Paris refuses to recognise
Scientology as religion
By Marie-Benedicte Allaire
PARIS, July 30 (Reuter) - France's Socialist-led government ruled
out recognising the Church of Scientology as a religion on Wednesday
and criticised a French court for calling it a religion rather than a
Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said he was "the only
one with the authority to recognise religious associations."
"We have never had the idea of recognising the Church of
Scientology as a religious association," he said after a cabinet
A 1996 French parliamentary report described the group, founded
by late American science-fiction novelist L. Ron Hubbard in 1954, as a
"sect." Under French law, religions are non-profit groups and broadly
tax-exempt, but sects are not.
The organisation had hailed an appeals court ruling in Lyon,
central France, on Monday that "the Church of Scientology can
rightfully claim to be a religion."
That opinion was part of a judgment that acquitted nine people
and reduced sentences for six others linked to Scientology, including
the former head of the church in Lyon, who had been convicted on
charges of manslaughter and fraud.
Chevenement said Monday's ruling that Scientology was a religion
"has no legal value, it has no judicial consequences." He added that
France respected freedom of belief under a 1905 separation of church
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was following the debate about sects
and the Church of Scientology, government spokesman Catherine
Trautmann told reporters.
"This question worries the prime minister," she said, noting the
Lyon public prosecutor had appealed to the supreme court over Monday's
court ruling, accusing the judges of exceeding their powers. "So the
decision is not the final word," she said.
France's neighbour Germany also does not recognise Scientology as
a religion. Scientologists there say they are discriminated against by
some local or regional authorities who exclude them from public
employment or contracts.
Members of the church pay for courses of "purification" and
self-knowledge to overcome personal problems which Scientology says
are linked to disembodied souls brought to the planet millions of
In the United States, the head of the Church of Scientology,
Heber Jentzsch, called the Lyon ruling "a dream come true for my
church and minority religions."
Church opponents stressed that the court had upheld convictions,
albeit reduced, against six Scientologists including the ex-head of
the Lyon branch, Jean-Jacques Mazier.
The Lyon court handed Mazier a three-year suspended term and
fined him 500,000 francs ($80,000) after 31-year-old church follower
Patrice Vic committed suicide in 1988 by throwing himself out of a
A lower court had sentenced Mazier in October to 18 months in
jail with another 18 months suspended, ruling that he had put
intolerable pressure on Vic to find cash to pay for Scientology
Members of the church include Hollywood film stars Tom Cruise and
his wife Nicole Kidman, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Lisa Marie
Presley, daughter of late rock star Elvis Presley.
Here some extracts from some other newspapers: Title page 1: Scientology: the juridical debate keeps on Title Page 5: Scientology and Justice: a problem of competence (Le Progrès Lyon, July 30th page 1 and 5) While the sentence of Lyon's Court of Appeal, allowing church of scientology to develop "in complete freedom" in France, has been greeted as a "spectacular victory" by its adepts, many VIPs and associations kept on questioning yesterday about a Court's competency to decide upon religious character (or unreligious one) of any organization. The Parquet Général (général court) decided then to send the sentence in Cassation Court. Page 5 (part): (presentation of Hubbard,his photo; his receipts to get a better living and doubts) (presentation of scientology, of its dilution of responsabilities to protect the global organization, estimated riches of 750 millions francs (130 million US$)and : "For the expert Dr Jean Marie Abgrall, [scientology] is only a mental manipulation by the way of a progressive in time indoctrination's technique, coming within a plan of destabilization of the individual, who is then reconditioned in new norms". The Parquet Général de Lyon decided yesterday to send to Cassation Court the sentence of Appeal court given yesterday, this one allowing scientology to "claim the religion title and develop freely, into the existing laws rules, its activities, including missionary ones or dissemination's ones." ... The sentence, greeted as a spectacular victory by some american scientologists, has been greeted by an avalanche of reverse reactions in France. The Special Reporter on Sects from National Chamber of Deputies, Jacques GUYARD (Socialist) , wrote to the Minister of Justice, Elisabeth Guigou, to ask her to intervene near the Courts to recall them "that they did not have any ability to decide upon the religious or not religious characterizations of any organization". "The Court of Appeal commited a strong competence's abuse", estimated M. Guyard, who recalls that 1905 Law providing a special procedure to decide of special fiscal status for cultual recognized associations. This procedure is of Interrior Affair's Competency, and, for communities, depends from Le Conseil de l'Etat (State's General Council) , said M. Guyard. His opinion is strongly shared by Roger Ikor, anti-cults association chief, and by the judge George Fenech (APM Droite), who had instructed the scientology justice folder in Lyon. For M. Brard, member of Ministerial Office of Cults' Observation, "church of scientology get from this judgement a true moral caution, dangerous in its principle and effects, by seeing this religious status recognized." Remembering then that 1905 Law does not recognize any cult, the Montreuil's Mayor asserts that "scientology is a sect (cult) whose activities have many time been sentenced (for frauds, illegal medecine or illegal pharmacy, and homicide) and that its dangerous character has been - on many accounts - been underlined, including by the Chamber of Deputies in its action against sectarian phenomenon." ... (also said is the Deutsch campaign against scienos) ------------------------- In Liberation, July 29th (Liberation is a largely known center-left newspaper) ...."Outside of Appeal Court, the father of Patrice Vic [the suicided person following hard'selling techniques by Lyon's Mission 's patron, Mazier] has flown into rage ; "Thieves, murderers, you are ruining your customers and are pushing them to suicide! there is no longer any justice..."... this angry reaction was shared by M. Brard, M. Alain Gest and M. Jacques Guyard, co-authors of the Special Report on Cults in National Chamber of Deputies. ... "This decision shows once again that Scientology disposes of a real power into financial, administration's, political or juridical circles." ... "Jurists and Judges remain here into the "dangerousness" of movements and into the hindrances regarding freedoms, and come in action only when the practices comes under the law. This can lead to movement's dissolution. [I must recall here that Scientology has been already stopped and erased by justice in 1979, but at the time, the kriminal kult had immediately redone its own association under another wording... and kept on , which had been immediatley shown into Le Monde ,one the most known info newspapers, but not followed from any action from the Paris' Prefecture, the main administrative Corps for a French Department in the association's authorizations] ... ----------------------- From Le Progrès, July 29th: .... Often the honey taste can hide the potion's bitterness: If the judges of the 4th Appeal court recognized scientologists to develop their "missionary's activities", even their dissemination, this freedom has to be done into the law's respect. "It's possible, do they add, that some individuals are using a doctrine, in itself licit, for financial ends or to fraud other persons of good faith; that a cult's exercise can enter into fraud's manoeuvres from some members of that religion; that the application of those manoeuvres through a religious practice does not imply a value's judgement on the doctrine professed by that religion, but only the licitness of used methods". Said else, refusing to see into the L. Ron Hubbard's a delictuous manoeuvre, and according to its adepts, facing the community unifying them as well as their presumed shared beliefs, the Court decided to throw into the lake any idea of suiting a set of beliefs, to only judgement of a set of frauds' manoeuvres constituting the fraud misdemeanour: this was to get only the individual's in line with justice." TRUE MENTAL MANIPULATIONS/// The Court has retained some of those manoeuvres, especiailly two of them, used to make the recruiting of new adepts in the Dianetics Center - this one being under J.J. Mazier responsability in Lyon : ads for employment, and personnality tests. "Have therefore been proven characterized fraud's manoeuvres by a massive advertisement never speaking initially of scientology church, the proposing free personnality tests... those showing almost systematically very serious personal problems" Those fraud's manoeuvres had as main purpose to prove the existence of inexisting enterprises, here the Centre de Dianétique de Lyon or L'église de scientologie de Lyon, presented as institutes able, by L.Ron Hubbard's doctrines' application, to solve the pretended difficulties shown by the texts..." Magistrates denounce a true mental manipulation, whose main objective was the "riches hunting" of people. ...