• France's news in English
 
French scientologists angered by fraud verdict
"Justice for scientologists!" Some of the French Church of Scientology's 45,000 members protest an "organized fraud" conviction, in 2011. The verdict was upheld on October 16th. Photo: Saget/AFP

French scientologists angered by fraud verdict

Published: 16 Oct 2013 15:31 GMT+02:00

The Cour de Cassation in Paris, France's highest appeals court, on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the Church of Scientology against several convictions for "organized fraud".

The Church had argued in a September 4th hearing that the verdicts constituted a violation of their religious liberty, but the court on Wednesday rejected that claim.

In 2009, convictions and fines of €400,000 and €200,000 ($812,000 in total) were handed down to the Church’s Celebrity Centre and a Scientology bookshop in the French capital.

Scientology leader in Paris, Alain Rosenburg and the Celebrity Centre's former president Sabine Jacquart were also found guilty of taking financial advantage of elderly members of the Church and sentenced to two-year suspended prison sentences as well as being handed €30,000 fines for organized fraud.

'We're being judged for our beliefs'

French scientologist minister Eric Roux on Wednesday told The Local the ruling was an example of France's "religious persecution" of the Church.

"France is really the most backwards country in Europe in terms of religious tolerance," he said. "We're being judged for our beliefs, not our behaviour. How can the Cours de Cassation decide that our beliefs are untrue or fraudulent, but not say the same thing about Protestants or Catholics?"

The charges resulted from accusations by Parisians that they had been pressured into handing over large sums of money to buy materials in the book shop and Celebrity Centre.

The Church’s unsuccessful appeal to the Cour de Cassation came a year after it failed to convince a lower court of appeal to overturn the original verdicts and sentences.


File photo of a French Scientology centre: Guirec Lefort/Flickr

An 'evil cult' in France, a religion in Spain

The Celebrity Centre had earlier rejected the charges as “totally false and inequitable”, according to French daily Direct Matin, complaining the trial had “numerous irregularities and in which the fundamental rights of scientologists were violated”.

Speaking during the hearing in September, lawyer Louis Boré denied that the Church had ever asked for money from its followers, but Roux told The Local on Wednesday that "anyone whose money we gave back dropped their complaint against us."

"That's how I know this is about our religious beliefs and not about a criminal case. Why else would the French government get involved and apply so much pressure in the case?"

The Church will now take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, Roux added. Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The scientologist minister called for Europe-wide uniformity of laws regarding religious freedoms. "How can we be considered an evil cult in France, but a religion in Spain?"

Suicide after a negative personality test

This isn’t the first time the Church of Scientology has been touched by scandal in France.

In 1996, Jean-Jacques Mazier, leader of the Lyon branch of the Church, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for fraud and involuntary homicide after Church member Patrice Vic committed suicide after going into debt to pay for Scientology auditing sessions.

In 2008 Kaja Bordevich Ballo, a Norwegian student living in Nice, killed herself after receiving the results of a negative Scientology personality test. However, prosecutors failed to find a direct link between the test and the woman’s suicide.

While the Church is considered as a religion in the US where it was founded in 1954 by science-fiction author Ron Hubbard, it is classed as a “sect” in France, following a parliamentary report in 1995.

In France alone the Church of Scientology counts some 45,000 followers, and 10 million worldwide. 

Don't miss a story about France - Join us on Facebook and Twitter

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Riviera trade group: 'Leave Saudis alone'
The beach is located just below the Saudi king’s Riviera villa in Vallauris. Photo: Valery Hache/ AFP

Riviera trade group: 'Leave Saudis alone'

After weeks of uproar over a decision to let the Saudi royals “privatise” a public beach on the French Riviera, a trade group has pleaded for locals to calm down and leave the Middle Eastern visitors alone. READ  

Reunion wreckage
Experts 'confident' plane debris is from MH370
The wreckage on the island of Réunion. Photo: BFM TV (screengrab)

Experts 'confident' plane debris is from MH370

Experts are "increasingly confident" that a piece of debris that washed up on the French island of Réunion comes from a Boeing 777, which would mean it is almost certainly from the MH370 flight that went missing last year. READ  

France and Russia 'reach deal' on ditched Mistrals
Photo: Frank Perry /AFP

France and Russia 'reach deal' on ditched Mistrals

After eight months of negotiations France and Russia have reached a deal on the amount Paris must pay Moscow in compensation for the non-delivery of two Mistral warships, a senior Russian official said Friday. READ  

Google defies France on 'right to be forgotten'
Google rejected a French bid for a global right to be forgotten. Photo: AFP

Google defies France on 'right to be forgotten'

Google on Thursday rejected a French demand to globally apply the so-called right to be forgotten, which requires the company to remove links to certain information about users if asked. READ  

Extra French police help curb Calais migrant flow
French gendarmes attempt to block a migrant after he entered the Eurotunnel site. Photo: AFP

Extra French police help curb Calais migrant flow

A newly enforced police unit in northern France blocked at least 200 people from reaching the Channel Tunnel on Thursday night, as the British government prepares for an emergency meeting on Friday to grapple with the crisis. READ  

Réunion's plane debris to be probed in France
Policeman and gendarmes with the piece of unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion. Photo: AFP

Réunion's plane debris to be probed in France

UPDATED: Plane wreckage that washed up on a tiny Indian Ocean island will be sent to France for investigation, as hopes mounted Thursday the mysterious object could unlock the riddle of missing flight MH370. READ  

Migrant dies in botched Eurotunnel crossing
Ten migrants have died at the Calais post in the past two months. Photo: AFP

Migrant dies in botched Eurotunnel crossing

French authorities said on Thursday that a migrant had died from head injuries suffered in a weekend attempt to cross the Channel into England, bringing the number of such deaths to ten since June. READ  

France's Réunion braces for volcano eruption
‘The Peak of the Furnace’ has been spewing out more gases than usual. Photo: Richard Bouhet /AFP

France's Réunion braces for volcano eruption

Le Piton de la Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes in the world and a main tourist attraction on the Réunion island, was evacuated Thursday as authorities warned of an imminent eruption. READ  

Ten things you didn't know about gay Paris
Do you know where to find penis-shaped bakery goods in Paris? Photo: Legay Choc/Facebook

Ten things you didn't know about gay Paris

There's a lot more to the gay scene in Paris than just the Marais - so we asked the experts at The Gay Locals to come up with a list of ten things you probably didn't know about Gay Paris. READ  

French mayor 'to force artists to mind kids'
The National Front mayor in Fréjus doesn’t feel the town hasn’t received enough in return from the artists. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/ AFP

French mayor 'to force artists to mind kids'

A far-right mayor in the southern town of Fréjus is allegedly considering making a group of local artists mind children in exchange for the rent subsidies they receive. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Réunion's plane debris to be probed in France
Ten things you didn't know about Gay Paris
France eyes boost to holiday leave rights
Business & Money
French dating sites 'not protecting client privacy'
Features
Learn more about the Bayonne festival - France's wildest party
Features
What's on in France: Ten things to do in August
Features
What to see and do at the Paris Plages this summer
Saudi royals 'bar' French policewomen from beach
Take a closer look at the 560,000-year-old tooth found in France
National
Swiss army pilfers French water to give to thirsty cows
National
'B**ch' and 'brainless': French shop slurs clients
Travel
French cops rebel over order to give kids sweets
National
New measures to stop migrant deaths in Calais
Travel
Here are some of the most ridiculous comments you'll read about France
Features
Life may be about to get easier for expats settling in France
National
Burning tyres and blocking roads is just the way the French do strikes
National
Muslim tourists visiting French Alps are reminded of burqa ban
Opinion
Slim and chic: Are French women fed up of the stereotypes?
French officials defend handing public beach over to Saudi royals
Society
French kiss: Should expats in France do 'la bise' among themselves?
National
Paris commuters and tourists face summer of travel trouble
This man learnt the entire French vocabulary in nine weeks, but why?
French speed cameras snare tens of thousands of British drivers
Gallery
What kind of expat in France are you: A lover or a loather?
Society
French tweeters reveal the trials and tribulations of #GrowingupFrench
Where to find the best (and worst) quality of life in France
National
Riviera rumpus as Saudi royals grab public beach all for themselves
What we know about France's foiled terror plot
Features
Here are ten places in Paris where you can escape the summer heat
National
Coup d'état fails in France after being snubbed by military
Are shoppers in northern France the most honest in the world?
French woman fined €90 for driving in flip-flops
Cyclists in Paris get the green light to jump red
'Adieu France': Angry mum's parting rant goes viral
Franco-German rift opens over Greece and it could take time to heal
The Megavalanche: The most spectacular cycling event in France
Ex-French PM's daughter creates a buzz by going topless for photo shoot
Could Parisians be bathing in the Seine by 2024?
Paris unveils new mobile app to help non-French speakers
France declares war on public transport sex pests
So where's the best place to live in France if you want to be happy?
Opinion
Paris: The City of Light, Romance, Style and the worst loos in Europe?
National
Eight ways living in France will change your lifestyle for good
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,613
jobs available