Paris – The deputy mayor of Paris led a demonstration on Saturday outside the Paris offices of the Church of Scientology, saying she wanted to warn parents that children and teenagers may be attracted to such groups.
About 100 members of the Church of Scientology staged a counter-demonstration.
About 50 people joined Deputy Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s protest, according to a police count.
“We have a duty to tell the truth,” Hidalgo told France Info radio. “These movements are dangerous, we must explain why they are dangerous. We know that at the age at which your character is formed, notably during adolescence, you can fall into the hands of these movements. The problem is that you don’t come out unscathed.”
France has long had a contentious relationship with the Church of Scientology, which is seeking recognition as a legitimate religion in Europe. Hidalgo is president of a committee in France to monitor religious sects.
The Church of Scientology said that “a few virulently anti-religious politicians” were trying to stir up a protest against religious minorities, though ordinary French people have not joined in.
“We are seeing the latest attempt of a few ultra-secular people who are hiding behind their official titles to point a finger at religious and spiritual minorities,” said Church of Scientology spokesperson Agnes Bron.
The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, which counts actor Tom Cruise among its members, was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard. It teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems.