Monday, 29 June 2009

9 Defendant #3: The Executive Director I

Day 4 (June 2): The onetime executive director of Scientology’s Paris Celebrity Centre, presented a vigorous defence – to the point that he had to be called to order by his own lawyer.

Having heard from the two defendants charged in connection with the vitamins used in Scientology’s Purification Rundown Judge Sophie-Hélène Château next called Alain Rosenberg.

Rosenberg founded the Celebrity Centre in 1979 and was its executive director at the time of the events in question. For this reason, he had been charged with organised fraud and complicity in the illegal exercise of pharmacy.

Judge Château, referring to the case files, told the court that Rosenberg had reached OT 7, one of the highest levels in Scientology.

During the investigation, she said, Rosenberg had confirmed the existence of a user's manual for the Personality Test at the centre of the investigation. But he had refused to provide a copy to investigators, arguing that it would be misinterpreted.

Rosenberg had also questioned the impartiality not just of some of the court-appointed experts involved in the case, but also that of one of the investigating magistrates.

Of the test itself, Rosenberg had told investigators that the reference to it having a scientific basis had no particular value. The tests, he said, were used as part of Scientology’s proselytism – to get itself known.

He had also said that as a matter of course, when a Scientologist took legal action against the movement their files were destroyed; and that Scientology had a policy of providing refunds to people who were not satisfied with their service.

No one, he said, was ever obliged to write out a success story – the documents in which members testified to the benefits of a course they had completed. On this point, he had referred investigators to Scientology’s Auditors Code.1

And he compared Scientology’s Purification Rundown to a religious ritual, such as the Muslim practice of fasting during Ramadan.

Rosenberg had also told investigators he felt that both he and Scientology in general were being victimised.

Judge Château invited him to address the court.

Rosenberg, 60 years old, was dressed in a dark suit and a light-blue shirt. With the rounded features of his face and his receding red hair, turning to grey, he could have been a distant relative of Hubbard himself – perhaps his younger brother.

In Scientology parlance, Rosenberg seemed determined to be “at cause” over – in control of – the court.

Already during the judge’s introduction, Rosenberg had stopped her, asking her to repeat something he had not heard.

Several times in the hours that followed, he interrupted and the quizzed the lawyers and judges who were questioning him – to the point that he had to be called to order not just by his own lawyer, but by one of the judges.

But he started by setting out his basic position.

“I have been a Scientologist for 30 years,” he said. “I have devoted a large part of my life to helping people,” he added. And for him, those 30 years had been a religious journey.

“I myself have contributed to Scientology and continue to do so,” he said – including buying and using the e-meter so heavily criticised in the indictment. “I have practised my religion as I should have practised it.”

Rosenberg explained why he had not been willing to give the investigating magistrate his full cooperation.

“He never admitted that Scientology was a religion,” said Rosenberg. The magistrate had always viewed Scientology as a kind of psychotherapy. “So there was prejudice.”

As another example of what he and his fellow believers had to contend with, he recalled the comments a short time earlier by Stéphane Lange, the inspector from France’s health products watchdog (AFSSAPS).2

“I have just heard from an expert who said we were charlatans,” said Rosenberg. “And all that because he is an expert – but not an expert in religion.”

“I am a man of the church…”

Scientology was made up of a multitude of different elements, he continued: and while it might be Anglo-Saxon in its form, it had a lot in common with mainstream religions. It was a church that took a modern form: its structure reflected its American roots and recent origins.

“My role is as coordinator of ecclesiastical activities,” he said. There was no secret about that: Scientology’s organisational chart was there for all to see.

But you are at the top of that chart, said Judge Château.

So far as the organisational chart for the Celebrity Centre was concerned, said Rosenberg, the term “directeur général” was an unfortunate translation because it gave the impression of someone who was managing a business.3

But that Anglo-Saxon term did not mean he was involved in the day-to-day running of the centre, he said. “It is important to know this because the organisation is the expression of our religion.”

Rosenberg outlined the structure of the Celebrity Centre: its various divisions, each of which had its own chief. “We attach great importance to the correct procedures of our religion,” he said.

“I assure the coordination. My main role is to ensure that the teachings are available to the people so people can benefit from the teaching in the best conditions possible.”

But that excluded anything that had to do with financial or legal matters, he said.

“Apart from that, I do the major rites,” he said, celebrating major events in the Scientology calendar such as the birthday of the founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

“I am a man of the church, and a man of the church is not the managing director of a commercial business,” he said. “I don’t decide things: the Church does.”His work was confined to his role as a pastoral adviser, as someone who led the major rites, such as marriages, and who ensured that the teachings were applied in an orthodox manner.

“I don’t take care of the financial part,” he said. “I could have done a lot of things in life: if I chose to be a religious person it was so I wouldn’t have to do things that I could do elsewhere.”4

Judge Château asked him about his denial of any links to Eric Aubry, who had been one of the plaintiffs in the case until he settled with Scientology. Aubry, in one of his success story letters, had mentioned shaking his hand.

“I never shook his hand,” said Rosenberg. “I don’t even know him.”

Aubry had meant it in a positive way, said Judge Château. “He presents it as a great honour.” For Aubry, Rosenberg had been the most senior figure at the Celebrity Centre.

Rosenberg maintained his position: Aubry was mistaken if he thought he had any executive powers. “If I took care of the finances, I would have said so.”

“But you have a great importance at the heart of the Celebrity Centre,” said the judge.

“Obviously, people know me,” said Rosenberg. “I set up the Celebrity Centre. Yes, I am known – I read the sermons, I carry out the marriages… so obviously I am someone in view. But I am certainly not the managing director.”

Test measures 'spiritual' growth

Judge Château turned to the personality tests: what was their role in Scientology, she asked? What was their importance?

“There are many different ways of becoming a Scientologist,” said Rosenberg. These days, he said, most new arrivals came to the movement via books or DVDs, he said.

And although the test was not systematically done at the beginning of one’s experience in Scientology, they were used during one’s progress through Scientology.

But the tests were handed out on the street, said the judge. “Why are people given them at the start?” she asked.

That was simply to introduce people to Scientology, said Rosenberg.

But it was not presented as Scientology at the start, said the judge. The leaflets mentioned Dianetics, but not Scientology, she said.

Rosenberg did not know why the leaflets had been marked as Dianetics: perhaps because Hubbard’s first book in this area had been Dianetics, he suggested. In any case, the test was available on Scientology’s website.

Rosenberg’s fellow defendants had for the most part kept their answers more or less to the point. Rosenberg however had a tendency to fall into extended lectures.

After a discourse on the benefits of Scientology, the spiritual path, the rights to freedom of religion, he finally returned to the judge’s original question about the personality test.

“It is the same programme throughout the world, for everyone,” he said. “The test is analysed by the computer for everyone in the same way, without intervention by anyone.”

Including new arrivals, asked the judge?

“The new arrivals – there are perhaps one or two who are going to be taken to talk about the test,” said Rosenberg.

And the personality test was also available at the entrance to the Celebrity Centre, where it was perfectly obvious you were in a church “because it is marked everywhere,” he added.

Whether or not Scientology had been marked on the test leaflet, his point was that once you were inside the Celebrity Centre, where people came to get their test results, it was impossible not to see that you were in a church.

“Sometimes people don’t want to admit to themselves they are in a religion,” said Rosenberg.

The staff at reception explained the main principles of Scientology to newcomers: that man was a spiritual being, that there were different facets of existence. And they would explain the test too, he said.

It shows that you can improve on a spiritual level,” he explained: for the less aware you are the less well you are.

Promotion 'is the right to spiritual health'

But had not Hubbard himself spoken of the tests as a means of promotion that had been shown to be effective, asked the judge?

Which document was that, asked Rosenberg: from which period? The reference was to a document dating back to 1960.

Whatever the document was, Rosenberg appeared to think it required a great deal of explaining.5

“It is an administrative document,” said Rosenberg. “You have to look at the intention of the founder… he wants to attract people into Scientology.”

This document had been intended for the South African church back in the 1960s and had to be seen in that context, he said.

He asked again for the wording of the document. “It is not at all a good translation,” he said. “It has a certain historical value.”

But when he began answering in religious terms, the judge reminded him they were talking about a document that dealt with the personality test as a method of promoting Scientology.

It is normal that as a religious man, I give the response of a religious person,” he replied.

Still referring to same document, Judge Château continued to question Rosenberg, who seemed determined not to lose the initiative – to the point where he began interrupting her.

What is the sentence that bothers you?” he asked at one point.

The document the judge had cited had historical value, he said. “Obviously we are going to be inspired by these documents, even if we don’t believe it in quite that way.”

But this document had been superseded by another one written in 1972.

There is nothing in my religion or in the writings of Ron Hubbard that I cannot explain,” he said.

Judge Château asked about how the test was analysed.

We think that to be a believer you have to have faith in yourself,” said Rosenberg.

If someone scored poorly in one part of the personality test, you were not going to insist on that part: the point was that you could improve it, he said.

In the past, there had been a lot of documents in the Scientology canon that were not Hubbard’s, said Rosenberg.

Rosenberg blamed the “apostate” Roger Gonnet – a former Scientologist turned campaigner against the movement – for having provided the court with texts that were no longer valid.

“Now we have the doctrine in its purity,” he said.

It was easy to misinterpret the older documents, but there was nothing untoward about the personality test. “It is mostly to ensure that you are progressing spiritually,” he said.

The idea that the test was a central part of Scientology blew its importance out of all proportion, said Rosenberg. One could perfectly well go straight to Scientology auditing without having done it.

The test helped a person become more aware: it opened up a dialogue, communication. But he added: “It is not the test that is determinant.”

So why bother with the test, asked Judge Château?

I don’t know,” Rosenberg replied. “Scientologists have faith. They do it much, much less now.”

'You cannot put a price on… spiritual freedom'

Judge Château turned to the question of whether the centre’s staffers took an interest in the financial status of newcomers.

One of the original plaintiffs, Eric Aubry, had said that during an auditing session, he had been asked about his bank accounts.

If Aubry had discussed financial matters during his auditing it was because he had had an emotional need to do so, said Rosenberg. Scientologists certainly did not seek this kind of information.

And what about this talk of donations or gifts (dons) rather than prices asked the judge?

You cannot put a price on freedom of conscience, on spiritual freedom,” said Rosenberg.

But Eric Aubry, the plaintiff Aude-Claire Malton and even Pierre Auffret – who had refused to file a complaint because he did not believe he had been wronged – had all spoken not in terms of giving a gift but making a payment.

These three cases are different,” said Rosenberg.

A person should have the impression that they are giving,” said Judge Château.

All Scientologists have the conviction that they are giving,” said Rosenberg. But in any case, he added, the prices were not his domain.

And what about the reports that newcomers were pressured to buy immediately to avoid having to pay a higher price later, asked the judge?

I don’t take care of prices,” said Rosenberg. “They are fixed in the computer.”

Judge Château turned to the financial problems that Eric Aubry had experienced.

Why have someone pay for courses three to four years in advance, taking out heavy credit at exorbitant rates of interest knowing that this would only bring them more problems – when you say you want to bring them spiritual happiness?

I had nothing to do with these three cases,” said Rosenberg.

So speak about the principle of paying in advance,” said the judge.

Rosenberg offered the example of a seminarian who would pay in advance for his religious schooling, but the judge did not seem convinced.

Five years in advance?” she asked.

It was a practice that all Scientologists knew, said Rosenberg. This court was dealing with three particular cases, but for a Scientologist the practice posed no problem.

I am posing a theoretical question,” said Judge Château.

It is not the purpose of the church to get people into trouble,” said Rosenberg.

There, we agree,” said the judge (“Là, on est d’accord”).

But in response to the judge’s theoretical question, he said: “If this caused somebody financial trouble – and this is not my role – I would not do it.”

But this side of the centre’s work was not part of his duties, he stressed.

Judge Château raised the issue of grants, which she had already discussed with another defendant, Jean-François Valli.6

It was not in fact a subsidy, said the judge: it was more a matter of “We are going to give you a preferential price.”

But the results in terms of their spirituality had a positive effect on the rest of their life, said Rosenberg.

But that doesn’t answer the question,” said the judge.

Next in the series: 10 The Executive Director II
1   One of its clauses says that an auditor, the Scientologist running an auditing or counselling session, must not evaluate the experience of the person being audited.
2   In fact to be more precise, Lange referred to the the Purification Rundown as quackery, or charlatanism. See 7: The Purification Rundown.
3   The French phrase used, “directeur général”, is normally translated as managing director. So far as I can see though, the post listed at the top of the English version of the Org chart is “Executive Director”. Thanks to Caroline Letkeman for supplying me with an English copy.
4   It emerged during the course of the trial that Rosenberg ran a successful clothing business.
5   The only 1960 document that I can find that fits the bill is the Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter October 28, 1960: New Testing Promotion Section. The bulletin’s opening sentence corresponds to the judge’s summary: “For some time Orgs have used testing as a promotional means. It has been found that this is a good, reliable method of getting people to come in.” There is a reference to the techniques being used successfully in South Africa, as Rosenberg mentioned. Thanks to Roger Gonnet for confirming that this is one of the documents he sent to the investigating magistrate.

1 comment:

  1. What a slippery eel Alain is. In Scientology, one is taught how to answer a question. It is very basic and Alain learned this very early on in his Scientology training. He professes no knowledge of finances or legal policies, yet completed the Organization Executive Course (OEC) at Flag. He is relying on the judge's lack of information about Scientology and ability to realize that Alain really does know the answers he refused to cough up at trial. I hope they throw his ass in jail.