A rearguard battle
In a decision of January 31, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sentenced France in 3 cases (vs. Association cultuelle du Temple Pyramide, Association des Chevaliers du Lotus d’Or, and Église évangélique missionnaire, also known as « Missionary evangelical church of Besançon) for violation of religious freedom (violation of Article 9 of the Convention – Requests 50471/07, 50615/07 and 25502/07).
This is not the first time that France is sentenced for violation of religious freedom. In June 2011, it was already sentenced by the ECHR in a similar case vs. Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The lobby of the fierce opponents to freedom of beliefs has learnt no lesson from this triple sentence, on the contrary they strongly criticized the judges of the ECHR. The same day, Catherine Picard, president of Unadfi and a member of Miviludes, dropped her duty of reserve as a civil servant in an interview to daily Le Figaro, stating: « This is an outrageous decision. »
Unadfi and its president are not interested in details. In a release on February 22, 2013, the association recalls that « these 3 groups are listed as cults in the parliamentary report of 1995 ». Beyond the fact that this « black list » has no legal value, any reference to this list of groups has to be avoided since the Prime Minister circular of May 27, 2005. This is a known fact to Mrs Picard, since the circular is posted on Unadfi website.
On February 12, it is up to MP Georges Fenech, judge, former judge of instruction and former head of Miviludes, to violate a rule of deontology in claiming on radio Europe 1 : « You know, the judge I am should not comment decisions by justice, this is one, but this one I have to violate my duty of reserve, to which I usually comply, to say how far I am outraged by this decision…. one thinks ‘there is a big problem with the European judges!’ »
Following this statement, G. Fenech continues in his refusal to accept the decision of European judges and writes to the Prime Minister about his indignation in front of the « incomprehension » towards the French policy: « Obviously this decision generates a deep incomprehension and a feeling of injustice towards the fight against sectarian abuses by the government services. » In conclusion, M. Fenech asks the Prime Minister to appeal this decision and « to fight the legal battle to make them aware of the merits of the French position ».
It is no surprise to read in this same letter that president of Miviludes, Serge Blisko, supports this request. The same Serge Blisko said in an article on La dépêche.fr that the decision in the case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is based on “the interpretation by ECHR of the character of the donations by the adepts of certains groups to their organisation. The administration does not recognize the cultual character generating tax exemption to these donations, which get a 60% flat tax”. A very strange statement indeed: it seems that M. Blisko does not know about the great number of cultual recognitions obtained in France by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The latest ECHR decisions confirm the repeated demands to France by several European and international agencies: to change its discriminatory approach towards religious minorities, in contradiction to our European neigbours.