Scientology in France: Wikis


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A Scientology building in Marseille, France

Scientology is generally considered by the French media to be a cult. A parliamentary report classified Scientology as a dangerous cult.[1]



Scientology was founded in 1952 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the United States. It subsequently spread to other countries.

Legal status

In 1978, L. Ron Hubbard was convicted in absentia by French authorities of engaging in fraud, fined 35,000 French Francs and sentenced to four years in prison.[2] The head of the French Church of Scientology was convicted at the same trial and given a suspended one-year prison sentence.[3]

Since 1995, France has classified the Scientology as a sect (or cult) as seen in the report of the National Assembly of France.[4] On this basis, a hostile stance is generally taken against the organization.[5][6] A 1999 government inquiry committee reporting on the financial aspect of sects[7] recommended dissolving the Church of Scientology because of swindling, complicity of swindling, abuse of trust, and other nefarious activities. A government report in 2000 categorized the church as an "absolute sect" and recommended that all its activities be prohibited.[8] The keeping of files containing personal information on all its members (and other practices), are seen to qualify the Church as a totalitarian sect, moreover "extremely dangerous".[9] The report rejected U.S. criticism of the French government's hostility towards Scientology, saying that Washington's protection of sects was "exorbitant".[9]

In 2005 the city of Paris passed an official resolution so that unlike in Marseille, celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise would never be made an honorary citizen, specifically because of his affiliation with Scientology.[10]

The 2006 riots in France came in the midst of a parliamentary commission in charge of examining the influence of sects, particularly on youth, which started its hearings on July 12 2006 and was scheduled to be completed in December that year.[11] The government sects watchdog (MIVILUDES) subsequently warned that sects were infiltrating the suburbs, increasingly offering aid as a cover for their activities, notably so in a Church of Scientology's communique that "appeared to be taking the credit for calming the situation in one of the riot-hit suburbs."[12]

Against general public opinion and while he was Finance Minister, current president Sarkozy had received Tom Cruise in Paris in 2004. He is now preparing to change the 1905 law that defines status for the non-profit associations, still against the essential French concept of separation between state and church, which will allow sects to receive money from the state.[13]

2008–09 cases



On September 8, 2008, Judge Jean-Christophe Hullin ruled that Scientologists' Celebrity Center, bookstore, and seven Church leaders should be tried for fraud and "illegally practicing as pharmacists".[14] The ruling is in regards to a complaint made in 1998 by a woman who said she was enrolled into the Church of Scientology by a group she met outside a metro station. The woman said she paid 140,000 francs for illegally prescribed drugs, an e-meter, and books.[14][15] The trial was due to begin on 25 May 2009.[16] It was believed that if the French Scientology organization lost the case, it could end up being dissolved.[16][17][18] On 16 June 2009 incorrectly reported that several of the church's leading members, including its leader Xavier Delamare, had been arrested and that the church had been banned from practicing in France. As it turned out, the website had actually been referencing an outdated BBC news article from November 1999.[19] In September 2009 it was reported that the French Scientology organization was no longer at risk of dissolution as a result of the fraud trial, due to a change in French legislation.[20][21]

Conviction for fraud


On 27 October 2009, the Church of Scientology was convicted of defrauding recruits out of their savings.[22][23] One woman claimed she lost more than €20,000 in the 1990s.[23] Judges ordered the Scientology Celebrity Center and bookshop to pay a €600,000 (US$888,000) fine; earlier plans by the prosecution to force the Church to disband completely could not proceed. The law supporting complete dissolution was temporarily inadmissible, due to a rework of the penal code.[22] The dissolution law was not reinstated until after the case had begun, and therefore could not be used.[24] Judges stated that disbanding the church would force it to work underground, where it could not be monitored.[22] In his indictment, investigating Judge Jean-Christophe Hullin criticized what he called the Scientologists' "obsession" with financial gain and practices he said were aimed at plunging members into a "state of subjection".[25]

Seven leading Scientologists were fined, including the head of Scientology in France, Alain Rosenberg. Rosenberg received a two-year suspended jail sentence combined with a €30,000 fine.[22] Four of the leaders received sentences ranging from ten months to two years, while the other two were fined minor amounts.[26] Agnès Bron, a church spokesperson, likened the fines to, "an Inquisition for modern times".[26] According to Catherine Picard, head of the French Association of Victims of Sects, the fining might encourage more "unhappy Scientologist recruits" to bring out their concerns.[22] She also stated that, "Scientology can no longer hide behind freedom of conscience."[26]

Church public comments

The Scientology Celebrity Center spokesman, Eric Roux, stated that, "There is an attitude toward religious minorities in general ... that is pretty catastrophic". In relation to the government's backing of groups like MIVILUDES, Roux claimed that "we have a government that pushes for hate against religious minorities". However, what he and others contested was "the fraud that is committed against families and individuals".[24]

The Church of Scientology stated that they would appeal,[22] with U.S. Church spokesman Tommy Davis claim the proceedings as being a "heresy trial"[24] and claims that "the fines will get thrown out on appeal. We've had similar cases before and in other countries. If it has to go to the court of human rights we're confident we will win there".[23] Davis claims that the proceedings were "in total violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and French constitutional guarantees on freedom".[23] According to his view, "France is pretty much in the Dark Ages on the subject of religious tolerance ... We'll prevail as we have repeatedly in situations approximating this one".[24]

Future repercussions

Judges also said that they would ensure a paid posting would be placed in multiple publications outside France (including Time magazine and the International Herald Tribune) to ensure the news would spread beyond France; according to Olivier Morice, a lawyer for the civil plaintiffs, "The court told the Scientologists, in essence, to be very, very careful, because if you continue to use the same methods of harassment, you won't escape next time".[22] Morice added that, "It’s the first time in France that the entity of the Church of Scientology is condemned for fraud as an organized gang".[26] Georges Fenech, the head of MIVILUDES, said that the court "condemned [the French branch of Scientology] as an entity ... due to its fraudulent way of operating ... [If] they begin swindling again, they can be subject to dissolution in the future".[24] Fenech added that, "[this] is a historical turning point for the fight against cult abuses", and that, while members are "allowed to continue their activity ... a seed has been planted".[24]

In an interview on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation current affairs radio program The Current with Hana Gartner, former high-ranking Scientology official Mark Rathbun commented that the decision to convict the Church of Scientology of fraud in France would not have a significant impact on the organization.[27] "On the France thing I don't think that's going to have any lasting impact, simply because they got a nine hundred thousand dollar fine I think - which is like chump change to them. They've got literally nearly a billion dollars set aside in a war chest," said Rathbun.[27]


The French government does not keep statistics on religion but in 1999 the Church itself claimed that it had 40,000 adherents in France.[28]


Several officials of the Church of Scientology have been convicted of crimes such as embezzlement.[29]

On November 22, 1996, the leader of the Lyons Church of Scientology, Jean-Jacques Mazier, was convicted of fraud and involuntary homicide and sentenced to eighteen months in prison for his role in the death of a member who committed suicide after going deeply into debt to pay for Scientology auditing sessions. Fourteen others were convicted of fraud as well. [30] As of 2009, members of the church are also being sued for fraud and practicing pharmacology without a license.[31]

In 2000, France listed the Church as a "dangerous cult" in a parliamentary report and a recommendation was made to dissolve the organisation.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Miviludes 2006 report (PDF)
  2. ^ Morgan, Lucy (1999-03-29). "Abroad: Critics public and private keep pressure on Scientology". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-11-04.  
  3. ^ Catholic Sentinel, March 17, 1978
  4. ^ National Assembly of France report No. 2468
  5. ^ Davis, Derek H. (2004). "The Church of Scientology: In Pursuit of Legal Recognition" (PDF). Zeitdiagnosen: Religionsfreiheit und Konformismus. Über Minderheiten und die Macht der Mehrheit. Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag. Retrieved 2008-05-10.  
  6. ^ Appel du Jugement du Tribunal de Grande Instance de Lyon (Affaire : Patrick Vic) (in French). Tribunal's decision. 28 July 1997.
  7. ^ Commission d'enquête sur les sectes (in French). June 29, 2006.
  8. ^ France recommends dissolving Scientologists BBC News, 8 February 2000
  9. ^ a b Staff, BBC News (8 February 2000), France urged to ban Scientology,, retrieved 2008-05-10  .
  10. ^ "Paris city hall will not honour Scientologist Cruise". WorldWide Religious News, AFP, July 12, 2005.
  11. ^ Reprise des travaux de la commission parlementaire. Commission d'enquête sur les sectes.
  12. ^ "French Body Warns of Sects Moving in After Suburban Riots." WorldWide Religious News (AFP, April 26, 2006).
  13. ^ Sarkozy prépare une révision de la loi de 1905 (in French). Centre Roger Ikor, CCMM.
  14. ^ a b "Scientologists charged with fraud in France: source". Reuters. Reuters. 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2008-09-09.  
  15. ^ Scientology 'faces French trial' BBC News, 9 September 2008
  16. ^ a b "Procès de l'Eglise de Scientologie à partir du 25 mai". Le Nouvel Observateur. 2009-01-28. Retrieved 2009-02-01.  
  17. ^ ABC News Scientology Facing Murky Future in France. "The Church of Scientology (...) could be banned in France if it loses".
  18. ^ Scientology trial due in France BBC News 25 May 2009.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "French row over reprieve for Scientologists". Euronews. 2009-09-16. Retrieved 2009-10-06.  
  21. ^ La scientologie sauvée de la dissolution? Libération 14 September 2009.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Susan Sachs (October 27, 2009). "Paris court convicts Scientology of fraud". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  23. ^ a b c d "Scientologists convicted of fraud". BBC. 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  24. ^ a b c d e f Devorah Lauter (October 27, 2009). "French Scientology group convicted of fraud". Los Angeles Times.,0,6643393.story. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  25. ^ Vaux-Montagny, Nicolas (2009-10-27). "Church of Scientology convicted of fraud in France". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  26. ^ a b c d Steven Erlanger (October 27, 2009). "French Branch of Scientology Convicted of Fraud". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  27. ^ a b Gartner, Hana (October 30, 2009). "Part Two: Scientology - Former Scientologist, Scientology - History". The Current (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  28. ^ "World: Europe Scientology trial opens in France". BBC. 1999-09-20. Retrieved 2009-05-27.  
  29. ^ Henley, Jon (2001-06-01). "France arms itself with legal weapon to fight sects". The Guardian.,3604,499586,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-30.  
  30. ^ Hendon, David W.; James M. Kennedy (Spring 1997). "Notes on Church-State Affairs: France". Journal of Church and State 39 (2). ISSN 0021-969X.  
  31. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (2008-09-09). "Church of Scientology faces fraud trial in France". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-11.  
  32. ^ "France recommends dissolving Scientologists". BBC News. 2000-02-08. Retrieved 2007-11-04.  

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