The Church of Scientology and seven of its French leaders went on trial yesterday on charges of organized fraud that could lead to a ban on the organization in France. They are accused of praying on vulnerable people "with the goal of seizing their fortune by exerting a psychological hold."
A report by Reuters is _here_.
(Writing by Crispian Balmer; editing by Elizabeth Piper.)
"Judge Jean-Christophe Hullin ruled that the Scientologists' Celebrity Center, bookstore and seven Church leaders should be tried for fraud and 'illegally practicing as pharmacists'."
"The Church of Scientology is registered as a religion in the United States but has struggled to be accepted in Europe, with French authorities seeing it as a sect masquerading as a church to make money."
Apparently it is known as a sect in France because the French do not have a equivalent word in their language for the English word 'cult'.
"It 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." (Reuters)
There is a video by Emily Reuben (Channel 4 News) _here_.
Selected quotes from the video :-
"The only purpose of Scientology is to take money from people." (French barrister/lawyer.)
"France respects freedom. But even with religious freedom France can't ignore people breaking the law." (Spokesman from a government agency setup to monitor the activities of sects.)
"They get you into a state of complete dependence. When you are in that state leaving the church is like dying." (Paraphrasing a former Scientologist.)
More news reports can be found _here_.
Legal History of the Church of Scientology
-- "In 2002, a Spanish court dismissed a 14-year-old case against Scientology's international president on charges of illicit association."
-- "In Germany, federal and state interior ministers declared the Church of Scientology unconstitutional in 2007, opening the way for a possible ban on the organization. But experts at Germany's domestic intelligence agencies believe there is not enough evidence to justify a ban, according to German media reports."
08/08/2007 - "Senior politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition have rejected calls for a ban on the Scientology cult. A legal bid to outlaw it would fail because authorities haven't had time to build a proper case against the organization, they say."
"A bid to outlaw Scientology may fail because Germany's domestic intelligence service is unlikely to have gathered enough evidence against it to back court action against the sect."
"The interior minister in the city-state of Hamburg, Udo Nagel, had called for a ban on Scientology, echoing demands by the head of the city's Scientology monitoring group, Ursula Caberta, and church experts on sects."
"In Germany, the government views Scientology as a money-making cult rather than a legitimate church." (Spiegel On-line International, 2007 edition _here_ )
-- "Scientology says it has gone to court in many countries to uphold the right to freedom of religion."
(Legal history quotes from Television New Zealand website _here_ )
Some readers from North America may be wondering if similar legal charges can be brought against extreme religious sects and cults in USA and Canada. I accept that I am an outsider looking in to those countries, but as far as I can tell, the United States First Amendment seems to be a problem (in USA) because it guarantees that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...".
On September 1st, 2008, I wrote :-
"Also, there must be a stage where the leader(s) will be guilty of fraud. It is true that: "People who behave unethically can be found in any part of life", but that isn’t a reason to protect religious leaders from prosecution. I suspect that the First Amendment wouldn’t apply in cases of criminal fraud."
In an open letter to the 'prophets' of doom on December 25, 2008, I wrote :-
"Hiding shamelessly behind your nation’s First Amendment is also regarded as being contemptuous and despicable. ( …) Maybe your founding fathers didn’t predict that their country would produce con men and women who would be guilty of religious fraud and extortion. (Yes, I believe those words are correct. Fraud is described as being deliberate deception, trickery or cheating by a person who acts in a false or deceitful way. One meaning of extortion is to secure money or favors etc. by the misuse of authority.) You need to be exposed as a fraud, with your Emperor’s New Clothes, for all the world to see and scorn."
Further information about the Amendment is in this post (March 28, 2009) :-
So, for a legal bid to succeed it seems that a case of criminal fraud or extortion would need to be established that is serious enough to nullify the First Amendment (or render it legally void for that particular case).
Another possibility for legal bids or charges is explored in two posts on the Ironwolf forum.
In the end, I came to this conclusion :-
"So it is possible to sue religious cults, but getting the cult to "come up with the money" looks to be a lot harder..."
"With regard to CoG-PKG, it is thought that most of their money isn't even in the USA! --- Switzerland was mentioned not so long ago as a location for their 'secret' bank accounts."
Apologies to regular visitors. You would have noticed that there haven't been any new posts for about three weeks. All I can say is that sometimes blog posts have a low priority! Thank you for visiting the blog and reading my sometimes convoluted and verbose posts!