Japan Today
world

Church of Scientology on trial in France

24 Comments

The Church of Scientology and six of its French leaders went on trial on Monday on charges of organized fraud that could lead to an outright ban on the organization in France.

Known for its Hollywood celebrity followers Tom Cruise and John Travolta, the group is in the dock in Paris for the second time in six years, although French courts have prosecuted several individual Scientologists since 1978.

The court is hearing a complaint from two women, one of whom alleges she was manipulated into handing over 20,000 euros ($28,000) for costly Scientology products, such as an "electrometer" to measure mental energy.

She says she was approached in a Paris street by a Scientologist in late 1998 who offered a free personality test, at a time when she was feeling psychologically fragile.

After being told that her test results were poor, the woman was sold a series of life-improvement courses, vitamins and other products that she could ill afford, landing her in debt.

The second complainant alleges she was forced by her Scientologist employer to undergo testing and enroll in courses in 1998. When she resisted, she was fired.

Originally, there were four complainants, but two have since withdrawn.

The plaintiffs' lawyers argue that Scientology resorts to harassment and pressure to rein in victims who show signs of vulnerability.

The Scientology Celebrity Center in Paris, its director Alain Rosenberg and five other top officials are accused of preying on fragile followers "with the goal of seizing their fortune by exerting a psychological hold."

Although seven people were charged, one defendant has since died.

The group's spokeswoman in France rejected the accusations, insisting that Scientology was a legitimate religion whose members faced persecution.

"This is a trial for heresy," said Daniele Gounord, adding that the Church was being "hounded" in French courts because it advocated new ideas.

The court's presiding judge Sophie-Helene Chateau insisted that "it is not up to the courts to decide on an issue of society," referring to the movement's status in France, where officials treat it as a sect.

Some of the Scientologists are also charged with illegally supplying pharmaceutical products after plaintiffs said they were given vitamins and concoctions to improve their mental state.

If convicted of organised fraud as a group, the defendants face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and a fine of one million euros ($1.4 million).

Should French prosecutors win a conviction, the movement's French structures, the Scientology Celebrity Center and an associated bookshop in Paris, could be shut down for failing to meet their responsibilities as legal entities.

However, even if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs and decides to impose a ban, the Church of Scientology has the right to appeal and the legal wrangling could continue for years.

Founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology is officially recognized as a religion there for tax purposes.

Politicians in some European countries including France, Germany, Greece and Russia have accused the movement of exploiting its members financially.

There are believed to be several thousand Scientology followers in France -- the movement claims 45,000 among a worldwide membership of 12 million -- but the state does not recognize it as a religion.

The trial is scheduled to continue until June 17 and a ruling is not expected until some time later.

© Wire reports

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
Login to comment

So they steel a few bucks from stupid people. What about the Catholic church, no prosecutions there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The first charge is bogus, and can be blamed on stupidity. The second charge holds a little more water, though I think it's the boss who should be on trial, not necessarily the 'religion'. I'm not for Scientology, and think it's pretty messed up, but it seems like a witch hunt underway here, and not a whole lot of common sense. You can't sue Christianity if a Christian boss fires you for your (lack of) beliefs, but you CAN sue the company/school or what have you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What an OXYMORON! Church of Scientology?? Try to make a religion that denies, humans having links to primates a scientific spin? I just hope the French government does a good job of putting light on these clowns who are bilking millions of people all over the world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Scientology is not interested in your soul, they are only interested in your bankbook

0 ( +0 / -0 )

elbundamexico: Try not to take definitions too seriously sometimes, or at the very least open your mind to alternative definitions. 'Church' does not necessarily imply a place of religious worship, but can accompany the meaning of a 'system of beliefs' or simply 'belief'. Likewise, 'religion' also can simply mean belief or something you often engage in, even the comic usage like, "Booze is my religion".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ban it ban it..... this will be one down!

this one kooky religion. I am happy about any trampling on it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have had contact with this group before and know people who have had run ins with Scientology - even heard of people being chased by church members in cars.

It's all too familiar - the accosting on the street where you are asked to come in to their office for a "FREE personality test." In my case, they noticed an issue I had at the time, told me it was due to an event that occurred in my childhood and suggested I sign up for their course.

No sir.

Scientology is a money-making gig and nothing less. They have extremely plush global headquarters, military-like ranks, even a cruise ship that is used for at-sea Scientology training.

They ply on the gullible, unfortunately.

Warning: if you ever see them or come in contact with them, remember, most of all, they want your money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

elbudo:

" What an OXYMORON! Church of Scientology?? Try to make a religion that denies, humans having links to primates a scientific spin? "

Fat chance of taking on islam, ever. Do you want riots, death threats, and burning embassies, churches and synagogues?

Scientology is an easy target.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Scientology is a money-making gig and nothing less." Well, there is that old saying that if you want to get rich, create your own religion.

Can you believe the big people that are involved in it?

Also, Sushi, I have always thought that all religions have the bottom line of controlling people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“electrometer” to measure mental energy

Yeah you have to be mental to fork over cash to any religion...LOL

A mental meter!!!LOL That is a rich one!!!LOL

P.T. Barnum said it best,"There's a sucker born every minute".....Religion is but a crutch for those that can not stand on their own!LOL

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Glad to see these paracites on trial. Its a cult. What a joke. They even have followers here in Japan. As one man said, "A fool and his/her money are soon departed".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They can sell all the bogus junk they want, thats part of the scientology gig, but the illegal distribution of pharmaceutical deffinatly merits litigation.

You can believe that whatever you want so long as you follow the law. This particular congregation doesn't see fit to recognize regulation so the government doesn't see fit to recognize them as a legal theological organization. Acceptable.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

TheQuestion:

" You can believe that whatever you want so long as you follow the law. This particular congregation doesn't see fit to recognize regulation so the government doesn't see fit to recognize them as a legal theological organization. Acceptable. "

I happen to agree. So why don´t we apply the rule that a congregation that does not recognize the law of the land does not get recognized for every religion?

Oops... can´t do that, because some religions will start screaming "...phobia" and have their fellow religionists riot all over the world.

So, we only pick on the tiny one, ignoring the elephant in the room. What a hypocrisy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You should be happy that France is laïc county, and enforces it, willi.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

JoeBigs: "P.T. Barnum said it best,"There's a sucker born every minute"

Ironic... I wonder if you knew that PT Barnum stole that line and become famous from it. Sucker!

I agree with you in part, though. Except the part that 'religion is a crutch'... because, you see... those that insist, desperately so in many cases, that religion is evil, believe it as deeply as anyone believes in any other 'religion'.

I think Scientology is a joke. I cannot honestly believe that people like John Travolta and Tom Cruise actually buy into it (and in the latter case he actually, really does!). They think that we are all alien born and that an alien race is going to come and enslave us (hence the worst movie in history 'Battlefield Earth'), and then our original god is going to come and save us; they wear 'electricity helmets' to shock out this and that... bizarre.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Religion is but a crutch for those that can not stand on their own!

“I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.”

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nice quote...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I managed to watch the orientation video on youtube and an interesting webpage called "the unfunny truth about scientology". The taking all of people's money and screwing up their lives isn't for me I guess.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some people think that if you put "church" in th front of a name, that everything must be okay and legal. I remember as a youth, it was fashionable to carry around a bottle and can opener for beer. It was called a "church key". Likewise, the church of scientology us using the word "church" to justify their legal existence as an institution. The fact is, they destroy lives in order to make a few people wealthy. There are other "religions" in the middle east that prey on people in order to increase their own power. These are far more dangerous than scientology, yet they are allowed to operate freely around the globe under the guise of religion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Madverts:

" You should be happy that France is laïc county, and enforces it "

Try to say that in one of the Ban Lieus or to Robert Redeker.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

willi - I've lived and worked in the banlieus, namely Trappes cité, and I'm white, British and don't have a high opiion of organized religion. Maybe should try visiting the places you opine so much about.

France is a laïc country and is one of her finer points. As to scientology and this case, I'm wondering if the members of the sect are found guilty whether it will open the door to suits against other sects who consistently target psychologically fragile people to swell their ranks such as jehova's witnesses...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Numero uno, Scientology isn't a religion so they don't have a church.

Et deux, what's goin' on here is hardly surprisin'. France has been finin' and throwin' folks in jail for years for what we call First Amendment rights in the US.

More oh-press-shion to come.

Mon dieu. Sacre bleu cheese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"France has been finin' and throwin' folks in jail for years for what we call First Amendment rights in the US."

Can you specify which cases, ronin old buddie?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Madverts.

" I've lived and worked in the banlieus, namely Trappes cité, and I'm white, British and don't have a high opiion of organized religion. Maybe should try visiting the places you opine so much about. "

Are you Jewish? Are you homosexual? Are you female? Are you a writer and have something unflattering to say about the religion of peace? Maybe you should up your ante a bit before proclaiming all is allright, just because as a white heterosexual male with no opinion you did not experience any unpleasantries. Or ask Robert Redeker.

Again, by targeting Scientology, they are picking an easy target, while the big elephant that must not be mentioned is right there in the living room.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites