Saturday 19 September 2009

23 The Celebrity Centre II

The Purification Rundown is a religious purification rite that cures nothing, Scientologist Eric Roux told the court.

When the subject of the personality tests came up, Roux was quick to tackle one of the more embarrassing internal documents read out earlier in the trial. It had referred to the tests as “a good, reliable method of getting people to come in.”

Just as the defendant Alain Rosenberg had said before him, Roux said that this was an old document from the 1960s and thus misleading.

The test was more about helping find their “spiritual aptitudes” helping them towards self-determination. The test, he said, was a “spiritual mirror of how that person feels”, he added.

So why then was it introduced as something based on scientific research, asked the judge?

“I don’t care if it is scientific,” said Roux. Speaking for himself, he said, he was not interested in that aspect.

Judge Château noted that in the plaintiff Aude-Claire Malton’s case, there had been no reference to the Church of Scientology. It only referred to the Dianetics Centre. Why, she asked?

Because it had been the Dianetics Centre that had printed it, said Roux – and the fact was, he added, “Malton knew very well that it was Scientology.” Anyone entering the Celebrity Centre could not fail to realise that it was part of the Church of Scientology.

But Judge Château was still not satisfied.

“Do you not think that some people, perhaps wrongly, would hesitate to do the test if they knew it was Scientology, whereas if it is Dianetics it is more mysterious?”

Dianetics and Scientology were associated, said Roux. But in any case, 90 percent of people came to Scientology not via the test but by other means.

Was it a policy to hand out the test in more affluent districts, asked the judge?

“Not at all,” said Roux. “There is no general advice.” But Scientologists were in a no-win situation, he argued.

“When we go into a poor neighbourhood, we are accused of proselytising in a poor neighbourhood; when we go into a rich neighbourhood, we are accused of proselytising in a rich neighbourhood. Whatever we do, we are doing something wrong.”

And how did someone progress in Scientology if they had little or no money, asked the judge? Many services had to be paid for, and even when paid for in instalments you could not get your product until you had made all your payments.

Even in department stores, if you agreed to pay in instalments you could take your purchase home with you, she said.

“We are not in a shop, said Roux. “We are in a church. We can’t let people go without having paid.”

There were various ways people with little or no money could get involved, said Roux. You could come into the Celebrity Centre and get audited for free, he said. And you could still receive pastoral advice at the Centre.

“The real meaning of charity is to help the person to reach a state where they will be able to find their self-determination again,” he said.

“We are going to help the person to the point where they can earn their own living,” said Roux.

Hard sell is “taking care of someone”

Judge Château returned to the case of the plaintiff Aude-Claire Malton who in barely four months had spent 140,000 francs (21,000 euros) on Scientology and got herself heavily into debt.

Why were people such as Malton encouraged to take out such exorbitant loans when they were not even paying for courses to be done immediately, but for goods and services two or three years in advance, she asked?

They did not force anyone to take out credit, said Roux. “We want people to progress and that is all that interests us. People want to progress in Scientology.”

So far as Malton was concerned, he said: “From what I heard it was she who wanted to have a service.”

“I’m not sure that is what I heard,” said the judge. And how was she supposed to pay back these loans at 20 percent interest, she asked?

If people spent large sums of money on Scientology – or took out loans to pay for their progress in the movement – it was their decision, said Roux.

“If some people do so, it is because they want to pay for their spiritual progress and that is more important than something like a loan for a new car.”

Staffers put no pressure on people, he said. “Of course it is our interest to have contributions, but there is a nuance between encouraging and forcing people: no one is forced to do anything.”

And what about what hard-sell tactics described by the plaintiffs and the training in hard sell mentioned by former member Roger Gonnet, she asked?

“No, absolutely not,” said Roux. In Scientology, hard sell meant something else entirely: “The definition is that someone is going to take care of someone, because someone asks.”[1]

So far as Scientology’s internal documents on hard sell were concerned, he said: “These are old texts. This has nothing to do with Scientology. If Roger Gonnet practises Scientology that way, then I understand. He is an anti-Scientology activist.”

And what about the defendant Jean-François Valli’s advice to the plaintiff Aude-Claire Malton to take out a loan with SOFINCO, asked the judge? Was that part of normal Scientology counselling, or had Valli made a mistake here?

“I think he would have done better not to do that,” said Roux. “It is not at all the practice of the association to do that.” But it was difficult to prevent such things happening on every occasion.

Judge Château referred to the document that had been drawn up for Malton, advising step-by-step on how to proceed: from resigning her job to moving to a cheaper apartment. Was that part of Scientology’s “hard sell”, she asked?

“We don’t take care of the way people manage their finances,” said Roux. But if people wanted to become staffers – as Malton had been on the point of doing before she quit the movement – then, with their consent, they would be advised on how best to go about it.

“And for you this was entirely normal?” asked the judge. Malton had paid for training several years in advance and yet suddenly she was taking up a job that entitled her to free training.

Malton’s situation had been a fairly uncommon one, said Roux. “Generally, people with large sums of money are not staffers. If Mme Malton had persisted with her request to be a staff member and had been accepted… she would have been refunded.”

Pressed on this matter later by Maître Olivier Morice, Malton’s lawyer, he added: “You don’t become a staff member because you want free services [but] because you want to carry the Scientology flame, because you have observed its benefits.”

And what about the practice of follow-up calls: contacting people at work to get them to buy more courses, asked the judge?

“That is not the practice of Scientology unless someone specifically requests it,” said Roux. “What is a follow-up call? That is something from a business: we are not a business. We train auditors so people can progress spiritually. People phone us sometimes.”

“We are curing nothing” (on the Rundown)

Turning to the Purification Rundown, Judge Château said she was still not clear about the rules regarding doses or the training of its supervisors – and even Scientology’s own witness, Dr. David Root, had been unable to clear up the matter, she said.

Dr. Root had said that the way Scientology ran the programme was perfectly correct, said Roux. But this was a question of freedom of religion, he said.

“It is not just freedom of belief, but freedom to practise,” he added.

The court was associating the Purification Rundown with something medical, said Roux. “This is nothing to do with medicine. We are curing nothing. It is a purification rite, in which we have no pretensions towards curing anything.”

The Purification Rundown, he said, was about spiritual liberation.

The court’s first priority was that the law was being respected, said the judge. And if this procedure violated the law, then that was a problem, surely?

“If you say that Scientologists have not got the right to do the Purification Rundown then you are violating our right to practise our religion,” said Roux.

No, said the judge: but it had to be practised within the limits set by the law. What safety measures were taken, she asked?

“It isn’t for me to decide,” said Roux. A doctor was consulted to see if someone was medically fit to do the Rundown, he said. “For the rest of it, we are doing a religious programme. Thousands of people in France have done this programme without any problem,” he added.

And referring back to Scientology’s witness, Dr. Root, Roux rejected any suggestion that the treatment needed to be adjusted to account for factors such as weight or age. “He said for healthy people there was no need to individualise treatment.”

Judge Château asked about the files kept on the Scientologists taking services: she wanted to know who had access to what.

“The religious files are secret and are not available to everyone,” said Roux.

Judge Château reminded him that former plaintiff Eric Aubry had said that Scientologists had made inappropriate remarks to him touching on aspects of his personal life that had come out in auditing sessions – and that this material was meant to be secret.

“If someone uses someone’s files, then that is a serious offence (faute grave),” said Roux. It had never happened in his experience.

And could a file be used against someone; could it be sent to the United States, asked the judge?

Roux effectively repeated his earlier answer: “If a staff member used something in a file on someone that would be a serious offence.” But he denied Aubry complaint that he had been put under pressure and made to feel guilty.

Judge Château turned to the defendant Alain Rosenberg’s position on the organisation chart: he had insisted during his testimony that his post of “executive director” – positioned at the top of the organisational chart – did not mean he had any actual executive role. Roux confirmed this.

His role was more one of coordination, said Roux. He officiated at major events and carried out the conventional religious duties. He was also involved in training and developing new courses. And although it was an important post, it should not be confused with the conventional meaning it was given in English.

He was pressed a little further on this by one of the other judges: Eric Aubry had spoken about Rosenberg as being the leader of the association.

“Rosenberg does all the big events,” said Roux.

“No,” said the judge: “He spoke of him as the leader.”
[1] In Scientology terms, this is perfectly true: “Hard Sell means insistence that people buy. It means caring about the person and not being reasonable about stops or barriers but caring enough to get him through the stops or barriers to get the service that's going to rehabilitate him.” HCO policy letter Sept. 26, 1979, Thanks to John Peeler for tracking that one down. See also the official Scientology definition of hard sell: 1. means insistence people buy. (HCO PL 4 Mar 65 II) 2. caring about the person, not being reasonable with stops and barriers and getting him fully paid up and taking the service (LRH ED 159R-1 INT) Modern Management Technology Defined.

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