Free church or cult? Scientology investigated
Eight people investigated for criminal association and personal damages
by FRANCA SELVATICI
March 30, 2001
Is Scientology a church to which people freely affiliate, or is it a cult that
inflicts suffering and psychic violence to their members? The matter
has been discussed with alternate results in many countries in the
last 40 yrs. Now, it comes up again with an investigation opened by
the state attorney Francesco Fleury in Florence. He's investigating 8
italian executives of the Church of Scientology, assuming felonies
against them such as criminal association and personal damages. In Mr.
Fleury's opinion, infact, sufferings and psychic violence that,
according to the charges, would be inflicted to the followers could be
equalled to physical injuries.
The Church of Scientology was founded by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, who
published "Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health" in 1950.
The book became one of the sacred scriptures of the organization, that
now counts 700 centres in 65 countries.
The investigation in Florence begun in 1998, when the parents of a
conservatoire student, who became a follower of Scientology, filed a
complaint. They were desperate for their daughter left her studies and
severed her contacts with her family. She seemed to be totally sucked
into the cult.
The girl is now living in Milan, where she has taken up her studies
The magistrate questioned the girl's parents and ordered the
acquisition of a wide documentation about the structure and activities
of Scientology, seizing them both in the Florence branch, located near
the State of Attorney office, and in the Milan centre, the most
important in Italy.
Methods and activties of Scientology were the object of a worried
paragraph of a report about "Religious Sects and New Magic Movements
in Italy" presented by the Ministry of Interior on April 29th, 1998
[for the English translation of the paragraph about Scientology, see here:
http://xenu.com-it.net/rapporto/sci.htm] . According to Ministry experts,
the followers of Scientology are induced to attend more and more
expensive courses, during which they are subjected to physical strains
(overwhelming work, hypervitaminic and hyperproteic diets) as well as
psychological strains (forced reading, pressures and intimidations) in
order to reduce them to a state of total subjection. Critics,
opponents and ex members of the organization would be subjected to
shadowings, threats, harassing and even sabotage.
In Italy Scientology was the centre of the attention of a series of
dramatic trials. Started in Milan in 1986, the state attorney Pietro
Forno described scientologists as "amatorial psychiatrists who
practice psychological terrorism" with "devastating" effects on their
victims. This judgement is shared by several psychologists, according
to which "Scientology destroys the mind of people with wild
psychoterapies". But after two sentences of the lower and appelate
courts, the Milan sentence against Scientology was cancelled by the
Supreme Court. Another sentence was passed, but it was also cancelled
by the Supreme Court. Finally the acquittal.
Scientology, whose defence in Florence is represented by lawyer Sandro
Traversi, refutes attacks, suspects and charges claiming its nature of
Church, to which consenting adults freely affiliate. It asks equal
treatement as other churches, and underlines it was recognized by the
italian institutions. It wasn't recognized as an "admitted faith",
but it obtained tax exemption fot its schooling and religious