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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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  • by Z1NG (953122) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:47PM (#29887111)
    Another victory for Xenu!
    • by mrops (927562) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:38PM (#29888793)

      I say its time to rename Freedom Fries to French Fries.

  • Fine? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:48PM (#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.
    • Re:Fine? (Score:4, Informative)

      by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:50PM (#29887175)
      I agree about the money portion, but it's already apparently hit the nytimes. Isn't that "main stream media in the states" ?
      • Money Supply (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:34PM (#29887801) Journal

        I agree about the money portion

        While that may be true outside France, inside France things are a little murkier. Now that they have been convicted of fraud they have to be careful since now a lot of the people who gave them money can probably get it back. Paying the fine might not be a problem but continuing to raise funds might.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      if something has hit slashdot, it wouldn't be all that surprising to hit bigger media

    • Re:Fine? (Score:5, Funny)

      by natehoy (1608657) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:00PM (#29887339) Journal

      How much is a whetstone bridg.. errr.. "Thetan Detector" reading going for nowadays? They'll just tell their culti.. err.. members that they all need to come in for a refresher scan at $100 a pop because this incident might have caused a Thetan eruption and Xenu might be now able to come out from behind the moon in his ship, so they have to monitor galvanic respons.. sorry.. THETAN levels more carefully for a while.

    • Re:Fine? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by countSudoku() (1047544) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:20PM (#29887615) Homepage

      Confirmed. An ex girlfriend on mine used to work at Wells Fargo Bank. The CO$ has literally dozens, if not hundreds, of individual accounts with more than several million deposited in each. I'll bet this is not their only back either. They have a shitload of cash for lawyering up.
              Must be nice to be able to lie to stupid people, in the name of an imagined deity, to confiscate their savings. I have a conscious and can't imagine the worthless people who can pull that off. All religions suck, especially the fake ones.

    • Re:Fine? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff (120817) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:43PM (#29888849)

      Its not the fine that interests me.. Its the "policy" of the church to go fanatically after its naysayers, and never admit guilt. This isn't some family suing in civil court. This would appear to be a fine levied by the government, which means they will have to fight the French Government (que the jokes....) but really, they have a history of never paying their fines, stalling, stalling, stalling, and going fanatically after their accusers.. this could get interesting..

    • Re:Fine? (Score:4, Informative)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:43PM (#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.
  • ... 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.
    • It also became a legal church in Austria recently. Not sure what to think about that as I don't know what their business and intentions really are. But there are definitely similar sect-like cases (trouble getting out etc.) reported in Germany.

    • Source for that ..? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@gmaiCOLAl.com minus caffeine> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:48PM (#29887993) Journal

      I didn't read such a thing. The court merely declined to dissolve the cult altogether (what the prosecution requested), which would have been legally difficult considering that a scumbag lawmaker from scumbag Sarkozy's scumbag party passed an amendment that removed the penalty of dissolution for entities convicted of fraud a few months ago.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by roscocoltran (1014187)
        This is the most important part of the jugement. When you ask the parliament who wrote that little part of the text that saved scientology's butt 2 weeks before the jugement was made public, what is the answer of the parliament ? What is the answer of the party who proposed the law ? --> "they don't know". They don't know who wrote the lines who saved the scientlogy business. The representative admitted that they didn't understood the text they voted and it was only after an association fighting the s
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No the court didn't rule such a thing and even if it would have wanted to didn't have to power to do so. There is no such thing as a legal church in France. Religious and non-religious activities conducted by a group of people is defined legally as an association (loi 1901).

      What happened is that several months ago, a law passed that was supposed to clean up French criminal laws regarding companies, associations and such. In this law, a company or association could not be dissolved anymore as a result of a t

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:48PM (#29887143) Journal

    A spokeswoman for the church, Agnès Bron, called the verdict "an Inquisition for modern times."

    Help me out here, which Inquisition [wikipedia.org] are you trying to draw a parallel to?

    In all of the most popular ones I think it was the several hundreds (possibly thousands) of individuals being persecuted for not believing Roman Catholicism (the popular religion). Crazy Catholic tribunals prosecuting people on arcane doctrine! Usually resulting in the end of their life or excommunication. Now the current situation is the government of France in a single instance finding the Church of Scientology guilty of fraud. Was there anything to do with religious doctrine in this case? Because I thought fraud was fraud whether you're the pope or Richard Dawkins! And the result is a paltry sum of $900,000 that is -- what? -- 1/7th of what it cost Tom Cruise to get to his last level of clairvoyance?

    To reiterate, you're not being persecuted for your beliefs but instead your finances ... which sound more like extortion through coercion to me than anything else.

    Go ahead and use this to try to appeal to people with a persecution complex. If they have one, they won't find more persecution anywhere else than your ranks. I'm glad that sane people -- when hassled by you -- can now be informed that your accounting practices in France have been legally decried as fraud!

    • by jdgeorge (18767)

      A spokeswoman for the church, Agnès Bron, called the verdict "an Inquisition for modern times."

      Help me out here, which Inquisition [wikipedia.org] are you trying to draw a parallel to?

      I don't know for sure, but I'm hoping it's this one [youtube.com]. What a show!

    • by idontgno (624372) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:00PM (#29887341) Journal

      No one expects the French Inquisition!

      No, really. No one at all. Complete surprise.

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:11PM (#29887497) Homepage Journal

        Our chief weapon is fear. Fear and surprise.

        And a two dollar fine.

    • by bugi (8479)

      That's what they get for making testable predictions. That's also why they're not a religion.

  • Censorship? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thepooh81 (1606041) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:51PM (#29887187)

    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.

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

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:30PM (#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 Absolut187 (816431) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:12PM (#29887513) Homepage

    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?

    If you're going to make it a crime to pressure people into giving money to a cult based on a bunch of idiotic stories, you might as well start with the older ones.

    Look at Mormons. They shun their own family if they don't buy into their crap. Threatening to make you effectively dead to your whole (brainwashed) family - that's not extortion? Catholicism has excommunication, same idea.

    Christians used "God" as an excuse to perpetrate some of the worst *atrocities* in history. The Crusades. Manifest Destiny. George Bush. The list goes on.

    In the scheme of things, bilking retarded celebrities out of their "hard"-earned cash just doesn't seem that bad to me. Frankly, I find it amusing. Scientology is the Stephen Colbert of religion. Their own founder made it so ridiculously outlandish that only a total idiot would actually believe in it. I'm sure L. Ron would laugh his ass off if he knew how much money Tom Cruise had forked over to his church.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:20PM (#29887605)

      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?

      Major differences with Scientology:

      1. It does not have a thousands-year history of people believing it

      2. It is a single centralized organization instead of a widespread population with sects and branches

      3. The individuals controlling that single centralized organization today have a long history of criminal activity, as did just about everyone who ever had a position of power in that organization

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:21PM (#29887623) Homepage
      The significant difference is that we know [faqs.org] that the Co$ was started with express intention of fleecing money from its drones. With the others, we just have to use common sense to infer it.
    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:31PM (#29887755)

      Look at Mormons. They shun their own family if they don't buy into their crap. Threatening to make you effectively dead to your whole (brainwashed) family - that's not extortion? Catholicism has excommunication, same idea.

      Nonsense. Mormons are quite free and able to interact with people who "don't buy into their crap." I say it's actually their defining characteristic when compared to other loony cults. Excommunication is reserved for cardinal sins, not merely associating with people who don't buy your crap. Not to mention that excommunication is not the tool of control that it was during the middle ages.

      Finally, there are a few reasons why Scientology is far more dangerous than today's mainstream Abrahamic religions, Hinduism or any other organized religion. There is the US vs Them mentality that pervades the organization, the complete disregard for laws in their pursuit of their enemies and the practical enslavement of the low-rung members. In other words, the reason that Scientology is dangerous is that it is as loony as the fringe suicide cults that have always existed, and it is as large as many respectable religious organizations. With the former comes extreme (and deadly) actions, with the second comes power to carry out the extreme actions in great numbers and under cover.

      Hubbard might have laughed at all the money Cruise has forked over, but he would be laughing on his yacht while figuring out how to extract more money.

    • by geekpowa (916089) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:32PM (#29887763)

      I am an atheist. I have many friends and family (including my wife) who subscribe to one of the many Christian variants. Also friends and colleagues who are Hindu, Sikh, Islam etc etc.

      Once upon a time I had lots of close friends who are now Scientologists. They actively, passionately, and publicly hate me and consider me to be a deeply immoral person. A SP in their own language.

      The gulf between your 'typical' Scientologist and how they view the world and other mainstream faiths is in my own very direct experience, is an extra-ordinary gulf.

      You can trot out the religious atrocities of the past, but your typical theist today is as likely as a non theist to be a decent, social, community minded person. Scientology followers, by virtue of their extremist and uncompromising doctrine, are very much an anti social vector, and the only community they respect is their own Scientology community. As for your uninformed comments about only 'retards' being attracted to Scientology - cults like Scientology are actually quite nuanced and sophisticated in their recruitment - and attracting educated white collar folk is their bread and butter. Read this book if you have the inclination. A piece of blue sky [cmu.edu]

      • I think the reasoning the OP said only retards join scientology is because it's difficult to imagine a smart, well-informed person believing it. I mean... came to earth on a jet, aliens inside our bodies, blown up around a volcano... what part of that should make me think "Yeah, that sounds pretty reasonable, and fits in with the history of the planet"?

        In all honesty, I would LOVE to have a good, thorough talk with a fully-believing, intelligent scientologist. No flaming, no yelling, hell, I won't even insult him or his beliefs. I would just like to see if I can understand WHY he follows that religion as opposed to others.

        • by Calithulu (1487963) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @05:33PM (#29889597)

          In all honesty, I would LOVE to have a good, thorough talk with a fully-believing, intelligent scientologist. No flaming, no yelling, hell, I won't even insult him or his beliefs. I would just like to see if I can understand WHY he follows that religion as opposed to others.

          What are your crimes? Did you club a baby seal?

          Yeah, that sounds odd but there is a fairly well documented [tmz.com] instance where a celebrity Scientologist asked that of a critic whom, to be fair, was wearing a t-shirt that directly attacked their "religion". Most people would call him an idiot and move on, or just walk past, but they began insinuating that he was a criminal and had committed some truly heinous crimes.

          I'm not saying you can't have the conversation you wish, but if some idiotic t-shirt can cause that response I can't imagine that there is much hope. Though it isn't something I've seen advertised, it appears that there is a trained response to critics where the practitioners accuse the critic of committing crimes as evidenced by their criticism of Scientology.

    • by jjohnson (62583) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:03PM (#29888219) Homepage

      The short version is that Christian salvation is free. I can go to church, I can read the bible, I can get into heaven without ever giving a cent to a Christian denomination. They're not selling salvation. It might be worth tossing a few bucks their way (or to the mosque, or the buddhist temple) to keep the services available, but there's no requirement to pay up.

      With Scientology, salvation is directly tied to how much money you put into it. You buy access to higher levels.

      Doctrinally, I don't think they're much different in crazy factor, but as far as the business practices go in terms of bilking believers, they're an outright fraud.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RazorSharp (1418697)

      The difference is in theology. The Catholic Church doesn't have a copyright on the Bible and they don't force their members to pay out the ass to gain access to their theology. What makes Scientology a cult rather than a religion is that you have to pay just to know what their core beliefs are. I don't have to become a Christian or a Buddhist to find out what those religions are about. I can find out what they're about and then make an informed decision. I can read the Koran for free on the internet, I can

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:34PM (#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 dangitman (862676) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:44PM (#29890643)

        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.

        Such a bullshit argument. Ever heard of the "No true Scotsman" fallacy? Unfortunately, you don't get to disown members of your group/clan/religion because they did something bad. The truth is that many actual Christians were involved in committing terrible atrocities.

        All Christianity is, is belief in (a certain interpretation) of God. That's all it takes. You can be criminally insane, a brutal dictator, whatever - you can still be a Christian if you believe. And many perpetrators of crimes against humanity did believe.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lawpoop (604919)

          Such a bullshit argument. Ever heard of the "No true Scotsman" fallacy? Unfortunately, you don't get to disown members of your group/clan/religion because they did something bad. The truth is that many actual Christians were involved in committing terrible atrocities.

          Okay, I see your point, but are you willing to concede that atheists were responsible for the deaths and persecutions of around a million people in the Soviet Union?

          What's that you say?* Those Party Members weren't really atheists, or directly guided to do this by their atheism, but just used that position to further a money/power agenda? Well, that's the same argument our Christian friend wants to use. In other words, "No true Scotsman..."

          * I don't know if you actually say this or not, but it's fun to

  • by aapold (753705) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:12PM (#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."
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:17PM (#29887575)

    > > > > > > > Scilon Troll: "Hey, it's no sillier than $mainstreamReligion"
    > > > > > > Fundamentalist Religious Dupe #1: "No it's not, our $mainstreamReligion is holy, space aliens are weird."
    > > > > > Fundamentalist Atheist Dupe #1: "You silly $mainstreamReligionist! Both your belief systems are bogus!"
    > > > > Moderate Atheist Dupe #2: "Yeah, all religions are the same."
    > > Trolly Atheist Dupe #3: "Yeah, we should tax 'em all!"
    > Paranoid Religious Dupe #3: "No way, I'd rather just let the Scilons keep on doing what they're doing... Relijus Freedumb!!!"

    And then the Scilon troll reports back to the mothership: "False equivalence has been established. Everyone's bickering about whose religion is weirder, and all the moderates have agreed that our beliefs are as legitimate a religion as everyone else. Now we can claim religious persecution when speaking to religious audiences, and that we're being attacked by fanatics when we speak to non-religious audiences. Mission Accomplished!"

    This isn't about whether Jesus or Xenu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster is weirder. Or about the relative atrocities of Crusades, the RPF, or not serving meatballs with spaghetti.

    It's about one specific organization, and its track record of using litigation as a tool to silence dissent. Sonny Bono, Scientologist and Senator, not only supported the Mickey Mouse Protection Act [wikipedia.org] which extended copyright terms to 75 years plus the life of the creator, he got the damn bill named after itself. When the DMCA [wikipedia.org] was passed in 1998, guess was among the first first lawsuit [com.com] under its provisions just a few months later? Hint: It's the same organization that attacked Slashdot [slashdot.org] itself in 2001 and Google [chillingeffects.org] in 2002.

    It's not about space aliens, UFOs shaped like DC-8s, or volcanoes. It's about one organization's multi-decade track record of attacks on the Internet [wikipedia.org]. That - and nothing else - is why it's News For Nerds, and Stuff That Matters.

    Of course, by the time I've typed this, we'll have already gone through 100 posts of "No, your religion is weirder!" "No, all religions are silly", and Scilon trolls sitting back and smiling gleefully as they watch yet another message board thread fall for the distraction tactic, and this post all pointless.

    (Yep, the Cult has already compared it to the Spanish Inquisition. For something nobody's supposed to expect, I'm not at all surprised the cult spokesperson has already started to draw comparisons to the Spanish Inquisition, especially in a historically-Catholic country, and right on time, two attempts to distract us by advocating taxation of the Catholic Church shows up here...)

    But it felt good to rant for a bit.

  • Currently in France (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eulernet (1132389) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:50PM (#29888031)

    You guys completely miss the point.

    In France, there has been an incredible 'mistake', where a law was about to be passed allowing to ban the Scientology.
    However, it appears that there have been an error, where all the text expressing the ban of dangerous cults disappeared !

    There is a huge debate in France because of this incredible mistake, and a lot of high public officials pretend that this is a computer error (eventually, it was the fact of a human editor).

    It has been widely published that the french president Sarkozy welcomed Tom Cruise as a president, and Sarkozy has his own personal guru, who sends him positive waves every day (yes, this has been published too !).
    Also, Sarkozy use the Scientology methods, especially in a current lawsuit, involving a previous Prime Minister: Dominique de Villepin.
    The idea is to never try to defend, but to concentrate on harassing.

    So now, we are in a sad state in France, where the Scientology has been condamned to a symbolic fine, and with a lot of indices that Sarkozy is involved with Scientology.
    And the worst thing is that the opposition does not seem eager to attack Sarkozy on this subject.

    As usual, the political omerta will cover all these dirty schemes, and the large audience will remain unaware of the real stakes.

    BTW, in the last month, in France we had:
    1) an ex-prime minister attacked by Sarkozy in the Clearstream affair, but I'm pretty sure he is innocent because it was the president Chirac who tried to trap Sarkozy
    2) our minister of Culture who wrote in a book that he is a pedophile (and he just adopted a 18 years guy, as a way to provide inheritance in same sex couples). Funnily, he tried to protest against Polanski's arrest.
    3) Jean, the son of Sarkozy, was about to be elected as the director of the EPAD, which is the organism that decides where to install buildings in the new french eldorado (La Défense)

    I'm stopping here, I'm just too upset...

  • Church? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Better.Safe.Than.Sor (836676) <matthew02121@ro[ ]s.com ['ger' in gap]> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:02PM (#29888215) Journal
    Scientology is as much a church as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is democratic.
  • it's like comparing volunteering to clean up the highway median of garbage, and being forced to clean it up, and your income from the job goes to your crew boss

    yes, there is plenty of monotheistic religions you should skewer and condemn

    but to not recognize that for all the crimes of judaism, christianity, islam, etc., that scientology outdoes those religions and adds a few more crimes, is to not understand the subject matter you are injecting yourself into

    i dislike organized religion. but i dislike slavery even more. and that's what scientology is

    you really should read up on how especially vicious this nasty cult is

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_snow_white [wikipedia.org]

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