Christians in the United States do not understand the level of intolerance against Christians in Western Europe, according to Louis DeMeo, the missionary pastor of Evangelical Grace Church and the founder of Baptist Theological Institute, Nimes, France.

DeMeo in June testified before the U.S. Congress and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe about the poor treatment his church and seminary have faced since being added to a list of dangerous sects maintained by the French government.

"Only half of 1 percent of France is evangelical, and the French government defines evangelicals as 'representing extreme factions of the traditional reformed church,'" DeMeo says. "That is why they are putting us on the same list as apocalyptic and satanic groups."

The French Parliament began aggressively to track "cults and sects" after 23 members of the Order of the Solar Temple committed suicide in Switzerland in 1994.

"The French Parliament established two investigative committees to look into the influence and fiscal dealings of cults in 1995," says Francois Delattre of the French Embassy in Washington. "Like most national investigations the results were then made public in published reports."

The government's designation of the church and seminary as cultic has led to increased tension in Nimes. On June 28, the cars of four seminary students and staff members were firebombed. DeMeo says church members have been denied bank accounts and asked to leave jobs because of their connections with Evangelical Grace Church and the Bible college.

Patrick Lascombe was fired from his airport security position when he refused to sign a paper denouncing as a cult Evangelical Grace Church, where Lascombe's brother attends. Government officials also sent a letter to an office-seeking member warning that he would be denied a government appointment as long as his children remained en rolled in a Christian school. DeMeo says the seminary and church have produced more Christian teachers, missionaries, and pastors than any other organization in France, except Youth With a Mission. "We're afraid they are going to take away our tax status like they did to the Assembly of God church in Besancon," says DeMeo. "They are asking a church of 150 people to pay $600,000 in back taxes—knowing that is impossible—so that they have an excuse to shut them down."

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