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Church of Scientology On Trial In France 890

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 Three other former members who had initially joined the complaint have withdrawn after "reaching a financial arrangement with church officials."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

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:58PM (#28102151)
    My experience of the Scientology center in Los Angeles, California, was that it was run entirely for financial gain.
  • Re:Excellent (Score:5, Informative)

    by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:09PM (#28102309)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:09PM (#28102311)

    I think you have it wrong France isn't trying to ban them due to them being a religion (which they arn't in France). They are trying to ban them because they are using peoples beliefs for the monetary gain of the church.

  • by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:10PM (#28102329) Homepage Journal
    Read Margaret Singer, Richard Ofshe, or many others if you want a good comparison of religion and cults. The key thing is that cults deceive people into joining so there is no real informed consent. People join under false pretenses and are conned out of their money (basically by false advertising / fradulent misrepresentation). No cults are ever upfront about all their beliefs because nobody would ever join if they knew about the wacky shit higher up the ladder. You have to be good and brainwashed before you even find out about the space alien stuff.
  • by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:12PM (#28102355) Homepage Journal
    Read Margaret Singer, Richard Ofshe, or many others if you want a good comparison of religion and cults. The key thing is that cults deceive people into joining so there is no real informed consent. People join under false pretenses and are conned out of their money (basically by false advertising / fradulent misrepresentation). No cults are ever upfront about all their beliefs because nobody would ever join if they knew about the wacky shit higher up the ladder. You have to be good and brainwashed before you even find out about the space alien stuff. Christians are at least up front about what they believe (often annoyingly so). People have a right to believe what they want, sure... but fraud is another story.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:14PM (#28102375)

    Not quite sure if this is a troll or not, but Scientology is infamous for their brainwashing techniques. You only need to be "dumb enough" to take a few early courses "just to see if it'll work" to get well and truly shanghaied.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:17PM (#28102407) Journal
    If you're dumb enough to spend thousands of dollars on something called a 'Thetin meter' then it's your fault.. not the seller's.

    In many places, there are laws regarding the safety of a product and its fitness to perform the function for which it was purchased. They had better be able to demonstrate that a Thetin meter definitely measures whatever it measures properly.
  • Re:Oh man! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:22PM (#28102475)
    Why would Xenu be pissed? Xenu is like the devil for Scientologists so Xenu would be happy that Scientology was squelched and no one knew about his evil deeds.
  • by senorpoco ( 1396603 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:24PM (#28102487)
    "try and get an "advanced" scientology text (pure bull, BTW), without forking some serious cash." Done https://secure.wikileaks.org/wiki/Scientology [wikileaks.org]
  • by pwizard2 ( 920421 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:26PM (#28102507)

    Try attending church regularly and never donating a cent. Watch how the other people treat you.

    It's not like people are required to give regularly. (many people pay monthly or quarterly) People give under the pretense that God has blessed them and they want to give part of that back out of gratitude. Whether you choose to give or not is up to you, and you give what you feel you should give. It's not like you should feel like you're paying dues or have a mentality where you expect to get something back. Most churches only keep track of how much you give if you pay through check (and that's more of a service to you so you know what to declare on your taxes) You always have the option of donating cash if you want to give anonymously.

  • Re:Excellent (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordVader717 ( 888547 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:36PM (#28102629)

    It's a false citation. The interior minister just said (his opinion) that he considered the organisation "Verfassungsfeindlich", which basically means they don't respect things like personal freedom etc. which are declared in the constitution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Re:Some observations (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:48PM (#28102801)

    The US does not recognise or give religions status.

    There are certain concessions that the government makes to religions, such as being exempt from some taxes. Any group that claims these concessions, and the government approves/doesn't object, then they are recognized as a religion by the government.

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

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

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

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:52PM (#28102843)

    without all the rape and destruction of young kinds.

    Scientology has done the same thing as the Catholics w/r/t protecting molesters, just not on the same scale. There aren't nearly as many scientologists as catholics.

  • Horse Hockey (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fished ( 574624 ) <amphigoryNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:32PM (#28103283)

    Disclaimer: I am an ordained Baptist minister, and have pastored churches on a part-time basis. So, on the one hand, I speak from experience. On the other hand, if you follow the usual Slashdot assumptions about ministers, I'm a liar and a cheat. (I'm neither.)

    I can't speak to how other denominations manage it, but in most traditional Baptist churches around here (Virginia) a LOT of effort is taken to prevent this. At the low end, only 2 people count the offering each week, and these people are NOT the pastor. At the high end, many churches outsource the counting of the offering entirely (banks will do this for you, for a fee.) The one constant, in my experience, is that the pastor never has access to the offering figures and that information is always closely held. I've served 4 separate churches, and have never had any idea who gave how much. Nor did I want to know.

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

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

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

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

  • by atraintocry ( 1183485 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:49PM (#28103449)

    I stopped going to church after I was confirmed (Catholic). Nobody called, nobody showed up at my door. Nobody sued me, nobody harassed me. That's a religion.

    I agree, it's a blurry line between a religion and a cult, and as an atheist I find it all equally silly, but at least we can say that there is a spectrum, and mainstream Christianity is on a different side of that spectrum from Scientology. You can knock the Catholics, they won't make death threats against you and your family.

    Have you ever read half the stories on Xenu.net? It's pretty disturbing what goes on in Scientology. Better to just be informed than to over generalize.

    I think the specific fraud issue here is that they are making those sort of tv psychic hotline claims...we'll make your life better, eliminate sadness, just give us some money...but they're not saying "entertainment only" in the legal copy. Which is not to say that you couldn't accuse all faiths of doing something similar.

  • by Fished ( 574624 ) <amphigoryNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:51PM (#28103483)

    As a seminary graduate with a Doctorate in New Testament from the University of Virginia... and I never had to blow a single goat. Amazing!

    All the source documents for Christian theology are publicly available, and well out of copyright. What are copyrighted is modern translations of documents... which I sort of hate, but then again theology professors have to eat too. If you're willing to take the time and effort to learn Greek and Latin, you can read them more-or-less for free. And if even if you're not, the modern translations are pretty much available from any well-stocked library (sadly, public libraries ignore religion, so public libraries don't help.)

    Shoot... Union Theological Seminary of Virginia in Richmond--which has one of the best theological libraries in the country--will give you a card just for the asking. And they're not alone... many seminary libraries are open to the public.

  • Re:Hell yeah (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:58PM (#28103559)
    Scientology is a criminal organization. For those wanting to know why people post anonymously, it is because Scientologists have a roving mafia that destroy those that oppose them. Recently Scientology settled out of court with the family of a friend of mine whose cousin was killed by Scientologists.
  • by boombaard ( 1001577 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:16PM (#28103703) Journal

    The FLDS Church teaches the doctrine of plural marriage [wikipedia.org], which states that a man having multiple wives is ordained by God; the doctrine requires it in order for a man to receive the highest form of salvation. It is generally believed in the church that a man should have a minimum of three wives to fulfill this requirement.[43] Connected with this doctrine is patriarchal doctrine, the belief that wives are required to be subordinate to their husbands.
    The church currently practices placement marriage, whereby a young woman of marriageable age is assigned a husband by revelation from God to the leader of the church, who is regarded as a prophet.[44] The prophet elects to take and give wives to and from men according to their worthiness. This is also called the law of placing.
    On November 7, 2007, the Washington County Attorney's Office released video of jailhouse conversations between Nephi and Warren Jeffs. In the videos Warren renounces his prophethood, claiming that God had told him that if he revealed that he was not the rightful prophet, and was a "wicked man", he would still gain a place in the telestial kingdom.[19] Jeffs also admits to what he calls, "immoral actions with a sister and a daughter" when he was 20 years old.[20] Other records show that while incarcerated, Jeffs tried to commit suicide by banging his head against the walls and trying to hang himself.

    As you can see, these communities with entirely different value systems still exist. Why else would he feel the need to put out such an idiotic video, in which he claims that "because he had sex with family he can't be the Rightful Prophet, so y'all should follow this other guy now, because he is"?
    So sure you can leave, if your denomination is accepting enough.

    However, if you're part of some sort of logging community living in Alberta, or part of that sick group ruled by Warren Jeffs, you'll probably be raised in such a way that you either won't know/dare to doubt "your community's" rules, or, if you're male, you'll be so happy with the kickbacks (the fact that women are raised to think they only exist to serve males, and how they're forced to marry some 35-65yo when they reach age 14) that you won't want to leave. And consider here that the cult that Jeffs ruled consisted of more than a thousand males, and had some 10.000 members (men/women/children) total. This is not small sect we're talking about, and the authorities have known about them for years, but nobody can do anything about it (or will). It's just ignored, and these fuckers are left to do whatever they want to whoever they can get their hands on.
    The only reason you were able to leave yours, and/or realise that "this life wasn't for you", is because there aren't enough places in the West left that are remote enough for these systems of indoctrination to succeed at what they're trying to accomplish. We should consider ourselves lucky that this is the case.
    However, the "evil conspiracy against children" is something very real (and is part of the reason why religious expression should be kept from the schooling system, so that parents cannot try to raise their children in such a way that they start believing that "religion is the only way"), so I don't think it's being quite fair to yourself to say that "all indoctrination is equal" as you argue here. Raising your daughters in such a way that all they know is that they've been created in order to serve whoever you decide to wed them to when they reach puberty (yes, this kind of thing still happens, and is almost impossible to prevent in some states) is whole fucking worlds apart from "indoctrinating" your kids to believe that rabbits shouldn't be eaten, and arguing that that's a "fair" equation is callous (as well as inaccurate) in the extreme.
    Yes, "everything is indoctrination", but no, not everything is equally bad.

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

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

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

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

  • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:1, Informative)

    by Sepht ( 874769 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:44PM (#28103911)
    In the US at least, religion == church == tax except status. One might wonder "why?", I believe it's because of "No taxation without representation". The idea is that a secular country prefers churches not be represented in government, but therefore they cannot be taxed.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:27PM (#28104235) Journal

    I'm sure there's a French joke in there somewhere.

    I bet not.

  • Re:Horse Hockey (Score:4, Informative)

    by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <tukaro@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:39PM (#28104339) Homepage Journal

    I'm the son of a Lutheran pastor, so while I don't have first hand experience I've picked up stuff now and then. As a sibling post to your stated, no one's coffers are actually related to them unless they decide to make it so, either by paying by check or using a set of envelopes. These envelopes are all given in a box to each church member for each church year, enough for every regular service, stamped with a number for that person. If the person wishes, they can use the envelope for cash during the offering and that will be included in their "personal statement" for tax purposes. Plain cash is gladly accepted, and no one makes note of who donates what cash.

    To my knowledge, my dad doesn't get direct access to offering figures for individuals; as with your church, the counting is done by elders or other appointed members. The entire congregation knows the general numbers (we list attendance and offerings in the bulletin for the previous Sunday), but the pastor doesn't deal with that stuff himself.

  • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:3, Informative)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:49PM (#28104411) Journal

    Hubbard realized that there was money to be made some time before he started his nut-cult.


  • by CompassIIDX ( 1522813 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @11:11PM (#28104561)
    Here's an interesting thread that discusses some of Scientology's favorite psychological methods and related famous experiments. Former Scientologists even chime in.

    http://forums.whyweprotest.net/291-scientology-discussion/brainwashing-long-14420/ [whyweprotest.net]

    I like this quote:

    An important note: the human brain is a pattern-recognizing machine that evolved over billions of years. It was not engineered to be flawless, and the studies I listed essentially 'reverse-engineer' the system and identify 'exploits.'
  • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <Mog007.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:23AM (#28105053)

    Last I checked the Catholic church got as many pedophile priests out of hot water by moving them to other jurisdictions as soon as possible. Many of the priests also paid hush money to their victims to keep them quiet, and where do you think the priests got that money to begin with? The church didn't have to feed these guys to the mob, but they could have at least made them stand trial and let the facts seep out, instead of whisking them away and protecting them.

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

    by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:45AM (#28105227)

    They're actually classified as non-profit under 501c3. Thus it doesn't really matter how much money they give away, as long as they're not making money for owners/shareholders, and avoid supporting specific candidates and parties (supporting issues is allowed.) A student-run space advocacy group that i've been involved with is classified the same way as far as the IRS is concerned, and we're in no way a charity, and hardly have enough money for that to mean anything anyway.

    Also, I don't think any honest church would claim to be a direct charity. The standard collections are known to support the ministries of the church, which while good for the community (at least in the eyes of the church members), are not given directly to the poor and needy. In fact, I know at my mother's church they have certain collections where they specifically state that it will go to a particular charity instead of the general church fund.

    Finally, I'd point out that even though most church funding isn't directly charitable, it is indirectly. Clergy provide support and counseling for their congregation, regardless of their economic status or amount paid in. Church buildings are used for external groups like AA and the Boy/Girl Scouts, as well as church-run programs that are again not dependent on amount paid to the church. Church members will often volunteer en-masse to help out in the community and in the world, often while avoiding direct proselytizing (rules are that you don't bring it up, but you're free to if those you're helping ask). It seems to me that churches are for the most part good for their community and indirectly charitable, as long as their not trying to force an agenda (ahem... Prop. 8).

  • by LKM ( 227954 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:23AM (#28106017) Homepage
    With gambling, there's a slight chance you might make a bit of money. With Scientology, you'll be fucked 100% of the time.
  • Re:Hell yeah (Score:3, Informative)

    by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:49AM (#28106229) Homepage Journal

    Don't confuse the organisation with the belief. It's the organisation that is denied church status and that is under attack. Anybody else who wishes to spread the belief is free to do so.

    That's what's going on in France (and to a lesser degree Germany): the Church of Scientology is considered a for-profit enterprise, and cannot simply call themselves a church. This is mostly a tax issue and an advertising/promotion issue. Were a local parish of an established church to engage in the same behaviour, then that parish would lose its status as a church; the religious belief is not at stake, just the organisation promoting it.

  • Re:Excellent (Score:5, Informative)

    by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:33AM (#28106529) Homepage Journal

    Just to clarify:

    The Church of Scientology has been denied church status, and has been under investigation for attempting to overthrow the German constitution. Unlike the US constitution, the German constitution opens with a bill of rights - Article One is "the dignity of a person is inviolate". Since part of the Church of Scientology's tenets is to have its members take control of all secular organisations. That's why they've been investigated for conspiracy against the constitution.

    Germany has these sorts of clauses due to a certain organisation back in the 1930's, and they don't want another case of loons coming in and tossing out the rule of law. (There. I've just proven Godwin's law again, that any comment thread will eventually mention Nazis. Are you happy?)

  • by chartreuse ( 16508 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @05:19AM (#28106819) Homepage
    ...Or Teegeeack [urbandictionary.com].
  • Re:Every church does (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @05:26AM (#28106863) Homepage

    There's a difference though.

    Let's say, for sake of argument, that you convert to Catholic Christianity. While there are classes to bring you up to speed on your new religion's dogma and so forth, they're either free or relatively cheap. You also (and here's the important part) DO NOT NEED TO TAKE THEM. You can go to a Catholic Church and participate in the Sunday Services (sing hymns, take communion, etc.) without having to pay a dime.

    The Church of Scientology, on the other hand, has courses and auditing sessions that are required. They cost money. It requires spending many thousands of dollars to take all the OT classes. And it's only after you've spent those many thousands of dollars and been brainwashed for months (if not years), that you find out about Xenu and Teeagaack and all the cheesy sci-fi elements of this so-called religion.

    Yeah, that's right. All the stuff that we /.ers generally know about the CoS? It's not public knowledge. (Okay, it's a little more public after that one South Park episode), but the point is still there. There's not some super-secret version of the Bible that you only get to look at after 15 years of faithful service and huge stacks of cash donations to the Vatican. There's no super-secret version of the Qu'ran or the Talmud.

    And how many other religions do you know of that have trade secrets? Yeah, the Church of Scientology protects the OT coursework under the laws governing trade secrets. Funny thing, that.... I don't recall the Communion class I took as a wee nipper requiring a non-disclosure agreement.

    The CoS is a business and a scam masquerading as a religion.

  • Re:Hell yeah (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @10:50AM (#28109671)

    Mormonism was established in the late 1820's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormonism [wikipedia.org] by a convicted fraudster http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith [wikipedia.org]. Hardly thousands of years. All Churches operate in much the same way. They all prey (pray) on the hard of thinking.

    A convicted fraudster? Even your wikipedia reference says nothing about a conviction. The truth is that he had to stand trial for roughly 48 accusations of which he was never convicted in a single case (all the while under the threat of mob violence - in fact he was martyred by a mob of 150 **while in prison waiting to stand trial**)

    See http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2006_Legal_Trials_of_Joseph_Smith.html for more details on Joseph's trial history.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson