Church of Scientology fights its conviction on fraud in Paris appeals court

The appeal for the Church of Scientology’s conviction on fraud has opened in a Paris court.

In October 2009 a French court convicted the Church of Scientology and six of its members of organized fraud, but stopped short of banning the church.

CNN, October 27, 2009

At the time officials voiced regret that a recent change in the law prevented France from banning the controversial cult outright.

France is one of many countries that does not consider Scientology to be a religion.

The Daily Mail said

The case centres on a complaint made in 1998 by a woman who said she was enrolled into Scientology after members approached her in the street and persuaded her to do a personality test.

In the following months, she paid more than €21,000 for books, ‘purification packs’ of vitamins, sauna sessions and an ‘e-meter’ to measure her spiritual progress, she said.

Other complaints then surfaced. The five original plaintiffs – three of whom withdrew after reaching a financial settlement with the Church of Scientology – said they spent up to hundreds of thousands of euros on similar tests and ‘cures’.

They told investigators that Scientology members harassed them with phone calls and nightly visits to cajole them into paying their bills or taking out bank loans.

The plaintiffs were described as ‘vulnerable’ by psychological experts in the case. […]

Investigating judge Jean-Christophe Hullin spent years examining the group’s activities, and in his indictment criticized practices he said were aimed at extracting large sums of money from members and plunging them into a ‘state of subjection’.

The investigator questioned what he called the Scientologists’ ‘obsession’ with financial gain, and the group’s practice of selling vitamins, leading to the charge of ‘acting illegally as a pharmacy’.

The Church of Scientology’s French branch, its bookstore and six of the movement’s leaders were convicte of organized fraud.

The Associated Press says

The group and bookstore were fined €600,000 ($830,000). Four leaders were given suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. Two others were also fined.

Defense lawyers for the church plan to argue during the appeal, which opened Thursday, that the conviction curtails freedom of religion and association.

Regarding the appeal, RFI reports

Olivier Morice, lawyer for Unadfi, an organisation which campaigns against sects, said he wants to the trial to include evidence about the methods and techniques of the Scientology movement, which, he said, are those of organised fraud.

“For us, Scientology is a business, whose main goal is to elicit money from its followers,” he told reporters outside the court.

The publishers of Religion News Blog consider the Church of Scientology to be a destructive cult and — based on its attitude and behavior toward ex-members and other critics — as a hate group as well.

Information about Scientology

French full veil ban goes into force

France has officially banned women from wearing full-face veils in public places, with a controversial new law coming into effect today, AFP says

Other European countries have drawn up bans on the burqa and the niqab but France – home to Europe’s biggest Muslim population – is the first to risk stirring social tensions by putting one into practice.

The law comes into effect at an already fraught moment in relations between the state and France’s Muslim minority, with President Nicolas Sarkozy accused of stigmatising Islam to win back votes from a resurgent far right.

French officials estimate that only about 2000 women, from a total Muslim population estimated at between four and six million, wear the full-face veils that are traditional in parts of Arabia and South Asia.

But many Muslims and rights watchdogs accuse the rightwing president of targeting one of France’s most vulnerable groups to signal to anti-immigration voters that he shares their fear that Islam is a threat to French culture.

CNN reports:

The law imposes a fine of 150 euros ($190). The person breaking the law can be asked to carry out public service duty as part of the punishment or as an alternative to the fine.

The law was passed in [September] but included a six-month period to inform people of the penalty before it went into effect.

Penalties for forcing a person to wear a burqa are part of the law, and they became effective immediately in October.

Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa is punishable by a year in prison and a 30,000 euro fine (about $43,400). Forcing a minor to do the same thing is punishable by two years in prison and a fine of 60,000 euros.

The government has called this coercion “a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil.”

The practice has sparked a debate over religious freedom. The French Constitutional Council said the law did not impose disproportionate punishments or prevent the free exercise of religion in a place of worship, finding therefore that “the law conforms to the Constitution.”

“Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place,” the French government said when it sent the measure to parliament in May of last year.

Lawmakers have also cited security reasons for forbidding people from covering their faces in public.

French people backed the ban by a margin of more than four to one, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found in a survey last year.

There is nothing in the Qu’ran that prescribed full face veils like the Burqa and the Niqab. In a number of Muslim countries full face veils are either frowned upon or banned — the later more of then not only in public buildings and schools.

Many Europeans feel that by wearing full face veils Muslim women ostracize themselves from society.

In addition, some Muslim men have forced their wives to wear veils. There are fears that a ban on wearing veils in public may lead some Muslim men to forbid their wives from leaving their homes.

Our view
The Quran does not prescribed full face coverings. Even if it did, religious freedom has its limits.

For instance, civilized countries also prohibit Muslims from applying Sharia (Islamic law) punishments such as amputation of hands and/or feet, whippings, stonings and other barbaric behavior.

Many Western countries already have security laws banning full face coverings. In our opinion these laws should extend to the Burqa and the Niqab.

While Muslims should be welcome to practice their religion, religious practices that have a significant negative impact on a country’s social or cultural fabric should be discouraged or banned.

Why Muslim women wear the veil
Widespread Support for Banning Full Islamic Veil in Western Europe; Most Americans Disapprove

France raised Muslim terror threat alert

France has stepped up its vigilance against terror threats, a top official announced Monday amid reports of various new threats, including one against the Paris transport network.

In the last few days, there has been a false bomb alert at the Eiffel Tower and five French workers and two African colleagues have been kidnapped in Niger, part of the African turf of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Last week, the Senate voted to ban burqa-style Islamic veils in France, a subject that has prompted warnings by al-Qaeda‘s Maghreb group.

Here’s what you need to know about Islam and Terrorism. [Read more...]

French parliament adopts full face-veil ban

Niqab The French parliament passed a law Tuesday prohibiting wearing a full-face veil in public, meaning a ban will come into force early next year if it is not overturned by senior judges.

The Senate passed the bill by 246 votes to one. The bill already cleared the lower house in July, and will now be reviewed by the Constitutional Council, which has a month to confirm its legality. [Read more...]