PUBLICATION: Freedom of Religion or Belief. Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality
A Case Study: FECRIS
Did you know? FECRIS (European Federation of Centers for Re- search and Information), the Anti-Cult Umbrella Organisation that calls itself “NGO” but gets sponsered to 93% by the French Government
Reihe: Religion – Staat – Gesellschaft. Zeitschrift für Glaubensformen und Weltanschauungen/ Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews, 12. Jahrgang (2012), Heft 2. Broschiert, 224 Seiten. ISBN: 978-3-643-99864-4
FECRIS unites 25 European organizations to fight against minorities of religion or beliefs that they label as “sects”. This study focuses on the FECRIS member associations in five European countries: France, the cradle of laïcité; Austria and Germany, where public powers and dominant churches lead a common struggle against “sects”; and Serbia and Russia, two Orthodox countries in which FECRIS member associations include Orthodox missionary departments. Can their activities be reconciled with the public funding granted to FECRIS and its affiliates as well as the international standards to guarantee freedom of religion and belief? This is the question addressed in this study.
Introduction by Willy Fautré – Director of HRWF
In the last few years, religious issues have again been prominent in the news and on top of political agendas. The EU institutions which were so indiffer- ent, if not reluctant to initiating any debate on religious topics until the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, are now interested in religious freedom issues outside the European Union.
At the European Parliament, conferences on Christian minorities in Mus- lim countries and also on the veil or the burqa in the European Union have been organized. Other initiatives meant to create new mechanisms to main- stream religious freedom issues in the machinery of the European Parliament are also in progress. However, this also wakes up well known polarizations which namely oppose religious circles to supporters of a certain laicité and associations defending women’s rights hostile to the Catholic Church.
The office of the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Lady Ashton, has already integrated religious freedom into its organization chart and someone has been appointed to this end. Since the beginning of this legislature, a mushrooming in the numbers and activities of the religious and anti-religious lobbies has suddenly accelerated in Brussels where European institutions have their permanent seat and where the Parliament works 2-3 weeks per month.
The awakening of society and politics to certain religious issues does not necessarily mean that a new wind has started to blow. A calm sea has long reigned and debates have been frozen for too long but the religious climate has started to warm up, to melt the ice of indifference, to move the waves and to fill the sails of the public debate. The wind that has started to blow now appears to be swirling and capricious. The return of religious issues into the public debate, sure, but also the return of powers opposed to the freedom to believe and to change one’s religion whatever the clothes they adorn.
One of these powers is FECRIS (European Federation of Centers for Re- search and Information), an organization uniting 25 anti-sect organizations in Europe which was founded in Paris in 1994 on the initiative of the French association UNADFI (National Union of Associations for the Defense of the Family and the Individual). This organization is controversial and its crusade against sects poses a number of fundamental questions. This study will focus on the FECRIS member associations in five European countries: France, the cradle of laïcité and the driving force of the anti-sect fight in Europe promoting the separation between State and religion; Austria and Germany, where public powers and dominant churches lead a common struggle against “sects”; and Serbia and Russia, two Orthodox countries in which FECRIS member associations include Orthodox missionary depart- ments instrumentalizing the sect issue to eliminate competitors of Orthodox Churches. Various specialists from the five countries have contributed to this research under the aegis of Human Rights Without Frontiers.