The Church of Scientology, classified in France as a sect by several parliamentary reports, will inaugurate a new training center on Saturday April 6 on the outskirts of Paris in Saint-Denis, Agence France-Presse (AFP) learned from the municipality, hostile to its installation.

On the facade of the large glass building, in the La Plaine business district 300 meters from the Stade de France, two large vertical banners were displayed on Friday with the inscriptions “Dianetics” (the concept of founder L. Ron Hubbard) and “ Scientology,” noted an AFP journalist. “Church of Scientology

The actor and Scientology figure Tom Cruise as well as the current head of the Church, David Miscavige, came to the Paris region last week, according to a source close to the matter, specifying however that their presence for the inauguration was not This was not planned at the moment.

“Large-scale reconquest strategy”

In its last report dating from 2021, the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses (Miviludes) emphasized that this choice of location in Saint-Denis was “not insignificant”. “The five-story building is located near the Stade de France, the future Olympic village and the A1 motorway from where the movement could make the eight-pointed cross, its symbol, visible,” wrote Miviludes.

The organization had recorded thirty-three referrals concerning the Church of Scientology during the year 2021 and highlighted a “large-scale reconquest strategy” and a “lack of transparency of the group”. A declaration of demonstration concerning the inauguration of the place was received at the prefecture, a police source told AFP. The grand opening is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. A service is also planned for Sunday at 11 a.m.

The Church already has two smaller centers in Paris and two others in France, in Angers and Clermont-Ferrand.

Administrative battle with the municipality

“The town hall is experiencing this opening and regrets that this building was not pre-empted when Scientology bought it. The fundamental error [was made] at that time,” the socialist town hall of Saint-Denis told AFP. The city had engaged in a “bitter administrative battle” with the Church since the building was acquired by a real estate company in 2017.

In 2019, the former communist municipality refused the creation of an establishment open to the public, citing shortcomings in terms of fire safety and accessibility. After an initial cancellation of the municipal decree, administrative justice confirmed this decision on appeal in December 2021, considering that the refusal of work amounted to a “misuse of power”. The town hall announced that it would be vigilant against attempts at proselytism, after having noted canvassing near the metro and café terraces.

“They want to send the message that it is growing, while the movement is collapsing almost everywhere in the world,” Ludovic Durand, a staff member of the center of the 17th arrondissement in Paris. The Church of Scientology did not respond to requests from AFP.

In 2022, the movement founded in 1952-1953 claimed from the AFP “40,000 to 45,000 members in all categories (from the most dedicated to the least involved)” in France.