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New French law bars Scientology dissolution even if convicted

scientology (Photo: Scientology members demonstrate against a 1999 fraud trial in Marseille. Their banner says:”Scientology: 40 years in France. A new religion that will always be there.”)

A new French law means the Church of Scientology cannot be dissolved in France even if it is convicted of fraud, it has emerged during a trial of the organisation.  A prosecutor has recommended that a Paris court dissolve the church’s French branch, which has been charged with fraud after complaints by former members who say they gave huge sums to the church for spiritual classes and “purification packs”.

The Church of Scientology’s French arm denies fraud.

Whatever the ruling, under a legislative reform passed just before the start of the trial in May, it is no longer possible to punish a fraudulent organisation with dissolution.  The legal snag was discovered by the Inter-ministerial Unit to Monitor and Fight Cults. Georges Fenech, head of the unit, demanded on Monday that the legal power to dissolve an organisation be reinstated.

Even if the law is changed again, it cannot be applied retroactively to the Scientology trial, which was held in May and June, with the ruling expected in late October. Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France.

Read the full story here.

For more background on France’s case against Scientology, see

French prosecutor seeks dissolution of Scientology

Scientology on trial (photo essay)

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Paris court to rule if Scientology should be shut down in France

scientologyHow far does the principle of religious freedom go? How much can be accepted in the name of respect for a faith? A Paris court is debating these questions in a fraud case against the Church of Scientology. If the public prosecutor wins the case, Scientology will be convicted of extorting hundreds of thousands of euros from followers on personality tests, vitamin cures, “auditing” sessions and counselling with an “e-metre.” It will be disbanded and could also face heavy fines. The French arm of the U.S.-based Scientology denies the charges and says the case violates its freedom of religion.

Scientology is registered as a religion with tax-exempt status in the United States, but enjoys no such position in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult. It also does not have French celebrities defending its case, in contrast to the United States. where movie star members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta publicly defend it as a valid religion. “This is not the place to debate whether Scientology is truly a religion or not,”prosecutor Maud Coujard told the court when she summed up her case on Monday.  “The point is that … a religious motivation is no justification under criminal law.”

Scientology’s lawyer, Patrick Maisonneuve, will call for an acquittal when he makes his closing remarks to the court. “What the prosecutor has asked for is a death sentence for Scientology (in France),” he told reporters. The court is expected to issue its ruling later in the year.

Germany on collision course with Scientology

Scientology in HamburgGermany has sought to nurture tolerance as a national characteristic since World War Two, but it doesn’t stretch to the Church of Scientology. A new Forsa poll shows 74 percent of Germans think Scientology should be banned. The survey comes hard on the heels of a declaration from federal and regional ministers that the movement is unconstitutional. That announcement, the culmination of a row with Scientology dating back to the 1970s, opens the way for a possible ban.

Germany is not alone in refusing to recognise the Church of Scientology as a religion, but it goes further than many other countries in its rejection of the body. It see Scientology as a cult masquerading as a church to make money, a view Scientologists reject.

Agents of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, a kind of German FBI, are already gathering information on Scientology and a whole chapter is devoted to it in the intelligence agency’s 2006 report. It describes the movement as having a “totalitarian character” because it seeks to exert control over its members. But the agency is not sure the government will be able to get enough evidence to ban it.