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CULT IN FRANCE : Article
September 2007

 


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Interview of Mr. Vanneste, MP, about the Commission of Investigation

March 2007

CAP LC: Good Morning, you are Mr. Vanneste, MP, and you are a hero for minorities which are attacked today. Indeed you are the only MP not to have signed the report of the latest Commission of Investigation on cults.

First question: what justified this decision?

Mr. Vanneste: Three things. The first one is that I highly prize the idea of tolerance and I think that, in France, this idea is not exploited enough. One does not enough respect the difference which can exist in the field of spirituality, of religious reflection. So one has a tendency to privilege a pensee unique and I am fighting this fault which heavily weighs on our country. Then there is a second reason, it is that I have not been pleased with the way the Commission has worked as they have essentially focused on prosecution and never for the defence. In particular, we did not listen to the representatives of minority spiritual groups who were namely accused, and in an often heavy way in the debates of the Commission or by some people we have heard. Finally, I was also completely hostile to some of the conclusions of this Commission. Some were acceptable, I think for instance in particular about the obligation for the parents to declare a child at his birth and the inscription as an offence in case of non-declaration. This is common sense. On the opposite, the restriction to freedom of education for the parents seems to me, on the opposite, a completely intolerable infringement of the State on prerogatives which belong above all to the family.

CAP LC: Indeed we have noticed during this Commission that they investigated for the prosecution. On the opposite, the various representatives of the ministries, and in particular Mr. Leschi, have in the end talked for the defence. In you opinion, why did the Commission not take into account the declarations of competent people who in the end stated that there were not these 80.000 children in danger?

Mr. Vanneste: In fact the figures are completely false. They mention a global figure of 80.000 children in danger, taking into account all potential children, taking into account possible members, “reputed to be members” as they say in the report, of movements characterized as cults. Most minority spiritual movements trust their children to either private or often public structures, and besides this raises no problem. There is the case of the most often mentioned movement and which is the most important due to the number of their members: the Witnesses of Jehovah. All contacts I had with them demonstrate that their children usually go to public schools and that this does not raise any problems. Therefore it is quite warped judgment and an attempt to transform the mere belonging to a spiritual group into a criminal offence and this is incompatible with my conception of democracy. Therefore, the amount of children brought up by their parents is extremely lower to this 80,000 figure They are often children who have objective handicaps, and the Commission has recognized this, and sometimes children whose parents consider they have to ensure their education themselves; but, there again, the control already exists on one side from the townhall and on the other side by the academic inspection.

Therefore if these controls are done in an efficient way, there is not the least risk and as this corresponds to a very precise ruling of the Code of Education, I really do not see why they make such a hullabaloo about this question, simply because they felt like it, because it was a profitable move on the political level, this gave the good image of defending these unhappy children against these horrible cults. But out of 19,000 reports, there were 8 cases related to cults; 8 cases out of 19,000 reports of problems related to children, it is extremely small and besides, this lead the representatives of the ministries to completely minimize the interest this question represented.

CAP LC: What were, according to you, the motivations of the President and Vice-President to make such uproar around this subject?

Mr. Vanneste: I think there are two motivations. There is a highly political motivation and once again when one does not have a subject, one talks about the Loch Ness monster of the French Parliament, as every 2 or 3 years, they create a Commission to study this horrible plague, while, setting aside the terrible episode of the Solar Temple, there has never been a specific problem and, one more time, if one would intelligently distinguish really harmful cults as Belgians do, from minority movements at the spiritual level, on the other side, we would not be in this situation of accusing every body, which comes down to accuse no one.

Therefore the point was to make themselves important, and they perfectly made it. Then, there is a duller typically French motivation coming from far before which is: the quest for a totalitarian secularity, a secularity which is not Anglo-Saxon tolerance, i.e. neutrality in front of freedom of conscience, but on the opposite the will to promote a unique teaching so that all children become Republican citizens educated according to only one pattern. This is a French tendency which exists - as Furet (1) very well analyzed it - since the Revolution went astray, i.e. the problem was born about 1793 and as you well know, it was La Terreur, i.e. they confound Freedom and Equality : these two are enemy-sisters (see Bergson) therefore they must be balanced. If too much preference is given to equality, they kill freedom, and it is exactly what is happening. The school of equality, which besides still has to be proved, mustn’t be a school where freedom is excluded.

CAP LC: According to you, with Mr. Brard’s presence, is there an ideological side?

Mr. Vanneste: Yes, he is at home, it is very clear; he really is the revival of Fouquier-Tinville.

CAP LC: According to you, was there an intention, a computation to rebound on the bill of child protection to make pressure?

Mr. Vanneste: No, it was the opportunity, because you know it well, any legislative modification, any amendment enjoys some publicity and therefore when they want to convert the try, they write a report, they talk about the reports, they convert the try by talking a second time about the amendment which does not go very far as at the level of the Senate, it only takes back the constant jurisprudence of the Court of Cassation. M.P.s wanted to go further as some straightly wanted to limit the possibility for parents to bring up their children at home to the only objectively valid cases, i.e. in particular handicaps.

CAP LC: Without asking you to betray parliamentary confidenciality, how can it be explained that some hearings were made in camera by this Commission?

Mr. Vanneste: Ah, this was completely legitimate: it was when dealing with facts of a too private and specific nature. What we can regret is that there was no hearing of representatives of spiritual movements that could have answered some questions. Still, there were strong suspicions and apparently sound accusations which were made; now even in these cases the accused had to be heard. It has not been done; the verifications I have done here and there for some facts, and I think in particular about the ones concerning the Japanese Soka Gakai cult, show that the accusations proved to be completely false.

CAP LC: Thank you

End of the interview

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