Catherine Picard [1]

President of UNADFI

 

INTERNATIONAL LOBBYING BY CULTS AND COUNTERVAILING POWERS

 

Thank you for the compliments, one does not resist the pleasure of hearing such a cordial introduction. I will speak on behalf of UNADFI and Jean-Pierre will treat another facet of this subject. We have already worked on the question of lobbying. The Editorial board of our publication “Bulles” actually consecrated a whole number on this subject. [2]

 

Since a certain number of years we are facing the challenge of what we call the infiltration of all milieus, political, economic, financial, by cultist movements. However before tackling cultist infiltration and making proposals we will attempt a summary on the objectives of lobbying and how it is used in the every day run of society. It represents a tool which we can regard as slightly undemocratic.

 

It would be vain to believe that cults which are fully organised bodies are not giving themselves the means of existing on the political and economic arena. When a movement exists for over fifty years, it would be naive to think that it is not present on the scene where power is wielded. It would be futile and dangerous to continue to regard such movements simply as innocent associations living on fresh air.

 

Cults have created their “project for society”. They are antisocial, at the very least totalitarian and completely destructive i.e.:

 

        they have enacted their rules as parallels to laws and often even as opposed to them

        they have trained their managers for over sixty years, long enough to have almost two generations of managers they use pressure as a tool in order to obtain recognition and possibly legalise their action.

 

They have understood that in order to continue to develop they have to pass through the networks of influence which they have managed to build up both at national and international level.

 

Lobbying is one of the tools which make it possible to get near the centres of power. It is a strategy of development on an equal footing as are publicity or marketing.

 

And it is quite a paradox to note than everyone speaks about it, except those mainly concerned, namely the instituted powers.

 

 

 

Why?

 

Because each one of these two subjects harbours the same difficulty.

 

That of pragmatically understanding how procedures work and especially what the price of democracy is.

 

Lobbying is finally nothing more than a paid service for the mediation of interests. It is a tool used to polarise a debate and to recruit politicians. Cults are covertly present by proposing apparently legitimate activities exactly as political parties might do.

 

From a republican point of view, one can consider that the very fact that it exists is a breach of the fundamental principle of the general interest and its immanence.

 

In France, but also in other European countries, the notion of the general interest is the expression of the general will. It does not express the addition of each individual’s wish taken separately (that would be the sum of particular interests) but what every citizen has the right to expect as a member of the community which forms the republic, equal rights and duties between all the fellow-citizens. The general interest is the expression of a community of Law.

 

It is at the very heart of our subject to show that lobbying is really a confrontation between a network of influence which defends particular interests and those who are elected to guarantee the general interest, the very foundation of public action.

 

More than just a patch applied to the system of representation, lobbying has become a banal means of intervention in public life not only for large companies but also for many non-profit organisations among which cultist movements.

 

In the same manner, politics – regrettably or not – have become very professional in order to defend the interests of the ones or the others, through the increasingly complex procedures according to which laws, needed for community life, are created. More and more often, specialists are called in, these specialists are lobbyists. It is important to note today, that alongside national and international authorities, these lobbyists are often employed by sectarian and cultist movements to exert pressure so as to specifically defend their particular interests.

 

What are the interests that they defend?

 

This concerns private interests of an economic nature, financial or patrimonial but also moral, intellectual or "religious" interests. It is essential for them that this intervention should be carried out covertly, in order to reinforce a position having a financial incidence for them.

 

Although it is the "defence of victims" that remains the first subject of concern of our associations, one should not forget that behind cultist movements there are applications of economic principles which bring them in the forefront, even though in a dissimulated way, of the international scene. (See the Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry "Cults and money" which exposed the names of those European Banks used as "laundering machines" to all the great sectarian and cultist movements of European countries).

 

When cults invent a pseudo-religious language, spiritual, philosophical or humanistic… they have in fact created a proselytising tool, to control the individual, to exercise power annihilating freedom, but this language is used especially as the smoke screen behind which activities which are less and less confined and confidential may hide.

 

These activities are economic and are sources of funding, of investment and because of this must adapt to the market. (Moon, Anthroposophy, Jehovah’s Witnesses). It is not by chance that Tom Cruise has recently met the Minister of Finance in France.

 

Who is influenced?

 

There is not necessarily a relationship between the preceding phase and this one. Only those who detain sovereignty: States, Local authorities, the European Union, (the controlling bodies with public authority), are targeted by lobbying.

 

To obtain what advantages?

 

Promotion, protection, making sure that certain interests are not forgotten, but especially to provide the contact which opens the door whence law can be influenced, or public markets accessed: modifications of legal standards made possible, modification of decisions which create rights, appointment to public office - one of the lawyers of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a member of the OSCE today - inter alia. Most significant it seems to me, remains the quest for recognition of the interests which one defends as being legitimate.

 

The first question which should be asked is that of the legitimacy of these lobbies.

 

A question which, for the moment, has no answer and is not likely to obtain one in the near future, since the State and empowered authorities are not in a position, or do not wish to “sort out” these interests. We are thus condemned to cope with a large number of different points of view emanating from lobbies about which little is known and in a certain confusion as to their effective influence on our common fate. From this perspective however, the possible idea that lobbyists are a source of democratic progress has still to be proved.

 

Some people consider that this lobbying, cultist or other, is nothing more than the consequence of modern democratic debate in a complex society where the technical aspect of subjects treated is only disputed because of the large number of those involved. Lobbyists represent nothing less than an institutional avant-garde.

 

Cults have perfectly well understood this. NGO lobbying, for example, assures a true capacity of influence which allows them to counterbalance economic lobbies.

 

Certain communication professionals no longer hide their belief, that because NGOs enjoy a positive public image, they are actually competing with the State.

 

These organisations, sometimes regarded as auxiliaries are, in such cases, considered in an obvious position to manage certain public policies jointly when they appear as having been established in the role of experts by the European Commission. In the religious field as in spiritual matters, this result is pending.

 

It is easy therefore, to understand why cults wish to be recognised as NGOs.

 

Certain people think that lobbying can ideally be used for the benefit of a given category… and especially at the expense of others.

 

To treat this subject in Brussels, the city of all lobbying, is interesting because today

there‘s no NGO, lobby, company or even cult which does not have its representative to follow what Parliament does. Training sessions are organised, sanctioned by a diploma of higher qualification; lobbying control bodies function, the Parliament approves official lobbyist lists which can be consulted on its web site; and pressing requests are made by politicians for regulation with regard to this "thing", which hitherto was fairly confidential and a little abstract.

 

It is important that we should understand lobbying because we consider that if cults have completely integrated it into their operating mode our victims’ defence associations are still severely lacking experience in this field.

 

However our activity can no longer satisfy itself with the narrow framework of associative action, whatever the quality of this action and the implication of those who carry it out. One of the main difficulties which we have to face is that the elementary rule of lobbying is to have a thorough understanding of how the institutions work. We have to face the fact that in this field we are far from the account for lack of means but also because we are reticent to use the lobbying tool.

 

That is why it is essential for us to deal with this question for the promotion of our action and the necessary adaptation of our modes of intervention. It is at this price that we will be able better to defend the interests of the increasing number of victims swindled by these merchants of dreams.

 


[1]At the origin of the About-Picard Law

[2] Bulles n° 88, December 2005, "Lobbying and cults"