Feb 18, 2010

The Senate lends Scientology a helping hand

Last week, the Senate allowed Scientology to respond in Hansard to allegations made against them. As usual, the cult used it as an opportunity to attack its former members.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

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.

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120 thoughts on “The Senate lends Scientology a helping hand

  1. Bogdanovist

    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

    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

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

  4. Julius

    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”.

  5. Scott

    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.

  6. meski

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


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

  7. Sancho

    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.

  8. Sancho

    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.

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