Scientology Crime Syndicate

"Journey to the Prison of the Mind"

Paris, France
September 21, 1999

In France a trial against the Scientology sect has caused a sensation - and aversion for its totalitarian methods.

by Juerg Schoch, Paris

The accusers had to wait ten years for the trial to open. Yet when it finally got that far on Monday morning in a Marseille court, the defense immediately tried to block the proceedings again. That hardly came as a surprise after everything which had occurred in the long period prior to the event.

The "Journey to the Prison of the Mind," as "Liberation" titled its perspective, began in the 1980s, when the Scientology "church" offered its services in Nizza and Marseille: individual sessions and lengthy courses were supposed to "purify" people plagued by worries and wants and transform them into a state of "clearness." They were indeed transformed, but not in that way, as the investigations have shown.

After having taken the services, some had to receive psychiatric treatment - and this was after they had paid a total of up to 35,000 franks for Scientology course fees. Which Scientology stated was the respectable net gain of a provider of healing. In 1989 the income of the Nizza branch alone reached 1.75 million franks.

Destroyed documents

That was the year in which the affair was kicked off. An "exhausted" doctor had signed up for treatment with the Scientologists and had made out a check for 33,150 franks. Afterwards he filed a charge of fraud. Other charges followed, although most of them were withdrawn after intimidations by threats from the "church." Today only two people are appearing as civil complainants. One of them is a young man who had belonged to the local Scientology staff in his time, and who therefore is familiar with its inner workings.

The Scientologists have done everything to sabotage the process. In 1995 the first trial had to be reheard due to procedural deficiencies. Before the second proceeding they had come down exceedingly hard on the court's personnel; outside of that an embarrassing event came to their assistance: it became known two weeks ago that a portion of the trial documents had been destroyed. It was immediately presumed that the adherents of the sect had infiltrated the Justice Department. An investigation by the Justice Ministry concluded that the documents had been mistakenly and wrongly done away with. The defense used the event as cause to apply for a postponement of the hearings. Whatever else, this would be extraordinarily troublesome.

According to a Parliamentary report, Scientology has about 10,00 adherents in France, nets at least 15 million franks a year, and operates five "churches," a book distributer, various associations and 114 businesses. There is ample evidence of infiltration. In a Parisian court case, documents also disappeared in an inexplicable manner.

Ban, dissolve or what?

Clarifications in the Palace of Justice have yielded that four or five of the 600 court personnel belong to sects which have been categorized as dangerous. The Chairman of the Interministerial Anti-Sect Committee, Alain Vivien, recently stated in a "Figaro" interview, "It has been stated, and has never been refuted, that the Scientologists managed to infiltrate the cabinet of a former state president. Attempts at infiltration into management of the arms bureaucracy have also been mentioned. . ." Vivien describes Scientology as a totalitarian movement which is trying to install elite units which are meant to govern the rest of humanity, the "happy slaves," as "church" founder Ron Hubbard called them.

It is relatively difficult for the French state to make a call in this situation. The strict separation between church and state is a fundamental principle. The central law from 1905 about secularism protects all areas of belief - under the provision, however, that these respect the public order. Therefore, the state cannot generally regulate the sect presence. But it can dissolve any organization which is dangerous. Vivien believes the Scientologists are one of these, as are the Solar Templists. And he can, as legal people have mentioned, deal harshly with any principle who misuses uncertainty or weakness in people. Now everything is riding on whether and how the seven accused in Marseille will be punished.


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