French Court Upholds Convictions Of Scientology For “Organized Fraud”

488px-scientology_symbolsvgThe Cour de Cassation in Paris, France’s highest appeals court, dealt another legal blow to the Church of Scientology in upholding the convictions for “organized fraud” by church officials. The court rejected claims of religious freedom by Scientologist lawyers and found that the Church was engaged in fraudulent practices that led to the convictions and $812,000 in fines. Specifically mentioned in the allegations were the Church’s Celebrity Center and a Scientology bookshop in Paris. The court also upheld the convictions of Scientology’s leader in Paris, Alain Rosenburg, and the Celebrity Centre’s former president Sabine Jacquart for taking financial advantage of elderly members of the Church. They were sentenced to two-year suspended prison sentences as well as being handed €30,000 fines for organized fraud.

Scientology has now lost on every level of the French court system. However, the church will now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in arguing that the ruling is a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The Church is arguing that it is impossible to distinguish between religions on the basis for fraud since they all promise spiritual rewards to the faithful. Critics say that Scientology is a well-organized fraudulent enterprise where followers face increasing financial demands or payments to achieve higher levels of faith. The Church has been accused of suicides in France connected to demands for money or other practices. It could be an interesting challenge that raises an issue often discussed on this blog of how to draw the line between religious aspirations and fraudulent promises.

After all, the Washington Post reported that the Catholic Church was offering a modern equivalent of indulgences for loyal Twitter users who could reduce their time in purgatory. Putting aside the annoying tweets of “OMG Made Heaven HT Pope ZOMG BFN.” Of course, there is not thousands of dollars being exchanged for such alleged indulgences (well, not currently as opposed to cash exchanges during medieval times) but the point is that most churches make assurances of ultimate rewards in exchange for acts of faithfulness. That is why a decision of the European Court of Human Rights could be quite historic if it tries to draw a line or declares that no such lines are possible in matters of faith.

What do you think?

Source: Local

23 thoughts on “French Court Upholds Convictions Of Scientology For “Organized Fraud””

  1. If we do not uphold their freedom of speech, we will soon be followed by the bulldozer of political correctness. Unless they were holding up Grandma by knifepoint, the French courts are in the wrong.

  2. Preachin’ to the Atheist choir. Your songs suck, that’s why you have a hard time recruiting.

  3. Organized religions should be treated as what they are businesses. Their leaders should not be given deference or tax exemptions. Their property and income should be taxed. Religious schools should receive no garants, subsidies or exemptions from the government. They should be subject to all generally applicable laws.

  4. The concept of the single god
    Leaves little more to mock.
    Yet charlatans consider it
    Their tawdry trade and stock.
    No worse idea ever crawled
    From underneath a rock.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller”

    “No one ever does evil quite so completely or cheerfully as when he does it from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal

    Religion. Fraud. But I repeat myself.

  5. nick

    i’m one of those people who can read the goofy paragraphs where the first and last letters of each word are correct and the rest of the word just has the right number of letters.

    so when you capitalized the word fraud in your 11:34 comment i read it as

    “Freud is a very touchy subject here”.

    it kinda makes it mean something completely different.

  6. The problem is when does religious belief become a financial enterprise?
    =========================================================

    when the vehicle the head of the faith rides around in costs more than the annual income of most of the followers?

  7. Taking money from a person and promising that they can now speak to their departed loved ones is fraud. Taking money from billions of people and promising them that they will spend eternity with their loved ones at a later time is not fraud.

    Telling your neighbor’s child that if he makes you angry at him, you will burn off his skin with a blow torch is assault. Telling your neighbor’s child that if he makes God angry at him, God will burn him for eternity is Christianity.

    It’s easy to tell the difference, right?

  8. The question isn’t one of whether Scientology is a fraud while Catholicism is not.

    The question is whether specific allegations of fraud have been made against specific persons and/or organizations, and whether there have been convictions.

    It’s very unlikely that the ECHR is going to rule that religions are free to commit fraud. It’s unlikely that the fraud cases themselves were based on proving that the claims of Scientology (or any religion) are untrue.

  9. The problem is of course how does a government support freedom of religious belief protect citizens against an organized fraudulent enterprise disguising itself as a religion? That was Scientology’s con game from the beginning and specifically why L. Ron Hubbard designed it. The problem is when does religious belief become a financial enterprise? Some may argue that in order to sustain a religious belief/cause one needs to develop powerful institutions. However, many religions, Judaism for instance has no overarching structure regulating the beliefs of the faithful. This is not to say that there aren’t factions within Judaism that aren’t set up like the Roman Catholic Church, but they aren’t institutions that sustain the faith.

    I think Barbarajagal above is on the right track. These organizations should not be given tax advantages that make religion into a lucrative possibility. I am skeptical though how this will go when it reaches the “higher authority” of the European Union, because it would cause some fear and consternation in the RCC.

    1. Always remember, Mike Spindell…. the only difference between a cult and a religion…. is the size of the Bank Account….

  10. A great example of why religions should not have a special recognized or tax status. “All religions promise spiritual rewards for the faithful.” That is what they are selling. All donations should not have a tax deduction, they are gifts to the church. All salaries payed to leaders and members should be taxed. Religions could qualify for tax deductions for charitable spending such as food, medicine, education etc.

  11. Finally, Professor… a story with some redeeming social value…. 😉

  12. Well, I saw an investigation, conducted by the Church of Scientology, that puts their fraud rate @ 1.3%. So, this ruling is an outrage.

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