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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 Three other former members who had initially joined the complaint have withdrawn after "reaching a financial arrangement with church officials."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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  • Excellent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:59PM (#28102159)

    Well, let's see. Germany declared Scientology unconstitutional in '07... are we seeing a domino effect starting?

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

    by yorugua ( 697900 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:10PM (#28102327)

    After reading about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R2-45 [wikipedia.org] in wikipedia, I can't think how can this be part of the modern, civilized world if that turns out to be a true fact.

    FYI: R2-45 is a Scientology auditing process created by L. Ron Hubbard. The process of R2-45 specifically pertains to shooting the target with a Colt .45 pistol, causing the victim's "thetan" to leave the body (exteriorization). In 1952 during a meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, Hubbard demonstrated the process of R2-45 by firing a shot at the floor.[1][2] In a lecture of 1958, Hubbard comments that "Death is not the same as clearing but there is, remember, R2-45. It's a very valid technique. A lot of people have used it before now." [3]

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:11PM (#28102333) Homepage Journal

    An interesting question, but they're not in court because of their beliefs, but because of their alleged actions: "The organisation, he [the magistrate] argued, is 'first and foremost a commercial business' whose actions reveal 'a real obsession for financial remuneration'."

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:28PM (#28102539)

    Dan Brown's writing is best consumed with an ocean.

    I'm not qualified to judge it directly, but there are enough people out there calling bullshit to make the above pretty clear. I guess it is fair to mention that they don't claim it is pure bullshit, just that there are lots and lots of mistakes and overstated conclusions.

  • Re:Hell yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:30PM (#28102561) Homepage Journal
    Are these rules applied uniformly in France? If so I wish we could do such things in the US. For instance, int he US we have many so-called faith based persons that produce what in effect infomercials in the form a religious services for the sole purpose of separating vulnerable people, often the elderly on fixed income, from their money. Then there are many churches that preach the gospel of prosperity, which is a magical incantation that they say will bring you 10x more money than you give to the church. I have no love for the church of scientology, but leaving these con artists on the street while harassing scientology just seems unfair. At least the church of scientology is upfront about the money requirements, and don't harass people with fairy tales of hell to extort the money.
  • Some observations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eravnrekaree ( 467752 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:32PM (#28102579)

    The summary imples that the US has given scientology religious status. The US does not recognise or give religions status. This is prohibited by the Constitution. Furthermore, being a religion does not exempt one from laws, so the law would apply the same no matter if it was a religion or not. Being a religion does not allow an organisation to do things that would be illegal for another religion to do. Furthermore, an organisation being a religion should not single it out for more intense persecution.

    As far as the charges against scientology, scientology does use sleazy methods to extract methods from the followers of this cult. However, these persons handed over this money willingly, in cases this is not illegal as long as Scientology did not attempt to coerce them or prohibit them from leaving.

  • IANAFL, but ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:59PM (#28102925)

    ... how can people take money not to testify in a criminal trial? I'm not a French lawyer, but if the penalty could include jail time, this sounds like a criminal charge. It's one thing to settle a civil suit out of court in exchange for some compensation. But refusing to testify if you have evidence of criminal activity is a crime itself.

    Now, if the COS is stupid enough to enter into a contract that requires someone to violate the law and they renege on their part of the bargain, a civil court might find that agreement to be unenforceable. Since it requires someone to violate the law, the courts might refuse to find for the COS if they try to get the money back.

  • by Irish_Samurai ( 224931 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:15PM (#28103087)

    And your definition of a religion is?

    Any system of belief that requires you put faith in a knowingly non-disprovable dogma before you can label yourself a follower?

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:47PM (#28103413) Homepage

    For better or for worse, one can go to a Catholic priest or a Protestant minister and get lessons on their branch of Christianity for free.

    Hell, for that matter, one can often go to a Catholic priest or a Protestant minister -- or a Jewish rabbi for that matter -- and get a free meal and a place to sleep along with the lessons. As others have said before me, you ever seen a Scientology soup kitchen?

    A friend of mine recently had a pair of Mormons come to his front door and ask to talk to him about the Bible. He, a confirmed nonbeliever, told them he was willing to talk to them ... for fifty bucks. Completely calmly, they replied that they couldn't give him money, but if he needed some help with something -- say, the garbage taken out, or the dishes cleaned up, or some furniture moved, or something -- then they would happy to help him with that first, and one of them could make coffee to drink during the talk, too. He still declined, but I suggest this to you: Next time you meet a Scientologist and they ask you to take their stupid little "personality test," tell them you'll do it ... for one dollar. See what you get.

  • by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:49PM (#28103447) Homepage Journal
    They also have two different words. "secte" and "culte", each with slightly different meanings.
  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:51PM (#28103479)

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

    I did it for 10 years into my adulthood. No one batted an eye. When I started giving (tithing actually), no one changed their behavior then either. Seems money's not the point of church (unless you're going to a fake church).

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:29PM (#28103773) Homepage

    I'm not the GP, but I'd like you to explain what you mean.

    If you search Google for "Mormon cult," you will find many, many pages that insist that the LDS Church is a cult. If you dig into those pages, however, you will find that most of them are written by evangelicals and Christian fundamentalist sects.

    One very common practice on many of these sites is to begin with the dictionary definition of "cult" and use that as "proof" that Mormonism is a cult. There exist, however, very sophisticated definitions and many, many well-reasoned and elaborate essays and explanations of cult beliefs that offer much more proof than the dictionary. It is these definitions that are used when Scientology is described as a cult. The same guidelines don't apply so readily to Mormonism, however.

    In fact, the usual objections to Mormonism used to label them as a cult are that they are not true Christians, so-called, and therefore must be a cult. Christian fundamentalists claim that Mormons don't accept the Bible as the undisputed word of God, that they don't believe in the Trinity, that they have different traditions not set out in the Bible, and so on. All of that may be true, but it just makes them bad Christians (in somebody's eyes). It doesn't make them a cult.

    Now, I'm not a Mormon and I can't really speak for the wisdom of their beliefs, or lack thereof. But your flip comment seems to be suggesting that Mormons do the things that Scientologists do, such as "splitting up families and taking children from their parents" -- that's just crazy talk, when in modern times Mormons typically have even bigger families than Catholics.

    I'm sure Mormons believe many things that you don't believe. But just because you call them a cult doesn't make it so -- it just makes you a religious zealot. So what are you talking about?

  • by Mazcote Yarquest ( 1407219 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:35PM (#28103807)
    I grew up in Clearwater Florida, one of their, uhmm, headquarters. This is one whaked out group of folks!
  • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mattack2 ( 1165421 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:38PM (#28103849)

    Nothing makes me think that. Upon rereading the message I replied to, I realize there is nothing that directly states that they were talking about the US. Since most slashdot readers are based in the US [citation needed], and the *quoted text* in the message I replied to referred to the US, I presumed they were talking about why religions 'get a pass' in the US. I now realize that they could be talking about different legal treatment of religions in France too.

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

    by multisync ( 218450 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:58PM (#28104021) Journal

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

    That wasn't the point at all.

    mattack2 was simply saying the reason they are able to prosecute The Church of Scientology in France but not in the United States is because the First Amendment of the US Constitution apparently prohibits their Congress from passing any laws either respecting the establishment, or prohibiting the free exercise, of religion.

    We have a similar situation where I live, where a polygamist community avoids prosecution (to some extent) because the local government is afraid a case would not withstand a Charter challenge. They don't want to end up enshrining polygamy in law.

    I'm not sure how you got the idea anyone was suggesting that the First Amendment of the US Constitution would apply in France.

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

    by JackieBrown ( 987087 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:58PM (#28104031)

    Maybe you don't give people enough credit.

    God is important and relevant in our lives and religion provides a path to him.

    Perhaps it's time for the "open minded free thinkers" to quit trying to push their hollowness on us.

    As much as you like to believe religion is being forced on you, it's not. Your kind of thinking and cynicism is the norm.

    Just look at your post. Marked 5 insightful when for making vague assertions toward the "evils" of religion.

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

    by Saysys ( 976276 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:02PM (#28104055)
    Hubbard also used it in apparently non-humorous contexts. On March 6, 1968, Hubbard issued an internal memo titled "RACKET EXPOSED," in which he denounced twelve people as "Enemies of mankind, the planet and all life," and ordered that "Any Sea Org member contacting any of them is to use Auditing Process R2-45."

    Former Scientologist http://www.clambake.org/archive/books/mom/Messiah_or_Madman.txt [slashdot.org] >Bent Corydon wrote that in late 1967 at Saint Hill, he personally received a copy of an order naming four former Scientologists as enemies and "fair game" and ordering any Sea Org member who encountered them to use R2-45.

  • IIRC, when the Church of Scientology International [wikipedia.org]lost a major lawsuit by Steve Fishman [cmu.edu], the church executives turned the CSI into a shell, transferring virtually all capital and IP to the Religious Technology Center [wikipedia.org](which licensed "its" IP back to the CSI), theoretically leaving the plaintiff with nothing from which he could collect.

    I wouldn't be surprised to find that although the Paris center is incorporated independently of the mother church, and that it'll turn out that, like every Hollywood production, they've been "broke" all along.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:24PM (#28104209)

    Except that it's actually worse than that. It managed to secure a deal that gave it MORE rights than other religious organizations. Check out taxthecult.com [taxthecult.com].

    Also take a look at the Sklar lawsuit (Sklar vs Commmissioner of Internal Revenue). Scientology benefits from a special tax deduction based on a secret 1993 settlement between the COS and the IRS; basically, Scientology gets tax deduction on religious education, which is to say the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by Scientologists in 'religious education' (these are 'fixed donations' instead of 'fees' according to Scientology) are tax-deductible. The IRS feels that Orthodox Jews should not get a similar tax deduction. That's probably because nobody should ever have benefited in such a way in the fiirst place - and the circumstances under which the IRS granted said tax deduction initially are far from clear.

    Those following other religions are perfectly within their rights to feel pretty pissed off by this.

  • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:26PM (#28104219)

    Job came in from a seemingly legit company, without knowing what the product did. Simple, easy job.

    After the first couple orders issues arose & the job went to some other shop.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:28PM (#28104239) Homepage

    What does Scientology do ... that the Catholic church doesn't?

    Many things. Many, many things. DISCLAIMER: I am not a Catholic, and my interpretation of their beliefs is meant only as a guideline and can probably be waved away as fatally inept by any real Catholic. Furthermore I think recent stories about Catholic abuse of children are abhorrent and are probably the greatest crisis the Church has faced since Martin Luther.

    That said... here's just one example.

    The Catholic church requires believers to confess their sins. Similarly, the so-called Church of Scientology requires believers to undergo a process that it calls "auditing," in which the believer talks frankly about past events. What's the difference?

    Well, when the Scientologists do it, I am told, the subject is asked a series of questions, called a "process." The answers to your questions are written down in the form of notes, which are then compiled and permanently retained in a "preclear folder." You can only move on to a new process -- a new set of questions -- when the objective of the previous set of questions has been achieved (to the interviewer's satisfaction). No other guidance or evaluation of the subject is supposedly given, and the auditing process as a whole takes as long as is necessary, i.e. the subject may have to go home, come back later, and continue the same specific process until the interviewer (with the help of a religious object called an "E-meter") says it's time to move on to the next stage. The goal of auditing is said to be to identify memories of the subject's "thetan," both from the present and past lives, which are inhibiting the subject's full abilities (in other words, those things that make the subject a bad and ineffective person). The subject is told that only ongoing and successful practice of Scientology can free them from those bad qualities which oppress them. And furthermore, practicing costs money.

    Compare now to how the Catholics do it. You go into a Catholic church and you sit down in a space nearby to the priest. Generally, the priest is partially concealed from you so you do not have to look him in the eye. He might ask you a couple of simple questions about whether you've been practicing Catholic ritual, and then he tells you to begin. That is, he asks you nothing specific -- you just say what you personally feel you need to say. He might ask you to clarify. But generally, the process should take five minutes or less, if you've been doing it regularly. Then he may give you some advice about penance -- something realistic that you can do to make up for your sins, which might just be observance of some ritual -- and then he says, essentially: "If you do these things I have said, and you've been honest about your confession, then God is going to pretty much forget about everything you've said here for the rest of your life and all of eternity. There may be some Purgatory stuff to deal with, but it could have been a lot worse. Do those things and your burden is lifted, effective today; now go home to your family." Total monetary charges incurred: Zero.

    Kinda different, don't you think? Can you see the difference in psychological impact, the subtle manipulation that the Scientologist undergoes? People talk about "Catholic guilt," but that's nothing compared to what the Scientologists put you through.

    That's what's so insidious about Scientology -- the way they can manipulate nonbelievers as well as believers. Superficially, all ritual looks the same to a nonbeliever -- that is, it just seems ridiculous -- which is why Scientologists get away with their brainwashing and other manipulative practices. People look at them and say "they're a bunch of kooks, just like all the others." And the Scientologists smile and say, "That's right. See? We're just like all the others." But it ain't true. Diss Catholics if you must, but don't make the mistake of using Catholicism as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the abuses of Scientology.

  • Re:Hell yeah - R2-45 (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:45PM (#28104375)

    I'm left wondering what kind of country France is. Even if Scientology isn't a religion, are there only official approved religions in France? Odd for such a secular country. Or do they have register their services? Oh, right, you're socialist, nevermind, everything has to be government approved. What exactly was the expectation when money was exchanged? Aren't the women just admitting their freaking idiots and sheep to the world?

    In the US, the rules for religion are quite similar to those for non-profits and charities. So I'm not sure what people like you are whining about. If people give their money away, that's their decision.

    So besides your bias against religion, what exactly do you have proof of that the people giving the money away are unwary? What constitutes giving one organization, even a religious one, a pass? Most churches I know are pretty straight up clear about where the money goes that gets placed in the donation jar or basket--pay the preacher, pay the mortgage, expansion, services. Even if Scientology isn't a religion, if somoene willingly gives money up to the organization, a later are disbelievers, they want their money back?

    What next, people complaining /. should pay people for lost time and energy plus punative damages for crappy stories and dupes?

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:52PM (#28104429)
    Clicky [google.com]...and read all about "brain respiration" and "energy readings". Sound familiar?

    It gets better: they've got classes and retreats that cost $$$$, and they've even got a bodycount, though nothing compared to Scientology.

  • Re:Hell yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @11:25PM (#28104657) Homepage

    Prosecuted religions typically thrive as the "community" comes together against the perceived threat, see: Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism.

    Can't speak for Christianity or Mormonism, but I do know that the biggest threat facing the American Jewish community today is the lack of a big threat. Confusing? Basically, since there isn't any big threat, Jews aren't practicing as much, intermarrying more, not joining temples, etc. Whole segments of the community are dissolving into secular society. After surviving multiple millennia of threat after threat, it seems ironic that the threat to Judaism would be no threat to Judaism.

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

    by stabiesoft ( 733417 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @11:48PM (#28104795) Homepage

    this is actually the thing I've never gotten about tax exempt. I know they are classified as a charity, but as a child who had to go to church, I noticed very little went to "charity". Most (about 1/2) went to the building & maint fund. About 1/4 went to the pastor salaries and other salaries. I think about 10% actually got given away. Call me crazy, but can you imagine a charity (secular) giving away only 10c on the dollar and not being hassled for it? I've often thought the IRS should require like a minimum of 60c on the dollar to go to helping people outside the organization for the organiation to be a charity. The numbers should be audited every other year and if you fall below the threshold, your taxable.

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

    by Gerzel ( 240421 ) * <(moc.liamg) (ta) (terrefyllorb)> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:28AM (#28105081) Journal

    The constitution's 1st amendment however does not give the right to religions for them to infringe upon the rights of others.

    Thus it is illegal for some parts of Sharia law to be practiced in the US. A Muslim woman(or man for that matter) could choose of her own free will to abide by a fairly strict interpretation but she could not legally be held subject to some of the punishments there-of for breaking the law.

    This gets into difficult territory when you start talking about things like zoning laws. For example: does a church's interests in having say a parking lot where none is zoned outweigh the rights of its neighbors to have some say in how their community is developed?

    Also you get into the questions of brain washing, or just good old fashioned abuse and threats it is often difficult to tell if a church/religious group is on the up and up or if they are breaking the law.

    Furthermore it is debated weather or not the freedom of religion allows for an individual to choose no religion or for them to remain silent in their choice of religion. Also tests for minimum requirements for religion are sometime difficult.

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

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:42AM (#28105211) Journal

    What I don't understand is why the Catholic Church hasn't been busted under Rico. I mean, here you have a group that is paying off families to keep them from filing criminal sexual assault charges involving children (which I'm pretty sure payoffs like that are illegal, especially when minors are involved) and then spiriting the criminal out of the area and placing him in the EXACT SAME POSITION knowing he is going to rape again. And of course not even warning the area of what they have done. And from what we have seen in past cases this is well known SOP from at least the cardinal level.

    So why haven't they been busted under Rico? Churches shouldn't get a free pass when it comes to organized crime. And the way they had the SOP down seems pretty damned organized to me. Just as I think the CoS should have been shut down long ago using Rico for tactics like Operation Snow White [wikipedia.org]. While I believe you are free to believe what ever you wish, when you start performing criminal acts as a group then all bets should be off.

  • by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:18AM (#28106435) Homepage Journal

    Actually, you could do this in the USA.

    If you're confused, consider it filing a claim against, say, the Archdiocese of Belleville for fraud perpetrated by its Parish of Saint Fnordius. If said parish was stripped of its church status for abusing the privileges, then it would be even easier. This wouldn't even be considered an attack on the religion, but on a "bad apple", an organisation promoting it.

  • Not the first time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:55AM (#28106651)
    I may be wrong on this, writing from memory, but I believe that the most successful King of Israel - Omri - and his descendants were ignored in the Bible because, under his stable prosperous government, Judaism declined.
  • Re:Every church does (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Magada ( 741361 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @06:29AM (#28107233) Journal

    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.

    How do you know that?

    It's known, for instance, that the Church suppressed the Gospel of Thomas. The only remaining full copy that we know of was found at Nag Hammadi in the 20th century. It escaped the purge by virtue of being hidden for 1800 years or so.

    If the Scientologists are ultimately successful in suppressing Operation Clambake and similar efforts, it's conceivable that the full text of LRH's teachings will similarly disappear from history, to be replaced in the public consciousness with a less controversial, Church-sanitized version.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @09:30AM (#28108701)

    I can't think how can this be part of the modern, civilized world if that turns out to be a true fact.

    I am an ex Scientologist (details are at http://www.exscientologykids.com/storiesindex.html - I won't say which, it's not important) and having heard a lot of Hubbard's "lectures" I can confirm that the R2-45 was something he did say and mean.

  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:50PM (#28111495) Journal
    However EU law overrides French law and in the charter of fundamental rights freedom of religion is one of them. Hence, if the French courts regarded Scientology as a religion they would be bound, by EU law , to allow it.
  • Re:Every church does (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jim_Callahan ( 831353 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:50PM (#28112449)
    To be fair, not all or even most of the suppression of the Apocrypha was active and intentional. Most of it was simply that they'd been judged to not fit in with the religion the council was building, for whatever reason (probable forgery, ill-regarded author, or simple lack of a discernible moral lesson), and that most of the preservation of literature was done by the church. There wasn't so much an organized hunting down of the things (though occasionally a pope or bishop or something would take it upon themselves to go a zealot on us) as a general apathy among the people maintaining the libraries. If you were a monk, would you spend a year of your time copying a decaying tome whose contents your society had deemed worthless, when there were thousands of competing volumes of actual worth that needed copying to avoid being lost to the ages? Me neither. I mean, copying a single book was sometimes a monk's entire life's work, that's a big investment.

    So lighten up, it wasn't ill-intentioned. And most of the apocrypha are either crazy or pointless (in my own estimation as well as the church's), so meh anyway. Hell, I dunno how most of revelations didn't get thrown out as well, it's pretty whack too.

    (Side note: would have been nice if more monks had thought books of math and engineering were worth the effort, all we got was the half-assed job the muslim translators did of preservation. Better than the complete absence of the technical books in europe, but still. Anyhow, if you're going to be mad at the church for losing books, be mad at them for those, not the useless apocrypha bullshit.)

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"