|Jehovah’s Witnesses protest against harassment.|
THE Jehovah’s Witnesses launched a public relations campaign against French tax authorities in January, accusing them of harassing the Christian sect’s 250,000 members in France.Church members took to the streets in cities and towns across the country to distribute 12 million pamphlets to passersby, accusing the state of trying to dupe the French people by grouping the church with dangerous cults.
“An investigation that has lasted since 1995, with a goal of imposing a 60 percent tax on donations by church members: an unprecedented action for a Christian sect more than 100 years old.” the pamphlet says.
“What will happen tomorrow to other religions?” it asks.
The church disclosed in June that French authorities had refused to grant it tax-exempt status, arguing the group was a cult rather than a religion. It said the authorities were seeking 300 million francs ($52 million) in back taxes.
A spokesman told Reuters the church was still in talks with tax officials and would take its case to the courts if negotiations failed to resolve the dispute.
Witnesses subjected to public beating.
Newspaper reports say the women, aged 28 and 41, had repeatedly refused to leave their village after being ordered out. They appeared before the village council of elders on Friday 22nd January and were reportedly forced to kneel down while being whipped 16 times.
A member of the Evangelical Church of New Caledonia, Yamele Kacoco, says he will call on Amnesty International and the French League for Human Rights to help pub icise the case.
He accused the village chief of overriding a decision by the high chief of the district that Jehovah’s Witnesses were allowed to live in his jurisdiction as long as they respected the customary laws.
The two women suffered wounds to their backs and arms.
JW wins damages from Greek government.
The Greek Helsinki Rights Monitor said in a statement in January, that the court, based in Strasbourg, France, dropped the case raised by Jehovah’s Witness Gabriel Tsavachidis after he settled out of court with the government.
According to the rights group, he allegedly received a S5.200 settlement from the government and an assurance that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not subject to state surveillance.