Prayer groups now under surveillance of MIVILUDES under the pretext of “risk of sectarian deviation”

HRWF (13.05.2011) – Website: – When no crime is committed by so-called sects or sectarian groups and no concrete case of sectarian deviations can be found, the notion of “risk of sectarian deviation” is very convenient for MIVILUDES and anti-sect organizations. This concept is an open door to unfounded suspicions, rumors and denouncements in total impunity. The persistent semantic deviation of the anti-sect terminology and discourse is becoming a source of serious concern from a human rights point of view. When and where will the intrusion of MIVILUDES into the private lives of French citizens stop? At the time of the Soviet Union, hundreds of believers were arrested and sent to jail for holding “illegal” religious meetings in private homes or detained in psychiatric hospitals because of their “delirious beliefs”. China is still implementing such a policy towards non-registered house churches the members of which gather in private homes. Where is France going with its sect-hunting policy implemented by MIVILUDES and private anti-sect organizations almost fully funded with public money?

MIVILUDES on the frontline of the sect-hunt

These questions can legitimately be raised with the recent wave of articles devoted to Geneviève Dupont de Ligonnès, the mother of the supposed assassin of his wife and their four children, in which Georges Fenech, the head of MIVILUDES, has been quoted by the French media as saying:

“We have been alerted about a ‘closed’ Catholic prayer group created in 1960 by his mother” (AFP, 10 May 201)

“We are not talking about a sect but about a closed prayer group, created by Geneviève Dupont de Ligonnès in 1960. (…) Everybody is free to create a prayer group. However, we are interested in such groups when we are told about risks of sectarian deviations inside, which seems to have been the case and probably still is the case today. (…) Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès was the son of Geneviève and has therefore been educated in such a context, I imagine. We notice that Xavier was still a child when his mother created her prayer group. He was certainly immersed in this very mystical atmosphere, undoubtedly very anxiogenous. (…) MIVILUDES has received alerts from people who belonged to this group but who are not part of it any more and who have disclosed a number of practices such as receiving messages from Jesus-Christ, prayers to the Virgin Mary and some sort of apocalyptic messages.  In 1994, some members had held a meeting thinking that the apocalypse was coming soon. At another time, in 1995, we were told about young people opting out of school, others leaving their job and donations given to that woman that were not insignificant, several hundred Euros per month”. (Le Monde, 10 May 2011).

The subliminal of Georges Fenech conveyed through the media is clear: Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès has become a murderer because he was indoctrinated when he was a defenseless child; a sectarian Catholic group is responsible for this family massacre, France’s policy is justified and the recent draft resolution of members of the National Assembly asking to put in place a parliamentary inquiry commission about fundamentalist and sectarian deviation in private schools should be unreservedly supported.

At the same time, the prosecutor of Nantes, Xavier Ronsin, was saying to AFP press agency: “By now there is no evidence of recent or old indoctrination of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès”.  On her side, Geneviève Dupont de Ligonnès tasked her lawyer to refute the accusation of sect affiliation. “Why should you not say she is a witch? She is just a believer and she told me it is thanks to her faith that she manages to go through these hard times,” her counsel said.

Media headlines

Despite the statement of the prosecutor of Nantes, the media jumped onto this fabricated story and made their headlines of it: Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès; a killer under the influence of a sect ? – The mother of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès had created a prayer group with risks of sectarian deviations – The mother of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès had created some sort of sectarian prayer group, etc.

AFP also noted without mentioning its source that “Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès was in any case a frequent visitor of a fundamentalist Catholic website. In 2010, he was thinking about the sense of ‘sacrifice’; he had recently been aggressive and had doubts about his faith.” AFP also quoted UNADFI, an anti-sect organization over 90% the budget of which is coming from the French state, as saying that the beliefs of the group were based on a “delirious doctrine” but UNADFI is also interested in keeping moral panic to justify its existence, its activities and its claims for public funding.

Increasing gap between France’s anti-sect policy and U.N. Special Rapporteur recommendations

In its report on freedom of religion or belief presented on 15 December 2010 at the General Assembly of the Human Rights Council (See, Heiner Bielefeldt, the successor of Asma Jahangir, said on the theme of freedom of religion or belief and school education:

“29. (…) in many countries members of religious or belief minorities experience a shocking degree of public resentment or even hatred which is often nourished by a paradoxical combination of fear and contempt. Even tiny groups are sometimes portrayed as “dangerous” because they are alleged to undermine the social cohesion of the nation, due to some mysteriously “infectious” effects attributed to them. Such allegations can escalate into fully fledged conspiracy theories fabricated by competing groups, the media or even State authorities. At the same time, members of religious or belief minorities are often exposed to public contempt based for instance on rumours that they allegedly lack any moral values. It is exactly this combination of demonizing conspiracy projections and public contempt that typically triggers violence either directed against members of minorities or occurring between different communities. Hence the eradication of stereotypes and prejudices that constitute the root causes of fear, resentment and hatred is the most important contribution to preventing violence and concomitant human rights abuses.”

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