Brainwashing and Fraud of the Soul
June 18, 2001
Kleine Zeitung Online
An attorney from Graz has been fighting sects and their subtle methods for 20 years. Now he has taken part in a high-level conference
by Bernd Melichar
For 20 years now Graz attorney Peter Steinbauer has been involved in the issue of sects. He counsels former members and advises families who have people in a sect. Often these sessions deal with separations and custody battles.
This past weekend Steinbauer participated in the FECRIS conference in Paris. That included a collection of organizations from across Europe that speak out against "sects and cult dangers." This one was especially for attorneys, and two representatives from Austria were present.
It is important for Peter Steinbauer to mention in advance what neither FECRIS nor he are involved in: "namely the fight against any particular religious community. What we want are legal alternatives against organizations that operate under the cloak of religious freedom for their own purposes, often to line their own pockets."
As concerns the legal situation, France is a couple of steps ahead of the other European countries. "Just recently they passed a law which applies to the recruitment of sect members," Peter Steinbauer described. "It deals tangibly with the abusive influence by which members are exploited. The French have gone so far as to put brainwashing, to which so many are subjected, on a level similar to bodily harm." Steinbauer sees that as the proper route. "This has to do with the wholeness of the individual, on both the physical and the psychic planes."
And the situation in Austria? The attorney from Graz sees it this way: "From the viewpoint of civil rights it is taboo to take advantage of people's naivete, inexperience or mental handicap. However there is nothing that makes it comparable to fraud in criminal law."
Regardless of what sect you deal with, the mechanisms are more or less the same, said Steinbauer. "Refined methods of recruitment, subtle assimilation of applicants, then finally their mental and not infrequently their financial exploitation." Financial exploitation is a fitting description: back in the mid 1980s Steinbauer, a legal assistant, was involved in a model hearing against Scientology. A woman, a former member, took the legal route to demand a refund of about 600,000 shillings which she had "invested" in the sect. "Scientology wanted to do anything to prevent a court decision from being made, and therefore offered a settlement. The woman received every shilling of her money back."
The Graz attorney would like to see more information work and awareness of the problem in Austria. "Anyone who wants can get in - it's just getting out that is very difficult."
Final acceptance of the anti-sect law by the representatives
May 31, 2001
The About-Picard proposed legislation, "with the intent to strengthen prevention and criminal prosecution of sectarian movements," was passed on Wednesday, May 30 by the representatives of the parliamentary groups unanimously.
The text of the legislation, endorsed by the Senate on May 3 (Le Monde of May 5), permits the courts to dissolve legal entities which have the goal of "using psychological or psychic subjugation of persons" and which have been repeatedly criminally convicted. It broadens the legal responsibility of legal entities for certain felonies.
It makes it a crime to fraudulently misuse the weaknesses of people "in a condition of psychological or physical subjugation" by heavy or repeated pressure which is suited to alter judgment. It furthermore permits associations, which fight sects and which are recognized as charitable, to be a party to victims in legal proceedings.
Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu, in the name of the administration, called for a unanimous vote for the text which had been accepted by the Senate. The bill's sponsor, Representative Catherine Picard (PS), did not hesitate to characterize the bill as a "world premiere."
Various attempts to exert pressure on the parliamentarians apparently did not bear fruit. "We are absolutely thrilled that the sects are infuriated," stated Philippe Vuilque (PS), who believes "the upper American administration has been infected by Scientology." Representative Jean-Pierre Brard (PC) derided a "non-existent campaign by the international lobby of sectarian associations" against the legislation.
He thinks that invention by the President of the French Bishop's Conference, Cardinal Billé, and the President of the Protestant Federation, Pastor de Clermont, which criticized the text of the proposal in a letter to the prime minister (Le Monde of May 23), violated the "separation of powers." René André, a representative of the RPR, believed on the other hand that the two clergymen had "the right and the duty to take a position," and that "it would have been an bad sign for the enactment of the proposal if they had been denied that right."
[This article was translated from French to German to English.]
Paris takes a bead on sects
June 23, 2000
Tages-Anzeiger, p. 7
The French National Assembly has tightened up numerous measures to combat the presence of sects. Protests abound.
by Juerg Schoch, Paris
In France there are about 170 sects with more than 400,000 adherents. Several of these associations regularly incite anger and indignation. The Solar Temple tragedy is not forgotten, no more than the unexplained disappearance of important records for a trial which took place in September in Marseille against adherents of Scientology. Socialist Representative Raymond Forni stated at the time that he was not surprised at that sort of action, he rather assumed that the Scientologists enjoyed the protection of the Justice Department. He said that adherents of that sect had also tried to infiltrate the Rights Commission, of which he was chairman.
Forni has since been promoted to Chairman of the National Assembly, and that has now tightened up considerably its legal arsenal against abuses by sects - unanimously, which is the case on few issues. The text of the law proposes that sects which have two violations could be dissolved by court decision. The criminal responsibility of legal persona was greatly extended to cases of practicing medicine illegally, deceptive propaganda, inciting to suicide, etc. Suspicious organizations can be prohibited from establishing themselves in the vicinity of schools, hospitals and retirement homes. They can also be refused construction permits if they already have entries in the criminal record.
Comparisons with Mussolini and China
Most of the discussion centers around a newly created criminal act which is described, in short, as "mental manipulation." Three years imprisonment and a hefty fine are proposed for those who place others in "psychological or psychic dependency" or who use techniques which alter a person's ability to judge so that he commits deeds which involuntarily does him serious damage. The entire text describing this criminal act, which other states do not recognize, is not only long and complicated, but also "spongey," as lawyers and psychiatrists have criticized. That is because, at the clinical or legal level, specific words have various meanings.
Even though these experts wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals from sects, the sects, themselves, have already very sharply criticized the new proposal, especially the part describing the act of manipulation. The Moon Sect (Unification Church) sees parallels to anti-Semiticism, and a spokeswoman for the Scientologists has alleged that several similar laws on mental manipulation were passed by the Mussolini Regime in order to get rid of the communist opposition. On June 14th, American representatives of Churches and similar associations published an open letter in the International Herald Tribune to Premier Minister Jospin which warned explicitly, "If the repressive text becomes law, then the freedoms will be destroyed which make up the difference between China and France; because the government would then have everything it needed to dissolve religious organizations which do not suit them."
France's established churches also have reservations about the new proposals. Just as individual human rights associations have raised critical objections, though with other motives. France is the country of enlightenment and of free thought. A legislative paragraph on "mental manipulation" could also be misused. In any case, the terrain on which the deputation finds itself is delicate. Justice Minister Guigou has commented that "complementary considerations" - the proposal still has to go before the Senate - could be useful.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
12th June 2000
Dear Lord Russell-Johnston,
When we were able to meet last year I was able to brief you about certain problems concerning religious discrimination and what was a trend towards greater intolerance and discrimination in some countries of Western Europe.
Unfortunately, I am in the position of writing to you again with news of another violation of fundamental rights which is occurring right now in France.
A law proposal, which specifically targets religious minorities, was proposed on the 30th May to the French National Assembly and there is an attempt to push it through the whole legislative process within a matter of three weeks - i.e. by the 27nd June.
This has been done, almost certainly with the intent of stifling any debate or opposition to the bill. Having only found out about the proposal ourselves on the 6th June we, and others, are now seeking to point out the basic human rights violations contained in this law and the extremist nature to which it could be put to effect were it to be passed.
To illustrate the bias I believe to be evident, I found it quite amazing that the person who proposed the law on the 30th May, Ms. Picard, then went on to become elected to the Law Commission (the committee of the National Assembly which has to approve the law before it goes to the plenary), became the rapporteur for her own law proposition and (after we had made some public expose of the existence of the bill) has brought forward the date of her report (on her own bill) form the 21th June to the 14th June -- in my view simply with the intention of pushing it through the first burdle [sic] before there is any effective opposition to it.
I believe that you are concerned about respect for fundamental rights and I hope that you will be able to do something about this law proposition before it ever makes it through the Law Commission.
I am enclosing an analysis of the law and a copy of the law itself and am also sending a copy of this letter to the French members of the Parliamentary Assembly so they are fully aware of the issue concerned.
Furthermore, in order to bring it to the attention of the broader public I have also sent out a press release informing the media of the call that the Assembly made in June last year for governments to encourage dialogue and tolerance and not to create new legal measures and informing them of my letter to you.
I hope that you will be in a position to assist in what I consider to be an extremely serious violation of human rights were this law to be passed.
European Human Rights Office
Church of Scientology
Paris (dpa) - The Scientology Organization and the Solar Temple Order have been classified as especially dangerous sects. That was stated in a report from the sect commission to the French administration on Monday in Paris. The Chairman of the Commission, Alain Vivien, made reference to the collective murders of the Order of the Solar Temple in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
"Directed from headquarters in the USA"
Paris dealing with Scientology
Government calls organization "foreign secret alliance"
February 9, 2000
by Gerd Kroencke
Paris - Former Minister Alain Vivien, sect commissioner of the French administration, described the Scientology Organization as a foreign secret alliance in the presentation of his annual report. From Vivien's viewpoint, there are indices that the Scientologists receive their instructions from headquarters in the United States. He spoke of "covert activities issuing forth from a foreign nation." Vivien is chief of the Interministerial Commission to Combat Sects, which was created by the administration for a duration of one year. He avoided listing the most important sects in his report. Besides the Scientologists, he mentioned only the Order of the Solar Temple by name. Both sects were alleged to disregard human dignity and [negatively] "influence public order."
It was said that new laws would be less helpful than citing current paragraphs. Vivien referred to a law introduced in 1936 to dissolve private militia. He believes that that could now be applied "insofar as sects act like a militaristic organization or a secret [intelligence] service." The actual decision is up to the ministerial council in conjunction with the state presidents. A legislative initiative by centrist Senator Nicolas About against dangerous sects may have less prospect of success, although no one has spoken out against it so far.
There had been speculation last year as to whether Scientologists could have infiltrated agencies and courts. There was occasional talk of infiltration of the courts when incriminating documents would disappear while a trial was in process. Sect Commissioner Vivien, in whom the Scientologists see an enemy, is constantly accompanied by a bodyguard. "Alain Vivien is leading a militant battle against us," said Scientology speaker Daniele Gounourd in an interview, "he will burn himself." She said that, with this report, France had put itself on the same level as a banana republic. "The report is bungled, constantly vague, it is a mix of loud noise and fantasy."
Unlike the Scientologists, the Jehovah's Witnesses have carried a victory with them from court. In Rouen, the Administrative court decided that the individual associations of Jehovah's Witnesses are to be viewed as "*cultic communities," and therefore do not have to pay land tax for their [religious] service spaces. In the past the organization had always been described as a sect.
[* "Cult" can just mean a group of people who religiously do something, whereas a "sect" in Europe is often regarded as a group which is trying to hide what it is doing from public view.]
Parisian agency classified Scientology as "totalitarian"
February 7, 2000
Paris, February 7 (AFP) - The Scientology Organization is a threat, in the estimation of the French Sect Control Agency, to "human rights and social equality." It was said that Scientology does propagate religious goals, but is an organization with "totalitarian structure," said the report of the Inter-ministerial Agency to Combat Sects (MILS), which was presented to Premier Minister Lionel Jospin in Paris on Monday. Scientology thereby belongs to the groups which signify a danger for "human dignity" and "public order." The MILS study did name possible actions which the administration and justice departments could take against Scientology, but left the decision of whether the organization should be banned up to the politicians.
Parisian Agency classifies Scientology as "totalitarian"
February 7, 2000
Paris, February 7 (AFP) - According to an assessment by the French anti-sect agency, the Scientology Organization is a threat to "human rights and social equilibrium." Scientology was said to propagate religious goals, but it was an organization with "totalitarian structure," said a report by the Executive Agency to Control Sects (MILS) which was submitted on Monday in Paris to Premier Minister Lionel Jospin. Scientology was thereupon included in the groups which signified a danger for the "public order" and "human dignity." The MILS study did name possibilities for the Justice Department and the Administration to take action against Scientology, but left the decision up to politicians as to whether the organization should be forbidden. The state may not take action against "the content of religious conviction or ideology," but must take care that "laws are not violated under the guise of personal convictions," the agency emphasized in the report. Sects were said to frequently make use of a "religious mask." Several months ago in a newspaper interview, MILS chief Alain Viven had already categorized Scientology as a "totalitarian" and "extremely dangerous" sect which should be banned in France. Besides Scientology, the only organization listed in the MILS report as dangerous was the Order of the Solar Templists. MILS has distanced itself from the assessment of the Scientology Organization in the USA. There, it was said, "sects enjoy an extraordinary protection, as long as they proclaim themselves to be sects." MILS was founded in 1996 and expanded under the Jospin administration. The Scientologists' operations in France are as precisely scrutinized as they are in Germany by Constitutional Security. There is apprehension that key political and commercial positions will be infiltrated. Because of this, Berlin and Paris are regularly heavily criticized by the United States, in which Scientology is recognized as a church. The organization, headquartered in Los Angeles, was founded in 1954 and, according to its own statement, has eight million members worldwide. Their number in France is estimated at 30,000; in Germany, according to findings by North Rhein-Westfalian Constitutional Security, about 5,000.
September 21, 1999
Scientology: Process for Money and Power
Along with the proceedings in Marseille comes the issue of the infiltration of the French state
by Jochen Hehn
Paris - As ever, when Scientologists go before the court in France, it is a matter of very much money, of fraud and of psycho-terrorism. That is the way it was at the first big trial against the Scientology sect three years ago in Lyon; that is the way it went Monday in Marseille, where seven members of the sect, two men and five women, were accused of fraudulently separating a total of ten people from their money between 1987 and 1990 with mental "purification cures."
Unlike Lyon several years ago, Marseille is not just dealing with the "abusive practices" alone of the Scientology sect, which regards itself as a "church." In the background is much more the issue of to what degree the Scientologists have infiltrated society and state in France. This is what the Chairman of the French anti-sect agency, Alain Vivien, is convinced of. The Scientologists have not just managed to systematically infiltrate sports, cultural and health organizations. Their connections go all the way up into the head of government. At one time they even tried to infiltrate the anti-terrorism unit of the French police (Raid). Vivien's opinion has been seconded by Raymond Forni, Vice President of the National Assembly. "It would not at all surprise me," he said, "if this sect was being patronized by or at least had connections within the Justice apparatus." As far as Forni can see, the reliability and the trustworthiness of the Justice Ministry is being put to the test.
Court documents did, in fact, turn up missing in a perplexing manner before the trial in Marseille. A regrettable "mistake" of a chancellory official, as found by Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou. A new postponement of the trial, which has already been ten years in the making, could not be justified. This, however, is not the way the Scientology attorneys see it: the accused were purported to be victims of a "crusade." In reality, it was said, the missing documents would have proved their innocence. Yesterday, however, the court did not approve the attorneys' application to delay the trial.
One and a half tons of investigative material on Scientology had also disappeared from the Parisian Palace of Justice. Contrary to regulations, no copies had been made. Just as embarrassing was the intervening case in 1996, when investigation records disappeared from the safe at the National Assembly. Those had included confidential testimony which was given before Parliament's Sect Committee.
As far as Alain Vivien is concerned, it is finally time to have the "totalitarian" and "extremely dangerous" Scientology sect banned. All French administrations have formerly balked at this action. The last sect report of the French Parliament came to the conclusion three months ago that the French government was in danger of losing control of the problem.
Has the infiltration already progressed too far? Or is Paris shying away from the dispute with the U.S. administration which has repeatedly demanded the basic principle of "freedom of belief" for Scientology? In contrast to France and Germany, the sect enjoys the status of a "church" in the USA, and with that - tax-exemption. During the last visit from U.S. President Bill Clinton in Paris, the French administration avoided the theme. Pressure is also being brought to bear by Heber C. Jentzsch, the President of the American "Scientology Church." He wants to press charges against France at the UNO Human Rights Commission because of the trial in Marseille.
The two witnesses of the prosecution in Marseille are also under enormous pressure. Of the original ten parties, only two are left.
Scientology on the Internet:
Scientology Criticism on the Internet:
Paris considers dissolution of the Scientology Sect
September 16, 1999
Die Presse, Wien
The French anti-sect authorities have their eyes on the Scientologists as a "totalitarian movement"
by our correspondent Reinhold Smonig
Paris. The power play between the French authorities and the Scientology sect is coming to a head. After the Scientology Center in Los Angeles had a word with Elisabeth Guigou, Paris Minister of Justice, because she had arranged for investigations in Paris and Marseille into the disappearance of incriminating material against the sect from the halls of justice, the Paris anti-sect officials are now having their say. On Wednesday, their chief, Alain Vivien, called for the "dissolution" of the Scientology sect.
"Scientology is one of the very dangerous sects," said Vivien, "we are dealing with a totalitarian movement which seeks to install an elite group of people who would dominate the rest of humanity." Legally, a dissolution of the sect is possible by a text in law which has to do with the dissolution of combat groups and private militia. Paris is disturbed mainly by the progressive infiltration of government and private industry by the sect. The justice apparatus appears to be especially concerned.
Unanimous decision by
Council of Europe
for sect victims
June 23, 1999
Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Tagesausgabe, Nr. 142
Strassburg (dpa) On Tuesday in Strassburg, the Council of Europe called for the establishment of national aid organization for sect victims and their family members. The creation of this type of organization is said to be especially necessary in east European countries, according to a unanimous decision by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. Besides that, the members of parliament demanded increased public information on the activities of religious, esoteric and spiritual groups. In this manner they are to get an idea of encroachments like abuse, neglect, indoctrination and brainwashing. Before the debate the American Congress had written a letter to the representatives of the 41 countries who form the Council of Europe requesting that they vote against this decision.
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WASHINGTON, DC 20515
TELEPHONE (202) 225-5021June 18, 1999 Lord Russell-Johnston President The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Palais de l'Europe Strasbourg Dear Mr. President: We were gratified that Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and of the House of Representatives were able to meet in Washington recently. The frank exchange of views between the two sides was important, and for our part we look forward to additional exchanges with the Parliamentary Assembly. In the spirit of candor which is essential to these exchanges, we write on a matter of some importance. We would like to underline a concern that was raised by colleagues in the executive and legislative branches of the United States government during your visit about a draft Report on "The Illegal Activities of Sects" and associated recommendations that are scheduled to be voted on in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on Monday, June 21. Our view, expressed by Representative Christopher Smith in last week's meeting, stresses the inconsistency between provisions of the draft report and the international standards to which Member States of the Council of Europe have committed themselves to adhere. We are concerned both by several of the recommendations, most notably those recommending the creation of sect "information centres" and by the prospect that several of the amendments proposed by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee (and others that may be circulating) would make things even worse, among other things by deleting clauses intended to promote understanding between members of new religions and governments. We are very much aware of, and support, the work of the Council of Europe in the field of human rights, and we are deeply conscious of the important role that Europe plays in modeling and exemplifying human rights ideals. We fear that exaggerated concerns growing out of isolated incidents may lead to overreactions that would compromise religious freedom for many respected and legitimate smaller religious groups throughout Europe, and for groups that do no proven harm, but are merely different enough to be labeled "cults." There are grave risks that encouraging the formation of "information centres" will in fact result in the dissemination of misinformation that will reinforce unfair stereotypes and contribute to the growth of intolerance rather than understanding. These risks are particularly grave in the context of countries in transition, where such centers could easily be used to fan intolerance and to justify discrimination against all but traditional religions. Experience demonstrates that most problems with new religious movements are best addressed by applying time-tested principles of religious freedom: tolerance, understanding and respect. As the Council of Europe has recognized in the past, genuine problems are adequately addressed by existing criminal and civil laws. We accordingly urge the Parliamentary Assembly to reject the draft recommendations, and to continue to rely on Recommendation 1178 (1992), which amply addresses the issues. Sincerely, TOM LANTOS BENJAMIN A. GILMAN Co-Chairman Chairman Congressional Caucus on Committee on Human Rights International Relations CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH Chairman Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
The sects are expanding in France
Enormous commercial success
50,000 children are affected
Parliament demands legal handling
June 22, 1999
by Jochen Hehn
Paris - 152 participants paid about 5,150 marks apiece for a seminar which was intended to describe how to establish contact with angels. For a similar amount of money in a different seminar, it is demanded of prospective managers that they kill a kitty-cat - as a symbol that they are not slaves to their emotions.
Both abstruse example are listed in an investigative report which documents the lust for profit and commercial fantasies used by sects which are operating in France. The conclusion of this report, which was presented by the Sect Investigative Commission of the National Assembly: it is becoming increasingly difficult for the French government to be able to deal with the sect phenomenon. Sects are turning to ever more refined methods, primarily in the expansion of their commercial activities.
More and more of the approximately 60 French sects have developed into highly profitable businesses, the report continues. In the lead are the Jehovah's Witnesses with an estimated yearly profit of 60 million marks. Their property in France alone, which includes about a thousand parcels of real estates, is valued at about 300 million marks. However, the Scientology Organization and the the Sokka Gakkai sect, which stems from Japan, have also recently developed into considerable business undertakings.
The members of Parliament view as disconcerting the increase of sects which appear under the protective cover of charitable organizations and the increasing difficulty which exists in proving any connection to sects. In France alone, Scientology is said to currently have 114 companies or associations which are bringing in a hefty income - which is disputed by spokesmen for the sect. The bandwidth of [sect] commercial interests is concentrated in the fields of business consulting, professional education, training, information and health. Sect offenses in the area of health are especially disquieting. Here about 3,000 "healers" offer their questionable services in the fight against illnesses such as aids.
The report calculates damages by tax evasion and other illegal maneuvers at about 150 million marks. Not included in that are the 90 million marks which the Jehovah's Witnesses have recently been ordered to pay by a court in back taxes.
The members of Parliament are hardly less concerned about sect endeavors to increase influence on youth and children. Sect activity has been found in at least 50 private schools. Sects access the young people primarily through sport or cultural organizations, tutoring and kindergarten care. Sects have also become active in areas for children's vacations. An estimated total of 50,000 children in France are under the influence of sects.
In light of the spiritual and commercial expansion of sects, the members of Parliament are asking the government to deal with the problem. The introduction of criminal code concerning "mental manipulation" is regarded as necessary as the establishment of public information centers. Not least of all, judges who specialize in the handling of sect issues should be installed in career courts. ["Berufungsgerichten"].
In doing this, the representatives have reacted to a sensational court decision which took place two years ago in Lyon. In that decision, a court attested that the Scientology organization could claim the designation of "religion," and carry out its activities under existing law without worry, including their missionary and even their commercial activity. Apparently this decision will remain an isolated case.
The sect report of the French Parliament:
Paris wants stronger controls on sects' commercial activity
June 17, 1999
Paris (dpa) A French National Assembly committee of inquiry has recommended stronger control of commercial operations by sects. The considerable economic activities were mentioned in a report which was presented on Thursday in Paris. Some sects have budgets of many hundreds of millions of francs and considerable wealth. The organizations of Scientology and the Jehovah's Witnesses were mentioned by name in the report.
At the same time the report stated that taxes are often not paid, and some sects accumulate enormous debts. Even legal resorts are without avail since there is no ability to pay, explained correspondent Jean-Pierre Brard.
The commission is applying itself to changing several points of law and ordinances in order to confront debts of this nature. Introducing criteria for mental seduction will also be under consideration, and eventually so will the transferring of large funds through sects.