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Swiss politicians sue Scientology for libel in battle over anti-drug front group

SwissPoliticosWe have another exclusive from our man in Paris, British journalist Jonny Jacobsen, who filed this report today…

Two Swiss politicians are suing Scientology in the latest twist of a long-running battle to expose the movement’s links to an anti-drugs group there.

They filed their case in response to a Scientology spokeswoman’s comments dismissing their efforts to get the drugs group to come clean about the connection.

Jessica Jaccoud, 31, and Alexandre Démétriadès, 23 (pictured), both socialist politicians, have filed an action for “defamation and calumny.”

It comes more than two years into their campaign to get the group Non à la drogue, Oui à la vie (No to Drugs, Yes to Life) to be more open about its links to Scientology.

Jaccoud, a lawyer, and Démétriadès are both councillors in Nyon, a town sitting on the banks of Lake Geneva and just 15 miles from Geneva itself. They are also deputies on the Grand Council of Vaud, one of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.


Jaccoud has filed two motions with the Communal Council at Nyon to try to get action on the issue. Démétriadès signed up to the second one, issued in October 2012.

They want the local authority to oblige the anti-drugs group, which runs a stall at the market in Nyon, to acknowledge its links to Scientology.

Scientology is using the anti-drugs group to promote its own agenda covertly, they argue. They are particularly concerned about the drug treatment programme the association promotes: Narconon.

“This programme has no scientific basis as it is entirely based on the writings of Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology,” Jaccoud told local station La Télé on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, councillor Elisabeth Ruey-Ray, of the rival Liberal Democratic Party (PLR), told the free weekly paper Lausanne Cités that the council could not force the association to advertise its links to Scientology.

Everyone was free to express their beliefs as they saw fit, she said, adding, “… you never really know if Scientology is that harmful.” It was Cllr Ruey-Ray who drew up the official council response to the socialists’ initiative.

It was in that same November 5 newspaper report that Scientology spokeswoman Suzanne Crausaz made the comments that provoked the legal action.

The two politicians would do better to sort things out with the local authority, she said, adding: “They are certainly smoking joints, which is why they are trying so hard to get the stall removed.”

We caught up with Démétriadès briefly, on a dodgy phone connection as he traveled in to work by train.

The official council response, which had taken more than a year to come, was unacceptable, he said. It had assumed they wanted to ban the association from the market, which was not the case.

“We have never asked for them to be banned,” he said. “All we want is for them to clearly admit their links to the Church of Scientology.”

Similarly, they objected not just to Crausaz’s quip about them being dope-smokers — but to her false suggestion that they were trying to get the group kicked out of the market.

He would be happy to see the case settled with a public apology and a donation by Scientology to a group that does genuinely useful work tackling drug addiction, he added.

In the meantime, the action would help raise awareness of their campaign to expose the link between Non à la drogue… and Scientology.

Jaccoud made much the same points in her interview with La Télé.

They were not trying to get the association’s stand pulled from local markets, she said: but they did want to oblige them to be more honest about who they really were.

Scientology, she added, was “struggling to get new members, it also has problems getting market stands and (so) it goes through an organisation like this one in order to promote Scientology doctrine to a vulnerable public.”

And as much as the association claimed to be independent, it was Scientology that sprang to its defence when it was criticised in the press.

Approached by La Télé, Crausaz declined an on-camera interview, said the station. She did however stress that the comment that provoked the legal action had been meant light-heartedly.

The members of Non à la drogue, Oui à la vie who ran the market stall were also Scientologists, she told the station — but they were acting for an independent association.

Switzerland’s Dites non à la drogue campaign appears to be based at this Swiss website, Fondation pour un monde sans drogue.

Veteran Scientology-watchers will recognise the lurid illustrations and overblown prose in the leaflets offered at the site. But an uninitiated visitor would be hard-put to make any connection with the movement.

The Fondation of course is the French-language version of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.

And that foundation, we learn from this Scientology website, “…is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and dedicated to the eradication of illicit drugs, their abuse and their attendant criminality.”

This case is no threat either to the existence of Scientology or to the anti-drugs group at centre of the row. But it does highlight the extent to which the movement is still able to promote its doctrine — and Hubbard’s quack treatments — without showing its true colours.

In the meantime, the two councillors’ initiative is not a dead letter: it is due to go before another council committee for further consideration.

— Jonny Jacobsen

Thanks very much for that report, Jonny. And we’ll just add that while in Switzerland politicians and the press are exposing the connections between Scientology and its sneaky front groups, over here the media is helping the church with its subterfuge.

UPDATE: Mike Rinder reminds us that in its new initiative, “Voice for Humanity,” Scientology makes its connection to Foundation for a Drug-Free World even more plain.

SECOND UPDATE: Amelia McDonnell-Parry has written another great response to the Refinery29 piece on Scientology, this time asking why victims of a group like Scientology aren’t taken more seriously.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 21, 2014 at 09:45

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