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Oct 20 2013

Scientology Fraud Conviction Upheld in France

Here’s some good news. The highest court in France has upheld a conviction for fraud against the “Church” of Scientology and its French leaders. This, of course, has prompted howls of outrage from the Scientologists about how their religious freedom is being denied.

The Cour de Cassation in Paris, France’s highest appeals court, on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the Church of Scientology against several convictions for “organized fraud”.

The Church had argued in a September 4th hearing that the verdicts constituted a violation of their religious liberty, but the court on Wednesday rejected that claim.

In 2009, convictions and fines of €400,000 and €200,000 ($812,000 in total) were handed down to the Church’s Celebrity Centre and a Scientology bookshop in the French capital.

Scientology leader in Paris, Alain Rosenburg and the Celebrity Centre’s former president Sabine Jacquart were also found guilty of taking financial advantage of elderly members of the Church and sentenced to two-year suspended prison sentences as well as being handed €30,000 fines for organized fraud.

Turns out there’s quite a history here:

This isn’t the first time the Church of Scientology has been touched by scandal in France.

In 1996, Jean-Jacques Mazier, leader of the Lyon branch of the Church, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for fraud and involuntary homicide after Church member Patrice Vic committed suicide after going into debt to pay for Scientology auditing sessions.

In 2008 Kaja Bordevich Ballo, a Norwegian student living in Nice, killed herself after receiving the results of a negative Scientology personality test. However, prosecutors failed to find a direct link between the test and the woman’s suicide.

Scientology is a giant scam, but more and more they’re being nailed legally. The church faces fraud and extortion charges in Belgium as well, which is their European headquarters.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    But fraud is a major part of Scientology, so they aren’t being allowed to practice their religion the way L. Ron wanted them to.

  2. 2
    sotonohito

    My only objection is that France appears to be choosing to attack the Church of Scientology not so much based on the magnitude of fraud or danger that it represents, but rather on the basis that since it’s relatively small and powerless compared to other religions they can get away with attacks on Scientology that would be met with rioting in the street if the same standards were applied to, say, Islam or the Roman Catholic Church or any other religion.

    Scientology is a fraud, no doubt at all. But so is the Roman Catholic Church. So is Islam. And you can’t tell me that out of the hundreds of millions of Euros the RCC extracts from the French population every year that there isn’t at least as much fraud going on with it as there is with the Scientologists.

    An analogy can be made between France and Scientology and the USA and Cuba. In the USA Cuba is a convenient Communist whipping boy that can be be safely beaten up (metaphorically) for valuable anti-Commie credentials among politicians while dealings with other oppressive nations (China, for example) are normalized. In France Scientology is a convenient “cult” whipping boy that can be safely beaten up (metaphorically) for valuable anti-Cult credentials among politicians while dealings with other oppressive belief systems are normalized.

    It isn’t that I love Scientology, but rather that the attacks on Scientology seem to be there mostly to divert public attention from the abusive practices of other religions which governments worldwide ignore completely. Scientology is harmful, but it isn’t a tenth as harmful as Catholicism or Islam but due to their size those religions are ignored.

  3. 3
    steve84

    The Fraud with Scientology is far more obvious and far, far, far more severe. In the Catholic Church you make some donations here and there, but it’s not much and often even voluntary. In Scientology you have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to advance to the higher levels.

  4. 4
    blf

    Despite living in France, I’m wasn’t aware the conviction (which I did know of) has been upheld.

    Whilst sotonohito@2 may have a point — I have no idea what actions have been instigated (in France) against other cults in modern times — a point that is frequently made is teh co$ (as that derisive nickname suggests) requires tithing, or they will quite literally do nasty things (to you, your reputation, and your family). That is no longer true of, as one example, the raping children cult. They can threaten mayhem and fictional punishments such as “excommunication”, but that is more-or-less it. (The pressure is, presumably, intense, so there is a mental aspect here; In contrast, teh co$’s actions are not “just” mental assault / intimidation.)

  5. 5
    Reginald Selkirk

    Meanwhile, in the Netherlands:
    Dutch court rules Scientology tax-exempt

  6. 6
    manfromflanders

    @blf

    Same for me, wasn’t aware of that. One must admit our media are busier with other petty things, like hyping the election of a far right candidate in southern France.

    @sotonohito

    The cases of the RCC and Islam or even Judaism are quite different from the Church of Scientology, notwithstanding being primarily sects (We jokingly say in France “Une religion est une secte qui a réussi”, ‘Religion is a successful sect’) and in regards to their long history. France had a particularly singular one with catholicism, earning the nickname of the ‘RCC’s eldest daughter’. We only had official separation of State and Church in 1905, long after the Establishment Clause, a fact most of French people aren’t aware of, thinking the USA as a religious state (We can thank US politicians, Bible-swearing, a misunderstanding as to why the ‘In God we trust’ motto lies on US one-dollar bills for that, despite the US being one of the first secular Western countries).

    There are still areas in France where this separation is not effective, namely in Alsace and Lorraine thanks to the Concordat. Priests salaries are for instance paid by the state. Religion education is compulsory for primary school and high school pupils. And the Concordat’s validity was upheld by the Constitutional Council of France last January.

    Islam is a relatively new phenomenon in the West and above all controversial. Attempts to avoid mosques funded by foreign parties, especially from salafists, by substituting those fundings by public ones and creating an official muslim council (Akin to, at least in spirit, the RCC) were naturally met with disapproval. Yet, this was one of the ways the previous government meant to gain control over mosques and keeping them from the influence of radical imams, to no avail.

  7. 7
    Michael Heath

    The same principles which reveal Scientology defrauds its members of money is also true of the religions that dominate western civilization.

    Even for those of us, like me, who are secularists, separationists, and promote the DofI and the Constitution, it’s not politically prudent to prosecute such cases in criminal court. But it would be awesome to see fraud cases brought in civil court.

    It’s a no-brainer that at least Hell-believing Christian denominations defraud their sheeple of their dough on a very large and very broad scale. Instead the challenge is finding judges with the courage to admit the required findings of fact for plaintiffs to make their case, and then having sufficiently courageous judges and juries who stand on principle when it comes to their conclusions based on those facts.

    The U.S. culture needs to develop far more emotional maturity and critical thinking skills before such cases would be successful, even in liberal bastions. I have hope secularists will eventually win out, but lately it seems to be a, “two steps, forward one step “back” when we encounter atheists organizing themselves into collective movements that act-out in a tribalistic, partisan manner. That opens the door to our being just another special interest group whose motivations are no more pure than those who promote opposing polices, as opposed to our focusing strictly on what is true, arguing what is beneficial based on the evidence, and what is the principled position to take. Where we also hold ourselves to these same standards.

  8. 8
    matty1

    In theory it would be kind of cool to see a court judgement that threatening people with hell in exchange for cash amounts to fraud in practice I don’t know I would trust any court to rule that way.

  9. 9
    Sastra

    Unlike most other religions, Scientology makes two big mistakes:

    1.) They’re making testable claims.

    2.) There’s a lot of money directly connected to #1.

  10. 10
    laurentweppe

    @sotonohito

    France has extremely strict laws and regulations regarding churches, and most religious organizations learned to behave because the last thing you want is to have the very punctilious french FISC looking at your accounting books. The Scientology got burned because they thought the rethorical tricks that worked in the US would work in a french court of justice.

  11. 11
    blf

    One must admit [the French] media are busier with other petty things, like hyping the election of a far right candidate in southern France.

    Indeed. That particular feckup happened c.50km away from where I live. The village where I live voted close-to 24% for the fascists in the first round of presidential voting (which, I must admit, surprised me), and madame führer will be speaking(? just has spoken?) in the area.

  12. 12
    d.c.wilson

    I agree wholeheartedly with themanfromflanders. A religion is merely a cult that’s been around long enough to embed itself into the culture. That’s what makes it nearly impossible to go after the RCC for fraud. Scientology, however, makes it almost too easy. They make testable claims about what auditing can do for you while demanding payment for their religious teachings. Churches and mosques can at least argue that donations and tithes are voluntary and that no one is required to give them. Also, their claims are usually not testable. How do you prove that giving to the RCC won’t lesson your time in Purgatory?

  13. 13
    haitied

    What has always blown my mind about scientology is this. If they actually had all the answers and the only path to heaven or whatever the fuck kind of salvation they’re selling, how can they hold that information or salvation mechanism behind a paywall. If their stories were true that would be one of the most unscrupulous things imaginable.

  14. 14
    democommie

    @13:

    You’re making a rather common error of thinking that such people as those who run the Co$ even give a fuck about the APPEARANCE of telling the truth. The very founding of the moneyvac that is the Co$ is based on egregious lies.

  15. 15
    Raging Bee

    Scientology is a fraud, no doubt at all. But so is the Roman Catholic Church. So is Islam.

    So what are you saying? We can’t prosecute one fraud unless we prosecute ALL frauds simultaneously? Offhand, I’d say that prosecuting one fraud out of many is better than doing nothing.

    In the USA Cuba is a convenient Communist whipping boy that can be be safely beaten up (metaphorically) for valuable anti-Commie credentials among politicians while dealings with other oppressive nations (China, for example) are normalized.

    So what were we supposed to do — attack China? Your analogy is crap.

  16. 16
    abear

    Just to clear up any rumors: Nerd of Redhead has not been a scientologist for the last 40 years.
    And he is not a robot.

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