Scientology Controversies - Allegations of Criminality; Criminal Convictions of Members

Allegations of Criminality; Criminal Convictions of Members

Much of the controversy surrounding Scientology is reflected in the long list of legal incidents associated with the organization including the criminal convictions of core members of the Scientology organization.

In 1978, a number of Scientologists including L. Ron Hubbard's wife Mary Sue Hubbard (who was second in command in the organization at the time) were convicted of perpetrating the largest incident of domestic espionage in the history of the United States called "Operation Snow White". This involved infiltrating, wiretapping, and stealing documents from the offices of Federal attorneys and the Internal Revenue Service. The judge who convicted Mrs. Hubbard and ten accomplices described their attempt to plead freedom of religion in defense:

It is interesting to note that the founder of their organization, unindicted co-conspirator L. Ron Hubbard, wrote in his dictionary entitled Modern Management Technology Defined...that 'truth is what is true for you.' Thus, with the founder's blessings they could wantonly commit perjury as long as it was in the interest of Scientology.

The defendants rewarded criminal activities that ended in success and sternly rebuked those that failed. The standards of human conduct embodied in such practices represent no less than the absolute perversion of any known ethical value system.

In view of this, it defies the imagination that these defendants have the unmitigated audacity to seek to defend their actions in the name of religion.

That these defendants now attempt to hide behind the sacred principles of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right to privacy -- which principles they repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to violate with impunity -- adds insult to the injuries which they have inflicted on every element of society.

Eleven church staff members including Mary Sue Hubbard and other highly-placed officials, pleaded guilty or were convicted in federal court based on evidence seized in the raids and received sentences from two to six years (some suspended).

Other noteworthy incidents involving criminal accusations and prosecutions against the Church of Scientology include:

  • On January 4, 1963, more than one hundred E-meters were seized by US marshals at the "Founding Church of Scientology" building, now known as the L. Ron Hubbard House, located in Washington, D.C. The church was accused of making false claims that the devices effectively treated some 70 percent of all physical and mental illness. The FDA also charged that the devices did not bear adequate directions for treating the conditions for which they were recommended.
  • In 1978, L. Ron Hubbard was convicted in absentia by French authorities of engaging in fraud, fined 35,000 francs, and sentenced to four years in prison. The head of the French Church of Scientology was convicted at the same trial and given a suspended one-year prison sentence.
  • The FBI raid on the Church's headquarters revealed documentation that detailed Scientology actions against various critics of the organization. Among these documents was a plan to frame Gabe Cazares, the mayor of Clearwater, Florida, with a staged hit-and-run accident. Also, plans were made to discredit the skeptical organization CSICOP by spreading rumors that it was a front for the CIA, and a project called "Operation Freakout" which aimed at ruining the life of Paulette Cooper, author of an early book critical of the movement, The Scandal of Scientology.
  • In 1988, the government of Spain arrested Scientology president Heber Jentzsch and ten other members of the organization on various charges including illicit association, coercion, fraud, and labor law violations. Jentzsch jumped bail, leaving Spain and returning to the United States after Scientology paid a bail bond of approximately $1 million, and he has not returned to the country since. Scientology fought the charges in court for fourteen years, until the case was finally dismissed in 2002.
  • The Church of Scientology is the only religious organization in Canada to be convicted on the charge of breaching the public trust: The Queen v. Church of Scientology of Toronto, et al. (1992)
  • In France, several officials of the Church of Scientology were convicted of embezzlement in 2001. The Church was listed as a "dangerous cult" in a parliamentary report. In May 2009 a trial commenced in France against Scientology, accusing it of organised fraud. The case focussed on a complaint by a woman who says that after being offered a free personality test, she was pressured into paying large sums of money. The church is regarded as a sect in France. The result of the trial was that two branches of the organisation and several of its leaders have been found guilty of fraud and fined. Alain Rosenberg, the group's head in France, received a two year suspended jail sentence.
  • The Church of Scientology long considered the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) as one of its most important enemies, and many Scientology publications during the 1980s and 1990s cast CAN (and its spokesperson at the time, Cynthia Kisser) in an unfriendly light, accusing the cult-watchdog organization of various criminal activities. After CAN was forced into bankruptcy and taken over by Scientologists in the late 1990s, Scientology proudly proclaimed this as one of its greatest victories.
  • In Belgium, after a judicial investigation since 1997, a trial against the organization is due to begin in 2008. Charges include formation of a criminal organization, the unlawful exercise of medicine, and fraud.
  • In the United Kingdom the church has been accused of "grooming" City of London Police officers with gifts worth thousands of pounds.
  • In Australia, Scientology has been temporarily banned in the 1960s in three out of six states; the use of the E-meter was similarly banned in Victoria. In Victoria, Scientology was investigated by the state Government. In the conclusion to his report written as part of this investigation, Kevin Victor Anderson, Q.C. stated "Scientology is a delusional belief system, based on fiction and fallacies and propagated by falsehood and deception". The report was later overturned by the High Court of Australia, which compelled the states to recognize Scientology as a religion for purposes of payroll taxes, stating "Regardless of whether the members of are gullible or misled or whether the practices of Scientology are harmful or objectionable, the evidence, in our view, establishes that Scientology must, for relevant purposes, be accepted as "a religion" in Victoria."
  • In 2009, a Paris court found the French Church of Scientology guilty of organized fraud and imposed a fine of nearly US$900,000. The prosecution had asked for the Church to be banned, but a recent change in legislation made this impossible. The case had been brought by two ex-members who said they had been pressured into spending large amounts of money on Scientology courses and other services. Commenting on the verdict, the plaintiffs' attorney said, "It’s the first time in France that the entity of the Church of Scientology is condemned for fraud as an organized gang." A Scientology spokesperson likened the judgment to "an Inquisition for modern times" and said the Church would appeal.

Read more about this topic:  Scientology Controversies

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