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French Court Upholds $800,000 Fraud Fine Against Church of Scientology

French Court Upholds $800,000 Fraud Fine Against Church of Scientology

The highest appellate court in France has upheld a 2009 ruling against the Church of Scientology wherein the controversial sect had to pay a fraud fine of about $822,000 (€600,000).

The Cour de Cassation upheld a ruling that the Scientology leadership was guilty of fraud that involved taking advantage of followers through various practices.

In contrast to the United States, French law has different standards for religious groups, with entities that are classified as cults being given fewer rights than entities classified as religions.

Scientology is classified as a cult by the government and therefore was denied an appeal on the argument that their religious liberties had been violated.

In a statement released in response to the decision, the California-based Scientology group decried the Cour de Cassation's decision as, among other things, "an affront to justice and religious liberty," "anti-religious extremism," and "a heresy trial."

"The Court failed to address the fundamental violations of the human rights of each of the defendants that infected every level of this case," reads the statement in part.

In 2009, the Church of Scientology found itself before a French court over the allegation that it was illegally taking advantage of its followers.

Scientology has a "Celebrity Centre" in France, as well as a bookshop in Paris and reportedly about 45,000 adherents in the European nation.

The case regarded allegations by multiple plaintiffs that the Church was manipulating and preying upon followers both financially and psychologically, according to the UK Telegraph.

"The charges, which also include claims of illegally prescribing drugs, were filed by France's professional pharmaceutical association and two women who accuse the Scientologists of bringing about their financial ruin," wrote Henry Samuel of the Telegraph.

"Three other former Scientologists retracted their complaints after reportedly reaching an out-of-court financial settlement with the church."

Georges Fenech, a lawmaker who heads a parliamentary group on religious cults in France, expressed support for the Cour de Cassation decision in a statement.

"Far from being a violation of freedom of religion, as this American organization contends, this decision lifts the veil on the illegal and highly detrimental practices [of Scientology]," said Fenech.

The Church of Scientology has stated that they will appeal the decision before the European Court of Human Rights.