CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY DEFEATS ATTEMPT TO CURTAIL FREEDOM TO PRACTICE THE RELIGION IN FRANCE

October 28, 2009 at 3:49 am (ban, Church of Scientology, Human Rights) (, , , , , )

http://www.westender.com.au/news/693

The Paris Correctional Court has rejected the recommendations of prosecutors in a case against a Paris Scientology Church, a Scientology bookstore and six individual Church members.  The Court cited the absence of any complainants coming forward despite the intense media surrounding the trial and that the defendants had acted out of sincere religious conviction as reasons for refusing the draconian sanctions sought by the government.  The Court imposed no restrictions on the Church’s activities.

Throughout the month-long trial held in May and June 2009, the Church decried the case as a heresy trial and an example of the discriminatory treatment to which new religious movements are treated in France—treatment that has been condemned by international human rights bodies.  In its annual International Religious Freedom Report issued on October 26, 2009 the United States State Department said that “discriminatory treatment” of Scientologists in France “remained a concern.”

The case arose out of the five-month participation in Scientology religious practices in 1998 by the main civil party.  This included studying Scientology Scriptures and receiving spiritual counseling. The donations made by the plaintiffs were returned to them in full well before any case was heard.  In 2006, the prosecutor recommended the case be dismissed because there was no evidence of any wrongdoing and because all donations had been returned.

Instead, the court succumbed to pressure from anti-religious extremists in government and turned it into a heresy trial in violation of the rights of the Scientologists under French law and under the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is in marked contrast to the treatment of Scientology in other countries where Scientology is formally recognized as a religion. The European Court of Human Rights has on two recent occasions found that Churches of Scientology in Russia are entitled to the protection of religious freedom guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Today’s decision means that Scientologists remain free to practice their religion in France, despite the best efforts to the contrary by anti-religious extremists.  While the fines and suspended sentences issued by the Court will be appealed, they will have no effect on Church activities and the rapid expansion the Church is experiencing will continue.

The Church of Scientology has grown from one Church in 1954 to more than 8,000 Churches, Missions and groups in 165 countries today.  The Church sponsors an international human rights education initiative as well as the world’s largest non-governmental drug education program.  Four new Churches have opened in 2009, most recently the Church of Scientology of Rome on October 24, with a new Church opening in Washington, DC, on October 31. In April, three new Churches were dedicated: in Malmo, Sweden; Dallas, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee. The Scientology religion has expanded more in the past year than in the past five years combined and more in the past five years than in the past five decades combined.

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