In the suburbs of Paris, in Saint-Denis, some local people are concerned as the Church of Scientology is planning to open its new French headquarters.
This building of more than 7,000 square metres includes an auditorium, study rooms, and even saunas… All this right next to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games main buildings.
“We are right next to the Stade de France,” says Philippe Caro, a resident. “Now you have the new Olympic swimming pool here. We are in the heart of the future Olympic facilities.”
A neighbour from the site was one of the 30,000 signatories of a petition against the purchase of the building for 33 million Euros in 2017.
The municipality has since tried to stop the work**.** But an appeal court ruled in favour of the Church of Scientology last December.
‘A risk’ for the inhabitants
“It leaves the town in the grip of an organisation such as this one, with enormous resources compared to a town like Saint-Denis,” explains Philippe Caro.
“This poses a danger, a risk for the inhabitants and the neighbourhood in terms of sectarian presence.”
‘Misuse of power’ for the organisation
Several parliamentary reports have defined the organisation as a sectarian movement. The European spokesperson of the Church of Scientology rejects this designation.
“There are people from the town hall and the prefecture who have tried to prevent the work from being carried out in ways that were fallacious,” explains Eric Roux, the vice president of the European Office of the Church of Scientology.
“I think the best response is the one given by the Court of Appeal, which said that this was a misuse of power. Misuse of power by a representative of the State or an elected official is serious. Some people are racist, who are intolerant, unfortunately, this is the reality today and we have to deal with it. But when the law says what is right, it says what is right.”
The Church of Scientology is likely to inaugurate the new headquarters before the 2024 Paris Games. The courts have given the city until the end of March to re-examine the request for authorisation for the work.
It has several thousands of followers in France, where it operates legally under the status of an association.