You are here: Home » PTI Stories » National » News
Business Standard

Belgian Scientologists in 'no doubt' of beating fraud charges

AFP  |  Brussels 

The Belgian branch of the controversial Church of Scientology said today it had "no doubt" it would be cleared of fraud and extortion charges when it goes to court next week in a case that could see it banned in Belgium.

Championed by superstar members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology stirs sharp divisions -- critics decry it as a cult and a scam, while supporters say it offers much-needed spiritual support in a fast-changing world.

"The Church of Scientology goes to court with the firm intention of seeing the fundamental rights of its Belgian members finally recognised," it said in a statement.

"Not only does the Church contest the charges against it, which affect the fundamental rights of all Scientologists, it also intends to denounce the serious judicial abuses (against it) of the past 18 years," it said.

The charges are similar to others over the years, such as in France where Scientology is considered a cult and was fined thousands of euros (dollars) for taking advantage of vulnerable followers.

In Belgium, it faces an outright ban if the case, which opens Monday in Brussels, ends with a conviction on charges of fraud, extortion, running a criminal organisation and violating the right to privacy.

The Belgian authorities launched a first investigation in 1997 after several former members complained about its practices.

A second followed in 2008 when an employment agency charged that the church had made bogus job offers so as to draw in and recruit new members.

"Scientologists have no doubt the court will do its work with integrity and understanding so that, just as in Italy and Spain where we have been the object of the same campaign of accusations and false revelations, their good faith will be recognised," church spokesman Eric Roux said in the statement.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

It is recognised as a religion in the United States and in other countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden, and claims a worldwide membership of 12 million.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Fri, October 23 2015. 20:48 IST