Here’s a little background education lesson:
tl;dr: The history of the Church includes a series of battles won to overcome unfounded allegations as it expanded into new nations. In every instance the Church has persisted and ultimately prevailed. And in Aussie-Land it has just been 30 years that some Senators fell on their face – squarely – when trying to spread false information about Scientology (It looks like a new generation of dupes grows every 30 years there).
Attacks against the Church of Scientology
The Church of Scientology has been safeguarding the existence of the Scientology religion for five decades. Over the years this involved many court cases to be fought, and many controversies have gone down the drain of history… But here are some of the more important dates in history of Scientology defense:
Most significant is the 1993 decision of the IRS, which brought an end to a 40-year conflict. Following a two-year investigation-the most extensive of any charitable, nonprofit organization in IRS history-the Service rejected all of the false allegations that have formed the basis of attacks across the world. The IRS concluded: That the Church of Scientology is organized “exclusively for religious and charitable purposes.”
The unfounded allegations that spawned any perceived controversy regarding Scientology originated in the United States. Beginning with the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), these false claims and allegations were rooted in religious bigotry during a time of distrust: the beginning of the Cold War and the influence of McCarthyism. As with any new idea, Scientology was greeted with suspicion. Unfounded rumors were repeated as “fact.”
These unfounded charges were disseminated by the IRS to foreign governments. Because the Church’s headquarters were located in the U.S., these false reports were given great credence by foreign governments in targeting foreign Churches of Scientology, resulting in oppressive attacks and laws. Yet, these allegations-each and every one-have been
The first fallout from the disinformation campaign was the 1965 “Inquiry” into Scientology in the State of Victoria, Australia, culminating in enactment of repressive legislation that essentially made it a crime to practice Scientology. Once the false allegations against the religion were repudiated, these discriminatory banning laws became a major embarrassment to the Australian Government-so much so, a former Australian Senator and Deputy Premier of Western Australia traveled to the United States in 1976 to attend the Churches of Scientology International Prayer Day and apologized to all members of the Church, stating that the ban on Scientology had been the “blackest day in the political history of Western Australia.”
Subsequently, Scientology was fully recognized by the Australian High Court, which came to the “irresistible” conclusion that Scientology is a religion. Today, this landmark decision forms the basis for determining what a religion is for purposes of Australian and New Zealand charity law and has become the standard for courts and governments throughout the Commonwealth.
Similarly, in Italy during the 1980s the Church overcame intensive government repression, including government action shutting down all Churches of Scientology, based on the same false allegations about the religion. This ultimately resulted in another Supreme Court decision, now standing as the foremost decision by a national high court on the subject of religion on the European Continent.
And in Spain, those same sorts of allegations reached a crescendo with assaults on Scientologists and Church leaders. No greater example exists of how false allegations can create oppressive atrocities-including false arrests and imprisonment. In fact, that investigation and trial went on for 17 years. After a yearlong trial, the case finally concluded in 2001 with 100 percent vindication wherein the three-judge panel announced, “Absolvemos Libremente”-absolved without reservation.
El Pais captured the discriminatory essence of these proceedings and the attempt to assault the religion in an article in December 2001 entitled “Acquittal for Those Persecuted.” This decision of the Provincial Court in 2001 after years of proceedings eliminated any further question regarding Scientology’s religious bona fides and allowed the Church to begin the process of obtaining full religious recognition in Spain.
Once the Scientology religion prevailed by achieving total victory in the criminal proceedings, full religious recognition in Spain was inevitable. The Church of Scientology is now officially recognized as a religion in Spain. On October 31, 2007, the National Court in Madrid issued a unanimous landmark decision affirming the right to religious freedom in Spain by recognizing that the National Church of Scientology of Spain is a religious organization entitled to the full panoply of religious rights that flow from entry in the government’s Registry of Religious Entities.
In France and Belgium, discriminatory practices have targeted the Church of Scientology as well as other faiths. The infamous parliamentary “blacklists” in these countries-targeting 173 religions including Southern Baptists, Evangelical Christian groups and Sikhs in France, and 189 religions including Hasidic Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’is, Zen Buddhists, Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Pentecostals, Amish, Quakers, five Catholic groups, and the YWCA in Belgium, in addition to Scientology, led to a system of religious intolerance. Yet, as has become the pattern, continued persistence in exposing the falsehoods behind that discrimination has resulted in wholesale condemnation of these lists by human rights groups and other governmental bodies. As a result, the French government officially revoked this “blacklist” in a May 2005 Circular of the Prime Minister denouncing the use of the list.
In Russia the Church of Scientology Moscow was denied the right to re-register as a religious organization under the 1997 Russian Religion Law. Deprived of essential rights afforded to registered religious organizations in Russia, the Church applied for protection of its fundamental religious freedom rights to the European Court of Human Rights. In April 2007 the Human Rights Court issued a unanimous landmark decision in favor of the Scientology religion. Specifically the Court found that Russia had violated the rights of the Church of Scientology under Articles 11 (the right to freedom of association) “read in the light of Article 9″ (the right to freedom of religion) of the European Human Rights Convention when it refused to re-register the Church of Scientology Moscow.
One cannot view the battles for religious freedom in Europe solely in the context of Scientology. These issues are much broader and have to do with the state of government and religion across the Continent. The reason the issues are often connected to Scientology is because the Church of Scientology is the most prominent of all the new religions. Scientology is most often associated in the media with religious freedom questions as it is the most recognizable new religion to the public.
Churches of Scientology are free to operate anywhere in the world. Where intolerance and discrimination exist, the Church sets the precedents for religious freedom and human rights for everyone.