The French government, in the person of its minister Marlene Schiappa, took a very questionable decision by choosing to increase funding to the "anti-religious police", the controversial ministerial mission called MIVILUDES, now under the ministry of the Interior. Bribing this anti-religious body with French taxpayers' money means directly funding the infamous FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults), which has always been financed largely by MIVILUDES. Let us remember that FECRIS, through its federated micro associations scattered as metastases in dozens of European and non-European countries, has been trying for decades to negatively influence the policies of the governments of these countries with regard to freedom of religion and belief.
For thirty years anti-cult groups and individuals such as Ursula Caberta, Executive of the Task Force on Scientology at the Hamburg Internal Affairs Authority, have generated a climate of persecution against Scientology and various other religious groups by wasting public funds. That task force ceased its activity in 2010, but Ursula Caberta continued to work as a government consultant until 2013, and even afterwards she persisted in spreading intolerance and prejudice far beyond the territory of Hamburg, thanks also to the disinformation campaigns spread by its anti-cult associates, such as the French state funded FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults) which still hosts Caberta's theories on its website.
by Rosita Šorytė — Bernadette Rigal-Cellard is the most well-known specialist of new religious movements in the French academia. She is Professor of North-American Studies and Religious Studies at the Université Bordeaux Montaigne, where in 2005 she founded the multidisciplinary Master Program “Religions and Societies.” She has also studied the relations between religions and literatures, the religious landscape in the United States and Canada, and the transatlantic religious relations between North America and France. In a recent article in Implicit Religion, she tells, not without humor, the story of how, when she entered the “forbidden” domain of the study of Scientology, she started being attacked by anti-cultists.
by Massimo Introvigne — It is customary in Australia to publish stories about religion for Easter, and The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, both owned by Nine Publishing (the company that resulted from the merger between Nine and Fairfax) obliged by publishing aggressive articles against the Church of Scientology. The articles are a digest of anti-Scientology rhetoric, insisting on what has recently became a curious fad among anti-cultists, the idea that Scientology is “shrinking fast,” what one of the best Australian scholars of new religious movements, Bernard Doherty, has recently called the “historically naïve predictions of its demise.”
by Massimo Introvigne — “Dans l’ombre du covid, la tentation sectaire”: “In the shadow of the COVID, the cults’ temptation.” This was the main title in the front page of the Lausanne daily Le Temps for March 26, reporting on interrogations filed by politicians of different parties to the Grand Council of the Canton of Vaud and the City Council of Lausanne. The politicians quoted recent documents produced by the French governmental anti-cult agency MIVILUDES, that we reviewed and criticized in Bitter Winter. They asked whether the same “cultic deviances” (dérives sectaires) were not at work, taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis, in the Canton of Vaud.
by Massimo Introvigne — Imagine if Cheng Quanguo, the CCP Secretary in Xinjiang who is under sanctions in the United States for his crimes against humanity, appeared in the West claiming he is persecuted by the Uyghurs and their friends in the democratic world, and hailing his concentration camps as model practices other countries should imitate. Or, in the 1930s, if Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels had lectured at a conference in Paris introducing themselves as victims of a persecution by the Jews, their American supporters, and the scholars who had written against Nazi anti-Semitism. Comedians who would propose this as a satirical show would be accused of bad taste.
by Massimo Introvigne — In late Winter last year, Shincheonji, a religious movement few non-Koreans had ever heard about, became a household name overnight as the ultimate “plague-spreading cult,” after one of its members was identified as an (involuntary) “superspreader” of COVID-19 in South Korea. Shincheonji and its leader, Chairman Lee Man Hee, were accused of having obstructed the anti-COVID-19 effort by not cooperating with the health authorities. Chairman Lee himself was arrested.
The French and Taiwanese experiences are not isolated. The tactic of using the tax system (very often already oppressive for all citizens) is used practically everywhere. Stigmatizing the target of one's aggression a tax evader has the obvious purpose of making him unpopular and justifying the limitation of his rights. Today we publish this interesting analysis by Christine Mirre, deputy director of FOB sister company CAP-LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience), a United Nations ECOSOC-accredited NGO.
The practice of deprogramming is one of the sad - and sinister - topics denounced by FOB and other friendly organization and part of the battle for the respect of freedom of belief. Recent reports recounting the abuses suffered by believers of Shincheonji in South Korea, have brought the practice back into the public eye. In a ruling issued on November 27, 2020, the Hiroshima High Court confirmed that the abduction and detention of believers for the purpose of coercively "de-converting" them, is a crime.
Marlène Schiappa entrusts MIVILUDES to write a report on "sectarian drifts imported from the United States"
During the program "Dimanche en politique" Marlène Schiappa, Minister Delegate at the Minister of the Interior, in charge of Citizenship, declared that "More and more families influenced by Evangelical branches from the United States are asking for certificates of virginity".
by Alessandro Amicarelli — “We put a lot of enthusiasm in our work as volunteers. If we said we were Scientologists, we were accused of proselytizing for our church. If we didn’t say it, we were accused of hiding our identity for some sinister purpose.” This was Luigi, an Italian Scientologist, raising his hand and offering a comment during the Webinar organized on January 5 by the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions on “New Religious Movements in the time of COVID-19: Actions, Counteractions, and Consequences.”
Despite criticism it has received from mainline international scholars of new religious movements, anti-cultism is a dominant force in Russia. Its origins date back to the repression of groups labeled as sekty in the Russian Empire. In Soviet times, the State dealt directly with religious groups it regarded as dangerous, and offers of collaboration by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) were rejected. However, cooperation between the ROC and the State in the fight against “cults” was resumed in the 21st century, and focused particularly on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Japanese judges confirm that kidnapping and detaining believers for the purpose of coercively “de-converting” them is a crime.
by Willy Fautré — On 27 November, the Hiroshima High Court in Japan found guilty five persons involved in the kidnapping and confinement of a married couple for the purpose of forcibly de-converting them. The accused will have to pay damages to the victims: 610,000 yen (about 6,100 EUR) to the husband and 1,110,000 yen (11,100 EUR) to the wife.
by Alessandro Amicarelli — In these days, there are associations for “victims” of everything, from bullying in school to defective electronic products. As an attorney, I am sensitive to the fact that in the U.S. there are even associations of “victims” of lawyers. Several of these associations exist in the field of spirituality and religion. For example, groups such as Catholics Anonymous or Recovering Catholics gather “victims” of Catholicism—not of sexual abuse or with other specific grievances, just ex-members claiming that being part of the Roman Catholic Church was a victimizing experience.
In parts of Germany, to work for the government and for several private companies, or even play violin in an orchestra or obtain a bonus for buying an e-bike, you should declare you are not associated with a certain religion. Claudia is a violinist. She had started a promising career when she defended her religion, which had come under criticism from certain quarters, in a TV show. Then, all hell broke loose. She started losing job opportunities, and the director of one orchestra she worked with, a personal friend, was threatened until he was compelled to fire her.
A provision allegedly introduced to cut foreign funding to Islamic radical groups may in fact severely limit the activities of hundreds of different religious movements.
by Alessandro Amicarelli — Bitter Winter has covered the new French draft law on extremism, explaining why, as it previously happened in Russia, measures intended to contain Islamic radicalism and terrorism create dangers for freedom of religion or belief in general. One provision of the draft law that was overlooked by many, and which is no less dangerous than others, is Article 38.
Administrative liquidation, harassment of groups labeled as “cults,” total ban on home-schooling are deemed as being against the French Constitution.
by Massimo Introvigne — French Council of Ministers will examine on December 8 the controversial draft law against “religious extremism.” I am among the authors of a White Paper arguing that, while some provisions of the draft law make sense in a country plagued by terrorism using ultra-fundamentalist Islam as its ideology, several provisions are dangerous for religious liberty. Bitter Winter also called the attention on the religious freedom problems of the text.