Vol. 5, No. 1
Preventing Cultic Deviations in Europe:
Reply to Singelenberg’s Comment
Comment by Richard Singelenberg and
by Henri de Cordes.
At first, was very
impressed that a distinguished scholar had read my paper and taken the time to
comment on it. But I was almost immediately disappointed when I realized that
the Dutch social anthropologist who was pretending to denounce “basic errors” in
my paper was himself committing basic errors. It is indeed a common error to
believe that a decision of the European Human Rights Court can reform a national
decision. According to article 35 of the Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as amended by Protocol n. 11, “the Court may
only deal with matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted.” As a
consequence, the Strasburg Court cannot reform a national final decision.
Nevertheless, the effect of a decision of the Strasburg Court is that the
citizen who wins the case can expect compensation by the State that has been
condemned by the Strasburg Court.
poldermodel, I found in Singelenberg’s comments a confirmation of my opinion
on the Dutch situation. I would not have used this typically Dutch expression if
I had not heard the word poldermodel for the first time in the mouth of a
Dutch official during a meeting on cultic issues: Rede Caesari quae sunt
caesaris. Singelenberg ironically supports my point when he states that
Schnabel’ conclusions were similar to Witteveen’s, for Schnabel published his
work in 1982 and Witteveen in 1984. Hence, I don’t believe it is unreasonable
for me to have asked if Witteveen conformed “to the social consensus on new
religious movements,” especially given that Singelenberg stresses how
influential Schnabel’s study was.
I understand that a
social anthropologist can rely on information of the International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights. However, I learned from my experience with this
private association—and especially its reports on Belgium—that the IHFHR
is not a reliable source for my work.
In my “European
tour”, I did not go as far as Georgia, simply because this country lies in Asia.
reproaches me for omitting the Berger report of the European Parliament.
However, I only mentioned the reports approved by the plenary session of the
parliament. As the Berger report had been sent back to the commission by the
plenary session of the Parliament in reaction to an intense lobbying campaign by
some pressure groups and thus had never been approved, I had no reason to refer
The aim of my paper
was to explain that European countries have their own approach to the cult
issue: INFORM is not MIVILUDES, because the United Kingdom is not the French
Republic. I respect Singelenberg’s criticism of the differences and
commonalities among INFORM, CIAOSN and MIVILUDES, but I would have valued it
much more if it had come from the representatives of these institutions.
not have realized that my paper was presented during the ICSA 2005 Annual
Conference in Madrid. The opinion I expressed in this Madrid essay is in
accordance with the public mandate I have received, for the second time, by a
parliamentary assembly. My mission does not include the search for a consensus
on these issues. Therefore, I understand that some persons do not share the
Belgian policy regarding cultic/sectarian deviations and express their
alertly read a pre-public draft of my paper when it was first posted for my
final review, so he was the first to detect a “basic error”: the Vatican City is
not a member State of the E.U. (changed to “example of a European state”). I am
grateful to him for noticing that the Council of Europe is not “exclusively”
dedicated to human rights (changed to “mainly” dedicated). The new version of my
paper corrects these errors, as well as a few that I picked up.
Sans la liberté de
blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur.