Draft resolution proposing the creation of a parliamentary enquiry
commission on fundamentalist and sectarian practices in private schools
HRWF (13.05.2011) – On 3 May 2011, the Presidency of the National Assembly registered a draft resolution proposing the creation of a parliamentary inquiry commission on fundamentalist and sectarian practices in private schools (2) on the alleged ground that they are « above the laws of the Republic ». The draft resolution targets alleged « fundamentalist deviations in private schools » whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or Muslim. Here is an excerpt from the draft resolution:
« Catholic fundamentalism first: When the TV program « The Infiltrated » (3) was broadcast on France 2 on 27 April 2010, the reporters highlighted very serious deviations of religious traditionalism (4) and untenable statements made by some students and teachers of a self-supporting private school which is now closed. This school was depending from the Institut du Bon Pasteur whose principal was Abbot Philippe Laguérie, former priest of the traditionalist Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet Church and then of the Saint-Eloi Church in Bordeaux.
The statements made by some students and revealed by this TV program were clearly racist and anti-Semitic. So were the statements of a history teacher who was proudly comparing the Waffen SS to an elite army and was glorifying Pétain (5). Worse, this TV program disclosed links – but it must be said that this was contested by the school – between this school and an extreme-right group, Dies Irae, which was gathering in adjacent buildings. Its leader, Fabrice Sorlin, is a member of the parish of the school established in a church which alas was granted to the Saint-Eloi association by the mayor of Bordeaux in the aftermath of a decision of the municipal council which was declared illegal by the Council of State.
Protestant fundamentalism, like the one developed by the community Brothers of Plymouth de Chambon-sur-Lignon in Haute-Loire region. After public school this community forbids to its children to attend high school due to morality problems. They therefore continue their curriculum through distance learning and the intervention of an education centre in Tence, named « Les Cardamines ». One can be excluded from this community because of behaviour incompatible with the teachings of morals, for example fornication, adultery, marriage « outside the community »! Are these facts true? If they are, what do the public authorities do, in particular the National Education Ministry?
Jewish fundamentalism in certain – certain only, not all of them – Lubavitch schools which use educational practices that are not only contrary to secularity but also play with the limits of republican legality to outrageously engage in brainwashing and formatting of consciences, not to say refusal of coeducation, prohibition of trousers for girls, and mandatory stockings even in summer! But mainly, half of the time being dedicated to religious subjects, what is the room then left to teach the programs? Are these facts true? If they are, what do the public authorities do, in particular the National Education Ministry?
Finally Muslim fundamentalism. These schools are the least numerous – there are only three of them in France – so theoretically easier to control: Al Kindi High School located in Décines Charpieu (in Lyon suburbs), « Education and Knowledge » Muslim High School of Vitry-sur-Seine and Averroès High School of Lille. Only this latter, created in 2003, has been financed by the State since 2008. It claims to be the Muslim emblem of private school. Some say it would be close to the UOIF (Union of the Islamic Organizations of France) and the Muslim Brothers, whose representative in Lille, Amar Lasfar, sparked it off. This latter denies it. But the school, in its official information leaflets, proudly introduces itself as follows: « the characteristic of Averroès school is the values and behaviours inspired by Muslim Orthodoxy ». If it were confirmed that certain teachers teach themes well-known to Muslim fundamentalists on the purported debauchery of western societies towards relations outside marriage, homosexuality, etc., are these facts true? If they are, what do the public authorities do, in particular the National Education Ministry? »
U.N. Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir’s viewpoint on France’s religious policy
In September 2005, U.N. Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir conducted a fact-finding mission in France and wrote in her conclusions and recommendations in the section « The question of cult groups and certain new religious movements or communities of belief »
107. The Special Rapporteur understands the legitimate concerns regarding the victims of criminal acts that have been committed by certain religious groups or communities of belief. She considers that, in many cases, the Government of France, and its judicial apparatus, have adopted a responsible attitude and provided an appropriate response to the offences committed.
108. However, she is of the opinion that the policy and measures that have been adopted by the French authorities have provoked situations where the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of these groups has been unduly limited. Moreover, the public condemnation of some of these groups, as well as the stigmatization of their members, has led to certain forms of discrimination, in particular vis-à-vis their children.
109. The Special Rapporteur has observed that the government policy may have contributed to a climate of general suspicion and intolerance towards those communities on the list created by the National Assembly in 1996, of movements and groups classified as sectes. Moreover, the campaigns and other actions that have been initiated by associations composed, inter alia, of victims of criminal acts committed by these groups, have often been emotional.
112. The Special Rapporteur urges the Government to ensure that its mechanisms for dealing with these religious groups or communities of belief deliver a message based on tolerance, freedom of religion or belief and on the principle that no one can be judged for his actions other than through the appropriate judicial channels.
113. Moreover, she recommends that the Government monitor more closely preventive actions and campaigns that are conducted throughout the country by private initiatives or Government-sponsored organizations, in particular within the school system in order to avoid children of members of these groups being negatively affected.
114. She urges judicial and conflict resolution mechanisms to no longer refer to, or use, the list published by Parliament in 1996.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt’s viewpoint on France’s religious policy
In its report on freedom of religion or belief presented on 15 December 2010 at the General Assembly of the Human Rights Council (See http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/177/93/PDF/G1017793.pdf?OpenElement), Heiner Bielefeldt, the successor of Asma Jahangir, said on the theme of freedom of religion or belief and school education:
« 29. School education can and should contribute to the elimination of negative stereotypes which frequently poison the relationship between different communities and have particularly detrimental effects on minorities. This is also true with regard to religious or belief communities of different – theistic, non-theistic or atheistic – orientations. Indeed, 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. »
Human Rights Without Frontiers recommends
to the French authorities and media
to integrate the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteurs Asma Jahangir and Heiner Bielefeldt into their practicies;
to stop fanning suspicions, intolerance and social hostility towards certain religious groups and their members;
to refrain from stigmatizing members of religious groups or communities as this has led to certain forms of discrimination, in particular vis-à-vis their children;
to keep in mind that no one can be judged for his actions other than through the appropriate judicial channels;
to reconsider their warning campaigns against certain groups that are conducted throughout the country by private initiatives or Government-sponsored organizations, in particular within the school system in order to avoid children of members of certain religious groups being negatively affected.
Footnotes by HRWF
(1) The state financed private schools are called « écoles sous contrat » in French. Self-supporting private schools are called « écoles hors contrat ».
(2) In September 2009, 9,952,700 students were attending public schools (83.09%), 1,976,174 students were attending state-financed (almost exclusively Catholic) private schools (16.49%) and 49,962 students self-supporting private schools (0.42%). Homeschooling is also allowed.
(3) The reporting methods used for « The Infiltrated » on other issues have been criticized by a number of journalists.
(4) The so-called Catholic traditionalists belong to a schismatic movement of the Roman Catholic Church created in 1970 by Bishop-Archbishop Marcel Lefèbvre. He rejected Council Vatican II and created a seminary where he trained his own « traditionalist » priests. In 1976, he anointed 13 priests. He was excommunicated in 1988 when he consecrated 4 bishops without the approval of Rome. Among other things Mgr Lefèbvre was against religious freedom for all religions. When he died in 1991, his movement was represented in about 50 countries.
(5) Marshal Pétain: French hero of WW I and head of the French state under the German occupation. He was held responsible for France’s collaboration with Nazi Germany. In 1945, he was sentenced to life detention for high treason. He was then 89 years old. He died at the age of 95 years in prison.
In fall 1944, an IFOP survey indicated that 58% of the French were not in favor of sentencing the « traitor » against 32% (and 10% without opinion). In April 1945, 28% were in favor of the death penalty and only 22% were still siding with him. When his public trial started in July 1945, only 15% were still on his side and 76% were in favor of a sentence (37% of them for death penalty).