Belgium targeting Scientology as a criminal organization

Prosecutors in Belgian have apparently enough evidence 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.”

The reports adds that this is significant because it signals a shift from previous unsuccessful attempts to label the group as a cult and that “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.” Apparently the church has been under investigation for nearly 15 years.

Jim Newman at SkepticMoney has more on this story and the history of the church’s conflicts with various governments. He says that the current investigation followed a raid in 1999 by 120 Belgian police officers on 25 offices of the church and it took a long time to sift through all the documents thy took away.

Interestingly he says that Belgium has ‘protected’ churches but is quite strict about who can belong to that elite club. Currently the protected religions are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, the Orthodox Church, Judaism and Islam. He says that the US is wary of taking action against religious groups and has been circumspect about the pending Belgian action. However, the Belgian government seems to be treating the alleged offenses as violations of business practices and thus can avoid the charge of persecuting a religion.