Scientology on Trial in Paris.

The following material is stolen (with permission) from Jonny Jacobsen’s excellent writeups on his blog which you can access by clicking here.

In the summer of 1998, in the space of barely four months, Aude-Claire Malton spent 140,000 francs (21,000 euros) on Scientology goods and services. By the time she broke with the movement, she had emptied her bank account and got herself deep into debt.

When Malton came to court, she was flanked by her lawyer, Morice, and by Catherine Picard, the president of UNADFI. She had contacted the organisation soon after breaking from Scientology. It was with their support and advice that she first went to file her complaint with the police, on December 28, 1998, launching the investigation that had led to the trial.

In a trial of this kind in France, there is no jury: that is reserved for trials dealing with the most serious crimes. In this case, the three judges will determine whether or not any of the defendants are guilty, and if so, what the sentence should be.

The principal judge, referring to the case files, questions whoever is on the stand: plaintiff, defendant or witness. Then she gives the prosecutors, the various lawyers and finally the other two judges their turn. Judge Château, the most senior of the three judges, invited Malton to tell her story, prompting her with questions when needed.

Malton first came across Scientology in 1998 when she was handed a free personality test as she came out of the metro station at Opéra, in the centre of Paris. “I took it with me and filled it in. Two or three days later I was contacted by telephone and asked to come in. So I went in and they showed me the questionnaire. Interpreting it, they said I was struggling in life.” This was certainly true: a year earlier she had broken up with her boyfriend and was still struggling with depression. But the staff at the centre said they had courses that would help her.

“I understood that I had major problems and that I could resolve these problems by following these courses,” she told the court. For Malton, it was always about Dianetics as a form of self-help: the courses were to help her in her personal and her professional life. She was not interested in Scientology as a religion.

Her first purchase was a minor one, she recalled: a book for 100 francs (15 euros). But the next book cost 950 francs. And within a few weeks, by the middle of May, she had agreed to spend 31,590 francs (4,816 euros) on Dianetics training – a significant investment given her monthly salary at her hotel job was around 8,000 francs (1,200 euros).

“I told them I couldn’t spend that much money,” she said. But she ended up signing. She was also asked to sign a document declaring she was not a police officer, a journalist or a secret agent: just a formality they said.

When she arrived to start her first courses – Life Repair and the Communication Course – she found several people gathered in the same room. But they split off into pairs to work, she recalled. “At the end of the course, to pass the course you had to write a letter to say that you were satisfied with what you had done. In order to get to the next course you had to write a letter,” she said.

“You don’t leave the office without having signed a cheque or taken out your credit card, even if it costs a lot,” she said. If she resisted, they would tell her: “It’s only money, and it’s for you.” One day she tried going to the centre without her chequebook or credit card, so she would not have to spend any more. “Because I didn’t have any money on me I was accompanied to the house to write a cheque.” Three Scientologists went with her, including one of the defendants, Jean-François Valli. “He proposed accompanying me home because otherwise I risked losing the chance of this package,” she said.

By August, Malton she had signed up for a Purification pack and an e-meter, the device used in Scientology’s auditing courses — a device she didn’t yet know how to use. That package cost her 68,000 francs (about 10,000 euros) – but it was good value, they told her. “They said it could be more expensive but because it was a package they were doing it cut-price.”

By now however, she had other problems. “I had to close my bank accounts,” she told the court, in tears now. And once her bank accounts were empty – her current account, her savings account, even part of her life insurance money – she took out a bank loan.

Then the money from that loan ran out. But Valli was there to advise her. “When I said I had no more money, he said ‘That’s not a problem, we are going to find a solution.’” Valli called someone he knew at a branch of the SOFINCO bank and arranged a loan. He even accompanied her to the bank. By now the people at the centre were urging her to give up her job, move out of her flat and come and work for them. The pay was substantially less than what she had been earning, but they told her she would be able to do courses for free. Her handlers also encouraged her to tell her family about Scientology, coaching her on how to explain it to them.

The above material is from day one of the Paris trial and adapted from Jonny Jacobsen’s excellent writeup. You can read his full coverage of the entire trial on his blog by clicking here. The French prosecutors are asking for the Celebrity Centre of the L’Association spirituelle de l’Eglise de Scientologie (ASES) and the bookshop Scientologie espace liberté (SEL) to be shut down. They also want the two organisations to be fined two million euros each, and for six individual defendants the prosecution have requested fines for each (with suspended sentences requested for four of the defendants).

One Response

  1. I really hope that this will be the time to start destrying the cult.
    If the trial goes to the end we can try also in Italy to do
    Italian judges are too soft with scientology.


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