A local court in Moscow Monday banned the oft-controversial Church of Scientology, Russian state-backed news service Tass reported. The Moscow City Court ruled to shut down the church in the city at the behest of the Russian Ministry of Justice.
It was essentially decided that the organization was not covered by the constitution's freedom-of-religion clause. The court accepted arguments from the ministry that the term "Scientology" is trademarked and therefore the church cannot be deemed a religious organization, the Associated Press reported.
"The representatives of the Church of Scientology have created many legal conflicts by themselves by restricting the religious freedom through the use of trademarks," the ministry said, according to state-backed Sputnik News.
Prosecutors also alleged that the church carried out activities in St. Petersburg despite being authorized to do so only in Russia's capital city. The Church of Scientology registered in Moscow in 1994 and in 2011 set up a luxe headquarters in its Garden Ring a mile from Red Square, according to the Independent. The organization was ordered to set up a commission that has to have its liquidation complete within six months.
Several books written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard have been banned in Russia. A Moscow regional court found in 2012 that the books "seek to form an isolated social group whose members are trained to perform their functions generally aimed against the rest of the world," Sputnik News reported at the time.
A Church of Scientology representative said the most recent decision would be appealed, according to Russian media. Scientology has become popular in celebrity circles, notably counting actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise among its members. It was founded in the 1950s by Hubbard and has become a controversial movement, often accused of being cultlike. This year a documentary was released by HBO titled "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," which looked into allegations and secrets of the organization after talking with former high-ranking members.