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Scientology On Trial In Belgium 540

Posted by Soulskill
from the fighting-fire-with-fire dept.
dgharmon sends this news from the Atlantic Wire: "After a years-long legal battle, federal prosecutors in Belgium now believe their investigation is complete enough to charge the Church of Scientology and its leaders as a criminal organization on charges of extortion, fraud, privacy breaches, and the illegal practice of medicine. ... Multiple reports and the group's legal history point to one key factor here: The Belgian government won't charge Scientology for being a cult — authorities are focusing on prosecuting it as a criminal organization. Which is a new twist, as most of the group's many court battles over the years have focused on establishing its legitimacy as a religion. ... The Church of Scientology houses its European headquarters in Brussels, so a ban in Belgium could be crippling to the group — and authorities there seem to know it."
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Scientology On Trial In Belgium

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  • it was (Score:5, Insightful)

    by etash (1907284) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:48PM (#42443135)
    about time this happened. It should be banned EU-wide.
  • by Sperbels (1008585) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:49PM (#42443149)
    But seriously, is there all that much difference between any of them? Just because we can trace these two churches back to their wacko founders, doesn't mean the other older churches weren't founded by wackos too.
  • Re:it was (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:50PM (#42443165)
    Why only EU?
  • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:51PM (#42443179)

    But seriously, is there all that much difference between Scientology and the Mormon Church?

    Is there really much difference between "insert religion" and "insert religion", except for when the scam started? They seem to be going after them in LIFO order to build up precedence.

  • Re:it was (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jkrise (535370) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:56PM (#42443255) Journal

    Atleast in the EU, there is some evidence that intelligent life exists, and rational debate is encouraged.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:57PM (#42443261) Journal

    Why(except perhaps for tax purposes) would a group being recognized as a religion or not so recognized be relevant? Both religious and secular organizations are capable of being criminal organizations, or not, and both are capable of using the sort of ethically problematic coercive tactics most commonly associated with cults.

    Certainly, being a well established and respected religion can be very convenient indeed(see also, decades-if-not-more of kiddie rape with near-total impunity); but if you have to fight for recognition as "Well, I guess you technically meet the standards of a 'religion', so we can't legally deny you." you don't automatically acquire the establishment and respect, which are what really count.

  • by cursingflashor (571586) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:01PM (#42443311)
    Sure. Maybe you should include the Taoists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains. Unless you only mean Abrahamic religions, in which case you should say so and not ALL.
  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:01PM (#42443315) Homepage

    Odd, he answered your question. But you returned with a snide reply, it seems that the only person with their panties in a twist is yourself. He makes a good point, between the two you can tell which of either does good work with the money they receive.

  • by mpe (36238) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:03PM (#42443335)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Snow_White

    Interestingly nowhere does this text contain the word "terrorism". Maybe the people involved were just the "wrong" religion...
  • Matters of degree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scotts13 (1371443) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:11PM (#42443441)

    Not to offend anyone (or, sorry that I WILL) basically every organized religion is wacky. Since they're all based on things that have to be taken on faith, the only difference is how much disbelief the adherents are willing to suspend. Granted, to THIS observer, Scientology (and Mormonism, close behind) are at the far end of the spectrum, but it's a quantitative rather than qualitative difference. Now, practically, the Scientologists appear to present an ongoing danger to society; the Mormons no longer appear harmful.

  • by Sperbels (1008585) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:11PM (#42443451)

    i don't know alot of mormonism, but scientology has been known to harass, abuse, threaten ex-members, people who disagree with them etc. etc

    This is true. Mormonism seems to run the same way as other churches. Scientology seems to operate like the US government.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:16PM (#42443499) Homepage

    Because the key word "religion" has been a hot issue for so long that it's built into many laws. Employers discriminating against a religion is outlawed, but forbidding membership in a non-religious group may be fine (and the reverse as well... employers often can't only hire one religion, but can mandate union membership). Church property may be exempt from police searches under age-old sanctuary laws. Of course, those taxes you mentioned can also mean a difference of 20-50% in a church budget.

    Much of law is based on categorizing entities. Some categories are governed by this particular set of laws, other categories by a different set. Trying to work entities in to or out of any particular category is therefore a big part of a lawyer's job, and where lawyers get such a reputation for being dishonest.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:16PM (#42443501)

    In particular, having stupid theology isn't a crime in Belgium. The Scientologists here are being charged with a bunch of "regular" criminal conduct, which doesn't really depend on whether they're a real religion or not (you can be prosecuted for that even if you're a very well established religion, as some Catholic dioceses have discovered).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:21PM (#42443561)

    the Church of Latter Day Saints, a significant religious denomination whose members perform millions of hours of community service and give generously to communities around the globe.

    That community service's whole purpose is to convert folks to their cult.

    And building a church hardly counts as community service.

    To me community service is helping people with no strings attached. No need to hear a sermon, convert, or do something that in the end helps said religious organization.

    There are always strings attached when it comes to the Mormons.

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:23PM (#42443597) Journal

    "[Pablo] Escobar was a brilliant criminal, and he knew that he would be safer if the common people of Medellín loved him. Therefore, he spent millions on parks, schools, stadiums, churches and even housing for the poorest of Medellín’s inhabitants. His strategy worked: Escobar was beloved by the common people, who saw him as a local boy who had done well and was giving back to his community."

  • by Gorobei (127755) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:25PM (#42443617)

    I don't know of very many similarities between scientology, a con game started by a science fiction writer, and the Church of Latter Day Saints, a significant religious denomination whose members perform millions of hours of community service and give generously to communities around the globe. That's like asking "what's the diference between the Red Cross and the mafia?"

    Well, they both (like most religions) started as con games. Both are significant (in that governments pay attention to them - e.g. Scientology gets sued, Mormons get run out of states.) Both do tons of community service, although the communities involved tend to be annoyed: missionaries and touch-assist helpers are pretty annoying to normal people. Both offer you a living if you just accept the faith and power structure (scientologists prefer rich people, and Mormons prefer women, but that's minor.) Both have acted vigorously when threatened.

    Can't see a lot of difference here. But then, neither seem that much worse than extreme established religions.

  • by lennier1 (264730) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:52PM (#42443875)

    Magic underwear? Same loony bin, different floor.

  • Re:it was (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:06PM (#42444035)

    Why only EU?

    Its just a EU court. Only the US empire considers the whole world its jurisdiction.

  • by Carewolf (581105) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:29PM (#42444319) Homepage

    Buddhism? I think not.

    Think again.

    Paganism? I think not.

    Maybe not recently, but mass sacrifices, blood rituals and canibalism has all been part of various pagan traditions.

  • by bedouin (248624) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:38PM (#42444407)

    Pat Robertson and the entire religious right say hi. Zionist Jews also send their greetings.

  • by crispytwo (1144275) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:39PM (#42444415)

    Arguably, the legions of Mormons knocking on doors do more damage than anything Scientology does. Then there's Jehovah's Witness which are in the same damaged goods camp.

    Not a Mormon, I grew up with plenty around. They have mind boggling beliefs and are decidedly self interested and encourage exclusionary practices. There is little difference between Mormonism and Scientology. Both wrote a book to follow. Both are insidious. Both make ridiculous claims.

    Arguing that one is 'better' than another is like arguing which shit does more good instead of which shit is stinkier.

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:42PM (#42444445)

    And the Mormons are known to kill those people, and non-believers. But then I am sure Scientology would of been doing that as well if it was a few decades older.

    Really? I'm not a mormon but that sounds like bullshit to me. Do you get off on making up shit?

  • Catholicism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:42PM (#42444447)

    The Catholic Church is responsible for the greatest genocide in human history - that of wiping out an estimated 120 million people in Central and South America, destroying countless cultures and plundering all of their wealth. The residential schools that decimated the cultural heritage of North American First Nations peoples were also run by Catholics. Even if you ignore the millions of acts of rape and pedophelia carried out by clergy in the modern era, the Catholic Church has been engaged in the most depraved, genocidal, racist, sexist evil deeds that humanity has ever committed for over 1,000 years.

    I hope some day that 'freedom of religion' is replaced with 'freedom from religion' as a fundamental human right.

  • by _Ludwig (86077) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:52PM (#42444547) Journal

    Is it entirely impossible that Escobar was something other than a cackling two-dimensional B-movie villain? That he wanted to use his ill-gotten gains to do some good for the community he came from for the sake of doing good (with the nice side-effect of being beloved?)

  • by tdelaney (458893) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:56PM (#42444577)

    By those criteria, just using recent news stories:

    Catholicism is a cult.
    Church of England is a cult.
    Islam is a cult.

    To make my position clear, I have no hard feelings towards people who are religious (any religion) so long as their religion does not impact me or those I care about. Anyone who tries to proselytise to me is greeted with my standard response of "I'm sorry, but I'm quite secure in my lack of faith".

    BTW, an example of a religious organisation that does not use its community service to convert people is the Salvation Army in Australia (can't say for anywhere else). Yes - a significant number of people who they help do join the Salvos, but as a policy they do not discuss religion with the people they're helping unless they're specifically asked about it.

  • by CanadianRealist (1258974) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:04PM (#42444663)
    However when priests have sexually abuse young children the Catholic church has in many cases protected those priests, not reporting them to legal authorities and transferring them to other locations to protect them. This was even done by the current pope, while still Cardinal Ratzinger. So I'd say the church has to accept some of the blame since they send a pretty strong message that it's OK to do it.
  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:33PM (#42444893)

    It's easier to track the history of frauds when they're recent. Scientology is all too obvious. Mormon's founder was established as a fraudster early on.

    On the other hand, "Church of Christ, Scientist" appears to have a self-deluded founder, rather than a malicious one. That doesn't undo the damage she's done, but they aren't noteworthy for illegal behavior like the other two.

  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @05:15PM (#42445237)
    Re: In some cases, the takeover of state by religion was accomplished so long ago that the religion is even considered a state itself. [bold emphasis mine]
    .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vatican_City [wikipedia.org]
    .
    Whilst the Popesters and catholics may want you to think and believe that Vatican City always is and always has been considered a state, it was not considered at state unto itself until 1929 by the Lateran Treaty [wikipedia.org].
    :>)
    Religions, being mythology, likes to build even more grandiose mythologies about their own origin along with their standard domain of mythologies about the origin of this world.
  • by sudon't (580652) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @05:34PM (#42445393)

    No. He was a horrible person who did all that giving for selfish reasons. I've watched multiple candid documentaries about him. He was a fucking terrible, evil piece of shit.

    Prohibition creates the situation where the only way to enforce business transactions, or deal with unfair competition, is through violence. This is just how capitalism operates when placed outside the law. Escobar was likely no less ethical than any other CEO. Think Andrew Carnegie. It's just that most businesses operate with the benefits, and restraints, of regulation. We see this everytime a black market is created, or whenever capitalism is allowed to run amok. Why do you think business hates regulation? They'd all love to be operating in the US the way they do in China, for instance.

    I would guess that the vast majority of charity from very wealthy businessmen is given for entirely selfish reasons.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @05:46PM (#42445491)

    Actually, they haven't done that in over a century as far as I know, but it is documented fact that Mormons did kill some non-believers. They also kidnapped daughters of other non-believers and forced them to "marry" their captors.

    The reasons the Mormons were forced out of the different states they lived in before they went to Utah had more to do with them being gigantic assholes and less to do with their wacky religious beliefs.

    Yeah, UnitedStatesofAmericans did that to Native Americans, too. Start pointing fingers about that and you'll run out of fingers pretty quick.

    And wasn't this thread about Scientologists in Belgium?

  • by Spamalope (91802) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @06:56PM (#42446097)
    Why does a religion that sings 'father, son and holy ghost' when worshiping get away with calling itself monotheistic? How is praying to patron saints monotheistic? It looks like deification from over here.
  • by Pseudonym (62607) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @07:21PM (#42446251)

    Maybe this is just me, but making fun of Mormon underwear seems to me just as dumb as making fun of the hijab, yarmulke, Sikh turban, or pocket protector.

    OK, I've never worn a pocket protector, but you get my point I hope.

  • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @07:24PM (#42446271) Journal

    Doesn't make much sense to me, but they do consider the three things to be part of the single godhead. And the saints aren't gods. They'll pray to saints, to intercede for them, but won't worship saints as they would God. It's like trying to make sense of a book, where each chapter was written by authors who had little to no contact with the other authors. Little wonder it'd end up being a mess.

    In Mormon belief it's a bunch of gods with Yahweh in charge. At least that's my understanding of their position.

    Baloney can get pretty convoluted.

  • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @08:34PM (#42446705) Homepage Journal

    A sometimes more useful way to contrast religions is to look at where they each look for authority.

    Christianity and Islam both place a lot of Authority in the written word. Some sects more than others, but all sects to some degree.

    Judaism places authority in the spoken word (the written texts must be read aloud to be understood, because it is the spoken word that has Authority; the written stuff is merely a mnemonic aid). This is a significant difference: the Authority is there only as the words are spoken; there is no absolute "This was once written therefore it shall forever be this way" dictatorial attitude about it. It is more a "Tell me again, right now," thing, with the inherent recognition that even though I may have heard this a thousand times before, maybe this time I will more clearly understand some meaning that I never really heard before.

    Zen, Tao, and Buddhism state that the Authority has nothing to do with words, that it is found through wordless states like meditation. Zennist practice goes so far as to use koans to so twist up the language that the usefulness of words is momentarily broken, which provides an opportunity for the trained seeker to experience the wordless authority. The core written teaching about the Tao is: "The Tao that you read about is not the Tao".

    In contemporary neopagan practice, authority is sought through directed visualizations augmented by chanting, drumming, dance, and ritual.

    And so on. Something that is interesting here is that the religions that rely on the written word for their authority are historically the least tolerant and most war-like. They definitely score highest on the "holier-than-thou" scale.

    I know nothing about the internals of Scientology. But what little I know of it suggests that it wants it adherents to put more faith into its written words than any other religion has ever done.

  • by g1zmo (315166) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:04PM (#42446891) Homepage

    Baader-Meinhof

    I've seen that name before.

  • Re:it was (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:37PM (#42447445)

    So why does a dribbling cretin like 'etash' get a Slashdot score of 5 when it howls in approval for the destruction of this fundamental Right.

    Because you fail to understand that they are not being on trial for being a church (which they are not in Europe, but I digress). It's not an attempt to outlaw a religion (which, again, they are not in Europe), they are not on trial for being a "cult" or for "leading people astray" (which would, without any doubt, be a religious motivated move and hence shouldn't (and couldn't) stand in a Belgian court).

    They are on trial for being an organization that uses its organized powers to harass those that dare to leave and ruin their lives. If anything, this trial is actually very positive towards the freedom of religion. Its aim is to stop an organization from taking this liberty away from someone who chooses to NOT be a member of them anymore.

  • Re:it was (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:48AM (#42449403)

    Its just a EU court. Only the US empire considers the whole world its jurisdiction.

    Sweeping statement of pure opinion gets rated up to +5 Insightful.

    If what you say is true, then why do I see people constantly bitching on here about the US ignoring "International Law"? Seems like a bit of a double standard- "oh you nasty US people stop trying to impose your laws on us, and start obeying the laws we want to impose on you!"

    Consider Sharia Law. There are multiple examples of people calling for punishment of citizens of the US (and other nations) because some video or cartoon violated their blasphemy laws. That's imposing their laws on other nations, but that kind of fucks up your rhetoric so you ignore it. Maybe you should look at how China has acted in the East. Maybe you should think about how Russia has acted in Eastern Europe. But be careful, if you think too much and don't cherry pick the facts, you might actually end up with a balanced and realistic view of the world, and we certainly can't have that type of thing on slashdot.

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