Senator Xenophon of Australia calls for criminal investigation into Scientology

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

In a speech Tuesday in the Australian Senate, Senator Nick Xenophon called for a criminal investigation of Scientology. Senator Xenophon, an independent politician from South Australia, also requested that police and the Australian parliament investigate whether or not Scientology should retain its tax-exempt status within the country.

Senator Nick Xenophon in 2009
Image: Di Bell.

Senator Xenophon tabled letters written to him from former members of the Church of Scientology, which asserted the organization had participated in coerced abortion, abuse, embezzlement, false imprisonment, and hiding information about the deaths of its members.

These victims of Scientology claim it is an abusive manipulative and violent organization.

Senator Nick Xenophon

"Scientology is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs," said Senator Xenophon in his speech to the Australian Senate. He detailed statements made in the letters he received from former Scientologists that included a father who said he was pressured by Scientology executives to cover up the deaths of his two daughters, and a man who said he had participated in mandating that pregnant female members of the organization have abortions.

"These victims of Scientology claim it is an abusive manipulative and violent organization," said the Senator. In his speech, he noted that the St. Petersburg Times newspaper of Florida reported on former executives within Scientology who had spoken out critically about the organization. These former Scientology executives said they had been subjected to physical abuse by the organization's leader, David Miscavige. They detailed attempts by the organization to manipulate staff members and perform intelligence operations intended to safeguard the organization's secrets.

I think it's a bit disingenuous that someone stands up in parliament, where they can say whatever they want.

Scientology representative Virginia Stewart

In a statement, the Church of Scientology called Senator Xenophon's speech an "outrageous abuse" of parliamentary privilege. Scientology representative Virginia Stewart questioned why the former Scientologists had not contacted the organization itself, "If these people had key issues, then how come they haven’t contacted the church officially? ... I think it's a bit disingenuous that someone stands up in parliament, where they can say whatever they want."

I share some of those concerns but let us proceed carefully...

Australia prime minister Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd, the prime minister of Australia, commented that Senator Xenophon brought up "grave allegations" against Scientology. The prime minister stated, "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." Prime minister Rudd acknowledged, "many people in Australia have real concerns about Scientology".

Science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology in 1953, and its activities have been the source of controversy in Australia for years. Until 1973, the organization was banned in Western Australia and Victoria. In 1983, a High Court ruling acknowledged its religious status.

On October 27, the Church of Scientology was convicted of organized fraud by a court in France. On October 24, it was revealed that Academy Award-winning film director Paul Haggis had left the organization after a letter he wrote to Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis was made public. Scientology is currently under investigation in Belgium.

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