Belgium to Charge Scientology with Fraud and Extortion

Posted by Jim Newman on December 31st, 2012 – 3 Comments – Posted in Scientology the cult

Europe is not tolerant of Scientology renamed the Church of Scientology with its wicked ways of cheating people. Belgium is to charge Scientology.

After a long lasting legal battle Belgium prosecutors demand to label the Church of Scientology as a criminal organization and charge it and its leaders with extortion, fraud, privacy breaches, and the illegal practice of medicine.

The subpoenas have been sent to the scientologists, the local financial newspaper De Tijd reported.

On 30 September 1999, 120 Belgian police officers raided 25 Scientology offices and seized tons of documents, which took the public prosecutor eight years to examine.

Eight long years of sifting through this crud to make a case. Belgium had tried to declaim Scientology as a church. Belgium makes official the protection of church organizations. You cannot just claim you are a church to receive state protection. Belgium has only a few protected churches: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, the Orthodox Church, Judaism and Islam. Belgium does not recognize many sects as protected churches.

Scientology, along with other churches such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [Mormons], Anthroposophy, Opus Dei and various Catholic and Protestant evangelical and Pentecostal groups, figures on an official Belgian list of “harmful sectarian organizations.”

Why not include fundamentalist Islamists and Christians? Belgium has received criticism for its lack of religious tolerance. A nonprotected church can limit a member’s ability to hold office or gain child custody.

 In divorce cases, courts sometimes deny child custody to a parent on grounds that he or she is affiliated with a “harmful sect.” In some cases, courts also grant a parent who is a member of a “sect” visitation rights on condition that he or she does not “expose” his or her child/children to the teachings or lifestyle of the religious group in question.

The tax department has denied the Japanese religious group Sukyo Malikari the right to exemption from property tax for its place of worship because it is included on the list of groups suspected of being “harmful sects.”

The US state department has deplored Belgium’s lack of tolerance, along with Germany and France. Immigrant religiosity in the US is and will be a voting bloc.

In Washington, the State Department said that if Belgian authorities “have evidence that individuals violated Belgian law, they should take appropriate legal steps consistent with Belgium’s international obligations to protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

“We would, however, oppose any effort to stigmatize an entire group based solely upon reglious beliefs and would be concerned over infringement of any individual’s rights because of religious affiliation,” the State Department spokesman’s office said.

While the state department can serve the idea of people and not groups being charged, it has both considered corporations as individuals, and racketeering as a crime of organized groups. Organized crime infiltrated the Teamster’s union back in 1927. The RICCO act was enforced through interstate and foreign commerce laws over racketeering, gambling, sex trade, and bribery. Group affiliation has definite legal ramifications in the US. I’m sure religious people in the US fear that if one church is examined for legality of its members as condoned by the church itself then why not another church, and why not so-called victims of a renegade church who unknowingly participate in illegal activities? Yet, just as a nonuser tolerating illegal drug use in their presence is illegal so is an individual participating in a church that promotes illegal practice. Gangs have had similar treatment.

Aside from group affiliation issues, the US has been lenient in determining whether a group is a church or not. It has examined closely Native American churches. Primarily because of their use of drugs and other illegal, though traditional, practices. The US did however examine Scientology as a group and supported its case by declaring the group a business.

The Church of Scientology battled the IRS for 25 years to regain its tax exemption after the IRS withdrew it 1967, claiming the organization was a commercial enterprise rather than a church. [30] The IRS decision was upheld by numerous courts, despite Scientology and its members bringing 2,200 lawsuits against the IRS and its officials over the course of the dispute. TheNew York Times revealed in Mar. 1997 that during Scientology’s campaign against the IRS, the organization’s lawyers had “hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of I.R.S. officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities.”

In 1991, the Scientology’s ecclesiastical leader David Miscavige met with then-IRS Commissioner Fred T. Goldberg Jr. and offered to call off the group’s lawsuits in exchange for regaining its tax-exempt status. The New York Times stated that in agreeing to Miscavige’s proposal, Goldberg “created a special committee to negotiate a settlement with Scientology outside normal agency procedures” and that IRS “tax analysts were ordered to ignore the substantive issues in reviewing the decision,” according to IRS files. In order to receive the exemption, Scientology agreed to pay the IRS $12.5 million and “agreed to more Federal Government intrusion than perhaps any religious organization has ever allowed.”

Rather than exert more energy in evaluating Scientology as a church, sect, or cult, Belgium is now pursuing Scientology from the purview of business practices, as a criminal organization.

The charges against the Church of Scientology stem from employment contracts issued to recruit volunteers and members allegedly breaching the country’s strict employment laws. In Belgium as in some other countries Scientology is not recognized as a faith.

In 2008 the Belgium Labor Mediation Service complained about number of labor contracts, prompting an investigation.

A judge then ordered raids on Scientology premises where police allegedly “managed to seize a wealth of evidence,” that the organization had spied on and extorted money from its members, the Flanders News reported.

Belgian authorities have been legally battling Scientologists since 2007, when the country tried to label the movement as a cult. Around the same time Belgian prosecutors ruled that the Belgian Church of Scientology, plus Scientology’s Office of Human Rights and their 12 members, should be charged with extortion, fraud, organized crime, illegal medical practice.

Scientology changed its name to Church of Scientology to emphasize its churchiness. Yet, its dogma states one can still be a member of another church. It also insists its literature and activities are science and not religious. Their book A Way to Happiness in particular insists its morality is common sense and not religious. Aside from this nonsense whether or not it cheats people is most pertinent.

They were accused of practicing medicine without a license and violating privacy laws.

The church described the case as a “witch hunt”, with vocal supporters in the US condemning the move.

No other large group calling itself a church has spent more time in court suing criticism, and spying and invading people’s lives.

An estimated 500 people belong to the church of Scientology in Belgium, where the government denied Scientology the status of religion in 1997.  The organization’s European headquarters are located in Brussels.

In 2009 the organization was convicted in France on fraud charges.

That conviction was upheld in a French appeals court in February 2012.

The Belgium case may be the successful way of stopping endemic fraud within scientology.

The Church of Scientology houses its European headquarters in Brussels, so a ban in Belgium could be crippling to the group — and authorities there seem to know it. One of the more similar recent cases against came in 2009, when the French chapter of Scientology was convicted of fraud by a Paris court and fined nearly $900,000. “But the judges did not ban the church entirely, as the prosecution had demanded, saying that a change in the law prevented such an action for fraud,”reported The New York Times‘s Steven Erlanger. So the French chapter got saved by a legal wrinkle, but the Belgian prosecutors don’t appear to be backing down.

If we could get the faith healers too…

Jim Newman, bright and well

www.frontiersofreason.com

  1. Phil Ferguson says:

    I love it! Great news. We need this everywhere!

  2. Guy200 says:

    Why can’t this happen in the USA ?

  3. Macleod says:

    Jim,

    What a positive thought for the new year! Oh man, if we as a society could have a serious discussion about tax-exempt status for churches it’d be a fabulous year. Just thinking about it gives me goose bumps. How much money could be collected if the government taxed churches like the businesses they are? Sure, allow exemptions for charitable work but come April 15th…

    Happy New Year,

    Macleod

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