Speech of October 6, 2010
I thank you, Mr. President. Today, we wish to move the democratic debate forward by demonstrating that the French-speaking countries of Europe practise a blatant and dangerous discrimination between recognised and non-recognised religions.
To demonstrate this, we would like to talk about Belgium and the extraordinary and unjustified status enjoyed by the Catholic Church, with serious consequences for citizens and religious minorities.
It should be recalled that in Belgian law there is no distinction based on a legal provision between a “cult” or a “religion” and that any attempt to do so would necessarily be discriminatory and incompatible with both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ms. Asma Jahangir, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, stated in her 2006 report that France’s policy towards “cults” (on which the “Belgian Parliamentary Commission on Cults” was also based) has contributed to creating a climate of suspicion and general intolerance towards the organisations appearing on the list of “cults”.
In Belgium, the fight against cults has therefore officially ceased. According to the law, they are fighting against “harmful sectarian organisations”. The term “harmful sectarian organisation” is a rather vague concept created by the Belgian state to avoid the scornful term “cult”. On the whole, almost all unrecognised religious minorities are considered as “cults” in Belgium. The term “cult”, which has now become an insult and was used extensively in the past by the authorities – the Commission of Inquiry into Cults is unfortunately remembered – has been abandoned as a result of the many contradictions it caused in the spirit of human rights.
Therefore, the terms “harmful sectarian organisation” and “sectarian aberration”, as used today, allow, while still vague, undefined and therefore risky in their use, a slight progress in the designation of dangerous religious groups. The latter will no longer be assessed on the basis of judgments of value, but rather on the basis of precise behavior and facts; such as, for example, breaches of the law. Perhaps the most significant progress lies in the fact that these terms can be applied to any religious group, whether a minority or a majority.
Indeed, the law defines a harmful sectarian organisation as: “Any group with a philosophical or religious vocation or claiming to be such that, in its organisation or practice, engages in illegal activities that are harmful, harm individuals or society or violate human dignity.” In view of current revelations, it is therefore perfectly legitimate to classify the Catholic Church as a harmful sectarian organisation, given that an impressive number of its leaders have engaged in practices condemned by the law by taking advantage of their religious vocation. This classification is all the more possible since no legal provision allows the CIAOSN to determine which type of group would correspond to the notion of “harmful sectarian organisation”. Thus, a recognized cult can just as easily be classified as a “harmful sectarian organisation”.
Evidence of sectarian aberrations, a term dear to the French and Belgian governments, is dealt with almost every week in the media: obstruction of justice, concealment of evidence, protection of criminals, breach of trust, abuse of minors, attempts at corruption, failure to assist persons in danger, and undoubtedly more. Some victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests go even further, such as the hundreds who gathered in Italy on September 25 to launch an international appeal for the recognition of these acts of pedophilia as a “crime against humanity”. Of course, the demonstration of “illegal or criminal” activities will necessarily have to be the result of judicial decisions that a large part of the population eagerly awaits.
In the meantime, if a minority religious group were to accumulate as horribly these same amount of sectarian aberrations cited in the media, as those of the Catholic Church, the label of “harmful sectarian organisation” or, worse, “cult” would be on all lips.
However, the Belgian state continues to grant the Catholic Church exceptional status and the CIAOSN does not react in this respect. The CIAOSN continues to fight against religious minorities, even though no serious facts have come to light, and is silent regarding the Catholic Church.
It is therefore clear how the CIAOSN, as well as the Miviludes in France, was created to fight exclusively against religious minorities. We are not asking in any way to weaken the fight against criminally reprehensible activities, but we ask this to be done without any discrimination, both within recognised religions and non-recognised religious minorities.
Our recommendations are still the following :
- The dissolution of the CIAOSN that creates more issues than it solves.
- A conviction and a correction of the Belgian intelligence services.
- A modification of the “Centre for Equal Opportunities” in Belgium to become an organisation that also promotes tolerance and respect for members of religious minorities.
- “cults”, with an apology from the parliament.
- A penalisation of the discriminatory use of the list of cults, because even if it has no legal value, it has a moral and social capacity for discrimination.