There is a reprieve for the French branch of the Church of Scientology after a clause in a new law in France states it cannot be dissolved even if it is convicted of fraud.
The sect had been under threat of being forced to disband after a Paris court, last June, began hearing complaints by former members claiming they were conned into giving huge sums of money to the church for spiritual classes and so- called “Purification Packs”.
The news triggered a heated debate among French MPs. They demanded to know who was responsible for drafting the legislation with an amendment removing the legal power to dissolve an organisation, why the details were not scrutinised and how it came to be approved.
Politicians on the centre-right were defensive. MP Jean Christophe Lagarde said: “In almost 200 amendments, there is just one that relates to a very particular offence which is fraud by a corporate body – nobody thought that it would apply to a sect as in this case.”
MP Jean Pierre Brard was incredulous. “This whole thing is full of mistakes – files on Scientology which evaporate in the corridors of the Palais de Justice, Tom Cruise, who is the public face of Scientology, being invited to talks with a minister -and it goes on.”
The trial of six leading French Scientology members began last May. Prosecutors were calling for the organisation to be dissolved. But even if the controversial new law is changed it cannot be applied retrospectively.