Friday 10 July 2009

10 Defendant #3: The Executive Director II

Questioned closely by the judge about the substantial amounts of money taken from clients, the former executive director of the Celebrity Centre protested, insisting that Scientology was about “ethics, honesty, respect”.

Now Judge asked Rosenberg about Aude-Claire Malton, who by quitting her job to come and work for the centre would have become eligible for free courses.

“What happens to all the money that she had put aside for the future?” the judge asked. Malton had paid in advance for Scientology training to the tune of 110,000 francs (16,700 euros).

“I don’t know,” said Rosenberg. “I wasn’t there in 1998.” He had been abroad studying at the time.

But he added: “I don’t see how you can oblige someone to buy in advance and get them to join staff.”

“You are not answering my question –” said the judge, but Rosenberg broke in again.

“You can pay in advance and work for the Church,” he said.

Perhaps she had wanted to recover her money, but in any case, it was not the money that interested them. “Of course we need it to exist,” he added.

“I understand these payments can shock,” he continued. But if she had wanted to have some money back then she could have had it.

The judge returned to the case of Eric Aubry: “He put in enormous amounts of money in advance,” she said. And he had tried to get a refund to finance the purchase of his apartment.

Again, Rosenberg tried to interrupt the judge – and had to be called to order by his own lawyer.

In the exchanges that followed, they established that you could claim your money back, but you would never be able to take Scientology courses again. You were also expected to sign a document to the effect that you would never take legal action against the church.

But that only covered people who left Scientology definitively, said the judge.

It did not cover either Malton’s case, who had been about to become a staffer; or that of Aubry, who had sought a partial refund without wanting to quit Scientology.

“Is it possible in any other case?” she asked.

Mme Malton could have made a request, said Rosenberg. And he seemed to suggest that Aubry could also have continued in Scientology given the right conditions. But now he was becoming flustered.

“I don’t know. I don’t understand the question,” said Rosenberg. “They can make a request.”

Judge Château returned to question of the follow-up letters sent to members who had stopped taking services, to try to get them back for more courses. Who decided who sent such letters, and to whom?

“There is no automatic follow-up,” said Rosenberg. “You say it as if we were running a commercial operation,” he protested.

This was a church, he said: they had a right to their beliefs in past lives, he added, à propos of nothing. “It is not a follow-up: it is a communication,” he said, by way of explanation.

Rosenberg also objected to the loaded language – such as “consumer protection” – that the judge was using.

Judge Château pointed out that even Auffret, who had refused to file a complaint against the Centre, had nevertheless regarded himself as a client – as had Aude-Claire Malton and Eric Aubry.

“Our concern is ethics, honesty, respect,” said Rosenberg. “I feel that we respect the law.”

But people were signing over large cheques from the first day, said the judge.

“Nobody commits on the first day,” said Rosenberg. They might buy a book and take it away to read, but that would take at least seven days.

Shattering Suppressives

The judge invited Oliver Morice, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, to put his questions.

Morice reminded Rosenberg that he had told investigators the personality test served as a point of contact: Rosenberg agreed.

Then Morice referred to a 1990s Lyon court judgement against members of Scientology’s Lyon operation. It had criticised the use of the personality test handed out on the streets there.

The judgement had noted that the test contained no reference to Scientology; was analysed by people with no competence in the matter; and systematically revealed serious personality problems, said Morice.1

“I don’t know this judgement at all,” said Rosenberg. He had been abroad at the time, studying. Morice was incredulous, but Rosenberg maintained his position.

What about the incident in 1998 when the head teachers of secondary schools (high schools) in Paris complained to the authorities about Scientologists offering their students free personality tests outside the school gates, asked Morice? Was he aware of that?

“Absolutely not,” said Rosenberg. “There are no minors who come through the door of the centre.”

Morice pressed him again as to why he had not provided the investigating magistrate with the users’ manual for the personality test.

Exasperated, Rosenberg said he had already explained that to Judge Château.

Yes, but it had not been very clear, said Morice.

Rosenberg thought he had been perfectly clear, but he explained again: it was because the magistrate had been denigrating his beliefs, which he thought was unacceptable.

The temperature was rising.

What about the personality test, asked Morice? How was it interpreted outside the machine, apart from the graph?

“I would be happy for you to do one,” said Rosenberg. “It is very simple: you use the documents of Scientology.”

The test was to help someone understand the different parts their life, said Rosenberg.

“When he sees it he will compare it with his life and he will find something that corresponds with his image,” he said.

Morice asked Rosenberg about the International Association of Scientologists (IAS). “Do you know Mike Rinder?” he said. Could he explain what a suppressive person was?

“In every religion, notably in Catholicism and in Buddhism, there is the notion that certain people see only enemies and have no friends,” said Rosenberg.

Morice produced a document from among his files, a French-language copy of Impact, the magazine of the International Association of Scientologists.

He read out the title at the top of one page: “The IAS: the Nemesis of Suppression”. It covered a speech given by Mike Rinder, Commanding officer of the Office of Special Affairs International, said Morice.2

In his speech, Rinder had referred to the legal victories that had been won against France with the help of grants from the IAS.

Morice quoted Rinder’s comments. “We won’t stop until those SPs have been shattered: because we do have the technology and the truth.”

Morice turned to Rosenberg.

“Does the fact that I defend the plaintiffs who have lodged a complaint against Scientology make me a suppressive person?” he asked.

No, said Rosenberg: the fact that you are representing the plaintiffs certainly did not, “but I don’t know you (well) enough to know if you are or not.”

When Morice pressed him on the matter Rosenberg protested. “This magazine is for Scientologists: it is meant for informed Scientologists.”

In every group there were people who oppressed others for various reasons, he insisted.

Rosenberg made it clear that he objected to the line of questioning. “My only role is to be able to serve the community,” he said.

“I think we are all creations of God – some people are more aware of it: that is all.”

Communication breakdown

Morice took him back to the issue of refunds. Rosenberg had been talking earlier in terms of gifts, or donations, he recalled.

“A gift is a gift,” said Morice. Was he really suggesting it was possible to “refund” a gift? That was not how it worked with other religions.

This was not his domain, said Rosenberg: he could not give a precise answer.

Morice asked about an unexpected refund that Aude-Claire Malton had received in 2004, years after the events in question. Why had Scientology suddenly paid her back her money, asked Morice?

“I don’t take care of legal disputes,” said Rosenberg. “How do you want me to know what happened in 2004?”

“You don’t actually know much at all,” said Morice and sat down.

For the prosecution, Nicolas Baïetto went back to Rosenberg’s earlier reaction when confronted with the passage about suppressives in Impact magazine. When exactly did one become an informed Scientologist, he asked?

“From the point when one has faith,” said Rosenberg.

Baïetto tried to push him on the point, but Rosenberg stuck resolutely to spiritual explanations and before long the two were interrupting each other in their effort to get their respective points across.

Judge Château intervened to get the situation under control. Rosenberg calmed down. I respect the court, he said.

“The problem is when one puts the question to you, one has trouble understanding the answer,” said Baïetto, clearly frustrated.

The communication problems continued.

Baïetto questioned him about Scientology’s organisational chart. He wanted to know just what Rosenberg, as the executive director, at the top of the organisational chart, was meant to do.

Rosenberg stuck to the spiritual terms of reference he had used earlier.

He asked him if it was worse for a Scientologist to have to miss out on training, or to get into debt to pay for it.

Again, there was no meeting of minds: Baïetto was not getting the clear answers he wanted.

“We don’t quite have the same vocabulary,” said Rosenberg at one point.

“I’m speaking the French language,” Baïetto replied, exasperated.

Referring back to the chart, Baïetto asked Rosenberg what Scientology meant by “crimes majeurs” (high crimes).

Rosenberg explained that this was another poor translation.

A very important tenet in Scientology was that it was a crime not to understand the text one was reading “but not a crime like in court,” he said. It was more like the Buddhist concept of respect, he said.3

'I am of good faith'

Baïetto referred again to Scientology’s organisation chart: what were these references to celebrities, he asked?

Rosenberg tried to explain Hubbard’s dictum of how the greatness of a culture was measured by its dreams and those dreams were made by its artists – but this was not what Baïetto wanted to hear.

Referring to the org chart, Baïetto named other departments and units devoted to income and sales: what were they were doing in an organisational chart for a church?

By now the exchanges were becoming bad-tempered again, to the point where Judge Château had to intervene to call him to order.

Rosenberg protested: “I have faith and I am of good faith.”

“I am talking about your behaviour,” she replied.

“I apologise,” said Rosenberg “It won’t happen again.”

He explained that for him, his position in Scientology was not a job, it was his calling: he was part of its priesthood.

Baïetto sat down, none the wiser.

Now it was the turn of the judge assessors Hélène Sottet and Josée Grouma, sitting on either side of Judge Château, to pick up the questioning. The first to intervene picked up the questioning. She returned to the question of donations, or gifts (dons).4

She could not, she said, square the legal definition of a gift with his conception of what it meant. The idea of a gift implied something freely given; but prices were imposed.

And what about somebody on welfare, she asked? How could they progress in Scientology?

Good question, said Rosenberg – and he launched into a lengthy disquisition on the evils of society and delinquency, until coming to what appeared to the core of his answer.

“He can raise his level of consciousness improve his life,” he said – if he really had the will. “Scientology makes people able to take the decisions to improve their own lives.”

Such a person could read books in the library, practice the principles they set out “and then things will sort themselves out in his life.”

But the judge was concerned about the services for which you had to pay. The Purification Rundown, for example, seemed to be an obligatory stage in one’s progress in Scientology, she said: how could you do it if you did not have any money?

“If you really understand Scientology you can change your circumstances,” said Rosenberg.

And what about Mme Malton, the judge asked? How did he feel about the fact that she had not realised she was getting into a religion, and that she had finished by feeling oppressed and depressed?

He felt a great deal of compassion, said Rosenberg.

“Periods of doubts come in a religion. When doubts increase, a person can lose their faith, and we regret it – for her and for others – but I can understand that.

“A person can lose her faith but what I regret that it can translate into an anti-religious activism, because she could very well have obtained a refund, and each party could have gone their own way.”

He didn’t know the defendants, he said again, but for him this whole problem had arisen because of a lack of dialogue.

He ran into trouble again when the third judge assessor questioned Rosenberg on financial matters.

When he denied again that he had any involvement in this area, she pressed him to say who exactly did handle the finances. He replied by quizzing her on what which financial matters exactly she meant, which did not go down well.

“Sir,” she said crisply: “I am the one who puts the questions and it is you who answers the questions.”

She continued to question him on how the money came in and while he was perfectly willing to answer in general terms, he insisted on the fact that the specifics were not his domain.

“In 30 years, you have never had any knowledge of financial matters?” she asked again.

“No,” said Rosenberg. “I have never wanted to take care of financial or legal side: I wanted to take care of the pastoral work.”

Next in the series: Defendant #4: The President.
1   The original judgement was in 1996 but Morice appears to be referring to the second paragraph of p25 of the 1997 appeal court ruling which refers to: “…fraudulent manoeuvres characterised by extensive advertising, making no initial reference to the Church of Scientology, proposing free personality tests analysed immediately and for free on a computer by people with devoid of any competence in the field and revealing almost systematically serious personal problems...” You can find the French text at Roger Gonnet’s site.
2   Issue 96 of Impact magazine, page 21 in both the English and French editions: my thanks once again to Caroline Letkeman for providing the English version. What the court did not know is that Mike Rinder has since left Scientology and is becoming one of its most outspoken critics.
3   Rosenberg is right on the first point: “neglecting to clarify words not understood” is a high crime. It is one of five points of “out-study tech” listed in Chapter Seven of Introduction to Scientology Ethics, in the section listing suppressive acts. “Repeated or continued violation,” after two ethics tribunals and a committee of evidence, can lead to the person found guilty being “declared suppressive and expelled with full penalties…” (p219-220 of my edition). Study tech is a system of Hubbard’s devising and therefore sacrosanct in the eyes of Scientologists.
4   I confess I did not get their names until after the trial was over and so cannot say which of the two posed which question.

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