|The sincerity of Scientologists’ religious belief is without question, said the Lyon court.|
|Courts deliver dramatic victories for religious freedom|
n a watershed triumph for the Church of Scientology in Europe, the Court of Appeal in Lyon, France, ruled that Scientology is to be regarded as a religious community and that the sincerity of Scientologists’ religious beliefs is beyond question.
The court held, on July 28, that under the French Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, Scientologists are fully entitled to freely proselytise, to practice their religion and engage in missionary work without governmental restriction.
The Church of Scientology acclaimed the Court’s ruling as a resounding victory for religious freedom in Europe and a major recognition in a country which has seen increasing governmental oppression of religious minorities. The judgment, which is certain to be studied closely by the German government, reversed a lower court’s ruling which had been widely criticised by religious experts as one of the most oppressive and unconstitutional rulings in recent French history.
The Court acquitted nine Scientologists of bogus criminal charges and cancelled or suspended the sentences of all other defendants, while stating that it is impossible to deny Scientologists the principle of religious freedom. “The Republic does not recognise any
The Reverend Heber Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International, stated, “Scientology has always been a religion. The ruling changes nothing in Scientology. But it changes the country. This was a good day for all religions in France.
“Despite political pressure and hysteria promoting a new inquisition, the court has returned to the French tradition of liberty and equality,” he said. “The judges of the appeals court have seen through the manipulation by fanatics, self-named and discredited ’experts’ whose sole objective is to destroy religious freedom in that country.”
He added that “this ruling will have a prominent place among the more than 100 that already exist upholding the religiosity of Scientology.”
The headlines across France and in numerous other countries, from Japan to the United Kingdom, told the climax of the story:
“Scientology is a Religion,” “Court Says Scientology Free to Practice,” “Court Confirms Scientology Religion.”
|Victory at the Supreme Court of Italy, in Rome.|
In another case in which the Church of Scientology’s legal status as a religion was under challenge, the Supreme Court of Italy deliberated for less than three hours before deciding a lower court’s decision against the Church should be cancelled.
“The Supreme Court has restored confidence in Italian justice as well as religious freedom,” said the president of the Church in Italy, Fabio Amicarelli. “This case was a heresy trial founded on prejudice rather than facts.”
It was also a trial rife with injustice and corruption. One of the key officials conducting “investigations” into the Church’s activities was Lieutenant Guido Schettino of the Finance Police. Yet Schettino was convicted and jailed himself on charges of corruption and bribe-taking. And one of the attorneys for the anti-religious group behind the intolerance, Edoardo Andreotti Loria, described his group as “a mafia association” because “we have an idea of freedom that is different from that of the others.”
Furthermore, even the original “complaints” which precipitated the case were false. This was proven when the originator testified that his statements had been completely unfounded and invented out of blind prejudice. But still the trial continued — until July, 1991, when the court finally acquitted all defendants.
It should have ended there, but it didn’t. The prosecutor appealed the ruling, and in 1993 the Milano Court of Appeal — with no further evidence — reversed the first court’s decision, convicted all defendants, and declared that Scientology was not a religion.
It was this outrageous and unfounded decision that the Italian Supreme Court cancelled in its October ruling.
Rev. Jentzsch predicted that both legal decisions — the victory in the Court of Appeal in Lyon, France, and the Italian Supreme Court ruling — would also help combat religious discrimination against Scientologists in Germany. “Having no grounds for its discrimination against Scientologists, the German government has tried to use these ongoing cases to justify its harassment of Scientologists in Germany. These courts have now dealt a strong blow to German human rights terrorism.”