French chief of staff Emmanuelle Mignon has tried to correct some of the controversial quotes attributed to her on the subject of sects. In an interview with the publication VSD, she reportedly said that “sects were a non-problem in France”.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s chief of staff, Emmanuelle Mignon, attempted Thursday to correct some of the recent quotes attributed to her regarding sects in France.
But the controversy caused by her interview with the weekly publication VSD, where she reportedly said that “sects were a non-problem in France”, continues. During the interview she also suggested that a 1995 parliamentary commission list of sects was “disgraceful.”
Today, Mignon tried to explain her position to Le Figaro by saying that this parliamentary list had been compiled without “thorough verification.” She added, “No one doubts today that certain groups should not have been included in that list. Just because a spiritual group is not officially linked with a traditional church, like the Catholic Church, does not mean that it is necessarily sectarian,” she says.
“If these movements don’t cause public disorder, there is no reason to prohibit them,” she says, citing in particular the Church of Scientology, which was on the 1995 parliamentary list of groups deemed to be sectarian.
A devout Catholic, Mignon has written some of the most controversial of Sarkozy’s speeches on religion and secularism. She also inspired the latest controversial presidential initiative: the new teaching suggestion that every ten-year-old French student should “adopt” a French-Jewish child killed by the Nazis in World War II, so as to better understand the experience of the Holocaust.
But critics fear Mignon and Sarkozy have now gone too far in the blurring of the traditionally strictly secular line between church and state in France — a line not crossed by former presidents. Sarkozy has rankled many in France by praising religious faith on many occasions and defending his country’s Christian roots. The latest straw was during a recent speech to a leading Jewish organization in France, during which the president first put forth his proposal for the Holocaust teaching, explaining that he believed the Holocaust had come about, “not from an excess of the idea of God, but from its terrible absence.”