The enactment of stigmatizing anti-religious legislation sponsored by elements within the ruling Socialist Party continues to place that country well below international standards.

The report states:

“In 1996, the Gest or Guyard Commission (named for its chairman and rapporteur, respectively) issued a report that identified 173 groups as cults, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Theological Institute of Nimes, and the Church of Scientology. The Government has not outlawed any of the groups on the list; however, members of some of the groups listed have alleged instances of intolerance due to the ensuing publicity and a perception that the groups on the list are potentially harmful…

“The 1905 law on the separation of church and state makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of faith; however, recent legislation has the potential to place religious freedom at risk. The new “About-Picard” law provides for the dissolution of associations (including religious associations) whose leaders have two or more convictions on any of a variety of offenses, some of which are worded ambiguously, such as “psychological or physical subjection” or “fraudulent abuse of a state of ignorance or weakness.” Although the law applies to any legal entity, it may have been inspired by concerns over new and less familiar religions in France. The Senate and the National Assembly voted in favor of the About-Picard legislation in May 2001 and on June 14, 2001, the President signed it into law. To date there have been no cases brought under the About-Picard law.”

U.S. Action Taken:

“Embassy officers met several times with government officials and members of Parliament and also with a variety of private citizens, religious organizations, and NGO’s* involved in the issue of religious freedom. U.S. Senators also discussed religious freedom issues with senior government officials during visits to the United States.”

(NGO = Non-Governmental Organization, e.g., International Committee of the Red Cross)

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