The French government has increased its budget to monitor cults by tenfold after at least 500 religious sects considered potentially dangerous sprung up during the pandemic.
For almost 30 years the French government has had a watchdog dedicated to monitoring religious cults, but now its budget has been increased tenfold to €1 million a year over years about pandemic-related sects.
Speaking on FranceInfo in April, citizenship minister Marlène Schiappa said that the pandemic had led to the emergence of some 500 sectes (religious cults) that could pose a danger to society.
In French, culte refers to a religion. A secte or dérive secte (literally a ‘sectarian aberration’) is a more official way to refer to a cult in the English sense of the word.
“You have new gurus who are using the pandemic to preach practices of ‘well-being'”, she said, but are really practicing “psychological subjugation and efforts to take money and goods.”
“Women are disproportionately targeted by cults because there is sexual predation too and because they are more likely to be in precarious situations.”
She also revealed that yoga and meditation groups are fastest-growing methods by which people are being lured into cult activity.
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The most recent nationwide report from Miviludes, published in July, revealed a number of findings.
The organization recognized Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Neo-Shamans, some evangelist protestant groups, some Christian groups, a selection of Christian and Islamic groups, mediums, personal development specialists, multi-level marketers, and even alternative medicine practitioners as belonging to sects.