(Reaction of the newspaper to a letter sent in from the Scientology Organization in Basel)
June 11, 2001
Basler Zeitung (BaZ)
In regards to "France tightens up law to fight sects," BaZ Nr. 126
Pity that the article did not mention all the details of the vote, like of over 600 representatives only 30 politicians were present, of which 15 supported the law and 15 withheld their vote. In most western countries that sort of minority (2.5%) decision would not have even been possible. Unanimity is a relative term. Completely foreign is the assertion by one of the few representatives about our influence in the USA. The USA has been acting on behalf of human rights all over the world for years, and now we are supposed to be lurking behind it. The USA is also taking action against China where the Falun Gong movement is being banned with almost identical accusations and whose adherents have been put in work camps. Freedom of belief is not an asset which the state can simply dig out that way. There are enough laws which prevent abuse without having to forbid people from practicing their religion, because most members assemble in institutions in order to observe their beliefs, and that is exactly what the government is trying to prevent.
Annette Klug, Press spokesperson
Scientology Church, Basel
Our correspondent in Paris responded to the above letter from Scientology Basel:
The law in question was, after long rounds of discussion, first in the National Assembly and afterwards in the Senate, finally decided upon with only one vote from the National Assembly against it. It is not at all the exception that more representatives were not present for the final vote on the text which had already been approved by all factions of Parliament; it is more of the rule, and it means absolutely nothing regarding the representation.
Freedom of belief continues to be guaranteed in France by the Constitution. A comparison to the the persecution of the Falun Gong in China therefore seems rather demagogic. The newly approved law attempts to protect people who are particularly psychologically susceptible to various kinds of exploitation and fraud by sects, and to give victims the option of subsequently filing a complaint.
This had proved itself necessary, from the viewpoint of the French representatives of the people in the Senate and in the National Assembly based on numerous regrettable events. In my report I mentioned the tragic example of the "Order of the Solar Temple." How would it be lying to say that outside of them, certain sect leaders misuse the dependency, the hopes and sometimes the doubts of their members for their own personal gain? The criminal code, now with specific articles, addresses this special form of coercion and fraud which targets people who have been made dependent.
Scientology feels significantly affected whenever the cases of fraud are brought up in the discussion about sects. Perhaps that could be explained by the fact that actual members of this organization have already been tried and found guilty in court the past few years?