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French Judge Puts Scientology on Trial For Organized Fraud

The Church of Scientology and seven of its leaders will soon face trial in France for fraud and illegally practicing as pharmacists. French law classifies the Church of Scientology as a strictly commercial organization, and the government conducts surveillance of its operations.

The alleged victim in the case is a woman who signed up for a free Scientology personality test in 1998. She went on to pay 140,000 francs ($30,292) for "purification packages" that included books, an electrometer said to measure her mental state, and church-prescribed drugs. The Church argues that she has since been reimbursed.

The case reignites the debate about whether freedom of religion should extend to Scientology. The outcome of the trial may mean that France bans Scientology altogether. While the French government should protect its citizens from illegal and coercive methods used to attract and retain members of a religion, I think there may be some ready to accuse other religions of "organized fraud."

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