There are a handful of people in the United States who are fighting a tough battle against Scientology. One of the most prominent, but by no means the only person waging this fight is Katherine Stone, who is an advocate on the issue of postpartum depression, something that Scientology has had a history of denigrating. The legal fight against Scientology appears to be in Europe:
A Paris court today convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud and fined it more than half a million euros -- but stopped short of banning the group as requested by prosecutors.
The group's French branch immediately announced that it would appeal the verdict.
The court convicted the Church of Scientology's French office, its library and six of its leaders of fraud. Investigators said the group pressured members into paying large sums of money for questionable financial gain and used "commercial harassment" against recruits.
The group was fined 400,000 euros ($600,000) and the library 200,000 euros. Four of the leaders were given suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. The other two were given fines of 1,000 euros and 2,000 euros.
The court did not order the Church of Scientology to shut down, ruling that it would be likely to continue its activities anyway, "outside any legal framework."
Prosecutors had requested that the group be dissolved in France and be fined 2 million euros.
The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has been active for decades in Europe, but has struggled to gain status as a religion. It is considered a sect in France and has faced prosecution and difficulties in registering its activities in many countries.
Does that mean that the First Amendment in this country is too lenient? Too loosely defined in that it allows "predatory" religions to operate freely? It would be a mistake to single out Scientology--it's simply one of the bigger, richer, more lawyered-up scams running. It would also be a mistake to let the Supreme Court try to parse the First Amendment to allow for selective prosecution of a religious group. We need not infringe upon anyone's rights, and the right to be wacky and dumb is sacred in America. Some people get tired of being wacky and dumb, and they make noise about how evil Scientology is. Scientology then goes out with a vast army of minions to silence the opposition. Welcome, vast army of Scientology minions--as you feverishly scan this text, remember: I'm an Episcopalian. I don't panic or scare easily. I've been sued in eleven states, nine countries, and in various courts a total of 86 times. I'm practically my own lawyer these days. These colors don't run.
What bothers me is that our own government doesn't get it:
Belgium, Germany and other European countries have been criticized by the U.S. State Department for labeling Scientology as a cult or sect and enacting laws to restrict its operations.
That has to change. The Europeans practically invented predatory religions, and they know what they're talking about. The reality is, Scientology is a confiscatory and predatory sect, based on fleecing money out of people, and it needs to face stern regulation wherever it operates. It should be forced to pay taxes and submit to rigorous oversight while freely operating as a "religion" of course. In other words, it should be treated exactly like a chemical manufacturing plant, which has to comply with safety laws, pay taxes, and comply with the law. Both Scientology and your garden variety chemical manufacturing plant come with lawyers, thugs, guns and money, but the government has more of those things, you see, so, naturally, it comes down to who has penis envy. If you've been following the whole thing with Bronson Pinchot, you know of which I speak.