Following the recent media hype around the Quebec-based Raelian movement’s claims regarding cloning (which some observers suspect since the beginning of having been in fact a clever publicity stunt from a movement well-known for its provocative strategy), the Canadian media have published a series of articles on this controversy and other issues of new religious movements (or “cults”).
In a multi-part series of articles published on Jan. 25-26, the French-speaking Canadian newspaper La Presse reports that Québec has become a promised land for “cult leaders” having trouble in France, according to French scholar Jacques Cherblanc, all the French leaders of New Acropolis (a group with roots in the Theosophical movement) have settled in Québec and acquired Canadian citizenship.
In order to put the situation in Quebec in an international perspective for the sake of comparison, the newspaper (which speculates if Québec isn’t too liberal toward “quacks”) looks at what is happening in other countries. It contrasts the United States and the United Kingdom, with their strong emphasis on individual freedoms, and France, with its much more interventionist policy regarding smaller religious or parareligious groups. However, even in France, some are apparently beginning to wonder how much blacklisting groups or introducing new legal rules (as was done in 2001) may really solve the problem.
Alain Combet, one of the cult-watching activists interviewed by La Presse explains that either legal texts will be too vague and won’t help, or will be too restrictive and might threaten religious and individual freedom. Combet suggests that patient, daily work will be much more effective in blocking dubious groups within the use of existing laws and dissuading prospective members. Regarding Québec, La Presse considers as highly unlikely that there will be any change in the current, liberal practice.
— By Jean-François Mayer. RW contributing editor and founder of the Website Religioscope (http://www.religioscope.com)