Last Articles

The Lé Dinh Case (2012)

"The Case of the "Presumed Guru" Robert Lé Dinh"

The text has been extracted from an article published by CICNS, which can be accessed in it's original language (French) here

The Case of the “Presumed Guru" Robert Lé Dinh

By CICNS (April 2012)

The case of the “presumed guru" Robert Lé Dinh, as the media have called him, is indicative of how judicial affairs treat “sects" in France.

Context

For more than twenty years, Robert Lé Dinh led a community of roughly 20 people, first in the Lot-et-Garonne, then in Ariège, before becoming the subject of a complaint and being placed in custody on September 5, 2007 and, two days later, put under review and placed in pre-trial detention. The case started in April 2007, when two of his former disciples—followers—a couple who were civil servants and who had joined the group from its inception in 1984, denounced his actions and filed a complaint with the GIRONS (Ariège) police. Born in 1959 in Villeneuve (Lot-et-Garonne), the son of a Buddhist worker of Vietnamese origin and a French Catholic mother, is said to have received a divine message from Christ in 1982 making him a "servant" or "the third Messiah" (NouvelObs).

Following this denunciation, Robert Lé Dinh was accused of "rape," "sexual assault," including on minors, "mental hypnosis" (NouvelObs), of "manipulation and influence" (La Dépêche). One of the main complainants, Isabelle Lorenzato (along with her husband), claimed to have been raped for 22 years by Robert Lé Dinh.

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The Lé Dinh Case (2010)

"The Remarkable Pleadings of Lawyers on the Relentless Mechanics of the Trial of So-Called "Sects""

The misunderstanding of new religious movements becomes especially dangerous when it occurs on an institutional level. Although the law should protect or condemn an individual based on objective facts, popular opinion and the portrayal of a story in the media can have a devastating impact on the outcome of a person’s future. CICNS argues that the outcome of the following case was greatly affected by the “sectarian” rhetoric in France, which is one of fear.

The text has been extracted from an article published by CICNS, which can be accessed in it's original language (French).

 

The Lé Dinh Case: The Remarkable Pleadings of Lawyers on the Relentless Mechanics of the Trial of So-Called "Sects" 

by CICNS (September 2010) 

It took no more than three hours for the jurors in the Assize Court of Ariège, on September 18, 2010, to condemn 'the guru' Robert Lé Dinh to 15 years (more than what the Advocate-General had suggested, which was 'ten to twelve years' imprisonment). The accusations were heavy. What are the facts? According to several witnesses in the trial, the accused was not very convincing, he seemed to suit the profile of a 'cult guru' and there was even a form of automatic repulsion from the early days of media coverage of his case. We can't yet say that the evidence is overwhelming. It was all about emotional and "intimate conviction" (the general council stated that "the will of the victims was annihilated". On what basis, the debate on mental manipulation, a pseudo-scientific concept, that has never been decided upon?), elements which do not mix when we really seek justice. Everything leads to the belief that this 51-year-old man sexually abused his followers. Already convicted in 1984 for extortion, this time he was accused of abusing adult women and minor girls. He denied this. Even at the end of the trial, everybody reached this conclusion. Doubt was permitted. The conclusions were provided in the personal opinion of the jurors. 

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Exchange of Views with Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside the EU

Conference in the European Parliament

On Thursday, March 23, an “Exchange of Views with Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside the EU” was held in the European Parliament. Mr. Ján Figel was invited to share how he interprets his mandate and to share the issues that he has been focusing on.

A current issue outside of the EU is the growing number of atheists and their lack of freedom to choose not to believe in spiritual concepts or to neglect to follow a religion. The Member of European Paliament hosting the event, Sofie in t’ Veld, shared her sense of “internal rebellion” in the discussion of Freedom of Belief because she feels as though the beliefs of atheists are excluded. She, therefore, emphasized the importance of remembering the concept of Freedom of Conscience due to the rising number of atheists worldwide. The Special Envoy agreed that Freedom of Conscience is essential, because human dignity is impossible without it, and this is the value that should unite all people, regardless of their belief. Freedom of Conscience is necessary for the achievement of basic human dignity, and Freedom of Religion and Belief can only truly occur as a result of the achievement of the Freedom of Conscience.

The position of Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside the EU was created as a response to the genocide and mass atrocities occurring currently in Syria and the Middle East, as well as, the implications this is having in Europe with respect to the refugee crisis and migration. The current Special Envoy stated that, “either we do something or we’re commentators” and, therefore, his role is to bring constructive change with respect to Freedom of Religion and Belief in countries not currently displaying this. His work is based around territorial and thematic problems. Territorial focuses include, among others, the Central African Republic, Egypt, Pakistan, Morrocco; and thematic focuses include, the issue of persecution prior to conviction as seen in North Korea and non-state operates, such as, ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda, the elimination of ‘liquidation’ due to blasphemy, or anti-conversion laws forbidding people from leaving their religion under punishment. Many of these issues revolve around the lack of freedom to choose to not ascribe to the predominant faith in a culture or geographic area.

 

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Round Table Synopsis

Is Religious Diversity Accepted in Denmark and Europe?

The first conference of our 2017 Spiritual Human Rights series, hosted by Soteria International and ENAR Denmark, was attended by a variety of representatives from multiple fields, including spiritual practitioners, academics, law, students, and human rights activists.

This round table event focused on the topic of whether diversity of religion and belief in Denmark and Europe is tolerated, accepted, and/or understood. During the introduction, the moderator from Soteria International, showed a short clip in order to illustrate a current point of discussion in Danish society, which is the question of what is and isn’t attributable to Danish identity. The clip was produced by Gorilla Media, a Danish production group, which powerfully illustrated the implications of discussions recently held in the Danish parliament with regards to acceptance of diversity. The video depicts interviews with four children, who speak perfect Danish, identify themselves with Denmark and feel Danish, but are not blond haired and blue-eyed. The interviewer proceeds to tell the children that they are not Danish and the audience experiences their defeated reactions to this information. You can see this video here

 

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Part III: Mandarom

"Investigation Inside a Cult"

This is Part III of the case of the Aumist Religious community in Mandarom, France.

The text has been extracted from an article published by CICNS and can be accessed in it's original language (French). 

Continuatin of Part IPart II:

 

Daily Life 

(...) The Mandarom is in essence a monastery with monks and nuns. Those who wish to dedicate a part of their life to spirituality, in this context, take vows of chastity and poverty, but do not pronounce this for eternity... "this is no longer suited to modern society," said SHM.

(…) Aumiste vegetarianism is explained by the concern of taking as little as possible from Nature, because any disturbance disrupts a process of reincarnation... The more is consumed from the higher levels of the hierarchy of the plant or animal Kingdom, i.e. the closer it is to humanity, and the more one must pray.

(…) We are under the impression that, for the aumistes, nothing is common place. Cooking, eating, doing the dishes, etc., although seemingly profane, for many, become acts associated with spirituality.

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Part II: Mandarom

"Investigation Inside a Cult"

This is Part II of the case of the Aumist Religious community in Mandarom, France.

The text has been extracted from an article published by CICNS, which can be accessed in it's original language (French). 

Continuation of Part I:

 

The Formation of a Totalitarian Pocket

(...) The story of this research cannot be silent about the pressures that I suffered throughout this work.

(…) In 1998, I received a letter from the president of section 38 (CNRS) - dealing with ethnology. She said, among other things: ' your projects have emerged as insufficiently (...) observed; where the fear... that your voluntarily relativistic approach is used for thetrivialization of movements such as the one you are studying.”… She (Editor's Note: the commission) judged before even knowing, and for a commissioner of science this is disturbing... This story highlights a serious phenomenon: there were subjects which were taboo for the majority of ethnologists who sat, at that time, in the commission of the CNRS.

(…) The president of the University of Provence refused for me to organized a symposium on the theme of "sects" in this University, although he had agreed as a first step, stating that we would be closely monitored. I proposed for my lab to set up a centre for research and documentation on new religious movements. My lab, in agreement at first, then changed its mind. Public institutions say they are interested in observing sects, yet how is one to understand these contradictory messages, if not as a deliberate attempt not refuse knowledge?

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Part I: Mandarom

"Investigation Inside a Cult"

Throughout history, smaller groups have often been misunderstood by society. In this way, the new approach that some spiritual groups have undertaken, different from the old dogmatic religious style has, therefore, entered into conflict. This situation has been raised several times in multiple forums. Although this concept is understood and has been raised by officials, the situation has not been solved and Soteria International considers it important to continue to raise the topic for debate. As an example of a case in which a small group was poorly understood,  we are publishing the story of the Aumist community in Mandarom, France, through excerpts from a book written by the ethnologist, Maurice Duval who spent intimate time in the group conducting participant observation. The original article can be found on CICNS' website.

Investigation Inside a Cult: Maurice Duval

Summary of: An Ethnologist at Mandarom, the University Press of France

Maurice Duval’s book has two aims: the first is to highlight the difficulty in discussing or studying, in peace, everything related to what is called—in a biased and stigmatizing way—a "sect" in France. The second, is the ethnological study, itself, of the Mandarom.

Due to the purpose of the Information Center of the Council of New Spiritualities (CICNS), the extracts that follow, strive, particularly, to give an overview of the pressures and difficulties that Maurice Duval encountered during his study. The reader is, however, encouraged to read the book for the two aspects that strike his/her interest. 

 

The Story of a Study

(...) This book reflects a single ethnological research...From the inside of the sect Mandarom, located atroughly 1200 m altitude in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (France)... The director of the laboratory to which I was then attached suggested to start a study of this group... Frightened by the idea of studying a sect, I initially declined... Upon learning that a Catholic nun in Montpellier was a "sect" specialist, I made an appointment with her. The nun... explained her way of dealing with these groups in order to "bring their members on the right path", meaning her path... The fact that she could get there without trouble, led me to believe that I should be able to go.

 

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