Four French administrative courts have turned back local attempts this year to deny the legal rights of Jehovah's Witnesses. The prosecutors in all four cases relied on the 1996 Parliamentary Report on Cults, but the courts said the report has no legal status and officials cannot use the report for making decisions.

In the latest development, the Administrative Court of Poitiers on May 30 revoked the city of La Rochelle's refusal to rent a public hall to the group.

The parliamentary report names several evangelical groups among 173 so-called cults (CT, July 9, 2001, p. 24). Protestants have not faced any legal proceedings because of the report.

Stéphane Lauzet, general secretary of the French Evangelical Alliance, says the rulings bode well for all religious minorities. "This situation sets a legal precedent and demonstrates the wisdom of the French legal establishment," Lauzet told Christianity Today.

The president of the French Protestant Federation, Jean-Arnold de Clermont, and some Catholic leaders have discussed the issue with the minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy.

De Clermont says most religious leaders want the government to create an "Observatory of Religious Movements." They say it will help bridge the gap between suspicious political authorities and small religious groups.

Related Elsewhere

Previous Christianity Today coverage includes:

Protestants Resist 'Anti-Sect' LawFrench legislation could be used against legitimate religious minorities, including evangelicals. (July 19, 2001)
How Free Are We?One year later, Christian leaders examine the International Religious Freedom Act. (March 6, 2000)
Christian Groups Labeled 'Cultic'Christians in France put on same list as apocalyptic and satanic groups. (Sept. 6, 1999)

A 1995-1996 French National Assembly report on cults, reprinted on an ex-Jehovah's Witness site, includes the list of sects.

The 2001 International Religious Freedom Report on France discusses the government's targeting of "cults." examines religious intolerance in France, a country pledged to "respect all beliefs."

The Apologetics Index's section on France includes information and links on the law.

The Center for Studies on New Religions has posted the full text of the French "Anti-Cult" law in English, an editorial on seven things you can do and a collection of various articles.

Religious and public action groups have spoken out against the law, including The Baptist World Alliance and Concerned Women for America.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide called for action against the "anti-sect" law.

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