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Is France dropping its anti-Scientology fervor because Tom Cruise is just too délicieux?

Tom_Cruise_TDFWe have another report today from our man in Paris, British journalist Jonny Jacobsen. Recently, he wrote here about a Scientologist’s 2006 suicide in France that prosecutors were trying to pin on Scientology itself. But an inability to track down three key witnesses had jeopardized the state’s investigation. Later, at his own website, Jonny summarized information that he’d received about the possible location of at least one of those witnesses.

While that case stalls, an important thing to keep in mind is that Scientology was declared a fraud in France after years of investigation and a prosecution that reached the country’s highest court. Part of the reason that the fraud case stayed alive over such a long period was through the hard work of government-sponsored anticult organizations. And French lawmakers told Jonny that once the case was upheld, one more prosecution of Scientology could lead to the church being dissolved in France. In other words, the country has long been hostile territory for Scientology, with the potential to permanently boot the organization from its shores.

Or is it? Jonny’s new report suggests that things are changing, and a new press article suggests that France is reversing course. Fill us in on the details, Jonny…

 
Bunker regulars will recall that we recently launched an investigation here into the 2006 suicide of Gloria Lopez. I have been sitting on part two of the series because I knew French newspaper Libération was working on its own investigation and we had agreed to coordinate our efforts.

In Thursday’s edition, Libération argues that the stalled investigation into Gloria Lopez’s suicide is a symptom of a much deeper problem.

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Libé has cleared the first five pages of the paper to denounce what it says is the government’s loss of nerve over the issue of cults. It has come out all guns blazing on the front page with the damning headline “Cults: France drops its guard.”

Over the next four pages, they argue that there is a lack of political will at the top to tackle the issue of cults. On the judicial side meanwhile, the inertia is such that it is difficult just to get cult-related cases to trial. But first, the Lopez affair.

Their investigation of Gloria Lopez’s suicide – by Lucas Burel and Élise Godeau – is a comprehensive tour of the case. They argue that there are lines of inquiry in the case that investigators simply never followed up.

In the months following the death of Gloria Lopez, the family was harassed when it became clear that they were not going to let the matter drop. And documents they expected to find at her apartment were missing when they arrived.

But the people who could have been interviewed about these matters were never contacted, Libé ‘s reporters argue. As one source close to the case tells them, the way the investigation was handled completely failed to take into account Scientology’s well-earned reputation for obstructing inquiries into its affairs.

Another story – by Lucas Burel and Emmanuel Fansten – sets out the case that the government has lost its nerve over the issue. They argue that France has caved in to pressure from the EU and “the Anglo-Saxon countries” to soften their line on cults.

The first chink in the armour came in August 2004 when Nicolas Sarkozy, then finance minister under the Chirac presidency, met with Tom Cruise. Ever since, they say, France has been backing off from its earlier tough line on cults.

 
Tom_Cruise_Sarkozy

 
MIVILUDES, the government’s cult watchdog – which only last week Australia’s Senator Nick Xenophon held up as a model to be emulated – is adrift: it’s been two years since they delivered an annual report and their website is on life support, they argue. (They have a point: a glance at the website reveals that the last press release there is dated July 2012.)

As for MIVILUDES leader Serge Blisko, who took over from the hyper-active and outspoken Georges Fenech in 2012, he has been almost invisible, says Libération.

Meanwhile a specialist team attached to the health ministry is facing disbanding. The Technical Support Group (GAT), which alerts health professionals to the more dangerous quack remedies circulating in the “alternative” health field, looks set to shut down.

GAT hasn’t met in a year and Health Minister Marisol Touraine does not seem to care, says Catherine Picard, president of the counter-cult group UNADFI – and a longtime opponent of Scientology. (Note that this is a former socialist deputy criticising a socialist minister.)

Fenech too has warned that if GAT does go, it will be open season for the charlatans. But no one is listening, writes Libé.

There is more, including a relatively bland editorial, but that is the meat of it, for our purposes. (And if you are wondering where you’ve seen Fansten’s name before, it’s because he wrote a good book on Scientology’s lobbying activities, which I reviewed back in 2011.)

Whether Danielle Ambert is on Freewindsas my inquiries indicate – or back in France, it seems fairly clear that she never really cut her links to Scientology. Their leaders’ claims that they could not help police find her were at best disingenuous.

The case nevertheless looks set to be closed, according to the report from the judge investigating the case, which Libération has had sight of.

Unless of course someone steps forward with new information.

— Jonny Jacobsen

 
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The joy of giving your money to Scientology

As if it weren’t bad enough that Scientology has its most dedicated members sign billion-year contracts, work ungodly hours, and spend years away from their families — and take children as well as adults — when members of the Sea Org finally decide to leave, they are hit with something called “Freeloader’s Debt.”

The theory is that while you’re working 112 hours a week for pennies an hour and getting screamed at and even put in prison for years at a time, you’re still racking up debt because Scientology is treating you so well, with free room and board and courses (if you have any time for them). And when you leave, Scientology wants you to pay your fair share for all of those perks. Freeloader Debt tends to be on a ridiculous scale — debt runs anywhere from the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how long you’ve been enjoying Scientology’s hospitality.

Now, from the outside, it’s pretty clear that “Freeloader’s Debt” is simply a form of extortion that is intended to keep Sea Org members from leaving. Sea Org members are told that they’ll probably fail when they re-enter modern life, and being saddled with a huge debt makes it especially scary.

But some Sea Org members do leave despite being hit by the debt. And some of them even realize that “Freeloader’s Debt” is legally unenforceable. It’s a sham. But some former SO workers are determined not to fall into disfavor after leaving their jobs, and so they actually pay the money. Imagine how difficult that is when you’re starting over from nothing. A large number of people we’ve talked to who actually paid down their Freeloader’s Debt eventually realized they were being suckered, and stopped paying after some time.

But then there’s this person…

 
FreeloaderDebt

 
Something tells us that even after someone explains to her that she just paid off a debt she had no obligation to pay, she’ll still consider it “sky’s the limit!”

 
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This weekend, your chance to chat with Scientology booksellers!

Thanks to the tipster who sent in these photos of the booths being set up for this weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. If you get the chance, stop on by and ask how sales are!

 
LABooks1LABooks2

 
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Bonus photos from our tipsters

Actual caption: “Making things happen… Fast!!!! Finished Grade 0 on Monday morning and Grade I on Wednesday morning on Grade II now !! So many wins… It’s unbelievable!!!” And you know she’s having so much fun on Grade II and that Joburg Sec Check, right?

 
SciGrades

 
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on April 17, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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