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Oct 27 2009
Scientology convicted of Fraud in France... anyone else?

From this article:

The verdict is "an Inquisition of modern times," said Scientology spokeswoman Agnes Bron, referring to efforts to rout out heretics of the Roman Catholic Church in centuries past.

The head of an association that helps victims of sects, Catherine Picard, called the verdict "intelligent."

"Scientology can no longer hide behind freedom of conscience," she said.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has been active for decades in Europe, but has struggled to gain status as a religion. It is considered a sect in France and has faced prosecution and difficulties in registering its activities in many countries.

Defense lawyer Patrick Maisonneuve said during the trial that neither the Church of Scientology nor the six leaders on trial had gained financially from the group's practices.

The original complaint in the case dates back more than a decade, when a young woman said she took out loans and spent the equivalent of euro21,000 on books, courses and "purification packages" after being recruited in 1998. When she sought reimbursement and to leave the group, its leadership refused. She was among three eventual plaintiffs.

Olivier Morice, lawyer for civil parties in the case, said the verdict was "historic" because it was the first time in France that the Church of Scientology has been convicted of organized fraud.

Investigating judge Jean-Christophe Hullin spent years examining the group's activities, and in his indictment criticized what he called the Scientologists' "obsession" with financial gain and practices he said were aimed at plunging members into a "state of subjection."

I must admit, I've got mixed feelings about this ruling. I mean, to me as an atheist, it is not clear that what the "Church of Scientology" does is any different than what other religions do. It uses stories made up by people, swears that they are true, claims that this knowledge benefits its followers, but also has a lot to do with money, power and control. If Scientology is singled out as the only religion which is prosecuted for these things, then I'll agree that it seems a bit like the inquisition. Or am I missing something?

Nov 18 2009
Re: Scientology convicted of Fraud in France... anyone else?

Following up on my previous post, it seems that Scientology is having trouble in Australia as well (according to the Guardian). It sounds like they are guilty of some pretty serious things (kidnapping, torture, etc.). There are (other) cults in the US that are guilty of such things, and are usually prosecuted for it, but no major religious movement in the US is responsible for such criminal behavior so far as I know. On the other hand, some of the other things mentioned in this article don't sound so far from what other religions do. (The Catholic Church is certainly guilty of covering up abuse, just like the Australians say the Scientologists did.) Again, I'm just arguing here that this should be applied fairly: if Scientology is said to be a criminal organization and not really a religion because of its involvement in such things, then other religions should be held to the same standards!

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