The Catholic Church sues a sect

The Court of First Instance of Liège has nonsuited the Catholic bishop of that town who had sued a non-profit making organization called "NOPEDO - Don't touch my children" ("NOPEDO Touche Pas à Mes Enfants"), along with the Raelian movement through its representative body in Belgium "Raelian Religion of Belgium" and the Internet site administrator, Mr Marc Lavoie, following the distribution of leaflets and the creation of an Internet site denouncing acts of paedophilia practised by Catholic priests.

The Catholic Church had demanded a ban on any subsequent new distribution in Belgium of the leaflets at issue, or similar ones, and the removal of the contents of the Internet site in Belgium,, (a site that reports on paedophilia and denounces the involvement of some Catholic priests) and a ban on the creation of any other Internet site with a different name but similar content. The Church had asked a condemnation to a fine of a thousand Belgian francs (*) per new tract distributed, one million Belgian franks for each day that the Internet site would be left open, and ten million Belgian francs if a new site was created with the same content.

The lawyer representing the Raelians, Ms Inès Wouters, told "Human Rights Without Frontiers" that denouncing paedophilia committed by priests belonged in the public domain and that the policy of silence so long practised by the Church had repeatedly been criticised in the media and on several Internet sites. She considered that this court case had restricted her client's freedom of expression and cited a decision of the Tribunal of First Instance dated 23 April 1999 which highlighted that "any publication can been the object of even severe criticism, without the cessation of its distribution being justified".

The case was pleaded at the Tribunal of First Instance of Liège on 7 August and the judgment was made public two weeks later.