The sects are today a major concern for states, to the extent that it has established structures to study and fight them. However, the usual approach of the sects in terms of psychical manipulation does not allow understanding such concern. The commissions that have studied the problem do not suggest a precise definition of the sects and do not avoid contradictions. Usually it is observed that the current legislation is enough, although the adoption of new laws is requested. A different approach based on the monitoring of activities held by certain sects in public life may be suggested. The interference of different groups with the political life of some countries allows, in fact, to better understand the concern of the States. The specialization of certain organizations in professional training for high tech sensitive companies is also another particular concern. Finally, the ties that link some of them with the intelligence services deserve special attention. Is it possible that certain sects have been infiltrated by such services or, are they rather the emanation of them? This report suggests a different approach, based on the hundreds of official documents that may be consulted in this website. Could an intelligence activity and political influence in favor of the private groups or certain powers be hiding behind «the phenomenon of sects»?
- The Pope John Paul II and the General Augusto Pinochet
Voltaire Network’s link to secularism plus its struggle for the freedom of speech and public and private liberties are indissoluble: secularism is not the rejection of religion, whatever it may be, but the refusal to let it become a public or collective doctrine.
This strict distinction between public and private life has encouraged us to produce a synthesis about the sects and approach the subject in a specific manner. In times of moralistic differences and deadly dichotomies, the link with secularism is one of the soundest bases that are necessary to understand the situation and what is at stake.
The objective will not be the customary and legitimate approach in terms of psychological and physical manipulation of the people, or in terms of financial crime (although in this regard, there are quite a few official reports of the investigation commissions), but the analysis on interference by these organizations with the political sector and social life as well as the reactions of states and institutions.
This approach does not, of course, make any interpretation of the religious beliefs, no matter how strange or folkloric they might be, nor it makes any comment about the subjective approach in terms of “church” or “sect”.
- The Reverend Sun Myung Monn and the president of the United States Richard Nixon
The Impossible Definition
The phenomenon of the sects is a diverse and changeable reality. It is possible to try to approach it for its typology, through an inventory or its membership. It is possible to try to establish different definitions, as the institutions and defense associations against sects do. That is why the globalization of the phenomenon contributes to hinder the understanding of it.
Then we have that for Mr. Dobbelaere, from the Faculty of Social Sciences of Lovaina, the defined characters for the French parliamentary commission are applied to these groups and institutions, from monasteries to companies, including the political parties. For Luc Nefontaine, from the Free University of Brussels, the four criteria mentioned by the Belgian Minister of Justice could be applied to other communities and Mr.Denaux, from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, feels that other institutions may wish to influence or infiltrate the political power without being considered as sects.
Regarding this impossibility of formally differentiating the sects from the institutions considered as respectable, the reader will welcome with interest the analysis of Mrs. Morelli, from the Institute of Studies on Religions and Secularism of Brussels. The Consultation Commission of Switzerland has curiously echoed such an analysis by estimating that it is not necessary to finish the study of the most important movements of this nature since, by being Christians, although external to big churches, are part of “our” religious environment.
Swiss jurists consider, for their part, that the practice of this illegal acts is more important than the definition, an opinion that is also shared by the president of the Inter-Ministerial Mission on the Fight against Sects (MILS): «a sect is an association, declared or in fact, made up by a totalitarian structure that attempts against Human Rights and social balance (...)the behavior of a movement is taken into account only when it goes against the respect of the public order, which means the laws, Constitution and the international conventions ratified by France».
Legitimately you may wonder about the confusion between human rights, social balance and public order, including the way in which they are translated in terms of law and international conventions, as if the institutions established with our associates make up a horizon that you cannot go beyond, and represent the universal reference.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, President of the National Front and Pierre Ceyrac, European deputy by the National Front itself and Director of Causa, political organization of Moon in France
The Reaction of the States
The Problem of the Sects
- Jean-Marie Le Pen, President of the National Front and Pierre Ceyrac, European deputy by the National Front itself and Director of Causa, political organization of Moon in France
73% of the French population considers that the sects are a threat to democracy (survey conducted by La Vie/CSA, February 2000). However, although the sects are expanding, less than 2% of the global population is part of, or supports any of them, may be either in Switzerland, or in France (bearing in mind even that the estimate is multiplied by 2 depending on the reference source: the defense associations against sects or les Renseignements generaux.(the French political police. [Note by the Translator]). In Belgium, according to Denaux, from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, it is a phenomenon that concerns at most 40 000 people, in a population of 12 million.
It is difficult to refrain from comparing these figures with the victims of marital or family violence that accounts annually for dozens of homicides and thousands of cases of beating.
Status of the Legislation
On the other hand, being members and supporters do not mean being authors or victims of crimes. That is why that the general director for the rights of the children and assistance to youngsters in the French community in Belgium has handled only 7 cases pertaining to sects.
The Investigation Commission of the Belgian parliament indicates that the legal arsenal existing today enables the fight against all kinds of crimes for which sects could be responsible. The general commissioner of the Belgian legal police confirms that the legislation allows to punish the crimes committed by sectarian-like organizations and the government concluded that since there are sufficient political instruments today, it is not necessary to adopt any specific policy in this regard, not even for the protection of minors. The same conclusion applies to Switzerland.
In France, the legislative body feels that we are under a regime that not only ensures freedom of religion but also suppresses the abuses by sectarian movements. The opinion is shared by the executive power, through Alain Vivien, president of the Inter-Ministerial Fight against the Sects, who states «there is no need for the creation of a specific legislation, because the available arsenal is perfectly enough» (Le Figaro, April 29, 1992).
The Real Concerns?
Above all, the concern is big. The Swiss Consultation Commission expressed its concerns about questions raised by the population and which must be highly considered by authorities. In France, the Inter-Ministerial Mission denounced a press agency that echoes “a permanent concern that questions the capacity of the Rule of Law towards the sects”.
The same Mission observed with satisfaction that «some abuses committed by sects and which were «irritating» for the Parisians are happily gone», but the commission is worried because «the situation of some (few) educators, who have been declared active members of sects, remained officially unresolved, although they did not profess their convictions during classes».
What the Swiss Parliamentarian Section has expressed about the sects is an example: it feels that there are sufficient legal grounds but it is difficult to punish the expressions not envisaged by the law and it is therefore necessary that the State gets involved for it seems disoriented. The Section considers that the legislation should be changed as a political sign.
In the section “Special Police Techniques”, the Belgian Minister of Interior, who is also first deputy minister, told the Investigation Commission that, when a blacklisted group is expected to commit crime, it is necessary to act before any crime takes place, even on the risk implied by going against the private life and freedom of association.
The Irresistible Temptation
Although the legal arsenal available has been considered the appropriate one and in order to act against the sects in the absence of a denunciation, evidence or even a considered crime, the French legislators felt it was appropriate to expand the law of January 10, 1936, through the introduction of the mental manipulation notion. Jean-Luc Guilhem suggested a serious and critical analysis of such a law and its temptation to establishing a dichotomy between the diabolic sects and the virginal Republican society.
Since then, the said law was changed and the notion of mental manipulation replaced by the law on abuse of the weakness, which already existed.
Citizens Between Alienation and Control
Since a proper definition of the sects and their practices was not given, the state and the institutions drafted then a device that, in the best scenario, could be described as redundant in the texts already enforced or, in the worse scenario, contrary to freedoms. Such incapacity and its consequences led to essential questions about the ways of social control enforced in our society, questions that Pilles Alfonsi addressed with audacity and lucidity in the article “Sectarian Alienation and Social Control, two faces of mental manipulation?”.
From the second half of the 20th century and the experience of the totalitarian regimes, the lessons learned from History prevent modern states from adopting a collective orthodoxy. Based on that, what takes place is the attempt of recovering it through the description of new heresies.
The Infiltrated political and social life
However, the involvement in the private and social life, beyond the legitimate and necessary protection of the people, for which - it is necessary to remind it - was envisaged in the legal arsenal, the situation is particularly worrying in an area that, precisely, is the responsibility of the state.
Sects, Policy and Institutions
The desire to interfere with the public, political and social life is constant for Churches, something that the Vatican assumes and openly demands, and which inspires bills or legal actions. But it is done in a more effective and discrete way than directly or through parishes, and the Christian community that participates in the social life: through the organization of influential groups, the recruitment of parliamentarians and direct participation in the national and international levels.
The Vatican relies on the Opus Dei that selects and trains political personnel, organizes the political life of the country or international cases, either in Europe or Latin America, or internally participates in international conferences, sharing its actions with other movements and trends. A scientific collaborator of the Free University of Brussels, stated before the Investigation Commission of the Belgian Parliament that the Opus Dei effectively represented specific characteristics of a sect. (About the Opus Dei, please see our report “The Crusade of the Opus Dei”).
The Opus Dei is not the only group with these characteristics, which are a concern for the investigation commissions of the French and Belgian parliaments such as the Inter-Ministerial Mission on the Fight against the Sects or the United Nations.
The hearing before the investigation commission of the Belgian parliament showed that the Order of The Solar Temple, responsible for a serial killing in Canada, France and Switzerland, infiltrated NATO to develop an extremist policy. It could also be seen how the Unification Church (Moon), created by the CIA, participated in major operations and gathered top personalities and institutions, and provided its financial support for the presence of the National Front in Europe, or according to a witness of the said commission, infiltrated France’s the Ministry of Defense or DTS (Note by the translator: Counterespionage French agency).
Infiltrated or Created?
It is impossible not to mention the ties among these sects with certain special services involved in major destabilizing operations or with several agencies (testimonies about the OTS, instruction investigation on OTS, Moon, Opus Dei after the Liberation of France, Order of Knighthood and Political Action). About the doctrine and practices of the Church of Scientology, it is very useful to read the report of the Task Force of the Swiss Commission (especially the parts entitled: history, belief, extremism, policy, intelligence).
On the other hand, Alain Gest, president of the Parliamentary Investigation Commission on Sects, indicated that the published articles in the most important papers were the result of work done by investigators from the CNRS and scientists who maintained close relations with the most important sects. Likewise, Charles De Vroom, general commissioner of the Belgian judicial police, recognized that the Church of Scientology had infiltrated the police.
Such links, as well as the defense of the abovementioned sects by the US Department of State (Inter-Ministerial Mission on the Fight against Sects - Report 2000 and its analysis), constitute the justification for us to wonder if such sects have been infiltrated, created or used as an instrument, nothing of which would be a surprise for the organizations share a common secret and influence.
- Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Japanese sect Soka Gakkai, and Nicolae Ceausescu, Rumanian president
Sensitive Institutions and Target Companies
As indicated by the Inter-Ministerial Mission on the Fight against Sects, the infiltration of social life by the latter ones is observed «almost universally in the ‘breeding ground’ exceptionally influential and in the resources that are pertaining to professional training and psychotherapy».
The seriousness and effectiveness of such an infiltration in the health sector have also raised concern for patients and doctors, said the investigation commission of the French parliament. The Belgian commission referred even to the interest of a former French minister of health in one of these sects that also controlled a health magazine that circulated among the population and held colloquiums. (About the subject on health, please also see “The Sects Storms Health”).
The Belgian Investigation Commission provided an important testimony about the presence of the Anthroposophist Association in the sectors of pedagogy, health, social action and trade.
In addition, regarding the infiltration of civil society by these sects, the French Parliamentary Investigation Commission referred to three important sectarian movements, which have focused on the creation of private elementary and secondary teaching centers or their out-of-the-contract control.
Blind Followers or “Submarines”?
The proselytism aimed at a especially sensitive public, the work to raise funds and the establishment of a breeding ground to recruit the elite seem to be objectives, while the professional training is “one of the most influential factors and resources of sectarian organizations” (Inter-Ministerial Mission on the Fight against Sects).
But obtaining a contract for training opens the doors to associations and companies that have as an objective to gather information, orientation for decision making and reporting, said the Inter-Ministerial Mission. By providing details about the sects involved in this sector, the Investigation Commission of the French Parliament quoted several companies, namely IBM, Thomson CSF, EDF and the nuclear power station of Bugey.
In an important report about the sect Elan Vital (Vital Impulse) by the guru Maharaji, Gilles Alfonsi mentioned nearly 50 companies, and not precisely the smallest ones or even the ones from sensitive sectors, which have resorted - or still resort - to the training structure of such sect.
Let us quote again the Investigation Commission of the French Parliament that refers to Soka Gakkai (sect that originated in Japan, where it founded a party) that is suspected of being gathering information from the nuclear sector and new technologies, another sect that did the same work of proselytism among the staff of a high tech enterprise that depended on the ministry of defense, and the work of another sect among the leaders of nuclear power stations during the development of courses for professional training.