French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced on Monday that he had begun the process of “dissolving Civitas,” condemning the “antisemitism” of remarks made by a guest at the fundamentalist Catholic movement’s summer university.
“I firmly condemn these ignominious remarks and have referred the matter to the public prosecutor,” the interior minister posted on X (formerly Twitter).
A source close to the case told French news agency AFP that the services of the Interior Ministry had already been interested in the Civitas Institute for several months, and had been gathering information on its controversial actions, several of which are the subject of complaints.
The comments in question were revealed by the publication of a short video on Saturday on X. During one of the lectures at the ‘Université d’été du Pays réel,’ held from 29 to 31 July, a well-known conspiracy essayist, Pierre Hillard, said “the naturalisation of Jews in 1791 opened the door to immigration.”
“Before (the start of the French Revolution in) 1789, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist could not become French. Why? Because they were heretics,” the author, who is close to Civitas, continued before suggesting that “we should perhaps go back to the situation before 1789.”
These comments were strongly condemned by several political personalities and associations against anti-Semitism.
Contacted by AFP, the president of Civitas, Alain Escada, had not given a response by Monday evening.
The Civitas Institute is close to fundamentalist Catholic circles and the Fraternity of Saint Pius X. It was very active during demonstrations against marriage for all and was recognised in 2016 as eligible for political-party funding.
Civitas has recently organised a number of controversial actions – some of them the subject of complaints – targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community, in particular, but also targeting a planned reception centre for asylum seekers.