Official and semi-official agencies dealing with “cults” in France and Belgium feel that much has been achieved over the past two decades, but they would like to see some additional legal regulations introduced. Both the French MIVILUDES (Inter-ministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight against Sectarian Deviances) and the Belgian CIAOSN (Information and Advice Center on Harmful Sectarian Organizations) were well-represented at the conference of the International Cultic Studies Association in Brussels (June 29 – July 1), which RW attended. Both Belgian and French state-related cult-watching agencies tend to interact with networks critical of cults, in addition to their own information resources (other state agencies) and international partners.
Both MIVILUDES and CIAOSN seized the opportunity to report on their work and prospects. The French MIVILUDES stated that its activities have not always been rightly understood abroad; for this reason, it has published its latest report (2006) in English and other languages beside the French version. Both French and Belgian cult-watching agencies would like to see more work being done at the level of the European Union, but admit that different views on the issue make it difficult. For instance, while there is CIAOSN in Belgium, the neighboring Netherlands does not see “cults” as a political issue, stated Belgian Senator Luc Willems in his speech. In France and Belgium, there is a wide, cross-partisan political consensus supporting a state policy regarding “cultic” activities.
In 2001, France introduced a law against mental manipulation; political circles in Belgium would like to have a similar legal text adopted by Parliament, considering that it would allow governmental agencies to act proactively. MIVILUDES’ Catherine Katz reported that 60 percent of people who complain about problems to anti-cult groups in France had trouble with a variety of therapeutic practices (similar trends are observed in other countries). Consequently, a need is seen for more effective regulation of professional activities in the field of health.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer