updated 8:03 a.m. ET, Tues., Oct . 27, 2009
PARIS - A Paris court on Tuesday convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud and fined it more than half a million euros — but stopped short of banning the group as requested by prosecutors.
The group's French branch immediately announced it would appeal the verdict.
The court convicted the Church of Scientology's French office, its library and six of its leaders of fraud. Investigators said the group pressured members into paying large sums of money for questionable financial gain and used "commercial harassment" against recruits.
I'm glad France and Germany are capable of distinguishing dangerous sects from more benign religious groups. We have a hard time doing that in the US for a variety of reasons.
It's true that lots of religious groups have strange ideas and may promote bigotry or backward ideas. Still, it's worth noting that many largely ignore their more unpleasant official teachings and spend most of their time trying to be helpful to those who seek them out.
Scientology is another kettle of fish. It's nothing like the typical religious groups most of us know from our communities. It's history reveals that the word "religion" is nothing more than a legal loophole --a protection from the IRS and scrutiny for fraudulent claims.
Which other religion has so many associated front groups? I find the effort to hide the connections between Scientology and the natural medicine movement and the anti-blasphemy or "hate speech" movements disturbing, particularly when these groups seem to have connections to the UN and human rights movements around the globe.