A French court of appeals upheld a fraud conviction against the Church of Scientology, confirming that the organization (relegated to cult status in France) had manipulated and deceived its followers into paying money for its dubious services. Stopping short of shutting down the French wing of Scientology, the conviction requires that nearly a million dollars be paid out to at least two French victims of fraud for various activities limited to the 1990s.
Representatives for the Church of Scientology, in a statement as clunky as Hubbard’s novels, tried to make the claim that this was a case of religious persecution:
The Court failed to address the fundamental violations of the human rights of each of the defendants that infected every level of this case.
Huh? The defendants infected every level of this case? Infected them like body thetans, I bet.
Anyway, France rightly classifies Scientology as a cult. This “religion” is absurd almost beyond parody. It is actually difficult to state its tenets without exclaiming, “Wait. People actually believe this?!” An episode of South Park satirizing Scientology often had the subtitle “This is what Scientologists actually believe” at the bottom of the screen. In other words, Scientology is a parody of itself.
Like “As Seen on TV” commercials, snake oil sales pitches, and televangelist pledge drives, Scientology has harnessed the incredible gullibility of the general public for its own financial gain. If someone told me that I was “infected” by invisible, undetectable traces of alien trauma, and that they could heal me (for a small fee of course) of the inimical effects of that 75-million-year-old, malicious, alien tampering with an untestable process first developed by a science-fiction writer, I don’t think my first reaction would be to reach for my wallet. One can hardly feel bad for people who join a religion that has a fee-for-service practice as its foundational “religious” activity.
And yet, since we have a sucker born every minute, I imagine that fraudulent institutions that espouse worthless ideologies and prey on the weak-minded will continue in perpetuity. I mean, Washington and the Federal Reserve are still standing, right?