• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
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

Dan MacGuill · 16 Oct 2013, 15:31

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

Story continues below…

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
No time to lose in Libya says French FM
Forces loyal to Libya's Islamist-backed General National Congress prepare to launch an attack on the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte in March 2015. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

No time to lose in Libya says French FM
8 hours ago

Libya's parliament has given itself until Sunday to form a unity government.

France's 104-year-old twins say closeness key
Twins Paulette Olivier and Simone Thiot at their retirement home in Onzain. Photo: Gillaume Souvant/AFP

France's 104-year-old twins say closeness key
14 hours ago

"We are still alive because we have always stayed close," says one. "We pity old people who are alone."

Survivors torn by Eagles of Death Metal Paris gig
Jesse Hughes (L) and Josh Homme of Eagles of Death Metal. Photo: AFP

Survivors torn by Eagles of Death Metal Paris gig
15 hours ago

"I like the symbolism of going but I will not risk fainting just to say I was there."

'Hyper-terrorism is here to stay,' says French PM
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls meets Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev in Munich. Photo: Christof Stache / AFP

'Hyper-terrorism is here to stay,' says French PM
16 hours ago

"Large-scale attacks. It's a certainty."

French turning to web to find love (but they won't admit it)
Photo: AFP

French turning to web to find love (but they won't admit it)
18 hours ago

A new survey shows the French are turning to dating apps more and more to find their lovers, although many won't admit it.

A French ministry for women, kids, cooking and cleaning?
Photo:AFP

A French ministry for women, kids, cooking and cleaning?
1 day ago

You might as well have a ministry for "women, kids, cooking and cleaning", angry French feminists tell the government after the latest reshuffle.

Facebook vs France
Facebook to face trial in France over nude painting
THe Gustave Courbet painting "The Origin of the World" Is it art or pornography? Photo: AFP

Facebook to face trial in France over nude painting
1 day ago

Is it art or pornography? A huge row over the posting on Facebook of a famous painting of female genitalia will be thrashed out in a French court after a landmark ruling on Friday.

IN IMAGES: Bordeaux floods after heavy rain in south west
Photo: Laure Urbano/twitter

IN IMAGES: Bordeaux floods after heavy rain in south west
1 day ago

See what happens when the mighty Garonne river bursts its banks in Bordeaux on Friday.

France fires warning to Britain over eurozone veto
David Cameron and Francois Hollande. Photo: AFP

France fires warning to Britain over eurozone veto
1 day ago

France warned Britain on Friday it could not expect to win veto powers over closer integration of the eurozone single currency area in talks on its own future in the EU.

Revealed: The real romantic spots in Paris
Photo: Flickr/Damien Roué

Revealed: The real romantic spots in Paris
1 day ago

If you had to pick the most romantic spot in Paris, which would it be? See what a group of Paris-based writers went for when we asked them.

Sponsored Article
US taxes and FATCA: 'The time for hiding is over'
Lifestyle
Forget the EIffel Tower - Revealed: The real romantic spots in Paris
Sponsored Article
Back to Boho chic: Win your new season wardrobe
DNA tests on bomb vest suggest unknown Paris attacker still at large
Gallery
Ten expat complaints about their French lovers
Gallery
French expressions for having sex you won't find in your dictionary
What happened to liberté, égalité, fraternité in France?
'France just isn't what it was and it needs guns,' says Donald Trump
Features
Notre-Dame-des-Landes: Does France really need a new airport?
National
France's deadliest coach crashes since 1973
Business & Money
Champagne and cognac lead record French alcohol exports
Politics
Scandals and deals: Fabius bows out (but he won't be short of cash)
Society
The English called 'barbarians' after this 'massacre' of French crepes
National
This terrifying video shows why you should avoid the sea during a storm
Lifestyle
A closer look at the 11 different American expats you'll meet in France
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is a great place to work
Politics
Why France is unlikely to force UK to move border back home
Society
The French foods you need to eat (in moderation) to stay healthy
Lifestyle
So where do all the Americans live in France and where do they avoid?
Public warned as gale force winds and giant waves lash the French coastline
Lifestyle
How Paris plans to become a 'model' of cleanliness - that's not a joke
Only in France - Pig's entrails, cheese and steak sold in vending machines
Travel
Wait... that's not snow! Check out France's most unique ski slope
Culture
Don't panic, France isn't bidding a final adieu to the circumflex
Culture
VIDEO: UK group performs Shakespeare for Calais refugees
3,412
jobs available