CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

Italy: After Twenty Years Scientology Wins Mother of All Court Cases

On October 5, 2000 the Church of Scientology won in Milan, Italy the mother of all its court cases in Italy and a case that has troubled the Church for the last twenty years. While some Italian courts (including Rome and Turin) have considered Scientology as a religion, a different conclusion was consistently reached by the Court of Appeal of Milan in the 1990s. Reforming a first degree decision favourable to Scientology (after an investigation started in 1979), on November 5, 1993 the Milan appeal judges found a number of Scientologists guilty of a variety of crimes, all allegedly committed before 1981, ignoring the question whether Scientology was a religion. The Italian Supreme Court, on February 9, 1995, annulled the Milan 1993 decision with remand, asking the Court of Appeal to reconsider whether Scientology was indeed a religion. On December 2, 1996 the Court of Appeal of Milan complied, but maintained that Scientology was not a religion and found again the Scientologists guilty. On October 9, 1997 the Supreme Court annulled also the Milan 1996 decision, again with remand (meaning that another section of the Court of Appeal of Milan should re-examine the facts of the case). The Supreme Court regarded the Milan theistic definition of religion as "unacceptable" and "a mistake", because it was "based only on the paradigm of Biblical religions", and went on with a book-length discussion of how and why Scientology is indeed a religion (for a discussion and a summary see http://www.cesnur.org/testi/SCIE.HTM). On October 5, 2000 the Court of Appeal of Milan, deciding on remand and for the third time the same case, finally closed the 20-years old saga, ended its feud with the Supreme Court, and found in favor of the Scientologists. Grounds for the decision will be released later.


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Revised last: 11-10-2000