Vice President of FECRIS
I am very pleased to be able to take part in this conference today. I have had a long connection with FAIR, a cult watching and family support group which some of you already know, based in the United Kingdom. We are in fact holding a one-day Conference in London at the end of October which I hope some of you will be able to attend.
My interest in cults dates from when, for many years, I was a Member of Parliament. I came across cases which convinced me that the British Government was uninterested in this subject and unwilling to face up to the human problems resulting from cult abuse.
It has never been quite clear why the British are so unresponsive to the cult problem. Whether it’s because they are overly legalistic in their approach to the drafting of legislation, and do not feel confident to frame a law as brilliant as About-Picard law in France or because they are, as a nation, particularly secular, I don’t know.
But when you remember our national church was founded by a 16th Century monarch, mainly for the purpose of giving himself more freedom of action with one of the ladies of his court, you may understand our curiously agnostic approach to religion. Whatever the reason, we do not take the cult problem seriously, and this is a pity.
I faced great frustration when, by chance, I briefly became Minister in our Home Office, the government department with nominal responsibility for cults. It turned out this part of my brief enjoyed official support limited to one-fifth of the time of a Grade 6 civil servant. The clear intention of the department was to continue to do nothing, and avoid getting involved with or making judgements about any group claiming to be a faith.
Things haven’t improved greatly since: it is wonderful that FAIR continues to monitor cults, help victims and their families, publish newsletters, and generally fly the flag, but we tread a somewhat lonely path.
Catherine Picard is a person for whom I have the greatest admiration. What she has achieved in France, in framing a law against cults and turning it in to a reality, provides an example to other countries. This is a worthy aim, something that we have in Britain have not even begun to approach. Indeed, we have often discussed why there is such a hugely difference attitude to this area of policy between the two governments.
I am pleased to introduce Madame Catherine Picard.