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Tours, June 29, 2000
the founder of a self-help group, was accused of being a cult herself. She
suffered harrassment and threats at work, losing clients as a result.
I am the founder of an organization called, "Vital-Harmony." I've been harassed ever since I arrived in France in Vitry-aux-Loges in 1987, and now it has become constant persecution.
Eighteen years ago, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and, according to the medical establishment I didn't have long to live. I wanted to spend my remaining months or years without chemotherapy and I wanted to have nothing to do with this system. Until then I had worked in the pharmaceutical industry, and my then husband was the managing director of a pharmaceutical laboratory.
We went to the United States, I to die and he to accompany me, along with our four children. Many people whom I met talked to me in a completely different way. It was suggested, "Maybe you should try and understand why you have this cancer." When you work in the pharmaceutical industry with doctors, you don't come across this kind of open-minded approach at all, but many people in the States told me I was just being selfish, that my children weren't asking to be orphans, and that I should wake up and realize something about myself. I agreed to attend a three-day seminar.
When I went to this seminar, I looked hard at all these people who appeared happy, while I was feeling really bad. I was suffering so badly physically that it was difficult for me to walk. It is true that at the time, I said to myself this has to be a cult, because they seemed strange. They were different from the circle I came from. I thought it was a cult because they made us pay at the beginning of the seminar. Only a cult would do that. They could not fool me!
The next day everybody looked happy. It really irritated me to see all these smiling faces. I almost insulted the seminar leader. I told him exactly what was going through my mind. I said, "You see, at 18, I was really indoctrinated, I was influenced by the Hare Krishna campaigns. Anything that's different can only be a cult."
He was calm and at ease, smiled at me and said, "Listen Ma'am, you can do whatever you want, the door is wide open. But before you leave, I am nevertheless going to tell you that I've never met anyone as negative as you."
This was probably a "cult" method, because this opened a small door in my mind ; it shocked me, but it got my attention. From that evening on, I decided to stop taking sleeping pills. I thought it strange that someone, in the space of one afternoon, could enable me to give up sleeping pills. I suspiciously thought that they must be manipulators, trying to brainwash me. By the third day, I had started to understand some things. Thanks also to what I was reading, I was actually getting better and better.
At the same time, however, my marriage suffered, because my husband could not admit that since I had received a death sentence it was possible for me to get better. And I was demonstrating that one can get better.
Soon I understood that I had to get out of the trap. I said to myself, "If I have to make a choice, then I choose life!" And at that point, I left my husband. I can tell you that it was not easy, because I did not want to leave him at all, but we were in two different worlds. In that time I learned many things, my physical condition became better and I started to study. I trained as a hypnotherapist. I opened a practice in the United States. Everything was fine.
At some stage I thought it might be good to go back to France. I came back with my children. I had acquired some abilities. I wanted to do something good, like set up a self-help center or a support group in a big house where I could welcome people to teach them there are other ways of thinking and that one could develop the strength to heal oneself.
I sold my advertising agency. I did not have enough money though and when I arrived in this village, I needed a bank loan. I found out that the "castle" I had bought was in fact not much more than a pile of bricks in a bad state of disrepair that had to be renovated. I was advised to go to the Orléans General Council [regional government.] After the second meeting, they told me: "We're curious to see which bank will lend you a single penny." I had been there for a month and I was wondering what was going on. I participated in the first village fete, and people weren't forthcoming. I soon found out that the village doctor suggested that a single mother who arrives from the United States with her children and who buys a castle, could only be a "cult."
I had only just arrived and already I was a cult! I thought this would blow over, but the bank's doors were closed. Everywhere doors were closing. The first time I walked into the baker's, three people were there, and they all huddled in a corner of the shop, looking at me with a strange look in their eyes. I looked under my shoes to see if perhaps I had trodden in dog poop. The baker's wife had received threats; she said that if she sold me bread, they would boycott her shop.
In 1992, I saw a TV show called "Mea Culpa" in which people were interviewed who confronted their village. So, I wrote to them saying I was confronting mine.
After I appeared on this show, it was pandemonium. I had expressed my opinions and stirred things up. The village doctor came to see me with a letter from the Medical Association, saying: "We will take you to court."
Finally I was judged. I was questioned for an hour-and-a-half. At the hearing a friend of mine testified. At one moment, the Judge asked her to answer and she said, "She has enabled me to reconnect with the divine source inside me." Then I thought : "Here we go, we are up for the cult thing." But I was discharged. There was an appeal. The village doctor launched a campaign "Watch out, it is a cult !" People wouldn't even look at me. The case went as far as the Supreme Court, and was finally dismissed. But I'm now on the parliamentary list, as a "dangerous cult" all by myself. And for my misfortune, there are whole pages in the press, telling cock-and-bull stories which have nothing to do with anything I said: according to them I have between 450 and 500 followers, I went on hunger strike in 1996, I stood in front of the Elysée Palace, 30 policemen surrounded me and I spent a day at the Police headquarters. Now, I don't buy newspapers anymore.
People insult my clients when they come to see me. Policemen come three or four times a year, sometimes more, supposedly just to say hello. They always come when clients are here. "We want to see her now!" they demand. The other day, I had an appointment at 10 am and they came at 10:15. My client thought they were going to handcuff me and she was really frightened. My clients do not come any more because the police take a note of their number plates. It is relentless harassment, and of course they throw me out of all the trade fairs, because I am a "dangerous cult."
I put an ad on the Internet, but the problem is that now nobody comes. I sent a letter to the secretary of the President of the Republic. I sent it to all the Ministries. Even my business partner ran off, as she felt her family was threatened. They've made a complete vacuum around us, because even talking to me has become dangerous. I don't feel safe anymore.
I guess I'm guilty of still being alive.
Tours, June 29, 2000
Oriane is one of the founders of a training seminar company. As soon as this company was listed as a cult, the witch hunt started, against her, her group and even her husband.
The purpose of "Energie et Création" is to give personal training seminars. Like many such associations that do a similar thing, we are on the list of "cults." There have been long, drawn-out efforts to get our name taken off the list, but all have failed. We even sent a letter to the president of the parliamentary commission on cults, Mr. Alain Gest, to ask him to have our name taken off the list, or at least to tell us what we should do. He wrote the following reply, "As you know, the parliamentary commission which had been convened to investigate cults has published its report and therefore now no longer exists. It is not now within the competence of any parliamentary authority to make any modification whatsoever to the content of this report."
At least it had the merit of being clear but that's all that can be said. After this, we went through the whole witch-hunt experience; people refusing to rent us halls and all kinds of other persecution. I am from the Nièvre region where, as in any small town area, everyone knows everyone. Nobody dares to come and talk to us. Nobody even came to simply ask us what was happening. Even people who knew us well up to that moment. It was silence on all sides.
Then it got worse with the second parliamentary report on "money and cults." We regularly appeared in the paper.
Meanwhile my own personal clientele - I am a specialist in magnetism - was reduced by half, and the association lost almost all of its members. We've tried to survive but it's hard since we've had practically no income in two years. It doesn't stop us from still being in the news though.
I had the bad idea of participating in a women's march and consequently starting a group with a few women. Six of us decided to organize a conference. We posted a small ad in the Journal du Centre, I gave my phone number and the newspaper published a warning from ADFI right beside the ad in the paper, which stated, "The Association for the Defense of Families and Individuals (ADFI) warns that, regarding the women's day in Saint-Sauge, on Wednesday March 8, the two telephone numbers given in this ad are actually the numbers of the cult 'Energy and Creativity.'"
Since then my husband has also been harassed. He manages theatrical performances and is working on a project called "32 + 32" in the Nièvre region. The project was mentioned in the national papers. The representatives of an anti-cult group in Nevers wrote to members of the General Council to denounce my husband's involvement in this project.
He lodged a complaint, but the complaint was not followed up, which did not really surprise us. The reason given for the lack of follow up was: "Very little damage or trouble caused by the misdemeanor." We should consider ourselves happy, but it is unfortunate that there was still an unjustified mention of "damage", "trouble" and "misdemeanor."
Lille, April 19, 2000
Violent deprogramming techniques have been used on members of Bénédicte's Church.
Some people who had nothing to do with religion came from other countries to kidnap some of our members: young men or women who are over 18 and adult. One of them was 26; his parents had to pay a large amount of money.
I know the case of a person I had met in Korea. This person, who was married, was kidnapped and taken to a house in the Jura (a mountainous region in France). All this with the agreement of her parents, but I don't think they knew what was really going on. The police finally found the house, but it took them a long time.
Two fundamental beliefs of our philosophy are respect for the purity of marriage and of sexuality. They put one of our married members in a house where the toilet had no door. People with big tattoos woke her up in the middle of the night. They simulated rape. She was shown pornographic movies and they mixed the Bible up with all this. They took hold of the Bible and insulted her saying: you are a prostitute for the Reverend Moon.
This person told me that following this "treatment" she had to be treated in a psychiatric hospital for two months in order to regain some sort of equilibrium. To my knowledge, she has been so traumatized that she has been unable to have children.
The founder of ADFI, Mrs. Champollion, stated about deprogramming: "We don't really intend to imitate what is being done in the United-States, but we can be inspired by the practical-mindedness of [American cult members'] families and emulate their courage and their solidarity."
There are three of us from the same family, all girls, who have joined the Unification Church. At first, this wasn't a problem for my mother. But then she became scared due to the atmosphere created by the media. After hearing all these negative things, my mother stopped communication with us. I profoundly regret this. Every time I try to go home, she insults my faith. This media misinformation has driven my mother away from me.
I want to testify for two mothers who were unable to come. Since September last year, the board of the National Education Ministry devised a school program designed to discredit "cults." The daughter of one of those mothers was asked to do a project against her own religion. At the school, they didn't know that it was her religion, but one can imagine how she felt. The same thing happened in the case of my other friend's son, a 16-year-old teenager. In his class they did a project against the Reverend Moon. I have children in primary school myself. If you know something about pre-teenage and teenage psychology, you know it's a moment in life when you are easily impressed by what others think ; teenagers need to feel they belong. So if everybody is talking badly about cults and saying that's what your religion is, imagine how the child feels. It's an inquisition into the child's education. It's a rape of the child's soul."