The New Heretics of France: Minority Religions, la République, and the Government-Sponsored "War on Sects"

By Susan J. Palmer | Go to book overview
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Appendix II
INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSOR ANTOINE
FAIVRE, FEBRUARY 12, 2006, AT THE PLACE
SAINT-MICHEL IN PARIS

[Antoine Faivre is a Professor Emeritus at the Sorbonne, and a famous historian in the area of esoteric spiritual and philosophical movements in Europe since the sixteenth century. Professor Faivre had agreed in our e-mail communications that he would tell me about the time he was arrested and detained for a few hours during the height of what Massimo Introvigne called “France’s anti-cult madness”—but only if we met face to face, and if I showed him what I wrote before publishing his story.]

Q. Why were you arrested?

A. It was in response to a book I had participated in.1 This book [Pour en finir
avec les sectes
] challenged the Guyard Report, noting that it displayed a careless,
irresponsible and inaccurate knowledge of France’s groups. No satisfactory
(notably scholarly) criterion was offered in the Guyard report for recognizing
the characteristics of what it called a’ secte’, and many groups were alarmed to
find themselves without any prior consultation on its list of no less than one
hundred and seventy-two so-called sectes. Indeed, most of the groups listed were
what we took to be harmless NRMs (new religious movements). In the intro-
duction to the chapter I contributed to the book, I had complained of the fact, in
particular, that no experts had been consulted in compiling the report. I had
noted that it was evident that none of the people who had been auditionné were
academics—not the relevant experts (sociologists, historians of religion, etc.) in
the field.

Q. Can you explain the term auditionné?

A. Whenever the Government (the executive power) asks the National
Assembly (the legislative power) to prepare a report on a social issue, the
National Assembly (whose members are called députés) create a commission
comprised of a number of its députés. The commission is supposed to call in not
just “witnesses” concerning the issue at hand, but also experts in the matter.
It then “audits” these people, consults them, asks them for information. Then it

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