quill.gif (3183 bytes) Arręt rendu par Cour de cassation, criminelle, 30 juin 1999

Facts: the French branch of the Scientology Church and its directorswere charged for fraud when it embezzled the financial contributionsof the followers of the Church. The fraud was implemented bypublishing articles and ads in the local newspapers leading peopleon to believe they could get a job without mentioning they werecoming from and written by the Scientology Church, and bydistributing leaflets proposing free personality tests analyzed oncomputer data without having the competence to do so. Both actionswere aimed at attracting people to the Church without mentioning itexplicitly and embezzle their money.

Complaint: the members of the Church claimed they did not have full knowledge of the fraudulent schemes so that they could not be charged for fraud, and that they had a right to freedom of religion and to be members of the Church and help to its functioning.

Holding: the Cour de Cassation upheld the decision below of the Cour d'Appel (decision of the Cour d'appel of Lyon 4e chamber on July 28, 1997) to dismiss the charges against the defendants.

Reasoning: the Cour d'Appel insisted that the freedom to religion was total and that the only restrictions to it were the conservation of the public order, health, and public morals. It ruled that the defendants were mere members of the Church and only controlled the working of the Church and that it could not be proved with sufficient evidence that they had full knowledge of the fraudulent schemes. The Cour de Cassation reviewed that judgment and did not find any insufficiency or contradiction in the application of legal principles by the Cour d'Appel. Accordingly, it upheld the judgment below and dismissed the charges against the members of the Church.

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