The Church of Scientology in France has gone on trial accused of fraud in a case which could see the organisation banned.
Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated charges of being a money-making cult. The Church is said to have illegally charged people thousands of euros to use it for bogus tests and cures. Olivier Maurice, lawyer for those prosecuting, said “if the church’s methods prove to be crooked then we must ask serious questions about whether it can be allowed to remain in business on French high streets.” The case centres on a complaint made by a woman who claims she paid 21,000 euros for books, purification packs and saunas after she was persuaded to take a personality test. Scientology has faced numerous setbacks in France with members convicted of fraud and violating privacy laws. But Patrick Maisonneuve, the lawyer defending the church said: “the alleged actions of a few bad apples cannot be allowed to ruin the whole church.” If found guilty, the Church, which has no legal protection as a religion in France, could be fined five million euros and ordered to shut down its practices across the country.