French Keeping Eye On Cults

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Date: January 11, 1996

Lawmakers Call For Crackdown After Study

Unveiling a new study of cults, French lawmakers called for a crackdown Wednesday to prevent further cult-related financides.

France now has 173 groups it considers cults, and cult members here have increased by at least 50% in the past dozen years to an estimated 300,000 people, lawmaker Jacques Guyard said at a news conference. Guyard, who wrote the report, said it was "difficult to say" how many lives were in danger. But with a dozen doomsday groups in France, he said, "it's important to watch out, especially for groups with children."

The 30-member parliamentary panel that prepared the study called for a permanent commission to track the cults, better coordination with international authorities and stricter enforcement of tax laws against cults.

The committee also urged the government to provide assistance to former cult members without jobs and separated from their families.

The study comes after 16 members of the Swiss-based Order of the Solar Temple perished in an apparent murder-suicide in the French Alps shortly before Christmas.

According to the report, cults in France had more than a dozen different focuses, ranging from New Age to apocalyptic to UFO to satanic. It said some of them engaged in illegal activity, including beatings, abductions, sexual abuse, illegal medical and labor practices, swindling and tax violations.

Some of the groups recruit children, the report said, specifically citing La Citadelle, Jehovah Witnesses, the Church of Scientology of Paris, the French Krishna Federation and 24 other organizations.