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France vs. Scientology in World War Dumb

It seems the French have finally found an invader they’re willing to stand up to: the dreaded Church of Scientology. The organization, founded in America in the ‘50s, went on trial in Paris earlier this week in a case where a woman claims she was conned and coerced into spending nearly $30,000 on books, lessons and medicines she was told would cure her mental woes.

If the church is unsuccessful in defending itself against the charge of organized fraud, it could be banned nationwide. This probably wouldn’t sit too well with the church’s French members, who would be forced to denounce Scientology or else get deported from their own country.

But if France thinks this will be a slam-dunk victory, they could be in for a big surprise. Scientology won’t go down without a fight. In the chilling words of Scientology’s founder, science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard: “We are slowly and carefully teaching the unholy a lesson. It is as follows: We are not a law enforcement agency. But we will become interested in the crimes of people who seek to stop us. If you oppose scientology we promptly look up — and find and expose — your crimes. If you leave us alone we will leave you alone.

“It’s very simple. Even a fool can grasp that. And don’t underrate our ability to carry it out.”

Of course, Hubbard is also rumored to have said, “Make money. Make more money. Make other people make money,” and “The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion,” but that doesn’t make the first quote any less spooky.

And as I’m sure the French already know, Scientology does have some powerful friends in Tom Cruise and John Travolta. They might also like to know that newswoman Greta Van Susteren is a convert, and she will use Fox News Channel to spread anti-France sentiment throughout America. Not that Fox News hasn’t already been trying for the last eight years.

It’s hard to say exactly how many Scientologists are in the world today, but church officials have in the past put the number at more than 8 million (they don’t release specific member numbers anymore). With Scientologists nearly as fanatical as the Taliban, who knows what one of those people is willing to do. If Travolta can unleash something as bad as “Battlefield Earth” on the world, I’m sure they can find at least one member willing to assassinate France.

France can also expect Scientology to have the money to fight a protracted court battle, should it come to that. The church and its vast network of corporations, nonprofits and other legal entities are estimated to rake in nearly $500 million a year, which would definitely be in line with Hubbard’s edict to make money and make more money.

Besides, Scientology has already taken on tougher foes than France. In 2007, Spain officially recognized Scientology as a religion following the trials of 13 Scientologists on charges ranging from illegal detention to tax fraud.

Earlier that year, the Church of Scientology Moscow sued Russia in the European Court of Human Rights for the city of Moscow’s refusal to consider the church for registration as a religious organization. In a unanimous decision, the judges found in favor of Scientology and awarded the church roughly $35,000.

More recently, Scientology has found itself embroiled in a legal battle in Germany, where it is was declared unconstitutional in 2007. Plans to ban Scientology were dropped, however, after an investigation failed to unearth any illegal activity.

If Scientology’s been trading haymakers with Germany and it’s still standing, what possible chance does France have?

I applaud France’s effort, though, because I’ve always thought Scientology seemed like it involved brainwashing, financial gain and a bunch of ridiculous myths. You know, kind of like a religion?

But I would like to give France a word of caution as it launches itself into this fight: Lest you think that the cavalry’s gonna come riding across the Big Pond to save your derrieres again, be forewarned. Scientology has been recognized as a religion in the U.S. since 1993.

So, France, if Scientology really plans on using your crimes against you, as Hubbard claimed they will, expect things to get pretty messy. After all, you’re the one who’s bilked fashionistas, wine snobs and drinkers of Evian (“Naive” spelled backward) out of billions for years now. Expect those chickens to finally come home to roost … marinated in herbes de Provence and overpriced truffle oil.

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Todd Hartley

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05 2009

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