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Home » World Religions » The French want to make society safe for religion by banning so-called cults | Public Radio International

The French want to make society safe for religion by banning so-called cults | Public Radio International

One fall day, way back in 1986, Charline Delporte lost her daughter — to a cult.

“Her new friends just showed up and they packed her things into a van,” Delporte remembers. “She said to us, ‘OK, well, I’m out of here. Good luck to you both.’ I was crying like a baby. I said, ‘Blandine, think for a moment, this isn’t you. You don’t behave like this.’”

“‘Whatever,’ she said. ‘Goodbye.’ ‘Where you going?’ I asked. But she wouldn’t say.”

This followed months of erratic behavior in which Delporte’s bright, inquisitive daughter dropped out of school, often locking herself in her room to pray for hours on end.

Blandine, then 20, went to Paris. She began a new life going door-to-door, preaching the word of her new faith. Charline says she didn’t hear from her daughter for years until a postcard came in the mail announcing her wedding. Charline went. When she saw her daughter in her wedding dress, she broke down.

“I was devastated,” she says. “I couldn’t stay for the whole wedding. My husband had to take me out because I was so upset. On one side of the aisle was our family; on the other, 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

That’s right: Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the US, it’s a perfectly legal denomination. But in France, it’s considered a cult.

France is perhaps Europe’s most secular country. For more than a century, separation of church and state has been enshrined in federal law. To defend this principle, the French government is willing to endure controversies like protests over its ban on religious wear in school: no Christian crucifixes and no Muslim veils.

But in one corner of spiritual life, the French state does more than maintain the secular dress code: it actively investigates and prosecutes groups it considers a threat to the state as cults. That includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists and many forms of Pentacostal Protestantism that are also perfectly acceptable in the US. Some 300 groups are listed by the French state as displaying “cult-like tendencies” such as manipulating people who are mentally weak, separating members from their biological families or demanding too much money, just to name a few.

For help, Charline turned to a tiny, two-room office in the northern city of Lille. It’s a place where people struggling with cults can come for help.

Charline arrived 25 years ago and never left. Today she runs this government-funded help center, called ADFI. It’s one of around 50 such offices across France.

Click to read rest of article via The French want to make society safe for religion by banning so-called cults | Public Radio International.


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