The Inquisition descends in Brussels
Annual Conference of FECRIS 2014
“SECTS AND THE FALSE DEBATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS”
By Paul van den Berg
FECRIS (Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects) held its annual gathering on March 24, 2014 in Brussels. As usual, the meeting was shrouded in secrecy and only open to affiliated member organizations and “friendly” individuals. The existence of the meeting and in particular its agenda and venue was even kept off their official Website until a few days ago. This is the more surprising since the meeting was held inside the Belgian Parliament (“The Palace of the Nation”) in the “Salle des Congrès”.
What is FECRIS and what does it stand for?
According to their own website: “FECRIS is politically, philosophically and religiously neutral.”
History shows a different picture and pattern though. FECRIS was created in in 1994 and was predestined from its birth: founded via the French anti-sect association UNADFI (National Union of Associations for the Defense of Family and the Individual) and cohabiting with GEMPPI (Study Group on World views for the Protection of the Individual) in Marseille, whose President Mr. Didier Pachoud is allegedly the author of the list of 173 “dangerous” sect attached to the 1996 parliamentary inquiry report on sects in France.
FECRIS got public funding and was quickly recuperated by their benefactors to actively support existing and pending legislation targeting New Religious Movements, so called “sects” and the like. Their business model, consisting of an academically empty shell, supported by a number of activist Politicians, allowed them to quickly spread from France throughout the EU and beyond.
Belgium was a particular attentive follower, created its own Sect List, Parliamentary Committee and Working group on “dangerous sects”, and voted similar legislation on Abuse of Weakness and is now reforming the Health sector presented as being infiltrated by “sects”.
FECRIS’ goal is to export this type legislation. To facilitate this expansion, they maneuvered to obtain NGO and International NGO status, which gave them lobbying access to the EU institutions, The Council of Europe and the UN. With political support and their program based on fear and ignorance, they prevailed and succeeded, even against negative advice of over 50 legitimate NGO’s and surprised reaction from Academics.
Emissaries from FECRIS and their political or public supporters continue to cross Europe these days to convince legislators to adopt the Franco Belgian model of intolerance. The fact that FECRIS or their affiliates got convicted many times for discrimination or defamation does not seem to bother or halt them.
A look at the agenda
- Tom Sackville, president of FECRIS -The 20 years of FECRIS
- Timothy Kirkhope, Member of the commission of civil liberties, justice and internal affairs
- Laurette Onkelinx, Belgium vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Health and Social Affairs Preliminary bill on sectarian drifts in the health sector.
- Laurant Chabaud, Medical doctor, France general inspector of social affairs, director of the school of High Studies in Public Health – infringement on the equality of chances of healing.
- Serge Blisko, President of the MIVILUDES – The confusion -why aiming at wrong target?
- Hans-Werner Carlhoff, former president of the inter-ministerial work group on sects and Psycho-groups of Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany) -When children, young people and parents become victims: the abuse of human rights by sectarian organizations. Testimonies and questions.
- Charles-Henri and Christine de Vedrines – We were not armed (Monflanquain and Oxford recluses: a gross manipulation)
- The abuse of weakness, the sectarian activities and the help to people from the Grand Duche of Luxemburg
- Marcel Conradt (Belgium), MEP assistant, historian and author – Sects: a view from the European Parliament
- David Clark (USA), FECRIS representative at the UN in NY – Historic of the defenders of sects and their allies who are protecting these groups and neglect human dignity and those who are really victims.
- Luigi Corvaglia (Itlay), Psychologist, vice-president CeSAP (Centro Studi sugli Abusi Psicologici)
- Andre Frederic Tom Sackville -Conclusions
Reception at the City Hall Grand’Place
Surprisingly (or not?), none of the announced speakers has any reasonable scholarly education or experience of the subject that they discussed.
It looked like a reincarnation of the Spanish Inquisition in session, aiming to protect the erring sheep against heresy, infiltration and incursion in the fields Human Rights, Health services and Education by New Religious Movements and (dangerous) sects.
The Title of the Conference “SECTS AND THE FALSE DEBATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS” says it all: any disagreement with their short-sighted (and dangerously discriminatory) views that somebody might express is a priori “false”.
Some years ago another FECRIS meeting was compared to an episode of the Monty Python show mocking the Spanish Inquisition.
Mr. Blisko who sees FECRIS as an extension of his Miviludes mandate: According to his thinking, any New Religious Movement (NRM) or “sect” or any non-mainstream philosophy only advocates or promotes Human Rights for their own dark or profitable actions.
Mr. Conradt, who is an Advisor working for his wife (a Belgian MEP), known for his opinion and lobbying that legislation or Constitutional texts protecting the rights of parents to decide on their children’s education, should be modified European wide.
Besides those two very questionable speakers, we should mention:
Andre Frederic, a Belgian Socialist Deputy, who has been on the forefront since more than a decade in the battle against the “sects”. He is the driving force in most of anti-sect Parliamentary activities and has been strongly guided by French legislation. The “Abuse of Weakness” law is his brainchild.
Yvan Mayeur, Belgian Socialist Parliament, currently Mayor of Brussels. A close associate of Andre Frederic.
Particularly disturbing is the fact that this meeting was held secretly in the Belgian Parliament, without access of the Public.
Obvious, the “Palais de la Nation” should be an open house for conferences and discussions in its role as protector of Democracy and should support Organizations, NGO and others, working groups etc.
But allowing FECRIS is a step too far: FECRIS is a secretive organization on an active crusade against NRM, religious and non-religious Cults and Sects. It is constantly advocating discriminatory measures affecting the rights of these groups, their views on Education Health and Healing and more.
Everybody who has been in contact with Minister Onkelinx will tell you that she is an example of relentless activity and push for change. Obviously not all agree with her proposed ideas or legislation, but she has always been clear on her intentions.
Not so this time: it is particularly disturbing that the FECRIS meeting was elected as the venue to present her views on and discussing upcoming Law Project(s} covering the Health sector.
This legislation is crucially important for the population as a whole and affects the relationship with mainstream and new Religions, including “sects” and other philosophical organizations.
The latest of these Law Projects have not been officially deposited in the Parliament. Disclosing and discussing them in front of a biased FECRIS and affiliates audience, without scrutiny of public and scholar presence, holds the risk of a skewed or erroneous interpretation that might spread internationally before it is even deliberated in Belgium.
New in these latest FECRIS meeting were the visible disagreements among the attendants.
The NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) was strongly attacked because of the Book “Freedom of Religion, Anti-sect Movements and State Neutrality, a case study on FECRIS” **. The book contains considerable evidence of the destructive actions of FECRIS and their dubious membership. Particularly Willy Fautre (President HRWF) was the focus point of their inquisitive condemnations. No wonder: Mr. Fautre concludes at the end of the book that FECRIS’ affiliates try to limit or impede the freedom of association, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression of new religious movements and also the right of parents belonging to a new religious movement to provide the religious education of their choice to their children under the pretext that they are in great danger. This must have been outright heresy to most FECRIS affiliates.
Not to all present though, some attendants tried to refocus the meeting towards the stated goal of FECRIS as a neutral organization, but the result was a loud vocal skirmish between them and the majority. Even some members representing the International Society of Cultic Studies (ICSA) disagreed with the current FECRIS line of thought.
Also, FECRIS could not resist continuing its vicious attacks on Mrs. Raffaella di Marzio (Centre of Information on cults, New Religious Movements and Anti-cult Movements) a former member and ICSA Italian correspondent, now involved in a Lawsuit initiated by FECRIS.
Given the vivid discussions, it became clear that some affiliates, who joined FECRIS based on its stated goals, now realize the real nature of the organization.
The shroud of secrecy maintained by FECRIS and their discriminatory actions and hate speech should alert the authorities, academic institutions, scholars, NGO’s and the media alike. The real danger is with FECRIS, not with the organizations that they discriminate against.
*”Inventing the Enemy” Umberto Eco ISBN: 9780099553946 Published: 02/09/2013
** ISBN 978-3-643-99864-4, ISSN 1438-955X