In a dim café not far from Radio House in Paris, I met Francois for the first time. A forty-something commercial director of a company that employs 200, he had the confidence of a man of his stature. Nevertheless, he was on his guard. It appeared that the man had taken hard the fact that he had recently been tricked by Scientology. He finally consented to tell his story, taking care to consider every one of his words.
"It was around the start of 1999 that I received a commercial advertisement for a new organization, Valgo France," he explained. "It talked about ideas I was researching for a planned restructuring of my entire company. So I made an appointment with Valgo. It was a Friday evening. The talk given by their founder, Jean Chevrot, convinced me and I asked him to make a written proposal. On Monday morning, I received the proposal along with a bill for the interview. Impressed by this quick response and the impressive presentation of the document, I decided to retain them to determine our initial needs. Thus, beginning in early February, the managers were trained in a method of recruitment, plus 120 sales people were instructed in sales methods, and finally, the entire firm was trained in the art of sales. I was satisfied with their presentation, even though I was surprised by certain comments by Chevrot that didn't follow from his discussions, for example his virulent opposition to psychologists. In May, Chevrot proposed to some of us that we do a personality assessment, and asked us to fill out a test containing 200 questions. Upon reading this, the co-president of my company reacted very angrily, and refused to answer it. She was shocked by some of the questions that pertained solely to one's personal life, such as "Does it require a real effort on your part to envisage the idea of suicide?" or "Would you use corporal punishment on a 10-year-old child if he refused to obey you?" As well, our staff also made known to me their hesitations, although they consented to fill in the test. This, then, is how it all came out. Some outside informants called us to let us know that one of the commercial documents of Valgo makes reference to Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. We immediately terminated our relationship. Until then, at no time was I informed of any link with Scientology. I felt terribly guilty as a result, because it was me that brought them into the company."
This story is not an isolated case. Other French enterprises have recently decided not to work any longer with Valgo, after discovering their connection with Scientology. It is easy to understand why they fell so ill-used: Valgo presented itself in effect as a management consulting firm like all the others. Except that it was not in fact like the others.
Valgo appears in an unedited document which we obtained titled, "Annual International Report of Scientology Businesses." Dated from 1999, this internal guide for the cult numbered 2,427 Scientology-related businesses presently operating in all areas of business: management, marketing, communications, hospitality, education, music, administrative services, media ... One half of them are domiciled in the United States, which is not surprising for a movement which began there and which receives considerable political support and financial advantages because of being recognized by the American authorities as a religion. But as well, more surprisingly, the document reveals that Scientology-related businesses are active in the
majority of European countries. And this even in nations that have openly denounced the cult-like character of Scientology, for example, Germany. In this latter country, the document enumerates 160 businesses, even though certain states have forbidden German Scientologists from working in government positions. In France, again according to the guide, there are 34 Scientology-related businesses, more than three times as many as in 1991. This in spite of many court judgments against leading members of the cult, in Lyon in 1995 and in Marseille in 1999, not counting the two parliamentary reports in 1995 and 1999 which were very critical of the Church of Scientology.
As for the number of companies which have had dealings with Scientology businesses, this is difficult to determine. According to the internal magazine _Scientology News_ from December 1994, the number of businesses around the world to have used the "administrative technology of L. Ron Hubbard (L.R.H. Tech)" since its inception had grown to 55,646 by January 1, 1996. In France, numerous large enterprises have worked with Scientology-related businesses in the last few years. For example, the managing company Business Dynamic announces in its media package prestigious contacts like Rhone-Poulenc, Societe generale, B.n.p., Elf, Accor, Lyonnaise des eaux, Peugeot ... And the contacts of Valgo France are equally impressive: France Telecom E.g.t., E.d.f.-G.d.f. services, B.m.w., Ford, Lancia, Naf Naf, Kookai, Sadec-Schneider, Orly restauration, and the Rentokil group.
What lies behind the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, better known by its acronym WISE, and which groups together the various Scientology-related businesses? Founded in 1979, this body claims to be "a membership organization whose objective is to ensure that L.R.H. Tech is widely used and that levels of ethics and integrity are maintained among businesses by utilizing the ethical principles, codes and doctrines of the Scientology religion in the world of business." In short, WISE is the branch of Scientology changed with "cleansing the economic scene" thanks to "L.R.H. Tech", "the only system on the planet which has proven itself and which works!"
The position of the Church of Scientology itself is ambiguous towards WISE. For Marc Bromberg, Director of Inter-religious Affairs for Europe, WISE is an "independent association that protects the copyrights of L.R.H." and which has "no ties whatever with the Church of Scientology." One would certainly have a right to doubt this.
The majority of the members of WISE are prominent Scientologists who are not shy of working with other Scientologists. The head of Valgo France, Patrick Valtin, is one of the key figures in WISE in Europe. He has also distinguished himself for having been, in the recent past, "Executive Director" of the Hubbard College of International Administration and head of the International Association of Scientologists, which is to say the body which hands out $40,000 in grants every year (approximately 240,000 francs). He was also previously the head of two other French companies: U-Man France and Capacitas. The common link between these two companies? They were launched to commercialize the U-Test, later known as the Pape Test, which was simply the personality test that Scientologists are so fond of. Numerous French companies have called upon their services, notably for the recruitment of staff, such as Yoplait, La Redoute, Epson, L'Oreal, G.m.f.-Vie and even A.n.p.e.!
Patrick Valtin knows who to rub shoulders with. Among the founding consultants who worked with or are presently working with Valgo, one can find Guy Cassan, who, for nearly 20 years, has promoted L.R.H. Tech to businesses under the rubric of Diace Conseil, now a defunct company. One finds also Jean Chevrot and even Andre Toqueville, spokesman in 1997 for Applied Scholastics, the society which promoted the "discoveries of Ron Hubbard" for "transforming schools into institutions with unprecedented teaching standards."
Also on the list if Guy Bergaud. A Scientologist since 1982, he associated with two other Scientologists, Phillippe Sarrazin and Joel Berger, to create Business Dynamic in 1992. And Eric Ianna, who worked during the 1980s for another company that specialized in L.R.H. Tech, Ciborg, before founding Action Academy, in which numerous Scientologists studied ...
The second link is financial. In order to practice, consultants must buy a licence from WISE, in exchange for which the agree to remit, in the form of royalties, between 6% and 9% of their profits. Which means that companies that work with these consultants contribute indirectly, under the guise of royalties, to the house of Scientology.
One more point must be considered: the matter of proselytization. Although it cannot be proven that Scientology businesses engage in this practice constantly, the risk cannot be discounted, as evidenced by certain internal writings. For example, this passage taken from the "Member's Guide", specifies that members of WISE "direct their clients towards the services of Scientology, which in turn will change their way of life spectacularly by saving their marriage, resolving their personal ethical difficulties and by using the ethical technologies of L.R.H. to resolve insoluble disputes among businessmen."
The risks are more serious than they would appear. Thus, for example, Guy Cassan, when he was director of Diace Conseil, was directed in 1998 by the Court of Appeal in Versailles to reimburse a company for the entire sum which he received for providing a sales seminar. On that occasion, the Court of Appeal found that Mr. Cassan had "carried out proselytization for the Church of Scientology" during the seminar and that he did not "carry out his duties with loyalty and in good faith."
Today, the members' list for WISE is kept confidential. For Daniele Gounord, spokesman for the Church of Scientology, this is justified "because, as soon as they became known, they would be the targets of pressure and police inquiries." True or false, it little matters. What is certain is that this attitude has the consequence of duping numerous enterprises with all the problems that could give rise to, notably in damage to public image. Everyone is free to work with whomever they wish, even Scientology businesses. But it should be done with the full knowledge of all parties and with complete transparency.