From the MILS to the MIVILUDES

No fundamental change in France’s discriminatory policy
towards new religious movements.

"France must remain on the list of countries to be kept under scrutiny by the
international community on the grounds of its discriminatory religious policy, says
Human Rights Without Frontiers Int. in Brussels"

Willy Fautré (Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers - HRWF)

HRWF Int. – Website - The first annual report of the MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight against Sectarian Deviances) which was released on 26 January 2004 clearly highlights the fact that France’s discriminatory policy towards new religious movements has not fundamentally changed since the abrogation on 28th November 2002 of the decree creating the MILS (Interministerial Mission of Fight against Sects), which was so much discredited, and that only cosmetic changes have been brought to it.

Despite the change of name, laudable efforts to define the concept of "sectarian deviances", less aggressive language and the apparently different objectives of the new state agency, nothing has fundamentally changed in practice. The targets are not sects any more but sectarian deviances of solely new religious movements (NRM): "healing movements, pseudo-evangelical groups, apocalyptic and eastern movements", according to the first annual report of the MIVILUDES.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Scientology, Raelians and groups of psychological well-being are particularly targeted. The new policy of the Ministry of the Interior accommodating Jehovah’s Witnesses’s victories before quite a number of administrative courts is silenced in the MIVILUDES report, probably because the court decisions are considered too favourable to them: most of their congregations have indeed acceded to the status of association cultuelle, the most favourable status enjoyed by associations linked to 'historical' religions.

The system of surveillance of NRM and of denunciation put in place by the MILS has remained unchanged and is fully used by the MIVILUDES. Vigilance committees in 56 departements under the authority of the prefect (Ministry of the Interior), the various services of the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Justice, directors and teachers of public schools, Ministry of Economy and Finances (tax department and customs department), the medical and pharmaceutical association... will go on tracking NRM for their "sectarian deviances". Most of the staff and of the anti-sect actors working under the MILS pursue their activities under the new leadership of the MIVILUDES.

According to the MIVILUDES, there are no sectarian deviances in Islam, a religious movement newer in France that Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor in the Catholic Church or in any other ‘historical’ religion in France. Sexual abuses committed by four Raelians, along with the founder and two members of the group Instinctothérapie, are presented as a sectarian deviance in the report of the MIVILUDES but cases of sexual abuses perpetrated by Catholic priests and believers are not denounced.

There is hardly any information about anti-sect groups such as the UNADFI and CCMM although they are almost totally financed with public money and work very closely with the MIVILUDES. No information on the budget of the MIVILUDES is mentioned in the report and the real cost of the French policy towards NRM is not available either. There is also a total lack of transparency about the information sent to the public by mail, email or on the phone.

Human Rights Without Frontiers Int. recommends to the international community and all the actors involved in the fight for freedom of religion and belief and against religious discrimination and intolerance to keep France’s policy regarding NRM under scrutiny.