USCIRF issued its 2013 Annual Report on April 30. The report highlights the state of religious freedom abroad during 2012 and identifies governments that are the most egregious violators of this fundamental freedom. USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report includes more countries than ever before — 29 specifically are addressed and at least 22 additional countries are discussed in thematic sections.
MIVILUDES : FRANCE report page 285 – 286
Since the 1990s, the governments of several European countries—particularly France, but also Austria, Belgium, and Germany—have taken measures against religious groups pejoratively characterized as “cults” or “sects.” These efforts have included the publication of official reports or lists identifying certain groups as harmful or dangerous “cults” or “sects;” the use or creation of government agencies to monitor these groups; the application of registration, immigration, tax or other generally-applicable laws in ways that restrict these groups’ rights;13 and in the case of France, the passage of a specific law “to reinforce the prevention and repression of sects which infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The most extensive “anti-cult” efforts have been in France. Since 1998, the French government has had a governmental entity specifically tasked with collecting and disseminating official information on groups deemed to be “cults” and coordinating government efforts to oppose such groups. The organization in its current form is called the “Inter-ministerial Mission for Vigilance and to Combat Sectarian Aberrations,” or MIVILUDES (its acronym in French).15 Various French government reports on and lists of “cult” groups have included Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, the French Federation of Krishna Consciousness, a Baptist Bible college, several Evangelical Christian churches, and many more small, non-traditional, and/or new religious communities. Groups that are on these lists or that have been addressed in MIVILUDES’ or its predecessor’s work say that this system creates a climate of intolerance and has led to both official and private discrimination against them.
In December 2012, French President Hollande announced the establishment of a new government agency, the National Observatory of Secularism, about which a number of religious groups have expressed concerns. The observatory’s mandate is to observe and promote secularism in the country, including by recommending how to promote secular values in French schools. According to press reports, the Minister of Education described the effort as seeking to counter religious extremism. When asked to provide examples of religious extremist groups, he cited creationists, radical Islamists, traditionalist Catholics, and ultra-Orthodox Jews, without making any reference to the use or advocacy of violence.