• 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
Paris is pricey, but is that good news for Parisians?
Paris is pricey but it's not all bad news. Photo: AFP

Paris is pricey, but is that good news for Parisians?

Paris has once again been named the world’s second most expensive city in a global study this week, meaning it's pricier than the likes of Oslo, Zurich and Sydney. But those behind the report say it's not all bad news for people living in the French capital. READ  

France hunts men behind 1982 Jewish diner attack
The scene after the bombing at the Chez Jo Godenberg restaurant in 1982 that left six people dead. Photo: AFP

France hunts men behind 1982 Jewish diner attack

France has issued international arrest warrants for three men suspected of involvement in a deadly attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris in 1982, a judicial source told AFP on Wednesday. READ  

France 'violates treaty on smacking children'
France is in violation of a treaty because it doesn't fully ban smacking. Photo: Shutterstock

France 'violates treaty on smacking children'

A top European human rights watchdog gave France a stern telling off on Wednesday ruling that the country was in violation of a European treaty because it did not fully ban the smacking of children. READ  

More drones give Paris police the run around
Drones have been spotted over Paris several times in the last two weeks. Photo: David Rodriguez Martin/Flickr

More drones give Paris police the run around

As many as ten drones were seen flying over Paris on Tuesday, with police chasing one through the streets of the capital before being given the slip by the unmanned aircraft. It’s just the latest in a series of baffling overflights. READ  

Ukraine crisis
France demands reaction if Ukraine truce violated
President François Hollande eyes up Russian leader Vladimir Putin after talks in Minsk earlier this month. Photo: AFP

France demands reaction if Ukraine truce violated

France and other western countries are calling for a "strong reaction" from the international community if a major violation of a truce in Ukraine occurs, the French presidency said after video conference talks. READ  

Hollande plans historic visit to communist Cuba
President François Hollande has done a fair amount of travelling in his time as head of state, including a trip to Kazakhstan. Photo: AFP/press office

Hollande plans historic visit to communist Cuba

President François Hollande will make the first ever visit by a French head of state to Cuba in May in the latest sign of a thaw between the isolated communist nation and Europe and the United States. READ  

UK earns €1 billion from selling Eurostar stake
Britain has sold its stake in Eurostar for a cool €1billion. But the French are not the buyers. Photo: Andrew Cowie/AFP

UK earns €1 billion from selling Eurostar stake

The British government will be happily counting the cash on Wednesday after it reached an agreement to sell its entire Eurostar stake for a much higher price than initially expected. The deal will bring in a cool €1 billion for state coffers. READ  

French job agency offers vacancies for porn stars
Did French porn star Jade Laroche, seen posing here at Cannes find a job through the Pôle Emploi? Photo: AFP

French job agency offers vacancies for porn stars

Who says there are no jobs in France? France's national employment agency Pôle Emploi has been ridiculed after publishing a job advert from a company looking for male and female porn actors, who've "dreamed about becoming stars". Beginners are welcome to apply. READ  

French union announces plans for new rail strike
A worker at state-run rail operator SNCF lights a flare in the 2014 strikes. Photo: AFP

French union announces plans for new rail strike

A French union has announced plans to hold a one-day rail strike next week in a protest of the same issues that resulted in last year's 12-day strike, which crippled France's transport system. READ  

Frenchmen top the tables in new 'manhood' study
French men came first in the new study. Photo: Shutterstock

Frenchmen top the tables in new 'manhood' study

Frenchmen had more reason than normal to feel proud on Tuesday thanks to a new study, which found their manhoods were lengthier than those of every other nationality in the survey. But do our Gallic friends really have reason to gloat? READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Latest job vacancies in France: Porn stars - 'Beginners welcome'
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in France
Society
Who are these two children found by a homeless man in France?
National
From planes to 1,000 cows - France's most controversial building projects
National
Time to move home? Pyrenees hamlet cut off after massive mudslide
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
Over 200 skeletons found in mass grave under Paris supermarket
Culture
Madonna has compared France and Europe to Nazi Germany
Culture
Are you also unimpressed by your French boss?
National
UK councillor blasted for 250km French commute
National
Say it with Nutella: Except the words 'lesbian', 'Muslim' and many more
Culture
Looking for something different to do in France in March? Here's 10 ideas
National
How can France enforce a no-drone zone over Paris?
Gallery
Here's how to be cool in Paris, according to Parisians
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best one to work in?
National
Why do so many women in France smoke throughout their pregnancy?
National
VIDEO: Banned but beautiful - Paris seen through the eyes of a drone
National
Would you want this Frenchman to squeal at YOUR wedding?
National
'We're back' - Charlie Hebdo magazine returns with a bite
Society
Handsome men on the Paris Metro are unknowingly going viral
Society
What are the little things that make France so different?
National
Should we be worried about drones being flown over Paris?
Travel
Another deadly avalanche in the French Alps
National
Text offences: Why French workers need to watch out in future
Gallery
Mont-Saint-Michel cut off as 'supertide' season opens in France
Gallery
Ten great moments for France throughout Oscar history
Culture
Anglo-French marriage problems begin long before anyone says 'Oui'
Travel
'The stars are aligned': Why now is the time to buy a house in France
National
IN PICTURES: 'Supertide' brings crowds to the French coast
Gallery
French property Face-off: Two luxury chalets in the French Alps
Travel
French coastal towns are braced for the 'tide of the century'
Politics
Socialist rebel MPs are angry but not ready to topple French government
Society
France to welcome another US fast food giant
Culture
Les Entrepreneurs: How to watch Paris theatre shows in English
Culture
So where are all these swinging sex clubs in Paris?
Sport
VIDEO: 'We're racist' - Chelsea fans push black man off Paris Metro
Culture
Sex clubs touted as latest fashion in Paris
Culture
In pictures: The ever-colourful Dunkirk carnival
National
Do you worry about your French accent? Perhaps you have no need to
National
VIDEO: 'Fear and loathing' - Being a Jew in Paris
National
Why the DSK trial could spell bad news for French prostitutes
Society
The sorry recent history of anti-Semitic attacks in France
National
'Je suis Danois' - Paris shows solidarity with Copenhagen
Culture
Obituary: Louis Jourdan - The actor who embodied French elegance
National
France outraged after hundreds of Jewish tombs vandalised
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
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