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Church of Scientology On Trial In France 890

Posted by kdawson
from the speaking-truth-to-fraud dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that a trial has opened in Paris that could shut down Scientology in France. The organization stands accused of targeting vulnerable people for commercial gain. Scientology does not have the status of a religion there, as it does in the US, and anti-cult groups have pursued it vigorously over more than 30 years. The current case is based on complaints filed by two women in December 1998 and July 1999. Three other former members who had initially joined the complaint have withdrawn after "reaching a financial arrangement with church officials." If convicted, the seven top Scientologists in France face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of €1M. The Church of Scientology-Celebrity Centre and its Scientology Freedom Space bookshop not only face a much larger fine but also run the risk of being shut down completely.
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Church of Scientology On Trial In France

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  • by seebs (15766) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:55PM (#28102117) Homepage

    I guess the whole "child slavery" thing hasn't been working out so well lately.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:01PM (#28102201)
      I hope they go after the Roman Catholic Church next! The whole paedophile craze that's been sweeping through the church for the last thousand years just isn't cool.
  • Hell yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MjDascombe (549226) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:57PM (#28102143) Journal
    This evil can't come to an end soon enough.
    • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by yorugua (697900) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:10PM (#28102327)

      After reading about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R2-45 [wikipedia.org] in wikipedia, I can't think how can this be part of the modern, civilized world if that turns out to be a true fact.

      FYI: R2-45 is a Scientology auditing process created by L. Ron Hubbard. The process of R2-45 specifically pertains to shooting the target with a Colt .45 pistol, causing the victim's "thetan" to leave the body (exteriorization). In 1952 during a meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, Hubbard demonstrated the process of R2-45 by firing a shot at the floor.[1][2] In a lecture of 1958, Hubbard comments that "Death is not the same as clearing but there is, remember, R2-45. It's a very valid technique. A lot of people have used it before now." [3]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        R2-45 may go a long way to allow others to conclude Hubbard thought his religion was a joke. I do wonder if you invest your entire life saving in religion, whether you actually meant a self R2-45 but were just too squeamish.

        • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:37PM (#28102647) Journal

          It's pretty clear that he considered it a joke at the beginning, and then he went bat-shit insane.

          -jcr

          • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:10PM (#28103035)

            It's pretty clear that he considered it a joke at the beginning, and then he went bat-shit insane.

            Note to self: never make another joke.

          • by wealthychef (584778) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:17PM (#28103123)
            What I'm confused about is this:

            Scientology does not have the status of a religion there, as it does in the US,

            This seems to me to imply that if it were a religion, then a different set of standards for its behaviors would apply. I'm sorry, but why does religion get a pass when it comes to promulgating crazy ideas that suck money out of the unwary? It's just bad policy to go on protecting religions like that. IMHO

            • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:5, Informative)

              by mattack2 (1165421) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:40PM (#28103357)

              Religion "gets a pass" because of a little something called the First Amendment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_amendment [wikipedia.org]

              Don't get me wrong, I think religion is evil, but even I think that a lot of the "crazy ideas" of one religion over another is what we're accustomed to. (In other words, I think they ALL have crazy ideas, but I too am probably less biased against some than others... though I think we'd be a lot better off if we got rid of all of them. Though once again, South Park has humorously hypothesized that even if everyone became atheist, we'd find something else to fight about. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_God_Go [wikipedia.org])

              • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:4, Informative)

                by Capsaicin (412918) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:27PM (#28103765)

                Religion "gets a pass" because of a little something called the First Amendment.

                What makes you think that amendments to the US Constitution apply in France?

                • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by mattack2 (1165421) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:38PM (#28103849)

                  Nothing makes me think that. Upon rereading the message I replied to, I realize there is nothing that directly states that they were talking about the US. Since most slashdot readers are based in the US [citation needed], and the *quoted text* in the message I replied to referred to the US, I presumed they were talking about why religions 'get a pass' in the US. I now realize that they could be talking about different legal treatment of religions in France too.

                • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by multisync (218450) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:58PM (#28104021) Journal

                  What makes you think that amendments to the US Constitution apply in France?

                  That wasn't the point at all.

                  mattack2 was simply saying the reason they are able to prosecute The Church of Scientology in France but not in the United States is because the First Amendment of the US Constitution apparently prohibits their Congress from passing any laws either respecting the establishment, or prohibiting the free exercise, of religion.

                  We have a similar situation where I live, where a polygamist community avoids prosecution (to some extent) because the local government is afraid a case would not withstand a Charter challenge. They don't want to end up enshrining polygamy in law.

                  I'm not sure how you got the idea anyone was suggesting that the First Amendment of the US Constitution would apply in France.

              • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Gerzel (240421) * <brollyferret&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:28AM (#28105081) Journal

                The constitution's 1st amendment however does not give the right to religions for them to infringe upon the rights of others.

                Thus it is illegal for some parts of Sharia law to be practiced in the US. A Muslim woman(or man for that matter) could choose of her own free will to abide by a fairly strict interpretation but she could not legally be held subject to some of the punishments there-of for breaking the law.

                This gets into difficult territory when you start talking about things like zoning laws. For example: does a church's interests in having say a parking lot where none is zoned outweigh the rights of its neighbors to have some say in how their community is developed?

                Also you get into the questions of brain washing, or just good old fashioned abuse and threats it is often difficult to tell if a church/religious group is on the up and up or if they are breaking the law.

                Furthermore it is debated weather or not the freedom of religion allows for an individual to choose no religion or for them to remain silent in their choice of religion. Also tests for minimum requirements for religion are sometime difficult.

            • by Livius (318358) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:30AM (#28105097)

              With a religion, not everyone involved is a charlatan, or at least it's hard to prove. Scientology is a demonstrable fraud thinly disguised as a knock-off of gnosticism with some 1950s technology buzzwords.

            • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:5, Interesting)

              by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:42AM (#28105211) Journal

              What I don't understand is why the Catholic Church hasn't been busted under Rico. I mean, here you have a group that is paying off families to keep them from filing criminal sexual assault charges involving children (which I'm pretty sure payoffs like that are illegal, especially when minors are involved) and then spiriting the criminal out of the area and placing him in the EXACT SAME POSITION knowing he is going to rape again. And of course not even warning the area of what they have done. And from what we have seen in past cases this is well known SOP from at least the cardinal level.

              So why haven't they been busted under Rico? Churches shouldn't get a free pass when it comes to organized crime. And the way they had the SOP down seems pretty damned organized to me. Just as I think the CoS should have been shut down long ago using Rico for tactics like Operation Snow White [wikipedia.org]. While I believe you are free to believe what ever you wish, when you start performing criminal acts as a group then all bets should be off.

        • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:5, Informative)

          by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:39PM (#28102671)

          R2-45 may go a long way to allow others to conclude Hubbard thought his religion was a joke.

          Actually it appears that he thought it was a great way to make money.

          http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/scientology/start.a.religion.html [don-lindsay-archive.org]

      • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:46PM (#28102767)

        Say what you will, but you've got to love the genius of scientology. They take things that are generally considered serious crimes and make them "religious rituals". I can imagine someone coming to Ron in the early years..

        Scientologist: Ron, I've got a problem. I just got angry with my girlfriend and shot her in the chest with my .45.
        Ron: Hmm.. let me think..

      • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:48PM (#28102793) Journal

        The process of R2-45 specifically pertains to shooting the target with a Colt .45 pistol, causing the victim's "thetan" to leave the body (exteriorization)

        Will that work with my Kimber 1911 or do I have to find an original Colt Government Model to destroy my thetan with? ;)

    • Re:Hell yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:20PM (#28102445)

      I'm not sure if this will have the outcome you're hoping for.
      Prosecuted religions typically thrive as the "community" comes together against the perceived threat, see: Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism.

      But it'll still be fun to watch.

      • Re:Hell yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @11:25PM (#28104657)

        Prosecuted religions typically thrive as the "community" comes together against the perceived threat, see: Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism.

        Can't speak for Christianity or Mormonism, but I do know that the biggest threat facing the American Jewish community today is the lack of a big threat. Confusing? Basically, since there isn't any big threat, Jews aren't practicing as much, intermarrying more, not joining temples, etc. Whole segments of the community are dissolving into secular society. After surviving multiple millennia of threat after threat, it seems ironic that the threat to Judaism would be no threat to Judaism.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285)
      Are these rules applied uniformly in France? If so I wish we could do such things in the US. For instance, int he US we have many so-called faith based persons that produce what in effect infomercials in the form a religious services for the sole purpose of separating vulnerable people, often the elderly on fixed income, from their money. Then there are many churches that preach the gospel of prosperity, which is a magical incantation that they say will bring you 10x more money than you give to the church
      • Re:Hell yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by x2A (858210) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:41PM (#28102707)

        "but leaving these con artists on the street while harassing scientology just seems unfair"

        That's not how civil cases work. You can't just go after anyone and sue for damages based on them doing something not right to someone else. These are personal complaints against scientology by people who feel they've been wronged by the group. If someone else has been conned out of money by another group, it's up to them to try bring it before a court.

  • Oh man! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:58PM (#28102155)

    Xenu's gonna be pissed!

  • Excellent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:59PM (#28102159)

    Well, let's see. Germany declared Scientology unconstitutional in '07... are we seeing a domino effect starting?

  • And the church? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:00PM (#28102185)

    I mean, scientologists are a bunch of loons, but take a look at the first set of Google search entries when you look up "catholic priests"

     

  • by Satanboy (253169) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:03PM (#28102223)

    damn you anonymous!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:10PM (#28102319)

    Does anyone else LOVE the fact that an ANONYMOUS reader posted this article!!!

  • by srobert (4099) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:28PM (#28102541)

    The organization stands accused of targeting vulnerable people for commercial gain.

      Other religious groups might want to render an opinion to the courts defending Scientology. How many religions can't be accused of targeting vulnerable people?

  • Some observations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:32PM (#28102579)

    The summary imples that the US has given scientology religious status. The US does not recognise or give religions status. This is prohibited by the Constitution. Furthermore, being a religion does not exempt one from laws, so the law would apply the same no matter if it was a religion or not. Being a religion does not allow an organisation to do things that would be illegal for another religion to do. Furthermore, an organisation being a religion should not single it out for more intense persecution.

    As far as the charges against scientology, scientology does use sleazy methods to extract methods from the followers of this cult. However, these persons handed over this money willingly, in cases this is not illegal as long as Scientology did not attempt to coerce them or prohibit them from leaving.

    • Re:Some observations (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:49PM (#28102817)

      The Church of Scientology has tax-exempt status. It managed to secure a deal with the IRS that gives it the same rights as religious organizations.

      It seems that religions do get special treatment in the US.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:47PM (#28102773)

    Lost a couple employees to them. They became involved based on promises of becoming "Auditors", but when they couldn't pay for the lessons (training, etc), they were dumped faster than a hot pan handle.

    Interesting thing is I later made the plastic parts for the e machine auditing. (2 plastic parts, 2 resistors, 2 connector pins and wires). Later ran into the molder who makes the training case for their dvds and printed materials. Once the box was filled with $20 worth of materials, the loser had to pay near $2000 for it as I recall (It has been 5 years or so).

    It is so hokey it is hard to believe people fall for it.

  • IANAFL, but ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:59PM (#28102925)

    ... how can people take money not to testify in a criminal trial? I'm not a French lawyer, but if the penalty could include jail time, this sounds like a criminal charge. It's one thing to settle a civil suit out of court in exchange for some compensation. But refusing to testify if you have evidence of criminal activity is a crime itself.

    Now, if the COS is stupid enough to enter into a contract that requires someone to violate the law and they renege on their part of the bargain, a civil court might find that agreement to be unenforceable. Since it requires someone to violate the law, the courts might refuse to find for the COS if they try to get the money back.

  • by petrus4 (213815) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:18PM (#28103133) Homepage Journal

    Supporting those who seek the abolition of Scientology is one thing, and I support such an end goal myself.

    Calling for the end of theism in all forms, however, is something else entirely. I realise that atheism (or at least fashionable agnosticism) is part of the established groupthink here on Slashdot, but as difficult as this may be to comprehend, for some of us, theistic belief is nothing but positive, and it doesn't inspire us to go out and rape, murder, or rob anybody either.

    Most people here support the concept of entirely customisable cognitive environments in terms of shells, window managers, and so on; from the perspective of mechanistic atheism, a form of theistic belief doesn't need to be perceived much differently.

    If you choose to go without one, for whatever reason, that's fine; I'm not evangelical in the slightest, and I endorse the right of anyone to be totally atheistic who wants to be. All I want is recognition of the same right of freedom of belief myself. If people aren't using theism as an excuse to commit crimes, (and I don't) there is no reason why theism should not be permissible.

  • by cmholm (69081) * <cmholm&mauiholm,org> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:15PM (#28104147) Homepage Journal

    IIRC, when the Church of Scientology International [wikipedia.org]lost a major lawsuit by Steve Fishman [cmu.edu], the church executives turned the CSI into a shell, transferring virtually all capital and IP to the Religious Technology Center [wikipedia.org](which licensed "its" IP back to the CSI), theoretically leaving the plaintiff with nothing from which he could collect.

    I wouldn't be surprised to find that although the Paris center is incorporated independently of the mother church, and that it'll turn out that, like every Hollywood production, they've been "broke" all along.

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