Preemptive war against "sectarian movements and deviations"

Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers int.

HRWF Int. (05.02.2004) - Website: - Email: - Decree in 2002-1392 of November 28, 2002 which abolishes the MILS and replaces it with the MIVILUDES grants this new State institution with the mission "to observe and analyse the phenomenon of movements with a sectarian character" and to fight against sectarian deviations.

To what extent is this provision operational and does it give the MIVILUDES a well-defined and verifiable sphere of activity?

What movements with a sectarian character?

In the section entitled "1 - Analysing the deviations," the MIVILUDES report neither defines nor specifies what must be understood as "movements with a sectarian character". The MIVILUDES admits that it is legally impossible to define a religion, a sect, or a sectarian deviation.

The MIVILUDES is very careful not to take a stand on the parliamentary list of sectarian movements and the question can be raised whether it would be politically correct to question it. Another important fact is that the report silences the fact that the said list has no legal value and recalls that due to the separation of powers, it cannot "unlist" any movement. Are religious and philosophical sectarian movements in the parliamentary list, "movements with a sectarian character", the MIVILUDES should deal with? Although this is a major issue, it does not take any stand but remains in a state of limbo.

A movement practising reproductive cloning and - religious and non-religious ?-"socially controversial groups or movements" apparently fall under its jurisdiction, according to the report.

What sectarian deviations?

The MIVILUDES outlines its sphere of observation and analysis as "actions that violate human rights, fundamental rights, or that represent a threat to public order,"as well as misuse of weakness as defined by the About-Picard law.

The report first describes the method used by administrations involved in the fight against sectarian deviations, a field said to be untouched by any previous research. The dangerosity criteria listed in the report of the parliamentary commission were useful to them all along their groupings but there is no trace of normative contribution by the MIVILUDES in their quest.

Throughout the report, we can notice a small sign of stand by the MIVILUDES in favour of a number of criteria that are "the hard core of the concept of sectarian deviations": mental destabilisation, breaking off with the original environment, misuse of weakness originating from physical or psychological subjugation, indoctrination or confinement of children in desocialising educational principles. Most of these concepts are unfortunately not clarified with operational definitions, although the latter are certainly much demanded by administrations.

The fight upstream beyond offences

The publicizing of offences which have already been committed by some groups is not sufficient for the MIVILUDES mandate to be fully fulfilled. The fight against sectarian movements by nature and against sectarian deviations in other movements must also be carried out upstream. Prevention is by nature good and quite laudable but major reserve is essential if it is a harassment policy or even a preemptive war led against movements that are suspected or accused - without any judgment - of being sectarian. Here, the MIVILUDES does not take any distance with the policy of the late MILS as far as its policy is concerned, even if its methods have become much more discreet and civilized.

Under the cloak - or the mask - of fight against sectarian deviations, the MIVILUDES primarily targets new religious movements, groups of families or individuals united around an alternative life project, associations of psychotherapists as well as movements of psychological well-being and alternative professional training sessions. Last but not least, it eventually takes a very firm stand on one point: it "will report the sectarian movements which occupy the sphere of permanent training to extend their influence and to proselytize actively.". As it is phrased, this determination can only receive unanimous ovation from the authorities.