"Abuse of Weakness" or "Brainwashing" - A New Threat to Spirituality

Interview with Prof. Massimo Introvigne - part 2 of 3

Considering the similarities and repetition of the police raids upon spiritual communities, in different countries, a certain question is rising: are NRM - New Religious Movements or spiritual communities in danger?

In France, as prof Massimo Introvigne wrote in his article "France Plans to Make a Bad Law Worse - the anti-cult About-Picard law is ineffective against real abuses and dangerous for religious liberty. The government wants to make it even more dangerous." the situation of spiritual communities becomes increasingly difficult.

On November 15, the government presented a draft law to “reinforce the fight against cultic deviances.” The reason offered for a new crackdown on “cults” is that the number of “saisines” received by the MIVILUDES is growing. As “Bitter Winter” has documented, the “saisines” are not reports of actual incidents, include simple questions sent to the MIVILUDES, and may easily be false or manipulated. ...

The anti-cult measures are also reinforced by allowing the anti-cult associations to be present in the court cases against “cults” as civil parties and by encouraging judges and prosecutors to seek the opinion of the MIVILUDES on groups they are judging or prosecuting.

The heart of the new draft law is the creation of a new crime of “psychological subjection.” Those who place their victims in a state of “psychological subjection” through “serious or repeated pressure or the use of techniques capable of modifying their judgement” will be punished with a jail penalty of three years, or of seven years when the defendants are part of an “organized band” routinely using these techniques, in other words a “cult.” The crime is perpetrated when the use of the “psychological subjection” techniques has “the effect of causing a serious deterioration in the persons’ physical or mental health or leading the persons to perform an act or abstain from an act which is seriously prejudicial to them.” “Psychological subjection” will also affect already existing crimes as an aggravating circumstance.  Source: https://bitterwinter.org/france-plans-to-make-a-bad-law-worse/

Prof. Massimo Introvigne offered new perspectives and explanation during the interview, as it follows here, in the second part of three.

It is important to understand the difference with the already existing provisions on “abus de faiblesse” and why the government believes that the new crime will make it possible to criminalize “cultic deviances” not captured by the existing law. The “abus de faiblesse” is currently punished when a victim is in a “situation of weakness” and has been (allegedly) led through psychological techniques to do something harmful to herself, for example making a large donation or surrendering sexually to the “cult” leader. In the introductory comment to the new draft law, the government claims that “the About-Picard law in its present text does not allow to incriminate directly the psychological or physical subjection status determined by operations and techniques aimed at putting the victim under the control of the perpetrator.”

The new crime is different from the “abus de faiblesse” in two respects. First, it is not necessary that the victim is in a situation of “weakness.” Everybody can be the victim of “psychological subjection.” Second, the use of “or” rather than “and” in the sentence connecting the deterioration in the victim’s mental health and the fact that the “brainwashing” techniques may lead the manipulated person to do something harmful to herself is all-important. As the same introductory report explains, this “or” allows to punish the “psychological subjection” even when it cannot be proved that the victim was induced to a self-damaging behavior. It will be enough to argue that “a deterioration of mental health” has occurred.

Source: https://bitterwinter.org/france-plans-to-make-a-bad-law-worse/