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Scientology's French fraud conviction: Not the first legal case

Scientology has faced several legal tussles in the US and Europe, with a fraud ruling against the church in France merely the latest.

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Today's finding of fraud is among the most serious court losses for the church in the 57 years since it was founded by science fiction and self-help writer L. Ron Hubbard. Here's a list of prominent court cases involving Scientology (which has no connection to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, which owns The Christian Science Monitor.)

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1. In 1995 Lisa McPherson, an American member of the Church of Scientology, died while in the care of the church, which led to felony charges filed in 1998 and a civil suit filed against the church by Ms. McPherson's parents in 1997. The felony charges of abuse and unlicensed practice of medicine were dropped in 2000 after a government medical examiner updated her initial finding that the death was "unexplained" to "accidental." The church settled out of court with McPherson's parents for an undisclosed sum in 2004. The medical examiner later resigned in the face of a public outcry.

McPherson, a long-time church member, appeared agitated and began taking her clothes off in the middle of a Florida street after a minor car accident in 1995. She declined offers of a mental health evaluation and instead went with church officials to one of their facilities in Clearwater, Fla. The Scientology church is hostile to mainstream mental health care and argues it makes people sick. The church kept her in isolation for 17 days, a time in which she appeared psychotic -- beating the walls with her hands and feet and refusing food, according to a doctor and practicing Scientologist whose license was suspended over the affair. The doctor, David Minkoff, later called the events that led to McPherson's death a "fiasco."

2. Many of Scientology's biggest legal problems have been in France. In 1988, Frenchman and church member Patrice Vic committed suicide after going into debt paying for the church's services (most of the steps on the path of spiritual progress in the church must be paid for). In 1996, the head of the church in Lyon, was convicted of manslaughter in Mr. Vic's death. Two other Scientologists received sentences for intimidating a psychiatrist who served as an expert witness at the manslaughter trial. In 1978, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard was convicted in absentia to four years in prison by a French court for making false claims that his methods could cure illness. Mr. Hubbard never served a day of the sentence, and passed away in 1986.

3. The church has also been on the offensive side of court action. In 1991, about 50 Scientologists from around the United States filed a series of lawsuits against the Cult Awareness Network, a leading critic of the church at the time. The Scientologists had all applied to join the network and after being rebuked, argued in their separate legal actions that this constituted unfair discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs. The church described the network as a "hate group" and the organization eventually filed for bankruptcy under the weight of its legal fees and problems associated with its practice of kidnapping alleged "cult" members for a process it called "deprogramming."

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