After all, they seem to have the good sense that we don’t. The cult of Scientology is not exalted to the place of a religion there.
Church of Scientology facing dissolution in France as members go on trial accused of organised fraud
The Church of Scientology is facing dissolution in France after members went on trial yesterday on charges of organised fraud.
Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.
The group’s Paris headquarters and bookshop are defendants in the case. If found guilty, they could be fined €5million and ordered to halt their activities in France.
Seven leading French Scientology members are also in the dock. Some are charged with illegally practising as pharmacists and face up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines.
The case centres on a complaint made in 1998 by a woman who said she was enrolled into Scientology after members approached her in the street and persuaded her to do a personality test.
In the following months, she paid more than €21,000 for books, ‘purification packs’ of vitamins, sauna sessions and an ‘e-meter’ to measure her spiritual progress, she said.
Other complaints then surfaced. The five original plaintiffs – three of whom withdrew after reaching a financial settlement with the Church of Scientology – said they spent up to hundreds of thousands of euros on similar tests and ‘cures’.
They told investigators that Scientology members harassed them with phone calls and nightly visits to cajole them into paying their bills or taking out bank loans.
The plaintiffs were described as ‘vulnerable’ by psychological experts in the case.
‘For each person who complains we have 100,000 ready to say nothing but good things about scientology,’ Agnes Bron, an official of the French organization, said before the trial, which is expected to last until June 17.
Investigating judge Jean-Christophe Hullin spent years examining the group’s activities, and in his indictment criticized practices he said were aimed at extracting large sums of money from members and plunging them into a ‘state of subjection’.
The investigator questioned what he called the Scientologists’ ‘obsession’ with financial gain, and the group’s practice of selling vitamins, leading to the charge of ‘acting illegally as a pharmacy’.
Patrick Maisonneuve, lawyer for the Church of Scientology in France, dismissed any organized fraud, although he acknowledged there could have been individual abuses.
‘The discovery of a paedophile priest does not allow us to question the entire Catholic Church,’ he was quoted as saying in the weekly L’Express magazine ahead of the trial opening.
Presiding Judge Sophie-Helene Chateau said the job of the court was ‘to find whether the acts in question constitute a crime. … It is not up to the court to decide questions of society.’
Scientology, founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, describes the ‘e-meter’ as a religious artefact that helps the user and supervisor locate spiritual distress.
Investigators have described the machine as useless and said vitamin cures handed out by Church members were medication that should not have been freely sold.
Judge Jean-Christophe Hullin ruled last year that the offices and members, including the group’s 60-year-old French head, Alain Rosenberg, should be tried. The public prosecutor had recommended the case be shelved.
In a trial that has revived a debate about religious freedom in secular France, the defence is expected to argue the court should not intervene in religious affairs.
Scientology has faced numerous setbacks in France, with members convicted of fraud in Lyon in 1997 and Marseille in 1999. In 2002, a court fined it for violating privacy laws and said it could be dissolved if involved in similar cases.
The headquarters and bookshop account for most of the group’s activities in France and a guilty verdict would in practice mean its dissolution, although it is unclear whether it could still open other branches in the future.
from dailymail UK
While the cult can be loosely shown to be classified as a religion, I don’t know anyone who really subscribes to that idea.
What really seems strange to me is that I encounter all manner of people in my job, and have spoken to everyone from Zoroastrians to Buddhists, from Methodists to Wiccans, but I have never come across a professed Scientologist. This means one of two things; either they are only found in large cities, usually in areas of wealth, or they are very tightlipped about their beliefs. The second could be true, but you would think that with people like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Allie to claim as fellow believers, they would be easily moved to speak. Also, the stories we hear about in print tell a story of people fairly quick to speak and proselytize.
Think about it for a moment; if, during a computer service call to someone’s house, I can speak to people claiming to be all those other things, how hard should it be to find a Scientologist? Certainly it must be harder to find a Zoroastrian than a Scientologist, right?