Paris -- A member of an official French body tasked with fighting sects on Thursday hit out at Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy for meeting Hollywood star Tom Cruise, who belongs to the Church of Scientology.
"I don't understand how a government minister can receive a conspicuous member of the Church of Scientology," Jean-Pierre Brard, a member of France's interministerial anti-sect advisory board, told AFP.
Brard, a Communist parliamentary deputy from the Paris suburb of Montreuil, called Cruise a prominent figure in the Scientology movement, which has been branded a dangerous sect in France.
Cruise, who was in Paris this week to promote his latest film "Collateral", met with Sarkozy for 90 minutes on Monday. The two discussed Franco-American relations, and Cruise invited the minister to visit his Colorado ranch.
"Even if the minister says that the issue of Scientology was not raised, it's still a mistake to have received him," Brard charged, noting that Scientologists have been convicted of wrongdoing in French courts.
"To give an analogy, one wonders if the minister would receive a member of an international drug trafficking or prostitution ring and then say 'We didn't talk about drugs or prostitution'," he added.
Founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology was accorded the status of religion there in 1993, but is regarded with suspicion in many European countries, where opponents accuse it of manipulating members for financial ends.