There’s always been a lot of gossip and high-profile news around Scientology. Some say religion, some say cult. Brooke Shields speaks out again its ban on psychiatric medications on behalf of women with post-partum depression. Tom Cruise jumps up and down on Oprah’s couch: is he a man in love, or is he ecstatic because he’s moved up to a higher stage within the religion?
This week brings some especially rough news for Scientologists: the attempt to fine them, jail them and ban their religion outright.
France – where Scientology is not recognized by the state as a religion – leads the charge; Monday saw the start of a trial for fraud claims leveled against the Church’s French branch, a Scientology bookstore and several individual church members. Reports the New York Times:
“The church’s Paris headquarters and its bookshop are being sued for fraud while some leading members are charged with illegally practicing pharmacy, after complaints that new adherents were pushed into paying thousands of dollars for books, courses, vitamins and an electronic measurement to gauge spiritual progress.”
‘Investigating judge Jean-Christophe Hullin spent years examining the group’s activities, and in his indictment criticized practices he said were aimed at extracting large sums of money from members and plunging them into a “state of subjection.”
The investigator questioned what he called the Scientologists’ “obsession” with financial gain, and the group’s practice of selling vitamins, leading to the charge of “acting illegally as a pharmacy.”‘
Time magazine goes deeper, looking at whether this suit could lead to the complete dissolution of the Church in France in a fascinating piece.
France isn’t the only country looking at Scientology askance; many European countries, including Belgium and Germany, have long labeled the Church a cult. In fact, Germany is right behind France in looking at ways to get Scientologists out of their country. Their dislike of Scientology runs so strong that:
“Cruise’s involvement in Scientology, which is publicly considered a dangerous cult or sect throughout Germany, made it difficult for the filmmakers [of Valkyrie] to shoot at the historic Benderblock military compound where the conspirators were executed.”
(Permission was ultimately given.)
As if all that weren’t enough even Wikipedia – that bastion of democratic information-sharing – is banning Scientologists, reports Wired magazine:
“It’s a punishment for repeated and deceptive editing of articles related to the controversial religion. The landmark ruling comes from the inner circle of a site that prides itself on being open and inclusive. In a 10-1 ruling Thursday, the site’s arbitration council voted to ban users coming from all IP addresses owned by the Church of Scientology and its associates, and further banned a number of editors by name.”
I’m not sure how or if they can stop people from creating new log-ins from different IP addresses, but they’re definitely trying to crack down. (Although let it be acknowledged that Scientologists are far from being the only people to post self-serving information on Wikipedia.)
What’s your take?
Enjoy the weekend, and I’ll see you next Friday as always!