European Court of Human Rights rules for sects in tax-exemption cases against France

AFP (31.01.2013) – The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled Thursday in favour of three sects – including the Mandarom de Castellane – bringing a judgement against France for violation of freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The decision in Strasbourg invalidated tax procedures brought against the sects, ordering France to pay 3 599 551 euros to the religious association Temple Pyramide, a sect known by the name Mandarom, for “property damage”, 387 722 euros to the Evangelical Missionary Church and Eric Salaûn and 36 886 euros to the Chevaliers du Lotus d’or (Knights of the Golden Lotus).

Following tax assessment procedures, the first two groups (both officially dissolved in 1995) were able to recover more than 2.5 million euros and 37 000 euros respectively plus the application of a 60% tax on hand-to-hand gifts that had appeared in their accounts. The third claim was for 280 000 euros on similar grounds.

In all three cases, first brought to the European Court in 2007, the plaintiff associations invoked in particular Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” The associations alleged that the taxation of gifts to which they had been subjected infringed upon their right to demonstrate and exercise their freedom of religion.

The parties have three months to request a judicial review by the Grande Chamber for the ECtHR.

See the full judgments (in French):

The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus

The Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple

The Evangelical Missionary Church and Salaûn

Translation French/English by Human Rights Without Frontiers International