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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 29Jan01

By Kent Larsen

Proposed French Law Calls Mormons 'Dangerous Cult'

PARIS, FRANCE -- A proposed law that is expected to pass France's parliament this week would classify Mormons as a "Dangerous Cult" and subject missionaries to criminal penalties for "mental manipulation." The controversial law has been attacked by even mainstream churches not on the law's list of "dangerous cults" and civil liberties advocates, who worry that the law will diminish religious freedom in France and discourage proselyting.

The proposed law contains two main provisions. First, it would make it a crime to engage in "mental manipulation," a term the law's opponents consider too vague and open to interpretation, in spite of the legislature's attempt to tone down that provision this past month. Second, the proposed law would allow judges to dissolve religious organizations whose leaders are convicted of two or more criminal offenses. Other provisions ban sects from advertising and prohibit them from opening missions or soliciting members near schools, hospitals or retirement homes.

The law's opponents cover a wide variety of activists, religious leaders and government officials. The interreligious Institute on Religion and Foreign Policy, based in Washington DC, opposes the legislation. Its president, Joseph Grieboski, says the law is part of a disturbing trend. "This is a very dangerous piece of legislation. It's also our concern that this legislation is not just an infringement on religious freedoms in France. It sets a very bad model in places like Eastern Europe and Russia when a state like France, a liberal, democratic bastion, infringes on the free expression of religious belief."

Former (until last week) US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the proposed law "a danger to freedom of religion." "The proposed legislation is part of a disturbing trend in western Europe where some states have adopted or are considering discriminatory legislation or policies that tend to stigmatize legitimate expressions of religious faith by wrongfully associating them with dangerous `sects or cults,' " wrote Albright in a letter to American religious leaders.

The law is, in part, a response to a French government report that classified 173 groups as 'dangerous cults.' The list includes Mormons, Unificationists, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology. "This places these 173 groups on the list in a position to be direct targets of the government," says the Institute on Religion and Foreign Policy's Grieboski. "We're concerned about their ability to exercise their religious freedom, but we're also worried about the long-term extrapolation that could also target more mainstream groups."

But the law's supporters say that it is a reasoned approach for the French government to protect its citizens from those that use religion to prey on their emotional needs. Member of the French National Assembly Catherine Picard, one of the bill's authors, says that existing law is "inadequate to deal with increasingly sophisticated and manipulative groups. The law is a response to the evolution of society and the growing importance that sects have in it."


Mainstream religions fear impact of law
Palm Beach FL Post 28Jan01 T1
By Bert Roughton Jr.: Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


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