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The Courts News

Scientology On Trial In Belgium 540

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:51PM (#42443175)

    Seriously. All religions practice abuse of one sort or another.

    Catholics: the child molester's club.
    Muslims: the cult of the pedophile warlord.
    Jews: faith of the would-be child murderer (that would be Abraham...)

    Need I go on?

  • This is good, but! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chthon ( 580889 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:52PM (#42443187) Homepage Journal

    I think that the Belgian authorities should also try to organise this in a European context (L'union fait la force!).

    Another idea I had: how should crowdsourcing be organised to damage scientology (I refuse them a capital)?

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:54PM (#42443233) Journal
    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?"
  • Re:Here it comes... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:58PM (#42443281)

    How many other churches have, in the modern era, tried to infiltrate the government and destroy evidence against them (Operation Snow White)?

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:11PM (#42443437) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately the problem in the west is not scientology, but the Catholic church which sets a very low bar on the ethical behavior required by a religion. Because the west is largely based on fairness and due process, any sociopath can set up a religion and do pretty much whatever they want. We have to give credit to most other cults in that they are under more scurtiny and threat of conviction than the catholic church, the do tend to behave better.

    I know many would disagree, but look at the rape situation. We have substituted accusions and sometimes admission of rape of children, rape of nuns, in an institutional environment. The fact of the matter is that these are crimes against humanity. That these were not codified as crimes against humanity until this century is irrelevant. Trail were held after WW1 using codes that were not developed until after, and these codes were continually developed and applied as new atrocities were dealt with.

    Yet not a single Catholic official has been put on trial in international court. The Vatican is a sovereign city-state. I do not expect the pope to have the morale courage to take the responsibility for these crimes against humanity, but I would this he would choose one or two top officials to throw under the bus and reach some moral compensation. But the catholic church, like more religions, live outside the sphere of civil and normal discourse, so is not subject to the noms and laws most fo the secular world lives by. Whichis why picking on scientology is not really going to change anything.

  • by aissixtir ( 2752321 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:12PM (#42443459)
    what is the difference between red cross and mafia?
  • Re:Here it comes... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:13PM (#42443475)

    Catholic church's Vatican bank has been slapped with fines for money laundering, more than once, IIRC, never mind the whole sex abuse thing. I'm pretty sure any religion you'd look at, with exception maybe of pastafarians (yum noodly appendages!) would have huge recent skeletons in their closets :(

  • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:24PM (#42443607)

    Lots of cults and criminal organizations use charity to try to improve their image, so that's meaningless.

    What distinguishes a cult from a religion is the use of social pressure and secrecy, and LDS has both.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:50PM (#42443835)

    I'm reading Steve Fishman's book "Lonesome Squirrel" for the second time. He is a perverted, schizophrenic nut job, but his writing is quite funny and sharp, and the story is entertaining, even though a lot of it probably is a product of his imaginative and messed-up mind. It contains lots of Scn jargon, so a dictionary is handy:

    His book:

    Also recommended reading is "Blown for good", and "Barefaced Messiah".

    Steve Fishman interview. At least watch the beginning:

    Q: What is the difference between Scientology and the Mafia?
    A: The Mafia don't kill people in church.

    Scientology going down is something good. They prey on the vulnerable and harass, if not attempt to kill, their critics.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:58PM (#42443963)
    Interestingly, if you read the CoS' account of L. Ron Hubbard's military career, he was some sort of war hero who commanded ships on many different oceans (sometimes simultaneously) and two different navies (British and US) while being awarded numerous medals (including British ones that are never awarded to non-British personnel). His official record shows that he joined the Navy before Pearl Habor as a Lt. Junior Grade and in 9 years only promoted to Lt. He spent most of this time on American shores and was reprimanded (and relieved of command) numerous times. He does have medals from his service; however, most of them were routine ones awarded for time of service rather than valor. His official CoS archivist and biographer Gerry Armstrong quit the church after discoveries of numerous inconsistencies in his records including his military one.
  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:33PM (#42444349)

    I'm not clear on just how a religion that teaches that God doesn't really desire you to sacrefice your first born, is a bad thing. Yes, saying that you should be willing to do things you find morally abhorent, if your God requires them of you, is a rather primative moral code, a bad thing, and all that. However if you take the account as factual, God stopped Abraham before he went through with it. Abraham was living in a place where other religions did practice infant sacrefice (if that part of the OT is also factual - and note that most modern archaeologists and historians don't dispute that part regardless of their own religious affiliations). If it wasn't Yahway telling him to do it, Abraham would have had the example of other religions suggesting it was the right thing to do - and if Abraham or others had been inspired just by those examples, the various Bels and Marduks and such of the region, what would have stopped them from following it all the way through? The old testament version of God at least says, in effect "Yeah, I'm expecting obedience just like every other single god you've even remotely heard of, but now I'm gonna show you I'm more worthy of that obedience than those gods, because there are things I won't ever ask you to do, because I care about you and yours too much to ask them of you". The parable of Abraham is about a supposed deity saying He's not just expecting BLIND obedience, He's willing to give some sign of why He should actually deserve obedience. Yes, (some) more modern versions of religions have gotten to a lot better moral theory than that, but it was still a small step in the right direction.

    While were at it, criticising Islam or at least its founder, sort of depends on the situation. There's a certain difference if the prophet created teachings to justify his taking a child bride, or if that was the way things still worked in the region, at that time, and he just didn't behave to a higher standard than the secular society immediately pre-islam. Most of the people throwing out the pedo-prophet charge have no idea if the actions of Mohammed were any worse than typical for the parent culture, or about average, or even a bit better, and it may be that the worst claim to be leveled against Islam is it didn't make the people who joined behave to a higher standard than they would have otherwise.

    The modern Roman Catholic church has failed dramatically, becoming one of the safest places for child molesters to hide. Unlike the 9th century, the current church is operating against a background of secular cultures who overwhelmingly have clear laws specifying a minimum age of consent, and just about all of those cultures
    set that age at at least 14 for any sexually related activity and 16 or higher for some forms. It's actually less explicable than the ancient examples.

  • by SilenceBE ( 1439827 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:53PM (#42444557)
    Scientology in Belgium is interesting to say the least

    * A lot of extreme right wing politicians has something to do with Scientology.
    - Johan Demol [] - ex-member of a extreme right wing organisation "Front de la Jeunesse" , also ex-cop and ex-politician.
    - When there is something in the news about Scientology in most cases you will see Hugo coveliers [] being interviewed as their laywer (who also have made some appearances in Scientology videos) spouting the same "religion prosecution" bullshit.

    * Scientology tries to infiltrate into our government and organisations
    - The secret service suddenly stopped working with the communication firm Nextel because of the fact that is has close ties with Scientology. What incident happened is a mystery.
    - In the Flemish parlement there was a partner company (Ideas) of Hewlett Packerd that provided certain services that was a Scientology company. There was a lot of uproar because it came out that Scientology companies provided services to the Ministry of Defense, Local affairs and Social Services. Those departments that have very sensitive data... . Also because there are documented cases where in the nineties they also tried to infiltrate the French and German government departments.

    * They over-flooded Belgian libraries with free (propaganda) material and books written by hubert.

    Scientology is an extremely dangerous organisation. If it was me I would already put out International Arrest Warrant for the leaders of this dangerous cult.
  • Re:Here it comes... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:55PM (#42444569)

    Reminds me of a picture I saw in The Economist a few years ago of Buddhist monks in Korea rioting with clubs.

    Despite the Dali Lama's successful Holywood PR compaign, Tibetan Buddhism was a corrupt theocratic protection racket before the Chinese invaded.

    Paganism is harder to compare, because it's more of a vaguely defined counter-culture style than a religion with an organization or a theology. But if we count historic so-called 'pagan' religions then I'd say that human sacrifice is a pretty serious skeleton, if a few hundred years is 'recent' enough. Most of Christianity's worst abuses stopped that log ago also.

    Animism is messed up also. And of course Hinduism had the caste system, among other evils, many still persistent. And atheism had the genocides in Cambodia, China, and Ukraine, if we want to include anti-theistic thought systems.

    Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are bad too, but putting other more 'exotic' religions on a higher plane seems to me to require unfamiliarity of their actual features, or at least selective unfamiliarity.

  • Re:Here it comes... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @05:06PM (#42444685)
    This is not current Mormon practice, but it well-documented Mormon history.
  • by TENTH SHOW JAM ( 599239 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @06:10PM (#42445197) Homepage

    With the invention of the printing press, and therefore cheaper ways of circulating information, the world neatly divided into those who wanted information to be free, and those who didn't.

    Funny how things move in cycles.

  • Re:Here it comes... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @06:42PM (#42445463)

    And who has the trademark on Christianity? The Roman Catholic Church? Sure, Mormonism is identifiably different from other brands, but I figure if they claim Jesus Christ was the most-holiest-person-EVER they're Christians if they want to call themselves Christians and if they don't want to call themselves Christian, they don't have to whatever they believe. Why split hairs?

    Christianity isn't a specific set of beliefs and practies, it's a category of religions. Before the 4th century, there was a LOT more diversity of belief among people who called themselves Christians, e.g. Gnostics, Manicheans, Arians, etc as opposed to almost all other modern Christians who accept the Nicene christology and soteriology. Most the Roman Empire chose to promote the Nicene view I don't know, but that's the historical reason why most Christians today believe pretty much the same thing about Jesus.

  • by briancox2 ( 2417470 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @07:27PM (#42445841) Homepage Journal
    I believe this approach to dealing with the organization is exactly appropriate. The practice of any religion can be run by an organization that turns out into a cult. The attacks that we see on "Scientology" should not really be directed at the subject of Scientology nor used to label the subject as a cult. It is the corrupt management by David Miscavige that really is to blame. And, yes, he IS criminal. He abuses staff, torments former members who try to practice outside his control, harasses members for donations relentlessly and, of course, he trashes freedom of speech to keep people from knowing of his crimes. Mark Rathbun is the former number 2 in charge of the Co$. He's out and posting on a blog on WordPress everything he knows. Check out his blog for a viewpoint you won't hear from anyone else.
  • Re:Matters of degree (Score:4, Interesting)

    by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:58PM (#42446859)

    Completely wrong. The Nigerian scams ask people to take things on faith, and they are not religions. Numerous phishing and other social hack type activities ask for faith.

    Scientology requires it. It you leave, you can't have contact with other members outside of the organization. If you show signs of wanting to leave, they do run-downs on you which are basically brainwashing. And if they can't brainwash you, they got cabinets full of dirt on you ready to share.

    There are places in the world where religion, society, and law are all the same thing. This exists in only two places for Scientology - the HQ in Clearwater, and the floating fortress Sea Org.

    Mormonism is nowhere near the Scientology end of the spectrum, because Scientology is not on the spectrum at all.

    If you really learn about Scientology, and have a discussion with anyone educated in comparative religion, they will disagree that it qualifies as one.

    Some religions are wacky, but this is the wacky without the actual religion part. Now, you can believe it is a religion, and take that on faith, but that doesn't make a new religion out of believing that Scientology is a religion.

  • by PowerBook2k ( 312576 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:09PM (#42446915)

    And by the way, the Fishman Affidavit was the cause of the first time Slashdot ever had to delete comments: []

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.