Bible believers in France are voicing concern over a new anti-sect law passed recently by the French parliament. The law is targeted against dangerous groups who practice brainwashing and mind control techniques, providing fines of up to $75,000 and five years imprisonment for "mental manipulation."
The various incidents of mass suicides by fanatical fringe groups in the last few years prompted the French parliament to establish a commission that drew up a list of 172 organizations designated as "sects."
On the list were Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church, Scientologists as well as evangelical and Pentecostal-type churches. Obviously, their definition of "sect" was over broad, but the label has stuck. Churches with "Evangelical" in their names have begun to experience negative reactions when trying to rent buildings and deal with the government.
One U.S. congressman, who is on a commission monitoring human rights in Europe, stated, "There is a very strong anti-religious bias that has emerged in Europe. If you're an evangelical, you are a nut."
French politicians are proud of the law and expressed hope that other member nations of the European Union would follow their lead with similar laws.
Church leaders see the possibility of the law being used to criminalize evangelism. They wonder if they could be charged with "mental manipulation" if they help someone see that he is a sinner and needs to get saved.
"Sects" is one of the words being increasingly used to paint a negative label on soul winners. When the Pope visited Mexico two years ago, he exhorted the Roman Catholic leaders to do something about the "challenge of the sects."
"The proselytizing activity of the sects and new religious groups in many parts of America is a grave hindrance to the work of evangelization," he told them. So, if Rome wins converts, it is "evangelization." For anyone else it becomes a dirty word: "proselytizing."
In Singapore, the government is threatening legal action against anyone who breaks the religious "harmony" of the country.
Jesus said that the gospel would not bring peace (read "harmony") but a sword to divide those in rebellion against God from those who obey Him. As this world marches inexorably toward Armageddon, soul-winning will become increasingly hazardous. But we must "be of good courage," there are still many souls to be won for the Kingdom.