Repeating a lie is not enough to make it true
Miviludes keeps repeating that « the sectarian phenomenon » allegedly puts 50,000 to 60,000 children at risk. As to Georges Fenech, its former head, he gets entangled in figures. In an interview to daily Le Figaro on October 13, 2010, he talks about 50,000 children who would be « victims of sectarian hold ». On TV France 2, he claims that 60,000 children are in danger, then on TV France 3 they are 80,000 but on TV LCP they are no more than 20,000. And on October 30, 2012, before an enquiry commission in the Senate, he admits that after being at the head of the Miviludes for 4 years, he has “no statistical data”.
The Senate inquiry commission on the influence of sectarian groups in the field of Health, that issued its reports last April, resulted at least in forcing one of the main persons responsible for this rumor to admit truth. On October 30, Georges Fenech, testifying under oath, confesses: “I am unable to tell you how many children precisely, or how many at the closest, are concerned by the phenomenon”. And he adds: “I have no statistical data”.
Philippe Vuilque, former MP and former president of the study group on sects in the National Assembly, confirmed these statements, admitting in turn that there exists no serious study: “Well, in this matter, there are no figures. It is estimated … about […] We are rather helpless because, obviously, how do you want to have a statistics on the number of children concerned?”
Likely to move the public opinion, such figures must indeed be looked at. But first, where do they come from? Which evidence does support this authoritative claim by a public body that thousands of children are in danger?
First of all, what is « the sectarian phenomenon » ? Miviludes, in its latest guide published in 2012, recalls that: « There is no legal definition of a sect and no text of law forbids being a member of a sect. Respecting all beliefs and the principle of laicity, the Legislator has always refused to define the notions of sect and religion. For the same reasons, the definition of sectarian abuse does not exist in the law.» The reader is not much enlightened …
The true figures of the Inquiry commission
But let’s come back to the figures and to the source of this odd counting. In an effort to prove to French citizens that « sects » would be a serious problem, MP Fenech obtained in 2006 the establishment of an Xth Parliamentary inquiry commission, this time on the subject of sectarian influence on minors. On behalf of various ministries, RG and Gendarmerie nationale, high-ranking officials have been very clear during their hearings by the Commission: there were a few dozen cases at the utmost (see the video The truth on a few lies on line on www.ethique-liberte.org):
« No incident involving children or a vital prognosis has been reported. » Didier Leschi, Chief of the Central Office of Cults, Ministry of Interior, 17/10/2006
« When we asked the Academy inspectors which, among these children at risk, are those who were at risk because of sectarian groups, they answered that they were 8. » Jean-Yves Dupuis, General Inspector général, Ministry of National Education, 10/10/2006
« Statistically, over the last 3 years, we had no case where we were able to prove that minors were deliberately put in danger. » Etienne Madranges, Director of Youth and popular Education, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Associative Life, 18/10/2006
« In this broad set, I only found the spur of two cases showing a connection with sectarian behaviour. » Mrs Françoise Le Bihan, Deputy Director in the Service of French Abroad and Foreigners in France, 17/10/2006.
« During our relations in the field, in the prefectures, with National Education, DDASS [Health and social centers], leisure centers and all bodies taking care of youth, we never had to deal with 60, 000 cases, nor even 30,000 but a few dozens at the utmost. » Joël Bouchité, Director Central of Renseignements Généraux, 4/10/2006
«The associations dealing with sects sometimes clam that 20, 000 minors might be under the influence of sectarian groups. [ …] In any case, even if they are only the emerged part of the phenomenon, cases handled by the gendarmerie are far below such estimaes: since 2004, 37 procedures only have been started by units of the gendarmerie. » General Guy Paraire, General Director of the Gendarmerie nationale [Military police], 4/10/2006.
The president of the Commission, annoyed, was making a sad face in front of such figures which he acknowledged as « derisory ». But finally, Emmanuel Jancovici, in charge of a Mission for Coordination, Prevention and Handling of sectarian abuses in the Ministry of Health and Solidarities, came to pull G. Fenech out of this bad situation and drew figures out of his hat. In the parliamentary report, in the sub-chapter « A significant number of children victims, remaining difficult to estimate », one can read how E. Jancovici answered an interrogation by president Georges Fenech regarding the number of children concerned by sectarian groups:
« The total is, as a minimum, 60,000 to 80,000 children raised in a sectarian context. Statistics do not allow to be more precise. By prudence, I prefer to talk about several thousands of children. (…) » Then he adds: « Regarding children raised in the context «Jehovah Witnesses », surveys carried out at the request of this group, in 1997 and 1998, conclude that three quarters of the adepts have children. Supposing that in theses families, there is at least one child, we arrived to the figure of 45,000. For the other groups, one cannot know the number of children in a scientific way. I think that they are several tens of thousands, 35,000 to 40, 000. Not forgetting the integrist groups, which include many members. If one takes the whole into account, one is easily beyond 100, 000. And in terms of protection of children, this raises political matters. »
So E. Jancovici said 60,000 to 80,000 like he could have said 100,000 or even more. He « supposes», he « thinks that », he extrapolates figures that « one cannot know »… but he has no file to evidence his claims, except a survey carried out by the Jehovah Witnesse themselves. By the way, according to the fantastic figures born from Jancovici’s extrapolations, 45,000 are plain children of families members of the Jehovah Witnesses, that the European Court of Human Rights and numerous countries throughout the world are recognizing as a religion (see article Page 3).
Above all, by the simple fact that their parents are part of a religious or philosophical group, these children are assimilated to children in danger. One cannot forget the vile statements by J. P. Brard, member of Miviludes, who was asking during the hearings of the same Commission : « Aren’t Jehovah Witnesses manufacturing disabled children, intellectually speaking ? » This aroused indignation well beyond the National Assembly. Because on the other side of the border, in Spain, in Italy or in Switzerland, these same children play, go to school and live happily, in other words, they are simply like any other children.
E. Jancovici clearly said so: this is a political matter. At the time, it was necessary to justify public expenses and the very existence of Miviludes, an official body propagating intolerance. The government might find out that this position is increasingly hard to hold, while the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe just voted a resolution* calling governments to respect the right of parents to educate their children according to their own religious and philosophical beliefs.
*Resolution 1928 on 24/4/2013: Safeguarding human rights in relation to religion and belief and protecting religious communities from violence
Caption under GF picture: October 30, 2012 – G. Fenech testifying under oath before a Parliamentary enquiry commission on Health “I am unable to tell you how many …”