French court upholds Scientology ruling

2012-02-02 22:47

Paris - A French court upheld fraud charges and a €600 000 fine against the Church of Scientology in France on Thursday for cajoling members into spending tens of thousands of euros on personality tests, vitamin cures and sauna sessions.

Rejecting the Church's appeal against a 2009 ruling, the court fined the French branches of the US-based organisation €600 000 for "organised fraud" and gave four of its leaders suspended jail sentences of up to two years.

Five plaintiffs in the case, which dates back to 1998, accused the Church of persuading them to spend tens of thousands of euros on the personality tests, vitamin cures, sauna sessions and "purification packs".

The ruling that such activities amounted to fraud deals a symbolic blow to the Church, which has achieved recognition as a religion in the United States and other countries but not in France, where a parliamentary report in 1995 classified it as a "dangerous cult".

"This is very good news for those who fight against cults and it is a serious defeat for the Church of Scientology," said Olivier Morice, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

However, Thursday's ruling will not lead to the Church of Scientology being banned from operating in France, as prosecutors had originally intended.

When the case went to trial in 2009, a change in French law that was voted shortly before a verdict briefly made it impossible to ban or dissolve a group convicted of fraud. The law has since been changed back, but a ban on the group or its dissolution cannot be enforced retroactively.

Morice said while Scientology could still operate in France, the court's ruling went to the heart of its activities and opened the door to a ban or dissolution as a possible outcome in other pending lawsuits.

In a statement, the Church called the ruling "illegal" and said it would seek to have it overturned through a final appeal to different court, which can assess whether the law was applied correctly but not re-examine evidence.

"The Church wishes that the fairness of justice such as protected by our constitution becomes a reality once again for all the citizens of our country, scientologists included," the statement said.

In 1997 and 1999, French courts convicted Scientology members of fraud, while a court fined the Church for violating privacy laws in 2002.

Founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, the Church bases its beliefs on the study of his 1950 book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and claims a global reach, with millions of members in 165 nations including 45 000 in France.

The Church has fought lawsuits around the world since its founding, both to fend off accusations of fraud or manipulation and to seek legal recognition as a religion.

Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Sweden and Spain are among countries to grant Scientology protection under religious laws.

  • Mark - 2012-02-02 22:57

    There is no doubt Scientology is a belief system like any other religion. Everyone to their own, I say.

      Modefan - 2012-02-03 08:15

      yes its a belief system, but its not like any other religion...when you're 4 years old and you watch Star Wars, your mommy tells you that its not real...

      Jaba - 2012-02-03 08:33

      My 2 cents… I walked into their 'church' last year when I was in Chicago. These people are nuts – so I decided to do some research about them – as I find ‘nuts’ fascinating sometimes. They are full of hogwash and lie about simple facts of life, it’s illogical... Lying to people to get their money isn't just unethical -it's illegal. Scientology claims there is a scientific basis for all their processes. There isn't. Scientology claims it's compatible with other belief systems, like Christianity. It's not. Scientology claims to be the fastest-growing religion in the world, with 8 million members, utilizing infallible technology developed by a physicist and war hero. Scientology engages in the illegal practice of medicine by prescribing vitamins to replace legally-prescribed medical treatment. They are nuts and at first it was a little funny – but then I realised many good people get hurt. They call themselves a religion – however the activities are of a cult. A little scary I might add

      Vitor - 2012-02-04 09:16

      Check out Scientology's history history and you will see that they decided to call themselves a "religious" organisation at a much later stage of their development, in order to become tax exempt. Soon after they changed their terminologies from the psychiatric to the religious. As someone who has personally been into one of their offices (churches??) and seen how they have tried to manipulated me into spending a small fortune to "cleanse" me of all my supposedly mental problems, I can tell you that it's got zip to do with spirituality and all to do with exploitation.

  • Godfrey - 2012-02-03 04:17

    "organised fraud"? Scientology can be aggrieved. Just what is the difference between what they do and any other religion? The only difference between a religion and a cult, is a good accountant'.

      rlong1952 - 2012-02-03 07:58

      You being the expert, right?

      Modefan - 2012-02-03 08:12

      no no must go look up what scientologists believe in before you say that, and then you'll really see how f*cked up their religion is

      Jaba - 2012-02-03 08:36

      The Church of Scientology is a vicious and dangerous cult that masquerades as a religion. Its purpose is to make money. It practices a variety of mind-control techniques on people lured into its midst to gain control over their money and their lives. Its aim is to take from them every penny that they have and can ever borrow and to also enslave them to further its wicked ends. It was started in the 1950s by a science fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard in fulfillment to his declared aim to start a religion to make money. It is an offshoot to a method of psychotherapy he concocted from various sources which he named "Dianetics". Dianetics is a form of regression therapy. It was then further expanded to appear more like a religion in order to enjoy tax benefits. He called it "Scientology".

      Godfrey - 2012-02-03 09:28

      RLong Yep - you can see the holier-than-thou snake oil peddlers and religious fraudsters every day for yourself.

  • Lanfear - 2012-02-03 08:54

    LOL @ all these comments of "lying to people", "only to make money", "f*ck#d up beliefs", and so forth. Because that is EXACTLY what ALL religions do.

      Modefan - 2012-02-03 10:56

      Yes but all the other religions believe in some sort of mystical all powerful god and its all written on some old manuscript found in a hidden cave somewhere blah blah blah, etc. .....these people believe in spaceships?

      Jaba - 2012-02-03 11:12

      If religion is a business, then Scientology is a pyramid scheme that is defrauding its members while; not paying taxes, not following labour regulations and using child labour to grow cocaine to sell it in order to make a profit.

      ttrevenen - 2012-02-03 14:39

      @Jaba... just a question - where does the "using child labour to grow cocaine" come in?

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