Preventing Cutic Deviations - Reply to Singelenberg

ICSA e-Newsletter, Volume 5, Number 1, 2006

Preventing Cultic Deviations in Europe: Reply to Singelenberg’s Comment

Henri de Cordes

At first, was very impressed that a distinguished scholar had read my paper and taken the time to comment on it. But I was almost immediately disappointed when I realized that the Dutch social anthropologist who was pretending to denounce “basic errors” in my paper was himself committing basic errors. It is indeed a common error to believe that a decision of the European Human Rights Court can reform a national decision. According to article 35 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as amended by Protocol n. 11, “the Court may only deal with matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted.” As a consequence, the Strasburg Court cannot reform a national final decision. Nevertheless, the effect of a decision of the Strasburg Court is that the citizen who wins the case can expect compensation by the State that has been condemned by the Strasburg Court.

Concerning the poldermodel, I found in Singelenberg’s comments a confirmation of my opinion on the Dutch situation. I would not have used this typically Dutch expression if I had not heard the word poldermodel for the first time in the mouth of a Dutch official during a meeting on cultic issues: Rede Caesari quae sunt caesaris. Singelenberg ironically supports my point when he states that Schnabel’ conclusions were similar to Witteveen’s, for Schnabel published his work in 1982 and Witteveen in 1984. Hence, I don’t believe it is unreasonable for me to have asked if Witteveen conformed “to the social consensus on new religious movements,” especially given that Singelenberg stresses how influential Schnabel’s study was.

I understand that a social anthropologist can rely on information of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. However, I learned from my experience with this private association—and especially its reports on Belgium—that the IHFHR is not a reliable source for my work.

In my “European tour”, I did not go as far as Georgia, simply because this country lies in Asia.

Singelenberg reproaches me for omitting the Berger report of the European Parliament. However, I only mentioned the reports approved by the plenary session of the parliament. As the Berger report had been sent back to the commission by the plenary session of the Parliament in reaction to an intense lobbying campaign by some pressure groups and thus had never been approved, I had no reason to refer to it.

The aim of my paper was to explain that European countries have their own approach to the cult issue: INFORM is not MIVILUDES, because the United Kingdom is not the French Republic. I respect Singelenberg’s criticism of the differences and commonalities among INFORM, CIAOSN and MIVILUDES, but I would have valued it much more if it had come from the representatives of these institutions.

Singelenberg may not have realized that my paper was presented during the ICSA 2005 Annual Conference in Madrid. The opinion I expressed in this Madrid essay is in accordance with the public mandate I have received, for the second time, by a parliamentary assembly. My mission does not include the search for a consensus on these issues. Therefore, I understand that some persons do not share the Belgian policy regarding cultic/sectarian deviations and express their disapproval.

Singelenberg alertly read a pre-public draft of my paper when it was first posted for my final review, so he was the first to detect a “basic error”: the Vatican City is not a member State of the E.U. (changed to “example of a European state”). I am grateful to him for noticing that the Council of Europe is not “exclusively” dedicated to human rights (changed to “mainly” dedicated). The new version of my paper corrects these errors, as well as a few that I picked up.

Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur.