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Scientology's Fraud Conviction Upheld In France 321

Posted by Soulskill
from the legitimacy-illegitimate dept.
schwit1 writes "France's top appeals court has upheld a fraud conviction and fines totaling hundreds of thousands of euros against the Church of Scientology, for taking advantage of vulnerable followers. France regards Scientology as a cult, not a religion, and had prosecuted individual Scientologists before, but the 2009 trial marked the first time the organization as a whole had been convicted. 'The head of a parliamentary group on religious cults in France, lawmaker Georges Fenech, hailed the ruling. 'Far from being a violation of freedom of religion, as this American organization contends, this decision lifts the veil on the illegal and highly detrimental practices' of the group, said Fenech. The court case followed a complaint by two women, one of whom said she was manipulated into handing over 20,000 euros in 1998 for Scientology products including an "electrometer" to measure mental energy. A second woman claimed she was forced by her Scientologist employer to undergo testing and enrol in courses, also in 1998. When she refused she was fired.'"
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Scientology's Fraud Conviction Upheld In France

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:22AM (#45162483)
    i wonder if there are any high level Scientologists in the NSA?
    • by erikkemperman (252014) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:25AM (#45162509)

      i wonder if there are any high level Scientologists in the NSA?

      Of course, they are known as Operating System Thetans.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:40AM (#45162569)

      congratulations, I didn't think you could make those leaks even scarier.

      Because that sort of thing definitely happened. [wikipedia.org]

      • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday October 18, 2013 @07:47AM (#45163385)

        And this isn't just a practice of the distant past either. One of the things that came out of the Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame trial, as a bizarre aside, was that Tom Cruise had actually been meeting with then-Vice-President Dick Cheney to urge him to put sanctions on Germany for banning Scientology. Those are the kind of lengths these people are willing to go to harass anyone that crosses them, even ENTIRE GOVERNMENTS. And that was just ten years ago. Scary shit.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @08:23AM (#45163721)

      i wonder if there are any high level Scientologists in the NSA?

      There are people in the Netherlands, who sink old fishing nets with attached bits to the bottom of the Oosterschelde estuary (it's a natural reserve, so it doesn't bother boats). Then they wait a few year, put on their diving suits, and go looking at those old fishing nets underwater.

      You may wonder why people have this as a hobby.

      They do it, because they fully expect that the extremely elusive and rare (in NL) Sepia [wikipedia.org] squids have found those fishing nets as a useful habitat, and found a mate in those murky waters, and have begun a family.

      In a similar vein, your question seems really stupid and weird.

      But I wonder what you get, if you create a habitat for extremely paranoid people, who like to sit in Captain Picard's chair, swim the murky waters of the Internet all day, unobserved by anyone else, give them the opportunity to meet and work with like-minded individuals, and take pride in manufacturing lies targetted for effect in the broader population. What would happen if you left such a habitat abandoned to the ebb & flow of the normal HR process of a large and rich organization for, say, 20 years. What kind of fascinating creatures would come floating to the top of the food chain?

      Who knows. You're not allowed to find out. You'll never find out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:25AM (#45162505)

    Scientology is the truth! Both Tom Cruise _and_ John Travolta are scientologists. Do you believe me now?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:10AM (#45162685)

      Scientology is the truth! Both Tom Cruise _and_ John Travolta are scientologists. Do you believe me now?

      What, that it's been nothing but a sham and a glorified tax shelter for the elitists of society since inception?

      A societal metric of ignorance by trying to present a known science fiction writer as a source of absolute truth and fact behind the origins of this "religion"? (as if there were a factual purpose behind the story of Xenu)

      Fuck yes I believe you.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:28AM (#45162757)
        I dunno. You kind of have to respect a messiah who's final message is "I've been fucking with you this whole time".
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:52AM (#45162869)

        It always looked to me like a third-rate science fiction author making up a religion that looks like his third-rate science fiction.

        The amazing thing is that people have swallowed it, even people with lots of money, which might be taken as an indicator that they'd know better.

        P.T. Barnum was right.

        John Doe
        (Son, brother, and father to those who wrote the "Closet" South Park episode.)

        • by rvw (755107)

          The amazing thing is that people have swallowed it, even people with lots of money, which might be taken as an indicator that they'd know better.

          I think they have really excellent techniques to focus your mind, and to convince people. I've taken an Avatar course, whose founder was a former Scientology member. I haven't taken any Scientology courses, so I cannot tell from first hand, but I'm quite sure that the Avatar methods are based on what Scientology had to offer back then. I really don't like the Avatar organisation, but I really like their course. I did only the first week.

          What I don't like about them? They want to "enlighten" the world with t

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          He wasn't a third rate science fiction author though. Read his book Final Blackout, about the war in Europe. In 1939, he correctly predicted which country would use the first nuclear bomb in warfare. (Spoiler, it was the US.) Back in the heyday of scifi, he was one of the biggest names.

          Also, if you consider he knew enough about the human mind, as well as society, that he created a really crazy set of beliefs and got people to accept them. There are plenty of crackpot false messiahs out there. Not many build

          • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday October 18, 2013 @08:03AM (#45163509)

            He wasn't a third rate science fiction author though. Read his book Final Blackout, about the war in Europe. In 1939, he correctly predicted which country would use the first nuclear bomb in warfare. (Spoiler, it was the US.) Back in the heyday of scifi, he was one of the biggest names.

            Also, if you consider he knew enough about the human mind, as well as society, that he created a really crazy set of beliefs and got people to accept them. There are plenty of crackpot false messiahs out there. Not many build a system like his, and have it survive so well after the messiah's death.

            He built a fictional world, and got others to believe in it. That's what writers do. So, please, don't consider him to be just another third-rate science fiction author.

            You don't have to be a good author to make an occasional accurate prediction. Some really bad books have done as much. And how much of his fame was due to a talent for self-promotion I don't know; I never considered him one of the "big names" in SF.

            Actually, I've only read one of his works, which was a Battlefield Earth volume I chanced to pick off the library shelf years ago. The main character reminded me of how the power figures often behave in Phillip K. Dick novels: corrupt, venal, self-serving, not very competent and prone to panic when their little worlds fall apart. But usually one can identify with the villains in a PKD story. LRon's nemesis was just an idiot. I don't even remember what the book was about, beyond an alien warlord tasked with softening up the Earth for invasion but actually wasting time feathering his nest.

            So I'd have to call his writing third-rate. Forgettable.

          • by jandersen (462034)

            Just for the record, I've read one or two of his stories, and I thought they were OK - I was, admittedly, about 11 years old at the time. And I can't honestly say that he was anything as good as Heinlein, Asimov or any of the other genuinely big names. Not by a lightyear. No, he was OK, just run-of-the-mill.

            As for creating a religion - have you any idea how easy it is? Just look back at Mormonism, Spiritualism, Christian Science, Tarot, Astrology, etc etc. All you have to do is speak loudly and sound like y

          • by Deadstick (535032)

            I spent fifteen years working with, or near, a roomful of console operators on round-the-clock shifts. They had to man their consoles continuously, but had lots of dead time, so they were allowed to read.

            One guy read one book, over and over, for the whole fifteen years. It was Battlefield Earth.

        • by dbIII (701233) on Friday October 18, 2013 @07:22AM (#45163221)
          Apparently a lot of it was plagarised from a mental patient in Chicago who wrote about his dreams in the 1930s and even the Xenu name was from an A.E. Van Voigt short story. So make that second-hand third-rate.
      • What, that it's been nothing but a sham and a glorified tax shelter for the elitists of society since inception?

        And this differs from other "legitimate" religions ... how?

      • by Rhaban (987410)

        The worst thing is that the scientology mytho isn't even his best work.
        He wrote some interesting science fiction, but the Xenu story isn't really SF. It's bad fantasy.

      • by Calydor (739835)

        A societal metric of ignorance by trying to present a known science fiction writer as a source of absolute truth and fact behind the origins of this "religion"?

        So umm ... Did you mean L. Ron Hubbard or George Lucas? ;-)

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:51AM (#45162859)

      Scientology is the truth! Both Tom Cruise _and_ John Travolta are scientologists. Do you believe me now?

      If Scientology is the truth, does that mean that scientologists are truthers? That would make sense, mental disorders never come singly.

  • i get to watch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:27AM (#45162515)

    those cult freaks swarm through the streets here, scuttling between the many local 'church' buildings... used to be that they would station young kids (many teenagers) at local flea markets to offer free massages and 'stress tests' to do recruiting...

    lately, that approach has switched to the cult using immigrant and non-English speakers to entice other adherents...

    CoS is a sickening, freakish cult that obfuscates real-estate and business ownerships, such as drug-rehab centers...

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "CoS is a sickening, freakish cult that obfuscates real-estate and business ownerships, such as drug-rehab centers..."

      All over Europe, they are considered an anti-constitutional movement and observed by diverse intelligence services.
      In Germany by the 'Verfassungsschutz', translated literally as the 'Defender of the Constitution'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:29AM (#45162527)

    "one of whom said she was manipulated into handing over 20,000 euros in 1998 for Scientology products including an "electrometer" to measure mental energy"

    she obviously wanted a refund because the meter reading was zero.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:30AM (#45162529)

    To be rid of these silly cults once and for all

  • by Lucky_Pierre (175635) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:31AM (#45162531)

    But they don't behead unbelievers or crash airliners into buildings. Of course, that's probably why the French feel it's safe to fine Scientology.

  • Lol (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Roberto Elliott (2870979) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:35AM (#45162543)
    Damn Frenchies have more sense.
  • One Down (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Required Snark (1702878) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:50AM (#45162603)
    And a few thousand more religions to go.
    • Re:One Down (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday October 18, 2013 @06:10AM (#45162917) Homepage

      What about those religions that aren't like Scientologists? For example, would the world really be a worse place off without Quakers or Jains or other strictly non-violent religions? How about those evil Unitarian Universalists, who basically have built their religion around "We may disagree about invisible beings in the sky, but that doesn't mean we should hate each other"? How about the deeply religious people who more-or-less invented philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, genetics, astronomy, and a few other sciences - should we get rid of them too?

      And atheists aren't immune from being the bad guy either: Communist atheists killed off a lot of people for being religious.

      How about this for some morality: Killing people, except in defense of self or someone else, is wrong (and worshiping a different invisible guy or the same invisible guy differently isn't a very good reason). Torturing people is wrong. Raping people is wrong. Hurting people, except in defense of self or someone else, is wrong. Stealing (however done) is wrong, but less wrong than hurting, raping, torturing, or murdering. Groups that break those rules are bad, groups that don't are at worst harmless.

      • Some religions are strictly non-violent, but not perfect and have still harmed their followers, and families ...

        Some Atheists are violent, just as some people are violent ... and remember most 'Communists' are/were Socialist republics and the atheist dogma was anti-religion mostly because then the only religion was the state, and the leader was the leader of a cult ....(Stalin, Mao ...)

        Most/All religions say that killing is wrong, but almost all of the allow killing of certain people in the right circumstan

        • by kwbauer (1677400)

          Most societies make the same claim about the allowable circumstances for killing certain people. They may define the circumstances differently but almost all allow it in some form.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)
        The problem is that simple rules fail to cover a lot of reality. There's a reason why morality is in constant flux and so many books have been written by eminent people on the subject.

        Killing people is wrong, you say. How about killing someone who's murdered people in the past and who COULD (but not necessarily will) murder more? How about killing someone who wants to die, for instance for medical reasons? How about war, where your country may be on the defensive but you may be on the offensive? Heck, how
      • I think that magical thinking in all it's forms is bad. But I wouldn't really mind too much if religious people kept their religion to themselves. And most do. But there will always be the extremists.
  • 20k €? Not that much, considering the sums they manage to snatch off the (albeit more gullible) american cultists.
  • by Yaur (1069446)
    The difference between a cult and a religion is that in a cult the founder is still alive. Since LRH is definitely dead er, has abandoned his meat body, that puts Scientology pretty much on par with the other groups that believe in sky wizards.
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:03AM (#45162669)

      That's not a definition I'm familiar with. What about cults without founders? Do the cargo cults automatically, or never, reach status of religion given that John Frum has never existed?

      I prefer the standard "a religion is a cult with an army and a navy". It's an arbitrary definition to do with scale.

      • by Yaur (1069446)
        It comes from a friend trying to differentiate between new agey religions and new agey cults.
        Mythical creatures are obviously not founders so the statement applies not to Mr. Frum, but to whoever invented him as an object to be worshiped.
        looking at this [wikipedia.org] I don't think that Sikhs or any of the "medium sized religions" have an army or a navy which makes that definition somewhat problematic.
        • by Sockatume (732728)

          Well observed about Frum. I do wonder about cults where there isn't an easily assigned founder, they seem to have arisen spontaneously.

          The point of my definition is to suggest that such a distinction is not as meaningful as it appears to be. In all seriousness, I think the distinction has more to do with age and therefore cultural acceptance and normalisation.

        • I think that's just shorthand for "we can see what the guy is up to and it's most definitely a scam". That doesn't stop just because the initial perpetrator is dead.
        • I think it's a pointless distinction.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hubbfart (Hubbard) himself said (direct unaltered quote) : "Scientology is no religion"

      It was starter as Dianetics as self-help company to make him a lot of money. The pseudo-religious veneer was invented to protect its business in the 50/60s when the FBI and the IRS chased Hubbfart abs he was prosecuted.

      It was a trick. But it is NOT a religion.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      Sorry, but not all religions are created equal. It's not the "believe in sky wizards" part that's the problem. It's the "kill/murder/hurt anyone who dares question or refuses to believe in the sky wizards" part that's the problem. And on a scale of 1 to 10 of religions that scare me (1 being Unitarians and 10 being smelly Muslim goat farmers who think that God wants them to strap on explosives and blow themselves up in a mall), Scientology rates an easy 9 (at one time a 9.5, but they seem to be getting weak

  • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:57AM (#45162647)
    Scientology is a cult, it's entire story is based off a science fiction novel written by man who wanted to make a religion! All of that would be fine but then to charge your members fees to read from books is kind of messed up, that would be like the library charging you based on every book you took out. I don't see how any logical adult can honestly see Scientology as anything but a joke, it's only slightly more a joke then the Mormon based religion, both of which have near 0 evidence for what they take as fact.
    • by erroneus (253617) on Friday October 18, 2013 @06:24AM (#45162983) Homepage

      All of the Abrahamic religions are based on about the same amount of proof and evidence. If you doubt one, you must doubt them all and for the same reasons. Just because Joseph Smith pulled the same stunt more recently and on this continent doesn't invalidate that the basis, principles and mechanics of the religion. So as you point to one aspect which is wrong with the LDS church, there is an analogue of the same problem in the other Abrahamic religions. And to be clear, they are all Abrahamic religions.

      To me, that's the most ridiculous aspect of religious people. They are quick to point at others and completely miss that it's a huge matter of all the pots calling each other black. "Oh but my religion is different!" Yeah sure it is. If any of them are different, it's Islam and only because it was founded by a frikken murderous warlord.

      My initial reaction to the story was "Good! Now maybe people will begin to see the others as stupid too!" Perhaps not. Religion holds back the potential of the human mind. So long as we can accept two opposing ideas as fact and so long as belief is more powerful than fact, humans will be crippled slaves and will not survive the next mass extinction event. We still can't get beyond our primitive need for monetary exchange because no one does anything "for mankind." Everything requires someone else get paid for something and we will continue to exploit workers until their miserable deaths. Religion is the distraction being used to keep people thinking about something other than reality.

      • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Friday October 18, 2013 @06:49AM (#45163077)
        You're right, I'm in completely agreement, which is why I don't subscribe to any one theological context. However I mention mormonism because one of it's staple proofs is that the Native Americans will have blood ties back to Israel and this has been tested and totally proven not to exist, hence proving one of the main "proofs" of the church false.
    • by LQ (188043) on Friday October 18, 2013 @06:57AM (#45163111)

      Scientology is a cult, it's entire story is based off a science fiction novel written by man who wanted to make a religion! All of that would be fine but then to charge your members fees to read from books is kind of messed up, that would be like the library charging you based on every book you took out. I don't see how any logical adult can honestly see Scientology as anything but a joke, it's only slightly more a joke then the Mormon based religion, both of which have near 0 evidence for what they take as fact.

      And Islam is the "revealed truth" that its prophet made up. And Christianity reveals the "word of God" through the medium of a mystic who thought he was the messiah. And the Buddha came up with his own ideas for a religion. I guess a non-cult religion is one derived millenia ago from various polytheistic myths (Hinduism, Shinto, Paganism) but somebody, somewhere made that stuff up too.

      • The Buddah really came up with more of a philosophy and moral system. It just mutated very quickly into a religion with the usual compliment of traditional rules and rituals.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      that would be like the library charging you based on every book you took out.

      Congratulations! You've invented the book store... In a few years they won't exist, and you can rediscover them.

  • by the_B0fh (208483) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:18AM (#45162723) Homepage

    is the number of followers...

  • by pablo_max (626328) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:20AM (#45162735)

    Nothing about regarding, it is a fact. Scientology IS a cult.
    How could anyone possible think otherwise considering what the founder said?

    "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion."

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/L._Ron_Hubbard [wikiquote.org]

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:34AM (#45162793)

      France distinguishes between "legitimate" religious activity and predatory cults, and therefore how France regards Scientology is absolutely relevant to this news item.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why discriminate against religions invented in this century vs the ones created prior? They're either all religions or they're all cults. The latter term is more apt in most cases. Take Catholicism. Excommunication: Come out as an atheist and the whole community, even ones family will shun you... 10% of your income in tithes, that's fucking expensive 'eh? In some cases moreso than CoS fees. The whole "you're unclean unless you do these rituals" and guilt trips... Same as CoS body thetans. Influencing

  • by Anonymous Coward

    4th paragraph [wikipedia.org]:

    The church is often characterized as a cult and it has faced harsh scrutiny for many of its practices which, critics contend, include brainwashing and routinely defrauding its members

    As if being convicted in a court of law for organised fraud is just an opinion of an unspecified number of critics...

    How about this get added in the 2nd paragraph:

    ... the Church of Scientology emphasizes this as proof that it is a bona fide religion.[26] In contrast, Scientology has been convicted of organized fra

  • by 12WTF$ (979066) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:33AM (#45162787)

    but I ran out of money.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:43AM (#45162827)
  • I HOPE this is a slippery slope that exposes all religions as cults. Scientology is just one or the more ridiculous and exploitive ones. Any organization that uses unprovable assertions without any reasonable scientific framework to exploit its gullible members should be shut down.

  • by jouassou (1854178) on Friday October 18, 2013 @07:37AM (#45163309) Homepage

    France regards Scientology as a cult, not a religion

    A second woman claimed she was forced by her Scientologist employer to undergo testing and enroll in courses, also in 1998. When she refused she was fired.

    It shouldn't matter whether it's a cult or a religion; if someone got fired for not undergoing religious courses and testing, that should be treated the same way by the law.

    • It shouldn't matter whether it's a cult or a religion; if someone got fired for not undergoing religious courses and testing, that should be treated the same way by the law.

      Agreed. The only exception I can see that should be allowed is where a position would be concerned with ministering. e.g. fine if x religion doesn't want to employ a gay black woman as a priest, but not so acceptable if they require the janitor to sign a statement of faith.

      To some extent, people need to be aware of the roles in to which they are going. If I were black, it'd be disingenuous to claim discrimination if I were applying to be a Mormon elder prior to the "Hey guys! God told me that he changed hi

  • So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Friday October 18, 2013 @09:49AM (#45164715)
    I can see how the woman bilked out of money could file a case against the church but how in the hell does the lady who was fired have a case? Shouldn't that be a suit between her and her former employer?

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