By Kent Larsen
Senator Smith Suggests Sanctions over Religious Restrictions in France, Europe
WASHINGTON, DC -- Oregon's US Senator Gordon Smith, a member of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, suggested yesterday that the US impose
restrictions on European visitors because of their country's restrictions on
minority religions. The comments came as the Senate's European Affairs
subcommittee, which Smith chairs, reviewed proposed French legislation that
the US State Department considers an affront to religious freedom.
Smith worried in his comments about what he considers increased hostility
toward smaller and newer religious movements. In addition to the French
legislation, laws in Belgium, Germany and Austria, passed following a 1994
cult mass-suicide in Switzerland, are also of concern to religious freedom
The French legislation, set to be considered on Thursday, is aimed at cults
and would make "mental manipulation" a crime and dissolve religious groups
if one or more of its leaders commit serious crimes. Testifying before the
subcommittee, Michael Parmly, acting assistant secretary for democracy,
human rights and labor in the US State Department, warned that the
legislation violated at least the spirit of the Helsinki accords on human
The proposed law draws heavily from a 1995 French report by the Commission
of Inquiry on Sects that lists 173 groups, including the LDS Church, that it
studied for the report. The report also included a list of "Dangerous Cults"
which did not include the LDS Church, according to LDS Church member R.
Craig Harman, who researched the report in response to a Mormon News
article. That article drew on a Palm Beach Post article that was in error.
However, Harman did agree that the proposed law "could have a deleterious
effect on the Church, and for that reason should be a matter of concern."
US senator warns on visas
Financial Times 1May01 T1
By Carola Hovos
Proposed French Law Calls Mormons 'Dangerous Cult'