French Anti-Sect Governmental Mission Raids in Catholic Communities

Country: France

Date of incident: April 13, 2012

Since the presidency of MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight against Sectarian Drifts) by Georges Fenech, several small Catholic communities have increasingly been targeted, the last one being "Amour and Miséricorde" (Love and Mercy).

In December 2008, Mr. Fenech adopted a new mode of intervention on the ground: he organized unannounced "visits" of a delegation of MIVILUDES in religious communities, as was explained in the 2008 and 2009 Annual Reports of MIVILUDES, accompanied by undercover journalists, reported the Institute for Religion and Public Policy. The visits were followed by media blitz conveying serious accusations against the concerned groups stigmatized as "sectarian movements". In the newspaper Le Progrès, the visit of MIVILUDES to "Amour and Miséricorde" was reported on 18 December 2008 in the following way: Dominique Balestrat, owner of the land on which the community was living, who has been himself a member of the group for ten years, feels incomprehension and sadness. He says: "We welcomed Georges Fenech, he said he was not coming for an investigation but only to meet with us. And we are now bombarded with slander. He did not come as an enemy. He came as a traitor. He used the media to crush us when there is nothing to crush. We were a dozen people here. We are not a sect. We are Catholics who wanted to live in community." The same scenario took place in February 2009 in the Catholic community "Les Béatitudes". In 2010, the Washington-based Institute for Religion and Public Policy ( made a statement at the OSCE/ODIHR Human Dimension Implementation Meeting entitled "Repression of Christian Communities in France". It said: „The intrusion of MIVILUDES in matters of organization of religious communities represents a violation of the duty of neutrality of the French State.“ „The fact that the Church is attacked for its "psycho-spiritual practices" when it gives assistance as a Church is also very alarming.“ „The repressive system created by Mr. Fenech is in place: repository of accusatory records on religious communities made available to Judges and Prosecutors, raids in the communities with wide media coverage to put pressure on local elected officials, public and Ecclesiastic authorities, and eventually obtain their dismantling. .... Freedom of religion, which pursuant to the European Convention of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights encompasses freedom to practice the religion of one's own choice and to associate in community to this end, is seriously jeopardized by such a policy in France.“ We thank Human Rights Without Frontiers International for publishing an extended version of this report on June 7, 2012.  Read more: We thank the Institute for Religion and Public Policy for their statement at OSCE in 2010 of which parts are represented on this text. See more at

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