COMMON DECLARATION
OF THE EUROPEAN CONFERENCE OF 23 AND 24 APRIL 1999

The undersigned European associations, are united in fighting the effects of adverse sectarian practices and to assist the victims of such practices. Representatives of these associations meeting in Paris on 23/24 April 1999 declare their commitment to the fundamental freedoms as embodied in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of Children.

These associations reaffirm their commitment to the freedom of thought and worship and the freedom of speech and the right to free association. These are recognised as cornerstones of societies based on democratic principles.

The associations stress that it is not for governments or public authorities to decide on issues such as, the right of individuals to make their own decisions regarding their personal commitments, be they philosophical or religious.

On the other hand, they recognize that it is the duty of public authorities

to protect and guarantee the above freedoms;

to make available free information to enable individuals to protect themselves against the adverse practices of sectarianism;

to protect individuals against any form of mental manipulation and psychological and / or intellectual conditioning in whatever context.

These associations support resolution 134 of 18 February 1998 of the European Parliament's Committee of Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs.

This resolution invites Member States to "take measures, in compliance with the principles of legality, with a view to fighting abuses caused to people by certain sects which should be denied the status of cult or religious organisation endowing them with certain tax advantages and legal protection".

These associations note that a legal definition of the word sect is not part of the agenda of national parliaments of the European Union.

The associations do not intend to rule on any definition with regard to the meaning of the word sect. However they consider that certain objective criteria relating to sectarian practices have been - for at least fifteen years - sufficiently established to determine these movements, denounce their recruitment methods and define their characteristics.

Recognizing the above, FECRIS hereby affirms that :

1. To deny the existence of national, regional or transnational sectarian organisations, whether hidden or not under mask of philosophical or religious belief cannot but contribute to abuse public opinion and the authorities are refrained from taking action against the same.

2. We must not confuse "spiritual seeking" be it related or not to a well established philosophical or religious movement, with sectarian groups whose practices impede the aspiration of individuals.

3. The philosophical or religious claims of a group does not entitle it to violate human rights, the law or to disturb or unsettle social balance.

Within the above context, FECRIS requests:

The official recognition of FECRIS, in order that it should be consulted by the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), also by the United Nations and their organisations and commissions. FECRIS should, furthermore be in continual liaison with the administrative authorities empowered to apply fiscal and custom procedures for States and for the European Union, and with other international organisations having the same aims.

Permanent study groups should be created within the national parliaments, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. They should be charged with the observation of the sectarian phenomenon and, in the event, to propose legislative measures and executive measures.

Alongside this, the setting up of a permanent European organisation charged with gathering information on sectarianism and in collaboration with national authorities to take preventive measures and provide public information.

(Updated 7 May, 1999)

See also:

Summary of speech by Mr.Alain Vivien, president of MILS

Ursula Caberta, "A Democratic Society and its Relations to the so-called 'Sects and Psycho-Groups'"