Ecrivez-nous : 117, rue de Charenton, 75012 Paris
ON DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
SPIRITUAL AND THERAPEUTICAL MINORITIES IN FRANCE
speaks for Christian Tal Schaller, a medical doctor from Geneva and his wife
Joan, a psychotherapist. They were raided and subjected to imprisonment and
I represent Christian Tal Schaller and his wife Joan. They are both teachers and writers of holistic health and personal development. Christian is also the creator of "Vivez Soleil" ("Live with the Sun") publishing, which promotes holistic health through its books.
They created the Holistic Health Research and Application Institute, and they started organizing seminars in the spring of 1997. At dawn on October 10, 1997, three police battalions invaded the property during a fasting seminar. Some were dressed in their regular uniform, others were in camouflage and carried submachine guns. Their vehicles charged in all directions on the property to prevent anyone from escaping. The policemen had a search warrant delivered by Judge Fontaine of Grenoble, who was investigating the case of the Order of the Solar Temple. They searched for 10 hours leaving no stone unturned because they were convinced the Institute was a branch of the Order of the Solar Temple. They had assumed a connection between "Vivez Soleil" publishing and the Order of the Solar Temple. Christian's car had a sun painted on it with the words "Vivez Soleil." They were convinced we were preparing a mass suicide by fire. A participant asked the policemen what they had come for. They answered: "to protect you because you are about to be killed." We also discovered our phones had been tapped for months and everything we did was being watched. They took away everything that could be used as "evidence": Fabrics, pillows painted with suns, candles, books - especially those on death and the afterlife - computer disks, diaries, personal mail, the list of participants, uncashed checks - which were never cashed because the police kept them for a year. Joan was taken to the police station with some of the volunteers and participants. Others were taken to Taulignan Town Hall which had been specially prepared for interrogation. They endured a biased, abusive interrogation and body search.
They were all released shortly after, except Joan and Christian who had to spend the night at the police station in a dirty cell on filthy mattresses. The policemen found absolutely nothing to suggest the owners of Faujas were gurus of a "dangerous cult." But they did press charges for the premises not being up to code, for not being registered with the commerce department, and for illegal work because of a few volunteers who had come to help. On October 11, Le Dauphiné Libéré reported the police raid at length, with big headlines and photographs of the property, recounting in detail how the owners had been kept in custody. Two days later it announced in a few lines that Christian and Joan had been released and summoned to court for a violation of work legislation, but the report did not withdraw the statements about the group being a cult.
Several newspapers took advantage of the situation to attack all alternative healing methods such as fasting and colon cleansing.
After the whole saga was over, Christian and Joan set about to comply with the legal requirements. But their request for a construction permit was refused by the Mayor of Taulignan claiming that the road was too narrow and the water supply insufficient. However the building next door, a center for mentally handicapped persons, used the same road. At first some of our members did not dare renew their subscription for fear of being harassed, and the membership fell by over half. It became impossible for therapists to organize seminars on the premises because the buildings could not be brought up to code.
The directors of the center lost their credibility and could not repay the friends who had helped them. In 1998, they were both fined 50,000 FF and were forbidden to organize seminars on health for five years, which according to their lawyers bore no relationship to the events. This penalty is totally out of proportion with the charges brought against them. Today, they have taken the matter to the supreme court and the case is in progress. More recently the URSSAF (French Work Bureau) imposed a fine of 80,000 FF, despite the fact that Christian and Joan deny the accusation of illegal work: Their center functions like any other spiritual center which welcomes volunteers. These events have had serious consequences: They receive anonymous hate mail and phone calls, and this has created a new breed of patients who threaten to denounce the center to the anti-cult organizations as a way of avoiding paying their dues. So, what should we do now? On one hand they demand fines and on the other, they prevent people from working...
Marseilles, March 29, 2000
lost his position as president of an organic cooperative and was harrassed
by the media.
I am a Scientologist, and as such I actively work in the field of drug prevention in Marseilles. We have information stands in the northern districts of Marseilles where drugs are rampant. We pass out flyers giving seven reasons for avoiding drugs, and information booklets on cannabis, ecstasy, heroin, and various other drugs.
Seven years ago my wife and I joined an organic products cooperative. It was running at a loss. We rolled up our sleeves and saved the situation, and as a result I was elected president of the board of directors. I never talked about Scientology at work as I considered it a private matter.
Last September, M6 (TV channel) came to film our drug information stand in Marseilles. During the broadcast they put "GALIBERT, Robert, Scientologist" in big letters, instead of the more obvious subtitle "Leader of the association NO to DRUGS, YES to LIFE."
The next morning I received many phone calls, one of them from the panic-stricken manager of the cooperative. We held an emergency meeting of the board of directors and they unanimously asked me to resign. I asked why since I did work that everybody appreciated. The five employees of the cooperative were afraid of losing their jobs. They said that as an organic cooperative we were already considered unusual, so if people thought the cooperative is managed by a Scientologist the whole thing would fall apart.
I personally knew many of the members and I honestly don't think there would have been much of a problem. But we live in a climate of fear. I tried to reason with the board of directors but without success, so I decided to resign.
Marseilles, March 29, 2000
is a radio host. When he started allowing members of minority religions to
express themselves on the air, he was fired by the directors of the radio
station he was working for. He hasn't been able to get a job in the industry
I don't belong to any spiritual organization. I was curious about Scientology, so I wanted to have Scientologists speak on my show. I didn't know anything about the "cult phenomenon", and even less about Scientology. For two months, I did research, starting with a visit to ADFI and the CCMM [two "anti-cult organizations].What I was told there was not really interesting. I started asking various people what they knew about Scientology and the kind of answer I got was: "They're drug dealers." I was quite naïve about the whole thing, so I went to the Lyons Church of Scientology and asked Scientologists questions like: "I heard, you guys are drug dealers? tell me about it." Then they told me about their involvement in drug prevention and rehabilitation. It was quite a different story!
I talked at length with Scientologists. They are decent people. I read some of their literature and liked it very much. I think Ron Hubbard is a remarkable man. So I did a positive show about Scientology. Soon thereafter, I was asked to meet the radio station's Board of Directors to justify what I did in that show. I realized most of them knew absolutely nothing about the subject. They had never even seen a book on Scientology. But just because this movement has a bad reputation, the media feels it has to repeat the derogatory comments, when really it's supposed to inform people.
On another show, I invited a person from another group, the Mandarom, a charming older person, but my colleagues barely acknowledged his presence. The directors called me again and asked me why I was inviting this type of person on the show. I replied that I wanted to let them give their side of the story, which is normal in a democratic society. Then the director said: " We are sponsored by the local shopkeepers and when they hear this on the air, we get these angry calls."
Fast forward to 1996 in Lyons, and the Church of Scientology trial there. I went to see the station director and told him I wanted to invite Scientologists on my show because they hadn't been invited by any other local media. On FR3, a reporter was talking about the "trial of frauds", that sort of hateful stuff, without giving them a chance to counter these accusations. One cannot just say these things. I am not taking sides, but one should at least be fair about it. So I wanted to invite them, but my director refused. I persisted, but the Scientologists chose to decline. They had enough problems as it was.
During the trial, a local TV station called TLM organized a show on cults in general. I was invited to speak as a witness. During the show, there was a panel of self-proclaimed specialists. After speaking with them, I realized none of them knew what Scientology or Mandarom was. In fact, they didn't even want to know. Some of them had thick files. For them, all these groups were dangerous. They have personal reasons to hate them. It is really shocking to see a whole panel of people nodding in agreement when they clearly haven't a clue. At one point, I exploded in anger, because they were talking nonsense about Scientology, which they obviously knew nothing about. I said all the good things I thought of Ron Hubbard. I told them to read the books first, then talk. I'd been introduced as a radio announcer. Two days after that show, I was fired on the spot from the radio station.
So far I've met no one in the radio or television industry who agrees with me that it might be interesting to have a member of Scientology or Moon on a show. It hasn't even crossed their minds. I find it idiotic.
Today in France, there is a growing trend towards atheism and anti-religious materialism. Everything that revolves around spirituality is not understood. Spiritual movements are being systematically attacked.
Testimony # 22
Marseilles, 29 March, 2000
and Paule are members of an organization that promotes peace. They have been
refused permission to hold events in public places.
We belong to "Le Centre Sri Chimnoy." We organize cultural activities, concerts, sporting events, races-always on the theme of peace-where we never do any proselytizing. We've lived in France for 25 years and have been subjected to pressures and attacks from ADFI in France and the GEMPPI (a group that investigates various philosophical groups) in Marseilles.
In October 1997, our association got an authorization to hold a concert at the Italian Cultural Institute. Two days before the concert, we received a letter stating "In agreement with the Italian General Consulate, I would like to inform you that the hall will not be available due to a lack of personnel." I met with the Consul and he told me he had received a phone call telling him our association was on a the list of cults, and so couldn't accommodate us.
In 1995, we invited a group of Swiss musicians to the Sainte Trinité Church in Marseilles. The concert was planned for March 19. On March 14 we received a letter from the priest canceling the concert : "I am forced to withdraw your approval to hold a concert in our Church on March 19. Unfortunately, you omitted to tell us that you are considered a cult and that you have been refused access in numerous places. I do not consider you a cult, but you will understand that I do not have the right to scandalize Christians who can't always see the difference between spirituality and a cult."
There are hundreds of similar cases where we have not been welcomed in various parts of France.
We organize a cultural event each year called the International Peace Run which is open to everyone. Hundreds of thousands of people in the world participate each year and France is the only country that has refused, several times, to grant passage to the runners. "Anti-cult" individuals follow the course of the race. This year they were in a car taking pictures. They intervene as late as possible on the eve of the event so it's too late for us to do anything about it.
In Montpellier I run a successful vegetarian restaurant. We were fully accepted by the community. Five years ago La Gazette published a two-page article with the title: "Cult - such a nice little restaurant." This article said the restaurant was the headquarters of a "dangerous cult": We are vegetarians, we run, we are chaste, we take showers every day before meditating, we smile in the restaurant and we have a guru--that's the worst part...
When we arrived in Montpellier ten years ago we had the use of municipal halls without any problem. We organized a Sri Chimnoy concert in 1991 in the 'Parc des Expositions', with approval from City Hall. When I requested approval to hold a concert in the same park in 1995, it was denied. The park managers told me : "We don't have a problem with you. Last time you behaved decently and paid. But we can't get approval from City Hall because you are part of this list."
Last year we organized a concert in Paris. A friend told me, "The district City Hall called me. They tried to convince me you were awful people, but it didn't work. Don't worry."
For other events, we did manage to obtain a stadium. The sports manager at City Hall is a real friend and he participates in our runs. He knows us so well he forgot we are portrayed as a dangerous cult and he gave us approval for regular races, once a month. So we started passing out flyers to invite people to a race. The next day a newspaper ran an article entitled: "The cult is running."
Marseilles, 29 March 2000
president of the Espace Manuel, had her association relegated to the status
of a "cult" due to the complaint of one person-a member's husband.
I am the president of the "Espace Manuel" association in Aix-en-Provence. Our group manages a self-improvement and artistic center that offers activities such as creative dance and relaxation for groups and individuals. We also organize lectures. Our association started in September 1992 under the name "Association Energie et Création Aix-Lubéron." We were extremely surprised to find out on July 18, 1996, in the magazine L'Express, that our association was considered to be a cult. We discovered that this came about as a result of a divorce procedure involving one of our members.
A jealous husband had been upset by his wife's involvement in the personal development program she was following with one of our colleagues. The man attempted to use the fact that we were teaching personal development in a group environment to help with his divorce, and he actually lodged a complaint in Besançon in 1995. Due to this, ADFI (the French anti-cult organization) now has a file on us and considers us a cult. The RG (French intelligence agency) was also involved in the matter. We have had several contacts with the RG and they told us that the only element they had against us was this single complaint.
After that we were treated like "the plague" and banned by the Aix-en-Provence local authorities. As a result, we created a new association called "Espace Manuel" in September 1997. The new association was created with a status that is actually closer to what we do and to the current situation. From 1996 to 1999 the Tourist Office of Aix-en-Provence refused to promote our documents. And the association responsible for organizing the fair of groups in Aix refused to let us participate. Our documents are still not being circulated in the youth cultural centers or in any institution linked to the city of Aix-en-Provence.
We also had a problem with the "Millepertuis et Sarriette" fair in Puyricard in February 2000. Since we were considered a cult they said it was not appropriate for us to be at this exhibition.
The association "Graine de vie" also had trouble getting a grant from the city of Aix-en-Provence simply because they worked with "Espace Manuel." In November 1999, we were refused access to the "Artemisia" fair in Marseilles.
Since January 1996 we have been the target of slanderous comments regarding our association and its work. Since 1996, we have had no contact with the political or administrative authorities of the city of Aix-en-Provence. Though nobody came to investigate or talk to us, I recently learned that our lectures are under surveillance by the municipal services.
Marseilles, 29 March, 2000
has first-hand experience of the prejudice and discrimination against various
groups in her hometown of Nîmes.
Following the publishing of an article in a small local newspaper that presented a global view of "cults" in the Gard region, there was a meeting in the Nîmes library. I attended and was surprised to hear the name of a small association I was a part of included on a list of "suspicious" movements.
This association was created so that people who wanted to do sports, a pottery course, all sorts of things, could do so. We also organize conferences. We invited a well-known hairdresser from Paris. He came to Nîmes to give a lecture called "Hair, tell me about myself." People from the anti-cult groups called the City Hall saying that we were totally weird and irresponsible and that they should be ashamed for renting us a hall. The only condition we had when we formed our group was not to make it political, religious, or philosophical. You can't be more independent than that. I don't know how we can be accused of being a cult because for us it is a fundamental precept of our members that everyone's belief is respected.
In a conference on cults, I heard a guy saying horrible things especially against people involved in sophrology, personal awareness, naturopaths, and people who eat organically. He named a few associations. The final straw was when he asked: "Does anyone here bank at the "Banque Populaire?" Most teachers use this bank. I raised my hand and he said: "Do you know that the computer system of the "Banque Populaire" is managed by Scientologists?" I asked for information about this from my banker who was befuddled. He asked his headquarters and they confirmed that they ordered a computer program. After further research it seemed the company they ordered the program from had some link with Scientology. The order was cancelled. The EDF (the national electricity Department) had ordered the same program and they cancelled their order as well. I think any spiritual movement has the right to have competent persons amongst its members.
During the conference on "cults", someone asked the lecturer whether Masonic lodges could be considered a cult and he answered forcefully "Absolutely not!" The person who gave the conference was from the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Montpellier.
There are people in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Education and the Mayor's office who are in charge of keeping an eye on what they call cults. I met the person in charge of the file at City Hall and explained to her what happened with our lecture in Nîmes. His reply was: "Don't worry, we won't pay attention to what they say anymore."
About 15 years ago, I was a pre-school teacher. We were asked to work on a social and environmental theme. The whole town was full of posters for the Sesame fair, which promotes personal well-being, life improvement and alternative medicine in Nîmes. I received an official reprimand for bringing a flier into my class about that fair and not respecting separation of Church and State. They said that the fair was not non-religious. I go to this fair every year and I have never observed a religious aspect of it.
I informed the organizers of the fair what happened. They sent me 3 free tickets which I sent to the authorities of the National Education Board and to an academic inspector. I had hoped they would go to the fair and see for themselves that it was non-religious, or be able to identify for me the religious aspects that I had been unable to see for myself. I wanted to know what fault I had committed. None of the free tickets were used and I still don't have an answer to my question.***
Marseilles, 29 March, 2000
was thrown out of his music group due to his religious beliefs.
I am a musician, arranger and composer. For several years, I had worked with a group that was well known in the Languedoc region called "Ricoune et les Counasses." The leader of the group knew the mayors of all the surrounding villages very well, and all the members of festival committees too. He was told that people, apparently from the Renseignements Généraux, had been to see the mayors and the heads of festival committees to tell them that I belonged to a 'cult' and that I should be thrown out.
At first, we didn't let them get the better of us. However, my friends criticized the fact that I wore the symbol of the Raëlian religion to which I belong, even though they wear the cross of their religion. I don't see why I shouldn't display who I am if they can display who they are. It's a question of personal freedom, and I didn't proselytize to anyone.
The band did so well that we were contacted by a major recording company: EMU Music. They came from Paris by plane to hear us. We signed a contract and we went to Paris to record. One week after the recording the group asked to see me. They told me they were throwing me out of the band because I was Raëlian. They feared for the group's career. They were afraid journalists would say the group was a cult. They repeated all the rumors they had heard, though they had read Raël's books and had enjoyed them. As I was being thrown out because I belonged to the Raëlian religion, I made them sign a document regarding their reasons. They justified it by saying it was for "marketing reasons, due to my philosophical beliefs."
For some unknown reason, the single we had recorded never saw the light of day and the group was the loser in the affair. Now they're going nowhere and I have my own recording studio.
There's been a big change since the 1970's. At that time, it was fashionable to have a spiritual guide, a philosophy. Now, the turnaround is total. You're considered retarded if you follow ideas that appeal to you, or if you're a little out of the ordinary. In the musical world, I was surprised to see how narrow-minded people have become. They are ready to go and demonstrate for their rights as professional performers, but nobody is ready to go and demonstrate for freedom, in particular, freedom of speech. Being an artist also means defending freedoms and denouncing whatever is wrong so that everyone can be who they are.