Test case cult ruling

A French court slapped a travel ban on a young French girl hoping to attend Scientology school in Copenhagen

The Copenhagen Post/August 8, 2003

A French court ruling, banning a 14-year-old girl from travelling to Denmark to enrol at the Copenhagen Scientology school, could turn into a test case against France's hard line efforts to outlaw the controversial sect.

The French authorities have always considered Scientology to be an extremely dangerous sect that brainwashes it members. In 2001, the French government introduced legislation, the so-called 'About-Picard' law, which provides courts with the possibility of banning any sect whose leaders are convicted of a serious crime, such as the manipulation of minors.

When a judge in Nantes imposed the travel-ban on 14-year-old Marion Chauchreau in July, at the request of the girl's concerned aunt and grandmother, the case turned into a 'cause celebré' in the French media because the girl's mother has been a member of Scientology since 1979, her brother is a teacher at a Scientology school and the girl herself has grown up within the confines of the sect since birth.

The family has always been known locally as a normal, well functioning unit. But local social authorities, backed by the court's ruling, have launched a full-scale investigation into the young girl's social, psychological, and psychiatric well-being, before making a final decision on the potential danger of her joining the school in Copenhagen.

French legal experts have warned that if the investigation concludes that Marion hasn't been manipulated by Scientology, it will be a severe blow to the French authorities' consistent hard-line opposition to the sect. However, if medical and mental evaluations find her to be brainwashed, the 'Marion affairre' could become the legal catalyst desired by authorities to implement a total ban on Scientology in France.

The investigation is expected to take at least six-months.

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