Paris mayor wants crackdown on sects

Reuters, February 13, 2000

PARIS, Feb 13, 2000 (Reuters) - The conservative mayor of Paris said on Sunday he would push for the creation of exclusion zones to prevent cults from recruiting near sensitive locations such as schools and shelters.

Mayor Jean Tiberi said he would present to the National Assembly a draft law that would also ban sects from advertising within a certain radius of establishments considered vulnerable. A similar law currently applies to pornographic businesses.

``Jean Tiberi wanted to go further in order to protect from the risk of manipulation or press-ganging the most vulnerable people such as lonely old people, young people suffering family break-ups, minors...,'' Tiberi's office said in a statement.

A report by a government mission this week said there were some 200 sects in France, most of them well organised.

Tiberi said he would suggest to Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin the creation of a monitoring unit to gather and update information about sects.

The move comes as local authorities warn of an increase in what they consider to be cult activities in Paris, in particular by the U.S.-based Church of Scientology. Unlike the United States, France does not consider Scientology a religion.

Members of the group, founded in 1954 by the late American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, complain of harassment and persecution in France, which is considering banning the movement.

The newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche said in a report published on Sunday that members of the Church of Scientology were recruiting near high schools in smart neighbourhoods.

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