A French government report has described the Church of Scientology as a dangerous organization that "threatens public order" and "human dignity" and has called for its dissolution.
The 60-page report, submitted Monday to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, described the US-based group as a "totalitarian" sect that keeps files containing personal information about its members.
French deputy Alain Vivien, head of a sect-busting government committee set up two years ago, said the committee had determined that the church's leaders in France were manipulated by their headquarters in Los Angeles. "The actions carried out by Scientologists chosen to operate within the Office of Special Affairs (the organization's intelligence service) seem to be controlled by the sect's headquarters in the United States and can be qualified as underground activities led from abroad," the report said. Vivien said that while the committee opposed a blanket ban on sects, it favoured dissolving "extremely dangerous" organisations including the Church of Scientology.
"When such organizations disrupt public order and violate human dignity, measures should be taken to disolve them," the report states. Also targetted by the commission as a dangerous organization that should be dissolved was the Order of the Solar Temple, founded in 1977 by Canadian Luc Jouret.
Seventy-four members of the sect died in presumed collective suicides in 1994 in Switzerland and Canada, in 1995 in France and in 1997 in Canada. The Church of Scientology has come under attack several times in France in recent years, with some of its members tried for fraud. Daniele Gounord, a spokeswoman for the sect in Paris, denounced the government report describing it as a "slap-dash Mickey Mouse job in which facts are pulled out of a hat."
"With this report, France has joined the ranks of banana republics," she said.
France, along with Germany, has come under repeated attack in the United States for labelling the Church of Scientology a sect. The church offers self-improvement on the basis of the writings of the late science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, who spelled out principles that he called scientology and dianetics.
Established in Los Angeles in 1954, the wealthy organisation claims eight million members worldwide, including Hollywood stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise. It has 30,000 members in France.