Lack of scientific rigor at MIVILUDES exposed by sociologist Olivier Bobinneau, former scientific expert on MIVILUDES

Comment: The following video is excerpted from a debate on French TV where Olivier Bobinneau, a sociologist, takes apart the arguments of George Fénech, President of MIVILUDES, and the unscientific approach of his organisation in its absurdly broad legal mendate to persecute "cultic abuses".

Transcript translated by

TV Host: Since I promised a true debate about cults this evening, first of all, do you all agree on the definition that is given in France to "sects" (cults), and in particular the definition provided in the report handed out today to our Prime Minister, François Fillon? What is a cult in France? Is it the same thing people would call "cult" elsewhere?

Nathalie Luca, Anthropologist: In many countries, there is no definition of a cult. Yes, people talk about abuses, but I'd say that, to my knowledge, there are no cults in France either, since we have a secular state, which means that the state does not recognize any religious group. This doesn't mean it doesn't know about them, but rather that as a consequence, it does not recognize cults either, not more than other [religions]. So even in France, the government is supposed to be interested in the abuses, rather than the cults themselves. I think it's a slip of the tongue when the word "cult" is uttered. Anyhow, it is important to know that in most European countries, the word "cult" is banned, directly, since it is does not make sense to everyone.

TV Host: You, Georges Fénech, what would be your definition of a cult, given that the cults themselves say: "After all, we too are religions like all the others, emerging religions or minorities of convictions."

Georges Fénech, President of MIVILUDES: I don't have a definition for a cult. Earlier on, you said that I fought against cults, I don't fight against cults.

TV Host: I said that France has the reputation of fighting against cults...

Fénech: But I am identified as one of the main actors. I am pointing out that I don't fight against cults, that the existence of cults is living proof of the fact that we live in a free society. That a society which forbids the existence of minorities is a society that would be refusing its own values. I insist a lot on that point.

So, what do I fight against? Against cultic abuses, which can affect any organization, any religion, including a dominant one, and not necessarily a minority. From the moment the "yellow line" has been crossed... and what is this line? It is the public order, public health, it's the Law... then it's at that point that my field of competence intervenes.

So, I want to make it really clear, there is no legal definition of a cult in France, not more than elsewhere in the world. I don't know any country in the world with a definition for it. We know what a cult is, in the common sense of the word. We know what it is: it's a group that detaches itself, ok. And a cultic abuse, a cultic abuse... today we have identified what a cultic abuse is, because we have taken some distance, we have case law, we have our expert analysis... What is cultic abuse? It's a grouping which leads to what? To family breakups, to exorbitant financial demands, to dangerous therapeutic methods. It is organizations which are often in trouble with the law, which have an anti-social discourse. Here you have a number of criteria which allows us to intervene in order to exert an alert signal and eventually take over the legal authority.

Comment: Regarding the first highlighted sentence above, Fénech is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand he says "there is no legal definition of a cult in France", but on the other he says "We know what it is: it's a group that detaches itself." Detaches itself? From what? From society? Perhaps. But the more likely, and far more sinister, meaning slipped in under the radar here is that any grouping which stakes its freedom to not associate with pathologicals, of which there are many in the organs of state governing French society today, is a 'cult' to Fénech and the MIVILUDES.

In the second highlighted sentence, Fénech says that a "cultic abuse" is a "grouping" which "leads to family breakups, exorbitant financial demands, dangerous therapeutic methods and which has an anti-social discourse." Nevermind that, as Olivier Bobinneau explains below, Fénech has deliberately conflated "cultic abuse", an action, with "grouping", a descriptive noun, it is Fénech's "field of competence" which will intervene to decide which "grouping" is behaving like a "cultic abuse" [yes, we know, that doesn't make sense, but that's the deviant mind for you], which "grouping" has an "anti-social discourse", which "grouping" leads to "dangerous therapeutic methods".

The final highlighted comment has even more sinister undertones which we'll leave to the reader to speculate on.

TV Host: Olivier Bobinneau, do you agree with what is called "cultic abuses" in France?

Olivier Bobinneau, Sociologist: I found this evening's speech by Mister President of MIVILUDES absolutely remarkable, even more so because he admits in front of all of us that finally, the term "cult" is to be banned from this public policy, even if, from having read the report myself, and the numerous reports throughout the years, the term is still there in the MIVILUDES report. That's the first thing.

The second thing that I found interesting in what you just said, as I was listening to the definition of a "cultic abuse", you said that it is "a grouping". Having also studied this question with magistrates, I think that a "cultic abuse" is first of all an action.So, if you said it's a group, that's another way of saying "we will focus ourselves on a social group, that is, a cult". I think that, in the end, the real problem for France is that we have made a real public policy out of this. And a public policy - this could be argued amongst political experts - but a modern public policy has three main characteristics:

The first one is to define the objective of this public policy. Not even form the Law's point of view, but simply defining the objective, after research, enquiries and even a public debate. The objective is not defined. In the report, there is a link made between, "cult", "cultic phenomena" and "cultic abuses", including, as you have said this evening, that cultic abuses is a "grouping". Ok, so we have a problem with the objective.

The second characteristic element is the methodology in a public policy. That is, a public debate, meetings with experts, allowing for a confrontation of the different points of views. I don't believe I saw this in every report, in particular the one you were in charge of and which was published today.

Then, the third important criterion of a contemporary public policy: it is the evaluation, to set tools allowing for evaluation. But the problem is that, in this public policy of fighting against "cultic abuses", there is no tool of evaluation. I take that back, actually. There is a possible evaluation. It is international organizations who could come and see what is going on in France, and who are rather critical even concerning what I have just said; what is the objective, how to define it, not in legal terms but to define it in order to be able to set into place administrative measures, a methodology. And when international entities such as the UN, the OFCE, look at, observe [what is going on in France] and are critical, the MIVILUDES replies: "Ah, they are critical because they have been infiltrated by 'the Cults'. The UN and the OFCE have been infiltrated by cults." So, obviously, this conspiracy theory just leaves us wondering.