Here’s some interesting and fun news from France. A court in Paris has convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud. This ruling does not extend simply to the heads of the church, but to the entire organization. The prosecution was apparently looking to have the church banned from the country entirely, but was unsuccessful. However, the church is facing some serious fines and six leaders have been penalized.
The church itself has been fined euro600,000, or the equivalent of US$900,000. In addition, four leaders of the church are facing sentences between 10 months and 2 years for defrauding members. The other two must pay fines of euro1,000 and euro2,000. The court has said that the church is unlikely to continue to operate outside the bounds of the law and so did not ban it.
It’s an interesting case because it involves Scientology. The religion was founded in 1954 by a science fiction writer, which casts a great deal of doubt on its validity. Many people view it as a cult, and the official stance of several European countries, including France, is to call it a sect, limiting its operations in those locations. However, religion or not, the case involved the manner in which Scientology obtained its money.
According to the case, many people have been pressured into spending money with the church over the last decade. In fact, the judge on the case described the religion’s preoccupation with receiving money as an obsession. He also went on to say that the church was trying to put its members into a state of subjection.
However you feel about Scientology, you have to admit that it’s an interesting case that would probably toe the line here in the US. With a verdict like this, there would likely be an extensive appeals process here under which the accused leaders would claim discrimination of some sort. I guess we’ll just have to see how it all plays out over there.
As always, comments on the subject are encouraged. Check out more info at CNN.