tip off

The Senate lends Scientology a helping hand

Last week, the Senate Privileges Committee permitted the Church of Scientology to respond in Hansard to issues raised by Senator Nick Xenophon in November last year.  The Scientologists promptly issued a press release declaring they had responded to Xenophon “in Parliament”, as if they had some sort of elected status.

In allowing the Scientologist response into Hansard, the Privileges Committee has allowed itself to be made party to an attack on individuals who were brave enough to raise their treatment at the hands of Scientology.

It takes guts for ex-Scientologists to come out and reveal what they have suffered, particularly those — and this is a recurring theme among ex-Scientologists — who admit that they themselves harmed other members while within the cult. The mere act of leaving the cult earns them ostracism and often the severance of contact with loved ones. To reveal their suffering at the hands of the cult frequently leads to public attacks.

Such attacks occupy much of the cult’s response to Xenophon, which the committee, without giving reasons, decided merited entry into Hansard.

The bulk of the Senator’s presentation relied on letters containing unsubstantiated allegations made by a few disgruntled apostates,” the Scientologists claim.

The apostasy line is key, because the Scientologists want to argue that any ex-members who reveal their treatment are simply “shifting responsibility”. To back it up, they quote a special Scientology-commissioned essay by late US cult-expert Lonnie D. Kliever, which suggests “even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution”.

The line is, basically: no criticism of Scientology by ex-members can ever be accepted as valid because these are people blaming the cult for their own problems.

Not satisfied with that, the Scientologists then effectively call their critics liars, noting that they have previously been on the public record as being positive about their experience with the cult. “Such positive statements are consistent with the experiences of millions of other parishioners of Scientology. That these people now hold a different view is entirely their own personal affair.”

One of the fascinating aspects of the remarkable investigation of the cult by Florida’s St Petersburg Times last year, which chronicles among other things widespread physical abuse, including by Scientologist leader David Miscavige, is the admission by former high-level Scientology executives such as Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder that they readily lied to the press and in sworn affidavits to cover up embarrassing or even criminal activity occurring within Scientology ranks.   Rinder was the Scientology spokesman at whom BBC reporter John Sweeney famously lost it in 2007.  He now says he engaged in a systematic practice of denial to protect the cult: “just deny it. Nope. Not true. Never happened.”

The cult directly accuses its victims of lying in its statement to the Senate Privileges Committee, smearing them in the process:

The allegations of Aaron Saxton and Carmel Underwood regarding forced abortions are untrue. The Church of Scientology does not counsel expectant mothers to have abortions and has never forced anyone to obtain one. Sworn statements have been obtained from numerous female Church staff members who served during the same time as Carmel Underwood, all of whom became pregnant while on staff, some as many as three times, and all of whom state that they were never encouraged, pressured or even suggested to have an abortion. They all state that they were well cared for and given time off as needed to care for their children, as was Carmel Underwood.

So let’s pull together the evidence about forced abortions in Scientology, which, remember, was just one of several serious issues raised by Senator Xenophon.

The requirement for pregnant women at the elite “Sea Org” level within Scientology to have abortions, has long been rumoured, but former members have repeatedly confirmed it through sworn evidence. Mary Tabayoyon, a former staffer to no less than L. Ron Hubbard, swore in 1994 that:

Beginning in 1986, members of the Sea Org were forbidden to have any more children if they were to stay on post and the Hubbard technology was applied to coercively persuade us to have abortions so that we could remain on post.

In 1998, Jesse Prince swore an affidavit that:

In late 1991, my wife Monika became pregnant and although we were elated, she was ordered to abort the child. The reason for the abortion order is that Sea Org members were not allowed to have children. The order devastated both my wife and me. Our dedication as Sea Org members clashed violently with our intentions as parents and we went through a personal nightmare with me opposing it, to no avail. She got the abortion and afterwards she was not the same.

In Laura DeCrescenzo’s suit against the cult in 2009, she stated in her statement of claim that she had been forced to have an abortion at the age of 17.  DeCrescenzo was one of six former Scientologists who spoke of the suffering they had endured within Scientology at a press conference in Los Angeles last Friday.  The group’s claims were as always dismissed as fabricated by Scientology.

Clarie Headley similarly filed a statement that she was ordered to have two abortions, one in 1994 and the other in 1996, the latter at her own expense, under threat of being ejected from Scientology.  Rathbun has spoken of how abortion had become an “institutional prerequisite” under Miscavige.

Two former female “Sea Orgs”, including Miscavige’s niece, told American ABC News of the abortion policy.  One, Astra Woodcraft, made a sworn statement that:

… a staff member from the Religious Technology Center (the Sea Org’s highest organisation) came up to me one day while I was in the process of routing out and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was pregnant and leaving and he said to me “Oh, too late for an abortion?” I personally knew of three other girls who got pregnant and were convinced to get abortions. One was my sister-in-law who was 16 weeks pregnant when she was convinced to abort her child although she was strongly against it.

A former Scientology staff member (i.e. below the rank of Sea Org) Terra Hattaway told a Georgia court that she was subject to continual efforts to persuade her to have an abortion.

These are just some of numerous cases of former Scientologists reporting themselves manipulated, coerced or persuaded to have abortions. So far no evidence has emerged that the abortion requirement is imposed on ordinary Scientologist “parishioners”.

To use the Scientologists’ phrase in their statement to the Privileges Committee, “all of these matters are the subject of documented evidence and sworn witness statements.” There is clear evidence that there was a policy among US Scientology of coerced abortion among high-level “Sea Org” members, and in at least one case, at Scientology staff level, below that of Sea Org. This material would all have been available to the Privileges Committee had it bothered to conduct some basic research.

Instead, people prepared to speak out against Scientology have been attacked in Hansard.  The Privileges Committee, headed by Liberal George Brandis and Labor’s Jacinta Collins, should explain to the Senate why it was party to what, on the face of it, appears to be a misleading of the Senate.

The committee isn’t the only body that has been derelict in its basic research into Scientology. The Prime Minister responded to Senator Xenophon’s material in November by saying this:

Many people in Australia have real concerns about Scientology. I share some of those concerns. But let us proceed carefully, and look carefully at the material which he has provided, before we make a decision on further Parliamentary action. And we intend to provide appropriate examination of the material which he has put forward.

That was on November 18.  I asked the Prime Minister’s office two days ago what follow-up there had been to this statement.  The PMO said that the matter had been referred to Chris Evans, the leader of the Government in the Senate.  Despite the two days’ notice, Evans’ office had not responded by deadline.  In December, Evans’ office told correspondents that the Government did not support an inquiry into the issues raised by Senator Xenophon as it was “inappropriate to conduct an inquiry into a private and, in this case, religious organisation”.

Taxpayers continue to subsidise the Church of Scientology to the tune of at least tens of millions of dollars a year, courtesy of its tax-free status as a religion in Australia.

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  • 1
    Bogdanovist
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Scientology will never have its tax free status removed, or any of the other privileges it enjoys as a religion. No western government wants to get into the business of defining what is an isn’t a religion, and the chance of blowback affecting the ‘regular’ religions in some way through such a process is high.

    When Ireland went through its painful process of sorting out the systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic Church no one called for the church to cease being classed as a religion, only that it be made to be as transparent in these matters as any other organisation. The same has to be done for Scientology.

    When it gets down to it, the arguments about why Scientology isn’t really a religion (which Keane presumably agrees with given the scared quoted ‘parishioners’ in the above article) essentially apply just as aptly to the more established religions. The pollies know this, which is why they won’t touch this with a barge pole. You couldn’t specifically legislate against Scientology in Australia, so any legislation written in general terms but aimed against Scientology would put all religions at great risk of being affected in some way.

    If you want to talk about the legitimacy of any religion having tax free status I’m all ears, but clearly that is a debate that no politician in a major party would have a bar of.

  • 2
    Perry Gretton
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    How any government could allow Scientology to retain its tax-free status is beyond me.

    Is this not becoming the most timid government we’ve ever had? Every ‘hard’ decision is avoided or deferred.

  • 3
    Neil Hunt
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    @Bogdanovist,
    I’d term the French a “Western government”, and yet since 1995 Scientology has been classified as a secte, or a “cult”.

  • 4
    John Bennetts
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  • 5
    Julius
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    In the 1960s Mr Justice Anderson, a good Catholic father of eight and Victorian Supreme Court Justice, sat as Royal Commissioner invetigating the Scientologists who, at that time, hadn’t even claimed the status of a religion to the best of my knowledge. He found there bizarre, fraudulent and unscientific psychological practices justified action against them and, as a result the Psychological Practices Act was passed which effectually meant that other forms of nonsense, like Arthur Janov’s Primal Screaming and various EST like cults were usually centred in Sydney.

    Religion proved the key to longevity and wealth with idiot stars like Tom Cruise and James Packer fronting for something that Seneca or Marcus Aurelius would have thought made early Christians look sensible.

    While on the whole one would prefer fools to put their money into the hands of legal casino owners and bookmakers who will probably invest wisely the fleecing of the foolish is not as big a point that emerges from Mr Keane’s story as the failure of the Senate to protect the names and reputations of those attacked by the Scientologists. Presumably the right to reply given to the Scientologists has given them absolute privilege for any defamation contained in what is now in the Senate Hansard. If so, it is utterly shameful and a disgrace to the Senate that every Senator should take it upon him or herself to redress so it cannot happen again.

    So keep at it Bernard Keane. Perhaps you can inspire Senator Xenophon to take up that issue too. It is true that people can be defamed without redress by MPs and Senators but at least that is always known to be done under privilege and discounted accordingly. As you point out it is a big step further to allow outsiders to repeat, ad nauseam, “as was said in a document formally laid before the Senate XY is a violent criminal”.

  • 6
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Our High court has already said that in regards to the law, Scientology is a religion. Do you really think putting the word “cult” 11 times in this article is going to change it?
    I’m not a scientologist, but I am for freedom of religion in this country (as it is one of the few rights explicitly mentioned in the constitution). The government should not be anywhere near this.

  • 7
    meski
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  • 8
    meski
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Damn, will I never learn not to post angle brackets?

    was:

    (waiting to spot the obvious post from a scientologist goon)

  • 9
    Sancho
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen any obvious Scientologists around here, Meski. Just CEC loonies. I wonder if the CEC will defend Scientology out of a sense of solidarity between organisations that prey on the mentally ill.

  • 10
    Sancho
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh, wait. I didn’t read Scott’s comment. Here’s a tip for future proseletysing, Scott: no-one believes Scientology is legitimate except Scientologists. You’re much better off being open about it and arguing from a position of candidness.

  • 11
    Maroubraman
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Mr Keane, intentionally or otherwise, you have fallen into the same mistake made by Senator Xenophon. You have quoted a small bunch of former members, who obviously have some axe to grind, making very serious allegations about their former faith. But while you wholeheartedly support their right to make the claims (and I don’t necessarily disagree) you hypocritically seem to think the Church has no right to respond.

    That is exactly what Xenophon did. He REFUSED to meet with anyone from the Church to hear any other side of the story. And then after deliberately listening to only one side, he took all those statements, added his own conclusions, and made his presentation under parliamentary privilege. Apart from being simply unfair, that was disgustingly dishonest and the act of a coward. You may not like me getting personal, but again, that’s because you are two-faced. You seem to think it is okay for Xenophon to deliver personal insults while hiding behind parliamentary privilege, but it is not okay to respond? Sorry mate, I don’t like your rules.

    You then made the same “mistake” when you wrote this column: You quoted all the dung from the whiners, but did you ask anyone from the Church for the other side of the story? If you didn’t, and there is no evidence that you did, then you are in the same dishonest and cowardly school as Xenophon.

  • 12
    SBH
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    There you go Meski/Sancho - One goon as ordered

  • 13
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to disappoint SANCHO, but I’m a lapsed catholic.
    I just think that Governments shouldn’t be able tell people what to believe.

  • 14
    Bogdanovist
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    What makes some other religion ‘legitimate’ in a way that Scientology isn’t? The only difference is longevity; we are used to the absurdities of the older religions so don’t see them as a problems. We assume that because ideas are tenacious they must be worthy (thanks Tim Minchin).

    If a Scientologist engages in a criminal activity then they have to be brought to justice in the old fashioned way, by the police on the specifics of the case, not because of the organisation that the victim and perpetrator were a part of. Of course, the fact that this is such a secretive organisation makes this very hard, just as happens (or at least happened) within the Catholic Church.

  • 15
    David Roberts
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I cannot fathom anyone getting involved with this organisation. It shows what a desperate place they are probably in; this to me is the saddest thing. How lost, lonely or ill are people to wind up there getting free personality tests. Surely it would cease to exist in a more caring society?
    Maybe it’s the spiritual pawnbroker of modern times. Couldn’t they rebuild it around a great Sci-fi writer like Iain M. Banks? I can never forgive Scientology for the film Battlefield Earth.

  • 16
    EngineeringReality
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Bingo - and there we have the post from the crazed Scientologist goon, pausing in his typing of a rebuttal only long enough to wipe the froth from his quivering lips….

    Its a cult. No questions about it.

    Time to move onto that corporation in Baulkham Hills that also professes itself to be a religion!

  • 17
    Gibbot
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    While I don’t dispute that Scientology is a dangerous cult, at least it doesn’t have the money and power to impose its twisted ideology on the population at large via parliament, unlike other cults I can think of.

  • 18
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Response to ex-member critics - “They have an axe to grind! They’re biased!”
    Response to non-member critics - “They’re not part of the organisation! They don’t know what they’re talking about!”

    Nice little system you have there.

  • 19
    Sancho
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Lapsed into Xenuism, Scott?

    Fair cop, though. It’s not fair of me to make assumptions about your beliefs, but it’s odd that you’ve so widely missed the point of the article, which is that Scientology has been given an illegitimate status as a religion and the Senate is allowing itself to be used as an avenue for the abuse of reformed cultists.

    The right to believe in the powers of L. Ron Xenu is moot; the debate is about whether Scientology has the right to attain and abuse Australia’s religious designation.

    Maroubraman, have you noticed that “Xenophon” is very similar to “XEnuphon”? Perhaps he has returned to dump us all into a volcano again. We’ll never be Clears! Woe is us!

  • 20
    jeebus
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    What makes some other religion ‘legitimate’ in a way that Scientology isn’t?”

    The difference is that Scientology is the only ‘religion’ that has trademarked and copyrighted its texts in order to charge its members money to find out what it is they actually believe. What a corrupt farce.

  • 21
    SBH
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Bogdanovist has hit the crucifixtion nail on the head. Scientology is no more nutty that catholicism or the great spaghetti monster. The real question is why they keep getting special treatment from governments.

  • 22
    Meski
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I should have taken bets on how long it would take.

    To the Scientologist: Did anyone (from your church) offer Nick advice without requiring an NDA? Second: why is the degree of secrecy necessary to Scientology? If you assert that it is not secret, perhaps you would care to disclose a link that discloses the complete nature of Scientology at every level?

  • 23
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    @SBH hear hear.

    I’m pretty sure things like Scientology are what happen when society decides that religious thought is so much more special than other kinds of thought that it and organisations that surround it should be afforded special privileges.

    Suddenly the issue is all terribly vexed because this nasty, mendacious and vampiric organisation takes advantage of these privileges. Everybody will wring their hands and gnash their teeth but nothing will get done about it because as Bogdanovist says, it’s too hard to find a legal definition that separates the endorsed fiction from the space alien wacky thieving nonsense.

  • 24
    Bogdanovist
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    @Jeebus: I could think of bazillions of nuttier things that other religions do than apply copyright law; you’re going to have to do a little better than that if you want to continue to assert that Scientology is not ‘legitimate’ when compared with the rest.

  • 25
    SBH
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    yep, they’re all kooks

  • 26
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I refer to the High Court judgement in 1983 that said that Scientology was a religion (“Church of New Faith Vs Commissioner for Payroll Tax” for any one interested)

    From the case, the High court came up with a set of indicia (or indicators) that have to be present for an organisation to be classified as a religion

    1. A belief in the Supernatural
    2. Concerned with mans place in the universe and the relationship with the supernatural
    3. Adherents accept the tenets or laws of their organisation as relevant to determining their beliefs, their moral standards and their way of life.
    4. Adherents accept specific practices and participate in services and ceremonies which have extra-mundane significance
    5. Comprise an organized group and regard their organisation as a religion

    I thought the last few lines of the judgement sum it up pretty well

    With all respect to those who have seen the matter differently, we do not consider the present case, when approached on that basis, to be a borderline one. Regardless of whether the members of the applicant are gullible or misled or whether the practices of Scientology are harmful or objectionable, the evidence, in our view, establishes that Scientology must, for relevant purposes, be accepted as “a religion” in Victoria.”

    Look, I don’t want to be a defender of Scientology (I am not a fan), but I am a defender of religious tolerance in Australia. If putting up with Scientology means that Islam, Catholicism, Buddism and the rest can be practiced freely without government interference, then that is a price I am willing to pay.

  • 27
    Greg Angelo
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Scientology is no better or worse than any other cult (for the want of a better word) where a self appointed priesthood preys on the psyche of the feeble minded, who for some unfathomable reason get their jollies by associating with feeble minds of a similar ilk.

    Somewhere in the human psyche there is a strong desire for uncritical association as the follower of a purportedly strong leader. This explains many things including organised religion, football clubs, self-sacrifice in warfare, and our uncritical acceptance of a two-party political system run by individuals with little or no principle, but exhibiting the trappings of leadership.

    There is little to differentiate between scientology as a cult, and the similarly misguided beliefs of followers of Marxism, Nazism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Collingwood football club to nominate a few examples. At least Scientologists do not believe in the virgin birth and the second coming, or the possibility of the Club ever winning another premiership.

    The purported pernicious aspects of Scientology pales into insignificance compared to the excesses of the several of the aforementioned organisations (excluding Collingwood of course) which collectively have been severally responsible for tens of millions of deaths at the point of the sword, bullet, bomb, gas oven, spear, rocket or more recently a rogue pillow in a Dubai hotel.

    It would be however nicer if followers of Scientology would actually answer their critics in public and not skulk off to the Parliament to answer their critics under parliamentary privilege. There is enough problems with the religious right now in politics without adding Scientology to the mix.

  • 28
    Sancho
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Greg, but now that secular rationalism has curbed the worst excesses of established religions, why do we encourage new ones to form and get tax breaks?

  • 29
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Bernard’s reference to BBC reporter John Sweeney ‘losing it’ led me to watch the Panorama episode ‘Scientology and me’ on YouTube. Although it appears Bernard is mistaken when he says Sweeney loses it with Mike Rinder. Sweeney actually loses it with Tommy Davis, a Scientology representative who blasts his way into Sweeney’s interviews with critics. In one incidence, Davis turns up at Sweeney’s interview with Scientology critic Shawn Lonsdale to inform Sweeney that Lonsdale was once a male prostitute, and as a convicted criminal cannot be relied upon. I could not consider an organisation that actively shames its critics as a religion, although on further thought it seems that shaming is essential to most religious practices. It is also evident to note that Sweeney ‘lost it’ shortly after he was told at a Scientology museum that ‘psychiatry is the ‘so called science’ behind the holocaust and euthanasia and the psychiatrists set up the whole euthanasia campaign inside the concentration camps,’ and that psychiatrists ‘decided who was going to be killed.’ Sweeney ‘lost it’ moments later when he was criticised for not undertaking an objective investigation. How can you be objective with lunatics like this?

  • 30
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    @Sancho

    Because as I mentioned- we can’t stop them from doing so! I actually think it’s great. More lunatic sci-fi writers should invent nutty religions because it celebrates the ridiculousness of the whole arrangement.

  • 31
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    BOGDANOVIST: I thought scientology was banned at one stage?

    EVERYONEELSE: Can anyone here imagine Kevin Rudd having the balls to deal with religious ratbaggery? Of course not. He too is a member of a religious cult.

    Fortunately my atheism is pretty well known because I’m about to utter a piece of heresy. People who’ve got out of these asinine religious systems are quick to shovel s/hit over the goons who had previously enslaved them. They are not so quick at blaming themselves for being intolerably, weak, vapid and stupid, and allowing themselves to be enslaved. They are as bad as the Germans of WWII who said they didn’t know about the concentration camps throughout Germany and Poland.

  • 32
    Sancho
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    You may enjoy this, Whatiris: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/31006

    Praise Batman!

  • 33
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Praise First Dog!

  • 34
    SBH
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Um, I’m treading carefully here Venise but Don’t you think comparing people who break out of the brainwashing they received as children with Nazi sympathisers is a bit steep? If your being mordant, It’s funny and I apologise for being thick.

  • 35
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Scott seems remarkably over informed of the minutiae of Krapology’s various legal actions.
    I think South Park said it all as well as a nice number on the Mormons.
    It basically comes down to the fact the many people are unable to function as individuals entirely responsible for theirown actions, hence they aggregate into groups, as GregA listed, whether religion or football clubs.
    Too many, however, are so dysfunctional that they need to have their every move sanctioned by Authority, doesn’t matter what, just so long as it isn’t their own.
    The odd thing about humans is that they are so biddable - an Alpha monkey or baboon or wolf can coerce another to do things to a third individual but only by proximity. We’ve managed a systemwhereby A sez to B “do such & such to C and bring the proceeds BACK to me”. Weird innit? One could almost write a sci-fi story about it. Oh .. wait..

  • 36
    daveliberts
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Bogdanovist, while there are plenty of nutty things religions do, their message is free to all. A religion which defends its own teachings from the public via IP legal rights is extremely bizarre of itself. It defeats the very purpose of faith as the vast majority would comprehend this term, and this is the basis on which numerous governments have withdrawn Scientology’s status. If you want to defend a religion which does this that’s fine, but you need to understand how immoral you’re going to appear in the process.

  • 37
    Jonny Jacobsen
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Although it was Tommy Davis who managed to success
    Panorama reporter John Sweeney into a shouting match,
    Mike Rinder was involved in handling Sweeney during that
    investigation. As I understand it, Davis reported to Rinder
    before Rinder himself quit the movement.

    The importance of Senator Xenophon’s speech is it gave
    former members a platform to speak out, and to speak out
    as a group. It is no doubt one reason why the US former
    members chose to speak out at last Friday’s Los Angeles
    press conference. The difference, of course, is they don’t
    have an elected official ready to stand up and speak for them.

    The Danish theologian Johannes Aagaard, for years, a vocal
    opponent of Scientology, used to refer to “First Amendment
    Neurosis”, the US tendency to steer away from anything that
    might be considered an attack on religion — to the extent that
    for years they have refused to act to stop the violence and
    abuse in Scientology. But there are signs that may be
    changing.

    The argument over whether Scientology is a religion rather misses
    the point. Even if it is a religion, and there is a case, this does not
    exclude the possibility that it is also guilty of criminal actions.
    We do not, after all, excuse the Catholic Church for having covered
    up child abuse by its priests simply because it is a religion.

    The cult/religion distinction is rather less clear than some people
    seem to realise: mainstream religions are perfectly capable of
    cult-like behaviour. But that is not invalidate the legitimate beliefs
    of either Catholics or Scientologists.

    Where Catholicism differs from Scientology however, is that no
    reasonable reading of Christianity’s core beliefs would allow the
    abuse that have gone on for so long inside its institutions. The same
    cannot be said of Scientology: the core writings of founder L Ron
    Hubbard included paranoid rants that sanctioned attacks on critics.
    He also expressed his contempt for “wog” (non-Scientology)
    laws and morality on more than one occasion.

    Jonny Jacobsen
    Infinite Complacency: Violence and Abuse in Scientology
    http://infinitecomplacency.blogspot.com/

  • 38
    John
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Scientology.
    Spelt: C.U.L.T

    That’s all anyone needs to know about those lying scoundrels.

  • 39
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    SBH: Don’t you ever read what people write before lobbing in an opinion?

    I didn’t compare cult members to Nazis. I compared them to the Germans who pretended not to know anything about the presence of concentration camps in Germany and Poland during WWII. The people who probably not Nazis at all.

    Hoick out a map of Germany during WWII. The camps were thick upon the ground. They couldn’t not have known. Just as members of cults pretend they didn’t know what the cult was really like. Or would be writers who sail into print by deliberately misquoting what someone else has said.

    Please, before rushing off to have another crack at me. Get the bloody words correct.
    TWICE in one bloody day. WTF is the matter with you?

  • 40
    Alena V
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Forget about debating whether Scientology is a religion. The next question is whether it delivers a public benefit. Only if the answer is “yes” should a religious body get tax exemption. In the UK, they’re pretty robust about assessing the public benefit of an organisation. That’s where we need to get to in this country.

    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/news/pbnewsindex.asp

  • 41
    Ms Naughty
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Scott quotes the high court ruling that specifies what is a “religion” and is thus eligible for tax-free status. A belief in the supernatural is rule number 1. And then you have to be somewhat organised and come up with a few hocus-pocus rituals.

    This is useful information. I wanted to be a Jedi for a while but somehow that’s not supernatural enough. I need to create some kind of cool pretendy belief that has official-looking costumes and regular expressions of devotion.

    I could create the Church of BDSM. Unusual, mysterious, full of dungeons and whips, just like Catholicism. But the classification board would probably never allow it.

  • 42
    Alena V
    Posted Thursday, 18 February 2010 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    @ Andrew Newman Interestingly, Panorama editor Sandy Smith tells that, in a bid to counter the effect of the Panorama program:

    i]”I’m now dealing with a situation in which the Church of Scientology has released a video to all MPs and peers accusing Panorama, of staging a demonstration outside one of their offices in London and making a death threat - or as they call it, a terrorist death threat - against Scientologists. The BBC, accused of terrorism.”[/i

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2007/05/investigating_scientology_1.html

    Mike Rinder, who was actually in the background during Sweeney’s outburst, was spotted recently in London wearing a lapel mic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sweeney were granted the first exclusive interview with Rinder, post-Scientology. http://markrathbun.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/imgp1072.jpg?w=500&h=752

  • 43
    Sancho
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Incidentally, Ms Naughty, more Australians nominated their religion as Jedi in the 2001 census than voted for Steven Fielding in 2004, and he’s now a Senator!

  • 44
    Meski
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcgIxfNim7o

    about 1 min 40 - I wouldn’t want to waste your time, but it’s a demo of what scientology means.

  • 45
    Veronica Guy
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    I have difficulty with any and all religions and their privileged tax free status. It is only a couple of years ago that the people of NSW were twice hit for World Youth Day with the visit of the Nope over from the Vatican. $20Mill from Federal taxes and another $20Million from state NSW taxes. Very offensive to me and thousands of others.

    So far as I can see, every religion starts as a down-trodden, woe-is-me cult. Some grow to be mainstream superstitious idiocy; most didn’t.

    I sincerely hope that Scientology is banned from countries as it used to be from South Australia (Xenophon’s state and mine for that matter). France has jailed (for fraud) members of the cult and fined them. I know France has been trying to get rid of Scientology since, at least, the late 1990s. Greece banned it. Belgium made a massive case against Scientology in 2007. Germany made a move to ban it in 2007 as well. So has Russia.

    The sooner the kybosh is put on this revolting, deceitful, asset-stripping and psychologically damaging load of rubbish that tries to call itself a ‘religion’ for preferential tax treatment the better. Surely we owe our citizens the right to live without harassment from religites of all and any kind and that includes total nonsense by RL Hubbard, who started this cult for a bet. Some bet.
    Look at the damage it has done to members trying to leave it. Look how it sucks in wealthy high fliers with s..t-for-brains like Cruise, Travolta and their ilk. I know – I should be able to really mean it when I say that I may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it. I know I should. But, I am sorry, not with mentally damaging, financially bankrupting and emotionally despicable organisations like Scientology. I am only picking that cult out here because that’s the article’s focus.

    Remove preferential, privileged status from every so-called church. The RCs have money and assets to burn and the Brethren hides its sources of dosh. All these Eastern cults whip money out of their adherents’ hands. They all suck and believe in magical nothingness. Get rid of the lot. Let’s all grow up and stop believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden. Please.

  • 46
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    VERONICA GUY: You are completely correct. Also it is the catholic church which has set the bench mark from which every other cult marks it’s own behaviour, at an all time low.

    Most organisations which have out the begging plate don’t get government/our-taxes-at-work- financial help. But sling in a myth about a bunch of guys following another guy because-wait for it…..he was the son of god.

    Well our courageous leader has just backed down on the climate change issue. Making his strike rate for not doing what he promised up near the ninety percent mark.

    I should this will hand the next election to Tony Abbott and his fellow whingers. Precisely what Oz needs right now. The land of Oz being slaughtered on a catholic alter.

  • 47
    SBH
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Big V you did read the ‘sympathisers’ that I inserted after ‘nazis’ didn’t you. Calm down old girl.

    And just by the way that’s ‘altar’

  • 48
    SBH
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    So is it just beyond you to accept you were wrong and retract Venise? Shame, I thought more of you than that.

  • 49
    aga
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Scott wrote: “I’m not a scientologist, but I am for freedom of religion in this country (as it is one of the few rights explicitly mentioned in the constitution). The government should not be anywhere near this.”

    So you are also for psychological, physical and verbal abuse? Should the government do nothing at all about those also?

  • 50
    SusieQ
    Posted Friday, 19 February 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Scott, you are right, no one should tell you what to believe, but that does not make religions above the law.

    Why do our taxes pay for any religion? If the beliefs are so true, won’t their God provide??

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