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Scientologists convicted of fraud in France

Posted by dorian on October 27, 2009

BBC News Tuesday, 27 October 2009

 

File photo of Scientology's Celebrity Centre in Paris, may 2009

 

Scientology’s Celebrity Centre in Paris was fined in the ruling

A French court has convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud, but stopped short of banning the group from operating in France.

Two branches of the group’s operations and several of its leaders in France have been fined.

The case came after complaints from two women, one of whom said she was manipulated into paying more than 20,000 euros (£18,100) in the 1990s.

A Scientology spokesman told the BBC the verdict was “all bark and no bite”.

France regards Scientology as a sect, not a religion.

Prosecutors had asked for the group’s French operations to be dissolved and more heavily fined, but a legal loophole prevented any ban.

Instead, a Paris judge ordered the Church’s Celebrity Centre and a bookshop to pay a 600,000-euro fine.

Alain Rosenberg, the group’s head in France, was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence and fined 30,000 euros.

Three other leading members of the group were also fined.

Ban ‘still possible’

Unlike the US, France has always refused to recognise Scientology as a religion, arguing that it is a purely commercial operation designed to make as much money as it can at the expense of often vulnerable victims, the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby reports from Paris.

Scientology official Eric Roux at court in Paris, 27 October 2009
Religious freedom is in danger in this country
Eric Roux
French Celebrity Centre spokesman

Over the past 10 years, France has taken several individual members of the group to court on charges of fraud and misleading publicity, but this is the first time the organisation itself has been charged, she says.

Tommy Davis, spokesman for the Church of Scientology International, told BBC News that the court had acted “in total violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and French constitutional guarantees on freedom”.

The case “fell flat on its face”, he said.

“The fines will get thrown out on appeal. We’ve had similar cases before and in other countries. If it has to go to the court of human rights we’re confident we will win there.”

Speaking by phone from the US, he said it was a “political gesture” against the organisation, but “Scientology will continue to grow in France”.

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, and includes Hollywood stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

Manipulation claims

In the case leading up to Tuesday’s ruling, a woman said she was sold expensive life-improvement courses, vitamins and other products after taking a personality test.

A second woman alleges she was fired by her Scientologist boss after refusing to undergo testing and sign up to courses.

The organisation denied that any mental manipulation took place.

The court was unable to impose a ban because of a legal amendment that was passed just before the trial began, preventing the banning of an organisation convicted of fraud.

However, that amendment has now been changed.

“It is very regrettable that the law quietly changed before the trial,” Georges Fenech, the head of the Inter-ministerial Unit to Monitor and Fight Cults, told French TV.

“The system has now been put in place by parliament and it is certain that in the future, if new offences are committed, a ban could eventually be pronounced,” he said.

A lawyer defending Scientology’s operations in France said there would be an appeal.

Eric Roux, a spokesman for the Celebrity Centre, urged France to recognise Scientology’s “legality”.

“Religious freedom is in danger in this country,” he said.

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7 Responses to “Scientologists convicted of fraud in France”

  1. dorian said

    monsieur hors??

    Like

  2. princessxxx said

    oh dorian, i just saw this on cnn and was running over here to post it. good job.

    Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis finally quit Scientology after 32 years over gay rights.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedishrag/2009/10/-crash-director-paul-haggis-renounces-scientology-over-gay-rights.html

    Like

  3. dorian said

    great link, P!

    paul haggis’ letter says it all.
    i didn’t know about the scientologists’ support of prop. 8. shame on them.
    the mormons took all the flack for that one.

    oh, they can keep tommy.

    Like

  4. 1minionsopinion said

    Poor Tom. Poor Will. Must suck to have so much money that a sham like Scientology looks like a great place to put it all.

    Like

  5. Hors Service said

    Hi!

    Just passing by: after internet problems, now it’s work. Wonderfull. One day I will have time, one day…

    A bit of context: in France, religion is differently separated from State than in the USA. It’s partly due to the overwhelming power of “institionalised” religions, such as catholicism or judaism, or plain protestantism. It gives a strong and united interlocutor for each faith: for example, the state created from ashes a Concil of Muslim Cult (cult has in french the meaning of the veneration of something, whatever the something is), so it could talk with muslims. The structure itself is very important, with a lot of congregations, monks and a developed and overlooked system of forming priests.
    The President is officialy “chanoine of Latran”, an honorific grade in the catholic system. But it’s purely formal.
    So that’s why there’s an build-in defiance in the french system against “sects” and “communities of faith”, that have never been seen as being able to discuss with the governement, but are very capable of infiltrating it.

    At the same time, there’s the heirlom of French Revolution, and the former anticlericalism of the succesive french republics (yes, terrible liberal poison! Since 1789!), which created a kind of extreme secularism. Still today, none of the french political parties insists on faith to gain votes: it’s seen as gross, and unrelevant. There’s a lot of insults flying, right-wing and left-wing extremism, but faith is practically never mentionned.
    For frenchs, religion is personal. Period.
    So personal that any exterior display of faith is socially reprouved. That’s why we have a so great debate at the moment between opponents and advocates of the yashmak.
    At the same time, no problem at all if you want to believe, as long as you don’t try to convert other people. Talk of Love, Hope, Good behavior, but not of God.

    Another particularity of today’s French culture is the high-number of atheists and agnosticists, but at the same time deeply under influence of christian values. (like me). It also shows into the differences between Believers and Practisers. Few people go to church, but a lot more believe approximately in God and Jesus nowadays.
    It’s traditional to recieve baptem and get married at the church even if NON-CATHOLIC.(!) Religion is kind of build in, and in fact most of the religious people I know see religion, God, Jesus, as a guideline to their life, but don’t go and see Jesus in damp patches, for example.

    This explains partly our extreme reluctance to accept sects and cults, as opposed to americans which are more permissive. Therefore, this Scientology stuff made a HUGE noise in France.

    This law was modified under the cloak, passed unnoticed, and what arose even more the suspicion against the governement is that it’s not the first pro-sect act, there has already been several speeches of officials, including our President, saying that it was necessary to diminish the actions against sects.
    That’s why a some of us suspects Scientology influence on the modification of the law (the modification was part of a perfectly normal wider modification, during a process of simplification of the law), while the governement claims incompetence, which is also perfectly plausible 🙂
    It’s not the first trial against Scientology, and again the sect is going away with no big damage, it’s beginning to shackle the instincts of frenchs trolls… This “easy” sentence is kind of strange.

    “Communities of faith” are often put on trial in France, and even some congregations, from times to times. Jehovah Witnesses have suffered from it, for example.

    By the way, Scientology stuff is scientifical garbage and as philosophical as a bad Sci-Fi novel. And that’s being objective, I’ve read the book.

    Like

  6. dorian said

    great to hear from you, hors.
    faith/religion is personal and should be kept private, in my opinion. it should never have anything to do with politics and government. yes, our people enjoy more liberties than any other nation. even the worst of our criminals are enjoying three meals a day, clean rooms and recreational facilities.

    Like

  7. Enkill_Eridos said

    Just catching up, but here is something interesting. The Scientology Church in Tampa explained it to me like this when I said this seems more of a spiritual practice than an actual religion. They agreed, but they told me that it is listed as a not for profit religious organization because current laws do not have a listing for not for profit spiritual organization. Scientology, that originated in America, is only listed as a religion to get the not for profit status. I am sure that in the European Union and in other European governments this is true as well. They actually do not teach very much in religious beliefs either. I mean the people I talked to also believe, and are active members in all the organized and some not so organized religions, in the Tampa Bay area.

    Like

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