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Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

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By Patricia Duval attorney and a member of the Paris Bar

On 9 April 2021, the Minister of the Interior’s Delegate for Citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, gave an interview on France Info announcing a vigorous relaunch of MIVILUDES, the inter-ministerial mission for monitoring and fighting against cultic deviances[1] which now falls under the Ministry of the Interior.

After a gradual disappearance of the Mission over the past years, especially since 2015 when priority was given to counter Islamist terrorism, Marlène Schiappa has now decided to multiply its budget by ten to reach a sum of 1 million euros yearly.

The explanation she gave was that “new health gurus have appeared on the internet, with alleged miracle cures against Covid-19” and that over 500 new small groups have emerged following this trend.

Anti-cult hostilities in support of Conventional Medicine

It should be noted that unconventional therapies have been characterized as “cultic deviances” (“dérives sectaires”) and included in MIVILUDES’ targets since 1996.

As part of the fight against “cultic therapeutic deviances”, the National Council of the Medical Doctors’ Association has been invited to join the Advisory Board[2] of MIVILUDES since its creation in 2002.

In their Handbook on Health and Cultic Deviances published in 2012, MIVILUDES addressed the issue of “unconventional therapeutic practices”. [3]

According to MIVILUDES, these practices, whether done by medical doctors or non-doctors, have in common the fact that they are not “scientifically recognized by conventional medicine and therefore are not taught during health practitioners’ training.”

MIVILUDES explained that “therapeutic deviances become cultic when they try to make the patient adhere to a belief, a new way of thinking”. [4]

Therefore the criterion for being labeled “cultic” is “deviant belief”, “deviant thinking”. The Handbook cites a number of “risky situations”, such as fitness retreats or the vegetable juice cleanse of Rudolf Breuss. 

In March 2004, a conference entitled “Health and Undue Cultic Influences” [5] was organized by GEMPPI,[6] an anti-cult group subsidized by the French State, in Marseille, in the South of France.

The Honorary Secretary General of the National Council of the Medical Doctors’ Association gave a speech at the conference on how they were faced with cults and their relationships with unproven medical practices.

In France, the Medical Council is assigned, by the State, the role of ‘a mission of public service’ with administrative and jurisdictional functions with regards to practicing doctors.

As such, they send substantial information to the medical doctors and health care professionals on the dangers of “deviant” practices.

With regards to healthcare professionals tempted by “esoteric medicine”, the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Medical Council can be activated when the practices of medical doctors do not conform to the Code of Medical Ethics, in particular Article 39 of the Ethical Code: “Doctors may not present any fraudulent, insufficiently proven remedy or procedure as being beneficial to the health to any patient or their family”.

Also, the Representative of the Medical Council stressed that the reprehensible activities of “cults”, whether involving a medical doctor or not, can be referred to courts, criminal and civil.

One can wonder then, why would further action be needed by the MIVILUDES and the anti-cult groups in this area.

The answer was given during the same speech. According to the Council’s representative, a study of the complaints submitted to the professional courts regarding harmful medical practices resulting from cultic deviances brings about two aspects for consideration:

  • Complaints are uncommon, and rarely come from the victims themselves. More often, they arise from information brought by their families and friends.
  • They are generally not specific complaints, but are often worrying because of the relatively systematic nature of harmful practices expounded in the ideology of the cultic movement concerned.

So, we can understand that followers of such practices rarely complain as they freely made the choice to follow unconventional treatments – the law of 4 March 2002 guarantees the right of patients to choose or refuse certain treatments.[7]

However, the Medical Council can investigate and take action based upon denunciations from relatives or friends who disagree with or are worried by the choice of certain therapies.

The inclusion of unconventional therapies in the anti-cult campaign and the involvement of the Medical Council in conferences where such practices are stigmatized seem then to belong more to an ideological fight rather than the defense of victims.

A new Circular to increase repression of “unproven remedies”

In order to combat “new health gurus” with “alleged miracle cures against Covid-19”, the Minister of Interior’s Delegate for Citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, issued a new Circular to all police executives on March 2nd, 2021 amplifying the French « policy to combat cultic deviances ».

It gives instructions to detect “high risk situations”, based on reports received from “persons linked to persons subjected to the undue influence of cultic groups, or in the process of being so, who might be worried and report their concerns: family, neighbors, friends, teachers or colleagues, health professionals, social, cultural, sports or leisure workers, etc.”

The purpose of « reporting » on someone is, according to the Minister, to “ensure, if needed his/her protection and that of society”. She states that “the rules of professional secrecy are not systematically incompatible with the reporting of an identified problematic situation”.

The Minister apparently considers that health professionals can be exempt from the rules of professional secrecy and make such denouncements, even though violation of professional secrecy is liable to criminal sanctions.

According to her, the policy based on denunciations is part of the “fight against all forms of separatism”.

Cultic deviances are then considered as dangerous as other forms of separatism, such as violent Islamic extremism, that the new law currently going through the legislative process is intended to counter.

This is why she recommends applying Article 212-1 of the Internal Security Code which allows the dissolution of combat groups and private militias by the Executive.

The Circular also gives instructions to systematically refer to the Prosecutors reported cases of « mere suspicion of deviant practices ».

It recommends using MIVILUDES’ files (consisting of denunciations and derogatory press articles) to « enrich the reports sent to the judicial authorities ».

Not only does this interference of the Executive (MIVILUDES) in the Judiciary infringe fundamental rights, but the instruction to prosecute “mere suspicions” of “deviant practices” is a serious problem due to the vagueness and the arbitrary nature introduced by this notion.

A cultic deviance is defined in the Circular as an undertaking to undermine one’s freedom of thought, opinion or religion which infringes public order, laws and regulations, fundamental rights, security or integrity of the individual.

It is characterized by the implementation by an organized group or a single individual, whatever their nature or activity, of pressures or techniques designed at creating, maintaining or exploiting a state of psychological or physical subjection by depriving the individuals of part of their free will, with prejudicial consequences for them, their relatives or society.

So “health gurus” can be accused of creating a state of psychological subjugation and depriving their followers of their free will when they promote non-conventional treatment of Covid-19.

An easy way of getting around free choice of treatment

The concept of loss of free will for adults with full mental capacity who simply make the choice to use remedies that are “not politically correct” contradicts the basic fundaments of civil law. It amounts to an invalidation of freely made choice in health matters. 

It seems then that the “cultic” label is nothing more than a backhand way of discrediting unwelcome (by the State) alternative health solutions proposed by some health practitioners accusing them of exerting “undue influence” on the public.

France has adopted the 2002 law to guarantee the rights of patients and especially the freedom of choice of their treatment.

To label “cultic” the treatments unwanted by the French authorities so that their authors get prosecuted even in the absence of complainants seems nothing more than a way to circumvent patients’ free choice in these matters.

The resurgence of the anti-cult hostilities against “health gurus” who propose “miracle remedies” for Covid-19 appears to be more a political move at a time when the government choices about handling the pandemic are subject to a major controversy.

Patricia Duval is an attorney and a member of the Paris Bar. She has a degree in public law from La Sorbonne University, and specializes in international human rights law. She has defended the rights of minorities of religion or belief in domestic and international for a, and before international institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union, and the United Nations. She has also published numerous scholarly articles on freedom of religion or belief.


[1] Mission interministérielle de vigilance et de lutter contre les dérives sectaires.

[2] Conseil d’orientation.

[3] Pratiques non conventionnelles à visée thérapeutique (PNCAVT).

[4] « La dérive thérapeutique devient sectaire lorsqu’elle essaie de faire adhérer le patient à une croyance, à un nouveau mode de pensée. » Guide Santé et dérives sectaires page 13.

[5] Santé et emprises sectaires.

[6] Groupe pour l’Etude des Mouvements de Pensée pour la Prévention de l’Individu,  Study Group on Movements of Thought for the Prevention of the Individual.

[7] Law n° 2002-303 of 4 March 2002 relating to the rights of patients and the quality of the health system

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What is « Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience » (CAP Freedom of Conscience)?

CAP Freedom of Conscience is a secular European NGO with United Nations Consultative Status, created in 1995 and dedicated to protect the Right of Freedom of Religion and Belief.

CAP Freedom of Conscience combats all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief by alerting European and International bodies.

CAP Freedom of Conscience collects testimonies of discrimination and human rights violations affecting religious or belief communities in order to disseminate them to international bodies, and in order to raise awareness and inform them as well as to generate debate on the protection of Freedom of Religion and Belief.

CAP Freedom of Conscience also advocates for any religious or spiritual group facing discrimination to have their right to Freedom of Religion and Belief recognized.

CAP Freedom of Conscience is a member of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB), European Network Of Religion and Belief (ENORB) and participate to the Civil Society Platform of Fundamental Rights created by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.

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ACTIVITES CAP LC 2020 / 2021

2021

Item 3 Human Rights Coucil 46th Session 22 February to 23 March 2021 : Balochistan is facing a humanitarian crisis March 2021

HRC 46 ID Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism : Statement on France March 2021

HRC 46 Item 3 Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief : GERMANY SECT FILTER March 2021

Anti-Cult Groups and Misinformation: A Danger for Religious Freedom February 11, 2021

L'utilisation abusive de l'administration fiscale pour persécuter les minorités spirituelles February 2021

MultiFaith Letter : Sri Lanka. Muslims are being forced to cremate despite it being prohibited by Islam February 2021

MultiFaith Letter : France  “Consolidating the Respect of the Principles of the Republic” February 2021

January 2021 interview : The Religious Factor in the Farmers Bills Protests in India: A Sikh Voice

January 2021 : FRANCE : Marlène Schiappa charge the MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Combat against Sectarian Aberrations) to drawing up a report on « sectarian aberrations imported from the United States »

January 2021 : Conference 24th January 2021 : Education Conscience and Tax Justice reflecting on the TAI JI MEN case in Taiwan

January 2021 : Confrence : Freedom of Religion: From the USCIRF Report on Persecutions in Russia to Violations in Europe

January 2021: Letter in Support of Freedom of Religion in the new bill on separatism

January 2021 : CAP Freedom of Conscience joined a coalition of NGO to demand the release of Dr. Gulshan Abbas

January 2021 Sweden – Call for Signatures: Letter in Support of Chinese Citizen Facing Deportation

January 2021 : Letter to President Elect Biden IRF Roundtable

2020

Side-event : The Pandemic and Forced Organ Harvesting – Europe’s Opportunity to End its Illusions about China december 2020

13 European NGOs urge China, Iran and Russia to release prisoners from a dozen religious groups in light of the COVID-19 threat december 2020

How the Chinese Communist Party Robs Children of Their Religious Faith december 2020

The Religious Factor in the Farmers Bills Protests in India: A Sikh Voice december 2020

Signing letter : We appeal to the UN, the USA and the European Union to take immediate action against air strikes by the Turkish state in Sinjar November 2020

Letter in Support of Having the French Anti-separatism Bill Reviewed by the Venice Commission November 2020

NGOs accuse Irak saying that « Êzîdî culture is under threat of extinction and erasure from history » Ocotber 2020

10 Experts’ Opinions on Tai Ji Men Case July 2020

India : JASWANT SINGH KHALRA MEMORIAL LECTURE & BOOK LAUNCH November 2020

Pakistan : A Beleaguered Community. The Growing Target Killings, Violence, Legal Discrimination and Social Exclusion of The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community International Religion Freedom Ministerial side event November 2020

China Denies Children Their Freedom of Religion and Belief International Religion Freedom Ministerial side event November 2020

France : International Religion Freedom Ministerial side event Separatism and Human Rights November 2020

International Interdisciplinary Conference ‘Religious Freedom and Education’, 8-10 October, 2020

Re: Request to Impose Sanctions to Stop Turkey’s War Crimes in Northeast Syria and Beyond Under EO 13894 October 2020

Thierry Valle |President of the Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience, France August 2020

HRC45 – CAP Liberté de Conscience joins ACLU’s demands to the OHCHR for the elaboration of the report on structural racism and law enforcement September 2020

HRC 45 : Unabated Religious Persecution and the Danger of an Escalation — A Case Study on 20 Years of Persecution of Falun Gong in People’s Republic of China September 2020

HRC 45 : Violating the Human Rights of Members of Shincheonji in South Korea September 2020

HRC 45 : Report on the conditions and basic needs of citizens returning from displacement camps to Sinjar and its Southern area specifically September 2020

HRC 45: Jaswant Singh Khalra was remembered today at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council September 2020

45th Session Human Rights Council : shincheonji oral statement September 2020

This World Day against Death Penalty the International Community must take immediate steps to ensure states repeal laws which mandate the death penalty for apostasy or blasphemy

523 NGOs wrote to the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urge them to schedule country reviews no later than 2021 September 2020

The renewal of the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU

Urgent Call for the Dropping of All Charges Against Christian Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya

Letter to the Vatican

Sign on Letter to South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Religious Freedom Violations

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Letter

the case of Huma Younus : Christian Pakistani girl who was kidnapped

A Letter to the Foreign Minister of South Korea on the Situation of Shincheonji July 2020

IRFR Letter to POTUS on Hong Kong June 2020

Letter to Ambassador Yasseen on recognition of Iraqi evangelical churches June 2020

Signatures on the China Coalition’s Emergency Internet Freedom Funding Letter June 2020

Urgent call for COVID-19 response for Refugees and Asylum Seekers june 2020

Joint letter to Vietnam’s Prime Minister May 2020

Open letter to UN Asia-Pacific Regional Group on China’s appointment to UN HRC Consultative Group May 2020

HRC 44th session Written statement : Croatia Discrimination based on ethnicity and disregard for the best interest of a child june 2020

HRC 44th session Written statement : An act of horrific brutality against a humane and compassionate Ahmadi woman charged under the Blasphemy law june 2020

HRC 44th session Written statement : Scapegoating members of Shincheonji for COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea

Petition to preserve the cemeterie in Vilnius Lithuania June 2020

Sign-On Letter re Vietnam Hmong and Montagnard Christians June 2020

The continuation of the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of  religion or belief outside the EU June 2020

Experts raise Vietnam’s human rights violations against Christians in letter to US  President June 2020

Joint letter to Vietnam's Prime Minister June 2020

Open letter to UN Asia-Pacific Regional Group on China’s appointment to UN HRC Consultative  Group June 2020

Urgent call for COVID-19 response for Refugees and Asylum Seekers June 2020

AHMADIYYA IN SCHOLARLY PERSPECTIVE June 2020

Experts raise Vietnam’s human rights violations against Christians in letter to US President June 2020

Report to the United Nations General Assembly on Eliminating Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) HRC 44 June 2020

Letter to Secretary Pompeo April 2020

China HRC Consultative Group April 2020

IRF Roundtable Letter – Ramy Kamel April 2020

PETITION TO PRESERVE THE CEMETERIES IN THE OLD CITY OF LVIV April 2020

The continuation of the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU April 2020

HRC 43 A coalition of NGOs questions the People’s Republic of China at the United Nations March 2020

HRC 43 Oral Statement on Religious Freedom in Russia  March 2020

HRC 43 Prolonged discrimination of religious minority in Germany March 2020

HRC 43 Status report Ezidis for the General Director of the United Nations (UN) March 2020

HRC 43 SOUTH KOREA – Coronavirus and Shincheonji: Stopping the Witch Hunt – Urgent Appeal from Human Rights Groups March 2020

HRC43 | Support consensus renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders March 2020

religious freedom situation in India February 2020

Multifaith letter regarding Huma Younus February 2020

Recognizing Freedom of Conscience and Religious Objections to State Mandated Vaccination and Ending the Persecution of the Unvaccinated People of Faith February 2020

End The Persecution of The Church of Almighty God Now! February 2020

Human Rights in Thailand and Malaysia : The case of the Ahmadis refugees in Thailand and Malaysia March 2020

Declaration of Principles for the International Religious Freedom Alliance February 2020

2019 Annual Report on the Chinese Communist Government’s Persecution of The Church of Almighty God Released Today January 2020

 

Faith and Freedom Summit
https://faithandfreedomsummit.eu/
The Faith and Freedom Summit is not an organization. It’s a campaign proposed and run by a large coalition of faith-based and non faith-based NGOs and supported by many EU stakeholders. It has been launched on June 28, 2018 with a high-level launch event. This non-partisan event gathered high-level thought-leaders to highlight where religious freedom is hindered in European Union today, to assess areas that need to be improved as regards the protection of freedom of religion or belief, and to be a force of proposal to outline policies toward a greater respect of religious diversity in Europe.
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