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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 22:33 GMT
France urged to ban Scientology

church The church has 8 million members worldwide

A government committee in France has recommended dissolving the Church of Scientology there, on the grounds that its activities threatens public order.

A report submitted to the Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, described the church as a "totalitarian" sect that kept files containing personal information on its members.

The head of the committee, Alain Vivien, said that while the committee opposed a blanket ban on what he termed sects, it favoured dissolving "extremely dangerous" organisations such as the Church of Scientology.

cruise kidman Celebrity Scientologists: Tom Cruise and wife Nicole Kidman
The report added: "When such organisations disrupt public order and violate human dignity, measures should be taken to dissolve them."

Mr Vivien said the committee had determined that the church's leaders in France were manipulated by their headquarters in Los Angeles.

He attacked the organisation's operation in France as "underground activities led from abroad".

The findings are the latest in a series of controversies to hit the church which is promoted by celebrity supporters such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise and his wife Nicole Kidman.

US criticism rejected

The report rejected US criticism of the French Government's hostility to Scientology.

The church has come under attack several times in France in recent years, with some of its 30,000 members there tried for fraud.

travolta Film star John Travolta promotes Scientology
Last year, a US Government report raised questions about freedom of expression for new religious groups in France and several other European countries, including Germany.

But this concern was dismissed by the French report which said Washington's protection of sects was "exorbitant".

It also said American criticisms of France's conduct were based on "inexact and unfriendly allegations."

A Scientology spokeswoman in France, Daniele Gounord, denounced the report.

With this report, France has joined the ranks of banana republics
Scientology spokeswoman Daniele Gounord
She described it as a "slap-dash Mickey Mouse job in which facts are pulled out of a hat."

"With this report, France has joined the ranks of banana republics," she said.

The Church of Scientology was set up in the United States in 1954 and claims 8 million members worldwide.

The church offers self-improvement on the basis of the writings of the late science-fiction author L Ron Hubbard, who spelled out principles that he called Scientology and Dianetics.

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See also:
 |  Europe
French scientologists guilty of fraud
09 Sep 99 |  Europe
Scientology faces French ban
20 Sep 99 |  Europe
Scientology trial opens in France

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