Tag Archives: France

Saturday Morning Is A Time Of Cartoons And French Libel Law

The review of Dr. Karin Calvo-Goller’s book by Thomas Weigend in European Journal of International Law.

Aisha Labi in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

A law professor at New York University faces trial in a French criminal court in June on libel charges, after refusing to purge an academic book review from a Web site affiliated with a law journal that he edits, Times Higher Education reports.

Joseph Weiler, editor in chief of the European Journal of International Law, is being sued by Karin Calvo-Goller, a senior lecturer at the Academic Centre of Law and Business in Israel, for a review of her book, The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court, that was published on the Web site in 2007.

Soon after it appeared, Ms. Calvo-Goller wrote to Mr. Weiler, saying that the review, by Thomas Weigend, director of the Cologne Institute of Foreign and International Criminal Law and dean of the faculty of law at the University of Cologne, was defamatory. She asked that the review be removed from the site.

“Prof. Weigend’s review goes beyond the expression of an opinion, fair comment, and criticism,” she wrote in correspondence reproduced in an editorial on “Book Reviewing and Academic Freedom” that Mr. Weiler has written for the current issue of the European Journal of International Law. She deemed the review “libelous,” saying it could “cause harm to my professional reputation and academic promotion,” and provided an example of a positive review the book had received from another German professor.

Mr. Weiler refused to remove the review but offered to publish a response from Ms. Calvo-Goller, “so that anyone reading the review would immediately be able to read her reply,” an approach that “would have amply and generously vindicated all possible interests of the author of the book,” he wrote in the editorial. “I continue to believe that in all the circumstances of the case … removing the review by Professor Weigend would have dealt a very serious blow to notions of freedom of speech, free academic exchange, and the very important institution of book reviewing.”

Lauren Streib at Business Insider:

So what did the author Dr. Karin N. Calvo-Goller find to be false and defamatory in Professor Thomas Weigend’s book review? Wigend’s statement that, “…in the main part of her book she simply restates the contents of relevant parts of the ICC Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.”

Apparently a pin-prick of a criticism is enough to bruise Calvo-Goller’s ego.

Read the whole play-by-play of the literary transgression at EJIL.

Henry Farrell:

Via a CT reader, this rather horrifying attempt to hold an academic journal criminally responsible (PDF) for publishing a negative book review and then refusing to suppress it. As Joseph Weiler, the editor of the European Journal of International Law describes the culmination of his saga:

… on 26 September 2008 I received a Subpoena to appear before a French Examining Judge in connection with an investigation of alleged criminal libel based on a complaint made by Dr Calvo-Goller essentially replicating the complaints in her first letter to me. … in libel cases, all investigations of the merits of the case are exclusively reserved for the Criminal Court itself and, therefore, as a direct consequence of the complaint being filed, it was necessary that I be referred to the Court for trial. The date for the trial has now been set for 25 June 2010.The review (in the European Journal of International Law ) is decidedly pungent, but (without commenting on the legal aspects,which I know nothing about) it seems to my eyes to be well within the usual norms of academic book reviewing (where a general tendency towards back-slapping congeniality is leavened by occasional fits of vigorous criticism). Weiler asks that academics who are upset at Dr. Calvo-Goller’s novel approach to managing the fallout from negative book-reviews send letters of “indignation/support” by email attachment (preferably with letterhead and affiliation) to EJIL.academicfreedom@Gmail.com, especially if they are editors or book review editors for other journals. He also asks that people send scanned or digital copies of other caustic book reviews to this address, so as to demonstrate that Dr. Calvo-Goller’s unhappy experience at the hands of a critic is nothing unusual.

DJW:

The substance of her complaints seem quite specious to this non-expert on her subject, and the review itself is a pretty run of the mill negative review. In the pretrial hearing, he was told by the examining judge that she couldn’t rule on substance and the case would be going to trial. Obviously, the idea that book review editors could be subject to criminal sanction, or even defending themselves against criminal charges, could certainly have a chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom.

As with the McDonalds case, it’s difficult to grasp why the complainant finds this particular course of action wise. Even if the book review in question contained actionable libelous claims, which seems doubtful, the notoriety of effectively declaring oneself an enemy of academic freedom will surely do more damage to her reputation than a couple of unfair critical remarks in a book review.

I’d certainly be curious to hear a defense of the “burden of proof lies on the defendant” approach to libel law on the merits, because it’s not easy for me to imagine what that would look like.

Zoe Corbyn at Times Higher Education

Mike Masnick at Techdirt:

The editor, Joseph Weiler, has written up the whole saga (pdf), including the letters between the two. He concludes by pointing out how this lawsuit seems to go against all principles of academic discourse:

I believe that in the circumstances of this affair, her action of instigating a criminal libel case against me for refusing to remove the book review is misguided and inconsistent with the most fundamental practices of all academic institutions with which I am familiar and with traditional academic discourse.

It really is difficult to see how someone could think that a slightly negative review could do more harm to one’s professional reputation than filing a criminal defamation lawsuit against the editor who published that review.

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Dust Off Those Serge Gainsbourg Records And Fill Up On The Crepes (And The Cliches)

The above video was posted by Rod Dreher and Will at The League. Dreher:

Yes, it’s Bastille Day again, and while one naturellement prays for the Vendee on this day, one also must rise above the Late Unpleasantness to salute a great nation and a great people on their national day. Drink a bottle of French wine, eat a smelly cheese, hug a French person, put a cedille on your c, have an extramarital affair with Nicolas Sarkozy, taunt an Englishman, just do something today to tip your hat to France and to Franco-American friendship.

New Majority has a series of posts. David Frum:

Bye-bye freedom fries. After Nicolas Sarkozy’s words on behalf of Iranian democracy (and French diplomacy’s tough line on the Iranian bomb!), it’s time to renew the venerable American love affair with France. Nuclear power, effective intelligence services, and (yes!) healthcare that offers some useful examples to the United States – there’s a lot to like. Yes there are problems too of course. High unemployment, excessive taxation, and financial crisis to match America’s own. But on this Bastille Day, let’s remember that the Franco-American relationship, though sometimes difficult, has more often been a source of mutual delight and wonderment between the two great free and democratic republics that have together defined modern industry and modern culture.

Jean Granville:

So why do the French prefer to commemorate the storming of an empty prison by a bloodthirsty lynch mob, along with the decapitation and evisceration of a few innocent guards, instead of the adoption of France’s most important piece of legislation? This strange situation probably reflects the ambiguity of the revolutionary heritage. As it is well known, the French revolution engendered both the first modern totalitarian state, as France could have been described from 1791 to 1793, when the revolutionary government conducted bloody purges along with a genocide in Vendée, and the contemporary French democracy, to the extent that our current regime effectively proceeds from the Revolution. Historically, it would be more accurate to describe the final adoption of the Republic, which happened between 1871 and 1875, as a compromise between moderate republicans, mostly classical liberals who did not really care whether the nominal head of state was a president or a monarch as long as the democratic character of the regime was secured; and moderate monarchists who likewise attached more importance to the conservative character of the regime than for it to be ruled by a monarch.

Jeff Cimbalo

Peter Worthington

Frum again

Matthew Yglesias with another version of “La Marseillaise”

Robert Morrison at the Family Research Council:

Today is Bastille Day, France’s national holiday. Too bad. The French celebrate an incredibly grisly event. This huge prison in the heart of Paris was a symbol of royal despotism. English-speakers can read about such prisons in works like Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. There, the fictional Monsieur Manet, a frail and innocent shoemaker, was swallowed up for years—imprisoned without a charge, without a day in court. In fact, many an innocent man wasted away in the Bastille. If some personal enemy purchased a lettre de cachet—a document that allowed the named person to be packed away, the gates of the Bastille could close forever. But some, like the Marquis de Sade, lived in relative comfort within those massive stone walls.

Notwisconsin at Daily Kos:

Since the last successful revolution in 1959, France has been mostly calm (May 1968 was a play revolution, not a real one). The French mourn their lost glory by drinking wine and eating cheese. Two excellent activities.  Vive Le France!

Ellen Kanner at HuffPo with a recipe:

Celebrate Bastille Day by remembering fun Frenchman Francois de La Rochefoucauld who said, “To eat is a necessity but to eat intelligently is an art.” Eat intelligently. Eat well. Eat green. Eat as though the world depends on it. Because it does. Viva la revolution and bon appetit.

[…] No doubt about it, the French know how to eat and what to eat — including the pleasure of warm salads. Warm salads are no veggie afterthought, they’re dinner’s raison d’etre.

If the only warm salad you know is the classic wilted spinach salad puddled in bacon dressing, this green bean salad is a lovely summer thing, bright, freshness, pigless and a breeze to make when it’s too hot to hang out in the kitchen.

Add crusty whole grain bread and veggie pate or cheese and you’ve got dinner.

1-1/2 pounds green beans
3 cloves garlic
2 scallions
8 ounces portobellos
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 pint grape tomatoes

For dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil or walnut oil
2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

optional — hard boiled egg halves for garnish

Trim green beans and steam until bright green and crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Rinse and plunge beans into ice water (this may be done a day ahead. Once beans are cool, blot dry and refrigerate covered until ready to use).

Chop garlic and scallions. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and scallions. Stir until vegetables wilt, about 3-5 minutes. Add sliced portobellos and cook another 2 minutes. Flip mushroom slices and add the wine or broth. Reduce heat to medium and continue sauteeing until mushrooms darken and are just tender. Remove skillet contents to a plate, reserve the skillet as is.

Place chopped walnuts in an ovenproof dish and toast in oven at 400 for 8 to 10 minutes, until dark and fragrant. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, prepare salad dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together olive or walnut oil, mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar.

Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add green beans, pour dressing over all and toss to coat. Toss gently until heated though, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add grape tomatoes and stir. Continue heating another 3 minutes. Vegetables should be just warm with a slight luster from the dressing.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to bowl or platter. Top with portobellos and walnuts and optional hard boiled eggs.

Serves 4 to 6.

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Royale With Cheese

Mike Steinberger has a new book out, Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France.

Excerpt in Slate:

In the battle for France, Jose Bové, the protester who vandalized a McDonald’s in 1999 and was then running for president, proved to be no match for Le Big Mac. The first round of the presidential election was held on April 22, and Bové finished an embarrassing tenth, garnering barely 1 percent of the total vote. By then, McDonald’s had eleven hundred restaurants in France, three hundred more than it had had when Bové gave new meaning to the term “drive-through.” The company was pulling in over a million people per day in France, and annual turnover was growing at twice the rate it was in the United States. Arresting as those numbers were, there was an even more astonishing data point: By 2007, France had become the second-most profitable market in the world for McDonald’s, surpassed only by the land that gave the world fast food. Against McDonald’s, Bové had lost in a landslide.

As reprehensible as Bové’s tactics were, it was difficult for a food-loving Francophile not to feel a little solidarity with him. If you believed that McDonald’s was a blight on the American landscape, seeing it on French soil was like finding a peep show at the Vatican, and in a contest between Roquefort and Chicken McNuggets, I knew which side I was on. But implicit in this attitude was a belief that McDonald’s had somehow been foisted on the French; that slick American marketing had lured them away from the bistro and into the arms of Ronald McDonald. However, that just wasn’t true. The French came to McDonald’s and la malbouffe (or fast-food) willingly, and in vast and steadily rising numbers. Indeed, the quarter-pounded conquest of France was not the result of some fiendish American plot to subvert French food culture. It was an inside job, and not merely in the sense that the French public was lovin’ it—the architects of McDonald’s strategy in France were French.

Carey Jones in Serious Eats

Dr. Vino

Veronique de Rugy in The Corner

Mark Hemingway in The Corner

Michael Goldfarb in TWS:

In the course of Donald Morrison’s review of Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger, we learn that McDonald’s is the largest private employer in all of France, which is sort of like being the largest provider of health insurance in North Korea, but nonetheless, it feels like a major triumph for American culture and cuisine. I once ate at the McDonald’s right next to the Arc de Triomphe. My quarter pounder tasted like hegemony.

UPDATE: Matt Y on Goldfarb:

It’s worth pointing out that this is not hegemony at all, but rather the dread soft power. When I was in Finland, I saw an episode of Medium dubbed into Swedish on television. There was a Starbucks near the hotel I stayed at in Geneva. I’ve shown you my photo of Dunkin Coffee in Barcelona before. I’m told that an American-style Santa Claus is popular in Japan. They play basketball in China and baseball in Colombia. And of course Microsoft Office and iPods are ubiquitous wherever you have people rich enough to own modern information technology.

UPDATE #2:Will Ferroggiaro and Judah Grunstein doing Bloggingheads

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Burka Brouhaha, En Francais

burka

Sarkozy and the Burka (or Burqa).

Jill Lawrence in Politics Daily:

From the Associated Press:

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,” he said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

From the New York Times:
“The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women.”

Charles Johnson at LGF

Saira Khan in The Mail

And yet, as a British Muslim woman, I abhor the practice and am calling on the Government to follow the lead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ban the burkha in our country.

The veil is simply a tool of oppression which is being used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom.

My parents moved here from Kashmir in the 1960s. They brought with them their faith and their traditions – but they also understood that they were starting a new life in a country where Islam was not the main religion.

My mother has always worn traditional Kashmiri clothes – the salwar kameez, a long tunic worn over trousers, and the chador, which is like a pashmina worn around the neck or over the hair.

When she found work in England, she adapted her dress without making a fuss. She is still very much a traditional Muslim woman, but she swims in a normal swimming costume and jogs in a tracksuit.

Jessica Valenti at Feministing:

Banning the burqa doesn’t further women’s rights – it limits them. Now, obviously there’s a difference in Islamic women’s dress from the hijab to the burqa – but legally banning any of them erases all agency from Muslim women. (I’m especially wary of Sarkozy’s comments and this potential ban given that France banned headscarves from public schools in 2004.)

If you’re interested in hearing Muslim women talking about the hijab, here are a couple of interesting vids.

Amad at Muslim Matters:

This French President, described in a recent book (failed to be blocked from publication — so much for free speech!) as an uncaring father and a womanizer wants to now tell Muslim women how to dress. I’d like to ask Sarkozy that if he can tell us how we should dress, then under equal rights of the “republic”, why can’t Muslims tell French women how not to dress?  We are even willing to donate some extra clothing material to help the near-nudity on display everyday in this model nation!

For a President to devote significant time to the hijab in an important speech to the Parliament, the first one since the 19th century, is a clear indication that Sarkozy is running out of ideas to save the country from its economic and social ills. By letting the public focus on a clearly divisive issue, but one whose inherent prejudice bonds French citizens across the political spectrum, Sarkozy wants to use this “coalition of bigots” to distract the public from real problems.

At The Corner, Veronique de Rugy:

I have mixed feelings about this one. I am generally against all prohibition, and I am against encroachments of the freedom or religion. However, I also have read enough (here for instance) about the treatment and condition of Muslim women to find the Burqa troublesome (as the visible sign of their oppression).

Andrew Stuttaford

That said, although almost all societies do enact dress codes that reflect their notions of decency, banning the burqa from the street seems to me to be both a step too far and, quite possibly, counter-productive. What Sarkozy should do, however, is ensure that his fellow-citizens are as free to criticize the burqa as he is. In a country that stamps on free speech in the name of combatting the bogeyman of “Islamophobia,” it’s by no means clear that this indeed the case.
And more Stuttaford
Ambrose Burnside at Daily Kos:

The question remains, though.  Would a ban of the burqa be a women’s rights victory?  Or a regressive act that would stifle the free will of women who wish to wear the burqa?  Personally, I’m not in favor of banning any sort of clothing, religiously based or not, with a few exceptions such as making people remove face-coverings for ID photos, court appearances, for the police, and similar situations.

If a woman wants to wear a burqa out in public, and she’s doing it completely by her own free will, there is no reason why she shouldn’t be able to and a law banning the burqa would be a slap in the face for women’s rights.

However, if it turns out that women generally only wear the burqa to avoid being abused by jealous males, banning the burqa would be an important step toward women advancing in society.

UPDATE: Freddy Gray in TAC:

In 2003, when France decided to ban the Islamic veil from schools, there was at least an arguable case that state schools represented a public – and therefore necessarily secular — space. But to propose that hijab and niqab be expelled from French society is a more radical idea, one that carries a strong whiff of secular absolutism.

Sarkozy says that the Islamic veil is “not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.” Of course it isn’t. It would be a great shame if all French women began covering their faces. (Imagine if we could not behold the elegant features of Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni.) But is it not an equal, or even greater, affront to women’s independence to demand that they show their faces? What if a woman chooses to hide her face from the world? Is that not a legitimate expression of her freedom, religious or otherwise?

UPDATE #2: Michelle Goldberg in American Prospect:

A ban on burqas would, of course, be unthinkable in the American context, because our understanding of church state separation, and of free speech, is quite different than the one prevailing in France. “Here in America, the separation of church and state is about the protection of religion from the state,” Scott says. “In France, the idea is to protect individuals from the claims of religion. The state can intervene on behalf of individuals when they are thought to be oppressed by some communal group.”

Yet such state interventions can end up working against individual women. Last year, for example, a Moroccan woman married to a French man was denied French citizenship because she wore a burqa at her husband’s request. The ruling declared her “radical practice of her religion (and) behavior in society incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably the principle of equality between the sexes.” According to the scholar Cécile Laborde, political parties, intellectuals and journalists praised the decision almost unanimously.

Likewise, Sarkozy’s prospective burqa ban has significant feminist support, including the backing of the feminist group Ni Putes Ni Soumises, or Neither Whores Nor Doormats, which has its roots in France’s Muslim ghettos. It’s worth taking the position of Ni Putes Ni Soumises seriously, since the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism has been, for them, a matter of life and death. Like the Somali-Dutch feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, their activism serves as a crucial corrective to multicultural pieties.

Ultimately, though, there’s no evidence that most burqa-clad French women regard themselves as oppressed. “There are women who wear burqas who are not being forced by anyone, who think that form of modesty is appropriate for who they want to be in the world,” says Scott. “It’s hard to distinguish between them and those who are being forced.” And so in the end, a ban putatively passed to further women’s rights could instead impinge on their freedom, and take from them something they value. Even worse, it could lead to those in the most fundamentalist of households being trapped inside their homes altogether. It would be cruel to limit these women’s options in the name of liberation, even if their clothes are a rebuke to the secularism that the French rightly hold sacred.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias:

A woman whose husband and/or other male relations have enough power over her to force her into a burqa against her will is only going to be forced by those same men further underground by this sort of rule. The only kind of person who would be genuinely unveiled by this kind of legal measure would be someone with enough autonomy to be in a position to choose compliance with the law over compliance with tradition. The French have a strong tradition not just of secularism, but of a kind of illiberal egalitarianism that holds that everyone should really be the same, and I think it tends to push them toward measures like this that don’t ultimately help anyone.

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez

UPDATE: James Kirchick at Commentary

UPDATE: Now the burquini has been banned. New York Times.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens in Slate

Shikha Dalmia at Forbes

UPDATE: Ryan Brown at Salon

Jim Newell at Gawker

Rod Dreher

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Ils Ne Font Pas Des Notes d’une Falaise Pour Cela

400coups01

So the French ask different questions on their tests than we do.

Charles Bremner in the Times

The philosophy test, or rather torture, is still the “royal subject” of the baccalauréat, the national high school examination that opens the way to university and adulthood. Apart from students in trades and technical schools, all pupils are obliged to take the philosophy exam.

Literacy may be declining in France like everywhere else but it says something about the intellectual skills still required of the young that about half of all late teenagers in France earn a baccalauréat that includes philosophy.

The bac, with its centralised, simultaneous examinations is a ritual of a rare kind. For weeks the media have built up to the big moment of the bac philo — the opening test — with tips on subjects and handling stress and bac memoirs from celebrities. Today, television and radio are reporting from the school gates.

The philosophy questions have just been released. My son, who’s just 18, was required to dissert on one of the following two questions: What is gained by exchange ? (Que gagne-t-on à échanger) and Does technological development transform mankind?  (Le développement technique transforme-t-il les hommes ?).

Arthur Goldhammer has the questions in French.

Alex Massie provides some of the questions in English

For the Science Stream:

1) Is it absurd to desire the impossible? 2) Are there questions which no science can answer?

Well, is it absurd to desire the impossible?

Matthew Yglesias

And from the science series:

— Are there questions that are un-answerable by science?

The correct answers are no, no, I don’t know anything about Schopenhauer, and yes. Apparently there’s also a question asking if it’s absurd to desire the impossible. I think it is.

Either way, I think it’s safe to say that Barack Obama’s nowhere near turning us into France.

Dana Goldstein in Tapped

Okay, so there is no country quite as philosophique — and, at times, absurd — as France. And to be fair, Le Bac is a college entrance exam, not a high school graduation exam. Still, the majority of French high school students sit for the test. Could you ever imagine the SAT or ACT asking students to write an essay on such complex, intellectual topics? Matt Yglesias spent a semester studying in France as a high school student. He tells me via instant message: “It was hard. Even their English class seemed hard.” And Matt, as you know, is really, really smart.

Michael C. Moynihan in Reason

Well, I certainly hope the average 17 year-old American won’t be asked if “language betrays thought” as a college entrance requirement. But a few points here: Many students sit for the test, but just how well do they do? As London Times correspondent Charles Bremmer notes (his son took his Bac exams today and Bremmer complains that “The French curriculum and teachers are slanted solidly to the left,” demanding that his son tailor answers to political fashions), the tests have been dumbed down (or graded on a significant curve) since the 1970s, when a paltry 20 percent managed to pass. Indeed, if one looks at international ranks from PISA and OECD French scores are pretty mediocre (but still better than American scores), despite massive expenditures on education and the chin-stroking college entrance questions that ask if it is “absurd to desire the impossible.”

Also, is it just me or does Goldstein sounds more like Alan Bloom than a liberal writer at the American Prospect? As Bremmer points out, some critics contend that “The baccalauréat is too elitist” and is unfair to both immigrants and members of the proletariat. Sure, we can use the test as a political and cultural cudgel (“Europeans are so cultured, so smart, so philosophique, compared to us lunk-headed Americans!”), but how would the Prospect brigade react to this uncomfortable statistic, provided by The Times: “Fewer than half the children of working class parents earn the certificate that gives passage to university.”

Julian Sanchez

The common thread I see is that almost all of these  sound rather lofty and, well, French as they are. But they can all be pretty easily paraphrased to sound less highbrow without materially altering the question. Once we’ve done that, they look an awful lot like the essay prompts on comparable American tests: Allowing the brightest students to spread their wings, but also capable of acceptable if rather more workmanlike answers. Now, probably someone like Dana looks at these prompts and immediately starts imagining the kind of complex answer that she, as a college-educated adult, would give to a question like that. Once you make that move, of course, it’s natural to think: “My God, that’s what they expect of their 18-year-olds?”  But it’s probably not—it’s what the question leaves space for the brightest of the 18-year-olds to attempt , not the baseline for an acceptable answer.

UPDATE: John Holbo

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Battlefield France

BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard

Scientology goes on trial in France.

William Kern at The Moderate Voice links to Angelique Negroni (translated from French):

This referral to a criminal court, presided over by investigating magistrate Jean-Christophe Hullin, may result in serious consequences for the organization. During the eleven days of scheduled hearings the organization’s future in France will be at stake, because dissolution could be imposed. While it’s true that this punishment would be enforced only on the organization’s two Paris offices, many feel that if applied, it would mark the beginning of the end of L. Ron Hubbard’s empire in our country.

During the trial, debate will center on the purpose of this organization. Does it really aim to promote a method of spiritual awakening, as it states, or is it a vast enterprise designed to part victims from their wealth, as the lawyer for the victims, Olivier Morice, contends?

For Mr. Morice, the trial is the culmination of a long arm-wrestling match between the courts and Scientology. “There was an important ruling in Lyon in 1997, that resulted in convictions for fraud. We are putting the methods of the organization before the same magistrates who heard that case 12 years ago. But this time, the courts may condemn the structure of the organization rather than those who it employs.”

Ruth Gledhill at Times Online, writing about doing a BBC call-in show on Scientology.

PZ Myers

Pierre-Antoine Souchard via HuffPo

UPDATE: New York Times, on the church being found guilty

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