Is the Church of Scientology a crock? Does the Pope shit in the woods? Apparently France answered yes to both those questions when some former church members brought suit alleging fraud against the French branch of the sect cult church.
Now, there are people out there who will doubtless say the French did what they always do, which is stop short of actually taking decisive action (legit). But hey, at least they gave it a shot. I mean, the Church of Scientology was founded by a guy who wrote bad science fiction and had an honorary Ph.D. (which he awarded himself) from Sequoia University, a now-defunct diploma mill, which he sort of founded. Where’s the controversy?
Anyway, enough context. Here’s what we found in the New York Times:
The [Paris] court convicted the Church of Scientology’s French office, its library and six of its leaders of organized fraud. Investigators said the group pressured members into paying large sums of money for questionable financial gain and used ”commercial harassment” against recruits.
The group was fined euro400,000 ($600,000) and the library euro200,000. Four of the leaders were given suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. The other two were given fines of euro1,000 and euro2,000.
However, the court did not order the Church of Scientology to shut down, ruling that it would be likely to continue its activities anyway ”outside any legal framework.”
Shocker that the French would use the old “Ah, if we ban ‘em they’ll do it in secret” routine. Hey, it’s more than we do in the U.S.
The verdict is ”an Inquisition of modern times,” said Scientology spokeswoman Agnes Bron, referring to efforts to rout out heretics of the Roman Catholic Church in centuries past.
The head of an association that helps victims of sects, Catherine Picard, called the verdict ”intelligent.”
”Scientology can no longer hide behind freedom of conscience,” she said.
The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has been active for decades in Europe, but has struggled to gain status as a religion. It is considered a sect in France and has faced prosecution and difficulties in registering its activities in many countries.
One could make the argument that Scientology is a religion and the French (and other Europeans) are unfairly bashing a legit outfit (much like the church’s spokeswoman claims — by the way, “Agnes Bron” is the greatest name for a spokeswoman, ever). All we’re saying is Scientology’s highest profile member is a high school graduate who claims to know the history of psychiatry. And jumps around a lot. And laughs for no apparent reason, all the time. We’re jus’ sayin’.
Yeesh. It’s been a bad week for Scientology. Paul Haggis bails because the church doesn’t like the gays, and head spokesman Tommy Davis leaves an interview with ABC’s Martin Bashir like a petulant child would.
Now the French get all French but do something…smart. Are we all, as Tom Cruise would say, glib? Or are we all all onto something here? Last one to the volcano’s an SP!