Talk:About-Picard law

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October 17, 2005 Peer review Reviewed
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Current status: Former featured article candidate


Note: text was moved "as-is" from Cult#France. A summary was created there and wikilink to here.--Zappaz 18:58, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Perspective on the measures wrt China[edit]

I think that indeed we should let the facts speak for themselves.

  • There is, one the one hand, the cited point of view that the French government repressed unduly the expression of Falun Gong and Tibetan demonstrators, and that this shows that the French government is an accomplice of the repression that China wages on Falun Gong and Tibet.
  • On the other hand, it is also a demonstrable fact that the same kind of security measures was implemented against anti-Bush demonstrators, while France was at odds with the US.

We can of course let the reader make his or her deduction from this point. But I do not think that it is neutral to cite allegations while not providing factual context.

Similarly, it was alleged that the French government cracks down on Falun Gong. On the other hand, it is a fact that Falun Gong freely demonstrates in Paris in all places where there is a Chinese community. David.Monniaux 16:56, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Externals links[edit]

Two of the 4 critical external links given quote fictitious content in the law:

Section I of the anti-cult law makes "mental manipulation" a crime. Anyone found guilty of causing "a state of psychological or physical subjection resulting from serious and repeated pressures or techniques designed to alter judgement" faces five years imprisonment.

The actual text of the law is available on the Internet, and neither section I, nor any other section, say anything like that.

In May, France passed the About/Picard law that criminalizes missionary activity Missionary activity is not discussed at any place in the law.

I wonder the interest of including "critiques" of a law from people who obviously haven't even read the law. How are they relevant? David.Monniaux 17:14, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Well, to give the devil his due, Cult indicates that there was a provision involving "mental manipulation" in early drafts of the law that was later removed. If this is true, the story may be based on those early drafts rather than the final result. I agree with your point, though, that critiques of the law which get the law wrong are unlikely to do much good. -- Antaeus Feldspar 17:58, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)
That is why I inserted a caveat that the articles contained counter-factual information on the law, but some other user thought that this was inappropriate. I'm not inclined, though, to completely remove the links: even if those authors did not read the final, officially published text of the law, they may have some interesting point of view. What do you think? David.Monniaux 18:08, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)
I presume you mean this edit? The edit summary reads "Critique - comments to talk page please. Avoid pre-empting critique".
I cannot see how it is "pre-empting critique" to point out the factual information that said critiques are addressing aspects of their target that do not exist. To remove any warning that the critique may be based on false facts is not protecting the critique from "pre-emption", it's protecting the critique from critique. I'm restoring the warnings. -- Antaeus Feldspar 21:58, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)
You have an issue with a critical statement? Then substantiate your point on an edit. Othwerwise, by placing these "disclaimers" on the external links you are tainting the neutrality of this article. -- 03:58, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)
The point is substantiated. If you have a phrasing you would prefer that we use to say "Hey, these external links which say they're illuminating the flaws of the law? Be aware that some of the things they're criticizing in the law do not actually exist" then we would all consider using that phrasing. But the idea that we shouldn't mention a single word about those external links telling untruths about the very content of the law, because that would "taint the neutrality" of the article, is frankly ridiculous. If that kind of critique can be "pre-empted" by pointing out that not everything it claims is in the law is in the law, it's the kind of critique that is better pre-empted. -- Antaeus Feldspar 21:43, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)
We should then probably removed those links. Again, how can criticism of a law written by un-notorious people who apparently haven't even read the law be relevant? I wanted to keep the links because there was some content apart from the criticism of inexistant articles in the law, but since you insist, we may as well remove them. David.Monniaux 09:18, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I note that there is no external link to any group belonging to the "anti-cult movement", or other groups who support the law. Of course, it is very easy to get some by Googling [1][2]. Should we include some? David.Monniaux 09:23, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Broad opinion[edit]

I removed:

This is not so different from most other democratic governments, but the French took it a step further, insisting that citizens have no officially sanctioned ethnic or religious identity. Such a viewpoint is arguably non-discriminatory or, more precisely, equi-discriminatory. Yet societal stress on forced homogeneity, coupled with the exclusion of religious symbols and practices from all public places and discourse, led to feelings of oppression by people of faith within France.

Sounds like an extract from a social science essay. This is clearly opinion, at least to some significant extent. As such, it should be attributed. David.Monniaux 20:39, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Which critics?[edit]

Critics requested the dissolution of the MILS as its very purpose, "to fight against sects," is an affront to the French Constitution which guarantees the religious neutrality of the State and the principle of separation of Church and State. They also argued that there is a need to repeal of any discriminatory law containing the word "cult," "sect," "cultic," or "sectarian" as laws should not specify groups as "sectarian" or "cultic" as, in a democracy, all individuals and groups should be treated equally and in the same manner.[3]

Which critics said so? Which laws specify which groups as sectarian? David.Monniaux 20:46, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Critiques: origins[edit]

A number of links to groups critical of the policies outlined in the article were added (many of them by anonymous users). While I think that it is very interesting to hear the point of view of people opposed to the law, I think that these additions would be of greater interest if one attributed to specific, identifiable, groups.

Anybody can found a group (or even be a group, all by himself or herself) and have a web site. The same group can run several web sites. In accordance to Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy, we must

  • clearly identify the sources of opinion
  • assert the representativeness of sources of opinions.

To quote:

We should not attempt to represent a dispute as if a view held by only a small minority of people deserved as much attention as a majority view. That may be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. If we are to represent the dispute fairly, we should present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject, or among the concerned parties. None of this, however, is to say that minority views cannot receive as much attention as we can possibly give them on pages specifically devoted to those views.

The opinion of major, identifiable groups such as the International Federation for Human Rights, Amnesty International, or of institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights, is obviously more relevant to the discussion than the opinions of a unknown groups.

I note that many of the recent additions do not carry much meaningful factual information, apart from the information that a certain group disliked the About-Picard law. David.Monniaux 20:55, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

In applying your quote from NPOV, France is clearly isolated in the pursuit of these policies and legislations. If at all, the majority view is that the origin of the anti-secte legislation in France can be misused by the public and lower officials to harass people because of what they believe. -- 03:55, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)
"Clearly isolated"? It does not seem clear to me, at least with respect to legislation. What does the About-Picard law essentially say? That, under some circumstances, you can prosecute an organization, even a religious one, for crimes committed by its management during the course of activity of the association. Now, let's look. There have been a number of well-publicized cases in the United States where people who had (at least allegedly) been raped or sexually abused by Roman Catholic priest have successfully sued the organizations of the Roman Catholic Church, to the extent that some of these organizations are now experience dire financial problems.
So, it seems to me that if we stick to facts, the United States already has similar legislation. I'd be happy to hear more about those US Catholic cases.
But, still, I think you skirt the issue. Who of relevance, exactly, criticizes the French legislation? David.Monniaux 08:37, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Just a little remark: when you insert claims about court cases, etc., could you insert a link to the original site from which you copied or translated the case? Could you also, if possible, insert wiki links in the text? Thank you. David.Monniaux 08:41, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Controversy with an anonymous user[edit]

Content moved from Wikipedia:Peer review/French legislation on cult abuses.

Interestingly, David, you have reverted my edits and immediately after that you blocked me from editing that article (on a different IP I have used for years), for the only reason that the edits where challenging the position you hold in this subject. In my opinion this should be considered a misuse of your sysop powers. You do not even have an email address available to forward a complaint. I have complained to the stewards about your behaviour.

First, you are inadequately representing my position. I blocked IP address ( for the reason that there is a standing policy that anonymizing proxies should be blocked. I quote:
'Administrators are permitted and encouraged to IP-block anonymous proxies indefinitely. [...] Such blocks are routine and uncontroversial.
I first discussed the matter on IRC with other sysops. Nobody raised any objection. I then applied a "routine and uncontroversial" standing policy.
Second, a valid email address is registered in my user preferences (but maybe there's a glitch in the software that prevents it from being used). Furthermore, I edit under my real name, and my user page has links to my "official" work home page, which explains how to contact me. A Google search would have given you the same.
Thus, I consider your complaints unwarranted, and libellous. Please complaint to stewards that you were blocked for using an anonymizing proxy, against the normal Wikipedia terms of usage. David.Monniaux 08:55, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Your attempt to coverup your blatant abuse of sysop privileges is appalling. Case in point, the only reason you blocked my IP was because the edits I made were not of your linking. This is the sequence of events
  1. I added numerous, substantial and well researched material to the article;
  2. You were unhappy about these edits, so you popped-up your console and did a WHOIS on my IP;
  3. Upon discovering it was an anon proxy, you found an easy way to silence me: revert, delete my edits, block;
Your blocking was warranted by WP policy, but the manner and the motives for the block were not.
Note that your act was futile, as you have not silenced me. On the contrary.

I intend to pursue this all the way up to the arbCom if necessary And please do not change the link from the peer review. Let other editors know of this dispute as it is at the core of the peer review request. ::-- 16:37, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

You are cordially invited to go to the ArbCom if necessary. Let me point out to you that I discussed the matter with some members of the ArbCom on IRC prior to blocking the whole range that I noticed because of you.
Furthermore, I did not delete your edits, which were largely copies and pastes from sites belonging to various pressure groups, except in cases when they were opinion pieces that could not be attributed to a precise group. I actually even did a part of your "research", by adding the name and URL of some of the text that you copied.
So, please avoid weasel words, and attribute criticism to whom uttered it. Then, we will be able to discuss the relevance of it. Just because Web pages talking about a topic and fitting your POV appear when you use Google does not make them worthy references... David.Monniaux 17:12, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Yes, I am sure you discussed with arbCom members the sequence of events that led you to block my IP. Everything will come out in the wash... -- 17:31, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Aren't you confusing the interventions of some advocates of a position in some mmeting of those organizations or some reports presented to it, with an official positions from those organizations?
Right. There is a difference between, for example, criticism by OSCE, and criticism from Church of Scientology officials invited at an OSCE-sponsored meeting. (See earlier edits of Zappaz). David.Monniaux 09:15, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)
You can cover biased statement by using such official-looking attributions. There is a craze by some to find attributions for every line of every article. Not only it makes for confusing articles, unaccessible to the common reader, as playgrounds for specialists only, but also it smacks of lawyers' ploys. Attributions, playing on the notoriety of the attributtee, and presented to support a thesis, sometimes stink as just maneuvers.
I suggest that all quotations and attributions should be kept out of the main texts, and become footnotes, for the specialists to play and have their solitary pleasures. This is my theory, "always isolate the side mess from the main mess". You are welcome to quote it and attribute it to me, or to the International Organization and Court of Greenfinch Rights on Attributions and Quotations;-)) --Pgreenfinch 08:36, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)


I looked up the ECHR case database and added references to the relevant cases. David.Monniaux 15:27, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Article name[edit]

Previous title was inherently POV. New title, based on the full title of the About-Picaard law "French legislation for the prevention and repression of cultic groups" is more appropriate and NPOV. --Zappaz 04:04, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

an even more NPOV name would be "French legislation for the prevention and repression of cultic groups that break human rights and fundamental rights" Andries 18:23, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Better delete the article than having this truncated and manipulative title courtesy of Zappaz. --Pgreenfinch 23:04, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

I've also been wondering about the title. There are several options I can see:

  1. French legislation for the prevention and repression of cultic groups that break human rights and fundamental rights
  2. About-Picard law (currently a redirect to here)
  3. French legislation concerning cults or similar
  4. French law number 2001-504 (does there exist a convention for this sort of article?)

My vote goes to no. 3, French legislation concerning cults. Anybody else? SeventyThree(Talk) 04:20, 15 August 2005 (UTC)

I moved the article to About-Picard law - this is short and uncontestably neutral. French legislation concerning cults and French law number 2001-504 I made into redirects. Irmgard 07:09, 22 September 2005 (UTC)

It's short and neutral, but (1) somewhat obscure, and (2) the article covers vastly more than just Law 2001-504. I think #3 above is more accurate and useful. --MCB 06:28, 23 September 2005 (UTC)
The content besides About-Picard law is not about legislation but other activities and their critique, so that title isn't really accurate either. --Irmgard 09:31, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

Article needs attention[edit]

From the first look, the article gave the impression that there had been many parties very concerned about entering their specific POV without any regard for the article as a whole. Also the part about government and religion was very much written from an US view without considering history and present of France. I rewrote this part almost completely and moved some texts which belong further down.

I also added quite some points on the government activities - Vivien report, contents of Gest-Guyard report (yes, it has some contents besides the cult list in the appendix).

There is something more needed about the MILS except that Vivien was criticized.

I will also go over the critique part, and condense it to specific points criticized and relevant parties. In the end a summary para of who else has "been against it" without specifics.

And I'll add some positive views from France and abroad as well. Irmgard 07:09, 22 September 2005 (UTC)


The Background section contains this text:

These organisations were perceived to isolate recruits from their families and friends, and to exploit them, which caused complaints from many families.

The text needs to be attributed to someone. (Perceived by whom?). Also, "Problems with new reigions" is POV. We need a better section name. --ZappaZ Yin yang.svg 19:35, 22 September 2005 (UTC)

Perceived by the families. --Irmgard 22:15, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
Good try, Irmagard, but not good enough. Deleted. Also deleted the text that is unattributed. If it is in the references, please provide a link to whcich reference. Deleted as well. --ZappaZ Yin yang.svg 18:07, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

About-Picard Law[edit]

Section added to and partially rewritten according to the actual text of the law.

All critique and third party comments moved to reactions.

Several in-text references deleted, because they did not say anything relevant about the point in question. (e.g. mentioning one leftist politician in connection with the law is no evidence for the claim that the law was made by leftists). I did put instead the actual government at the time into the paragraph. --Irmgard 22:15, 22 September 2005 (UTC)

"OSCE Conference"[edit]

I removed this para, because the official report of the OSCE Meeting mentioned [4] does not even mention any critique of France regarding religious freedom or human rights violation. The correct name of the meeting is Implementation Meeting on Human Dimension Issues, it is held not by OSCE but by ODIHR Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The conference was also not part of the official meeting but "the contact group of the ODIHR Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief convened in the margins of the Implementation Meeting". The only source that gives details on that margin meeting is a partisan site, so we have no reliable source on what happened. 18:28, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

In October 23, 2003 the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR) held a conference on Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in where the foremost critics of France and the About-Picard law were the representative of the US government, a representative from the Church of Scientology and a representative from the Raelian religion.[5]

Reaction section[edit]

Just finished a copyedit of the article. Of course if you disagree with the edits I made feel free, it is a free encyclopedia after all, I have no pride in ownership. I edited for spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, etc. but not for content. Although I was tempted when I got to the reactions section. That whole section seems POV to me. How do NGO and U.S. government reactions contribute to an encyclopedic article about a French law? I can't see that they do. Is there someone out there that can put up a persuasive argument why this section is NPOV as well as how it contributes to the broader understanding of the law itself? --Easter Monkey 09:52, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Stick to facts[edit]

The first thing when discussing a legal text is to read it. There is little question of interpretation about what this law discusses and does not discuss. There is no point, on such issues, on "leaving interpretation to the reader" or in citing the opinions of people on the topic.

(Just to make sure I'm not misunderstood: we can discuss possible aims or goals of the law that are not apparent in the text. Discussion of these is, by nature, conjectural, and we can validly reflect the various opinions on the issue.)

A similar phenomenon occured on French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools: people were saying that the law was an amendment on the "loi sur la laïcité" — no such "loi sur la laïcité" exists, and the first sentence on the law discussed in the article said that it amended the code of education... David.Monniaux 20:53, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Stay on topic[edit]

This article is about the About-Picard law. General issues regarding religious liberty in France belong into the article Status of religious freedom in France, not here. I removed one section re relations to China and one re visit of Chinese president which are both not directly related to the About-Picard law. Both points are taken up in the religious freedom article. --Irmgard 19:44, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Where is the text about MILS?[edit]

Why was the whole text on the chronology of the anti-cult report by the MILS gone? Why it was deleted? Irmgard? --ZappaZ Yin yang.svg 15:46, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

I did not delete it but moved it to Status of religious freedom in France because it refers to the general actions of France and not specifically to this law. --Irmgard 07:09, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Article split[edit]

Since we now have this article and another on religious freedom in France, matters not directly related to the About-Picard law (such as allegations about MILS) should go to the other article. Otherwise, we'll end up having two copies of the same article! David.Monniaux 22:01, 1 October 2005 (UTC)

OK. But in that case, do not delete the text, move it instead. Thanks. --ZappaZ Yin yang.svg 22:13, 1 October 2005 (UTC)

It was in the original move but it got changed somewhere during the edits. --Irmgard 17:47, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

Positive voices[edit]

It is interesting to witness that the only place you find the new left and the Catholic Church hand by hand are when discussing new religions. A stragely political coalition, IMO. --ZappaZ Yin yang.svg 23:56, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

How does the new left come in? Just look at all the parties involved (Chirac center-right, About center-right, Picard center-left, Jospin socialist. The only major political force not involved was the nationalist far right.
Anyway this is no strange coalition in Europe. European Christians generally don't share the US idea that real Christians must be on the right wing in politics or else they are no real Christians: in Switzerland there is a center-right Catholic party and a center-left Catholic party (and the bishops conference agrees at times with one and at times with the other and at times with both), a center-left Evangelical party and a conservative-right Evangelical party (and minority Evangelicals play a role in both). Generally, European Christians agree more with the socialists regarding human rights, environment questions, and social relief and more with the conservatives regarding family values or life ethics (the parties they least agree with are liberals and right-wing nationalists). --Irmgard 07:30, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Note: Whether Jospin is a socialist is a whole question in itself. He famously declared that "the State cannot do everything" about some socioeconomic issue.
Irmgard is right: the About-Picard bill was passed with broad bipartisan support, and Nicolas About is center-right (UDF). It is thus very misleading to attribute the French policies regarding "cults" to "left-wing" governments. David.Monniaux 21:14, 9 October 2005 (UTC)

"incorporation" false cognate[edit]

I just finished a full copyedit which dealt with minor matters mostly but also eliminated "incorporation", which I believe is a legal "fausse amie" in this context.

US "incorporation" is a very narrow thing, even legally and certainly in the non-legal public imagination: in the US a corporation is, only, a commercial business enterprise, or at least this is the non-legal popular view -- we have a great deal of corporate law, but tax law really is what defines our corporations -- i.e. even a 501c3 taxfree corporation often is considered something different from a C corporation, in the popular press.

The French idea is more broad, I believe, and is associated with ideas of public accountability -- workers' control and the rest -- which are not present in US law. I don't know that US churches, for instance, are in fact incorporated in the US: or if they are, they are so for very limited purposes having to do more with tax and other business activities than they are with limited liability. And limited liability is your issue here.

So I believe the French situation is better described as involving "organizations": too-general of a term, I realize, but in the French context as read by an American restricting all of this to only "incorporated organizations" would be too narrow. A lot of the outfits being chased by / interfered with by About-Picard are not formally-incorporated in the sense that IBM Corp. is -- and Americans think nearly exclusively of the latter, I believe, when they think of "corporations". So I eliminated the hard legal language which appeared to restrict About-Picard to only those, here, and called the target simply "organizations".

--Kessler 00:48, 11 October 2005 (UTC)

"Incorporation" does not exist in French in that meaning. Furthermore, only major companies have anything like "public accountability" or "workers' control".
The thing is, if you run a church or anything with several people, it is much easier if a formal legal entity owns the buildings etc. French legal entities can take several forms — civil societies; corporations; 1901-law associations; 1905-law associations cultuelles... David.Monniaux 08:11, 11 October 2005 (UTC)

Fine in francs ... in 2004?[edit]

In the "Application of the law" section is a reference to a fine denominated in French francs. But the fine was imposed in 2004, after France's adoption of the euro in place of the franc. LeoO3 15:55, 9 December 2005 (UTC)