this intolerance is not stopped in France it threatens all of Europe, East and West. 

    So, I call on all responsible people to appeal to the Government of France to protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens, including Jehovah's Witnesses, which according to the Charter of Paris is the first responsibility of government. 

    Thank you. 

    Mr. Fautré. Can I comment on this? 

    Mr. Merry. Oh, yes. 

    Mr. Fautré. Just a short comment. 

    The example of France, or what's happening currently in France with Jehovah's Witnesses, and as I told the Pentecostal Evangelical Congregation of Berzonsol, has got worldwide coverage in the media and has attracted the attention of some former Communist countries, which see there maybe an opportunity to keep repressive legislation against their minority religions, we call them minority religions, they call those cults or sects. 

    Just a concrete example, a few months ago the Latvian Government held a hearing about the cult issue and invited some people from France, who were involved in the Observatory on Cults, then a few weeks ago a delegation was sent by Latvia to France to study how they coped with that issue. So, that means that the fiscal weapon that France is currently using against Jehovah's Witnesses and against the Protestant denomination, and used before in the '80s against Harry Krushna, might give some thoughts to more repressive regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. And, those countries are applying for integration into the European Union, and one of the conditions that have been set is that they respect human rights and the--rights of religious liberty. 

    Now, they will say, well, how do you want to treat us differently from France, or from Greece, or from any other country where they make a distinction between religions and cults or sects, and where they give different rights to cults and religions, and where you have two-tiered or three-tiered systems. 

    So, that was a short comment on the gentleman's comment. 

    Questioner. My name is Bob Destro, I'm from Catholic University here in Washington. 

    I had a question for Mr. Fautré and also a question for Mr. McCabe. Let me do the--point out a part of your report, it's under the heading of the ``Divided Academic World.`` 

    Mr. Fautré. Yes. 

    Questioner. And, I wanted to ask you what impact you thought that those divisions had. You said that the Commission basically has taken and made a genuine choice between the contending parties. In the United States, there has been a lot said and written about the division of elite opinion on various civil rights issues, and I wondered what you thought that division in the academic world would portend for cases brought before the European Commission and other multinational human rights organizations. 

    Now, that's the question for Mr. Fautré. I thought I would ask a quick question for Mr. McCabe too, and then let you address them seriatim. 

    The question with respect to foreigners, and the view of at least the French and some of the other governments in Europe appears to be that these new or, actually, not new, but apparently foreign religious groups is inconsistent with their national identity, and I was wondering what you thought in terms of tying the two questions together with the idea of the emergence of the concept of the Common European Home and whether or not a concept of European citizenship might embody a principle of religious liberty that really looks at people as individuals with human rights, rather than as Frenchmen who have to be Catholic or Germans who have to be Protestant, or whatever. 

    Mr. Fautré. So, about the academic world, very interesting question. 

    So, when France, when the French authorities decided to set up a Parliamentary Commission, they invited a lot of people to be heard, and nobody from the academic world was invited. It may be very amazing for you here in America, but that meant that they were disqualified in one way or another for such a debate. 

    Now, why were they kept outside the debates? I think there are two reasons for that. Before that Commission was set up, as Mr. McCabe stressed, the media had played a role in influencing the minds of civil society and the minds of those who are involved, including those who are involved in sect issues in one way or another. So, there are a lot of reports against cults, illegal activities, so-called ``illegal activities'' of cults, so-called ``harmful'' cults and so on, and the media did not go to the academic world, they didn't invite academics to such debates. So, it is as if they didn't exist, and so they were not invited. 

    Second reason is that there was much lobbying by the anti-cult movements and groups of victims, or former victims, or so-called victims, or families of victims and so on, and it's more spectacular, of course, for TV or radio to get an interview of someone who has left such groups and who says, well, I was inside the group, I know what's happening, and those people from the academic world, they are in the ivory tower and they don't know what's happening in those groups. 

    So, that's the basic argument used by the media and in the Parliamentary Commissions to say we don't invite those people, they are just theoreticians and they don't know the situation in the field. 

    In Belgium, they tried to do better than France, and they said we will invite some university professors who are known to have some knowledge about that issue, so they invited some from Catholic universities and from the ULB, some free-thinking university I would say, and after they were heard they listened to the testimonies of former victims of so-called former victims, who were probably, very probably presented by anti-cult movements, also by representative of anti-cult movements, and after hearing both sides Belgian Commission decided that the testimonies of the academics were not relevant and they under-assessed the dangerousity of such groups and they gave the priority to the testimonies of those who had been victims. So, that was quite bluntly said by the Parliamentary Commission in Belgium, that the testimonies of the academics were not reliable, really insulting the way it is phrased in the report. 

    When we look at the level of the Council of Europe, there was a meeting last year, I think it was in May, and again when we look at the list of the people that were heard by the preparatory hearing for the report on cults, we only see members of the anti-cult family or those who in the academic world are presented as experts by the anti-cult movements, but nobody was invited from the academic world that had different opinions, such as Professor Bolbero, which is well known, who is well known, and many others. So, there's really an ideological choice in the fact that such people are thrown out of the debate. 

    Now, is there a division in the academic world about that issue? In the special issue of our magazine about the work of the Parliamentary report in Belgium, we published a contribution of Professor Massimo Intravenio, who will be present here next week at their hearing, and it was stating with utmost energy that there was no such division, and that it was an argument that was used by the anti-cult movements. And so, to be credible in the eyes of those in Parliamentary Commissions who had some time to decide between which part of the academic world they should choose and take a standing point. 

    Did I answer your question? 

    Questioner. Yes, thank you. 

    Mr. McCabe. I forgot the question now. 

    Historically, Europe has been troubled by religious intolerance. We can go back to the inquisition, the Crusades, the persecution of the Hugenots. Today, with the infusion of many ``foreigners'' into the European Community there has been numerous instances of racial and xenophobic intolerance going on, and I think that religion has been lumped into it and fueled by the attacks of the anti-cult groups that have been so well publicized. 

    It's amazing how misinformation gets into the news media, and even when the persons are called to account, such as happened in France when the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses, who are 11 men who are mostly 80 years and older, were accused by one anti-cult leader of being drug traffickers and money launderers. The case was won in court against that individual on slander, but there was no publicity about it. Yet, the charge, when originally made, was widely publicized. 

    So, I think that what we have in Western Europe primarily is the strong propaganda activities of the anti-cult movement, which as we see very favorable press coverage, both, not only in the print, but in electronic media, simply because of its sensational claims that they make and usually are very baseless or extremely anecdotal when you consider the numbers of adherents. 

    However, I think in Eastern Europe the concept of national identity is so often tied up with the national religion that new religious movements, or unfamiliar to majority religious movements, constitute a threat to the national identity. I think that was the situation in Bulgaria when they moved in 1994 to deregister 24 religions, very strong, the feeling was that we have to support the church, and the church is the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and that supports the national identity of Bulgaria, and it's going to help us against the invading Muslim hordes that they perceived were diluting their national identity. 

    But, I think in Western Europe it's more the anti-cult movement not tied up with patriotism and state. 

    I don't know if that answers your question, but it's what I thought of when you asked it. 

    Questioner. Well, the reason that I asked the question is that, at least in the United States, there is at least a historical tradition, whether we carry it through or not is another question, of associating the United States as a place where people came to escape religious persecution. 

    Now that I've been sitting on this side of the ocean and watching the development of the Euro, for example, my concern is that as this idea of the Common European Home develops, where is religious liberty going to be in that mindset? Is it just going to be ``Well, we are all secular, and you can be a Catholic or you can be a Jehovah's Witness, just don't act like one.'' Or is religious liberty going to be looked at as a value to be protected, as much, for example, as the value of being able to make sexual orientation choices, because that's a very big concern of the European Commission. 

    And so, what I'm looking at is the differential ways in which religious liberty is looked at, both here in the United States and other places, and that's why I really asked the question, what are European academics saying about this kind of thing. It might be too theoretical, but at least if you can get them talking they might be influential. 

    Questioner. Thank you. 

    Mr. Fautré. And, I think that in French-speaking countries in Europe, so France and the southern part of Belgium, that the role that's given to the academics is much less important than in the Germanic countries. I think of more than part of Belgium, so the Flemish, on the Flemish side, you see interviews of academics in the press, and not in the French-speaking part of Belgium, which is more socialist minded and socialist means in Belgium to be anti-clerical, anti-religious and so on and so on. 

    Also in Germany, you had that paper that was published by some university professors about the work of the German Commission that was relayed by the German press, and in a positive way. 

    Also in Holland, the academics are also welcome, but not in Latin or at least French-speaking--the French-speaking sphere of the European Union. 

    Mr. McCabe. I think you may have hit the nail on the head with your characterization that you can be anything you want, just don't manifest it. 

    Recently, during the French Tennis Open, they interviewed the American tennis star, Venus Williams, and in the English she was asked why she appeared to be different from other tennis stars, and she mentioned because of her religion as being one of Jehovah's Witnesses. But, in French subtitles it didn't identify her as a Jehovah's Witness, it just said it's because of her religious thinking. 

    So, be anything you want, just don't let anybody else know. 

    Questioner. I'm Richard Finn, International Religious Liberty Association out in Silver Spring. A rhetorical speculation that I want to draw on the appeal of the public affairs representative of the Witnesses in calling for a stand against this, it seems to me that if France can do this to the Witnesses, then France would have to do this to others, else if not then it is an admission, n'est-ce-pas? that they are after the Witnesses alone. 

    Now, let me see if I have this straight. For Mr. McCabe, you cannot now fight this in court because you don't have juridical standing, did I get that correct? 

    Mr. McCabe. That's my understanding, it's held that government actually presents a bill, here's the amount, pay it, we cannot attack the constitutionality, it's just not right for judicial review. We can attack the lien that's been imposed, but the lien is, from my understanding, like a temporary restraining order, you give the government 30 days to present the bill, today is the 30th day. So, if we haven't received the bill by tomorrow, postmarked today, that the lien should resolve. 

    Questioner. That is the official bill for the millions of francs. 

    Mr. McCabe. Yes, so we haven't received that bill, nobody is standing at the door saying, here, pay this amount, that's the amount alleged that's owed under this lien and under the audits that it conducted through the last 18 months. 

    Questioner. Then if the bill doesn't come then---- 

    Mr. McCabe. We smile. 

    Questioner. Good. 

    Mr. McCabe. We don't have to go to court and fight it. 

    And, I think there might be an indication that that may be the case, because the first publicity of this lien that was placed on the property in Louviers was in Le Monde, and the article was very neutral, it was not something put in the media by the anti-cult group, it didn't characterize Jehovah's Witnesses as being a criminal organization that needed this fiscal control, but it was a very factual report which raised a question, can this be constitutional, can this be legal? 

    And, since then the media has approached the Ministry of Finance, made inquiries as to what is going on, what's the situation here, and their response has been, this is a private matter, we have no comment, again an indication that they might be embarrassed by the steps that they've taken, they might have gone too far. 

    Questioner. Are your current contributions besieged? 

    Mr. McCabe. No, not for the present time, because there are no contributions going into that organization presently, with that particular organization. 

    Questioner. I see, all right. 

    For both---- 

    Mr. McCabe. We have other religious organizations that have not yet been attacked. 

    Questioner. Okay, all right. 

    For both of you, specifically, for Mr. McCabe relating to the Witnesses, but in general for Mr. Fautré, in this current situation how are the principal confessions responding, we've talked about the academics and we've talked about government, but what are the principal confessions, the big churches, religious organizations, saying about this? 

    Mr. Fautré. The big churches as such, so if you mean for the Catholic Church, the hierarchy of the church, as far as I know, as I've read in the French press, there's no reaction about that, but the Catholic press has written about that issue because they feel there might be concern by the interpretation of the legislation. 

    That's why I mentioned in my brief report the fact that that or Catholic organization that had collected a lot of donations to count for the expense of the last visit of the Pope in France might fall under the guillotine blade, and so there was much interest from La Croix, sort of the daily Catholic newspaper in France, in the press conference that we held early in July in Paris on that issue, and also from other Catholic media, but I think it's because they feel the danger might reach them too, and you must put that in the context of separation of church and state, and the fact that there are anti-Catholic feelings in a number of segments of French society. So, the press, Catholic press, and the Catholic hierarchy. 

    Now, on the Protestant side, I didn't hear any open reaction from the top leaders of the Protestant churches, the Protestant churches only represent three or four percent, less than three percent I think, one percent in Belgium, but I read an article in Reformation, a French Protestant magazine, saying we might be targeted by the IRS, and, for example, I think I have got the article here if you want a copy of it I can give it to you, if you use your places of worship for concerts, for, well, anything else that has nothing to do with worship, and you ask what you are doing, in fact, it was written in the article, and you charge and the access to that concert then you might be removed your status of worship association. 

    So, be careful, and let's be careful, Jehovah's Witnesses are hit by that measure now, but maybe tomorrow it will be our case. 

    Mr. McCabe. I have not heard any official comment, but we have noted comments like I think at the press conference Mr. Fautré was referring to, a lawyer, a prominent Parisian lawyer who was a Catholic, said he was very concerned, but I don't think we've heard anything official from any other groups. 

    Mr. Fautré. Yes, and some rejoice about the situation in which Jehovah's Witnesses are in. 

    Questioner. I'm Karin Finkler with Congressman Joseph Pitts. 

    Mr. Fautré, you mentioned the press conference that David Hallam held with a number of different religious groups. 

    Mr. Fautré. Yes. 

    Questioner. And, I was wondering how the governments and the European Parliament reacted to that press conference and the statements that were made, and how the general public at large, if they heard about that press conference, how they reacted to the statements that were made, repeating some of the characterizations that you made. 

    Mr. Fautré. Thank you for your question. 

    It was at the end of May that we held the press conference in Brussels, with representatives of various Protestant denominations, Baha'is and Satmars. I could explain if you want why it was limited to such groups, but I will not analyze it here. 

    So, those people were isolated from each other, they don't have any contacts with each other, and I managed to reach them and say please come to the same table and let's talk about your situation. And, I suddenly discovered that I had experienced the same sort of problems after the publication of the Belgian report on the cults, a number of problems, such as slander in the media, but also difficulty of access to public halls because they were asked, are you not a member of a sect? I saw the Adventists were on the sect list. I cannot take the decision, I am just an official and I have to refer to the Mayor, and I referred to the Mayor and I cannot decide on my own. 

    Although until that period, they had always rent such a hall to the Adventists or to the Baha'i, I have to refer to the Municipality Council, and then the was a meeting of the Municipality Council and the Adventists, they knew some people on the Municipality Council, they called them, and that's the way things changed. We had a very simple situation until the Belgian report, after the Belgian report the situation got complicated, not just the Adventists. We had same sort of experience, the Baha'i said we wanted to meet, the Minister of Justice or the Department of the Ministry of Justice, because they deal with religious affairs, relationships between state and church, and here is the letter that I got, and the letter is, we cannot receive you because we only have relationships with recognized religions, and you haven't got--you are not a recognized religion. So, that means that the state refuses any dialogue with those religions which are not recognized or with those citizens who are members of non-recognized religions. 

    So, everything gets very complicated after such reports, and so all those people coming from those various groups told about their situation, the difficulties they had, about the numerous errors, rumors, hearsay, as here Mr. McCabe said, that were found in the report about their own religious movement, these were--that were taken over very probably from the popular press, from anti-cult movements and so on, and so we decided to hold a press conference. 

    Then we had to choose where shall we hold the press conference. We know the press very well in Belgium. If you hold a press conference, you say we have minority religions, we invited a scientology of the old camp to shut you down. 

    So, scientology was not inside, Moon was not inside, so we thought if we held a press conference in a press hall in Brussels they will not come because there's nothing to write about, Scientology is not there, they cannot criticize that initiative, so let's do that at the European Parliament. So, we considered that the European Parliament was not Belgian territory, that it was European territory, and we addressed our invitations to almost exclusively, exclusively to members of foreign countries, foreign corespondents in Brussels. So, we purposely--we didn't invite on purpose those Belgium journalists, because we knew in advance what they would write about if they come, and they have nothing to criticize, they don't write anything. That's the way it's going in Belgium, and it is also the way it is going in France. 

    So, we held the press conference, I just invited two or three Belgium journalists who know me, I know them, I can rely on them, and there was the Catholic Press Agency, they made a very good report about our press conference, and then some from abroad, too. So, it had no impact on the Belgian press itself, but the purpose of the press conference was not to inform the media of our initiative and public opinion of our initiative in Belgium, but to draw the attention of foreign countries of what was happening in Belgium. 

    And, after the press conference, we wrote to the president of the Parliamentary Commission on the cults, and also the rapporteurs, we told them that we had held a press conference and we joined a petition that had been drafted by the members of the Belgium Citizens Forum, and insisted on Belgian citizens not to give the impression that it was monitored by American sects and things like that. That was very important. 

    And, we wrote to the king, we got an answer saying, okay, we've got your letter, your petition, thank you, something like that. We wrote to the president of the Commission, no answer. We wrote to both rapporteurs, we got an answer of one of them, the one who was a freemason, very violent answer saying that he disagreed with the contents of the petition, and the fact that we had mentioned that people such as Massimo--Professor Massimo Intravenio or Aileen Barker in England were reliable sources of information about cults in general. They had published books, they were really recognized of the highest scientific level, I was answered in this letter, I got a confirmation of what was in the Belgian report, those people are not reliable in our eyes, we have made a choice, and we don't want to use their information. 

    So, so far, we are so far in the discussion and the difficult dialogue that we want to open with the Belgian authorities on that issue. 

    Questioner. I'm Susan Taylor with the Church of Scientology International and I have a question for Mr. Fautré. 

    Mr. Fautré pointed out that in France the Jehovah's Witnesses are named in court cases. The same is true for our church in Germany, the Scientologists, many cases have been won, in fact, an awful lot of them recognizing Scientology as a religion and allowing us to practice the words of--in public, yet the administrations in both countries would not adhere to these particular court case decisions. And, my question to you is, what do you think can be done about that, to resolve this particular conflict? And, how can we here in the United States assist in that? 

    Mr. Fautré. Conflict, what sort of conflict do you mean exactly? 

    Questioner. Well, that the court systems in both countries recognizing our religions as religions, yet the administrations, like the Ministers of Interior and Ministers of Finance do not recognize this, and they were refusing in some cases, as in Germany, to adhere to the court decisions. 

    Mr. Fautré. Well, I think that the first question is, the first problem is that the state has the right or has not the right to recognize a religion, and it's the basic problem that we have in the whole of--almost the whole of Europe, people think that the state is entitled to recognize their own religion or not, and so they all apply for recognition by the state. 

    But, I think that we should go into another direction and say the state hasn't got the right to recognize religions. That would solve the problem, of course, that's why I explained that system at the end of my report, say of moving to another system which wouldn't imply a recognition by the state, and so a form of interference, in fact, into the religious field. 

    So, I couldn't go further than that. 

    Then if you address courts in Italy, or in Australia, or in Spain, or in France, you may have different decisions about the fact that Scientology or another group is or is not a religion, and judges might say at some time, well, it's not our role to decide what the state hasn't been able to decide. 

    Mr. McCabe. We've seen the European Court of Human Rights able to identify a known religion, and the court sits, of course, in Strasbourg, and it's very interesting that we have this problem today in France. The country of Greece has been embarrassed, I think several times now, at least five times ordered to pay monetary fines to their own citizens over the issue of religious discrimination. 

    And, unfortunately, I don't see any other way that we're going to move governments like France. I mean, it's kind of like it's just too big, who is in charge, or, it's they that are imposing this tax, and we've been to the highest levels of Government in France asking for some assistance and they say, oh, yes, this is a very serious problem, this is embarrassing for us, but we can't stop it. 

    So, fortunately, the Rule of Law is alive and well in Europe, and we have to apply to the European Commission when serious human fundamental rights are violated, and if this matter, this current taxation problem cannot be resolved internally within France, certainly we'll be applying to the European Commission. 

    Questioner. Bob Destro, Catholic University again, I just had--you both mentioned something that I think is very important, I'd like your reflection on it. 

    Mr. Fautré mentioned that at least in Belgium he wanted to avoid the impression with the press conference that a bunch of American sects were breathing down the neck of the Belgian Government. I suspect that exactly the same reaction would be in France probably even more so, that we don't want a bunch of Americans telling us what to do. 

    Now, certainly in this country we have been through the experience in the early '80s and mid-'80s of a big awakening and controversy about cults, and thankfully that's behind us, but, being up here on Capitol Hill, what do you suggest in terms of an approach taken from this side of the ocean that would minimize that notion that these were a bunch of ugly Americans coming over trying to just tell you what to do and to kind of foster a cooperative relationship among the people who are concerned? 

    Mr. Fautré. Yes, about the press conference, we didn't want to give the impression that the Americans were behind that, because they were not first, but even if they were not the press could have used that argument to destroy our initiative, and so we wanted to have an open forum where everybody could exchange ideas and own experience, because we have to set up a network of information with correspondents from various minority religions to know what's happening and to get also copies of the letters, of the correspondence that they have with the Belgian authorities, and we found quite amazing things in those letters. 

    For example, about that list of 189 movements, the word ``sect'' is not mentioned, that's important, and that's typically Belgian compromise between one side and the other side of the political game. 

    So, yes, we have to set up such a network, of course, because otherwise we wouldn't be aware of the situation, and through a letter that the Adventists came from the Belgian authorities, said why were you on that list of sects. Say, okay, you were on that list of sects because you rented--yes, you rented a hall to another group that was labeled as a ``sect'' in our files, just that, just that. 

    Now, how did you draw up that was another letter to the Gendarmerie, so that's the police depending from the Minister of Interior in Belgium, there was another letter to the Gendermerie, and say, well, it was said that the list of sects was coming from your services, is that true? And, the big boss of the Gendermerie wrote the Commission, the Parliamentary Commission on Cults asked us to get a list of cults, so we haven't got a list of cults, what are the criteria for drawing up such a list? Just give us a list of complaints that you have in which cults are mentioned, and so they made such a list, but the Gendarmerie didn't want to give that list because they said, it's not reliable, it must be checked. But, the Parliamentary Commission insisted, say, okay, we will cross examine and check and so on and so on. 

    And so, under pressure that police, depending from the Minister of Interior, had to give the list to the Parliamentary Commission. It's written in the letter. 

    And, that list was not changed, there were errors inside that was recognized afterwards, that was not changed, not checked, not examined, and just put bluntly like that in the report in the Annex. 

    Now, the Belgian members of the Parliament, the Belgian president of, not the Parliament, but the Parliamentary Commission, had a long forward before putting the list in the report, in which it was saying, so we have got a list of 189 movements, but it doesn't mean that they are sects, or that they are dangerous, or they have committed illegal activities and so on and so on, but they were mentioned during the hearings. So, really, you go to hearing, you say I was a member of that group and I tell you it is a sect, it was listed as a sect like that. 

    So, when we came to the vote about the report, the Belgian report, there are 660 pages, I think about 660 pages, and there was so much debate, such discussions inside the Parliament about the vote, that only 19 pages were adopted by the Parliament, so 19 pages out of 660 were approved by a vote of the Parliament, and those 19 pages were the conclusions and the recommendations. 

    But, but, the list was still in the report, and all the rumors and hearsay remained in the report, but they were not approved by the Parliament, but they were published as such. So, it means that the Parliament didn't think that it was irrelevant not to publish that report, although it had only approved 19 pages of it. 

    So, you see how complicated it might be sometimes. 

    And, when the President of the Parliamentary Commission was interviewed on the fact that only 19 pages of your work have been approved by the Parliament, said, ah, but that does not mean that they disapprove of the rest. 

    And, when they say, you are talking about 189 sects, we have never said that they were sects, and that they were dangerous, and that they were illegal, and when they are told by us, but you knew that the media would say it would be, it is a list of sects, they say we didn't say that, we didn't write that. Look at our four words, so how ambiguous it was handled. 

    Mr. McCabe. Two things come to mind, in view of your question. 

    I think there is a perception that there is a great exportation of religion from America to Europe, particularly, Eastern Europe, but I think it also is an idea that's popular and common in Western Europe. We always try to emphasize that we are not talking about the 200,000 American citizens practicing a religion in France, it's 200,000 French citizens, or 150,000 Russian citizens who are being denied the basic fundamental human rights because of a brand. 

    But, it's kind of like the Mayor of Louviers commented on the occasion of Jehovah's Witnesses establishing their headquarters operation there in France, and proceeded to say in the free marketplace of ideas, have been ideas--people will accept, and if it isn't they'll reject it, and that's the way she viewed religion. People will take and choose what they want, and those that do not satisfy basic needs of people will be rejected by them. 

    So, I think what we have to communicate to the European Community is not our religious experience so much as just that, people do what they want to do, punish criminals, tax commercial operations, but certainly you don't want to tax the widow's mite. 

    Mr. Merry. If there are no other questions from the audience, let me, as chairman, draw attention to one point which Mr. Fautré, and that is the very unfortunate impact which some of the practices in Western European countries are having as an example for some of the newly independent states of the Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This is a subject which the Commission, in some of its discussions with representatives from other governments has drawn attention, that at a time when the former Communist countries and the newly independent states are drawing up their laws and their regulatory practices for the 21st Century, after having emerged from decades of formerly atheistic practices, this should be a time when West European countries should be presenting the best possible examples for them to follow, and not be providing them with excuses for why they should not themselves be adhering to their international and domestic commitments on religious liberties. 

    On that note, let me thank both of our guests for traveling to Washington to be with us and to share the information they have given us, which has been very valuable to us. I would like to remind people in the audience that we have another similar session next week, which will be a joint public hearing of the House International Relations Committee and of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on the theme, Continuing Religious Intolerance in Europe. This will be on Thursday, July 30th, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 2172 in the Rayburn House Office Building. 

    Thank you all for coming. 

    Mr. Fautré. Thank you. 

    (Applause.) 

    (Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 2:57 p.m.) 

    [Documents submitted for the record follow.] 


     

    General Constitutional Guarantees Relating to Freedom of Religion and Beliefs

    Submitted for the Record by Willy Fautré

    The first Belgian constitution was issued soon after the independence on February 7, 1831. It was a model and a source of inspiration for other states in Europe in the nineteenth century: Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Romania.... It guaranteed the basic freedoms of press, education, association and religion. In more than a century and a half it was regularly adapted to the evolution of society. 

    The last fundamental revision took place in 1994, making of Belgium a federal state with three communities--the French, Flemish and German-speaking communities, three regions--the Wallonian, Flemish and Brussels regions, and four linguistic regions--the French-speaking, Flemish-speaking, German-speaking regions and the bilingual region of Brussels Capital City. The new constitution comprises 198 articles and transitory provisions. The current constitution which can be called the second constitution of Belgium was signed and released by King Albert II on February 17, 1994. Very few articles deal with religious freedom, directly or indirectly. They are mainly concentrated under Title II ``About the Belgians and their rights'' (See the text of the next articles in the original language in Annex I). 

    Article 11: The use of rights and liberties granted to the Belgians must be assured without discrimination. To this end, law and decree namely guarantee the rights and liberties of ideological and philosophical minorities. 

    Article 19: Freedom of worship and public practice of the latter as well as freedom to demonstrate one's opinions on all matters are guaranteed, except for the repression of offences committed when using these freedoms. 

    Article 20: Nobody can be compelled to take part in one way or another in activities and ceremonies of a religion or to observe its days of rest. 

    Article 21: The State has not the right to intervene in the appointment or in the installation of the ministers of any religion. It cannot prohibit them from corresponding with their superiors either and to publish their own acts, except, in this last case, the customary responsibility concerning press and publishing. Civil marriage will always have to precede the marriage blessing, except the exceptions to be provided by the law, if need be. 

    Article 24 

    • 1: There is freedom of school education; any preventive measure is prohibited; the repression of the offences is only settled by a law or a decree. The community (4) ensures the free choice of the parents. 
    • 2: The community organizes an education system which is neutral. The neutrality namely implies the respect of the philosophical, ideological or religious beliefs of the parents and the pupils. 


      The schools set up by the public authorities offer until the end of compulsory school education the choice between the classes of one of the recognized religions and the non-religious ethics classes. 

    • 3: Everyone has the right to education in the respect of the fundamental freedoms and rights. The access to education is free of charge until the end of compulsory school education. 


      All the pupils subject to compulsory school education have the right, at the cost of the community, to a moral or religious education. 

    • 4: All the pupils or students, parents, teaching staff and school institutions are equal before the law. The law and the decree take into consideration the objective differences, namely the characteristics specific to each school authority, which need an appropriate treatment. 

    Article 181

    • 1. The wages and retirement pensions of the religious ministers are to be paid by the State; the sums required for this purpose are to be drawn out of the Budget on an annual basis. 
    • 2: The wages and retirement pensions of representatives of organizations recognized by the law who give moral assistance, on the basis of a non-religious philosophy of life, are to be paid by the Sate; the sums required for this purpose are to be drawn out of the budget on an annual basis. 

    Some comments on these articles are all the more so necessary since a number of specific words and concepts are difficult and even impossible to translate into English and need to be clarified. 

    Article 11 which provides for the rights of ``ideological and philosophical minorities'' could be interpreted as a safeguard of the rights of religious minorities. 

    Article 19 does not explicitly guarantee ``religious freedom'' or ``freedom of religion'' in the broad sense of the expression but ``freedom of religious practices'' or ``freedom of worship'' (liberté des cultes). This approach shows that in 1830 the Constitutional Assembly was more interested in the external facets of religious life than in the contents of the faith or its inspiration. The Belgian juridical system has no common opinion about the concept of ``culte'' and a clear definition of it fails. However, constitutionalists currently agree on a wide interpretation of the word ``culte'' which is supposed to comprise all religious and philosophical beliefs.(1) This freedom includes the right to have a belief and to change it. (2) This is all the more important since a ``culte'' can enjoy exemption from taxes on land and property. 

    The expression ``religious freedom'' is never used in the Belgian Constitution. The wording that is recurrently used to express this idea is ``liberté de(s) culte(s),'' which is a source of misunderstanding. ``Culte'' has nothing to do with the English word ``cult'' as synonym of ``sect.'' It is untranslatable in English and according to the context, several approximate formulations must be used, such as ``religious practices,'' ``worship'' or ``religion.'' 

    The second part of article 19 somewhat limits the use of religious freedom inasmuch as it is no longer guaranteed when offences are committed. In this regard, article 268 of the Penal Code (3) says that ``An imprisonment of eight days to three months and a fine will be imposed on the religious ministers who in the practice of their pastoral duties will have directly attacked the governement, a law, a royal decree or any other act from the public authorities through speeches held before public assemblies.'' There is no legal definition of the concept of ``religious minister'' or ``minister of religion'' (ministre du culte) which comprises priests, pastors allowed to conduct a worship. 

    The separation between State and religions and the ban on any State's interference in the internal matters of a religion are a basic principle which is clearly enshrined in article 21. However, the latter forbids the performance of a marriage blessing by a religious minister'' before the civil marriage.(4) After the abolition of this principle in 1814, at the end of the occupation, abuses were committed, mainly in the countryside where religious marriages failed to be registered as civil marriages. The Napoleonic law was restored in 1817 under the Dutch occupation. 

    Article 24 which deals with school education counts 5 paragraphs. This is not astonishing for those who know how sensitive this issue has always been throughout the whole history of the country. Belgium has a network of Catholic schools subsidized by the State which has always been more extensive than public schools. Catholic religious classes are organized in Catholic schools, There are also some Jewish and Protestant schools which have their own religious classes in their curriculum. In public schools under the authority of one of the three communities (French-speaking, Flemish-speaking and German-speaking) of the provinces and of the municipalities, a free choice of religious classes is offered to the pupils insofar as it is related to a recognized religion. 

    Article 181 provides that the wages and retirement pensions of the clergy of the six religious denominations (``culte'' ) recognized by the State and and of the moral advisers appointed by a non-religious philosophical movement (Conseil Central Laeque Secular Central Council) are chargeable to the State. 

    Apart from these constitutional guarantees, it is also worth mentioning the Belgian Cultural Pact which states in article 1 that ``the decrees voted by any of the cultural councils cannot contain discrimination of an ideological or philosophical character and cannot restrain rights and freedoms of ideological and philosophical minorities.'' 

    Morevover, Belgium has ratified the Universal Declaration, the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments which guarantee freedom of religion and belief. 

    Endnotes

    1. Delperee, Droit constitutionnel, I, Bruxelles, Larcier, 1987, n. 119; J. Dembour et P. Lewalle, Institutions de droit public, Liége, Presses Universitaires de Liége, 1985, 48 

    2. A. Mast et J. DuJardin, Overzicht van het Belgisch Grondwettelijk Recht, Gand, E. Story-Scientia, 1985, p. 551, n. 480; DelPeree, op. cit., I, n. 120; J. Dembour et P. Dewalle, op. cit., 48. 

    3.Other examples in the Penal Code: art. 142 (forcible or prohibited participation in religious practices), art. 143 (disturbance of worship), art. 144 (outrage against liturgical objects through facts, words, behaviors or threats), art. 145 (outrage against a religious minister in the exercise of his pastoral duties through facts, words, behaviors or threats), art. 146 (aggravating circumstances in case of serious blows and injuries), art. 267 (marriage blessing preceeding civil marriage). 

    4.The precedence of civil marriage to religious marriage was introduced by a law dating back to the French occupation (April 8, 1802) which provided for very severe sentences.


     

    The Historical Process of State Recognition of the Majority Religion and a Number of Minority Religions

    Submitted by Willy Fautré

    When Belgium became an independent state in 1830, the laws, decrees, orders and regulations preceding the Belgian Constitution remained in force inasmuch as these provisions were not replaced or abolished by the said Constitution. Therefore, Catholicism (since 1802 under French rule), Protestantism (since 1802) and Judaism (since March 17, 1808) enjoyed de facto the status of State recognition and the financial advantages deriving from it. 

    After the promulgation of the Constitution, other religions (``cultes'' ) were recognized by a law or by a royal decree. Anglicanism was recognized by two royal decrees (18 and 24 April 1835). Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and Anglicanism were again explicitly recognized by a law on the temporal needs of the religion (``culte'' ) released on March 4, 1870. More than a century later, they were followed by Islam (law of 19 July 1974 amending the said law of 1870) and finally Orthodoxy (law of 17 April 1985 amending the same law of 1870). 

    Moreover, secular humanism (``läcité'' ) has indirectly enjoyed State recognition since the last revision of the Constitution as article 181 Section 2 states that the payment of the wages and the retirement pensions of its moral secular advisers providing moral assistance are to be paid by the State. However, such an extension of article 181 was not legally necessary (1) as the State budget already allotted an annual subsidy to the organisation officially representing secular humanism and as the salaries and the pensions of the moral secular advisers in the army were already paid (Law of February 18, 1991). However, it cannot denied that the extension of article 181 grants a certain constitutional recognition to secularism and is not without psychological importance even outside Belgium. It is indeed striking that through the Declaration to the Final Act of Amsterdam Treaty in June 1997, the Statesmen of the European Union have also decided to stress the importance of non-religious thinking. 

    As can be seen from this short historical overview, very few recognitions have been granted since 1870 although a number of minority religions have applied for such a status. Except ``social utility for society,'' no official criteria justify the State recognition. In 1985, Jean Gol, the then Minister of Justice (member of the Liberal Party PRL and of the Jewish community) tried to clarify some criteria for the recognition of a religion (culte): its membership (several tens of thousands), its historicity and its interest in society. Though, he stressed that the worldwide dimension of a religion was not a sufficient criterion. However, his considerations were never enshrined in a law. However, the basic problem of defining a ``culte'' is still failing.

    The Belgian recognition system has always been based de facto on the monolithic structure and the functioning of the dominant Roman Catholic Church: an ecclesiastical structure with a clear hierarchy and clear territorial divisions. However, it is exceptional for a religion to be monolithic. There is a wide range of Protestant denominations, of Orthodox Churches, of subdivisions in Islam (Shiites, Sunnis, Wahabites), in Buddhism, in Hinduism. Some religions have no hierarchy or no clergy. In an increasingly multireligious society, this is a challenge to the Belgian system which now seems outdated and quite inappropriate. 

    Orthodoxy is only recognized through the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches. The United Protestant Church of Belgium (2) (EPUB) which is the legal heir of Protestantism recognized by the State in the 19th century (3) now represents less than half of the Protestant population (4) while about 50% of the Belgian Protestants adhere to unrecognized Evangelical, Pentecostal, Adventist Churches united in an umbrella organization called ``Federal Synod of Protestant and Evangelical Churches in Belgium.'' Islam is recognized but has failed until now to fulfill a number of conditions such as an administrative umbrella organization reflecting its various components in Belgium (5) Secular humanism (``la läcité'' ), the symbol of which is the torch is as less monolithic as the aforementioned religions. Only a part of secular humanists, free thinkers, agnostics, atheists identify themselves with the Central Secular Council (``Conseil central läque'' ) which the State considers as the administrative body representing secular humanism. For some time, the civil authorities did not know who was entitled to represent Protestantism (as it has now been the case in the last decades with the Muslim community) but fortunately for the state, in 1839, the subsidized Protestant churches managed to find a common representative. However, the question was raised if a Protestant congregation which was not under the authority of the Synod of the Union of Evangelical Protestant Churches could be recognized by a Royal Decree. On April 20, 1888, the Liberal Protestant Church was recognized by a Royal Decree. The Lutheran Church which left the Synod is still recognized and subsidized: it is based on the law of 18 germinal, year X, which also concerns the Churches of Augsburg Confession. 

    Recognition entails several material benefits that are described extensively under the heading ``State Financing of Recognized Religions'' but here are already a few briefly presented. Clerics get (modest) wages from the State and appropriate housing from the municipalities or the provinces which have to cover any expenditure for this purpose. Legal personality is attributed to the ecclesiastical administrations responsible for the temporal needs of the recognized religion (culte). Free public radio and TV broadcasting time is put at their disposal. They can appoint army and prison chaplains whose salaries are paid by the State. They are entitled to provide religious instruction in public schools. 

    This general overview clearly highlights two categories of minority religions. A number of them are recognized by the State and enjoy financial and material advantages described briefly here above: Islam (about 350,000 members), Judaism (about 40,000), United Protestant Church of Belgium (about 40,000), Orthodox (about 50,000), Anglicanism (about 6,000). 

    Non-recognized minority religions do not enjoy any of the advantages linked to the status of State recognition. They include: Protestantism represented by the ``Federal Synod of Protestant and Evangelical Churches in Belgium'' (about 50,000 members), Jehovah's Witnesses (about 25,000 members and 50,000 church-goers), the Church of Scientology (claiming about 5,000), Mormons (about 3,000-4,000), Buddhists (about 3,000). Other smaller groups number some hundreds of members (Baha'is, Hare Krishna, Sahaja Yoga, Sukyo Mahikari and the Raeblian movement) or less than 150 believers (The Family, Soka Gakkai, Unification Church, Nouvelle Acropole, Fraternité Blanche Universelle, Human and Universe Energy, Ingreja Universal do Reino de Deus, Church of Christ of Brussels, Ogyen Kunzang Chölling, Le Mouvement, Institut Gnostique d'Anthropolgie, Ecoovie, Antoinism, etc.). Up to now, the ``Federal Synod of Protestant and Evangelical Churches in Belgium'' has asked for State recognition independently from the EPUB but to avail. Jehovah's Witnesses, which have a monolithic structure and a clear leadership like the Roman Catholic Church have also unsuccessfully applied for State recognition without any financial advantages in order to have access to their members in hospitals, detention places for asylum-seekers. Other smaller religious groups have also asked for State recognition but with the same negative outcome. 

    This quest for recognition manifests a need of State legitimacy which is not the role of the State. Such a trend is not to be encouraged since it is in contradiction with the basic and constitutional principles of separation between State and Church and it might in the long term trigger a dangerous process of State interference in the religious sphere. 

    ENQUIRY COMMISSIONS ON CULTS IN WESTERN EUROPE

    The European continent is multicultural, multilingual and multireligious. It can be said that religious pluralism really exists within the borders of the Member States of the European Union and more widely of the Council of Europe. However, the variety of their national histories, which is a richness in itself, raises some problems. In many cases, a specific religion has been closely linked to the edification of modern Nation States and pretends to enjoy or effectively enjoys some privileged status legally, politically and socially. Consequently, most European countries have a two-tiered and even a three-tiered system in which religions have different statuses and in which citizens are not treated in the same way and even suffer from various forms of institutionalized inequalities and discrimination on the basis of their religious or philosophical beliefs. 

    The most obvious separation is indeniably between on the one hand religions which the State recognizes and therefore legitimizes with some sort of quality label and on the other hand second-rank religions which are not recognized, exclusively minority religions, also called ``sects'' or ``cults,'' which do not enjoy the state quality label. However, even in the predominant category you have a second separation between the prevailing religion(s), so-called historical or traditional, and minority religions which are considered as honorable. 

    This historical background on which recent massacres committed by groups such as Aoum or the Order of the Solar Temple have left their mark should allow one to better understand the sudden emergence and development of parliamentary commissions on cults in Western Europe. 

     

    FRANCE

    France is the first country of the European Union to have set up a parliamentary enquiry commission on cults. On January 10, 1996, the National Assembly published the so-called ``Guyard report'' which listed 172 cults supposed to be harmful or dangerous and in which cults were compared with ``associations of criminals.'' 

    It was preceded first by an ``information mission on cults'' within the law commission in 1981 and then by the Vivien report drafted in 1982-1983 and published in 1985. The suicide-homicide of 53 members of the Order of the Solar Temple in Canada and Switzerland in 1994 and the gas attempt by Aoum in Tokyo's underground in 1995 incited the French government to reopen this issue. On June 29, 1995, the National Assembly approved the proposal to set up a parliamentary enquiry commission. The appointment of its members was ratified on July 11 and the commission started its work on July 18. Strangely enough, no ethnologists or sociologists or historians of religions were included in the commission which decided to hold 20 hearings of witnesses during 21 hours behind closed doors. The secrecy of the procedure was quite unusual as such a step is only taken when it concerns national defence issues. Before the official publication of the report, the media circulated excerpts from it, especially a ``black list'' of harmful or dangerous sects, and this had a disastrous effect on minority religions and their members. 

    Since 1996, a number of cases of intolerance and discrimination produced by the ``Guyard report'' can already be listed. For two years, a number of media have been libelling minority religions, circulating rumours and false information, inciting religious intolerance with impunity. On this background, a threefold pattern of real persecution is developing. 

    Firstly, those minority religions have been marginalized, stigmatized and lynched. Access to public halls for meetings has been denied to a number of them, has been more difficult or more expensive than for other organizations. Officials have become pernickety in fulfilling their administrative duties. Children at school and adults in their neighbourhood have been stigmatized as members of cults. 

    Secondly, we now see an ``unpopular'' minority religion isolated from all the others and targeted by the fiscal administration: Jehovah's Witnesses. The reaction of public opinion or its lack of reaction may be a testing ground for the treatment to be applied tomorrow to other minority religions. 

    Thirdly, it can be fered that plans are being carried out to crush and kill minority religions one by one. 

    A concrete example will highlight this destructive strategy. The French tax administration has now launched a serious attack on the freedom of religious association and worship by enforcing a 60% tax on ``hand donations'' made by more than 200,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the last four years. The amount involved is about 50 million dollars (!) and every donation made to cover it will be taxed again on a 60% basis. After several years of legal battles, a court has just ordered the seizure and the provisional mortgage of their patrimony. 

    This is the first time the tax law on ``hand donations'' (in French: dons manuels) reformed on May 19, 1992 is applied to a religious group or association thus depriving it of vital means for practising its worship and Jehovah's Witnesses think this might be the end of the world for them in France. 

    The financial contributions of Jehovah's Witnesses to their organization are used for religious and missionary activities, for worship expenses and for humanitarian relief help in the Third World. Their commercial activities such as printing and selling magazines and books are carried out in the framework of another organization which is submitted to normal taxes. 

    In 1996, in the climate generated by the parliamentary report on cults, public authorities adopted specific measures on so-called cults such as the publication of ministerial decrees and the creation of a national observatory on cults. In the aftermath of these events, the tax administration audited the Jehovah's Witnesses over a period of a year and a half and the non-profit character of the ``Association Les Témoins de Jehovah'' was recognized. However, in the framework of a procedure aimed at tax exemption on places of worship it was put forward that they are not a ``worship association'' (in French: association cultuelle) but a sect listed by the parliamentary commission and that as such they cannot benefit from the requested exemption. Consequently, a number of congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses took the French state to court. For two of them, it was acknowledged that they were entitled to obtain tax exemption while others were nonsuited and will go to the Appeal Court. 

    These events are clearly linked to the parliamentary report on cults. Fiscal services say that ``the association of Jehovah's Witnesses forbids its members to defend the nation, to take part in public life, to give blood transfusions to their minor children and that the parliamentary commission on cults has listed them as a cult which can disturb public order». Therefore, they consider that tax exemption cannot be granted to their local congregations. 

    This arm-wrestling between the state and Jehovah's Witnesses started in 1985 when the Council of State confirmed a verdict denying the association the right to accept a legacy on the ground that it was not a ``worship association.'' The second act of the play resulted in a truce: the Council of State recognized the right to tax exemption on buildings or parts of buildings used by two local congregations for worship. With the fiscal attack we are now in the third act. 

    In the fourth act, thousands of religious associations may be targeted by the fiscal services because they are not ``worship associations'' recognized as such by the Ministry of Interior: according to statistics published in 1993 by the Ministry of Interior, only 109 out of 1,138 Protestant associations, 15 out of 147 Jewish associations and 2 out of 1,050 Muslim associations are currently entitled to benefit from legacies and exemption on donations. Tomorrow, Catholic associations may fall under the guillotine blade of the internal revenue, including the Youth World Days through which huge amounts of money were collected to cover the expenses of the Pope's visit to France. The small Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon is already hit by the fiscal measure and is being pressured to pay about 500,000 dollars on ``hand donations'' received between 1994 and 1997. It now remains to be seen if collectors of the internal revenue will ``limit'' their action to the 172 cults listed in the French parliamentary report--Jehovah's Witnesses and the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon are on that black list. If such is the case, this would then be quite discriminatory and contrary to the constitutional principle of separation between State and Church which forbids the state to establish a category of ``good'' religions and a category of ``bad'' religions. Moreover, there is no reason for fiscal services to fail to apply their measures to hundreds of thousands of secular non-profit making philosophical, cultural, sports associations which collect donations to finance their activities, an action that would jeopardize not only the freedom of religious association but also in a much wider sense the right to association. 

    One more attack is now threatening minority religions in France. In the first days of July 1998, the French Observatory on Cults publicized its yearly report. It noted that about 50 organizations were indoctrinating children in 1998 against 28 in 1996. In this general climate of anticult hysteria which started in 1995-1996, the French law commission adopted two draft laws introduced by Mr Jacques Guyard (Socialist Party) and Jean-Pierre Brard (Communist). One asks for an enquiry about the finances of cults and proposes a financial control of those which have a budget superior to about 80,000 dollars. The other is supposed to control if children of cult members abide by the laws on compulsory education. Gest, Brard and Guyard who were respectively chairman, vice-chairman and rapporteur of the parliamentary commission on cults in 1995-1996 have asked for cults to be included in the category of ``combat groups'' and ``private militias.'' By the end of 1998, the French parliament will have to vote a resolution creating two enquiry commissions: one about the financial situation of sects and another one about their influence on children. 

    France is now the only European country where donations to churches and religious associations are taxed by the State. This fiscal aggression against minority religions which has been largely publicized abroad might very soon inspire the same sort of policy in former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe where there is no real separation between the state and a historical majority religion. 

    Conclusions

    As the first country to have attacked minority religions, France is today paving the way to new subtle forms of religious persecution in Europe. In the 1980s, the Hare Krishna movement was killed financially by the fiscal services for a number of reasons that will not be analyzed here. Today, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon are targeted by the same services. Tomorrow, other countries may think of forging fiscal weapons against their minority religions. 

     

    BELGIUM

    The Belgian Parliamentary Commission on Sects started its work on April 25, 1996 and released its report on April 28, 1997. In one year's time, it held 58 meetings and heard 136 witnesses. 

    The most striking recommendation of the Sect Report is certainly the draft law that the Parliamentary Commission has proposed to introduce into the Belgian Penal Code and that provides for a sentence of 2 to 5 years in prison and/or a fine for those who use beatings, violence, threats or psychological manipulation to persuade an individual of the existence of false undertakings, imaginary powers or imminent fantastical events. 

    Another astonishing fact is that some Catholic organizations are also targeted by the Belgian Commission: the Charismatic Renewal, Opus Dei, The Work (recognized in 20 European dioceses and with its headquarters in Rome), the community of San Egidio and the small Opstal community led by Jesuit fathers mistakenly mentioned in the list of 189 controversial movements. 

    More than twenty Protestant movements are also victimized by the report: the Evangelicals, the Pentecostals, the Adventists, the Amish, the Darbyists, Operation Mobilisation, Youth With A Mission (YWAM), the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) but not, for some mysterious reasons, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and so on. Attacks must also be deplored against the Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist movement of about 15 million members, and the Satmar, a Jewish community which has become the symbol for religious freedom and freedom of education in the U.S. 

    This report will focus on the methodological errors committed by the Parliamentary Commission. 

    BEHAVIOR AND BELIEF 

    First of all, the Commission took the stand--which is typical of the anti-sect approach--that it is possible to rigorously separate the ``deed'' from the ``creed.'' According to this methodology, the harmful deeds of ``sects'' could be analyzed without making a global analysis taking into account the problems of a doctrinal character. Some observers studying religious movements occasionally qualify them as ``pseudo-religious'' and thereby eliminate from the analysis the religious elements which constitute the crux of the problem. Moreover, the rigid separation between doctrine and behavior is, in fact, impossible: the behavior of a religious movement cannot be interpreted or reconstructed nor understood, if the doctrines from which it proceeds are deliberately ignored. 

    THE WITNESSES

    This problem of methodology is highlighted by the sort of dialogue the Belgian Commission has opened up with witnesses defending some religious movements (none of them had been invited, but all were heard ``on their request,'' contrary to the representatives of anticult associations who had been duly invited), and with academic specialists. The Commission seemed to be insufficiently interested in knowing the specific characteristics of each group or movement. On the contrary, it accused the witnesses of violations of specific laws or of debatable affirmations based on newspaper articles or (very often) on publications of anticult movements. 

    CONFLICTS BETWEEN THE ACCOUNTS

    With regards to new religious movements, different and even opposing accounts are provided by current members, ex-members--hostile, indifferent or even still favorable towards the group that they have left--anticult associations, academic specialists, major churches and the media. It is difficult--especially for a non-specialist--to determine which account is closest to the reality. 

    The method used by a Parliamentary Commission should be at least that of a ``par condicio'' (condition of parity) between the different sources. Following the example of the French Commission, the Belgian Commission opted for another method. 

    First of all, a rationalistic prejudice which has profound roots in the history of secularism and anticlericalism in Belgium often emerges from the interventions of the president of the Commission in his dialogue with the witnesses. For this reason, a source of information about the movements put under examination was ignored, namely the official representatives of the majority churches. Unfortunately, they were deliberately ignored. However, it would have been very interesting to know what the Catholic Church thinks of the indictment of The Work, the Charismatic Renewal or Opus Dei. As a compensation, the views of a marginal Catholic priest, such as Rick Devillé, were given extensive coverage. This priest is the author of a diffamatory publication about The Work, in which he even wonders whether the entire Catholic Church has not become a ``sect'' under the pontificate of Pope Jean-Paul II. 

    In the category ``authors,'' six witnesses were given a hearing--the author of a study work on Internet, and five virulent authors of anti-sect books. The choice of such writers is questionable as literature about new religious movements is extremely abundant. As non-Belgian authors were invited to the hearing, it could have been easy to find dozens of authors with diverse and more balanced opinions amongst journalists, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. 

    Amongst the representatives of associations that were invited, four belonged to Belgian anticult associations: one was the chairperson of the UNADFI (National Union of the Associations for the Defence of the Families and the Individual), the most important anticult movement in France, and another was the director of a Luxemburg-based anticult association. The fact that the minutes of their hearings have been publicized is a positive aspect of these hearings. They show the inconsistency and the cultural poorness of the anti-sect associations' speech, which totally ignores the scientific literature on new religious movements, being exclusively based on their own texts and on newspaper cuttings. 

    However, it is surprising that the Belgian Commission did not invite representatives of organisations having another approach to the problem, such as INFORM--Information Network Focus on Religious Movements--based in the London School of Economics in Great Britain, which is consulted by the government and supported by major churches. 

    It is also surprising that important associations of sociology and history of religion, which often deal with these problems were ignored. For example, the current chairperson of the SISR (The International Society of Sociology of Religion), Professor Liliane Voyé, who is Belgian. 

    And last but not least, ex-members of 49 movements got a hearing following the request of the Commission and obviously on the proposition of anticult movements. 

    Ten of the attacked movements got a hearing on their request (an eleventh, the Sahaya Yoga, explained by letter the reasons why it preferred not to be present). All these elements show a preferential option for the anticult accounts rather than for a mediation procedure between opposed or even contradictory accounts. The principle of ``par condicio'' (condition of parity) was obviously not respected. 

    A Divided Academic World? 

    The Commission also fell into a fundamental error with regard to the current international scientific debate concerning new religious movements. It affirmed that ``the academic world is strangely divided about the way of assessing sects. There are very few fields of investigation where the specialists are so opposed to each other as in this realm.'' This leads to personal settlings of scores--face to face or in writing--between certain personalities of the two conflicting parties: on the one hand, the 'theoreticians'--sociologists and historians of religion--and on the other hand, the `practitioners'--those who help victims and their relatives, especially militants of anticult movements. 

    The conflict also opposes the aforementioned sociologists and a number of psychologists and psychotherapists who perform clinical (and scientific) work with ex-members of ``cults.'' 

    In its report, the Commission declared that the first group is mainly structured within CESNUR. With regards to the second group, Madeleine Landau Tobias, Janja Lalich, Marc Galanter and Jean-Marie Abgrall are once again presented as qualified experts. The Commission also stated that it had ``become aware of this division in the academic world'' and that it had decided to make a genuine choice between the two conflicting parties. 

    On the basis of its own work (notably the dozens of hearings of former victims), the Commission came to the conclusion that it could not side with the conclusions of the group of sociologists of religion because they had obviously under-estimated the potential dangers represented by the sectarian organisations, due to their restrictive and unilateral approach to the issue. The Commission reproached the sociologists, and CESNUR in particular, with denying the existence of mental manipulation and stressed that it had been convinced by opposing testimonies on the subject. 

    The Commission even sat in judgment on the sociologists, saying that ``... it deplores that the conclusions of such analyses on `new religious movements' (a) were published without a thorough examination. From the ethical point of view, it is extremely disputable to consider a sectarian organisation as a ``new religious movement.'' Analyses of this kind, which ignore one side of the reality, contribute to the exoneration of harmful sectarian organizations. As a result, they give them a free hand or, at least, enable them to run more easily their pernicious practices.'' 

    The Value of the Testimonies 

    Amongst thousands of ex-members of new religious movements who, in most cases, do not adopt a militant attitude towards the groups that they have left--the Commission had chosen to hear about fifty of them. Almost all have repeated the anticult Vulgate of ``mental manipulation.'' 

    The Commission did not examine any statistical study on the opinions of ex-members in general. Not one representative of the international community of academic and non-academic psychiatry which rejects the model of ``mental manipulation'' was granted a hearing. 

    Concerning ``scientific sources,'' Professor Johan Goethals confessed that he exclusively made use of three texts, the ``scientific'' character of which can be questioned and which are examples of militant anticult speech. 

    From these texts, the Belgian criminologist went back to the theses on the reform of thought of Professor Robert Jay Lifton. However, he ignores the discussions that the application of these theses to new religious movements has provoked in the United States and he does not say a single word about the oscillating and ambiguous stands of the same Robert Jay Lifton with regard to such an application. 

    Of course, if the Commission ignores the academic psychological and sociological literature which massively rejects the model of mental manipulation and if it proposes a simple summary of the texts which emanate from anticult activists, the results can be none other than unilateral. They are even presented in a language impregnated by an outdated rationalism. 

    Factual Errors 

    The Belgian Sect Report reveals a number of paradoxical and ridiculous errors. 

    The Bahai'is would be ``first and foremost a group having financial and political interests which, like Scientology, wants to establish a new world order, a new nation with only one master.'' Sukyo Mahikari, ``one of the most dangerous sectarian organisations in our country,'' is allegedly ``an extreme right group, using symbols such as the swastika'' and would mainly aim at collecting money. If the second statement is purely grotesque, the first one seems to ignore the fact that the use of the swastika as a religious symbol in the Orient dates back to at least two thousand years before the creation of the national-socialist party. Jehovah's Witnesses seemingly prefer boys as little girls are systematically depreciated as compared with the male members of the family; they are beaten and subjected to continuous physical violence.'' This very grave accusation (which is false) is reported in the synthesis of the testimonies without any verification or any element of evidence. The Satmar community (for which the Commission prefers the spelling Szatmar), which is a part of Hassidic Judaism and which is widely known in Antwerp, is described as being ``close to the centre of the diamond industry,'' as having ``considerable economic impact.'' It is also portrayed as having ``rather difficult relations with the judiciary'' because it is said to apply the ``principle according to which a Jew does not denounce another Jew--even a criminal--to a non-Jew.'' In the United States, the judges are said to ``close their eyes on certain things for fear of seeing this electoral block (Satmar) turn against them when their mandate is again at stake.'' ``Finally, cases of kidnapping of children and their harboring in international ramifications of the movement would not be isolated practices.'' Contrary to what the Belgian Commission thinks, the Satmar community has been extensively studied by specialists, particularly--but not exclusively--in the United States. This group is conscious of its difference with regard to civil society and even to other streams of Judaism: for example, they are opposed to the current State of Israel and to Zionism. The accusation of ``kidnapping children'' who would then be ``harbored'' was certainly influenced, in Belgium, by a well-known case--that of Mrs. Patsy Heymans, whose former Satmar husband took away their three children, notwithstanding a contrary decision issued by a Belgian tribunal. But, without specific references to the Heymans case (which is not mentioned), the accusation seems to come directly from the ideological headquarters of the worst anti-semitic propaganda. 

    New Legal Provisions 

    Concerning the new penal provisions to be introduced into existing laws, the Commission has made several specific proposals. One of them makes unlawful the ``active incitement to commit suicide.'' It is also proposed to adopt the rules concerning ``the abuse of a situation of weakness'' which already exist in the French penal code. However, ambiguous commentaries about this ruling suggest extending its field of application to people who are neither minor of age nor mentally deficient. The sentences that the draft law has proposed to introduce into the Penal Code are particularly serious: a prison term of up to five years, and/or a fine for those who use beatings, violence and threats or psychological manipulation to persuade an individual about the existence of false undertakings, imaginary powers or imminent fantastical events.'' Since the publication of the Belgian report, an information and advisory centre has been created by the Parliament (30 April 1998) and will soon be operational. On that occasion, a group of Belgian Protestant, Satmar and Baha'i leaders whose movements were labelled as ``cults'' by the Belgian parliamentary report set up a ``Belgian Citizens' Forum Against Religious Intolerance, Discrimination and Inequalities in Belgium'' in May 1998 at the initiative of ``Human Rights Without Frontiers'' and held a press conference about their plight at the European Parliament in Brussels under the patronage of David Hallam (Labour Party, UK).

    Conclusions 

    In many societal matters, Belgium is prone to follow the example of its French neighbour. In its struggle against so-called cults, the Belgian parliamentary commission had the same prejudices and made the same methodological errors as its French counterpart. This can already be noticed from the repressive measures that are being studied: a draft law to penalize mental manipulation, protection of children of cult members, special control of the bookkeeping of cults, ban on tax exemptions on places of worship, and so on.

     

    GERMANY 

    On June 19, 1998, after two years' work, the Enquiry Commission ``So-called Sects and Psychogroups'' passed its report with a large majority. The report represented quantitatively and qualitatively the most intensive analysis to date of the phenomenon of new religious and ideological groups. 

    The basis of the work of the commission was exclusively the problems and conflicts that arise in relation to this phenomenon. It was not the duty of the Commission to test individual groups or even their beliefs. The Commission constantly let itself be guided in its work by the requirement of state neutrality and tolerance, according to Article 4 of the Constitution. 

    In its conclusions, the Commission stated that sects and psychogroups do not represent any danger to the democratic state, which basically corresponds to the conclusions drawn up by a Parliamentary Enquiry Commission in the Netherlands in 1984. However, a special provision concerned the Scientology organisation which the Commission did not consider a religious denomination but rather a ``political-extremist'' movement. This is why an extension of its observation by the Constitutional Defence Office was requested by the Commission. 

    The chairman of the Commission, Ortrun Schetzle (CDU), also stressed that there is no undermining of economy by religious and ideological associations. However, the Commission shared the opinion that it is the duty of the state to protect the individual against exploitation and harm. According to the report, the extent of state action in relation to new religious and ideological groups and psychogroups ranges from education and information on the one hand to concrete measures on the other. This spectrum reflects the course of action recommended by the Enquiry Commission. The Commission recommended the establishment of a federal foundation which would tie together the various aspects associated with new religious and ideological groups and psychogroups, and the introduction of a legal arrangement for the state sponsorship of private advisory and information offices. Moreover, it recommended improving the protection of consumers by voting a law which should deal with transparency about the psychotherapists' qualifications, their methods and their financial obligations. 

    Furthermore, the commission called for a strengthening of national and international co-operation which would also help solve the considerable deficiency of research in this area. 

    The commission also considered a change in the constitution in order to deal with new religious and ideological groups and psychogroups, to be wholly dispensable and stressed that society must learn how to live in peace and tolerance with religious philosophical pluralism. One of the major conclusions of the Commission was that it recommended abstaining from using the concept ``sect'' any more because of its bad connotation and its stigmatizing effect. 

    The SPD and the Greens released their own reports. On the one hand, the Greens did not share the opinion that danger was no longer to be feared from the 600 sects and spiritual groups which exist in Germany ; on the other hand, the Socialists found the recommendations too weak and asked not to grant undemocratical ideologies such as the Jehovah's Witnesses the status of corporation of public law but their reasoning was not followed by the other parties. The CDU/CSU Christian Democrats and the Libel FDP took a middle of the road position between these two extremes. 

    The commission was praised by the German Bishops' Conference. However, before the release of the report, a number of legal experts and university professors reproached the commission with unproved suspicions and with despise towards small religious groups. These famous academics are: 

    Hans Apel, Professor of economics at Rostock University and former Federal Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany; 

    Gerhard Besier, Professor of contemporary church history at Heidelberg University, and presently at the College of History in Munich; 

    Niels Birbaumer, Professor of medical psychology at Universities of Tubingen, and Padua (Italy); 

    Martin Kriele, Professor of constitutional law at Cologne University; 

    Hermann Lebbe, Professor of philosophy at Zurich University (Switzerland); 

    Erwin K. Scheuch, Professor of sociology at Cologne University. 

    With regards to the protection of consumers on the psycho-market proposed by the Commission, the academics stressed that an open society needs no ideological controls and the state is not a remedial aid institute which should relieve citizens of all risks in life for the sake of their freedom. The university professors also mentioned a number of methodological anomalies. 

    Among the expert members of the Enquiry Commission, there were sect-watchers and ideological officers from both dominant churches but there were no experts in the field of other religious and ideological communities, and no representatives of heavily criticized free self-development market and management training. Through that Commission, the sect watchers of the State Protestant Church had the opportunity to pronounce judgment over those who are in ideological competition with them and whom they have been confronting for years in the German courts. Unfortunately, there appears to be double grounds for suspecting prejudice on the part of one element of the Enquiry Commission's membership: firstly, they are agents on behalf of competing religious communities and secondly, they have for years been involved in legal proceedings and disputes with the very people on whose activity they had to pronounce judgment. 

    The work of the Enquiry Commission was surrounded by journalists who, for moral and/or material reasons, had specialised in the persecution of sects and psychological groups. They claimed in German courts to have been given reports by members of the Enquiry Commission regarding witnesses' statements made during in-camera sittings of the Enquiry Commission. However, the Chairman of the Enquiry Commission did not see any possibility of punishing indiscretions on the part of the body. Moreover, the Enquiry Commission did not give the defendants the opportunity of making a statement to this body. The accused had not even heard that there was a case against them, let alone in which manner that case was being presented. 

    When the targeted organizations brought in legal, psychological/psychiatric, sociological or theological reports compiled by independent experts, their conclusions were mostly ignored and the experts marginalized because they were viewed as being prejudiced. In this way, the affected parties' own attempts at giving an account of their work methods and practices went unheeded. 

    The German academics appealed to the German population not to allow itself to be taken in by these new attempts to gain spiritual monopoly and control, and equally not to allow themselves to be drawn in by the hysterical heresies of those hunting down sects. They appealed to them not to take part in the demonization of minorities or to denounce others just because they attended the events of a particular group. 

    Conclusions

    The German report was surprisingly less negative that it had been feared. The German Commission was the first to approach the issue from the viewpoint that it is the state's duty to protect consumers against illegal or unfair practices of cults and psychogroups. It now seems that consumers' protection is originally typical of the German-speaking sphere of the European Union as MEP Maria Berger, who is Austrian, also took over that idea in her Report on Cults in the European Union (15 member states). But now, this concept is extending its effects to other European institutions such as the Council of Europe which comprises 40 member states. 

     

    EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

    On July 13, 1998, Mrs. Maria Berger's report on cults in the European Union was rejected for the second time by plenary session. 

    According to MEP David Hallam (Labour/ UK), it seemed that, while some MEPs were still flapping about the cult issue, more were weary, took on board arguments about religious liberty concerns and decided that it was not for them to make judgements on religious matters. 

    Some thought that the cult issue was not a problem as the draft report was saying ``the representatives of national parliaments in most member states regard the existence and activities of cults in their member states as insignificant or unproblematic'' and ``there is no reason to fear that the firmly-established democratic institutions based on the rule of law in all the member states are in immediate danger.'' In the meantime, the German parliamentary commission had come to the same conclusions after two years of investigation. At last, Maria Berger's report was also affirming that ``there was no need or justification to introduce a common European policy against cults or to set up a special European agency.'' 

    Other members of the European Parliament said that the report was not hard enough on ``cults.'' They complained that ``penalties only had to be applied to members of cults in relation to their individual illegal activities'' as they would have liked to find some arguments for involving ``cults'' as organizations in legal proceedings. 

    Consequently, the Parliament voted to send it back to the Civil Liberties Committee for further consideration. The proposal was made by another member of Maria Berger's political group, the German social-democrat Martin Schulz. 

    There are now two main possibilities. The report will either get dropped because there is not enough time to deal with it before the next European elections in June 1999--or else it will have to be pushed through during this time period which is not seen as all that likely as there is a heavy schedule already planned. 

    Some more comments can also be made about the report in which its supporters or its opponents could find anything to substantiate their viewpoint. 

    Some members of the parliament stressed as a positive point the fact that it had drawn the lesson from the French and Belgian reports as it was failing to draw up a black list of suspicious movements. 

    Another positive point was that the European Parliament also called on the member states ``to apply existing legal provisions and instruments effectively and to ascertain whether there are sufficient provisions, particularly in the areas of the law on associations, corporation law, tax and social security law and criminal law, to protect the public from unlawful activities and in particular to ensure that minors whose parents are members of cults are not cut off from the application of provisions intended for the protection of young people, such as those on welfare and education ; it reaffirms, however, that it considers inappropriate any specific legislation against cults as such.'' 

    The refusal to adopt specific anticult legislation was particularly important and was reinforced in another part of the report where the European Parliament called on the member states and the European institutions ``to take action only on the problematic activities of cults and in connection with their specific activities if they affect people's physical and mental integrity or social and financial standing, taking action also when such behavior occurs in other types of organizations, whether religious or not, while fully respecting fundamental civil rights.'' In comparison with former versions of the European report, the issue of ``brainwashing claims against minority religions'' had been reduced to a reasonable concern and had been put in a wider context, probably to the great displeasure of European anticult movements. 

    Moreover, the recommendations did, on balance, maintain a positive stand for religious freedom and various statements attempt to take it away from the hysteria generated on this subject by certain parties. However, there were still two major problems concerning the report from a human rights viewpoint. 

    One point was the call to create and support information centres on religious movements. This idea was still present in the former reports. However, it was controversial as it put the government, or certain groups, in a position of being able to judge on whether various religious groups are socially correct or acceptable although no government has any right to intrude into the field of religion in this way. No clear guidelines were set for the mandate of such information centres. Should they have been administratively independent from the state and however be subsidized by the state or, on the contrary, be put under the authority of an existing ministry ? This vague approach could open the door to national deviations in the implementation of the European Parliament's advice. The danger was that with the current anticult hysteria ongoing in some countries, the ease with which such information centres could have been misused as a propaganda tool for antireligious elements was quite obvious. In any case, clear instructions should have been fixed. That was not the case. 

    A complementary advice was also questionable when the European Parliament called on the member states ``to provide unbiased information, education and advice services, particularly for young people and families, to enable individuals to make a free and informed choice, and to provide support structures for those wishing to leave cults and for their families.'' The question was raised whether it is the state's role to interfere in the individual's religious or philosophical choices. 

    Another point concerned the concept of applying consumer protection laws to the psychological services market. In this regard, the European Parliament called on the Commission, in the context of its competence in the area of consumer protection, ``to investigate whether consumers need protection from abuse in connection with the commercial services which cults may offer on the `psychological services' market.'' This idea appeared for the first time in the German report but it was a confused concept mixing religious practice with psychological practices. They are not the same and cannot fall under the same rules or reasoning. Religion, by definition, is something that falls outside of the rules that apply to the normal exchange of goods and services. A priest may promise salvation in this life or in the next but cannot be subject to consumer protection laws because he did not `deliver'. Similarly, religious groups which require members to take courses or instruction in order to attain spiritual gain cannot be pushed into classifications such as `psychological services' as this is quite a different category altogether. 

    It could have been hoped that Maria Berger's report would have gone as far as the German report which proposed to drop the concept of ``cult'' because of its bad connotation and its stigmatizing effect. It could have at least been expected that the word ``cult'' be replaced by ``religious and philosophical movements.'' The European Parliament report unfortunately failed to sufficiently investigate the terminology issue and just piled up opposing amendments which deprived it of any coherence and led to its rejection. It now remains to be seen what lesson the Council of Europe will draw from this failure. 

     

    COUNCIL OF EUROPE

    In 1992, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Recommendation 1178 on sects and new religious movements in which it considered that major legislation on sects was undesirable on the grounds that such legislation might well interfere with the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as harm traditional religions. In that text, it was therefore simply recommended that the Committee of Ministers take measures to inform and educate young people and the general public and requested that corporate status be granted to all sects and new religious movements which had been registered. Since that recommendation was adopted, a number of serious incidents took place in which AOUM, the Order of the Solar Temple and other dangerous ``so-called'' religious groups were found to be at the centre. The publication of sect reports by parliamentary commissions and the creation of sect oversight organizations in France, Belgium and Germany are additional events which explain why a report on Illegal Activities of Sects is being prepared by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 

     

    Preliminary Draft Recommendations

    In its preliminary draft recommendations dated May 15, 1998, Rapporteur Adrian Nastase (Romania, Socialist Group) wrote that 

    ``The Assembly calls on the governments of member states: 

    i. to set up independent national information centres on sects; 

    ii. to include information on the history and philosophy of religions, while respecting the state's neutrality, in general school curricula; 

    iii. to ensure that legislation on compulsory schooling is enforced without exception, and that the social welfare services responsible for protecting children take action whenever that obligation is not met; 

    iv. to penalise systematically the illegal practice of medicine; 

    v. to give thought to the legal consequences of the indocrination of members of sects; 

    vi. to ban any group whose members repeatedly carry out illegal activities and which does not expel those members; 

    vii. to encourage the setting up of non-governmental organizations for the victims, or the families of victims, of sects, particularly in eastern and central European countries; 

    Furthermore, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers 

    i. provide for specific action to set up information centres on sects in the countries of central and eastern Europe in its aid programmes for those countries 

    ii. set up a European observatory on sects to make it easier for national centres to exchange information.'' 

    Sects or Religions

    In three of 52 points of a draft explanatory memorandum, Mr Nastase made some interesting remarks about sects and religions: 

    ``A pitfall which state authorities should avoid is that of making a distinction between sects and religions. A perfect illustration of this potential risk, linked to the term ``sect,'' is the attitude of certain groups who claim religious intolerance or even racism, as soon as a state plans measures. These groups assert, expert reports at the ready, that they are not sects but, in fact, religions and that consequently the state has no right to act against them. Confronted with such allegations, if the state enters into the debate by trying to demonstrate that the group in question is not a religion, it fails in its duty to maintain neutrality and participates directly in a spiritual or religious controversy.'' (Point 12) 

    ``Of course, it is clear that it is very tempting for state authorities to use the term ``sect,'' given that it is easily understood by everyone. However, state authorities would be well advised to forgo using this term since there is no legal definition of it and it has an excessively pejorative connotation. In the public mind today, a sect is extremely evil or dangerous. There are three possible ways of avoiding use of the term ``sect.'' '' (Point 14) 

    ``Firstly, definition as a sect could be eliminated by classifying all such groups as religions. Nevertheless, in our opinion, this approach would be misguided because it would be unduly restrictive, the world of sects being so diverse. A group based upon an esoteric doctrine is not necessarily a religion founded, in theory, on the relationship between individuals and a supreme being or force.'' (Point 15) 

    ``Secondly, the state could agree to adopt the course suggested by certain groups and distinguish between religions,--by definition good--and sects--necessarily dangerous--or even between good and bad sects. Once again, we do not think such an approach is acceptable. Under article 9 of the ECHR, states are prohibited from distinguishing between different beliefs and from creating a scale of beliefs, which is, in our view, unacceptable. Merely making such a distinction would constitute a disproportionate violation of the freedom guaranteed by article 9 of the ECHR, because the very basis of this freedom is the absence of distinction between beliefs, which explains the state's duty to maintain neutrality.'' (Point 16). 

    Some Comments

    With regard to the terminology issue, Mr Nastase's solution is to refer to groups of a ``religious, spiritual or esoteric'' nature because this general formula which is negative can accommodate the various facets of beliefs. 

    This positive approach of the issue could be fully satisfactory if he added groups of a philosophical nature. 

    Among the negative points, a number of major factual errors could be listed. I will only mention two of them. Firstly, the Phare and Tacis programme for democracy in Central and Eastern Europe has come to an end and can no longer be referred to in order to cope with the problem of cults in those countries. Secondly, the information according to which ``The Church of Scientology was found guilty of `criminal association' by the Milan Court of Appeal in January 1997'' is biased as the Supreme Court of Appeal quashed the Milanese decision on October 9, 1997. 

    Another characteristic of Mr Nastase's memorandum must also be stressed: the reference to the French and Belgian parliamentary reports on sects to substantiate the upcoming report on sects of the Council of Europe as if they were holy bibles although their methodology has been heavily criticized by prominent academics in France, Belgium and other countries. 

    Moreover, there are numerous ambiguities in a number of fields. 

    The recommendation of setting up national information centres independently of the state and to bring them together in a European Observatory on sects is very unclear and incomplete. The Belgian observatory will be under the authority of the Minister of Justice while its French counterpart is under the influence of anticult movements and its report may enjoy the state label. In Central and Eastern Europe particularly, Mr Nastase's memorandum says, ``the establishment of non-governmental organizations which collect and disseminate information on sects should be encouraged'' but no provisions or limits concerning their mandate and their ethics are to be found anywhere. 

    The provision about ``the banning of certain groups which are known to shelter the perpetrators of criminal activities'' is also ambiguous. What is clear is that illegal activities committed by persons or organizations of whatever nature must be prosecuted and penalized. 

    In brief, it can be said that the contribution of the Council of Europe brings some positive ideas to the debate, confirmed by the German report, but some clarifications, corrections and amendments are absolutely necessary if we want the enactement of upcoming recommendations to abide by the generous principles of freedom of thought, conscience and religion proclaimed in the international instruments and in the introduction to Mr Nastase's memorandum. 

     

    CONCLUSIONS

    In most European countries, a two-tiered system of recognized and unrecognized religions (often called cults) is in force and maintains a situation of religious discrimination and inequality not only between both categories but also inside the category of recognized religions. 

    Nobody can snap one's fingers at this reality inherited from the history of the various European states and ignore it when aiming to promote the implementation of international instruments regarding religious freedom. 

    Therefore, UN and NGO bodies and European institutions monitoring and protecting religious liberty should always keep in mind this historical contingency which must remain the starting point upon which they can build up their strategies if they want to transcend them successfully. 

    Cloning the system of religious liberty in the U.S., its strategies both inherited from its own history and its own case-law would be a major pedagogical and cultural error insofar as the image of the American free market of religions conveyed by European media is rather negative. Europe has therefore to work out its own forms of religious pluralism from which inequalities and discrimination will have to be banned. In this regard, ``Human Rights Without Frontiers'' has developed a system and a strategy of implementation which aims to inspire all those who are opposed to discrimination and inequalities based on religious beliefs. 

    Cults, Recognition Issue and State Subsidies

    The cult issue is inseparable from the recognition issue and the financing of religions by the state. In the current two-tiered system, state recognition implies access to state financial support. This explains why most religions, whatever their historicity or their size, apply for state recognition. However, state subsidies are provided by ALL the tax payers, including those who profess a non-recognized religion or who do not profess any religion. 

    Such a system of state recognition is unfair and must be dismantled. It is indeed not fair that members of minority religions, atheists, agnostics pay for religions which do not tolerate them or are openly opposed to them. 

    As Europe has a long history of welfare state in most sectors of society, including the religious sphere, it is more pragmatic to plead for a reform of the system which can awaken synergies between various segments of civil society than for a radical change such as putting an end to the state financing of religions which will trigger much opposition from the religious establishment and will not find any political support. 

    Income Taxes and Financing of Religions

    Germany, Italy and Spain have introduced a system that partially allows tax payers to allocate a part of their income taxes to the religion of their choice. However, there are big disparities between the systems of these countries ; they will not be analyzed here but the philosophy behind those systems is that tax payers should be allowed to finance the religion or the philosophical movement of their choice and should not have to contribute to the financing of religions they do not profess or they do not like. 

    In this perspective, ``Human Rights Without Frontiers'' has a far more efficient solution to propose: 

    1. Abolishing the two-tiered system with recognized and unrecognized religions and replacing it by a system in which all religions, whatever their historicity or their size, should apply for the juridical status of their choice (the same sort of registration possibilities as for non-religious associations). Religions with very small membership (some hundreds of adherents) could be requested to provide a number of signatures of people (1,000 for example) supporting their application. 

    2. Allowing tax payers to allocate a part of their income taxes to one of the religions or philosophical movements enjoying a juridical status (this proposal follows the Italian model but goes beyond it) 

    3. Granting tax exemption.to citizens making donations to religions enjoying a juridical status. 

    Such a fundamental reform would put an end to the two-tiered system with two or more categories of religions and citizens and the cult issue as such would become quite irrelevant. 

    --Willy Fautré 
    Chairman of Human Rights Without Frontiers 

    July 22, 1998 

    Endnotes

    1. G. VAN HAEGENDOREN and A. ALEN, ``The Constitutional Relationship between Church and State,'' in A. ALAN (ed.), Treatise on Belgian Constitutional Law, Deventer/ Boston, Kluwer, 1992, 267. 

    2. Once called the Union of Evangelical Protestant Churches and now the United Protestant Church of Belgium. Since 1979, it has been successively integrating the Liberal Protestant Church, the Methodist Church, the Reformed Church and the ``Gereformeerde Kerken.''

    3.The EPUB numbers about 40,000 members and the unrecognized Churches about 50,000 (MICHEL DANDOY, Le culte protestant, in L'Islam en Belgique, Bruxelles, Editions Luc Depire, 1998)

    4. A solution may be in sight by the end of 1998 as the ``Centre pour l'égalité des chances'' (Center for Equal Access) has mediated a process between the State and the Belgian Muslim community through which elections will take place in the Muslim community in autumn to create a representative platform for negotiations with the State.

    5.PAUL LEMMENS, Professor at the University of Leuven, New Religious Movements and the Law in Belgium, 1997, Text of an unpublished speech.


     

    JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN FRANCE

    James M. McCabe, Associate General Counsel, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania

    The 21st chapter of the Gospel of Luke describes a poignant scene observed by the Lord Jesus. He saw a needy widow drop two coins of little value into the temple contribution box. The Lord commended this woman's generous spirit. Today, in the nation of France, the Ministry of Finance wants to impose a 60 percent tax on those two coins of little value if that widow happens to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses. How was this determination made? Why are Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious minority groups under fiscal attack? (1)

    Bible literature published by the Watch Tower Society, the legal agency for Jehovah's Witnesses, began to be translated into French shortly after the visit to France by the Society's first president, C.T. Russell, in 1891. In the mid-1890's, a young Swiss man, who was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, returned to Europe from America to preach the Gospel to the French-speaking population. By 1903, the Watchtower magazine was being published regularly in the French language and distributed throughout the country. By 1913, religious assemblies of Jehovah's Witnesses were being held in many different cities in France. By 1928, there were nearly 400 active members of Jehovah's Witnesses and countless others serving in 45 congregations in France. In 1939, six weeks after the beginning of World War II, Jehovah's Witnesses were banned in France. During the next several years, the Witnesses faced extreme persecution, including sentences for both men and women to the Nazi concentration camps. This oppression was heaped on them due to their firm adherence to their Bible-based consciences to maintain complete neutrality, and their staunch refusal to support the Nazi regime. Some Witnesses were even executed for this stand. Despite those extremely difficult years for Jehovah's Witnesses, the number of active members actually doubled from 1,004 in 1939 to 2,003 in 1945. On September 1, 1947, the work of Jehovah's Witnesses was again legally authorized in France. The religion continued to grow at an astounding rate over the next several years. In 1973, additional facilities were acquired in Louviers to support the offices in Paris. Today, the facilities in Louviers serve as the main offices to direct the work of Jehovah's Witnesses in France. The Bible literature produced by the France offices of Jehovah's Witnesses has been distributed to French-speaking countries around the world without charge. The religion has continued to grow steadily over the past few decades and is now the third largest Christian religion in France. In November of 1997, a special one-day religious assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses was held just outside of Paris with a total attendance of over 95,000. The latest yearly report for France indicates that the number of Jehovah's Witnesses and their associates numbered 220,467, with 1,685 congregations in the villages, towns, and cities of France. In addition to their Bible-educational community service activity, Jehovah's Witnesses in France have been active in the organization of humanitarian aid to several African countries. 

    Despite the clear religious nature of their activities, Jehovah's Witnesses along with other so-called "sects" have been the subject of widespread media attacks. In a climate of growing concern about "dangerous cults" following the mass suicides of adherents of the Order of the Solar Temple in the forest of France, the subway gassing in Tokyo, the aftermath of the events in Waco, Texas, and even more recently the suicides of members of the Heaven's Gate near my home town of San Diego, cult-watch groups in France urged official inquiries by the government into the activities of the so-called sects or new religions. The National Assembly formed a Parliamentary Commission on Cults (Commission d'Enquête sur les sectes) in 1995. 

    After a year-long study, the Commission issued its report in January of 1996, which labeled Jehovah's Witnesses and some 172 groups as "sectes" [cults]. Although the report is based largely on hearsay and has no legal character in France, it is frequently cited as an official determination that the listed groups are "dangerous cults." The religious groups singled out are classified by some individuals and governmental agencies not to be religions but dangerous cults. Thus, the report concluded, among other suggestions, that laws on taxation should be used to control, suppress, and eliminate "dangerous cults" in France. 

    Not surprisingly, in January of 1996 tax authorities in France began an official audit of "Association les Témoins de Jéhovah" (ATJ), the principal legal corporation used by Jehovah's Witnesses in France. The audit was extended beyond the normal statutory period of one year to eighteen months. 

    No irregularities were found in the Witnesses' books of accounts and it was determined that the religion did not engage in any commercial activity. Nevertheless, a ruling was issued that the law on "transfer tax" applies to the religious offerings received from the faithful. A similar determination was made by the local tax authorities on June 26, 1997 and November 19, 1997, that the ATJ is liable to pay "transfer taxes" of 60 percent on donations it has received. 

    The scope of the decision eventually covered all offerings received from the contribution boxes in the Kingdom Halls, or houses of worship, of Jehovah's Witnesses during the period from January 1, 1993 to August 31, 1996. After adding penalties and interest, the total figure sought by the Ministry of Finance is in excess of $50,000,000 (FF 300,000,000). 

    The law on manual donations ("Loi des finances pour 1992") is normally applied only to estate matters and personal gifts. This law simply provides in Article 757 that deeds containing either the declaration by the donee or his representatives, or the judicial acknowledgement of a manual donation, are liable to the donation tax. However, Article 795 of the same law provides exemptions from the tax for donations and bequests made to religious corporations, unions or religious corporations and recognized congregations. 

    Despite the clear exemption of religious organizations from the tax, on May 14, 1998, tax authorities officially advised the Association les Témoins de Jéhovah that it is liable for a 60 percent tax on all the voluntary offerings and obtained a lien on the association's property near the Normandy coast in Louviers, France. In obtaining judicial approval for the lien, the lawyer for the Ministry of Finance alleged that the association was "arranging its insolvency" and the lien was necessary to insure that the taxes could be collected. No facts were supplied to support these allegations. 

    The imposition of such a tax is unconstitutional on its face and has technical problems even under the statutes that impose it. To date, the Ministry of Finance has not presented the religion with a tax bill or a request to pay the tax. French lawyers inform us that until that event takes place, the tax itself cannot be challenged in the courts. That such a tax has not been imposed on the vast majority of other religious organizations reveals its discriminatory nature. Surely, such an inequality cannot survive the scrutiny of the French Constitution or the European Convention of Human Rights. It is the intention of Jehovah's Witnesses to challenge this infringement on its religious activities through the courts of France and in the European Court of Human Rights should that become necessary. 

    Already in the courts of France, Jehovah's Witnesses have had their places of worship recognized as such by nine different administrative courts. These numerous rulings have meant that in the court's view, Jehovah's Witnesses are a religion and their buildings are exempt from the habitation and property taxes imposed on non-religious buildings. Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly declared that Jehovah's Witnesses are a "well known religion." In the face of this jurisprudence internally and internationally, it is hard to fathom how the Ministry of Finance can continue this attack under the guise that Jehovah's Witnesses are not a religion in France. 

    In the words of former Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Supreme Court, The power to tax involves the power to destroy . . . (and) to carry it to the excess of destruction would be an abuse . . . . (2) The Ministry of Finance's attempt to impose a tax on the "widow's mite" in the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses of France is surely an attempt to destroy the opportunity of Jehovah's Witnesses in that land to meet freely, associate together and worship God according to the dictates of their Bible-trained consciences. It is also an attempt to destroy the congregations' generous spirit that in the past ten years has risen to meet the needs in the face of disaster and trouble in Burundi, Rwanda and some eight other African nations. Surely, it is a serious violation of the fundamental human right of freedom of religion. 

    While I have attempted to primarily focus on the very recent egregious actions of the tax authorities in France, I would be remiss if I did not mention another disturbing result directly attributable to the climate of intolerance growing in France. Virtually every week over the past three years, a segment of the French government has been successful in having information appear in the media in which Jehovah's Witnesses are labeled as a religion that breaks up families, that there is a higher incidence of mental health problems in Jehovah's Witnesses than in the general population, that Jehovah's Witnesses have a higher rate of suicide than the general population in France and other baseless lies. 

    Some of the troubling results this misinformation has had on the lives of a number of Jehovah's Witnesses is worthy of note. Allow me to relate just a few examples that have occurred over the past three years: 

    Numerous teachers who are Jehovah's Witnesses lost their employment specifically due to their adherence to their religious beliefs. 

    One example involves Mrs. Maryline Bouchenez who, after teaching at one school for 18 years was forced to undergo severe scrutiny from the school authorities simply because she is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. In their findings, they concluded: "Mrs. Bouchenez carries on her work in a satisfactory manner. The children are happy in her class. When observing the professional action of Mrs. Bouchenez, it is impossible to say that the neutrality of the public teaching is at stake here." In spite of this favorable official report, she was forced to transfer to another school and told that she should not let those working there know of her religious affiliation. 

    A second example involves Mrs. Catherine Guyard, who has also been a schoolteacher for 18 years. A meeting was organized by a parent-teacher association in 1996. The purpose of this meeting was thus worded: "Your children will be entrusted to a school teacher who is a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, who are a sect organization. We invite you to discuss the matter on September 2, 1996, at 8:30 p.m. at the school." The academy forced Mrs. Guyard to teach at another school. On February 1998, Mrs. Guyard was supposed to resume her job in the first school. She learned that a tract was being distributed to the parents and also posted on the boards outside the pubic school. According to the judge who has been assigned the case, "the tract was written to harm the reputation of Mrs. Guyard and to provoke discriminatory attitudes." 

    The central offices of Jehovah's Witnesses in France received reports from Jehovah's Witnesses living in six different French states that they had lost their employment as day care specialists due to being Jehovah's Witnesses. 

    Often the French Department of Social Welfare receives anonymous letters of denunciation stipulating that the "childminder" (day care specialist) is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Following this, the social welfare authorities refuse to renew the employment agreement they have with the worker who is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. The reason given in one set of cases was that, "their adherence to the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses does not allow to guarantee the safety, the morality and the conditions of education of the children in their care." 

    With increasing frequency, the French authorities are refusing to allow Jehovah's Witnesses to rent facilities for use in religious services. For example, the municipal authorities in Lyons refused to allow the Jehovah's Witnesses to rent facilities in that city although they have been meeting there for more than 20 years. 

    The Mayors of numerous French towns have refused to extend building permits to local congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses. In nine cases, "Kingdom Halls," as the centers for religious services of Jehovah's Witnesses are called, could not be built. The congregations affected either continue meeting in much older facilities or in the homes of individual Jehovah's Witnesses. 

    In no less than eleven cases, mothers who are Jehovah's Witnesses and who were going through divorce proceedings, were denied custody and, in one case even visitation rights, only because they are Jehovah's Witnesses. 

    CONCLUSION:

    Today, religious liberty is definitely under attack in France. Added to the personal toll of living in an environment of religious intolerance as mentioned, the Ministry of Finance in France is attempting to control and destroy the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in that country by an imposition of a 60 percent tax on its contributions. These contributions have been voluntarily donated by members of the faith to support their places of worship and carry out their religious charitable activities in France and French-speaking Africa. Jehovah's Witnesses see this as a direct result of the Enquête Commission's Report. Equally disturbing is the fact that Belgium and Germany have commissioned similar reports in their respective countries. 

    If similar fiscal restraints result from Enquête Commission reports in Germany and Belgium, we fear ominous restraints and protracted battles to insure basic freedoms and fundamental human rights among the member states of the European Union among whom are some of the staunchest allies of the United States. 

    In a speech last month at the inaugural luncheon of the French-American Business Council here in Washington, Madeleine Albright noted that both France and the United States must stand together for peace and human rights. No doubt our distinguished Secretary of State had in mind helping less developed nations adhere to the lofty principles of fundamental human rights embodied in international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Helsinki Final Act, and the European Convention on Human Rights. But today, we seek the support of all lovers of religious liberty and freedom to demand that France itself provide respect for the human rights of more than 200,000 French citizens associated with Jehovah's Witnesses within its borders.

    Endnotes

    1.We have unconfirmed reports that the Evangelical Church of Besançon has also been assessed a 60 percent tax. 

    2. McCullough v. Maryland 17 US 431 (1819) 


     

    Deterioration of Religious Liberty in Europe

    Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

    Wednesday July 30, 1998;

    Washington, D.C.

    The briefing took place in room 2200, Rayburn Office Building, Washington, D.C., at 2:07 p.m., E. Wayne Merry, Chair, presiding.  Testimony was offered by Mr. Massimo Introvigne,, founder and director of Center for Studies of New Religions (CESNUR) Turin, Italy; and Mr. Colby May, Senior Counsel, Office of Governmental Affairs, American Center for Law and Justice.

    Contents of July 30, 1998 Briefing

      Opening Comments
      Mr. Wayne Merry

      Prepared Remarks
      Mr. Massimo Introvigne

      Prepared Remarks
      Mr. Colby May

      Question and Answer Period

      Submissions for the Record by Mr. Introvigne
      "Religious Liberty in Western Europe"


     

      Mr. Merry. Good afternoon. I would like to welcome you to this public briefing of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. My name is Wayne Merry, Senior Advisor to the Commission. 

      To begin, I would like to introduce the Staff Director of the Commission, Mr. Michael Hathaway, who will say some words about rescheduling the joint hearing with the House International Relations Committee we had hoped to hold this morning. 

      Mr. Hathaway. Yes. As many of you may know, we had originally been scheduled to have a hearing today at 10:00 a.m., captioned, ``Continuing Religious Intolerance in Europe.'' Because of last Friday's tragedy, and out of respect for the deceased officers and in consideration of the folks who wanted to attend the funeral, Chairman D'Amato and the Co-Chairman, Congressman Smith, decided, in cooperation with Chairman Gilman (because it was going to be a joint hearing with House International Relations), that we would cancel this morning's hearing. 

      However, we are planning to reschedule, presuming that the International Relations Committee's schedule and the Commission's schedule can be made to match up, for some time in September. We do not have an agreed-upon date, and when we do we will issue a notice of the new hearing. 

      Thank you. 

      Mr. Merry. Today's briefing is one of a series which the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe has been conducting and will conduct on the subject of religious liberties within the OSCE region. 

      For those of you unfamiliar with our efforts, let me just say briefly, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe is an independent U.S. Government agency established by the Congress 20 years ago in the aftermath of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act. 

      The statutory mandate of the Commission is to monitor the implementation of the commitments under the Helsinki Final Act, with emphasis on those affecting human rights. 

      The Commission is composed of nine members of the Senate, nine members of the House of Representatives, and three commissioners appointed by the President. It is supported by a permanent staff. 

      In recent years, the work of the Commission has increasingly focused on what we perceive to be a developing problem of restrictions on religious liberties in several countries who are participating States to the OSCE. Unlike in the cold war period, where the focus of this attention was primarily on countries who professed either atheistic or at least semi-adversarial positions toward religion, today we find increasingly that we must turn our attention to countries which traditionally had a much more tolerant view toward religious minorities. We find that today our attentions are not only concentrated on countries of the former communist world, though in a number of those countries there are serious problems which we follow with some care, but also on countries in Western and Central Europe. 

      Our procedure today will be to have presentations by our two guest speakers, followed by an open period of comment, questions and answers. All activities of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe are public; therefore, the proceedings today will be transcribed and will become part of our normal publication series, which is also available on our web site. 

      Let me say that if anyone here wishes to know more about the activities of this Commission in the area of religious liberty, I refer you to our Counsel on Religious Liberty, Karen Lord, who is in the back corner of the room near the door, who will be happy to be in touch with you. 

      One of the most important speakers scheduled for the joint hearing scheduled for this morning was Doctor Massimo Introvigne. He had already departed Italy on his way to the United States before we canceled that session, but we are very much delighted to be able to have him here this afternoon. 

      < P> For anyone who follows questions of religious liberty in Europe, I believe Doctor Introvigne really needs no introduction, but I will give him a brief one anyway. 

      He was born in Rome in 1955. He is a lawyer, and he is a member of one of the largest law firms in Rome, and also teaches part time at the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. 

      Most importantly from our point of view, he is Managing Director of CESNUR, the Center for Studies of New Religions, which is an international association and research center in the field of new religious movements. 

      He has authored or edited some 20 books and more than 100 articles in a variety of languages, and I am delighted to welcome him here today. 

      Dr. Introvigne. I thank you for your invitation, I am very much honored to be a part of your thoughts on behalf of religious liberty, and while I had prepared a text discussing the various parliamentary reports of Europe, I learned, much to my pleasure, but notwithstanding his personal health problems, my friend, Willy Fautré, was able to make it here, and so I am sure he already made an excellent overview of the parliamentary reports in a number of European countries. 

      I will organize my remarks in three short parts. First, I will try to discuss what kinds of ideology or mentality come on the background of these reports; then give some examples of what is going on in a number of European countries trying to focus on what, perhaps, Fautré did not already discuss, and third try to give some conclusion, perhaps, from the point view of social science and some recommendation for future action. 

      Now, the first point is what kind of ideology can be found in most of these documents, and I would say I am focusing here on Western Europe, particularly in the French, German and the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland reports, although the conclusions on the German reports are significantly different. 

      The suicides and homicides which occurred in 1994, and again in 1995, and again in 1997 (but this time third time only in Quebec, Canada), of the Order of the Solar Temple, the Swiss-based new religious movement, played the same catalytic role that Jonestown [Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ] played in the United States. They energized a pre-existing anti-cult movement that because of the Solar Temple was taken very much seriously by parliaments and politicians from a number of European countries. Anti-cult activists were very much influential in these parliamentary commissions that Willy Fautré discussed with you in the last briefing. I think that the ideology which was elaborated by the anti-cult activists and penetrated into the parliamentary reports and official documents may be summarized in four principal premises. 

      The first premise is that cults are not religions. Now, the operative word in most European languages is sect, but sect is really a functional word, having the same function as cult in English. It is a four-letter word and a derogatory word, so if we use the word ``cult'' and literally translate it into the French culte or the Italian culto, that is not a very bad word, the bad word is sect in French, or Italian, or Spanish, or German. So, I will systematically translate sect into cult for your better understanding. 

      Nobody in Western Europe, or very few marginal people, would say openly they are against religious liberty. Everybody favors religious liberty. So, when some groups are discriminated against, the argument is each group is not really religious. The cover is religious, but the group is, in fact, something else. That is the first important point, which, of course, is not new; it was used, for instance, both in Europe and the United States in the 19th Century against the Mormons. 

      I quote an article from the 19th century Scribner's Monthly saying we Americans are considered a very tolerant people, but we are not very tolerant when it comes to Mormons, so there are only two possible conclusions: one, we are not really tolerant, and two, Mormonism is not religion. Of course, the author of this article, a Mr. Beadle, was a very active anti-Mormon, and his solution was that Mormonism is not a religion, so we can keep saying that we are in favor of religious liberty and at the same time discriminate against Mormons. 

      Now, that is very much what is happening here in these documents. The authors of the reports say, of course, we are in favor of religious liberty, but cults or sects are not religions, have nothing to do with religion, so they are not covered by constitutional guarantees of religious liberty. 

      Now, coming to the second tenet that answers the obvious question, how can you tell a cult from a religion? That is not an easy question to answer. Particularly the Belgian report, the French report, and the Canton of Geneva report attempt to answer the question by focusing on mind control. All these documents try not to use the word ``brainwashing.'' They recognize the word ``brainwashing'' has a sort of bad reputation in the scholarly community, but they use the term ``mental manipulation,'' or ``mind manipulation'' or ``mind control.'' They say that in a secular state we cannot distinguish religions from cults based on a doctrine, because we are parliamentary commissions, we do not deal in creeds, we deal in deeds. So, since we deal in deeds, our main criteria (there are others, but this is the main one) in order to distinguish between religions and cults, is that religions by definition are joined out of free will, and cults are joined because of brainwashing, mind control or mental manipulation. 

      Now, they are largely unaware of the discussion that took place in this country, both in the scholarly community and courts of laws about mind control, and typically some of these documents will quote American literature about the issue, which dates back to the 1970s, and will largely ignore developments in the 1980s and the 1990s. For instance, the important Fishman decision of 1990 in California is never quoted, while pre-Fishman American case law is quoted in the Belgian report. 

      Now, the Belgian report, for instance, acknowledges that most scholars are against the classical doctrines of brainwashing or mind control. So, the third tenet is how do we, as members of parliamentary commissions, know that mind control is the reason cults are joined? The answer is because we rely on the account by victims, ex-members and we do not rely on accounts by scholars. Scholars have only theoretical knowledge of what is going on, victims have practical knowledge of what is going on inside cults. So, they rely on testimony by what social scientists would normally call apostates. Of course, this is a word some ex-members say is a derogatory word, but in fact it is a technical word, has been used for almost a century in sociology to indicate not all former members of a religious group, but this fraction or portion of former members who, having left the religious group, have converted themselves into militant opponent of their formed group. Not all ex-members are apostates; only a fraction of ex-members are apostates. 

      So, the Belgian Commission quotes me, by the way, in the report and they quote a book I co-edited with Doctor Melton of California about the French report, a book published before the Belgian report. The Commission says yes, but we are told by scholars that there is no mind control, or at least that traditional ``crude'' theories of brainwashing and mind control have no empirical support. Nevertheless, we do not believe them, because we have a choice between believing scholars and believing victims, and we want to believe victims. 

      So, the third point is accounts by scholars are not reliable. Accounts by apostates are very much reliable. 

      Now, the fourth tenet is why accounts by apostates are so much more reliable, because, in fact, not all former members are apostates. I would like to draw your attention to a book recently edited by David Bromley, ``The Politics of Religious Apostasy,'' here in the United States, but research extends to virtually all the Western World, and considerable empirical evidence exists that apostates are an important, interesting and vocal minority, but a minority nevertheless of former members, even of the most controversial religious organizations. 

      Empirical studies exist of a number of controversial groups, including the Unification Church, or the Church of Scientology. I did a study of a group, philosophical rather than religious, but regarded as a cult by the French report, the New Acropolis in France, and concluded that apostates are here between 16 percent of the larger population of ex-members of this given controversial group. So, apostates are interesting. Nobody would suggest that apostates are not interesting or are irrelevant, but they are probably not the majority of former members. They are the most visible part of the former members, because the other former members do not want to go public with their feelings, or have very mixed feelings. In surveys a surprising majority of former members will exhibit very mixed feelings about their previous affiliation. They would say something was good, something was bad, it was time more or less well spent, simply an experience that I now regard as finished, but it was an interesting experience, part of my life. 

      Now, these people normally tend to become invisible; they merge into the existing social networks. They do not write books, they do not go to the press, they do not appear on television discussing their former affiliation. In fact, what they want is not to discuss too much their former religion, so the fraction of apostates becomes the only really visible part of the ex-members. As a consequence, the fourth tenet is how do we identify the good ex-members, i.e., how do we identify the apostates, and tell them from the bad ex-members, i.e., ex-members with mixed feelings who are not very interesting. The answer, by the authors of the French and Belgian reports, is that we shall rely on the private anti-cult movement because these movements again, and I am quoting it almost literally from the Belgian report, have a practical wisdom, as opposite theoretical wisdom of academic scholars, and even above the religious wisdom of mainline churches. These anti-cult groups work at the grassroots; they really know the victims, so they can tell which ex-members are telling the truth. So, we shall trust these groups, and we shall rely on what these groups are telling us. 

      These four tenets are really the keys of the ideology behind what is going on in Europe. One, cults are not religions. Two, cults are distinguished from genuine, bona fide religions on the basis of mind control. Three, mind control exists because some ex-members, the apostates, tell us that it exists. Four, we identify what ex-members are reliable on the basis of the judgment of private anti-cult organizations. 

      Now, turning very quickly to the second part--some examples of the ideology at work--the results are scary. I do not want to go into details here. You will find more details in the written text I prepared for what I supposed to be a hearing. In general, the results are that any of these groups regarded as cults by a private anti-cult organization are in danger of being listed as a cult in some official or semi-official list. 

      I think that there was an interesting question in France concerning a small non-religious group of mental health professionals called ``L'Arbre au Milieu,'' or ``Tree in the Middle.'' One day this group read the list of dangerous cults of the Parliament, and to their surprise they found themselves included. What do they do? They do what many other groups did, they go to see a lawyer, and the lawyer says there is nothing to do, because this is a political document. Political documents cannot be attacked, so it is not defamation, it is not libel, that is an opinion by a parliamentary body. But contrary to almost all the other groups they say we want to sue you anyway, not because we have any chances of winning but because we want to know why were are listed. Perhaps, in the process of a legal trial we have a chance to know why we are there. It became a sort of comedy or tragedy. The trial took months because the judge started into an inquiry, first of the parliamentary commission, who was asked why they listed the L'Arbre au Milieu as a dangerous cult. They said, we don't know. But, we relied on the Secret Service to prepare a list. 

      Finally, with a lot of trouble, the judge managed to elicit a reply from the Secret Service, and the Secret Service said we did not know, because we relied on information supplied by a private anti-cult organization, which is still more interesting. Even the National president of the private organization said I do not know because I relied on local branches in different cities. To make a long story short it came out that the local correspondent of the anti-cult group in a small town had a girl, a daughter, who was treated by one of these mental health professionals for anorexia, and who counseled her to leave home because according to this doctor her anorexia was family induced. So the mother was not very happy about it and exposed the group as a dangerous cult, and they ended up being listed in the parliamentary list as many other groups. 

      If one goes to the Belgian report, one sees words like mind control or mental manipulation used as a mantra. For many groups there is only one or two witnesses. Now, a good question is, who is selecting these witnesses? Presumably there are hundreds of ex-members of these groups, even in Belgium alone from the larger groups, and those who are selected are one or two people. We knew it because the Belgian commissioners published everything, without keeping secret the hearings as the French commission did. 

      So, the question to the witness is how do you know this former group of yours was a cult? The answer: because they practice mind control. How do you know? Answer: because I was a victim of mind control, but there is not a lot of elaboration. A number of groups are dismissed in two pages, three pages, five pages. So, claiming I was brain washed, I am a victim of mind control, which is really repeated again and again, results in groups being listed as cults. 

      Now, some people say these lists are not really ``official'' or not dangerous. I personally disagree because there are court cases involving, for example, cities in France denying rental of public halls to groups listed as cults. There is even a trans-national effect. Recently a legal journal in Switzerland published the report of a case where a court in Geneva--and the French-speaking Canton of Geneva is very much influenced by France and Belgium--upheld an administrative decision not to renew a license to operate a private security agency to a Swiss citizen because he is a member of the Aumist religion of the Mandarom, and this religion is listed in the French report as a dangerous cult. 

      So, we see a cross-border or trans-national effect in the French list becoming a basis of a legal decision in Switzerland. Of course there are other decisions, even by French courts, saying that this list is not a legal document. On the other hand, there are constant administrative discriminatory decisions based on the list, and I believe these lists are quite dangerous to religious liberty. 

      Now, I will come to my conclusions, and I will simply raise two questions. The first question is why all this is happening, because, of course, the Solar Temple is a catalyst, but is not the real answer. We do not really want to venture into a lecture on complicated sociological issues. I think this is a European reaction against what is normally called post modernity, and post modernity is reaction against modern values. It may include a return to certain forms of religion, and, perhaps, as many say, a return to not purely rational, not purely scientific thinking. 

      Now, this reaction takes place at the religious levels. One particularly scary document is the first yearly report of the French National Observatory. After the French report, an Observatory was established in France, and this Observatory is supposed to render a yearly report. Now, the yearly report for 1997 rendered in 1998 is not yet regarded as official because it lacks certain signatures, but it has been published by an anti-cult group on the Internet and it is widely quoted. It is a scary document, because it is a list of measures to be taken to fight against cults, rather than an attempt to understand cults, but what is interesting here is the ideological part, and the strongly secular humanist flavor of the document. We have to struggle, the document says, for the values of laïcité or secularism, which is a French value now under threats from foreign ideologies and mounting irrationalism. They say there is evidence of mounting irrationalism not only within cults but also in New Age, for instance, or in the crusade held by American evangelist Morris Cerullo in Paris. So, they really think part of their mandate is to fight irrationalism and affirm the ``republican'' values of secular humanism. 

      What is interesting is that this is not only a question about religion, it is a question about the relationship between the State and the private sector. Post modernity has been described in the most current sociological analysis as an extreme explosion of the private sector. The modern state, by definition, was a state capable of controlling an extreme diversification. The modern society was very much diversified, but it was controlled. 

      Now, with the explosion of new technologies makes it extremely easy for two people or one person to do a web page, or to print a newsletter at a cheap cost. We have a diversification of the ideological market that is so big that no state is capable of handling or controlling it. 

      Now, this threat of diversification from below, and the threat of globalization from above, have caused much stress and many concerns in many political groups. Post modern states are no longer able to control private associations, and so it seems that private associations are running wild and therefore we need more control. 

      This is the controversial part of the German report, because the German report is in general more well-written and more moderate, perhaps, apart from the strange national obsession of Germans against the Church of Scientology, against whom extreme allegations are made. In the general picture, however, they say we do not want to make lists, they recognize that the brainwashing issue is controversial. I was among the scholars interviewed for many hours by the German commission, and they know that many scholars claim brainwashing does not exist. But on the other hand in parts of the German report there is this evident, apparent fear of an uncontrollable private sector, and the problems for the government to control the private sector. A prominent legal scholar in Germany that I met recently summarized the German report, perhaps paradoxically, in two sentences. He said, one, they found that although exceptions exist, your average cult is not more dangerous than your average private association, but two, they concluded--unexpectedly--that as a consequence all private associations should be watched more closely. 

      So, I think this is ideologically extremely interesting, because it shows that there is a trend toward more control. Unlike other analysts, I will not point my finger at one political group only. Of course, there is a socialist theory that we need more state control, but some conservative people may also be of the law-and-order kind, and think that private associations should not be given too much freedom. 

      I will also not point my finger, as many people do, at mainline churches, because the situation is very much diversified in mainline churches. In some countries some churches do support the anti-cult measures, but in other countries they are at least partially critical of these anti-cult measures, particularly because some mainline Catholic and Protestant groups have also been included in some of these lists. The Belgian list includes the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, probably the largest lay Catholic group in Belgium, Opus Dei, and three other Catholic groups, and the French report has been protested very strongly by a number of French Catholic bishops because it includes a Catholic cultural and theatrical group, the Office Cultural de Cluny, and there are no less than four documents or letters where Catholic bishops have protested this situation in France. 

      Finally, what can we suggest? It's probably not for scholars to recommend specific policy but some general suggestions seem to be in order. First, it should be clear from what I observed that you should probably continue to watch, when it comes to religious liberty, not only Eastern Europe, but also Western Europe. Countries like France, Belgium, and also Germany, not only with respect to the Church of Scientology, as well as some cantons in Switzerland who occasionally target as ``cults'' also non-religious groups like the VPM, a psychological group. This deserves your attention as well. 

      Second, the primary cause of concern should be the public sponsorship and financing of private anti-cult movements. These movements are clearly responsible for spreading a lot of false information and an intolerant world view. 

      Third, it should be clarified that disgruntled apostates, no matter who sponsors their claims, are an interesting group; they deserve to be taken seriously, but they are not a fountain of truth by definition. They are not necessarily representative of ex-members in general. 

      Fourth, words such as brainwashing and mind control are too easy to use as a simple mantra to discredit any group which is not liked by the private anti-cult groups, and some concepts being used have been long debated in scholarly quarters as pseudo-science. 

      Fifth, words are not neutral. There is a police report published in 1998 in Italy which is perhaps questionable for other reasons, but better than most foreign texts. At least they say let's not use the word ``cult'' or ``sect'' because these words create problems for the social order, they create social unrest and discrimination, so let's use new religious movements. Or, still better, I would speak of religious minorities, because the so-called new religious movements are often not new. Some groups which have been around quite for a while. 

      Sixth, that should be obvious, nothing in my remarks should suggest those existing laws should not be enforced against wrongdoings or criminal acts perpetrated within the frame of new, and perhaps also old, religious movements. The experience shows that there are, in fact, dangerous and even criminal groups, engaging in common crimes, which are a different thing from the imaginary crimes of belonging to a cult or using the elusive mind control. Such persons accused of such common crimes should be investigated and prosecuted as common criminal suspects and not as members of religious minorities. 

      Thank you. 

      (Applause.) 

      Mr. Merry. Thank you very much, Doctor Introvigne, and we will be very happy to include in the transcript of this session your longer, more detailed report, which you have prepared for this morning's scheduled hearing, and that, again, will be available both in hard copy and on the Commission's web site. 

       

      Our next speaker is Mr. Colby May, who is Senior Counsel in the Office of Governmental Affairs of the American Center for Law and Justice, and this is a non-profit public interest law firm and educational organization. 

      Mr. May is a lawyer of some distinction, having practiced in areas of communications, equal opportunity, affirmative action and related issues of civil liberties and religious liberties, and his organization has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court of the United States in this area, and we welcome you here to today's session. 

      Mr. May.Thank you. 

      The 1989 Vienna concluding documents provide that in order to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practice religion or belief, the participating state shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion, and, among other things, favorably consider the interest of religious communities to participate in public dialog, including through the mass media. 

      Now, Articles 9 and 10 of the European Human Rights Convention also provide that in the licensing of broadcasting television or cinema enterprises, anyone has the right to freedom of expression, thought, conscience, and religion. 

      Now, I want to tell you a story about what's going on against that backdrop involving the Trinity Broadcasting Network and its religious partners in Spain. A little background I think on Trinity would be helpful. 

      The Trinity Broadcasting Network is a nonprofit public charity and church that is dedicated to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is rated by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as the 89th largest public charity in the United States. It was founded in 1973 by Doctor Paul Crouch, who was ordained in the ministry by the Assemblies of God Church in the United States in 1955, and Trinity holds licenses from the Federal Communications Commission for 11 full-power stations and more than 400 low-power television stations. It is the largest religious broadcaster and provider of religious and inspirational programs in the world, and the Nielsen company has rated the Trinity organization as the most popular religious service in the United States. Since its inception Trinity has received countless commendations and recommendations for exceptional service to the public, including having received the National Association of Broadcasters Award for Broadcaster of the Year and the Foreign Broadcaster of the Year Award. 

      Trinity does what churches have historically done throughout the world, it does, indeed, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and take care of the widows and children through many religious endeavors all over. 

      In 1989 Spain passes a law that says, for the first time we are now going to permit private licensing of broadcast facilities. Previously, the government had essentially controlled all the frequencies, and they are the ones who now were opening it up so other private operators could become involved. 

      In response to that, a number of what are known as smaller or local broadcast operations began all over Spain, both in radio and in television. My story today involves television. 

      Now, in 1994, a Christian ministry in Madrid began broadcasting on UHF television channel 26. The service that it provided was religious, evangelical, inspirational in nature, and it operated under the name of Tu Pueblo Television, The People's Television. 

      Now, in May 1996, Trinity, along with its Latin American partner, a group called ENLACE, began to work with the local Tu Pueblo organization and they immediately invested about a quarter of a million dollars to upgrade it and begin to expand the program offering, to include Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Messianic Jewish religious programming. They also invested, within a few months after that, about a million dollars to be able to acquire and upgrade broadcast production and studio facilities in Madrid. 

      Now, everything seemed to go along just fine, as it had for about 3 1/2 years before that in the operation of this channel 26, however, in May 1997 the Spanish Ministry of Development, which has jurisdiction over matters involving broadcasts in Spain, initiated an administrative process against Tu Pueblo, accusing it of illegally operating on channel 26 because it didn't have a license. 

      And, as basis for this, it says, well we have a law here called Law 4195, passed, essentially, in December 1995, which says that everybody from now on should have a broadcast license. It also provided, however, that all facilities that were on the air before January 1 of 1995, which was the case for channel 26, would be grandfathered in. 

      Now, the curious thing is that since December 1995 until this very moment today, the Spanish authorities have yet to adopt any procedures under which these now required licenses can be issued. So, nobody in Spain has a license. 

      The process continues forward and the Spanish authorities determined that, in fact, Tu Pueblo did not have a license, and the law says you are supposed to have a license. Forget the fact that there is no procedure under which you can get one, and forget the fact that you are already grandfathered in, in accordance to the provisions of the law. The Spanish authorities found that Tu Pueblo did not have a license and, therefore, they ordered them to cease and desist, to get off the air in February of this year, and fined them for the privilege about 2 million pesetas. It sounds like a lot; 2 million pesetas in U.S. terms is about $16,000, which, indeed, is a lot of money to a religious and nonprofit organization. 

      Now, before Tu Pueblo was ordered off the air, it's curious to also note that in 1996 one of the largest dominant communications providers in Spain, a group called Retevision, had been able to acquire from the Ministry of Development an authorization to begin experimental broadcasting and experimental transmissions of digital signals on, you'll never guess what channel, channel 26, no place else in the country, just channel 26. 

      Now, Retevision is a little like a Baby Bell, a Bell operating company. it is a huge player in the market. At the time it was given this authorization, I emphasize it was an authorization, not a license because, remember, nobody has licenses in Spain to operate broadcast facilities, when they were give this authorization, the gentleman that gave them the authorization was the General Director of the Telecommunications Department of the Spanish Ministry of Development. Coincidentally, within a very short time after the authorization was issued to Retevision, this gentleman left his governmental post and became President of Retevision. We have since learned that it also turns out that the Spanish Government owns about 30 percent of Retevision as well. 

      Now, Tu Pueblo has appealed its cease and desist and final order and it is now in the Spanish national court. It is asserting that its freedom of religion and free speech rights have been violated, and that the Ministry of Development has acted in a discriminatory and arbitrary manner clearly based upon the fact that this channel is operating religiously, and no other local broadcast television station in Spain has been so targeted or otherwise treated in this particular way. 

      Now, these matters will continue to pend in whatever venues are available in Spain, but we, the Trinity organization and its partners in Madrid and throughout Spain, think it is obvious that the only reason we were selected, with the slimmest of veneers, and the smallest of rationales: we were treated this way because we provided a religious and inspirational service. We do not have a license, but remember, nobody has a license and there are no procedures under which to get it, and forget the fact that they were already grandfathered in, in accordance with the law. 

      Now, for those of us who have interest in the American background, we look at this and say, well, the government is going to have to do a whole lot better in giving an explanation than just saying you do not have a license. We are certainly in the process of trying to get that explanation. To date, we have been unable to do so. 

      What I think it demonstrates is that at least in Spain, and I would add that with regard to Italy the Trinity Broadcasting Network has a small network of operations within Italy, and has been operating without interference by the government for several years, but in Spain presently it appears that the kind of program offering, and the kind of religious service that is being provided by Trinity and its partner in Madrid is something that the Spanish Government does not want, and since it does not want it, it is creating whatever rationale it can to essentially silence this voice. 

      Now, this is Trinity's story in the television arena, but I would note that in the radio area a number of other smaller broadcasters have likewise been so targeted. All of this, I think, is a circumstance which warrants investigation, not only by this Helsinki Commission and the U.S. Congress, but we have also asked that the Commission help to broker, through its good offices, a meeting of Trinity and its partners in Madrid with the new U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Mr. Eduardo Romero, and through that we hope that the U.S. Embassy in Madrid will take up, through its Human Rights Department and Division, this cause and begin to investigate and get a little better answer than we have been able to get so far through the proceedings we have been involved in. 

      I do want to say thank you to members of the Commission, particularly to Chairman D'Amato, because on June 9 of this year he and other members of the Commission did send a letter to the President of Spain asking for an explanation about the situation involving Trinity and its channel 26 partner in Madrid, as well as an explanation for what is happening to the smaller religious broadcasters throughout Spain. 

      So, for those efforts we are eternally grateful and we are thankful. To date, however, His Excellency, President Aznar, has not yet responded, and so we are not sure what that response will be. 

      When all is said and done, we hope that Spain will confirm its commitment to the 1990 Copenhagen Concluding Document, which provides that everyone will have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right includes freedom to change one's religion or belief, and the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief, either alone or in community with others, in public or in private, to worship teaching practice and observance. 

      I'm happy to answer any questions I can, and thank you again for hearing me out. 

      (Applause.) 

      Mr. Merry. Thank you very much, Mr. May. 

      The session is now open for questions and comments from the floor. I would ask that people use the central microphone as an aid to our transcriber, and please identify yourself and give an affiliation if you have one. 

      Questioner. Good afternoon. My name is Arnoldo Lerma. I am an apostate of Scientology. I spent 10 years in it, and I wanted to ask Doctor Massimo Introvigne what his relationship might be with the organization known as Scientology, because it is my understanding that Scientology was convicted of the largest domestic spying case in American history in 1982, that Scientology--in the 10 years I spent in, I actually thought I was doing some good. 

      When you stated that people, only a handful were coming forward, I could offer that we have many bushel baskets full of people now, in spite of $26 million a year in litigation that has been spent to achieve silence. 

      And, I would not mind if you would like to comment on that. I would like to know what his relationship is with Scientology. 

      Dr. Introvigne. Yes. The answer is quite simple. I have no relations with Scientology in terms of personal affiliation or in terms of representing Scientology as a lawyer. My legal activities are an entirely different field. I am personally a Roman Catholic, so I do not believe in the religious philosophy of Scientology, and I have, of course, written about Scientology in two or three books of mine and tried to evaluate Scientology from a social scientist's point of view. That is more or less all, I think. 

      What I have written about Scientology has not been, I may also say, entirely accepted by Scientologists themselves. I remember when I wrote my chapter on Scientology in my book, The New Allegiance, in 1989. I even got a nasty letter from one of Scientology's representatives in Italy because of a particular incident on the life of the late Ron Hubbard that they claimed I had not reconstructed exactly. 

      On the other hand, I have received some criticism by former members, or more precisely, apostates. I reiterate that for me the term apostate is not an insult, it is an important category that deserves to be heard, but my only point, it is not the only category to be considered. I think that a study of any religious movement, old or new, not considering apostates, would be not a very scholarly study. On the other hand a study of a religious group considering only apostates would also not be a very scholarly study. In other words, if you want to study Roman Catholic priesthood, if you only ask vocal apostate ex-priests, you end up having a very partial view of what Roman Catholic priesthood is all about. 

      On the other hand, if you do a study of Roman Catholic priesthood, and you only interview happy priests, and you ignore completely ex-priests who are, perhaps, not so happy, your study is not very complete either. 

      So, I want to reiterate that I am against any discrimination against apostates, but I think apostates, by definition, are only part of the picture concerning sources for the study of the new religious movement. 

      Questioner. Well, thank you. 

      I don't have any further questions. 

      Questioner. Can I stand back here? 

      Mr. Merry. No, I am sorry that our set-up requires people to walk to the front, but it does make life much easier for our transcribers. 

      Questioner. Just a quick question for Mr. May. I am John Finerty. I am on the Commission staff. 

      My experience with Spain is that there is a fairly lively press and media. What are they saying about this sort of thing that you've described? 

      Mr. May. Well, in truth, I do not know that I can answer that question very well. I have not been sent any of the Spanish clippings, and I only know that the matter has raised a good deal of questions, or many questions, and right now there are going to be answers that are provided. 

      The process in Spain, as near as I understand it, is somewhat Byzantine in its working out, how it works itself out, and so the matter will simply pend for a considerable time. 

      Let me give you some irony here. There is pending in the national courts what is tantamount in the United States to a civil action. There is also, related to the interaction between the local channel 26 Tu Pueblo and Retevision something which is of a criminal nature. Now, that is not criminal as you and I think of it here, but just simply that it is venued in a court that has the name criminal to it. 

      Once the criminal courts realized that there was something civil that was pending, they said well, we are not going to do anything until the civil courts make a determination. Then, the civil courts, likewise, got notice that, in fact, something was pending over on the criminal side, and they were not going to do anything until the criminal side decided. So, there you have this wonderful standoff where neither court seems prepared or willing to otherwise move the matter along. So, there it sits. 

      Now, that has received press, it has received questions and controversy, but in terms of how this plays itself out overall in Spain I honestly could not answer the question other than the way I have done it. 

      Questioner. Julia Dean, Washington Times. 

      Colby, what is the nature of those radio stations? Are they like the television station, kind of like an evangelical Christian perspective, or are they, you know, Scientology, or what are they, do you know? 

      Mr. May. I can only tell you about the television facility, and it is of an evangelical Christian, more Protestant view, although there is Catholic programming that is provided now through Trinity's partnership on channel 26. 

      The local radio stations I am not as conversant in, and I think it would just be out of school for me to say much about them, other than that they are religious in character and they have been singled out and charged with this, ``You don't have a license'' claim. 

      Questioner. A couple of points of clarification regarding---- 

      Mr. Merry. Identify yourself, please. 

      Questioner. Sure, my name is Ron McNamara with the Helsinki Commission staff. 

      A couple of points of clarification regarding the situation in Spain. When you said that the channel 26 in Madrid was reassigned to another station, it is not as though there were not other available frequencies presumably that would have been available to accommodate that other broadcaster, is that the case? 

      Mr. May. That is my understanding. The authorization given was actually for this experimental digital transmission, so that it would include both broadcast, that is, kind of video and audio together, as well as other data transmissions and the like. 

      The problem is, whenever it is operating, why, of course, it creates interference for the analog operation of Tu Pueblo on channel 26. 

      Questioner. The other question, a couple of other questions, one was with respect to the procedures in Spain, such as they are, my understanding was that there frequently or commonly is given some kind of a grace period if an order is issued for a station or broadcaster to terminate their activities for an 8-month period. 

      Mr. May. Yes, there is. 

      Questioner. Was that accorded to your partners in Spain? 

      Mr. May. No. 

      Questioner. And, the other question is, when I was in Madrid in May and went to the U.S. Embassy and had some discussions there on a variety of other matters, it was brought to my attention that this matter is being handled by the commercial section of the U.S. Embassy, which would normally handle telecommunications issues. So, it appears as though the matter is actually being handled strictly as a commercial activity. I wonder if you would respond to that, particularly, given the religious elements of this case. 

      And, one final comment, if you could address as well is, does the Roman Catholic Church in Spain have some role to play? I understand that there are some large entities of which the Catholic Church may be a significant holder of one of those broadcasts. I do not know if conglomerates is the correct terminology. 

      Mr. May. I will answer the last one first by saying, I will be glad to do the research for you so I can answer that question accurately, because as I sit here today I cannot truthfully tell you what ownership interests the church has in any other broadcast outlet or facility. 

      With regard to what is going on in the Embassy, our earnest request is that the meeting would help move it over to the human rights side, because in our view we are singled out as the only local television broadcast station treated this way, and charged, and told to be off the air, and fined, and we are the only ones in that context providing a religious service. We think that speaks volumes by itself and it is a human rights problem, not so much a commercial problem. 

      But, in truth, any assistance the U.S. Embassy can provide for us there I think is most appreciated, but if the Commission is willing to look at it from the human rights point of view, we think that is the appropriate venue for it. 

      Dr. Introvigne. If I may footnote this very shortly. It would be strange, even if nothing is impossible, of course, it would be surprising for the Catholic Church to be particularly critical of TBN, because what happened in Italy actually is that TBN recently got criticized by the Italian equivalent of the National Association of Evangelicals for being too pro Catholic, and that started a number of articles in Italian evangelical press. That is on one hand. 

      And, on the other hand, as you know, TBN International recently had its 25th anniversary. The National Catholic Bishops Conference in Italy has a daily newspaper, and they asked me to write an article for the 25th anniversary of TBN. Of course, I mentioned some controversy within evangelical circles here, in the United States, like criticism by the Christian Research Institute, but the article was generally complimentary. 

      So, I think there is no tension in Italy, and I think the Italian affiliate of TBN would normally report that really the only controversy they have been involved in recently is criticism by other evangelicals because as an evangelical TV it may open its programs to Catholics a bit too much, but otherwise there has been no controversy. 

      Questioner. Thank you. 

      Questioner. My name is Sam Erickson, President of Advocates International. Good to see you, Colby. It has been a while. 

      I just returned from visits to Albania, Bulgaria, Egypt, Zambia, South Africa, China, Mongolia and Korea addressing these issues, and we have been involved for the last 7 years full time in many former communist countries, as well as in Asia, on these very issues. 

      Let me respond to a couple of comments made here. The issue of control--I have been engaged in church/state issues for 30 years. My first 10 years I was an anti-trust lawyer. There are many similarities between anti-trust law and religious liberty in that those in control, the dominant groups, do not like competition, and that is why going to a point you made earlier about words are not neutral, it has been my experience that it may be wiser to steer away from the term ``freedom of religion'' and talk about freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of travel, the basic freedoms. 

      We did this is 1981 in the United States to address the so-called school prayer controversy by coining a term ``equal access'' based on the Free Speech Clause, rather than freedom of religion. 

      We're doing this in Bulgaria, where there is tremendous tension because of the dominant religion there, as well as in Mongolia with the Buddhists. We work very closely with those in the government, in the Parliament, in the ministries, as well as with those on the ground. 

      I think freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, the secular kind of freedoms if you will, are much more palatable and much more difficult for the dominant faiths to fight, because they all want the same thing. 

      Freedom of religion, by definition, means those who are in power must tolerate the minority faiths, and that is a very difficult thing for them to swallow. That is number one. 

      Two, definition of cult. I agree with you, that is the pejorative. For years I have used as a definition for cults in the United States any religion I do not like. When I co-chaired with the Helsinki Commission 2 years ago, the first conference in Bulgaria on the rights of religious minorities and the same week in Albania, the first conference on the right to religious minorities, I made that point. Let us steer away from using the term ``sects'' and ``cults'' and talk about minority faith traditions, because that is what we are talking about. Cults and sects are pejorative terms, let us stop using them in the intellectual circles and in these kinds of sessions and just start talking only about minority faith traditions. 

      Three, in terms of solutions: I have touched on this. Let us focus on this subject. In a secularized society, you talk about secularism, we live in a secular world, we live in a post-modern world, the post-modern world views religion as fairy tales, as superstitious, let us move into the realm of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. There is nothing, and I have been engaged in this, I have been a believer for 54 years, or most all my life, adult life, and there is nothing I cannot accomplish in my faith as a Protestant Evangelical, and the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of press and so forth that I could under freedom of religion. 

      The last point: I have found, and we have found at Advocates International, that it is much more effective to work relationally with those in government than confrontationally. I have been five times to Beijing, three times to Mongolia, 15 times to Bulgaria, 10 times to Albania and so forth, and I have never accused any person in government or in a position of authority of doing anything wrong. I always ask how can we help you do justice. 

      It takes a while, and it takes repeated visits to do that, but I think if we take a positive approach, asking how can we help you do justice, rather than a typical American hired gun confrontational, adversarial approach, I think we will, in the long run, be effective. 

      I appreciate all your comments, they have been very effective, and those are just some responses. 

      Dr. Introvigne. I think I agree, basically, to everything. There are, however, two problems I see: one, that at the level of international treaties, and even within the European Union, there are some special guarantees for religious liberties which are, perhaps, more emphatic than guarantees for freedom of expression or freedom of speech. So, it is still useful for some groups to rely on freedom of religion guarantees, and this is also true for national constitutions. Some national constitutions have provisions more broad for freedom of religious bodies than for freedom of philosophical associations. 

      Two, since it is true that human rights watchdog groups have taken your approach, and I think it is a very sensible approach, the anti-cult organizations are reacting to this by saying, ``Let us not talk about religion, or philosophy, or culture, or doctrine or whatever, but the real distinction is between groups you join of free will and groups you join because you are brainwashed or manipulated.'' 

      So, you would easily see this in the literature of the anti-cult groups, which is so influential on a political level in at least two or three European countries. They will talk about political cults, or psychocults, and some of them may have nothing to do, and emphatically claim they have nothing to do with religion. Or, they may talk about economic cults, or companies structured more or less like cults, so the key word here is mind control. When she was interviewed by the Belgian commission, the President of ADFI, the largest French anti-cult group, she said a cult is simply a group using mind or emotional control, so that can be a political group, a philosophical group, whatever. 

      Freemasonry has been counted as a cult in a number of countries, while ironically the French and Belgian freemasonry is in favor of the reports. But every group allegedly using mind control may be defined as a cult. 

      So, it does not really matter whether it is religious, philosophical or cultural, according to this ideology, the criteria for distinction of whether a group is dangerous or not is mind control. 

      Mr. May. I would just like to clarify something as well, Sam. I never indicated anything other than it was curious as to what happened here between the issuance of an authorization for channel 26 for the provisional digital communications that the minister of the department that issued that curiously left his post and then became president of the organization that it went to. That is all I am saying. It is simply a curious fact. 

      Mr. Merry. In the same context, I would like to actually ask Doctor Introvigne to comment on the approach taken by the Inquiry Commission of the German Bundestag toward both Scientology, and also some other so-called psycho groups, which have sought to eventually deal with them in terms of consumer protection law, and to regard the issue as basically one of packaging information and accuracy of advertising and information given to consumers. This was an issue where members of the Commission staff had some very interesting discussions with members of the Inquiry Commission, in which we were told that the issue in some cases was comparable to that of the protections given to German citizens going into a market and purchasing a liter of milk. 

      And, I must say that I have been quite struck in my initial readings of the final report of the Inquiry Commission, of the effort given to try to deal with this question of so-called sect psycho groups in Germany, in terms of business law and consumer protection, and to essentially define it as having not only nothing to do with religious liberty, but nothing to do with freedom of association, freedom of speech, and other basic liberties as well. 

      Dr. Introvigne. Well, I think it is an extremely interesting point for social scientists throughout the world to try to understand what is going on in Germany about Scientology, because I am on the board of a couple of international journals in the field of sociology of religion, and we are eagerly awaiting serious papers by German scholars dealing with this issue. We have had some proposals, but they are quite weak. It seems that it is difficult even for German sociologists to explain clearly why Scientology was converted into a national obsession and there are plenty of examples. 

      I have seen press clippings of German businessmen saying that some recent poor results of the German economy are because of the international boycott by Scientology. Now, I do not think Scientology is so powerful as to be able to influence the general overall economic results of Germany, and I would be very much surprised if this were the case. 

      And, there are a number of extreme claims, and I think the German report, first of all, is built on the basis of a very limited scholarly knowledge about Scientology, and ends up regarding Scientology as basically a political organization whose aim is dominating the world. 

      Now, I'm very much aware of most of the quotes which have been used in Germany. They are taken from the writings of L. Ron Hubbard and some of the claims Hubbard made during his lifetime, were, of course, that one day Scientology will be a very influential or even the dominant force in the world. But I think we can find similar claims in the writings of many religious leaders, perhaps, even of leaders of religious groups within mainline churches, having, perhaps, a big or grandiose vision for the future. 

      On the German report on Scientology? I do not think that the so-called "scholarship" that the German report is based upon is sound. So, the report's conclusion that Scientology, if my translation is correct, is a politically extremist organization, in no way captures what Scientology is all about. 

      So, I think the real problem is why this is happening in Germany. Of course, I know some answers, and some answers involve the story of certain real estate problems in Hamburg, the reaction of the city of Hamburg and the creation of a commission, and a certain anti-cult lady coming to dominate this commission. This led to some extreme ideas about Scientology, but this seems to me to be a small history, and I am still looking for answers in the larger picture of why exactly Scientology is the scapegoat for many things happening in Germany. I do not think the issue has been entirely studied to sufficient extent, both by Germans and by non-Germans. 

      On the other hand, I also think that the whole category of psychocult is an ideological category with very little basis in fact, lumping together very different organizations, starting from the Church of Scientology and again going to VPM, a Zurich-based organization of mental health professionals and other professionals following the disciples of the well-known psychoanalyst, Adler. They are targeted because of their political ideas, mostly which may be regarded as arch-conservative by a number of liberal German politicians. But again it is difficult to see in what sense they belong to the same category as the Church of Scientology, which is a religion that claims to be a church, while these people claim to be a cultural organization, including people of many faiths. 

      Other groups, which in Germany are normally classified as psychocults, are part of what you will call here the New Age, or what British sociologist Paul Heelas called seminar religion, or religion based on self-help books and techniques, and for some reason some of these groups offering self-help seminars are also regarded in German anti-cult literature as psychocults. 

      So, I do not think there is any true essential definition of what is a psychocult. I think again, psychocult is a group offering or claiming to offer some comfort to people having psychological troubles which happens not to be liked by certain people, and that is like the definition of cult mentioned by somebody in the audience before. 

      As for consumer protection, I remember being interviewed myself by the German Commission on this point, and my reaction is some sort of protection for the spiritual consumer is in order. I think some sort of ethical code for religions is appropriate and may promote a sort of open house or glasnost policy of providing information to potential converts. 

      On the other hand, the problem is, these kinds of proposals may easily be constructed as discriminatory, if one targets a particular group, or one or two particular groups. I think that the proposal that was recently rejected by the European Parliament, the Berger report, was not completely unreasonable, although I had myself suggested some amendments. I think that there is some need for spiritual consumers protection in terms of asking the religions to abide by certain ethical principles regarding what prospective converts should be told before they join. 

      I think, particularly, with respect to the Church of Scientology, based on my study of the Italian experience of the Church of Scientology, that when they came into Italy in the years 1979/1980, they made a number of mistakes, because they did not realize that the Italian consumer laws and attitudes are quite different from U.S. consumer laws. 

      The well-known court case in Milan, in October 1997, which has been partially decided and remanded for further examination for the second time to the Court of Appeals in Milan by the Italian Supreme Court, is a case concerning incidents in the years 1979/1981, because in these years probably they did not realize what the Italian law was all about, and it is different from the American law. 

      Now, I think they have changed, they have matured and have significant experience in Europe, and they have realized that the consumer in Europe is as stronger as in the United States, but it is also different from United States, and they have to devote more study to consumer laws in countries like Italy, and France. I think they did it. 

      As for other matters, I think the Supreme Court decision of October, 1997 is a very important decision. It is the virtual book about Scientology, 50 pages, considering all the usual objections against Scientology not being a religion and answering them one by one. So it is a very useful document. 

      But, on the other hand, even this decision--normally considered a decision very favorable to Scientology--includes the remark that it is very much possible, and this demands further examination, that individual Scientologists in the Milan organization violated a number of laws and regulations in the years considered, again, 1979 to 1981 and, perhaps, the organization there was not yet entirely familiar with Italian law. 

      So, the two things are compatible: a group may be a religion and members of the group may break the law. But, again, I think in reading the German report, I think just to sum up, there are two very different questions. One question is whether religious groups (but equally I include the field of so-called ``seminar'' religion, or human potential movements, including the Church of Scientology), may be required in accordance to the consumerist culture of some European countries to make some disclosures with respect to prospective converts. 

      Perhaps, these disclosures may be different from what they are requested to do in the United States, but, two, this has really nothing to do with an assessment of these groups, whether they are religious, or non-religious, or whether they are politically dangerous organizations, as the German report says about Scientology. 

      I think the two questions are very much different. On the one hand, consumers shall be protected and, perhaps, some of these groups made a number of mistakes in the past, but the second point is, to infer from some of these mistakes, that these groups are not really religious, it is really a big jump, and I don't think it is logically consistent. 

      Questioner. James Pellecchia from Public Affairs International for Jehovah's Witnesses. 

      Two questions, one first for Mr. May concerning channel 26 with the free speech issue. Do you see that as a harbinger to go into, let us say, the press, or the pending page in Spain, and then maybe the rest of Europe. 

      Then also for Doctor Introvigne, concerning the German report or Germany. There was a minority opinion, a dissenting opinion, concerning changing or amending Article 140 of the Constitution and putting in a Rechts Jua, or a legal fidelity, an oath of loyalty to the Constitution and government before a minority religion could have a corporation of public law, and if that would result in social ostracism, a two-tier system of religion? They use the example of Jehovah's Witnesses, who applied for corporate status under public law because of their refusal to vote in political elections for religious reason, as an example of the need for the loyalty. 

      But, for the big churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, the priests normally do not, for religious reasons, vote, and they are not seen as hostile to the government. So, I wondered if you had any thought concerning the amendment suggested for Article 140 of the German constitution. 

      Mr. May. I will go first, I guess, since you directed your first question to me. 

      I think without a doubt the free speech aspect, as we, perhaps, know it in the United States, is one that has a lot of momentum and is beginning to take traction in Europe particularly. 

      I think when you look at the various documents, like the European Human Rights Convention, any of the concluding documents for the Helsinki Accords and the like, you will find them rich with language which speaks about the need for individual liberties, the need for government to behave in a way that is consistent and in a way that respects the individual rights regarding free speech, free exercise of religion, due process, equal protection, selective prosecution, across the board, and free speech is very much a part of that and, perhaps, the engine that will help drive it. But yes, it is catching fire and for all good reasons. 

      Dr. Introvigne. Well, the German report has, in fact, a number of dissenting opinions. There is an interesting dissenting opinion by the Green members, Professor Seiwert and Ms. Angelika Kostner, and that is quite interesting on the side of religious scholarship. 

      On the other hand, there are other people who feel the German report to be too mild, so they have stronger proposals, and this is one of many proposals, the one that you mentioned. I think it is quite dangerous, and it is also strange that you require some oath to be taken by a special category of citizens but not by all categories of citizens. 

      I'm told by German constitutional scholars that such a proposal has slim chances of being passed because of constitutional problems. 

      Roman Catholic priests normally vote, by the way. They need the authorization of their bishops to be candidates for public office, and this authorization is very often denied. This is different from voting; they normally do vote. 

      Concerning Jehovah's Witnesses, I would like to add two comments. The first comment is they have a very difficult situation in France, and one comment in the 1997 report of the Observatory I find particularly disturbing is, without naming them (but everybody understands what group they are talking about) they criticized the idea that Jehovah's Witnesses are commemorating victims in Nazi concentration camps, saying this is propaganda. 

      I don't think that in light of some complicities by French officers of that time in what happened during World War II, it is very good taste to include these kinds of remarks in an official document. On the other hand, I hope that the process of granting to the Watch Tower Society what we call an Intesa, or a sort of concordat in Italy, and I think that is part of the problem of the present government, and I think that can establish an interesting precedent. 

      To my understanding, there is no strong opposition in Italy against the Intesa between the government and the Jehovah's Witnesses, and even in Catholic quarters there is no official opposition about this. 

      Of course, there are individual priests who are vocally anti-Jehovah's Witnesses, but I have been told by people working at this officially on the government side that there is no particular pressure against this. I think that this is an important recognition because an Intesa is much more than being recognized, it is really entering into a cooperative agreement with the government. I think that can establish an important precedent for the other European Union countries. So, I think this is a positive development and should be closely followed. 

      Really, there are two of these discussions going on right now, and it is part of a program of the present government to sign two new Intese with the Italian Buddhist Union and with Jehovah's Witnesses. That will be extremely important because it will be the first European government on one hand with a concordat with a non-theistic religion, like the Buddhists. On the other hand, it will be the first government with a concordat with Jehovah's Witnesses. 

      Of course, Jehovah's Witnesses are part and parcel now of the Italian landscape. Italy has the largest percentage of Jehovah's Witnesses in Europe, so we see that forces, both in the government and the opposition, are working in a bi-partisan way to promote these important developments in Italy. They shall be supported internationally, because that can be quite helpful at the European level. 

      Questioner. George Ratz, International Religious Liberty Association. 

      First, I would like to thank Doctor Introvigne for his work, and second, I have a question for Mr. May. 

      What is your relationship with the Federation of Evangelical Religious Entity in Spain? I ask that question because I received a fax from the Ministry of Justice, and they said that you should apply for license first, and second, you should work through the Federation of Evangelical's Entity in Spain. 

      Mr. May. Well, when and if the Spanish Government finally determines what the procedures are for getting a license, then channel 26, as every other local television broadcaster in Spain, will begin that process and be accorded whatever the appropriate grandfathered rights are, given the fact that they have been on the air since 1994. 

      With regard to working with and coalitioning with other organizations within Spain, they are certainly endeavoring to do that. The one that you have just mentioned there, I would have to contact our Spanish representatives to determine if they are among that group, but my understanding is that there is a support, a series of support organizations working with them along this line. 

      But, let us say, for example, there were not. What difference would it make? The reality is that channel 26 went on the air, like every other group and organization in Spain, following the 1989 law. They have been on the air since 1994, and they have been treated in a manner which I think signals that they have been singled out solely because they are religious broadcasters. That ought to be the concern that the Spanish authorities have. It is certainly the concern that Tu Pueblo Television and its representatives in Madrid have. 

      Questioner. Hi, I am Susan Taylor with the Church of Scientology International, and I just wanted to ask Mr. Introvigne a question. 

      There's been a lot of attention on the Church of Scientology, but there are other voices that have not been heard about their being abused in France and in Germany, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on that, and then what do you feel that these minority religions can actually do to help terminate anti-religious bias? 

      Dr. Introvigne. Well, of course, it is a fact of life that larger international groups have more international coverage than small churches, and this is cause of concern. We try to devote more time in our international conferences when it comes to discussing issues of religious liberty to small groups, because organizations like Church of Scientology, or the Watchtower Society are large international organizations. Of course, if they are discriminated against in France, or Germany, or Mongolia for that matter, their voice is heard by the media in the United States and other countries. 

      But, there is definite risk that the small independent church discriminated against in France will not be heard abroad, so in the written document we prepared one example we used is a small pentecostal church, which is part of a larger pentecostal federation called the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon in France, which has been listed as a dangerous cult and has been the subject of a lot of practical discrimination in France. This is the typical group which is not very much discussed in the international press when it comes to discussing France. 

      We have used another example, the Aumist religion of the Mandarom, because in France this is often used in the media as the quintessential cult, since the founder, Mr. Gilbert Bourdin, who died this year in 1998, had some quite extreme claim of basically being God, being the Messiah. Of course, that doesn't make you very popular. 

      But, I think popular groups are protected by their popularity. 

      Now, such an unpopular group, with extreme claims, strange doctrines, perhaps, also bizarre, this is a good example of a good test for toleration, because it is easy to tolerate a group that is not strange. This group is strange. So, is it tolerated or not? In fact it is not tolerated; they have been placed under extreme stress. 

      There was a very complicated sexual abuse action against the founder for events allegedly occurred 17 or 18 years before the complaint was filed. We will never know the truth about this because the founder died as the proceedings were closed. 

      After the founder died, there were really some extreme measures against his body, because a French anti-cult organization and other groups started saying, we do not want his grave to become another pilgrimage site, so the body was taken from one cemetery to another, and in all the cities local anti-cult groups were raising objection against the body being there. It all started because the group wanted to bury him in their holy city of Mandarom, and opponents said that this will convert it into a pilgrimage site. Now, it is already a pilgrimage site anyway, so that would have been the more sensible solution. 

      Finally, he has been buried by a sort of police or military action in a faraway and degraded cemetery, and they have taken a number of measures to prevent the body to be removed. 

      Now, for social scientists familiar with theories of amplified deviance, this is a typical deviant group from an ideological point of view, because it is so different from what the average French person would think about religion in general. Sociology predicts that most groups are not essentially dangerous but may eventually become dangerous if placed under stress. Many studies are being done about Waco, Texas, in this proposal. I am part of some cooperative studies of the issue, having studied the Solar Temple, and essentially, the amplification of deviance is one explanation of why a group ends up with group suicide, or suicide and homicide, like the Solar Temple. 

      These explanations are not the only ones around. Perhaps, for one group, the explanation is really better captured by an essentialist explanation. Heaven's Gate may be an example of an inherently possible suicide because of their doctrine. 

      But, for other groups like the Branch Davidians or Jonestown or the Solar Temple, there was few in the group which may have made easy to predict the suicides or homicides. It was a more dynamic interaction between the group, its opponents, society at large, the media, law enforcement and governments. 

      So, social theory normally predicts that if you place an apocalyptic group, or even a non-apocalyptic group under extreme stress, it will react. 

      I have told a number of French colleagues and occasionally some French authorities that the Mandarom is a text book example of what you should do if you want to provoke a small group and induce it to do something extreme. I am very glad they did not do anything extreme so far. Surely this group is targeted because it is so visible, they have the ``strange clothing'' and they build huge statues to the glory of their Messiah when he was still alive. It is simply too visible. It is regarded as provocative, and it is discriminated against. 

      So, again, the small groups suffer. Big groups also suffer, but the small groups are not heard about abroad. So, this problem surely does exist. 

      What groups can do is to become more open to investigations by the media and, particularly, by scholars. I think to give you one example, The Family, formerly known as Children of God, has scored some very significant legal victories in Europe, particularly in England and Spain, and France. They think The Family has really been saved by the fact that at one stage during their history they decided to become more open to investigation by social scientists. 

      So, when the anti-cult movements instigated a number of raids, and children were taken away from their parents, The Family, at least, had the possibility of relying on a considerable body of scholarly literature that could be shown to the magistrates and to the judges. They argued: `yes, that's what the anti-cult movement is saying, but here we have other people who have done considerable research about The Family, and they may tell you that things are not exactly how anti-cultist say they are.' 

      So, I think opening themselves to investigation by social scientists is not the universal solution, but it is a good way for small groups to protect themselves, create a body of independent accounts of what they are all about. 

      Mr. Merry. Yes, sir. 

      Questioner. Hi, Matt Baracci, I am with the group Freedom of Religions in Germany, which is a coalition founded by the Church of Scientology. 

      I think every point is valid whenever it comes to freedom of religion and discrimination against people on the basis of their religion, and I really think it comes down to the individual factor of people who are simply against individuals who think differently, or look differently, or whatever the difference may be, and they just cannot particularly handle that particular problem. 

      Then, when you get a group of those people together who exhibit this particular form of bigotry, they then are able to form their own coalitions or groups which can then translate that into larger forms. 

      So thus, then the organizations like mine have to be created to essentially combat that particular form of bigotry. 

      The question I really had was, knowing this is a dynamic part of essentially all societies, and given the fact that the current situation in Europe is creating a coalescence of all the various different countries in Europe, with all their different prejudices and what have you, there will be a situation at some point where a number of these groups will get together to specifically start targeting, not necessarily Scientology, but some other organization. 

      As you said before, there are Catholic groups that are being targeted, there are other Christian groups that are being targeted, and Jehovah's Witnesses are being targeted by these different organizations. What is really seen here is a target against religious belief, and some other form of religious belief, which means that we all have to take a look at how can this be excised in the sense of giving people the right to believe what they wish. In that glossary, which are already in the books if somebody has committed a crime, they may state it is on the basis of their religion, but if it is a crime ensuring that individual is then convicted on that particular point. 

      Anyway, I do not know if this has come through clearly enough, but, essentially, what really can be done from both a citizenry level and governmental level, to help prevent this activity from taking place? 

      Dr. Introvigne. Well, I think one important point is that the academia in the field of new religious movements is largely American There are a few Europeans, most of them British, but I will say 80 percent of academics studying new religious movements are American, and most of these academics are vocal critics of the European Parliamentary reports. Although I am Italian, for instance, we are often accused of trying to impose the American model, or a U.S. model, of church/state relationship in Europe, and that is a foreign model. It has nothing to do with European culture. 

      Now, it is important to state that this is not the case, because I will say these accusations are particularly common in Eastern Europe. When we try to say something about the Russian law, we are accused of trying to compel Russia to adopt an American view toward religion and some Russian Orthodox theologians, for instance, would say that is totally foreign to our tradition and would never work here. 

      So, I think it is important when American scholars, or American religions, or American diplomats come to Europe, to be aware of this objection, and I personally normally answer that I think that the American solution is a great, admirable solution for religious, social and cultural situations, like the one prevailing in America. When the Constitution was framed, but, of course, when you have a country like Southern Ireland, where one religion includes more than 80 percent of the population, that is an entirely different situation. 

      So, of course, you cannot easily translate American culture into these countries. I think that some workable solutions exist. For instance, the solution adopted in Italy is far from being perfect, and, in fact, Italy is now amending its law on religion, but I think in the recent years, particularly, in the last 10 or 15 years, Italy is a workable model of a country who grants some privileges to one church, saying this church is so linked to history of nation, and it is also so much larger than all the other churches that it receives some privileges, particularly, in terms of financial support. It also grants concordats to some other churches, and that is interesting. 

      Some other churches also have concordat, because they are regarded as an important part of the general cultural landscape, such as Assemblies of God, Pentecostals, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Waldensian-Methodist Federation, Jews, Lutherans. They also have their own concordats, and they receive some advantages. 

      The Italian model is far from being perfect. I am not chauvinistic. I wouldn't try to sell the Italian model to anybody. But it is a model of a country where there is a dominant religion, and there are some large churches competing with this one. The right to dissent or religious liberty is granted to everybody, but some groups have something more in terms of financial and other support. One group, which is regarded, by the Constitution by the way, as part and parcel of the historical heritage of the country, receives still more support. 

      Of course, it is a difficult situation because the balance is difficult to preserve, but I told some Russian officers that it may be a solution for Russia. So, let us be open and rather than saying theoretically that all religions are equal before the law and then making a law whose practical effect, if it will be forced, will be to kill other religions other than the Russian Orthodox Church, why don't you say openly that the Russian Federation recognizes the unique historical contribution of the Moscow Patriarchy, and so we will give some money to them to restore their churches and contribute to the national culture. But, as the same time, we will allow other churches access to state support, and we will grant minimal religious liberty international guarantee to everybody. 

      So, I don't think we shall go to every single country from Albania to Spain saying you should basically copy the U.S. Constitution, because their history is a bit different, but I think that while recognizing that in a number of European countries there is a different history and culture, minimal religious liberty or minimal freedom of speech, or freedom of association should be guaranteed to everybody, and that could be, I think, interesting at the level of discussing it with authorities in these different countries. 

      Mr. Merry. We have time, I think, just for one more question. 

      In this context, I would like to note that the Helsinki Commission always, in its discussions, proceeds on the basis of those principles contained in Helsinki documents, precisely because these are not American principles, but are principles that were arrived at, agreed and committed to by the participating States. We make it very clear in our discussions with representatives of other participating States of the OSCE that we recognize full well that most European countries proceed from a tradition of a state church or of a recognized and authorized church or churches, but that we recognize that there are a great many cases in Europe which today still have authorized or state churches which have dealt with problems in religious liberty and religious minorities with an approach of tolerance, and that we are not at all trying to impose the American model on these countries, but seeking that they with a view toward their own history and their own cultures, should also be in full compliance with their OSCE commitments and their commitments under other international and domestic documents. 

      Please. 

      Questioner. Thank you, Arnoldo Lerma, ex-deluded adherent, Scientology. 

      Scientology was criminally convicted in Canada as a corporation for the breach of the public trust. All appeals were exhausted in 1997. At the last commission hearings, I did not get an opportunity to ask anything in person, but asked a few gentlemen on the side when the critics and the ex-members of Scientology would get a chance to speak. 

      We have listened to John Travolta, we have listened to Ann Archer, when are we going to be heard? They told me that this would occur, and that all sides would be heard. That is my question, on behalf of all the ex-members. 

      Mr. Merry. I can only say that it is the practice of the Commission to seek to have balanced presentations on all topics, but we are conducting a series of both briefings and hearings on the whole issue of religious liberty throughout the OSCE region, and that includes the United States. 

      And, I think my colleagues and I would be happy to entertain proposals for participation in future Commission conducted public sessions. 

      Questioner. So, at least some ex-members may be heard? 

      Mr. Merry. I see no reason not to. 

      Questioner. Thank you, sir. 

      Mr. Merry. This will be a very brief question, because we are almost at the end. 

      Questioner. I am Dan Pfefferman with the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, and I am a member of the Unification Church. 

      I came in late, so I do not know whether Doctor Introvigne already addressed this, but if not, perhaps, two quick points. One is the use of the Schengen Treaty to exclude Reverend and Mrs. Moon from European nations, and also the issue of the program which is rather dead in the U.S., but I'm informed it is bearing its ugly head certainly in Japan. I'd like to get your assessment of that phenomenon in Europe. 

      Thank you. 

      Dr. Introvigne. Well, very quick answer, since time is running out. The Reverend and Mrs. Moon case is mentioned in my written presentation. For the benefit of those not familiar with this, the Schengen Treaty, which has been signed by a number, but not by all, of the member states in the European Union, is a treaty allowing freedom of movement. Accordingly, there is no longer an immigration control between Italy and France or Italy and Germany. We had this new development this year of not finding an immigration officer when we go into these countries. You can go by car between Italy and France without being stopped by anybody checking your passport. 

      Now, in connection with this, one provision of the Schengen Treaty provides for the fact that persons regarded as not desirable by one or more member states should be stopped by all member states, because once you have got to Italy you don't find any obstacle for going into France or Germany. So, the idea is, if France doesn't want somebody in, all the Schengen countries should stop him or her when they try to come in from outside the European Union. 

      Now, I have studied the preliminary work done for the treaty, and it seems clear to me that this provision for non-convicted felons (for convicted felons there are other provisions), was really intended for terrorists, particularly for terrorists who were not convicted because of some political international circumstances, but European countries don't want these guys in any way. But, in fact, it has been used to place in the Schengen list both Reverend and Mrs. Moon. 

      I think there is possible legal redress against this because I do not think it is consistent with the aims of the Schengen Treaty, and, in fact, as you surely know, Holland has already allowed an exception as a consequence of a legal case started on behalf of these people. I think legal redress should normally be available in other countries as well because it seems to me that this is a misuse of the purposes of the Schengen Treaty for purposes of religious discrimination. 

      What was the second question? 

      Questioner. Deprogramming. 

      Dr. Introvigne. Well, deprogramming is not as popular as it used to be in Europe as well. There have been some legal problems, particularly in Switzerland. Some years ago in a case involving the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Pastera case, the Swiss authorities took a clear stand against deprogramming. It is surely still very much popular in Japan, and there are some cases in Europe, but deprogrammers are more quiet than they used to be. 

      Scholars, mainline churches, and even some anti-cult organizations, are on record as being against deprogramming. 

      Of course, there are other techniques like exit counseling, which occasionally is simply a new name for deprogramming, but it purports to be different, and in other cases it is different. It does not involve coercion. I think that the real problematic country for deprogramming is Japan right now. 

      Mr. Merry. Thank you very much. 

      We have come to the end of today's session. I, again, want to express the hope of the Commission staff that we will be able to reschedule the full hearing which we had scheduled for this morning for September. We had the agreement from some very interesting witnesses to attend, and I'm sure that will be a very interesting session. 

      Nonetheless, we were delighted to be able to conduct this less formal session this afternoon, and take advantage of the presence of Doctor Introvigne and Mr. May here in Washington, to be able to present us their views on this subject as part of our continuing Commission attention to the problems of religious liberty. 

      I think this has been extraordinarily informative for me, and I hope it has been for members of the audience, and I want to thank our two guests for their time and their very kind participation. 

      Thank you. 

      (Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 4:06 p.m.) 

      [Written submissions for the record follow]. 


       

      Religious Liberty in Western Europe

      Submitted by Dr. Massimo Introvigne

      When, in the United States, it is suggested that religious liberty should become an issue in foreign relations, immediate references are to Asian or African countries such as China, North Korea, or Sudan. Former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia, have recently been added to the list. Scholars of minority religions, however, know that serious problems also exist in some countries of Western Europe. Some cases are becoming well-known. There are, among others: the inclusion of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, and his wife in the so-called Schengen list (preventing persons allegedly dangerous for public order to enter a number of European countries), and the extreme measures advocated in Germany against the Church of Scientology. 

      These cases, unfortunately, are not simply exceptions to a general rule of religious tolerance. Pentecostal Churches, Roman Catholic organizations, Jewish groups and many other religious minorities face discrimination in a number of Western European countries, including France, Belgium, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Greece, meanwhile, by keeping in its Constitution a provision that outlaws proselytism on behalf of any religion other than the Greek Orthodox Church, has apparently not yet decided whether, in religious liberty matters, it really wants to belong to the West. 

      It is certainly true that serious crimes have been perpetrated by certain religious movements in Europe. The suicides and homicides of the Order of the Solar Temple in Switzerland in 1994 and in France in 1995 have caused widespread social concern. Certainly we do not suggest that religious movements guilty of common crimes should not be vigorously prosecuted. However, the Solar Temple incidents have been used as a catalyst in a number of countries to propose actions against literally hundreds of groups lumped together under the label of ``cults.'' In the wake of the Solar Temple a dangerous ideology, hostile to religious minorities in general, seem to be making inroads in political and administrative circles. As scholars, we believe that it is important to understand the main tenets of this ideology (Part I). We then detail some of the results of the ideology in Western Europe, mostly in the form of parliamentary commissions and reports (Part II). After the examination of some examples (Part III), we offer some final suggestions (Part IV). It is important that--while further action is proposed at different levels in Europe--an international dialogue on religious minorities may involve all the interested parties and those who care about religious liberty. 

      I. The Rise of an Intolerant Worldwiew

      1. Redefining ``Religion'' 

      Virtually no one in present-day Western Europe, and certainly not governments or parliamentary commissions, would admit to being against religious liberty. The technique used to discriminate against unpopular groups is to redefine the notion of ``religion.'' While most scholars favour a broad definition of religion (for example, as a system of answers to the basic human questions about the origins and destiny of humans), institutional definitions by political and judicial actors are often result-oriented. For instance, in ruling to deny to the Church of Scientology the status of a religion, the Appeals Court of Milan, Italy (December 2, 1996) defined religion as ``a system of doctrines centered on the presupposition of the existence of a Supreme Being, who has a relation with humans, the latter having towards him a duty of obedience and reverence.'' On October 8, 1997 the Italian Supreme Court annulled this decision, castigating its theistic definition of religion as ``unacceptable'' and a ``mistake,'' because it is ``based only on the paradigm of biblical religions'' and would exclude a number of mainline religions, including Buddhism. 

      It is true that theologians, sociologists and historians have proposed different definitions of religion. It is however, difficult to avoid the impression that in some European countries today the selection of a set of criteria among many available is governed by a preliminary feeling whether an organization deserves protection or punishment. Only broad definitions of religion appear to be consistent with the aims of religious liberty embodied in a number of national constitutions and international declarations and conventions. 

      2. The Myth of Brainwashing and Mind Control

      One of the older and most effective rhetorical tools used in order to claim that a number of groups are not ``genuine'' religions is that they are not joined willingly. The anti-Mormon writer Maria Ward claimed in 1855 (Female Life Among the Mormons, London: Routledge, 1855: 38, 240) that Mormon conversions were obtained only through ``a mystical magical influence (...)--a sort of sorcery that deprived me of the unrestricted exercise of free will.'' In fact, Ward argued, Mormons used the secret of ``Mesmerism,'' taught to their founder Joseph Smith by ``a German peddler.'' The reference to ``magical influence,'' ``sorcery'' and a non-existing German Mesmerist allowed anti-Mormons such as Ward to deny Mormonism the status of religion. Since religion is, by rhetorical definition, an exercise of free will, a non-religion may only be joined under some sort of coercion. 

      The same hypnotic paradigm has been applied, more recently, in order to distinguish between ``religions,'' joined voluntarily, and ``cults,'' joined only because of what was once called brainwashing and now--since the label has been discredited by mental health scholars--has been renamed as mind control, mental manipulation, or mental destabilization. In the United States, theories of brainwashing and mind control as applied to religious minorities have been debunked from at least 10 years. The American Psychological Association (APA) in 1984 allowed Margaret Singer, the main proponent of anti-cult mind control theories, to create a working group called Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC). In 1987 the final report of the DIMPAC Committee was submitted to the Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychology of the APA. On May 11, 1987 the Board rejected the report. The results of this rejection were devastating for mind control theories. 

      Starting from the Fishman case (1990)--in which a defendant who was accused of commercial fraud defended himself on the basis that he was not fully responsible because he was under the mind control of Scientology--American courts have often rejected testimonies about mind control and manipulation, stating that they are not part of accepted mainline science. Anti-cult brainwashing and mind control theories are, indeed, not part of psychological or social science. They lack empirical evidence, and are a mere tool used in order to deny the status of religion to groups perceived as deviant or subversive. (These and other comments in this text apply to brainwashing and mind control theories as normally proposed in the ``classic'' anti-cult literature. Recently, a small minority of social scientists has proposed to use the word ``brainwashing'' in a different sense, in order to indicate certain techniques allegedly used--rather than in order to persuade non-members to join--in order to keep members of religious movements within the fold by maximizing their exit costs. The proponents of these comparatively new theories--accepted by a tiny minority only of scholars of religion--agree, at any rate, that they shall not be used in order to distinguish between ``religions'' and ``cults''). 

      In Western Europe, on the other hand, these American developments are not well-known. Although with different nuances, and dismissing the word ``brainwashing'' as inadequate and old-fashioned, even official documents by parliamentary commissions rely on the faulty model distinguishing between religions and ``cults'' on the basis of manipulation and mind control. 

      3. Apostates

      Mind control theories are part of a rejected knowledge consistently repudiated by the academia, professional associations, and courts of law. It is, however, argued that scholarly objections are less relevant than the ``testimony'' of ``former members'' who claim that ``cults'' are indeed joined because of manipulation and mind control. It is unclear why the accounts of one or another ``former member'' should be accepted by official political bodies, including parliamentary commissions, as more relevant by definition than scholarly research. Additionally, a misunderstanding about the very notion of ``former members'' is perpetuated, and plays a key role in the public stigmatization of minority religious movements. While parliamentary reports and sensationalized media accounts claim to rely on the ``testimony of former members,'' we learn invariably that, for each religious movement, only a very limited number of ``former members'' have been heard by the parliamentary commissions, the courts, or the press. 

      Sociological research suggests that, among thousands of former members of any large organization (no matter how controversial) only a small minority become ``apostates'' (a technical, not a derogatory term). Not all former members are apostates. The apostate is the former member who reverses loyalties dramatically, and becomes a professional enemy of the organization he or she has left. Most former members do not become apostates. They remain--in sociological terms suggested by David Bromley and others--``defectors'' (members who somewhat regret having left an organization they still perceive in largely positive terms), or ``ordinary leavetakers'' with mixed feelings about their former affiliation. However ordinary leavetakers (and, to some extent, defectors) remain socially invisible, insofar as they do not like or care to discuss their former affiliation. Apostates, being more visible, are mistaken for the genuine representatives of the former members. In fact, quantitative research shows that even in extremely controversial groups apostates normally represent less than 15% of former members. 

      4. Anti-cult Movements

      If apostates are only a minority of former members, why often only apostates are interviewed by parliamentary commissions or the media? The logical answer is that they either volunteer to be heard, or are directed to testify by an opposition coalition. This is, in fact, the role of the so-called anti-cult movement. Modern anti-cult movements (in opposition to older Christian counter -cult coalitions) are defined as primarily secular organizations fighting ``cults'' based on the brainwashing or mind control paradigm. 

      The recent lack of institutional and academic support for mind control theories has caused a serious crisis of the American anti-cult movement. In 1996 the largest American anti-cult organization, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), filed for bankruptcy. An anti-cult movement, however, does continue to exist in the United States, and in fact claims that its accounts, although rejected by most scholars, are validated by ``former members'' (i.e. apostates). Currently in Western Europe anti-cult movements (particularly ADFI in France, whose offices also serve as European headquarters for FECRIS, a Europe-wide federation of anti-cult movements) experience a degree of institutional support unknown in the United States. These well organized anti-cult movements--particularly in France, Germany and Belgium--have successfully introduced the mind control model to the press and to political bodies unfamiliar with the fact that this model has been discredited in the United States. When scholarly criticism of the mind control model is brought to bear against the anti-cult movements, it is dismissed on the basis of the testimony of ``former members.'' In some countries, including France, anti-cult movements have considerable resources and operate with the help of taxpayers' money. They are responsible for spreading misleading information about a number of religious minorities. 

      Not composed of scholars, the anti-cult organization often--perhaps in good faith--offer information that is simply not updated. The consequences, however, may be catastrophic. To mention only some examples, in the early 1990s the international anti-cult coalition instigated in a number of countries police raids against The Family (formerly known as the Children of God), based on practices The Family had in fact discontinued for a number of years. Based on this false information, children were separated from their mothers, and adults and children were kept in custody (inter alia in France and Spain) for weeks and even for months. Later, courts dismissed the charges, recognizing that the information was either inaccurate or not up to date, and castigated the anti-cultists. In Barcelona, Spain, Judge Adolfo Fernando Oubina in his decision of May 22, 1992 went so far to compare the actions against The Family to ``the Inquisition'' and ``the concentration camps.'' These legal decisions, although important, do not compensate either the adults or the children for what was an unnecessary nightmare. 

      Another example of how non-updated information may easily mislead authorities concerns Tabitha's Place, the French branch of the Messianic Communities (a communal group originating from the Jesus Movement and headquartered in Island Pond, Vermont). The mother community in Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom Community Church, was raided in 1984, based on rumours of child abuse spread by local anti-cultists. However, no evidence of child abuse was found and the case was dismissed. By 1994, the Vermont community, although maintaining a strict Christian fundamentalist lifestyle, enjoyed a peaceful coexistence with neighbours and authorities. 

      Unaware that similar charges were dismissed in the U.S. 10 years previously, the anti-cult movement in South-Western France started a campaign against Tabitha's Place (a community that, in turn, had existed peacefully near Pau for more than 10 years with no incidents). Charges of child abuse were carelessly repeated and the community, continuously harassed by police and tax authorities, struggles for its very existence. In April 1997 a twelve-month-old infant child died for congenital hearth problems. Its parents have been arrested for possible abuse, although a team of twelve doctors who has examined the community's children has concluded that there is no evidence of any abuse. It is possible that the infant's parents were not fully aware of the possibilities of a surgery to remedy their child's condition. However, the criminal case against them is being prosecuted within the framework of a general climate poisoned by rumours spread by anti-cultists on the basis of claims raised and dismissed in the U.S. one decade before the French facts. They also rely on the testimony of only one apostate, who spent just a few days at Tabitha's Place (compare the scholarly study of the Messianic Communities by John M. Bozemanÿ09Susan J. Palmer, ``The Northeast Kingdom Community Church of Island Pond, Vermont: Raising Up a People for Yahshua's Return,'' Journal of Contemporary Religion, 12:2, May 1997: 181-190). 

      II. The Results

      In the United States the Jonestown tragedy of 1978 was the catalyst for an increase of anti-cult activity. The anti-cult wordview (described in Part I above) became widespread, but the activities of the anti-cult movement were ultimately kept in jeopardy by the reactions of the academia, mainline churches, and some of the religious minorities themselves. In Europe, as mentioned earlier, the suicides-homicides of the Order of the Solar Temple, repeated twice in the 1994 and 1995 (and a third time in 1997--but only in Quebec), played a similar role to that played by Jonestown in the United States. The anti-cult movements were energized, and authorities started considering them more seriously. Discredited theories such as mind control surfaced again. Parliamentary commissions with a mandate to study the ``danger of cults'' were established in a number of countries. While not attempting to examine all the results of this activity, we have selected some relevant examples. 

      1. France

      A parliamentary commission, composed of Members of the Parliament only, issued after a number of secret hearings (not including any scholar as a witness) a report called Cults in France on January 10, 1996. It included a laundry list of 172 ``dangerous cults.'' It did not recommend new legislation, but suggested a number of administrative actions and the establishment of a national Observatory of Cults (in fact established in 1996, with two extreme anti-cultists as its only ``experts''). 

      Although not technically a source of law, the report has already been quoted in court decisions and has led to discrimination against a number of groups. Teachers have been fired from public schools after years of honorable service only because they were members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, one of the most dangerous ``cults'' according to the report. A Roman Catholic theatrical group, the Office Culturel de Cluny, included in the report as a ``dangerous cult'' despite letters of protest of a number of French Catholic bishops, is nearly bankrupted due to the refusal of public theatres to air its shows. The city of Lyons has decided not to allow the use of public facilities to any group listed in the report as a ``cult.'' Each French Department has now a ``Mr. Cult'' employed by the Ministry of Youth and Sport (often well connected with the anti-cult group ADFI) to tell the cultural and sport organizations about the evil of the cults. The anti-cult milieu element advocates actions by the Observatory against groups mentioned in its literature or in the report but not included in the list (particularly the Mormon Church and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal). Other groups are defined as ``cults'' by the report (including the Baptists), but nevertheless called ``benign cults,'' a contradiction since the report starts by defining a ``cult'' as a dangerous organization. 

      The first yearly report of the Observatory, concerning the year 1997, has been published in June 1998 in a French anti-cult Web page. Its substance was known through a number of media articles. CESNUR has reposted it after correction of a number of typos, and the full text (in French) is now available on CESNUR's Web page. According to the anti-cult page this report is not (yet) ``official'' since it was signed only by the Observatory's president, M. Guerrier de Dumast, and not by the whole Observatory. A ``truly official'' report should follow shortly. 

      Be it as it may be, this is a very disturbing document for a number of reasons. 

      1. The report admits that it is impossible to define what a ``cult'' is (note that in French the derogatory word is ``secte,'' but it serves the same function of the English ``cult'' and should be translated as ``cult,'' not as ``sect''). In this situation, the report continues to focus on the list of 172 ``dangerous cults'' included in the 1996 document ``Les Sectes en France.'' The report says that a number of movements have asked to be removed from this list, but that the Observatory has no authority to do it because of the principle of the ``separation of powers'' (the Observatory is an emanation of the administrative power and cannot interfere with the legislative power that produced the 1996 parliamentary document). The movements who hoped to be removed from the list by the Observatory have thus be disappointed. The report implies that a cult is simply a religious group listed as such in the 1996 parliamentary document. While there is no way for a movement to be removed from the list, it is not excluded that new movements may be added. In fact, the report claims that there are in France ``more than twenty'' new cults (although their names are not mentioned). The Observatory is looking for cults particularly in the Evangelical world and in the New Age. It reports that its ``full attention'' has been focused on ``the risk of a development on the national territory of a certain kind of Evangelical mass meeting, such as the `healing and miracles crusade' that gathered a crowd of 15,000 at the Bourget in July 1997 to watch the exhibition of American televangelist Morris Cerullo.'' 

      2. The report has nothing good to say about the cults. If they have changed something--or have engaged in charitable activities useful to the community and impossible to deny--the Observatory concludes that it is a public relation activity or a cosmetic window-dressing in order to overturn the negative impact of the 1996 parliamentary report. Jehovah's Witnesses are particularly singled out in this respect. These apparently ``good'' activities only prove that the cults are smart. The authorities need to be even more careful. 

      3. On the practical side, the Observatory's aim is to co-ordinate any and all public and semi-public authorities in order to both ``inform'' about the evil of the cults and try to ``limit'' their activities. The list is long, and seems a war bulletin. The Ministry of Education should prevent cults from ``infiltrating'' schools, and be ``careful'' when a teacher is a member of a cult. The Ministry of Finances should make sure that cults are watched by the Revenue Service. 

      The National Order of Medical Doctors should fight cultists who happen to be doctors. Notaries Public should be careful when they are requested to enter a deed involving a cult or a cultist. Judges should be educated about how bad the cults are. Sport and youth groups should organize lectures about the evil of the cults. So on and on. 

      4. On the doctrinal side, the report is a hymn to the French idea of ``läcité'' or secular humanism. The only way of fighting cults is to spread through national education and school an education ``secular humanist in essence.'' 

      5. Although the press reported that more extreme proposals were rejected, the Observatory asks the parliament for more support to the anti-cult movements, including ADFI, CCMM and the European anti-cult federation FECRIS. This money should not only come from the generous French taxpayers. It is also suggested that anti-cult movements may become a party in court cases involving cults and collect damages. This is regarded as a key step in the fight against cults. 

      6. The Observatory, although it met (the report says) with four respected scholars, shows no interest in understanding what the new religious movements really are and do. The verdict has already been rendered. They are evil. The Observatory (that includes some extreme anti-cultists such as the psychiatrist Jean-Marie Abgrall) admits that it has no operational definition of what a cult is. For all practical purposes, it regards as cults the 172 movements listed in the 1996 parliamentary report, and any other movement exposed as such by ADFI, CCMM or FECRIS (particularly in the Evangelical world, whose expansion is seen as a threat to the secular humanist ideology the Observatory is dedicated to promote). 

      2. Switzerland

      Following an intensive anti-cult campaign in the wake of the Solar Temple and the French report, in February 1997 the Canton of Geneva released a report written by four lawyers, after interviewing various individuals (one scholar only). The report is organized in chapters, each signed by one of the lawyers. While, at least in some chapters, the report is written in a more moderate style than the French one, the substantial proposals are even more dangerous, advocating legislation against ``mind control'' and against hiring members of ``dangerous cults'' as government officers. The Canton of Geneva Commission released on May 24, 1997 its proposals following up the February report. The most significant are: 

      - to promote an inter-Canton conference in order to persuade other Cantons to follow the example of Geneva; 

      - to enact Canton-level legislation in order to fund the anti-cult organizations, inter alia, and allow them to become parties in cult-related trials; 

      - to create a Cantonal observatory including among others two representatives of anti-cult organizations, two scholars, and two ``representatives of cults'' (although it is unclear how the latter will be selected); 

      - to promote Swiss federal legislation making mind control a federal felony. 

      Further measures were proposed by Geneva in 1998 (with no particular federal interest, but creating a difficult situation for minorities at the Cantonal level). 

      3. Belgium

      The Belgian parliamentary commission on cults released its report on April 28, 1997. This document is even more extreme than the French report, including as it is bizarre allegations against many groups including five mainline Catholic groups (among them the Catholic Charismatic Renewal), Quakers, the YWCA (but, for some reasons, not the YMCA), Hasidic Jews, and almost all Buddhists. It also proposes legislation making ``mind control'' a crime. 

      Reactions by scholars and mainline Churches have determined some turmoil in the Belgian Parliament and in the end it adopted the report itself but not the list of 189 groups included as an Appendix. This was a symbolic victory for the scholars, but most of what is disturbing is not only in the list, but also in the main body of the report. Following the report, legal actions have been taken against a Tibetan Buddhist group, a Catholic religious congregation called The Work (a Belgian group now headquartered in Rome, not to be confused with Opus Dei, also mentioned in the report)--notwithstanding vigorous protests by the Vatican and by Belgian bishops. An action has also be initiated to force the dissolution of Sukyo Mahikari, a Japanese Shinto-based religious minority whose branches in countries such as Italy and United States have existed for decades without any trouble for the public order. 

      Based on apostates' testimony, extreme allegations have been made against dozen of groups. Serious concern has been expressed by scholars, inter alia about the accusation that Satmar Jews (a Hasidic community, based in New York and regarded as a ``cult'' by the report) ``kidnap children and hide them within the international network of the movement.'' This seems to be based on the Patsy Heymans case, where a Belgian Catholic woman, having obtained custody of her three children, had to recover them from his Satmar ex-husband who was keeping them illegally in the United States. However, the Heymans case is not specifically mentioned in the report. The parliamentary document rather states that kidnapping children ``does not seem to be merely occasional'' among this group of Hasidic Jews (Belgian report, Vol. I: 359). The inclusion of these general remarks in a parliamentary document may easily add fuel to the fire of anti-semitism, whose continued presence raises concern in a number of European countries. 

      An Observatory similar to the French one has now been voted into existence in Belgium. 

      4. Germany

      A parliamentary commission was established including MPs and experts appointed by the different political parties. They conducted hearings with scholars, anti-cultists, and members of a number of religious movements. An interim report had been released in June 1997. In the meantime, without consulting the parliamentary commission, the government placed the Church of Scientology under watching of the local secret service. Even groups largely critical of Scientology have criticized the decision as a dangerous precedent, while local anti-cultists have already named the Jehovah's Witnesses as the second group that should eventually be watched by the secret service. Police raids instigated by the same anti-cultists have occurred against small independent Pentecostal churches. A huge report has been published in 1998. Although moderate on some points (doubts are raised on the definition of ``cults'' and on brainwashing) it still advocates strong measures against Scientology (regarded as a political subversive, rather than a religious, organization) and has been criticized by legal scholars for a trend towards an increased administrative and police control of any and all religious associations. 

      5. Italy

      Italy is an interesting example of a more moderate approach, as confirmed by a 1997 Supreme Court decision on Scientology and a 1998 police report on cults. 

      a. The Italian Supreme Court Decision on Scientology (October 8, 1997)

      On October 8, 1997 the Italian Court of Cassation (the Supreme Court for jurisdictional purposes in Italy) rendered an important decision on Scientology. We offer a summary of the decision--extremely important for the ongoing debate on the nature and definition of religion--without entering here into the specific discussion about Scientology. One may also read a full copy (in Italian) of the 48-pages decision on CESNUR's Web site. 

      While some Italian courts (including Rome and Turin) have considered Scientology as a religion, a different conclusion was reached by the Court of Appeal of Milan. Reforming a first degree decision favourable to Scientology, on November 5, 1993 the Milan appeal judges found a number of Scientologists guilty of a variety of crimes, all allegedly committed before 1981, ignoring the question whether Scientology was a religion. The Italian Supreme Court, on February 9, 1995, annulled the Milan 1993 decision with remand, asking the Court of Appeal to reconsider whether Scientology was indeed a religion. On December 2, 1996 the Court of Appeal of Milan complied, but maintained that Scientology was not a religion. Not unlike their Turin homologues, the Milan appeal judges noted that ``there is no legislative definition of religion'' and ``nowhere in the [Italian] law there is any useful element in order to distinguish a religious organization from other social groups.'' However, among a number of possible definitions, the Milan judges selected one defining religion as ``a system of doctrines centered on the presupposition of the existence of a Supreme Being, who has a relation with humans, the latter having towards him a duty of obedience and reverence.'' Additional criteria based on the case law of the Italian Constitutional Court are considered, but these are clearly ancillary to the main definition. Theoretically, the reference to a ``Supreme Being'' may be interpreted in a non-theistic sense. This was the interpretation in the case law of the U.S. Supreme Court interpreting the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1948, also including in its definition of religion a reference to ``a relation to a Supreme Being.'' The Milan judges, however, interpreted ``Supreme Being'' in a theistic sense. As a consequence, they could easily exclude the non-theistic worldview of Scientology from the sphere of religion. 

      On October 9, 1997 the Supreme Court annulled also the Milan 1996 decision, again with remand (meaning that another section of the Court of Appeal of Milan shall re-examine the facts of the case). The Supreme Court regarded the Milan theistic definition of religion as ``unacceptable'' and ``a mistake,'' because it was ``based only on the paradigm of Biblical religions.'' As such, the definition would exclude Buddhism, whose main Italian organization, the Italian Buddhist Union, has been recognized in Italy as a ``religious denomination'' since 1991. Buddhism, according to the Supreme Court, ``certainly does not affirm the existence of a Supreme Being and, as a consequence, does not propose a direct relation of the human being with Him.'' 

      It is true, the Supreme Court observes, that ``the self-definition of a group as religious is not enough in order to recognize it as a genuine religion.'' The Milan 1996 decision quoted the case law of the Italian Constitutional Court and its reference to the ``common opinion'' in order to decide whether a group is a religion. The relevant ``common opinion,'' however, according to the Supreme Court is rather ``the opinion of the scholars'' than the ``public opinion.'' The latter is normally hostile to religious minorities and, additionally, difficult to ascertain: one wonders, the Supreme Court notes, ``from what source the Milan judges knew the public opinion of the whole national community.'' On other hand, most scholars--according to the Supreme Court--seem to prefer a definition of religion broad enough to include Scientology and, when asked, conclude that Scientology is in fact a religion, having as its aim ``the liberation of the human spirit through the knowledge of the divine spirit residing within each human being.'' The 48-pages decision of the Supreme Court also examined some of the arguments used by critics (and by the Milan 1996 judges) in order to deny to Scientology the status of religion. Five main arguments were discussed. 

      1. First, critics object that Scientology is ``syncretistic'' and does not propose any really ``original belief.'' This is, the Supreme Court argues, irrelevant, since syncretism ``is not rare'' among genuine religions, and many recently established Christian denominations exhibit very few ``original features'' when compared to older denominations. 

      2. Second, it is argued that Scientology is presented to perspective converts as science, not as religion. The Supreme Court replies that, at least since Thomas Aquinas, Christian theology claims to be a science. On the other hand, science claiming to lead to non-empirical results such as ``a knowledge of God'' (or ``of human beings as gods'') may be both ``bad science'' and ``inherently religious.'' 

      3. Third, critics make reference to ex-members (mostly militant apostates such as ``Atack and Armstrong,'' quoted in the Milan 1996 decision) who claim that Scientology is not a religion but only a facade to hide criminal activities. The Supreme Court asks how we may know that the opinion of disgruntled ex-members is representative of the larger population of ex-members. Other ex-members have in fact appeared as witnesses for the defense, and at any rate, the number of ex-members of Scientology appears to be quite large. The opinion of two and even twenty of them, thus, is hardly representative of what the average ex-member believes. 

      4. Fourth, texts by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and by early Italian leaders seem to imply that Scientology's basic aim is to make money. Such texts' interest in money is, according to the Supreme Court, ``excessive'' but ``perhaps appears much less excessive if we consider how money was raised in the past by the Roman Catholic Church.'' The Supreme Court quotes Ananias and Sapphira in the Acts of the Apostles (who died because they kept for personal use a part of what they obtained from the sale of their property and lied to the bishop, rather than giving everything to him), late Medieval controversies about the sale of indulgences, and the fact that until very recently Italian Catholic churches used to affix at the church's door ``a list of services offered [Masses and similar] with the corresponding costs.'' The latter comments, according to the Supreme Court, confirm that quid pro quo services are more widespread among religions that the Milan 1996 judges seemed to believe. Concerning Scientology, the Supreme Court went on to observe that the more ``disturbing'' texts on money are but a minimal part of Hubbard's enormous literary production (including ``about 8,000 works''); and that they were mostly circular letters or bulletins intended ``for the officers in charge of finances and the economic structure, not for the average member.'' Finally, even if one should take at face value the ``crude'' comment included in a technical bulletin of Scientology (not written by Hubbard) that ``the only reason why LRH [L. Ron Hubbard] established the Church was in order to sell and deliver Dianetics and Scientology,'' this would not mean, according to the Supreme Court, that Scientology is not a religion. What is, in fact, the ultimate aim of ``selling Dianetics and Scientology''? There is no evidence, the Supreme Court suggests, that such ``sales'' are only organized in order to assure the personal welfare of the leaders. If they are intended as a proselytization tool, then making money is only an intermediate aim. The ultimate aim is ``proselytization,'' and this aim ``could hardly be more typical of a religion,'' even if ``according to the strategy of the founder [Hubbard], new converts are sought and organized through the sale and delivery of Dianetics and Scientology'' . 

      5. A fifth objection discussed by the Supreme Court is that Scientology is not a religion since there is evidence, in the Milan case itself, that a number of Scientologists were guilty of ``fraudulent sales techniques'' or abused of particularly weak customers, when ``selling'' Dianetics or Scientology. These illegal activities, the Supreme Court comments, should be prosecuted, but there is no evidence that they are more than ``occasional deviant activities'' of a certain number of leaders and members within the Milan branch, ``with no general significance'' concerning the nature of Scientology in general . 

      The Italian Supreme Court 1997 decision on Scientology includes one of the most important discussions--so far and at an international scale--of how courts may apply existing laws apparently requiring them to decide whether a specific group is, or is not, a religion. It argues that the non-existence of a legal definition of religion in Italy (and elsewhere) ``is not coincidental.'' Any definition would rapidly become obsolete and, in fact, limit religious liberty. It is much better, according to the Italian Supreme Court, ``not to limit with a definition, always by its very nature restrictive, the broader field of religious liberty.'' ``Religion'' is an ever-evolving concept, and courts may only interpret it within the frame of a specific historical and geographical context, taking into account the opinions of the scholars . It remains to be seen whether this 1997 opinion of the Italian Supreme Court--that it is better not to have a legal definition in order to allow a broader religious liberty--will be shared by other courts. The Italian decision is, at any rate, an interesting addition to an ongoing international discussion. 

      b. The ``Italian Report on Cults''

      On April 29, 1998 the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs sent to the Commission for Constitutional Affairs of the Camera dei Deputati (the lower house of the Italian Parliament) a report by the General Direction of Preventive Police dated February 1998. The report is entitled ``Sette religiose e nuovi movimenti magici in Italia'' (``Cults and New Magical Movements in Italy'': in Italian the current derogatory word equivalent to the English ``cult'' is ``setta''). The General Direction of Preventive Police co-ordinates, inter alia, the police intelligence activities in Italy. The Commission for Constitutional Affairs of the lower house receives this document when a (quite liberal) draft law on religious minorities and religious liberty, introduced by the government, is being examined. Since the Italian Report is not well-known outside Italy, a fuller analysis is offered here. 

      What Is (and Is Not) the Report 

      The report is not the Italian equivalent of the reports prepared by parliamentary commissions in France, Belgium, and Germany. It does not come after public hearings, and has not been solicited nor examined by the parliament. It is a police report. Similar reports have been prepared in the past for internal use of the police and intelligence authorities. The significant new circumstance is that in this case the report has been sent to members of the parliament and to the press. But the report remains a typical police document in its format, style and aims. 

      The Content of the Report 

      The report includes (a) an introduction, in four chapters (pp. 1-19); (b) entries about 34 ``new religious movements'' (pp. 18-63) and 36 ``new magical movements'' (pp. 64-102). Pages 103-105 include the index. 

      The introduction's four chapters deal respectively with: 

      (1) roots of the phenomenon and corresponding social concern; 

      (2) terminology and typology; 

      (3) possible dangers and criminal connections; 

      (4) membership figures. 

      (1) (pp. 1-3) is a short introduction, mentioning the international concern after Waco, the Solar Temple and Aum Shinri-kyo, confirming that police intelligence is monitoring ``Italian cults'' from many years, and commenting that this is a ``difficult task'' and requires some clarifications about terminology. 

      (2) (pp. 3-9) includes a discussion about the use of the word ``cult'' and concludes that ``scholars of this matter today prefers to use `new religious movements' and `new magical movements''' (p. 4). The report goes on to discuss what ``religion'' is, noting that theistic definitions of religion ``are not acceptable'' and ``are against the most recent Italian case law'' (the reference in a footnote is to the Supreme Court decision of October 8, 1997 affirming the religious nature of Scientology). Religion is better defined as ``the relationship between the human being and the sacred, when the latter is regarded as a transcendent reality going beyond the material world'' (p. 5). Problems remain, and the report quotes the (Stark-Bainbridge) distinction between audience cults, client cults and cult movements. The next question concerns the difference between new religious movements (or ``cults'') and ``traditional'' religions. The report quotes the opinion that new religious movements are more aggressive in their proselytization and intolerant, but disagrees with it, noting that ``these aspects do exist also in some traditional religions or at least in their splinter or fundamentalist groups'' (p. 5). Others think that new religious movements create among their members a stronger link with a leader or guru; but in fact--the report comments--``in many cases after the founder's death the movement survives and may even continue to grow'' (p. 5). The report prefers to classify as new religious movements those that appear to have appeared historically in the West in more recent times, and to have doctrines and teachings regarded as quite foreign to mainline (Judeo-Christian) religion. Three main groups are taken into account: 

      (a) movements ``with a Christian origin''; 

      (b) movements ``inspired by the East''; and 

      (c) movements arising from ``Western religious innovation.'' 

      The first group--movements ``with a Christian origin''--includes those that ``go beyond'' Protestantism in their refusal of ``Catholic orthodoxy.'' It may be distinguished into five families or subgroups: 1. Apocalyptic-Millennialist families, including the Adventist family and the Restaurationist family. In the Adventist family the report mentions the Seventh-day Adventists, the Advent Christian Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Worldwide Church of God. In the Restaurationist family the Mormon Church, the Apostolic Church and its larger splinter group New Apostolic Church, and the Church of the Kingdom of God (a splinter group from what later became the Jehovah's Witnesses) are quoted. 

      2. Catholic splinter groups, following ``anti-popes'' (Magnificat Church, Apostles of the Infinite Love) or the schism of Mons. Marcel Lefebvre (Fraternity of St. Pius X).

      3. Prophetic and messianic groups.

      4. Syncretic groups.

      5. Pseudo-Churches (groups gathered around ``wandering bishops,'' Orthodox non-canonical bishops, or similar, easily mistaken by the Italian population for Roman Catholic bishops or priests but in fact not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church).

      Although movements in families under (1) and (2) may profess ``teachings quite original'' (page 8: a footnote mention the Mormons' baptism of the dead and teachings that God the Father may have ``a body of flesh and blood'') or be involved in conflicts with mainline churches or the society at large (pp. 7-8: Jehovah's Witnesses are particularly mentioned), in fact ``they are not really interesting for the present report.'' The report will focus on families 3 to 5, where--it claims--some risks may exist. 

      The second group--movements ``inspired by the East''--includes three families: 

      1. Movements created by Westerners fascinated by Eastern religions (Theosophical Society, Anthroposophical Society, Alice Bailey Group and the Urusvati Center, the latter a small group headquartered in Torino). 

      2. Eastern groups with a missionary activity in Italy (the report lists Ananda Marga, the Baha'is, the Self-Realization Fellowhip, ISKCON, Transcendental Meditation, Divine Light Mission, Sahaja Yoga, Sant Bani Ashram, Rajneesh groups, Sri Chinmoy groups, Subud, Sathya Sai Baba groups, Bal Ashram, Dzog-Chen, Soka Gakkai and Sukyo Mahikari). 

      3. Eastern-oriented groups recently established by Italian-born gurus.

      Although movements under (1) and (2) may be criticized abroad (it is mentioned that the Dalai Lama does not endorse Soka Gakkai) and even subject to criminal prosecution, ``they never caused any problem whatsoever in Italy.'' The report, as a consequence, will only include entries about family No. 3. 

      The third group should include the fruits of ``Western religious innovations.'' In fact the group only includes the ``human potential movements.'' The report quote ``self-religions'' and ``psycho-cults'' as synonimous for ``human potential movements.'' It notes that these will be ``the main focus of the report since it is mostly against these `cults' [the word is written between brackets in the report: p. 6] that accusations of `mental destructuration' or fraud are heard.'' From the new religious movements, the report then distinguishes the ``new magical movements,'' where the sociological structure is similar to the new religious movements but the central experience is different, being more (in terms of Eliade) a ``cratophany,'' or experience of power, than a ``hierophany,'' or experience of the sacred. New magical movements are also divided into families: 

      1. Esoteric and occult family, sub-divided into (a) ``initiatory groups, universal brotherhoods and pythagorical orders''; (b) Rosicrucian movements; (c) neo-gnostic movements; (d) ritual magic groups. 

      2. Spiritualist/ Spiritist family. 

      3. UFO family. 

      4. Neopagan and New Age family. 

      5. Satanist and Luciferian family. 

      All the new magical movements have individual entries in the report. 

      Chapter 3 of the introduction (pp. 10-15) is written ``from a law enforcement point of view'' and lists the possible criminal problems connected with ``some individual movements.'' Five potential problems are listed: 

      a. Brainwashing and mind control (with a footnote giving the standard anti-cult reconstruction of the brainwashing process). 

      b. Fraud. 

      c. Covering under the religious facade ``immoral practices or illegal activities.'' 

      d. Preaching doctrines so ``irrational'' that they may bring the members to activities dangerous for the national security. 

      e. Subversive political plans. 

      About (a)--brainwashing--the report notes that what is commonly called brainwashing was included in the Italian criminal code under the name of ``plagio,'' and that the corresponding provision (Section 603 of the criminal code) was declared non-constitutional by the Italian Constitutional Court in 1981. About (c)--and more generally--the report notes that in Italy there is no difference between ``cult crime'' and ``normal crime.'' Accordingly, ``criminal activities within the frame of a religious activity are considered as common crimes, although religion may have a role in determining the motivation'' (p. 12). The report also notes that ``in Italy today no religious or magical movement as such is accused of criminal activity of any kind'' (p. 12): even notorious Satanists such as the Children of Satan have been found not guilty in the 1997 Bologna case where they have been tried. It is true, however--the report adds--that in a couple of cases of the 1980s involving fringe Catholic groups regarded as illegitimate by the Roman Catholic Church (the Pia Unione di Ges Misericordioso of Ebe Giorgini, ``Mamma Ebe,'' in 1984; and the Rosary Group in 1988) the defendants were found guilty of serious crimes. The risk considered under (e)--subversive political plans--is not regarded as a serious danger in Italy. ``Not even the Church of Scientology,'' ``in Germany (...) regarded as a serious threat to the democratic institutions,'' meet in Italy the pre-conditions needed to carry on serious political plans or projects (p. 14). Soka Gakkai and Ananda Marga, accused of political plans in other countries, are ``quite different'' in Italy. (The report incorrectly argues, p. 15, that the Italian Soka Gakkai was ``apparently excommunicated by the Japanese mother organization.'' In fact both the Italian and the Japanese Soka Gakkai as lay organizations parted company from the monastic order they used to be affiliated with, Nichiren Shoshu). 

      Fraud seems to remain the main risk the Italian police is concerned about. About (d) many newspapers have quoted the few lines about the year 2,000 and the Catholic Holy Year. The report in fact says that millenarian groups may be progressive or apocalyptic, and that the latter are more dangerous for public security than the former. It adds (p. 14): ``It is true that, particularly in the perspective of the Holy Year, we cannot exclude as a general hypothesis that some individual, member of one or another group and conscious that Italy will then become the focus of considerable international attention, may decide to do something extreme in order to send a message to the whole world. However risks of this kind always exist in large international events. Mythomaniacs and disturbed individuals exist also, and in no lesser percentage, outside religious movements. Even as far as satanists are concerned it is not probable that they will do something that will attract the general attention, considering that their primary interest is mostly to remain invisible and anonymous (...)'' (p. 14). Finally, the fourth chapter of the introduction (pp. 15-17) mentions how difficult it is to count members of new religious movements, since the very concept of ``member'' is controversial, and tentatively assess the number of new religious movements in Italy as 76, with 78,500 members. New magical movements may be 61, with 4,600 members. 

      Is There a ``List'' of the ``Cults''?

      In fact, there is no real list of the ``cults'' parallel to the lists in French or Belgian parliamentary reports. There are individual entries for 70 movements but the report itself mentions that 137 groups are monitored as either new religious or new magical movements (p. 17). As mentioned earlier the report's choice has been to prepare individual entries for some ``families'' of movements, ignoring altogether other ``families.'' As a consequence, for example, all groups in the ``prophetic-messianic'' subfamily are included and no group at all in the ``adventist'' subfamily has an individual entry. But the fact that a group has no individual entry does not mean that it is not currently monitored by the Italian intelligence or police. Conversely, groups are included because they are part of a certain ``family'' but the entry makes it clear that they are not accused of any wrongdoing. 

      What Sources Have Been Used?

      Italian readers familiars with Massimo Introvigne's ``Le nuove Religioni'' (Milan: SugarCo, 1989) and ``Il cappello del mago'' (Milan: SugarCo, 1990), the two Italian standard encyclopedic textbooks on religious minorities, would easily recognize that a good portion of the report is taken from these two books. Particularly, the definition and typology of new religious movements and the identification of families and subfamilies follow closely the scheme of ``Le nuove Religioni,'' although with some differences in terminology (groups called ``micro-churches'' in ``Le nuove Religioni'' are called ``pseudo-churches''; human potential movements are also called ``psycho-cults'': the latter term is not used in ``Le nuove Religioni''). The very notion and terminology ``new magical movements'' come from ``Il cappello del mago,'' and the distinction of new magical movements into families follow strictly the distinction in sections of ``Il cappello del mago.'' A number of individual entries also follow largely ``Le nuove Religioni,'' ``Il cappello del mago'' or other CESNUR sources (on O.T.O. Splinter groups the entries largely and at time almost verbatim reproduce PierLuigi Zoccatelli's report available on CESNUR's Web page). There is considerable evidence of the many hours spent in Turin's CESNUR library. The introduction reproduces entire paragraphs of works by Massimo Introvigne. No quotes or credits are included. Since this is a police report, not a book intended for commercial publication, CESNUR has nothing to complain. In fact, it is quite happy that reliable information has found its way into the report. 

      There are, of course, other sources that have been used. On a number of Italian micro-groups, not included in either ``Le nuove Religioni'' or ``Il cappello del mago,'' anti-cult or counter-cult sources (particularly files of the Catholic counter-cult organization GRIS) appear to have been used. On some groups that the report regards as particularly controversial (and where many different sources were available), it has obviously considered different sources and elected to follow one or another. This is particularly true about Scientology (the single largest entry in the report), where the report largely follows the scheme and the reconstruction of the decision rendered by the Court of Appeal of Milan in 1996, although it also notes that this decision has been annulled by the Supreme Court in 1997 (pp. 49-50). Occasionally previous police reports have been used, such as in the case of the Children of God/The Family (pp. 20-23). 

      Is the Report Anti-Cult?

      The report per se does not embrace the typical anti-cult positions. In fact--as opposite to the French and Belgian parliamentary reports--it does insist on using the terminology ``new religious movements'' and ``new magical movements'' rather than ``cults.'' It notes that no movement as such is currently accused of any criminal activity in Italy. It regards a number of current anti-cult criticism as grossly exaggerated. And, in most individual entries, it does not mention any wrongdoing. In fact many of the entries are quite accurate, if short and simple, and a number of groups may only comply of having been mentioned at all in a document concerning possible ``dangers''--on the other hand, they come clean out of it (see, for instance, entries on AMORC, Lectorium Rosicrucianum, New Acropolis). 

      It is unfortunate that the language of some entries does not always respect the good intentions of the second chapter of the introduction (where ``cult''--''setta''--is normally written between brackets, while in some entries one find ``cult'' and even ``pseudo-cult''--for a UFO group and whatever it may mean: p. 83--used quite liberally). The report knows that ``plagio'' (the Italian version of brainwashing) was exposed as a non-existing crime by the Italian Constitutional Court in 1981. However in the entries we occasionally read that members are ``submitted to plagio'' in some groups (see p. 89). 

      Overall, the main parts where the report appears to reproduce anti-cult stereotypes are one and a half page about brainwashing (pp. 10-11 and particularly footnote 13)--although, as mentioned earlier, the report does not fail to note the legal problems in using such a concept in Italy after the Constitutional Court decision of 1981--and some individual entries. In the latter the report is either not updated or has elected not to follow (against its general style) scholarly sources. The worst example of an entry not updated is the entry on the Children of God/ The Family where the report fails to note that the sexual wrongdoings of old are no longer practiced by The Family. It does not mention a 1991 courty decision by the Justice Court of Rome quite favorable to The Family. It also mentions that The Family was raided in France in 1993 and accused of child abuse, but fails to mention that nothing came out of the raid and the members of The Family involved were finally not prosecuted. The report also does not seem aware of the Italian schism of a small group that intends to resist the changes introduced in The Family in the late 1980s and 1990s. This splinter groups is now completely separate from The Family but may have created some confusion among law enforcement personnel.The entry on Scientology, as mentioned earlier, was prepared on the basis of a Milan court decision later annulled by the Supreme Court. One may wonder whether in fact it was not prepared before this decision, and some references to the decision itself subsequently included. Hostile comments also pop up in the entry about the Unification Church (an entry where recent developments are also ignored), although it is duly noted that these largerly come from ``campaigns organized by the anti-cult movements'' (p. 28). 

      A General Evaluation of the Report

      If compared with the Belgian and the French parliamentary reports, the Italian police report is a comparatively moderate and accurate document (with the exception of a couple of entries, particularly the entry on Scientology). The Italian intelligence services may teach many of their European homologues a lesson on how to use scholarly sources and not to rely exclusively on anti-cult movements. On many issues the Italian services appear to have done their homework, precisely what their French and Belgian homologues failed to do before the parliamentary reports. This does not exclude occasional factual mistakes. Most entries summarize--obviously in the style of a police report, something different from a doctoral dissertationÿ09scholarly literature on the group. Others do not, and unfortunately follow anti-cult stereotypes. In the introduction, a generally acceptable and moderate paper, a couple of pages emerge where some legitimacy is granted to anti-cult stereotypes on brainwashing. Normally, reports of this kind are not the work of two hands only, and it is not surprising to find some contradictions. 

      We shall, however, not forget, that this is a police report. It is written often in a law enforcement jargon. It also summarizes an intelligence work done following the rules of intelligence services throughout the world. They collect all rumors and all whispers--some of them may eventually be true. Typical of the report's style are sentences introduced by words such as: ``According to rumors we were unable to confirm...'' (p. 56); ``according to oblique rumors....'' (p. 58); ``according to a source...'' (p. 61); and even ``according to information we received from an anonymous source...'' (p. 62). It is indeed the work of police intelligence to collect rumors. Rumors, however, should not be mistaken for facts, or for confirmed or reliable information. Although areas of inaccuracy exist in the report, the main problem is not the report itself. The problem is that a police report has been converted in headline news overnight by sending it to several politicians and journalists. When an inventory of rumors reach the media, they tend to regard the rumors as facts, particularly if rumors appear to have been granted some legitimacy by having been included in an official report. The fact that most rumors are dismissed is easily overlooked. A number of media had headlines on ``the danger of cults on the Holy Year 2,000'' although the report itself regard current ideas about this danger as grossly exaggerated. A number of media also published the list of the 70 ``cults'' that have an individual entry (at times including mistakenly some that in fact do not have such an entry, such as Soka Gakkai), although in fact they are called in the report ``new religious and magical movements'' rather than ``cults.'' The report also mentions for most of them that they are not accused of any wrongdoing. Their having an entry is only due to the fact that they have been classified in a ``family'' of movements regarded as worth watching as a general category. The most sensational portions of the report about brainwashing, Scientology or the (old) sexual mores of The Family--in fact the weakest parts of the report--also became the most quoted. (However, in fact, two of the three Italian leadig daily newspapers carried on April 30 ,in the same page where their lead article about the report was published, long interviews with Dr Massimo Introvigne, director of CESNUR, about the danger of a witch hunt: see ``Una caccia alle streghe'' [A Witch Hunt] in La Stampa and ``Ma attenti a non stilare le liste nere degli eretici'' [Beware the Black List of the Heretics] in La Repubblica--the titles tell it all). 

      The real danger is that, because of the media event created around the report, respectable and law-abiding citizens who happen to be members of movements mentioned, but explicitly exonerated from any charge, in the report, may be discriminated or maligned as ``members of a dangerous cult'' in Italy (just as it happens in France or Belgium). One cannot blame the authors of the report for this (although they can be blamed for some inaccurate entries and comments). The interesting question is who decided to create the media event and why. Conjectures in Italian political circles mention two possibilities: political conflicts (within the same majority parties) about the text of the new law on religious minorities introduced by the government and currently pending before the parliament, and foreign pressure. It is possible that German and French intelligence services and anti-cult politicians are not happy about being accused of bigotry in international forums and contrasted with their more liberal and tolerant Italian counterparts. The report in fact rather confirms that Italy, and even Italian intelligence services, have an approach different from Germany and France (not to mention Belgium, where the worst of the parliamentary reports was produced in 1997). However the media results of the publicity given to the reports may undoubtely give the impression that Italy is following a similar path. Some media will undoubtely use the report to continue sensational campaigns about brainwashing, ``psycho-cults,'' Satanism, and crazy cultists threatening the Catholic celebration of the Holy Year 2,000. On the other hand, Italy has only a very small anti-cult movement and, even energized by this incident, it is doubtful that it will become a significant force in the next few months. 

      5. European Parliament

      The Parliament has entrusted the Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs with the task of preparing a report. Following criticism of the French and Belgian reports by scholars (inter alia in a seminar organized by CESNUR at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on May 13, 1997), the Committee produced a draft with a number of positive features (questioning, inter alia, the usefulness of preparing lists of ``cults''), although not entirely free from anti-cult influence. In July 1998 the plenary of the Parliament rejected the report lead by a strange coalition of anti-cultists (regarding it as too soft) and religious liberty activists (questioning the usefulness of these reports in general). It has now been sent back to the Committee where it may well rest and die. (The European Parliament should not be confused with the Council of Europe, an institution including more European countries but less authoritative and well-known in Western Europe. Members of the Council of Europe, unlike those of the European Parliament, are not elected directly by the people. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is currently preparing a report on ``cults.'' ``Experts'' consulted have included some of the most extreme French anti-cultists. A number of members of the Assembly are trying to amend the initial anti-cult text at the time of this writing). 

      III. Case Studies

      There are literally hundreds of religious minorities discriminated against or persecuted in Western Europe. They belong to all possible religious and spiritual persuasions. We have selected, as examples, two cases, concerning comparatively small French groups, certainly not well known outside France. They could hardly be more different from each other. 

      The Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon is an example of how a group whose theology is clearly mainline (and that will be regarded as mainline in most Western countries) is marginalized after an encounter with the anti-cult movement. As mentioned earlier, a number of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups have suffered the same fate. The second example--the Aumist Religion (not to be confused with the Japanese group Aum Shinri-kyo), headquartered at the Mandarom, Southern France--could hardly be less mainline. Its theological ideas are at the very fringe of the French religious scene. It is not difficult to understand why it has been easy to make the Mandarom extremely unpopular. However, constitutional guarantees are aimed, precisely, at protecting unpopular minorities. Even the most unpopular defendant should be guaranteed due process and a fair trial. 

      1. The Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon 

      The Protestant scenario in Western Europe is slowly becoming as diversified as the one in the United States. Large liberal denominations, members of the World Council of Churches (WCC), no longer represent the majority of Protestants in a number of European countries. Literally hundreds of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, often with a conservative theology, have flourished. The large number of new churches--and new names--may easily confuse the authorities. As usual, anti-cultists propose very simple solutions. In France CCMM (Center Against the Mental Manipulations, the second largest anti-cult group after ADFI) explicitly claims that all groups not belonging to the WCC, or to its corresponding French organization, the French Protestant Federation, are suspicious and may be ``cults.'' 

      Word games are easily played. In fact, the derogatory word in French is not ``culte'' (the literal translation of ``cult'') but ``secte.'' The latter word may literally be translated as ``sect'' but rather plays the same role as the English word ``cult.'' In fact, the French word ``secte'' has today two very different meanings. Books from sociologists of late 19th and early 20th century are still republished, where the word ``secte'' is used, without any derogatory meaning, simply to identify small denominations or groups that are not (or not yet) regarded as part of the mainline by the majority churches. On the other hand, for the general public ``secte'' is rather used, in the sense of the 1996 parliamentary commission, to identify a dangerous religious (or, rather, ``pseudo-religious'') movement using mind control techniques. As the noted historian and sociologist Emile Poulat remarked precisely about the Pentecostal Evangelical Church of Besançon, this church ``may be a `secte' in the sense of Weber [the early German sociologist of religion]; it is certainly not a `secte' in the popular and parliamentary sense of the term'' (E. Poulat, ``L'Eglise Evangelique de Pentecoste de Besançon "Eglise ou secte?,'' Réforme 2733, August 28, 1997). Yet, Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches are easily labelled as ``sects'' in the popular sense of the term, i.e.--in plain contemporary English--''cults.'' 

      The Belgian parliamentary report takes quite literally the anti-cult recommendation to target every Christian group not endorsed by the WCC. Its list includes Seventh- day Adventists--defined, apparently without fear of ridicule, as a form of ``Biblical fundamentalism'' founded in ``May 1963'' by ``William Miller'' (Belgian report, Vol. II, p. 228) --, Amish, the Assemblies of God, Calvary Christian Center, Plymouth Brethren, the ``Charismatic Renewal'' in general, and a number of small independent Pentecostal Churches. The French report limits itself, among hundreds of independent churches, to a dozen of names. Curiously enough, the French report mentions the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon (EEPB) and ignores the Evangelical Missionary Federation, founded on the basis of the success of the Besançon church, and now including more than 30 churches. In fact, not unlike other groups, the EEPB seems to have been included in the report for one simple reason. Based on a family conflict between a pastor and his father-in-law, the EEPB has been targeted as a ``cult'' by the anti-cult movement CCMM, particularly after 1994. Due to the peculiar status of the anti-cult movement in France, the accusations have been spread by the press (in previous years, quite favorable to EEPB) and up to the parliamentary commission. Among hundreds of independent churches with very similar theologies only those specifically targeted (often for very local or personal reasons) by an anti-cult movement have ended up being included in the report. 

      In fact, the EEPB is just another Evangelical Pentecostal church. Its founder, pastor René Kennel, studied at Nogent-sur-Marne's Institut Biblique and started his career in 1950 as a Mennonite part-time preacher. Soon, he welcomed on his family farm the Pentecostal Gipsy Movement of Pastor Le Cossec (a member of the mainline French Protestant Federation). Impressed by the gypsies' enthusiasm Kennel started a Pentecostal ministry and in 1967 became a full time pastor. In 1975 Kennel joined with other pastors to establish the Evangelical Free Pentecostal Federation (FELP). In 1977, he became the pastor of a Pentecostal independent church in Besançon, the present-day EEPB. In 1986, Kennel abandoned his position as president of FELP in order to oversee the planting of daughter churches of EEPB in the region. These churches are the basis of the Evangelical Missionary Federation (FEM), incorporated under French Law in 1989. The doctrinal statements of the EEPB are quite typical of hundreds of Evangelical Pentecostal churches. 

      The accusations raised by the CCMM and the media influenced by it--literal belief in the existence of the Devil, in miracles, speaking in tongues--could be easily used against countless Pentecostal or Evangelical churches. It is possible that church leaders, unfamiliar with legal matters, made some mistakes when preparing the by-laws and the articles of incorporation, thus exposing the church to potential problems with French tax authorities. On the other hand, it is a fact that the French Revenue Service only took action after the anti-cultists had started targeting EEPB as a ``cult.'' When, in July 1994, an ex-member visibly drunk damaged the furniture of the church belonging to the Evangelical Missionary Federation in Langres, anti-cultists (and a part of the press) quickly took the side of the apostate, presented as just another ``victim'' of a ``cult.'' Paradoxically, before and after being labeled a ``cult'' by the parliamentary commission, EEPB has always been able to maintain its pastors, for health and retirement insurance purposes, in the lists of CAMAC-CAMAVIC. (This is the social fund for pastors in France that is largely controlled by the Roman Catholic Church and includes ministers of all the mainline Christian churches). 

      In the meantime, however, the fact of being in the parliamentary list of ``dangerous cults'' threatens the very existence of EEPB and of the whole FEM. Not only does media pressure against the ``cult'' continue but--following administrative instructions enacted in the wake of the parliamentary report--the federation's churches have been denied the use of public meeting halls by local authorities, and the French Revenue Service is continuously harassing this struggling minority. The saga of EEPB confirms that in the present French scenario it is not enough to preach a mainline Christian theology in order to avoid the label of a ``cult.'' A minor incident is enough to result in being blacklisted by an anti-cult movement. And, unfortunately, the black lists of the anti-cult movements easily become the black lists of the media and the government. 

      2. The French Aumist Religion (the Mandarom)

      The French Aumist Religion, whose legal structure is called Association of the Triumphant Vajra, headquartered in its holy city of Mandarom (hence the popular nickname of ``The Mandarom''), is not only regarded by anti-cultists and by a sizeable part of the French media as a cult. It is the cult, particularly in Southern France. This is in itself an interesting phenomenon, taking into account that the Aumist Religion is not a very large group, with less than one thousand members in France and a smaller constituency in Italy, Quebec, Belgium, Switzerland and Africa. The holy city of the Mandarom--described as the very epitome of the ``danger of the cults,'' a base threatening a whole country--does not include more than fifty residing monks. 

      The Aumist Religion (the name comes from the sacred Eastern sound AUM, the only common element with the Japanese Aum Shinri-kyo) was founded by Mr. Gilbert Bourdin, a native of French Martinique. In 1961 he was initiated by the Indian master Sivananda in Rishikesh (later, he received other initiations, inter alia by the 16th Karmapa) and started gathering followers as an ascetic practising austerities in Southern France. He also became quite well-known as a Yoga teacher and author of some 22 books (some of them translated in several languages). In 1967 he established the Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus (replaced in 1995 by the current Association of the Triumphant Vajra) and in 1969 he founded the holy city of the Mandarom. Gradually, Bourdin revealed himself as the Messiah: the Lord Hamsah Manarah. In 1990 he was publicly crowned as the Messiah at the Mandarom; some of the ceremonies were open to the media. At that time the movement hoped to crown the existing constructions at the Mandarom (temples representing all the great religions of the world and huge statues) with a larger Temple-Pyramid, a building of great spiritual and cosmic significance for the Aumists. 

      The public ceremonies of 1990 were interpreted as an arrogant challenge by the anti-cult movement and the media. The Mandarom with its huge constructions was, simply, too visible. Two TV networks, Antenne 2 and TF 1, started a campaign exposing the Mandarom as a ``cultic concentration camp.'' Among the anti-cult activists emerged militant psychiatrist Jean-Marie Abgrall. He went on record on TV commenting, about Aumism, that ``notwithstanding what they claim, cults are not religious movements, but rather criminal movements organized by gurus who use brainwashing to manipulate their victims,'' a nice summary of the anti-cult ideology. The campaign against the Mandarom was largely organized by ADFI, and from 1992 it was joined by an ad hoc ecologist group lead by Mr. Robert Ferrato. The latter claimed that the Mandarom is an offense to the ecological equilibrium of the mountain where it is built and called for its destruction. As mentioned earlier, anti-cult activists are taken more seriously in France than in other countries, and even an extreme character such as Dr. Abgrall managed to become one of the two ``experts'' in the national Observatory of Cults established in 1996. 

      The Mandarom was raided repeatedly between 1992-1995 by tax and police officers in a military style. ADFI, Mr. Ferrato, and a reporter for the TV network TF1, Bernard Nicolas, played a key-role in making an apostate, Florence Roncaglia (whose mother is still with the Mandarom), ``remember'' that she had been molested and raped by Bourdin in the 1980s. A complaint was filed in 1994, just before the expiration of the legal delay. Later, other female apostates also ``remembered.'' Based on Roncaglia's complaint, the Mandarom was raided again on June 12, 1995 and Bourdin was arrested. Coincidentially, at the same date the French Council of State should have rendered its final decision on the question of building permission of the Temple-Pyramid. The decision was finally unfavourable to the Aumist Religion. On June 30, 1995, Mr. Bourdin was released but the proceedings against him were kept pending. For the Aumists, the fact that the Temple-Pyramid can no longer be built is extremely serious. In 1998 Bourdin died and was denied burial not only at the Mandarom but in all the main cemeteries around it (he is buried in a disaffected cemetery)--the authorities cited anti-cult concerns about the Aumists converting the grave into another pilgrimage site. The case of the Mandarom raises important questions. There is little doubt that the claims the Aumists make for their founder are quite extreme. Generally speaking, claiming to be the Messiah does not make any religious leader particularly popular. The Aumist literature combines Eastern themes and Western esotericism, and it is difficult to distinguish between actual and symbolic claims. (For example, it is argued that the Messiah has destroyed millions of devils threatening Planet Earth. These and similar claims are routinely quoted by anti-cultists to ridicule the Mandarom). In short, Mr. Bourdin was an unpopular religious leader, and Aumism is an unpopular minority. This circumstance makes Aumism an excellent case to test religious liberty in France. When a group is protected by its own popularity, there is no need for constitutional or international guarantees. 

      The scholars who have taken the time to study the Mandarom (others are simply scared away by controversy) have raised doubts about the possibility for Bourdin, had he lived, to obtain a fair trial. They certainly do not suggest that sexual abuse by pastors or religious leaders should be condoned. They agree that it should be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. Some comments about the Mandarom case are, however, in order. First, the local judges do not seem to be familiar with doubts raised in the United States and elsewhere about belated memories of sexual abuses surfacing after many years in therapy or within the frame of national controversies. In fact, in the last few years, most cases of so-called ``recovered memories'' have been dismissed by U.S. courts. It is in fact too easy to accuse public figures of sexual abuses allegedly taking place 10 or 15 years ago. Second, it is questionable that the Court of Digne had regarded it as necessary to appoint an expert to investigate ``the doctrines and practices of the Mandarom and their connection, if any, with the facts of the case against Mr. Bourdin.'' A point confirming the dubious objectivity of this proceeding is that the Court of Digne has appointed Dr. Jean-Marie Abgrall as its expert--not only a militant anti-cultist but an author who had written in a book that Bourdin is ``a fraud'' and ``a paranoid,'' and that Aumism is a ``clownesque caricature of a cult'' (Abgrall, La Mécanique des sectes, 1996, pp. 31, 91). The verdict of a similar ``independent expert'' had been rendered in advance. Finally, irrespective of the personal problems of the late Mr. Bourdin, one wonders why, in connection with his prosecution, the Mandarom has been repeatedly raided, Waco-style, by paratroopers, and a number of members of the movement other than Mr. Bourdin have been handcuffed and taken into custody (although no charges were ever filed against any of them). 

      Scholars are often asked whether there is a risk that groups such as the Mandarom may become involved in violent confrontations with the authorities, or commit mass suicides like the Solar Temple. They normally answer that the Aumist doctrine is firmly against violence and suicides. This is, however, only part of the story. Writing on the situation at the Mandarom, Italian scholar Luigi Berzano (a professor of sociology at the University of Turin and a Roman Catholic priest) mentioned the sociological theories of amplified deviance (Berzano, ``La déviance supposée dans le `phénoméne sectaire': l'exemple de la religion aumiste,'' in Pour en finir avec les sectes. Le débat sur le rapport de la commission parlementaire, Paris: Dervy, 1996: 315-320). According to these theories, the hostile official responses to a movement regarded as deviant may in fact amplify its deviance. In a sense--as suggested in the U.S. debate by Passas and others--the movement is ``deformed'' by official and anti-cult harassment. Excessive reaction against a movement, thus, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and may cause the very evil it is supposed to avoid. 

      IV. Suggestions

      While it is not for scholars to recommend specific policy attitudes, some general suggestions seem to be in order. 

      1. It should be clear from our report that Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe should not be the only areas of concern when religion liberty risks are evaluated. At least three countries in the European Union (France, Belgium and Germany) should be considered at risk (with the addition of Greece, where the problems are, however, more similar to those prevailing in Eastern Europe). 

      2. A primary cause of concern is the public sponsorship in these countries of private anti-cult movements. It is abundantly clear that these movements are responsible for spreading misleading and often simply false information about religious minorities, and an intolerant worldview. 

      3. It should be clarified that disgruntled apostates, no matter who sponsors their claims, are but a minority of the larger population of ex-members of any given religious minority, and should not, without further investigation, be considered as representative of ex-members in general. 

      4. It is a cause of serious concern that myths at least partially discredited and debunked in the United States about brainwashing and mind control, thanks to the promotion by the anti-cult lobby, are still taken seriously in certain European countries. They need to be exposed as pseudo-science. 

      5. Words are not neutral. Words such as ``cults'' (or ``sectes'' in French, or equivalent words in other European languages) are easily used as tools of hate and discrimination, and should be avoided, particularly in official documents. Scholars often use ``new religious movements.'' Although better than ``cults,'' even this language can cause misunderstandings about movements which are new only in the West while they represent a century-old-tradition in the East (such as ISKCON, popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement, or Soka Gakkai, part of the mainline tradition of Japanese Nichiren Buddhism). The most neutral term is ``religious minorities.'' It avoids judgements about whether a group is acceptable, or is connected to an old tradition. 

      6. Nothing in this report should suggest that laws should not be enforced against criminal actions perpetrated within the frame of old (or not so old) religious movements. The experience shows that there are, in fact, dangerous and even criminal, religious groups. In case of common crimes (a different thing from the imaginary crimes of ``belonging to a cult'' or ``using mind control techniques'') the suspects should be investigated and prosecuted as criminal suspects, not as members of religious minorities.


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