Scientologists sue Belgium for calling it a sect

Reuters/November 28, 2001

Brussels -- The Church of Scientology said on Wednesday it was suing the Belgian state for moral damages after a 1997 parliamentary report qualified the organisation as a "sect."

The organisation, which has about 2,000 members in the country, said it had filed a lawsuit against the state in a Brussels court, seeking a symbolic one euro in moral damages.

The first hearing is to be held on December 13.

Martin Weightman, director of human rights for the organisation in Europe, said the label breached the European Human Rights Convention.

Weightman said the report had later been used "to incite numerous incidents of intolerance and discrimination" against Scientologists.

"(The) report...poisons the community," he said.

A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

In its report, the parliamentary commission drew up a list of what it called quasi-religious sects in the country, which included the Scientology Church and 188 other organisations.

The commission was set up after the grisly deaths of 16 Solar Temple members in France in December 1995.

The Scientology Church filed a complaint against Belgium with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe two years ago for alleged discrimination against religious minorities. That complaint is still under consideration, Weightman said.

Belgian police raided 25 offices and homes of Scientology members throughout the country in 1999.

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