October 28, 2009

Church of Scientology convicted of fraud

by Benjamin Graham

The Church of Scientology has been convicted of fraud and ordered to pay a 600,000 euro fine by a Paris court.

The judge stopped short of banning the sect, a measure he could have taken under French law.

The fine was given over complaints by two women, one of whom claimed she was manipulated into paying more than 20,000 euros to the cult in the 1990s.

Alain Rosenberg, France’s head scientologist, was ordered to pay a fine of 20,000 euros and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

Three other leading members of the sect were also fined.

Georges Fenech, head of government cult-fighting unit Miviludes, said the ruling “condemned” the Church of Scientology for its fraudulent way of operating.

If the French branch of the Church starts starts “swindling” again, “they can be subject to dissolution in the future,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Church of Scientology condemned France for being “in the Dark Ages on the subject of religious tolerance.”

He added that the fines will get “thrown out on appeal” because the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees religious freedom.

Scientology, a recognised religion in the US, is only recognised as a sect under French law.

The group has around 45,000 members in France.

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

According to the sect’s teachings, technology can expand the human mind and help to solve personal problems.

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