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Censorship The Courts

French Branch of Scientology Is Convicted of Fraud 622

Posted by kdawson
from the still-getting-away-with-it dept.
The trial we discussed this spring has come to a verdict, and reader lugannerd was one of several to note a milestone in the fight against the Church of Scientology. "The French branch of the Church of Scientology was convicted of fraud and fined nearly $900,000 on Tuesday by a Paris court. But the judges did not ban the church entirely, as the prosecution had demanded, saying that a change in the law prevented such an action for fraud. The church said it would appeal. The verdict was among the most important in several years to involve the controversial group, which is registered as a religion in the United States but has no similar legal protection in France. It is considered a sect here, and says it has some 45,000 adherents, out of some 12 million worldwide. It was the first time here that the church itself had been tried and convicted, as opposed to individual members."
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French Branch of Scientology Is Convicted of Fraud

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  • Fine? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @01:48PM (#29887127)
    Well a 900k fine isn't going to be much. These guys have armies of members that fling money at that them. The best thing of this story is the bad press (though people say there is no such thing) given their army of lawyers I don't imagine this will ever hit main stream media, at least here in the states.
  • by lbalbalba (526209) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @01:48PM (#29887129)
    ... The court also decided that the Scientology Sect^H^H^H^H Church is a 'legal' church, that should be allowed instead of banned in France.
  • Re:Fine? (Score:4, Informative)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @01:50PM (#29887175)
    I agree about the money portion, but it's already apparently hit the nytimes. Isn't that "main stream media in the states" ?
  • Re:slashdot caved (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hijacked Public (999535) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @01:56PM (#29887271)

    Are you sure you remember the incident correctly? All I remember is that the OT3 post was deleted, only to be followed by hundreds of others in the comments section of the announcement and dozens of links to it elsewhere.

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/03/16/1256226 [slashdot.org]

  • by aapold (753705) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:12PM (#29887531) Homepage Journal
    See discussion on their numbers at adherents.com [adherents.com], a site whose main purpose is to track # of adherents to specific religions world wide, where they discuss why scientology isn't on their default charts. The discussion mentions "8 million", which at the time was the number often found in the media, that number is now apparently often 12 million. But the source of this number is the Church of Scientology itself. From this analysis, they conclude the # of Scientologists claimed by the CoS is "the total number of people who have participated in Church of Scientology activities since the inception of the church."
  • Re:Fine? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jythie (914043) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:30PM (#29887747)

    Well, it hit CNN and FoxNews, so that probably covers most Americans.

  • Re:Censorship? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:30PM (#29887751)

    I don't know why this is considered censorship. They brought the case before a judge who made a legal decision which can be appealed (and is).

    France did not ban the organization from the country (although it seems as though they wanted to). Had they done that then I could understand the censorship tag, but really... Being tried for a crime in this case does not mean censorship.

    In the US, $cientology gained its recognition as a "religion" through its members filing numerous lawsuits against the IRS in all fifty states, bugging government offices, stealing files, etc... . There is a secret agreement between $cientology and the IRS that hasn't been released to the public. [cmu.edu] (It has since been leaked [cmu.edu], but never formally released.)

    Essentially, $cientologists get to deduct the costs of their "courses" from their taxes. No other religious group in the US gets to do this. (see Sklar v. IRS)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:41PM (#29887895)

    The court found that the organization is legal, not that it's a legal church. The court made it clear if there's some similar case in the future, they are going to be banned.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:42PM (#29887913)

    Look at Mormons. They shun their own family if they don't buy into their crap.

    Just for the record, while that may happen in some cases, Mormons are encouraged by their leaders to maintain positive relationships with family members that choose not to join or to leave the church. The idea there is that if you actually care about people (not just fake it), then maybe you can make their lives better, regardless of their religious or personal choices.

    Lumping all religions together as "laughable pile[s] of dog shit" does not reflect logic or reasoning. If your conclusion that they are all wrong is logical or well reasoned, then please share your reasoning. Smart people will listen to your arguments, though they may point out holes in them. No reasonable person will be won over by being mocked.

  • by uberjack (1311219) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:51PM (#29888043)

    At least it hasn't (yet) marched a bunch of its adherents into other countries, slaughtering "infidels", or set up any 800-year long inquisitions, or flown any aircraft into buildings, or burned any "witches." Though no doubt, give it time -- fanatics who base their thinking on superstitious bullshit almost always get around to such idiocy.

    I'm not one to defend any religion, but Scientology's a lot worse today than any modern mainstream religion. If you need any proof, feel free to have a look here [xenu.net] and here [lermanet.com]. No modern religion forces family members to give up their loved ones, picket outside the house of an 'unbeliever', or essentially, slavery.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:00PM (#29888187)
    FTA:

    The case was brought by two former members who said they were pushed into paying large sums of money in the 1990s, pressed to sign up for expensive “purification courses” and harassed to buy a variety of vitamins and other forms of pharmaceuticals, plus electronic tests to measure spiritual progress. One woman said she had been pressured into spending more than $30,000.

    A few groups were convicted of fraud because they pressured people to buy their crap. They weren't convicting the religion itself of fraud. I'm not exactly sure what constitutes "pressuring", but I'm sure there are some other religious groups that also "pressure" their members to spend money on worthless junk. I would hope that they too could be convicted of fraud.

    FWIW, I'm a Christian and I've never felt "pressured" by my local church body to spend money on something I didn't want.

  • by schon (31600) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:05PM (#29888251)

    You missed what I said. I'm talking about their behavior toward FORMER mormons, not NON-mormons.

    Speaking as a person who was baptized in the Mormon church when I was 12, and left when I was 17, I must point out that this statement is complete and utter bullshit.

  • by Hobophile (602318) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:31PM (#29888647) Homepage

    Any FORMER mormon who leaves the church will be prevented from seeing his family and friends again. Anyone current mormon who breaks the rules and speaks to a FORMER mormon risks the same. When you get done watching Religulous, go work on your reading comprehension.

    Speaking as a former Mormon, I can confirm that you are spewing nonsense. I haven't watched the "documentary" in question but I am going to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. I left the church 15 years ago and never experienced any of the ostracism you suggest is commonplace. Quite the reverse; from time to time, the missionaries will stop by my house to offer to help out with yard work, or to invite my family to a church event. The interactions are always cordial, if a little awkward.

    Possibly it's different if you are excommunicated, but consider what you have to do to get excommunicated; in practice it doesn't happen unless you kill someone or start spreading a lot of anti-Mormon hate. In which case it's hardly surprising that friends and loved ones would disown you. It's possible there is an official policy of no contact in such cases, but the worst that would happen if you ignored it is a discussion with your local church leader.

    Frankly you sound like someone who has done a lot of research into these questions and I commend you for that. But you might want to consider your sources a bit more carefully, and talk to more people in the real world. Most people are not backstabbing SOBs who will turn on you in an instant if you step out of line. There are a few nutcases out there, but you don't have to be a Christian to be a jerk.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:31PM (#29888653)
    While China remains unquestionably a totalitarian state, it is less and less 'communist' every year.While many of China's largest industries are still wholly or partially owned by the state, that's no different from most countries worldwide. The important difference between China today and the hardline communist era is that Chinese workers are increasingly able to decide their own destinies, which aligns China functionally with most modern socialist nations. (Not that I think that's a 'good thing' but it's better than things once were. At least China isn't North Korea.) Really the world is so interested in China's rise because it is using its growth to fund buying interests worldwide, a course of action made even more powerful during the devaluing effects of a recession. China is putting itself in the catbird seat ironically by the same method that made the US the dominant power in the 20th century: economic conquest. If you have time, pick up the current issue of Fortune magazine at a library or something and read their article on China's diversification of worldwide interests.

    However on the issue at hand, it is my opinion that the internet will manage to prevent any crazy religion from overturning civilization and bringing another dark age upon humanity.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:34PM (#29888709) Homepage

    Whether I use the phrase "laughable pile of dog shit" or not is largely irrelevant.

    It may not matter to the people you are describing. However it is quite relevant to the issue of whether your post would correctly be modded flamebait by an objective moderator.

    My main point - the underlying concept itself - is (quite literally) heretical.
    Regardless of the words I choose to express it.

    It all depends on the audience.

    I think you'll find other posts under this story that compare Scientology to mainstream religions which are not moderated flamebait. So either the "audience" changed halfway down the page, or your theory doesn't hold water and your post was in fact flamebait in a way other posts were not. Though that's not actually an exclusive 'or'... even if an uptight religious person with modpoints modded you for content rather than form, your post was flamebait.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:34PM (#29888719) Homepage Journal

    Obviously Scientology is a laughable pile of dog shit, but how is it any worse than any of the other superstitious cults out there, like Christianity or Islam?

    I don't know about Islam, but I'm a nondenominal Christian (meaning I don't care of a church is Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, whatever) amd I've never been pressured to contribute in any of them. Not once. In every church I've been to, contribution is entirely voluntary, and most have empty envelopes that you can contribute NOTHING with. Christ himself said not to let any man know you were tithing, and most preachers respect this.

    You might want to learn about a thing before you bash it.

    Christians used "God" as an excuse to perpetrate some of the worst *atrocities* in history.

    No. Non-Christians pretending to be Christians ("wolves in sheep's clothing") used Christianity to perpetrate some of the worst atrocities in history for their own personal, evil ends, usually money and power. That includes George Bush; nothing he did marks him as a Christian, no matter that he does in fact profess to be one. In fact, none of the TV preachers in multimillion dollar churches wearing five thousand dollar suits are Christians; they (like Bush and every other rich person) worship money, not God.

    All one has to do is read the first four books of the New Testament to realize that these guys aren't teaching what Christ taught. Pat Robertson has converted more Christians to athiesm than all the athisets at slashdot combined.

  • by DM9290 (797337) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:39PM (#29888797) Journal

    How will I resolve my disbelief of atheism with my atheism?

    try using a dictionary.

  • Re:Fine? (Score:4, Informative)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:43PM (#29888861)
    This is hardly the first time they've been hit in France, either, and it never did any good. L. Ron Hubbard himself was convicted of fraud there in 1978 (along with the head of the French branch), and several Scientologist leaders were convicted of embezzlement in 2001. They'll just regroup, like they did then.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:57PM (#29889073)
    He specifically says "the crazy fundamentalists". I do not think he intends to include all religious groups. I think it is safe to say that most people who identify as Christians or Muslims are perfectly sane people. In contrast, some groups identify as such, but are much crazier than the majority of the people of that religion.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:10PM (#29889237) Journal

    No modern religion forces family members to give up their loved ones, picket outside the house of an 'unbeliever', or essentially, slavery.

    Islam prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, proscribes death penalty for abandoning Islam (which any Muslim is required to carry out should he get the opportunity), and provides a legal framework for slavery, including female sexual slavery.

    It's not just words on paper, either - some or all of the above are actually practiced in a certain Islamic societies around the world.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:26PM (#29889471)
    I'd just like to say, to begin with...

    "The head of the Galactic Federation (76 planets around larger stars visible from here) (founded 95,000,000 years ago, very space opera) solved overpopulation (250 billion or so per planet, 178 billion on average) by mass implanting. He caused people to be brought to Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H-Bomb on the principal volcanos (Incident II) and then the Pacific area ones were taken in boxes to Hawaii and the Atlantic area ones to Las Palmas and there "packaged".

    His name was Xenu. He used renegades. Various misleading data by means of circuits etc. was placed in the implants.

    When through with his crime loyal officers (to the people) captured him after six years of battle and put him in an electronic mountain trap where he still is. "They" are gone. The place (Confederation) has since been a desert. The length and brutality of it all was such that this Confederation never recovered. The implant is calculated to kill (by pneumonia etc) anyone who attempts to solve it. This liability has been dispensed with by my tech development.

    One can freewheel through the implant and die unless it is approached as precisely outlined. The "freewheel" (auto-running on and on) lasts too long, denies sleep etc and one dies. So be careful to do only Incidents I and II as given and not plow around and fail to complete one thetan at a time.

    In December 1967 I knew someone had to take the plunge. I did and emerged very knocked out, but alive. Probably the only one ever to do so in 75,000,000 years. I have all the data now, but only that given here is needful.

    One's body is a mass of individual thetans stuck to oneself or to the body.

    One has to clean them off by running incident II and Incident I. It is a long job, requiring care, patience and good auditing. You are running beings. They respond like any preclear. Some large, some small.

    Thetans believed they were one. This is the primary error. Good luck. "

    --L Ron Hubbard, 'OT3 Incident'

    COS can suck it.

  • Re:Fine? (Score:5, Informative)

    by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:56PM (#29889995) Homepage
    A long, long time ago Scientology were the first people to force /. to remove a post for content reasons. Still in the FAQ, I think. Suffice it to say the editorial team still put up schadenfreudist stories whenever something bad happens to them.
  • French here (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @05:36PM (#29890545)

    which is registered as a religion in the United States but has no similar legal protection in France

    Since 1905 the French state recognize no religion. You can worship the great spaghetti monster and pretend to be a religion, it's not the problem of the French state if you don't break any law and regulation. Your so call religious organization will not give you any tax reduction. It only allow your organization to get donations and legacy legally. It should conform to strict financial control and is limited to non profit organization of the worship. If you want to do charity business, sell religious book, etc ... it's not considered as a religious activity and it become a regulars associations, sport club, etc. That why most of the so call new religious movement can't have the tax reduction, because they are not non profit organization and no tax reduction either!

    Most established religions have multiple legal or associative entity with different statues, usually only one is a “association cultuelle” roughly a religious association. So the book store money, the charity money and the money for the organization of ceremonies never cross or mix. An association if it recognized of public interest can receive a tax cut ( mostly for the donors in fact ). So you can have a religious association, a charity association of public interest and a book store recorded as a regular business for the same religion.

    I'm atheist, I give time and money to the secours catholique a catholic charity association ( they are on the other side of my street ). I'm sure that none of my euro will ever pay a priest. In my view it's a pretty good system.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @05:45PM (#29890663) Homepage
    To be fair, it wasn't just a get rich quick scheme: he also got to score with tons of hot cult chick groupies.
  • Re:Fine? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:06PM (#29890901)

    A religion wants converts. Religions tell you about their god, and try to convince people to worship their god. Name one religion whose followers won't willingly show you their Bible, Quran, or whatever holy books. Christians publish those Bibles, and ship them all around the world. The Gideons purchase those Bibles to put into motel rooms, in hopes of turning people away from the path of sin. I could go on and on with examples from Christianity - I'm less familiar with similar efforts by the Moslems, Hindus, and other religions, but I have been offered books and literature by various people.

    Now, you look at the CoS. Do you have a copy of thier literature? Show it to a CoS member. See what happens. Duplicate their literature, and pass it out at an airport. Get someone to film it.

    Anyone who thinks that CoS is a religion is either a fool, or a damn fool. No one can be so far out of touch with humanity to mistake a money scam for a religion.

    Volunteer to serve them, and see what your working conditions are like. Then, TRY TO LEAVE! You need to read. There are plenty of stories about the CoS slave trade.

  • Re:Come on. (Score:3, Informative)

    by fyngyrz (762201) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:51PM (#29891959) Homepage Journal

    You might profit from actually studying the inquisition(s), as I have. With a few much bandied exceptions, they weren't what you portray them as.

    I have studied them. I portray them as multiple wars specifically characterized by horrific and specifically religious atrocities. If you think they were other, by all means, make your case. I didn't say who started them, or make any claims about justification for keeping them going. My key problem with them is the acts of religious evil that saturate the reporting of the events.

    Religion was a post-hoc rationalization--an attempt to turn that greed towards what was regarded as a good purpose, not a driving force. Not that I agree with that rationalization, but your characterization is flawed.

    That wasn't my characterization. So your whole argument is trashed. The crusades are a religious problem because they are a mass of religion-justified atrocities. As I have said elsewhere, justifying self defense is no problem. Justifying rape, pillage, infanticide... can't be done. When - as is the case with the crusades - the permission, and not just that, but the instructions, to commit those acts comes from religion... then we have our master criminal identified. Its name is religion.

    ...you might take a look at how Stalin (an avowed atheist) treated the Jews

    You should have read the thread.

    Atheism contains no dogma, no instructions, no justifications, no tenets, no belief. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods. So it isn't in any way responsible for Stalin (or anyone else's) descent into evil sociopathic blundering.

    Religion, on the other hand, uniformly contains instructions, dogma, tenets, and so forth. People do things specifically in the name of religious instruction. History is replete with examples. An astonishing number of those examples are evil. Even the written mythos of religion - the bible, the koran - contain extreme examples of religiously inspired evil. Mohammad humping his 9 year old "wife". Lot offering his daughters to the crowd. Jesus assaulting merchants. God turning people into pillars of salt. It's like reading about psychotic children.

    Consequently, your attempt to tar the atheist lack of belief fails simply because that idea, the lack of belief in a god or gods, is so insubstantial and dogma free that no tar can possibly stick to it. If I say absolutely nothing to you about your life, you cannot blame me for influencing your life choices. And that's atheism in a nutshell. It says nothing about anything but that there is no belief in a god or gods. End of story.

    who the hell DIDN'T subjugate women prior to the invention of industrialized society and The Pill

    Sure. It's always convenient to have slaves. So tell me, this makes it OK that religion still does so? That it codifies it? That it's written down for all to see and stick to in the bible, in the koran? Oh. Guess not. That's what I thought. So you fail. Looks like it is correct to castigate religion for propagating that retarded old nonsense, isn't it? Thought so. :)

    Burning of scientists at the stake? Uhmmm... I'm trying to think of an example. Do you have one? I really can't think of one.

    Sure. Giordano Bruno. Google him. He's not the only one, either. Maybe your history needs a little brushing up.

    Abandonment of adherents? What on EARTH are you talking about?

    I'm talking about excommunication. A very powerful religious tool in the past, and to some degree, still today (see the Jehovah's Witnesses modern "dis-fellowship" practice, for instance. Again, study your history. Find out what happened to those who were excommunicated.

  • by Caue (909322) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:15AM (#29894675)
    not quite so. Here in brazil (world's biggest roman catholic country) the pentecostal churches are all the rage. You actually can buy your way into heaven, and the owner of the bigger pentecostal church goes to the mass in a helicopter.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

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