French court rules against state in Scientology case

Agence France Presse/December 9, 2000

France's Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, has ruled against the state and in favour of the Church of Scientology in a decision relating to a tax row dating back to 1995.

The ruling ordered the state to pay 12,000 francs in costs (1,800 euros, 1,600 dollars) to the association of the Church of Scientology in Paris and to the Scientology Reserves Trust.

Friday's judgement follows on from a March 14 ruling this year by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

It said that a French law giving the state the power to block foreign investment on public-order grounds violated European law on the free flow of capital because its criteria were too vague.

The Luxembourg court ruled on the case at the request of the Council of State, which had in turn been approached by the Church of Scientology.

The Paris branch of the Church of Scientology and its English branch had objected to the law, which the state used in 1995 to block their attempts to settle a tax debt for the organisation in France with money from abroad.

Because of the French decision, the Paris branch went into liquidation for unpaid tax debts of 48 million francs -- although a similarly named organisation opened soon afterwards.

Relations between the French government and the controversial Scientology movement have become increasingly fractious in recent years.

Several thousand Scientologists from the United States, Canada and European countries gathered in Paris last October to protest against a proposed new anti-sect law in France.

While Scientology is accepted as a religion in the United States, where it counts Hollywood stars John Travolta and Tom Cruise amongst its members, in France and Germany the group is viewed as a dangerous and undesirable cult.

Since 1996, a number of members and former members of the Church of Scientology have been convicted of fraud-related charges in court cases in Marseille and Lyon.

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