Ecrivez-nous : 117, rue de Charenton, 75012 Paris
ON DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
SPIRITUAL AND THERAPEUTICAL MINORITIES IN FRANCE
Lyons, April 28, 2000
is a Protestant. The freedoms of his Evangelical Association are being more
and more restricted due to the growing climate of fear of "cults"
that is spreading in France today and affecting many religious groups.
I represent the CLEF Association [Lyons Evangelization and Training Circle], which is affiliated with the French Evangelical Alliance. This Alliance is part of the Protestant Federation. There are about 5,000 of us in and around Lyons.
As members of a Protestant Evangelical Church in Lyons, we are being gradually subjected to greater and greater restrictions on our freedom of speech. In 1982, we were founding members of a radio station in Villeurbanne. The board of directors started telling us: "You must not speak only about Protestants." Later we were told: "Don't talk about God too much." And then, "Stop talking about sin." ... Last year, we were told to: "Only play music."
So we played Gospel. Alas! Not all Lyons people understand English! I was happy to translate the words of the songs, which spoke of Jesus and of the forgiveness of all our sins. Then we were warned not to talk about Jesus and sin again. In 1997, we were kicked off the radio and not allowed to broadcast anymore.
Every year on December 8 and June 21, we have a Gospel event on the Jacobins Square in Lyons. In earlier years, the Department of Events of the town would write or call to ask us what we needed and even offer their help if we were a little late starting preparations. But for the last three years, we've been having all sorts of problems: One day we have no electricity. Another time it's something else. Things are closing in on us.
In 1994, we had a march for Jesus, a joyous march that was a combination of a demonstration and a religious procession. We had prepared the itinerary of this event with the Police Department. Ten days before the march, the Town Hall in Lyons refused to let us do this event because they were afraid of "cults." When we asked them why, they answered, "If we agreed to let you do this, we would have to agree to let others march too...." What they did not realize was that this event was taking place all over the world, in London, Berlin, and in France in Paris, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyons, and Marseilles. I simply faxed this list to the Town hall in Lyons, telling them : "It is very simple. We are going to alert Amnesty International." They immediately called back to say, "You didn't understand, it was a question of the itinerary! No problem, you can organize your march."
As a Protestant, I would like to remind anyone reading this that 400 years ago, in 1598, Henri IV signed the Edict of Nantes which promised every French citizen freedom of religion and of speech. This Edict was revoked under Louis XIV, provoking a repression of Protestants. Today the word "cult" is used to justify intolerance. I would like everybody in France to have freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to think differently.
Testimony # 2
Paris, March 3, 2000
who has taken refuge in England, talks on behalf of 14 families who saw their
lives destroyed in June 1993 when the police raided their center:
Most of the families I'm speaking for today are now missionaries in other parts of the world, in South Africa or elsewhere, and could not be here.
In 1981 ADFI [Association de Defense de la Famille et de l'Individu, a French "anti-cult" group] lodged a complaint against 'La Famille'. This resulted in a police raid against two of our communities in the south of France in 1993. The police intrusion was violent and the policemen were armed. 80 of our children were put into social care. 22 adults were arrested and then released in the following 48 hours. The pretext for this raid was that we were suspected of sexual abuse towards the children. But, in fact, the police officers have admitted that their purpose was to destroy 'La Famille' at the European level. The social services kept many of the children for two months. The files regarding these children were forwarded to various judges who all concurred that there was no sexual abuse. All the children were sent back to their parents and their families, but an accusation of incitement of minors to vice was still made against the adults. A lawsuit continued for several years but no proof came to light. In January 1999, after a prosecutor's recommendation, the judge decided to close the case. He declared that there was no reason to carry on examining this complaint and go to court. ADFI went into appeal and on 24th February 2000 this appeal was rejected.
When these raids happened in our centers in 1993, the media were there. But where are they now that they know these accusations were false and unfounded? In 1993, the judges said that there was no reason to sue 'La Famille', but in the governmental report of 1996 the French government representatives declared : "It is well known by everybody that the members of "God's Family" often practice prostitution and incest." This report relayed the misinformation put out by the anti-cult groups. All this has shaken the members of 'La Famille'. It also had an impact on our friends: In addition to raids against two of our communities in France there have also been raids against ten private houses, homes of people who were our friends or connected with us one way or the other. To protect our children and ourselves, we have to live outside of France.
Testimony # 3
Paris, March 3, 2000
is the mother of a large family. Her 7 children were taken away from her for
As a Christian missionary for La Famille, we have been led to travel a lot and we have sometimes experienced difficulties in countries which were more or less welcoming. But I have to say, as a French citizen, that it is on French soil that I have had my most traumatizing experience.
It was in June 1993 and that morning, at 6 a.m., we were suddenly woken up as our house was surrounded by 50 members of the police force, armed to the teeth with bullet-proof jackets and police dogs. They violently knocked at our door. In a few seconds, the occupants were immobilized in each room and threatened with semi-automatic weapons. The policemen obviously expected to find us armed and dangerous, yet we are against violence in all forms. I wanted to rush to comfort my 4-year-old daughter who was sitting on her bed crying with her arms towards me. I was violently pushed back on my bed and yelled at while a woman with a uniform took my daughter by force from the bed she was holding onto. At the same time my daughter could see us in handcuffs and under threat of arms. All the children of the house were sent up to the policemen's wagon in their pajamas.
During the 48 hours of close watch and interrogations, where we were accused of the worst things, we were told lies to make us weaker and to make us confess things we were not guilty of. I was insulted, demeaned, spoken to in a gross manner and after eight hours of arrest I was hardly allowed to have a sandwich and a coffee. During the interrogation, I could not find out what was happening to my children. I was worried as I have a son who had a high fever the night before. The children underwent several examinations from pediatricians, gynecologists, psychiatrists and psychologists. At the time, my daughters were 6, 11 and 13 years old. Today, they still think of these humiliating examinations as a nightmare. They were told all kinds of horrible things about their parents: that we would not see them again, that we did not love them and would never try to see them again. They were placed in a State institution and it took a month to get them back.
Testimony # 4
Paris, March 3, 2000
who grew up as a child in "The Family" talks about this and her
friend Maria, who at the age of 11 was one of 80 children subjected to a police
Maria is now 18. She is not here because she has bad memories of France and because she did not want to talk of all this again. Every time we talk about this period of the raid, she becomes silent and prefers not to talk about it.
As a person born and having always lived in these surroundings, I find it depressing to read broadcasts and texts such as the parliamentary report. I can tell you loud and clear that as a child brought up inside 'La Famille' I was never sexually abused.
Our parents have succeeded in obtaining a judgment proving their innocence but one has to take into account the fact that every time you tell someone you are a child born in 'La Famille', people look at you in a strange way.
I am trying to say that it is not correct at all to have to grow up with this kind of reputation when you are simply a normal individual.
Paris, March 3, 2000
is an athlete at an international level. She's also a trainer in a sports
club. She was subjected to harassment by the government's sports administration.
Sport is my passion. When I was 13, I was the French champion in the 80 meters hurdles, then later, several times in the 100 and 60 meters hurdles. At 17, I was placed third in the junior European championship. At that time I decided to go to Paris, to the INS--the National Institute of Sports--for intensive training. And then, in 1985 my international career as a senior took off. I came third in the indoor world games in Bercy's stadium, then fifth in 1987 at the world championship, always in the 100 meters hurdles.
Around Christmas 1987, I was summoned by the high-level athletic director at the INS. At the end of our conversation, he told me, "If I ever hear anything concerning you about Scientology, and if you ever speak about it, you will be fired from the INS."
I saw he was looking at a lot of documents scattered about his desk, but I don't know what they were or what they contained. When this happened, I was a new Scientologist. Apart from my close friends I had told no one about it. Then he warned the physiotherapist school of Saint-Maurice where I was studying. Again, I was summoned by the director who made the same remark. My behavior was liable for disciplinary measures from the council of discipline and he wanted to hear nothing from me.
I carried on with my sports career, winning the quarter final at the 1988 Olympic Games and taking other medals in the European championships. In 1990, there were new incidents as a member of the [Sports] Ministry first came and warned the director of my Club in Clermont-Ferrand to which I had always remained loyal. Then the same person warned my trainer.
For ten years, I'd been considered by people around me as "the victim of a cult."
After the end of my career in 1995, I decided to train young people. I started at the Paris University Club, then I decided to also train young athletes in a club in the Paris suburbs. At that time, I was asked by the Ministry of Youth and Sports to participate in a commission on law reform for sports in France. I took part in the first meeting but a few days later received a phone call from a member of the Ministry, whom I knew, who told me he had been asked to take me off the commission, as I am a Scientologist. He even specified it on the phone, "Officially I'll say you don't have time anymore, unofficially it's because you're a Scientologist."
I was training two youngsters who were hopefuls for French championship titles. But this didn't stop my club's president firing me. I cannot train in my town any more. I regularly meet young people in the street who come to me saying, "You must come back, please come back!" and I have no answer for them.
Paris, March 3, 2000
is a well-known singer. Her career was nearly destroyed.
On March 2, 1999, I was honored to be chosen out of more than 700 candidates to represent France during the Eurovision song contest to be held in Jerusalem. This contest is the European equivalent of the Grammy Awards.
Two days after my nomination, the paper L'Indépendant from Perpignan stated that I belonged to the Raël "cult." This story was seized and blown up by the media and in more than 100 newspaper articles and shows, it was described as the "Eurovision scandal" and the general comment was that I did not deserve to represent France.
French anti-cult groups sent press releases to the media demanding that I be boycotted and official action be taken to prevent me from going to Jerusalem and representing my country in the contest. They even wrote to the Israeli embassy asking them to take the necessary steps to stop me going.
During the rehearsals and the performance in Jerusalem, I was followed everywhere by young soldiers carrying machine guns, and had to go through a metal detector every time I was to go on stage. I was the only singer to be subjected to this outrage. I was forbidden to see my friends and constantly followed. My phones were tapped. The messages on my answering machine were erased and I was not permitted to receive mail left for me at the reception desk in my hotel. But this harassment was minor compared to the treatment given to a friend of mine. He was badly beaten up by the security service attached to me in Jerusalem when all he did was to ask how he could get a pass for my rehearsals. They said it was because he had come to support me and was in a cult.
Even though they knew me well, my French producers finally gave in to the pressure and decided to cancel their contract with me. During the Eurovision song contest, the French radio and TV stations all represented me as either belonging or having belonged to the Raël cult which, of course, swayed the jury and the audience against me. Before the media hatchet job, the music critics predicted that I would be in the first five. I ended 19th out of 24 nominated.
The result of this was that my producers canceled 16 TV shows and delayed the release of one of my albums for a month. In spite of all this, the single sold 12,000 copies in the first week, a record for a Eurovision song, and it made it to the top 100. Unfortunately, the producers killed it before it had a chance to continue its climb. The contract which they canceled was for two albums over three years with tours in Canada and Japan.
Faced with all this injustice, I have decided to fight intolerance and racism. I have decided to become a priest of the Raëlian religion and defend my values: World peace, non-violence, responsibility, sharing, democracy, love and respect of self and others, respect of human rights and absolute respect for all life.
Testimony # 7
Paris March 3, 2000
B. is a naturopath and therapist who practices yoga and lives in southwest
France. Both his ability to earn a living and to participate in community
life have been curtailed. A friend is offering testimony on his behalf.
P.B. has been a trained naturopath for 16 years and has a practice in Bayonne. He practices iridology, aroma therapy and treatment with essential oils. He has been a speech therapist for eight years, and practices the Radja Yoga of Brahma Kumari.
In 1996 in southwest France, ADFI began propaganda campaigns in primary schools, secondary schools and universities on the "dangers" of the spiritual minorities they call "cults." ADFI includes the Brahma Kumaris in this group. ADFI's attacks have damaged P.B.'s reputation in the community, his access to others needing his help, and his ability to earn a living.
For a year-and-a-half, P.B. had volunteered his time on Radio-France in Basque Country presenting broadcasts about naturopathy. After ADFI claimed P.B. was the "guru" of the Brama Kumari "cult," the station refused to continue P.B.'s broadcasts.
P.B. worked as a speech therapist in Saint Palais, population 1,500, near Bayonne. He was known and liked by many people. But in 1997 an ADFI meeting broadly denounced cults' activities in France. More than half of this meeting was dedicated to P.B.. This was an enormous shock to P.B.'s friends and everyone who knew him Saint Palais.
In 1998, the newspaper Sud Ouest featured Brama Kumari in a derogatory article. While it sidestepped actually mentioning P.B. by name, the article's clear wording left no doubt as to his identity. P.B. lost 60 % of his clients.
He has received many anonymous phone calls, threatening or deriding him at all hours of the day and night.
P.B. was asked to leave the board of the University of Free Studies, an association that organizes conferences. They said he was responsible for the loss of members, subscriptions and audience due to public suspicion that he belonged to a "cult." Then P.B. was asked to leave this association entirely.
P.B. had visited local prisons for eight years as a naturopath. The director of the regional penitentiary service of Bordeaux has withdrawn permission for P.B. to help prisoners, alleging that P.B. is a member of a "movement with a sectarian character."
Paris, March 3, 2000
children were taken away when she divorced and she lost a 12-year engineering
Trouble began when I decided to divorce the father of my two youngest children. Because I joined Raël as we were separating, he had not known of my new religion. We had taken one mutual lawyer to make the divorce go more amicably. But when he discovered I had joined Raël, he began using the anti-cult group ADFI's lawyer.
My ex-husband factually kidnapped our children. I received a summons via a provisional order to go to the Civil First Instance Court of Nanterre in three days. For 40 days, (the duration of the proceedings) I did not see my children. I had no news from my husband, nor ADFI's attorney of their whereabouts, safety, schooling, or states of health.
I have now won the right to keep my children, but only after a psychological and social investigation verified that, even though I had changed my religion, I still really deserve to be a mother. I had to fight tooth and nail to prove my fitness as a parent. I had to provide written attestations from our family doctor, the children's schoolteachers, friends and relatives that I was completely capable of bringing up my children and was in fact doing so responsibly.
That social investigation was extremely biased, giving undue weight to the extremely partial testimonies of my husband's parents. To vilify us in the courts and newspapers, ADFI and its lawyer purposefully manipulated and misinterpreted quotes from Raël's texts. The children's father lied repeatedly, fabricating stories that never occurred to wrest our children from my care. The bulk of the file he provided consisted of no more than a few press clippings.
After leaving my husband, I lived in a beautiful house, I had excellent income, as did my boyfriend. The children could not have been in better surroundings. During the proceedings of June 1995, I won the right to keep the children. Their father has generous visitation rights.
Before my divorce and joining Raël, I had been employed for 12 years as a commercial engineer in an American company. The children's father went to see my boss and told him I was a dangerous person, that I was in a cult, and that this was a black mark on the company's reputation. My boss fired me in January 1996 using a trumped-up pretext of poor production. I began proceedings with the Conciliation Board and was awarded 350,000 francs damages for abusive firing. It was clear to all that I had been fired for being a member of a minority religion.
Even though I won the right to keep my children, I initiated an appeal because one clause was unbearable: Although I retained the right to remain in the Raël religion, my children were not permitted to be in the presence of others in my religion. To ensure compliance, I would have to ask the religion of every visitor, in fact of every person, every shopkeeper we visit. But France's Supreme Court has confirmed this religious discrimination. The newspaper Le Monde wrote, "The Supreme Court determined Tuesday, February 22, that justice could forbid a family mother from putting her children in contact with members of the Raël movement without interfering with the right to a private life and religious freedom."
I insist upon having my rights respected at the level of the European Court of Human Rights. Beyond losing my job and being forced to battle courts and attorneys for the right to keep my children, I have lost many friends. After my former husband visited them, showing slanderous press articles, they now ignore me.
Paris, March 3, 2000
had his parental rights and nearly all child visitation privileges stripped
When I was 19, I joined CIRCES (International Centre of Culture and Spiritual Research), a humanistic movement created by the Rosicrucians. There, I initiated a commission to promote human rights.
In 1995, after my divorce, I requested a simple modification of my child visitation rights. I wanted to take them one Wednesday out of two beyond the visiting time granted. My former wife opposed this modification and the judicial procedure took four years, into March 1999. It included social and psychological "investigations" of myself and my parental fitness.
The social investigation was carried out by an organization in Laval, France. The investigator came to my home to question me. After he talked to the anti-cult group ADFI, I never saw him again and he listened only to my ex-wife. ADFI alleges the Rosicrucian movement has underground links to the Solar Temple.
The investigator quoted my former wife's mother saying that when they came to my home, my children walked about with repetitive head motions as if conditioned by frenzied music! My former mother-in-law denied this to the judge in writing, saying, "The investigator had me say things I never said."
The investigator purposefully misrepresented traceable facts. Once when I was walking with my elder son, the boy became enamored with a two-dollar finger ring in a shop. I bought it for him. The investigation found the ring to be a cult symbol signifying I had initiated my son.
After this procedure's injustice, I had to forfeit my parental authority and only see my boys once every two weeks between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The court decreed this finding even though my former wife had never asked that I be deprived of these rights.
Paris, March 3, 2000
and his wife were forced out of business and their children were harassed.
My husband Patrick and I own and run a management and recruitment company. We do not do the recruiting ourselves; we give clients practical tools they can use to find and recruit the people they need. Clients are normally extremely pleased with our services.
My husband is an active Scientologist who often speaks out for human rights. He has been seen on television and in newspapers several times on the subject.
The press often attacks us because we have been Scientologists for about 15 years. In Paris Match magazine my husband was "accused" of being a Scientologist. Repeated slander campaigns have forced us to fight non-stop to recover clients and prospects the media has scared off.
As a mother, I must constantly explain things to and work with my children because they are forced to answer question after question about our religion at school. All of us must constantly justify and defend our religious beliefs. People begin conversations with the assumption that we are guilty of something. We lose friends and relationships.
We have been forced to close two very successful companies and dismiss 10 staff. Such continual persecution and suspicion wears down the spirit and makes life extremely trying on every front.