Testimony#6 Lyon, April 28, 2000
Claude is a Protestant. The freedoms of his Evangelical Association are being more and more restricted due to the growing climate of fear of « cults » that is spreading in France today and affecting many religious groups. I represent the CLEF Association [Lyons Evangelization and Training Circle], which is affiliated with the French Evangelical Alliance. This Alliance is part of the Protestant Federation. There are about 5,000 of us in and around Lyon.
As members of a Protestant Evangelical Church in Lyons, we are being gradually subjected to greater and greater restrictions on our ﬁeedorn of speech. In 1982, we were founding members of a radio station in Villeurbanne. The board of directors started telling us: « You must not speak only about Protestants.” Later we were told: « Don’t talk about God too much. » And then, « Stop talking about sin. » Last year, we were-told to:
« Only play music. » So we played Gospel. Alas! Not all Lyons people understand English! I was happy to translate the words of the songs, which spoke of Jesus and of the forgiveness of all our sins. Then we were wamed not to talk about Jesus and sin again. In 1997, we were kicked off the radio and not allowed to broadcast anymore.
Every year on December 8 and June 21, we have a Gospel event on the Jacobins Square in Lyon. In earlier years, the Department of Events of the town would write or call to ask us what we needed and even offer their help if we were a little late starting preparations. But for the last three years, we’ve been having all sorts of problems: One day we have no electricity. Another time it’s something else. Things are closing in on us.
In 1994, we had a march for Jesus, a joyous march that was a combination of a demonstration and a religious procession. We had prepared the itinerary of this event with the Police Department. Ten days before the march, the Town Hall in Lyons reﬁised to let us do this event because they wae afraid of « cults. » When we asked them why, they answered, « If we agreed to let you do this, we would have to agree to let others march too…. »
What they did not realize was that this event was taking place all over the world, in London, Berlin, and in France in Paris, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Marseilles. I simply faxed this list to the Town hall in Lyons, telling them : « It is very simple. We are going to alert Amnesty International.“ They immediately called back to say, « You didn’t tmderstand, it was a question of the itinerary! No problem, you can organize your march. »
As a Protestant, I would like to remind anyone reading this that 400 years ago, in 1598, Henri IV signed the Edict of Nantes which promised every French citizen ﬁeedom of religion and of speech. This Edict was revoked under Louis XIV, provoking a repression of Protestants. Today the word « cult » is used to justify intolerance. I would like everybody in France to have ﬁeedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to think differently.
Testimony#7 Paris March 3, 2000
Nayah is a well–known singer. Her career was nearly destroyed.
On March 2, 1999, I was honored to be chosen out of more than 700 candidates to represent France during the Eurovision song contest to be held in Jerusalem. This contest is the European equivalent of the Grammy Awards.
Two days after my nomination, the paper L’Indépendant from Perpignan stated that I belonged to the Raël « cuit. » This story was seized and blown up by the media and in more than 100 newspaper articles and shows, it was described as the « Eurovision scandai » and the general comment was that I did not deserve to represent France.
French anti-cuit groups sent press releases to the media demanding that I be boycotted and official action be taken to prevent me from going to Jerusalem and representing my country in the contest. They even wrote to the Israeli embassy asking them to take the necessary steps to stop me going.
During the rehearsals and the performance in Jerusalem, I was followed everywhere by young soldiers carrying machine guns, and had to go through a metal detector every time I was to go on stage. I was the only singer to be subjected to this outrage. I was forbidden to see my friends and constantly followed. My phones were tapped. The messages on my answering machine were erased and I was not permitted to receive mail left for me at the reception desk in my hotel. But this harassment was minor compared to the treatment given to a friend of mine. He was badly beaten up by the security service attached to me in Jerusalem when ail he did was to ask how he could get a pass for my rehearsals. They said it was because he had corne to support me and was in a cuit.
Even though they knew me well, my French producers fmaily gave in to the pressure and decided to cancel their contract with me. During the Eurovision song contest, the French radio and TV stations ail represented me as either belonging or having belonged to the Raël cuit which, of course, swayed the jury and the audience against me. Before the media hatchet job, the music critics predicted that I would be in the first five. I ended 19th out of 24 nominated.
The result of this was that my producers canceled 16 TV shows and delayed the release of one of my albums for a month. In spite of ail this, the single soid 12,000 copies in the first week, a record for a Eurovision song, and it made it to the top 100. Unfortunately, the producers killed it before it had a chance to continue its climb. The contract which they canceled was for two albums over three years with tours in Canada and Japan.
Faced with ail this injustice, I have decided to fight intolerance and racism. I have decided to become a priest of the Raëlian religion and defend my values: World peace, non-violence, responsibility, sharing, democracy, love and respect of self and others, respect of human rights and absolute respect for ail life.
Testimony#8 Paris March 3, 2000
- B. is a naturopath and therapist who practices yoga and lives in southwest France. Bath his ability to earn a living and to participate in community life have been curtailed. A friend is offering testimony on his behalf.
P.B. has been a trained naturopath for 16 years and has a practice in Bayonne. He practices iridology, aroma therapy and treatment with essentiai oils. He has been a speech therapist for eight years, and practices the Radja Yoga of Brahma Kumari.
In 1996 in southwest France, ADFI began propaganda campaigns in primary schools, secondary schools and universities on the « dangers » of the spiritual minorities they call « cuits. » ADFI includes the Brahma Kumaris in this group. ADFI’s attacks have damaged P.B.’s reputation in the community, his access to others needing his help, and his ability to earn a living.
For a year-and-a-half, P.B. had volunteered his time on Radio-France in Basque Country presenting broadcasts about naturopathy. After ADFI claimed P.B. was the « guru » of the Brama Kumari « cuit, » the station refused to continue P.B.’s broadcasts.
P.B. worked as a speech therapist in Saint Palais, population 1,500, near Bayonne. He was known and liked by many people. But in 1997 an ADFI meeting broadly denounced cuits’ activities in France. More than half of this meeting was dedicated to P.B.. This was an enormous shock to P.B.’s friends and everyone who knew him Saint Palais.
In 1998, the newspaper Sud Ouest featured Brama Kumari in a derogatory article. Whîle it sidestepped actually mentioning P.B. by name, the article’s clear wording left no doubt as to his identity. P.B. lost 60 % of his clients.
He has received many anonymous phone calls, threatening or deriding him at ail hours of the day and night.
P.B. was asked to leave the board of the University of Free Studies, an association that organizes conferences. They said he was responsible for the loss of members, subscriptions and audience due to public suspicion that he belonged to a « cuit. » Then P.B. was asked to leave this association entirely.
P.B. had visited local prisons for eight years as a naturopath. The director of the regional penitentiary service of Bordeaux has withdrawn permission for P.B. to help prisoners, alleging that P.B. is a member of a « movement with a sectarian character. »