• 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
Sarkozy free to rename party 'Les Republicans'
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy has succeeded in renaming his party. Photo: AFP

Sarkozy free to rename party 'Les Republicans'

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to win back the presidency gained a boost this week when a court threw out objections to his move to rename his UMP party "Les Republicains" as he attempts to give it a makeover. READ  

France to honour four French Resistance heros
The Pantheon, where the four Resistance fighters will be honoured. Photo: AFP

France to honour four French Resistance heros

Four heros of the French Resistance will be honoured with a burial at the Pantheon mausoleum in Paris on Wednesday. Although two of the coffins will remain empty after objections from family members. READ  

Truffle wars: French farmer on trial for murder
French farmer on trial for murdering a 'truffle thief'. Photo: Remy Gabalda/AFP

Truffle wars: French farmer on trial for murder

A French farmer went on trial this week for shooting dead a man he thought was stealing his truffles. The shooting a occurred during a so-called "truffle war" that saw French farmers regularly threatened by armed thieves. READ  

Air France flight has near miss with mountain
How did an Air France flight end up in a near collision with a mountain? Photo: Lcarus/FLickr

Air France flight has near miss with mountain

French accident investigators have opened an inquiry into a near accident involving an Air France Boeing 777 which narrowly missed central Africa's highest mountain with 37 people on board. READ  

Paris: Phone porn fears after pupils fondle girls
Smartphones are becoming increasingly popular among pupils in France. Photo: AFP

Paris: Phone porn fears after pupils fondle girls

A prestigious Paris secondary school has been hit by scandal after schoolboys resorted to groping girls after having watched porn on their phones during their lunch breaks. The incidents have prompted a debate around the impact of porn and whether smartphones should be banned in schools. READ  

Opinion - Britain in Europe
'It's time to talk up what Europe has brought UK'
it's time to talk up what Europe has done for Britain, says the president of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce in Paris. Photo: Flickr/Kelham Neelanraju

'It's time to talk up what Europe has brought UK'

As a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU looks set to be announced in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, the President of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce in Paris, Bob Lewis appeals for the pro-European voices to be heard. READ  

Anger as France looks set to scrap train lines
Numerous train lines linking cities across France could soon be removed. Photo: AFP

Anger as France looks set to scrap train lines

A controversial report published in France on Tuesday urges the government to scrap numerous train lines that link the country’s cities as well as several night trains. It's been described by critics as an "aberration'. READ  

The ten Paris streets you just have to walk down
How many of these unforgettable streets have YOU seen? Photo: Loïc Lagarde/Flickr

The ten Paris streets you just have to walk down

Paris is best explored on foot - so we asked the experts at Localers walking tours to come up with a list of the most unmissable streets in the French capital. See how many you have walked along. (No, the Champs Elysées is not one of them). READ  

Pupil rings French PM Valls for homework help
Prime Minister Manuel Valls speaks on the telephone. Photo: AFP

Pupil rings French PM Valls for homework help

A 16-year-old Parisian pupil ignored Wikipedia and Google and decided instead to call the personal mobile phone of France's prime minister Manuel Valls in an attempt to get some inside help for a school presentation on politics. READ  

Amazon to pay taxes on sales in France
Amazon is among several large companies under the spotlight in Europe over tax deals. Photo: AFP

Amazon to pay taxes on sales in France

US online retail giant Amazon announced that it has begun declaring sales made in France, meaning it will no longer only be paying European taxes in Luxembourg. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Take a tour of the best Metro stations that Paris has to offer
National
Soon there'll be a fixed fare for a taxi ride from the airport into Paris
National
Drug dealers in Marseille are offering customers loyalty cards
Soon there'll be no minimum for using your bank card in France
Features
Eurovision is around the corner - and we don't fancy France's chances
Features
Fancy starting a business and living in Paris? There's help available
National
Are you fearing a Brexit? Maybe it's time to become a French citizen
How hard-up French are tempted by money to take migrants to the UK
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Education
More English words (including 'le selfie') sneak into French
Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims
National
French Protestants bless gay marriage
Opinion
Why elitism is dragging France down
Features
RECIPE: How to make your own picnic-perfect meringues
Business & Money
French tax declaration deadline: Key things to remember
VIDEO: Can YOU pronounce the trickiest word in French?
France tops holiday wish list for children
National
Study: Women do bulk of housework in France
National
VIDEO: Police use force on Calais migrants
National
This man is France's Instagram king. But who else makes the top list?
Features
Free museum entry, film festivals, sports... see What's On this in May
Culture
Behind the curtain: A closer look at the Cannes Film Festival
National
It's a boy! Baby born on Air France flight to Paris
Features
Love-locked: Whatever happened to Paris's beautiful bridges?
'Forget the UK election, expats should be able to vote in France'
Thomas Piketty backs Miliband for Britain but not Hollande for France
Gallery
The most spectacular sunset pictures from around France
National
France tells migrants in Calais to 'forget the UK and stay here'
Who's to blame? Trial after Frenchman dies downing 56 shots
Society
VIDEO: See what's beneath the surface of the French Riviera
National
French teen suicide after sex video web bullying
France launches bid to buy Europe's biggest and most spectacular dune
Business & Money
Why May 2015 is the best month in years to work in France
Five great outdoor bars in Paris to check out this summer
Double standards? French Muslim barred from class over long skirt
National
France goes on the defensive after UN experts say 'racism is trivialised'
Five reasons we should be worried about France's new snooping laws
International
The French don't seem to care about the UK election and that's normal
Culture
Only in France? Naked comedian stuns French culture minister
Migrant camps spring up in the heart of Paris
International
France bags another fighter jet deal but should Paris thank the US?
Society
French elevator protocol: Greeting, flirting and yes, even sex
Travel
Getting from CDG airport to Paris by road should now be a lot quicker
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