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Monday, 25 May 2009

Scientology in the dock

Once again the church of Scientology faces a legal battle in France with the opening of a trial on Monday accusing the organisation of fraud.

It's a case which, should the courts rule against it, could result in the church receiving an outright ban here according to the headlines in many of the country's national daily newspapers.

This time around it's the church itself that's on trial, along with seven individuals charged with illegally prescribing medication that ordinarily can only be obtained with a prescription.

Although Scientology has faced French justice in the past, most often it has been individual defendants that have been on trial rather than the organisation itself.

At the centre of the current trial is a 43-year-old (unnamed) woman who claims the organisation "fraudulently" persuaded her to spend at least €20,000 on medication.

She maintains she was first offered a free personality by members of the church outside a metro station in the French capital back in 1998.

But over the months that followed, and after enrolling, she spent all her savings on "purification packs", books medicines and an "electrometre", an instrument which is supposedly used "to measure galvanic skin response in patients".

As far as the French media is concerned little debate is expected during the trial as to whether Scientology is a religion or a sect - under French law it is clearly defined as the latter.

Instead the case is expected to focus on whether it tries to make money fraudulently.

Unlike neighbouring Spain, which last year ruled that the church could in effect be officially recognised as a religion, France categorises Scientology as a commercial organisation.

It figures on a list of groups defined as "sects" and is under permanent government surveillance.

The current trial is expected to last three weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best of luck to French prosecutors. Scientology is a money making scam that pretends to be a religion in other countries to avoid criticism.

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