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NEWS AND INVESTIGATIONS
French News - July 2003
The Helsinki Federation calls attention to violations of religious freedom in France
During a press conference on July 17th, Aaron Rhodes, president of the Federation, presented a report on violations of religious freedom within OSCE. This report attests that some countries limit religious freedom and justify discrminations against religioius minorities " by a discourse influenced by nationalism and intolerance ". Among other countries, France and Belgium are targetted for having published, in the 90's, lists of religious groups presented as " dangerous cults ".
" These politics have attacked mainly groups that have always conducted legal and pacific activities. They encouraged prejudices and intolerance against religions qualified as 'cults ' " can we read in the report. (La Croix)
A CAP booth at the hindu " Ratha Yatra " feast
On july 6th, was held a great manifestation " All India in feast ", " Ratha Yatra ", as every year in Paris since 1989, with the presence of the India, Nepal and Maurice Ile ambassadors. After the launching by the ambassadors, the Krishna chariot did parade along the capital, ending at the " Place des Innocents " place.
There, 4000 free meals were offered, and songs ended the day. Cap was present to explain and promote religious freedom all day long and many contacts were made, along with lively discussions.
Jacques Chirac and the 1905 law
The french president has (unofficially) made known that he did not approve a revision of the 1905 law (the law that sets up the separation between the State and Churches), in order not to open wide an explosion of claims. " This law has proven its flexibility, " his advisers would comment, " and its capacity in permitting all religions to express themselves ; this is a conciliation law which does not need to be modified. "
defenders of " laicite " assert that " Laicite " would not be a simple
settlement between different viewpoints, but a universal idea " above
" the various pratices and chapels, designed to replace the ancient
visions of the world, religious or not. Consequently, it is logical
that some teachers and " laic militants ", as well as feminists, have
petitioned to refuse a law focused on the muslim veil (Baroin Proposal),
which would deal with occasional specific issues.
Creation of a national Committee of Evaluation on Laicite
On Tuesday, July 1st, french president Jacques Chirac entrusted Bernard Stasi, mediator of the Republic, with the direction of a " Committee of evaluation on the application of the principle of laicite in French Republic ", keeping in mind " neutrality of public services, respect of pluralism, religious freedom, freedom of speech, reinforcement of cohesion and brotherhood among citizens, a refusal of discriminations, equality between sexes and dignity of women. This committee, composed of 20 " wise men " (and women), is constituted on the pattern of the 1987 commitee on the " code of nationality " and will consult with political parties, religious authorities and the civilian society.
Among members, one can find Regis Debray, Alain Touraine and Rene Remond, and it will include teachers, specialists on religions and elected representatives.
" One should not focus on the muslim veil ", stated B. Stasi, insisting that the committee should discuss more largely about the " issue of laicite within the republic ".
The conclusions and proposals will be handed over to the French President before the end of the year, after a public debate as large as possible, giving attention to all trends of opinions.
june 16th, during a special day on " Islam and Occident ", a group of
muslim persons including a young woman wearing a muslim veil, walking
towards the benches of National assembly, is stopped by a guard explaining
that " the veil is forbidden inside the assembly ".
Rumours and non conventional medicines
Takiwasi association, which has been dealing with rehabilitation of
drug addicts and study of traditional medicine, was founded by a french
naturopath, Jacques Mabit, and runs a center in Peru, while having an
admkinistrative center in France.
Taking advantage of the 2001 About-Picart law, a judge in Pau started a legal proceeding against Takiwasi under the charge of fraudulent abuse of mental weakness, following a plaint from a family, no member of which had really dealt with the association. One then could see attacks in the newspapers, with imagined details, whereas no precise accusation has been mentioned in the legal case.
Although the judge did not even hear the association's representatives nor their witnesses, the inquiry was left opened, wich enabled associations like ADFI to relay and amplify rumours.
family's medical doctor was then suspended by the French Order of Medicine
as he had advised the center Takiwasi for treating the family.
CAP is publishing an open letter to the National Committee of Evaluation of Laicite
Noting that, despite denials, the discussions of the commitee will be haunted by the " problem " of the islamic veil and immigration, rather than examining ways of promoting an authentic pluralism of philosophy and beliefs, the Coordination of Associations and Individuals for freedom of beliefs (CAP LC) has sent a letter to the President of the Committee, Mr Bernard STASI, asking that the Committee include in its considerations the situations whereby various spiritual and philosophical trends are enduring exclusion and ostracism, especially since the publication of the 1996 parliamentary report and the 2001 About-Picart law.
In its letter, CAP proposes that the Commitee bring up the following questions : Where should the State and its institutions stop in approving or stigmatizing such or such trend of belief or conviction ? What may be said or not in a school manual ? Where should a major or a local representative stop as far as expressing its preferences or antagonisms ?
The text calls attention as well to non-conventional medicines and personal improvement subjects which endure similar campaigns of denigration, very similar with those targetting spiritual minorities.
WISDOM AND HISTORY
In France, August is traditionnaly a month when people go and recover new, energy, whether in nature, culture, sea or retreat.
A good entertainment is the Foix yearly summer spectacle with 250 actors, featuring the incredible epic of Cathares, those southern French heretics who fought for their freedom of belief (but lost at last, around 1250, during Inquisition). Foix was one of the last resisting bastion.
Well, it did not prevent Foix, last month, from cancelling a regular purchase of quarters by a group listed on the " black list " of cults, because of its presence on that list, being considered therefore as " heretic ". Is history doomed to repeating itself endlessly, without mankind acquiring understanding and wisdom from their past ?
A new precedent regarding the General Intelligence (1) files
(1) Renseignements Généraux
11 years of proceedings, in a decision of July 30th 2003, the State
Council (Conseil d'Etat, the suprme french administrative Court) has
ordered the General Intelligence Agency (Renseignments Gnraux) to
communicate to Michel Raoust, president of CFSD (Comittee of french
Scientologists against Discrimination) any informations contained in
their files, informations that had been denied him under the guise of
" public security ".
In this precise case, the State Council has refuted the public security argument, not seing any objective fact in the folder concerning M. Raoust or the Church of Scientology to support this. As a consequence, " M. Raoust is entitled to ask for the cancelling of the decision which denies him communication of his file. "
This decision sets up a new precedent as, for the first time, the top administrative court asks the CNIL and the Interior National Department (in charge of General Intelligence agency) to justify by objective elements their argument of " public security ".
" We are glad that the State Council has brought to light the gross error of the General Intelligence Agency regarding our President ", said CFSD'secretary. " As a consequence, we demand a cancellation of the parliamentary list featuring 172 'cults', by reason it's wholly based on the General Intelligence agency's works. "
In an interview to " La Croix " newspaper (the Catholic national daily news), Francois Bayrou, deputy of Atlantic Pyrenees and President of UDF (a liberal non-gaullist political party), has repeated that religious conviction is a right, per Article N¡ 10 of the Declaration of Human Rights. " By voting a prohibitive law (against islamic veil), it could be rejected as anti-constitutional or being countered by the European Court of Human Rights. The result would be worse than current situation. " Per him, " laic believers have a particular responsibility. They, better than anyone else, can express the open caracteristic that laicite should have. "
As officially registered in "Seine et Marne " (a french department near Paris), an association has just been constituted in order " to join former members and friends of the MILS - a state institution designed to fight against " cults ", disbanded one year ago -, in order to defend the principles and methods of action of this former mission. " Everyone knows how much these famous " methods " had been disapproved from all avenues, especially for its very special use of public funds. Will these former " friends " - who must have forgotten their noisy disagreements - only view with nostalgia photos from their many travels ?
Start of the European Institute in Science of Religions
institute (IESR), which had been planned in the 2002 Debray report on
teaching of religious facts at school, has opened in Paris on June 19th,
under Claude Langlois, former president of the religious science section
of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. Regis Debray is president of
the managing council. Its purpose is to train teachers and the personnel
of a few national departments : foreign affairs, " Interieur "(2) and