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sects such as the Jehovah's Witnesses are considered cults and do not enjoy the same institutional benefits of other religious organizations.

That's part of the republican pact. Closed organisations which are judged to abuse their members are not allowed (anti-sect law). i.e. people are not allowed to abandon their freedom and delegate their relations with society to a hierarchical organisation.

The definition of who's in the list of cults is controversial, of course, as it should be.

This is about freedom of conscience, and it is surely more important than mere "religious freedom".

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 12:13:37 PM EST
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I don't disagree, but it is certainly problematic that the state gets to decide what groups are in the list of cults, which introduces a state-sponsorship of some religions over others based on what are arguably arbitrary criteria. (Jehova's Witnesses delegate their relations with society to a hierarchical organization more than, say, Roman Catholics?  Seriously?)  Here is where the separation of church and state in France becomes questionable, as it is in many otherwise liberal countries with respect to religion.
by santiago on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 01:07:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jehova's Witnesses delegate their relations with society to a hierarchical organization more than, say, Roman Catholics? Seriously?

No, but there is greater social interpenetration with the rest of society, and some of the more explicitly coercive practices, such as shunning apostates and heathens, are less widespread.

Jehova's Witnesses uses cult tactics to recruit, induct and retain membership. The Roman Catholic Church works more like a transnational corporation. It's not obvious that one is more harmful, or even less coercive, than the other. But the harm and coercion by the latter is (usually) much less flagrant and obvious.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 01:21:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, Catholics (and other mainline religions) get a break unavailable to some other more recent, smaller groups largely because of the cultural history of Catholicism in French society.  And that's kind of the definition of non-independence between the state and religion, isn't it?  
by santiago on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 05:05:15 PM EST
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So France is just as European as all the other European countries...

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 05:05:57 PM EST
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In practice they do, but that's not quite the point I was making. The Catholic Church in Russia or China is also less of a cult than Jehova's Witnesses or the Church of Happyology. So it's not solely a matter of historical hegemony.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 05:11:06 PM EST
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