French Government Confronted on Its Funding of Religious Hate

At a conference this week in Geneva, an international law expert and several NGOs called upon French President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister to cease the financing of FECRIS (European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects) and its member organizations based on the destruction they have caused.

Under Macron’s predecessors, FECRIS solicited grants that were used to fund hate speech targeting religious groups in European Union countries.

International law expert and NGOs conference in Geneva

Thierry Valle, of the French NGO Coordination des Associations et des Individus pour la Liberté de Conscience (CAP/LC), showed that France’s policy stigmatizes religious minorities and can result in life-threatening consequences for members of such religions.

By financing FECRIS, the French government directly funds religious persecution in Europe.

In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, France was asked to reconsider its policy.

An expert on international law, attorney Patricia Duval, described the ideological roots of FECRIS, created by UNADFI (another French anti-religious organization) in 1994 with an objective to combine all anti-religious elements across Europe in an effort to target religious groups. An analysis of FECRIS’ operations revealed that it:

  • Refers to as “sects” any religious minority or spiritual movement considered by FECRIS to depart from what is “usually considered a religion”
  • Seeks testimony from families of converts to new religious movements to then accuse such groups of destroying families
  • Stigmatizes people and groups based on rumor, prejudice and suspicion and
  • Receives funding to carry out ideological manipulation.

Duval concluded that it was urgent for France to cease sponsoring such gross violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Willy Fautré, director and co-founder of Human Rights Without Frontiers, denounced the dangerous activities of the Russian vice-president of FECRIS, Alexander Dvorkin.

In Russia, Dvorkin enjoys the freedom to disseminate inflammatory narratives and hate speech about Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, the Salvation Army, Mormons, Falun Gong practitioners and others. In 2017, in the capital city of India, Hindus held a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to protest the persecution of their religion in Russia and burned Dvorkin in effigy.

Eric Roux, of the European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF), said, “When a country like France adopts a specific but controversial policy, other countries may think it is legitimate to follow suit and then they do worse. By financing groups like FECRIS, France sends the message to the rest of the world: ‘You can discriminate and persecute religious minorities because that is what we, the cradle of human rights, do.’”

“Under its newly elected government, which appears willing to reform society by focusing on real priorities, France should stop financing such associations, apply the principles of laïcité (secularity) and human rights, protect religious freedom for all, and particularly members of religious minorities” stated Edward Parkin, International Director of STAND.