USA - France - Religion

Religious freedom in France: according to the Protestants the USA is poorly informed

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Paris, France
May 15, 2001

Paris May 15 (AFP) - The president of the French Protestant Federation (FPF), Pastor Jean Arnold de Clermont, stated on Tuesday that the American complaints against France concerning religious freedom were based by and large on poor information.

"The chapter dedicated to France in the State Department report on Religious Freedom in the world is very deficient," he stated and opined that the American administration was relying on biased informants for its accusations against France.

He nevertheless thought it was "quite normal for one country to ask questions of another" regarding the manner and method it respected fundamental freedoms.

At the end of April Pastor de Clermont visited Washington at the invitation of the Institute for Religion and Public Politics for a meeting at which American churches participated.

At an interview with journalists at the close of the session of the Protestant Federation, the FPF President reminded them that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbad any intervention by the state into the area of religion. In stressing "the extreme difference of the situation between the two states," he thought it was "completely legitimate for the French administration to be acting legislatively in the area of religion."

Pastor de Clermont also brought up the opposition by the Protestants to the first version of the "About-Picard" legislative proposal against sects. He said the joint mobilization of the FPF and the Catholic Church made it possible "to break the parliamentary consensus" so that the project would continue to be sensibly developed, he added.

The text, past by the Senate in the second session, was discussed in the National Assembly in the second half of May.

Michael Parmly, a representative from the State Department, still expressed the "concern" of the United States regarding this legislative proposal, which threatens religious freedom according to Washington.

In accordance with a law of October 27, 1998, the American State Department is obligated to consider the local status of religious freedom in its relations with foreign states.

AFP 151623

This article was translated from French to German to English.

France declares war on Scientology and demonstrates powerlessness

Paris, France
October 2, 1999

by Sabine Heimgaertner, dpa

Paris (dpa) - A true idyll: in the middle of the romantic waterway of the French capitol, the Saint Martin Canal in the east of Paris, a picturesque, lighted houseboat sways back and forth. The background is soft green, along the quay wall gas lanterns spread their warm light - romantic Paris, pretty as a picture.

The French magazine "Paris Match" has just let us know that the boat with the name of "Margaux" is the temporary residence of special commissioners from the US-based Scientology organization. A documentary by the magazine stated that, since April, the American envoy has had the assignment of recruiting new members in the higher centers in France.

Since then the French officials, and primarily Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou and Alain Vivien, the sect commissioner who reports to her, have again taken up arms, so far without success, against the organization which sees itself as a religious community under its founder, Ron Hubbard. Quite the contrary: since the beginning of September, documents having to do with the Scientology trial at the Marseille State Court have been disappearing by the pound, two weeks before a trial of seven members of the organization, the political leadership is standing on its head and the media are officially flailing them.

"Why this rift between political statements of intention and the fact that nothing to speak of had been done since the last sect report 16 years ago?" railed the political magazine "Le Point" in its last edition.

Guigou described as "very serious" the scandal in Marseille in which an allegedly clueless court employee chased 3.5 tons of court documents into the file shredder, among them the Scientology documents, because she believed that the trial was already over. Upon that, Guigou commissioned the French state attorney general to investigate the mysterious event.

The presiding president of the French National Assembly, Raymond Forni, did not intend to wait for the results: "Not for one second" did he believe in an oversight, much rather the documents were to have been intentionally taken out of circulation in order to impede the proceedings against Scientologists who have been charged with fraud.

Their declared goal is no secret: according to their guru, Ron Hubbard, members are supposed to gain as much influence as possible in public life.

It said in the "Paris Match" report that, in France, the organization controlled at least 100 businesses, including private schools. The number of members was said to be about 10,000.

"Again the question arises of whether certain state agencies have been infiltrated by sect organizations," was even to be heard from France's Premier Minister Lionel Jospin after the Marseille scandal.

Particularly unsettling: the case in southern France is not the first.

A year ago, two out of ten volumes of criminal investigations into matters of Scientology disappeared out of the Parisian Palace of Justice. To this day they have not reappeared. The question arose as to why the presiding judge had had no copies made of the charging documents.

Sect commissioner Alain Vivien, who is openly vilified in the press releases from Scientology, has recently brought up a third case: the rumor that members of organizations categorized as sects in France, but describe themselves as churches, had worked their way into the front offices of former State President Francois Mitterrand, had never been denied, he said.

France is looking almost enviously at Germany, where members of the organization have been under surveillance by the Constitutional Security agency for two years, and who are said to have been hindered in the practice of certain professions with the help of a so-called "sect filter," especially in Bavaria. France does not intend on going that far, at least not officially.

In the "Le Figaro" newspaper, sect specialist Vivien has, however, described Scientology as "extremely dangerous," but he added that the influential group could not be generally banned due to the liberal French laws. On top of that, the Scientology association would have to be implicated in a serious crime first, according to a 1936 law.

Paris rejects U.S. report on religious freedom

Paris, France
June 16, 1999
Frankfurter Rundschau

Paris, (kna). The French administration's sect commissioner has formally protested at the U.S. Embassy in Paris about a U.S. American administrative report on restrictions on religious freedom in Europe. Religious freedom in France, with the exception of the German occupation, has not been tampered with for more than a century, said Alain Vivien, the President of the French Sect Commission, according to French newspaper reports on Tuesday. The U.S. accusations were said to be unfounded. He said that one of the commission delegates who reviewed religious freedom in April in France was affiliated with the Scientology Organization.

In the report the U.S. administration called upon the governments of Belgium, Germany, France and Belgium to no longer politically or morally hinder "new groups and religious minorities." Just the mere presence of the sect commissions in these countries were said to give the public the impression that new religious categories were engaged in illegal activities. In this way, the report said, intolerance was being promoted.