The head of Miviludes does not like court decisions in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses

HRWF (01.07.2011) – On 15 June, Robert Menard (founder and secretary general of Reporters Without Borders until 2008) interviewed on ITele Georges Fenech, head of MIVILUDES (the French state cult watching group) about the publication of the last report of MIVILUDES. Obviously, George Fenech does not like court decisions in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Following repeated decisions of French courts, the Ministry of Justice will have to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to have chaplains in prison but G. Fenech is reticent on the alleged ground that they would proselytize and create disorder (!), that detainees are fragile people who need to be protected…

Following the 1993 decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the Kokkinakis case, the right to proselytize has been recognized to Jehovah’s Witnesses and others but G. Fenech is opposed to freedom of religious expression and to the right for religious groups to make new members.

One can now wonder what he thinks of the last decision of the European Court which held unanimously that France and misused its fiscal legislation against Jehovah’s Witnesses. The French tax administration was claiming an amount of more than 57.5 million Euros from the Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah as a supplementary tax on donations (60%) for the years 1993-1996. In the middle of the then anti-sect hysteria in France,  the tax administration started to take a number of repressive measures in 1998 to guarantee the payment of back taxes: seizure of the real estate of the association, mortgages, etc.  This could have financially killed the movement.

Hereafter, an excerpt from this interview:

R. Menard: Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a sect according to you? They are on your list.

G. Fenech:  I do not know what a sect is. I do not have any list. You ask questions and I answer. There is no legal definition of a sect. I am not fighting against sects.

R. Ménard: You consider that Jehovah’s Witnesses are dangerous people?

G. Fenech: I consider that Jehovah’s Witnesses pose real problems to public order.

R. Ménard: How did you react to the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to have chaplains in prisons? Is it a sect or not? You should be clear about this. Your department is inter-ministerial and despite your cautiousness, you say “It is a sect”. The Ministry of Justice has been sentenced because up to now there has not been any chaplain for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Don’t you have the impression that you go beyond your mandate and that you interfere with the beliefs of people? It is my right to believe in anything I want to believe in.

G. Fenech: Your question is legitimate but to understand this problem, you must know that this court decision is not a final one.

R. Ménard: We’ll see, we’ll see, but there is some uneasiness and it is not so simple as you say.

G. Fenech: I am not against the fact that a religious minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses meets a Jehovah’s Witness who wants it in a visiting room in a prison. However, I have some reservations about the granting of the status of chaplain.

R. Ménard: Why?

G. Fenech: With this status, they have the keys to the prison and also because this organization makes proselytism, which can create some disorder.

R. Ménard: Wait a minute: Catholics proselytize.

G. Fenech: No, they don’t.

R. Ménard: You are joking. Protestants proselytize. Aren’t there Protestant movements which proselytize? Those who recruit most faithful are Protestant sects!

G. Fenech: You have never seen two people at your door? Have you ever seen Catholics or Protestants?

R. Ménard: Does this disturb you?

G. Fenech: This does not disturb me but prison is a protected place. Detainees are fragile and they need to be protected. I am in favour of freedom of worship but the modalities…

R. Ménard: But if they want to believe in that? It is like Scientologists. It is their right. It is another sect.

See full interview in French at

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