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Testimony before the Commission [click here to read]

No. 3707



Constitution of the 4th of October, 1958
12th legislature

Registered at the Precedence of the National Assembly on
December 12th, 2006


On behalf of the Enquiry Commission on the influence of cult
movements and the consequences of their practices on the
physical and mental health of minors

Mr. Georges FENECH

Mr. Philippe VUILQUE

Members of Parliament


The Enquiry Commission on the influence of cult movements
and the consequences of their practices on the physical and
mental health of minors is composed of: Mr Georges FENECH,
President, Ms Martine DAVID, Mr Alain GEST, Vice-Presidents:
Jean-Pierre BRARD, Rudy SALLES, secretaries; Philippe
VUILQUE, stenographer; Patricia ADAMM, Martine AURILLAC,
Serge BLISKO, Phi

lippe COCHET, Christian DECOCQ, Marcel DEHOUX, Guy
GEOFFROY, Michel HEINRICH, Jean-Yves HUGON, Michel
HUNAULT, Jacques KOSSOWSKI, Jérôme LAMBERT, Geneviève
LEVY, Pierre Morel A-L'HUISSIER, Jacques MYARD, Daniel
RODRIGO, Serge ROQUES, Michèle TABAROT, Philippe

Ladies and Gentlemen,

   Freedom of conscience and opinion constitutes one of the
most essential tenets of democracy. It is rooted in article 10 of
the Universal declaration of Human Rights. "No one should be
worried by their opinions, even religious"; It is strengthened
also in paragraph 5 of the preamble of the 1946 constitution
"No one should be penalized in their work or at their job due to
their origins, opinions and beliefs." It is also enforced by  
article 2, paragraph 1 of the constitution which states that:
"The republic respects all beliefs". We know however that the
freedom of each human being ends where that of another
begins. In light of the fact that they sometimes wish to share
their beliefs, that freedom of conscience has an individual
dimension as well as a collective one which can have them
confronted to requirements of a public order. This notion of
public order, never defined and always assessed by internal
judges as well as the European Court of Human Rights, covers
public security, the protection of order, health, public morality
and the rights and freedoms of each.

   Amongst those rights, however, those of the child are of
particular importance. Their physical  vulnerability as well as
their psychological and intellectual transparence to simplistic
discourse and their material dependence make them easy
preys to what we usually refer to as sectarian movements.
Behind those, are organizations that are abiding by criteria
adopted by the first inquiry commission of the National
Assembly on cults (1) and which was also supported by the
present inquiry commission. We will remember  mental
destabilization, the enormity of financial requirements, the
induction of a break up with the original environment, the
violations of physical integrity, the more or less antisocial
discourse, violations of public order, the importance of judicial
run-ins, the possible diversions from traditional economic
circuits, and finally, infiltration attempts by public authorities.
Not only is it useless to revisit those qualifications today but at
least 6 of them were meant to apply to minors. Moreover, by
extending the crime of fraudulent abuse of the state of
ignorance and weakness of physically or psychologically
subjugated people, act 2001-504 of June 12th, 2001, which
tends to strengthen the prevention and repression of
sectarian movements that violate fundamental human rights
and freedoms constitutes a precious tool for incriminating
sectarian abuse.

   Several factors fully justify the creation of an enquiry
commission devoted to the analysis of the influence of
sectarian deviances on minors: cases reported by
miscellaneous public authorities of children involving cults;
the awareness of public opinion to this issue by the latest
activity reports from  the Inter-ministerial Mission to fight
against sectarian deviances (MIVILUDES); the veracity lack of
coherence and coordination of the responsiveness of public
authorities to practices that are, often times, hard to grasp.

If 3 enquiry commissions on cults were created over the last 12
years (!) by the National Assembly, this last initiative shows a
twofold willingness  from national representatives not to
abandon their efforts regarding behaviors that violate freedom
and to focus their attention especially a group that is more
obviously exposed to physical and psychological pressures.

   The mental manipulation of children, the opposition of
parents to all forms of socialization and external education,
risks of sexual or otherwise physical abuse, absolute control
over people from the youngest age on to maintain them in a
secluded organization, actually constitute the many
manifestations of the grasp of cults on minors that must be
denounced and fought. To the extent that the international
community equipped itself of judicial tools over, the last few
years, to defend the better interests of children, such as the
International Convention for the Rights of the Child of 1989,
the present parliamentary step is supported in a privileged
manner by that text which legitimizes its action.

   Voted unanimously by the National Assembly on June 28,
2006, this proposed resolution favors the creation of an
enquiry commission on the influence of cult movements and
the consequences of their practices on the mental and
physical health of minors and allowed the creation of that
commission on June 29, 2006. By granting its presidency to Mr.
Georges Fenech, UMP Member of Parliament for Rhône, as Mr.
Philippe Vuilque, Socialist Member of Parliament for Ardennes
became its stenographer, established upfront the spirit of
willingness in which they expected to work. The commission
then proceeded to auditioning 65 people over a period of 63
hours. In an effort to respect the wish of cult victims not to
expose themselves for fear of retaliation the commission
granted them the right to be auditioned in private whereas 40
people were heard in the presence of the media. The minutes
of those auditions were recorded on a CDROM and enclosed at
the end of the present report. simultaneously concerned with
the principle of contradiction and bonded by transparence, the
commission distributed questionnaires to various
organizations dealing with investigations, which was joined to
the report along with the answers they provided. Many of them
however, such as the Church of Scientology, the Raelians,
Sahaja Yoga and Tabitha's place didn't reply.

   To complete its research, however, the commission
surveyed the main administrations concerned with the impact
of sectarian deviances on minors, this issue having
educational, judicial, sanitary, social as well as international
implications. The questionnaires to administrations with their
respective answers were also enclosed in the present report.
An international enlighten on the management of those
problems by foreign authorities was provided by the
contribution of many of our embassies and various parliaments
from the European Union. All of this data constitutes a rich
collection of judicial and sociological information eager to
nourish the thinking of the commission.

   Finally, the stenographer used  the privileges granted to him
by article 6 of the ordinance of November 17, 1958 regarding
the functioning of parliament assemblies in order to assess,
with children at Tabitha's place in the Atlantic Pyrenées,  the
conditions in which home schooling was taking place. He did
so by accompanying the academic inspector during his visit.

   The conclusions stemming from the work of the enquiry
commission are twofold; On the one hand, children are
becoming easier preys to cults; on the other hand, the
involvement of public authorities against the influence of
sectarian deviances is rather unbalanced.


Philippe Vuilque, stenographer, Georges Fenech, President,
Alain Gest, Vice-President and jean-Pierre Brard, secretary of
the commission went to Sus on November 29, 2006 at 9 am to
accompany Jean-Michel Elpe, Academy inspector and Philippe
Wolf, inspector of the National Education, in their inspection
mission aimed at verifying the home schooling conditions  and
health of minors residing in that community.

Dr Colette Moulines and nurse Nicole Marty , technical advisor
to the Academy Inspection department brought their
contribution to this inspection.

   Surprised by the unexpected visit, 2 members of the
community invited the delegation to the living\dining room of
the main building and shared tea and cookies with them.

The President reminded the purpose of the commission's visit
to the hosts: verify the schooling conditions of children. A
member of the community stated that the children, who's
number vary between 15 and 20 due to frequent trips, were
thought by their own parents; said parents had no specific
training - the same person told them he only had a professional
high school degree in automotive body repair and was
teaching French, math and history.

   Answering to the stenographer, as to why children weren't
going to school, one member stated that public school thought
everything except to fear the word of God. The members of the
community, including children, are covered by no social
protection whatsoever, said protection being denied under the
pretense that it is considered unequal, whereas true solidarity
has to be conscious and consensual. Neither children, nor
adults are vaccinated.

   The 3 classrooms were visited: they all had the same
material characteristics: traditional but very basic school
equipment (tables, blackboards, lockers, a few posters
featuring French trees). No computer equipment was noticed.

   2 children were present in the first classroom, 4 in the
second and 5 in the third.

   The inspector of National Education proceeded to testing  
the children on their reading, comprehension and math.

   Singing and music (harp, flute, violin) were practiced by the

   Answering questions from the delegation children stated
that they didn't watch TV, for lack of time, they never went to
theater or to see a movie, that birthdays were seldom
celebrated and that Christmas was never celebrated (no
Christmas tree and no gifts).

   They have no textbooks and use learning material made by
their own parents.

   Asked by the President about their feelings on external
schools compared to their schooling  they said that they were
learning wisdom and that the outside world was not exactly
good. "they are doing crazy stuff because their parents don't
take care of them."

     The delegation then met privately with a young girl, (almost
an adult),  who lived in the community since she was born.
After stating that she was glad to live in the community she
said she knew nothing of Zidane (famous retired European
football player), the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. She was
unable to name a famous singer or actor (never went to see a
movie) and planned to stay in the community and learn to sew
and bake pastries. An eventual affective relationship is
thinkable for her only in the context of the community.

At the request of the President as to the actual number of
children who were schooled in the community, compared to
those who were declared to Academy Inspection, the inspector
of National Education proceeded to calling the children by
name to check their presence. It was noted that only 14
children were declared whereas 18 were present.

   The Academy inspector reminded them of the legal
dispositions applying to them as well as the children who were
only "passers-by" in their school and ordered them to correct
this situation as soon as possible. It is now up the inspector of
National Education to proceed to the proper follow-up.

   By the end of the visit the general feeling was that not
withstanding the warm welcome by the community the
strongest suspicions were confirmed as to the schooling
conditions and the socialization of the children.

   As adequate schooling should favor the critical thinking of
the future citizens as well as their knowledge of society, those
children are confined to a community, shut out from the world
and live in a bubble.

   Those children certainly seem happy to live in that
environment and look relatively  cheerful but underneath that
first impression the fact remains that adults are imposing their
way of life on them and wish to conceal reality of the external
world from them at all costs, even if it's dangerous.   


   Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
guarantees the right to privacy regarding family matters. It
would therefore be tempting for public authorities to consider
the influence of cults, mainly on children,  as part of that
protected sphere in order to justify some form of non-

   However, according to constant jurisprudence, though this
article was meant to protect everyone from arbitrary intrusion
by public authorities it does not force them to abstain from all
types of action. As we are regularly reminded by the European
Court of Human Rights, this limitation is not incompatible with
their duty to fulfill their positive obligations. The guarantee
offered by article 8 is also aimed at insuring the development
of each individual's personality. It belongs to authorities to
keep a fair balance between general and particular interests.

   General interest is certainly not to allow situations to drag
on, under the pretense that adults have rights they can enjoy,  
involving children who are victimized by social seclusion,  
deprivations or manipulations eager to affect their
development and social insertion, as is the case with children
victimized by cults.  



1. A phenomenon hidden behind freedom of opinion

   "In 2006, the main difficulty regarding the situation of
children was the question of seclusion."  That's how Michel
Huyette, delegate advisor on the protection of children at the
Bastia (1) court of appeal focused on the main problem faced
by children under the influence of cults. During his audition
before the enquiry commission, while stating that the present
French legislation was sufficient to be able to intervene in
every situation, involving children victimized by cults, he
emphasized on the  fact that the French penal code did not
make the seclusion of children illegal. It actually constitutes no
violation. However, not only does social seclusion lead to
rejection of the external world but the child will suffer greatly
from a lack of adaptation to a society that was constantly
stigmatized during his\her stay in the cult. In the eyes of this
judge, who is quite familiar with the question "the problem of
children who live in cults is that their parents tell them every
day that the external world is monstrous and dangerous.  This
means that even when they are adults they will never leave the
cult." The judge also thinks it is necessary to rely on the rights
of children which are already mentioned in numerous French
as well as international texts: the right to freedom of thought,
the right to education and knowledge and the right to have a
job..."Children who are secluded in cults are completely
deprived of all those rights. (...) One must always think in terms
of seclusion. When they are secluded children are prevented
from living the same way as anyone else. "

           This inadequacy between the rights of children
mentioned in international texts and  sectarian movements was
mentioned several times before the commission. Jean-Michel
Roulet (1) President of MIVILUDES, mentioned articles 13 and
17 of the International Convention on the Rights of Children of
1989, (aka: The New York Convention) and said that "according
to article 13 the child has a right to freedom of expression.
That right includes freedom to research, receive and
propagate information and ideas of all kinds without any border
considerations. It is rather obvious that all those dispositions
are not respected." Therefore, as emphasized several times by
members of the commission (2), the New York Convention
includes, in a more general fashion, many dispositions aimed at
protecting the child which favor the development of critical

           It is frequent for freedom of religion (also mentioned in
texts) to come in opposition to people fighting against social
seclusion as practiced in cults. We cannot, however, under the
pretense of freedom of religion, justify practices which are
prejudicial to the development of the child. As Jean-Michel
Roulet noticed: "It is extremely important not to allow this
discourse around the theme of violations of freedom of
religion to develop (...). What worries us, more then
philosophical and doctrinal content, is practices that have
nothing to do with beliefs(...)." After reminding us that the New
York convention also guarantees freedom of religion to
minors, Michel Duvette, Director of juvenile judicial protection
at the Ministry of Justice (3) says, while denouncing this
argumentation: "in our country, which is one of the best in
protecting such rights, we are reminded of past tragedies as
soon as the question of the religious conception of individuals
is brought up. We are always hesitant when restrictions are
proposed regarding this fundamental right. Cults are experts
at bringing up this debate in such a way as to intimidate the
judicial institution and render inefficient all attempts with
regards to the protection of minors.

b) Jehovah's Witnesses

   In an official statement from July 3rd 1997, the national
consistory of the Jehovah’s Witnesses stated their opposition
to all hierological blood transfusions in order to abide by 3
verses of the Bible and a verse from the apostles' acts
regarding food restrictions

   Favoring alternatives to transfusions (autological
transfusions, products obtained by the fractioning of plasma,
increase in the production of red cells), they consider their
position to be a therapeutic choice as opposed to denial of
treatment. Using dramatic events that occurred over the last
20 years regarding blood transfusions they feel justified in
extending that "choice" to their children.

   Regarding a request for scientific analysis made by the
stenographer of the commission and presented about a DVD
produced by  the Jehovah’s witnesses with the help of hospital
practitioners, the National Academy of Medicine and the high
authority on health denounced what they call " banalities,
approximations and omissions that are detrimental to the
safety of transfusions. " "There is no critical presentation of
available studies and no caseloads regarding the problems the
"experts" on the DVD refer to, as would require principles of
medicine founded on evidence.

   In a letter addressed to Mr Jean-Pierre Brard (member of the
commission) the National Order of physicians refer to the
content of the DVD as pseudo-scientific methods solely
oriented towards a particular agenda and without  any
validation or development of critical thinking.

   Not withstanding the fact that those "alternative methods"
(supposing their use had been planned well in advance) are
useless in cases of emergency and that the safety of blood
products is extremely high, it's undeniable that blood
transfusions, as practiced today, are the only proven method
and constitute a vital medical act for many people in different
pathological circumstances.  

   In those conditions the denial of a blood transfusion
becomes a choice to face death as opposed to a therapeutic
choice. Such a consent is unavoidable in the JW movement
and those bypassing it are considered not to be willing to take
part in the sect anymore by their action and are rejected from
the sect.

   Refusing a blood transfusion, when it is needed for an adult,
is supported by the laws of today. Article L. 1111-4 of the public
health code states: "everyone makes, along with their health
professional, decisions regarding their health, given the
advice and information they are provided with. (...) If the will of
the patient to reject or cease a treatment puts their life in
danger the physician must do everything possible to have the
patient consent to essential care."

   Let's remember however an ordinance from the 16th of
October 2002 where the State Council states the limits of such
freedom in the following terms: " the right of the patient to
give, when their health allows them to do so, their consent to a
medical treatment is a fundamental right; however, doctors do
not violate this fundamental right, as mentioned in article 16-3
of the civil code as well as article L. 1111-4 of the public health
code, when they have done everything  they could to convince
a patient to consent to an essential treatment. They are
accomplishing, in an attempt to save the patient, an act that is
essential to life and adequate for the patient's condition."

   Though it is not the enquiry commission's mandate to judge
the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses its role is to denounce the
effects those beliefs have on  the health and psyche of

   Asked to be martyrs for their cause, young Jehovah’s
Witnesses hope they will have to go through surgery some day
and reject a blood transfusion in order to serve as examples of
a good JW.

   JW magazine Awake! presents pictures of 24 children from
different countries who died as a result of refusing a blood
transfusion. The article talks about how much of a positive
effect for the JW movement the behavior of those kids had on
the medical profession. Medical staff were shocked by their
stubbornness and were asking questions. Some of them even
allowed themselves to be indoctrinated.

   This education of young kids to martyrdom is extremely
troublesome. As for the parents who put the health of their
kids at risk, even to a point of sacrificing their life prognosis by
denying a blood transfusion, it is unacceptable; it constitutes a
nuisance to public order, according to the analysis exposed
before the enquiry commission by Jean-Olivier Vioux who says:
"when the life of a child is in danger the state cannot
negotiate. (...) Danger  is imminent and a blood transfusion is
denied: It's a nuisance to public order."

   The manifestations of this nuisance are limited by article L.
1111-4 of the public health code which states: "In the case of
denial of treatment by a person who has parental authority or a
legal guardian which is eager to have serious consequences
on the health of the minor, doctors are allowed to provide an
essential treatment."

   What if the doctor was him\herself a Jehovah’s Witness? The
2001 report of the inter-ministerial mission to fight against
cults (MILS) states at page 94: "there is a directory of JW
doctors. It is possible for a doctor to show up and ask to
participate in a surgery as a Jehovah’s Witness even though
he doesn't even know the JW patient."

   The creation of hospital liaison committees by Jehovah's
Witnesses allows them to list doctors who are "receptive" and
towards which patients facing the possibility of a surgery
requiring a blood transfusion can be oriented.

   Aware of the lethal risk JW children can be exposed to, the
commission wishes a better protection for them then what the
law now offers by proposing a modification to article L. 1111-4
of the public health code in order to forbid parents to abandon
their kids to an imminent death. Paragraph 6 of that article
should read: "In a case where denial of treatment regards a
blood transfusion, the doctor, after informing the person who
has parental authority or the legal guardian of the
consequences of their choice, proceeds to administer the
blood transfusion."

   If such a legal modification is adopted it should be
accompanied by measures of educational assistance aimed at
the psychological protection of the young transfused patients
as they are discharged and returned to their family. They
should be told about the ordeal of a young man as exposed by
Charline Delporte before the inquiry commission: "He said his
parents were Jehovah's Witnesses but he was not since he
was 6 years old. He was transfused as a result of a serious
illness after an intervention from the State Attorney (...) "You
don't understand. I will not get into the New World after
Armageddon. I am dead in the eyes of my parents. Every day,
while praying, they tell me that I will not be with them in
paradise." (1)

(1) audition, September 13th, 2006