Belgium to Charge Scientology Criminally

Here’s an interesting development. Prosecutors in Belgium, where the “Church” of Scientology has its European headquarters, are preparing to file criminal charges against the organization for extortion, fraud, illegal practice of medicine and privacy violations.

“The decision follows years of investigation that was triggered by a complaint by the Labour Mediation Service in the Brussels Region. Labour mediators were unhappy with a number of labour contracts,” reads the report from Flanders News. “The matter ended up on the desk of examining magistrate Michel Claise, who ordered raids on Church of Scientology premises in 2008. During the raids police managed to seize a wealth of evidence,” they add. And (with the help of Google translate) Belgian newspapers De Tijd andL’Echo are both reporting that the Belgian federal attorney is now seeking prosecution.

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.

If this works, it could be replicated in other countries. They’ve already been convicted of fraud in France. And if the evidence seized here builds a strong case, there’s no reason it couldn’t be used elsewhere.

Comments

  1. Sastra says

    “… illegal practice of medicine…”

    Whoa. Given the current popularity of So-Called Alternative Medicine (S.C.A.M) in Europe, this one could open a huge can o’ worms.

  2. says

    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.

    That’s the sort of thing I like to hear. I don’t think the religion aspect should be a part of cracking down on churches. If a church breaks the law, it should be in trouble just like a purely secular organization would be.

  3. anubisprime says

    I think this could be a landmark case…if successful then Scientology will be done and dusted world wide!
    Of course it might just metamorphose into an underground cult, but that might well be easier to deal with then the present mega-corp persona they so like to brag about!

    As for being labelled criminal well that would certainly see them out of Europe…maybe they will mooch down to the African sub-continent, not so rich in pickings and they will be cheek by jowl with other religio scams, but there is not many places left that will put up with them anyway.

    We are not there yet but methinks the likes of Tom and ‘Jonny’ Travolta better consider an exit strategy if they want to keep working in Hollywood!

  4. godlesspanther says

    YES!!! Nail ‘em! Do it here in the US while we’re at it. And nail all the faith healers as well. Hinn, Popoff and all those assholes — take ‘em down.

  5. mithandir says

    I’m from Belgium and I’ve just read some of the articles about this in the belgian press. So allow me to clarify some things:

    There is no formal trial yet and no formal accusations have been served. The prosecutors are seeking a court case, but it’s a different body that will decide whether there’s sufficient evidence to start a trial.

    To complicate matters, the prosecuters have informed the media before formal charges were filed, which the church of scientology is now claiming is against the presumption of innocense. They have filed a lawsuit with the european court of human rights because of this.

    That said, the prosecuters are seeking to indict not only the european hq of the church, but also its belgian branch as well as two of its leaders.

    As an aside, a couple of years we prosecuted the roman catholic church as well, and that wasn’t terribly effective (we have also prosecuted Dick Cheney and George W Bush for war crimes, at one point).

  6. lorn says

    I’ve often wondered why churches couldn’t be prosecuted for fraud and other related criminal behaviors. If I went door-to-door offering to spray for ‘the dreaded Somali pink termite’ for money, and then sprayed water around claiming it would keep them at bay, people could sue for fraud because there is no such thing as a Somali pink termite.

    Which makes me wonder why people can, in the name of religion, claim to offer as set of practices, and proscribed donations, that will keep them out of hell and get them into heaven. People are, in effect, trading time, money and loyalty for protection from an imaginary threat, the devil and hell. It is fraud.

  7. dingojack says

    In order for a fraud charge to work:
    a) you’d have to prove that the priest/rabbi/iman & etc. knowingly said something that was false. Very difficult to prove in this case.
    b) show that someone acted on it. Again, even something relatively simple like donations are hard to prove since churches/temples/mosques & etc. don’t generally give out receipts.
    c) show that the person who acted on it lost out. Well since you can’t show the money went to church/temple/mosque & etc. that’s kinda hard to prove. But even if you do, they could claim some intangible benefit was derived thus no loss had occurred.

    It’s not as easy as you might think.

    (IANAL)

    Dingo

  8. StevoR, fallible human being says

    Great news. About time too! Go get ‘em Belgium – hope this happens and Scientology gets justly slammed and its leaders jailed.

  9. Crudely Wrott says

    As mithandir and dingo have pointed out above, this case not only may have been compromised already by untimely announcements but also contains many elements that will be hard if not impossible to establish.

    But, gee whiz, gang! Just imagine if the charges stick and criminal penalties get handed down and the inevitable appeals are denied. Oh, happy day!

    Why, just think of the bargain real estate that’ll hit the St. Pete Beach, Florida market. Not only that but locals and tourists could walk down the street without being offered free psycho tests. That right there is worth more than money, eh?

  10. khms says

    As mithandir and dingo have pointed out above, this case not only may have been compromised already by untimely announcements but also contains many elements that will be hard if not impossible to establish.

    I just hope this goes better than previous high-profile cases in Belgium. I can’t forget Marc Dutroux.

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