Argument: The law's sponsors argue that it would give the courts powers to clamp down on sects that use methods like brainwashing or drugs to attract young peopler. "We have adopted this law so that we could fight predacious movements, that seek to exploit the psychological condition of a person", said Jean Yves Defay, advisor of French prime minister Lionel Jospin11.
Answer: "Brainwashing" (now clothed as "psychological condition of a person") is a derogatory and dangerous notion that has been debunked by scholars in the 1980's. As for the supposed use of "drugs" and other alleged crimes, laws already exist to deal with this aspects.
Argument: Anticultists claim they do not to targets beliefs of any kind, but only groups who use coercion, emotional pressure and mind-management techniques to indoctrinate individuals and enslave them to their cause.
Answer: However, at the end of the day, it basically does amount to an attack against unpopular beliefs and life-style. It only is disguised in socially acceptable and emotionally-laden concepts even though they have long been debunked by objective examination in English-speaking countries.Argument: "We don't care about religion, that's not our problem," said Catherine Picard, French Parliamentarian co-author of the bill. "You can worship an orange in your kitchen as long as you don't disturb public order, as long as you don't force people and act in illegal ways."7
Answer: Classical "we don't attack belief but behavior" anti-cult rationalization, but again, though they are carefully hidden behind these justification, it does end up being a frontal attack on personal allegiance and personal choices that are deemed as "harmful". People, it is claimed, are not forced to act through physical force but through what amounts to "mind-control", a most subjective, controversial, and often derogatory excuse for oppression. As for "illegal ways", again, if these are already illegal, why the need of a new law?
Answer: Though people may misunderstand the objectives of the law, which are certainly commendable, there is no misunderstanding on its practical effects that are, in fact, exactly opposite to these very objectives.
Argument: According to a recent French poll, 73 per cent of respondents believe cults are a danger to democracy and 86 per cent would ban organizations such as the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology7
Answer: There lays EXACTLY the role of a democratic institution: to protect minorities against disparaging attitude from the majority. Democracy gives the power of DECISION to the majority, but guarantees the right of EXPRESSION to minorities. The new law simply seeks to suppress this right by labeling, with no legal ground whatsoever, the minorities' expression "harmful" and "dangerous".
Answer: Exactly - and it does not defend its citizens by trampling on their religious rights and freedom of association. It doesn't even help the "cult victims". These need a framework in which they can peacefully understand and come to term with their experience. A confrontational approach, finger pointing and arbitrary measures only increases the mutual misunderstanding and the gap between the cult member and his relatives.
Answer: The idea of oppressive measures against sects arose in the anti-cult campaign exported from the United States, as documented by Anson Shupe. The French measures actually endanger societies and states.