Australian Critics of Scientology
This page maintained by David Gerard.

Religion, Inc. - extracts

Stewart Lamont

Harrap, 1986, ISBN O 245 54334 1

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In the mid-sixties doors started closing in the Scientologists' faces all over the world. Whether it was from accident or design, most of the Church of Scientology target areas were in the old British Commonwealth - Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. The first door to slam was in Victoria where, in 1965, a Board of Inquiry persuaded the State legislature to pass the Psychological Practices Act which effectively outlawed Scientology in Victoria. Within half


an hour, Australian police had raided the Melbourne org and confiscated some 4,000 documents, personal files and books. It was now punishable by a fine of $400 to use an E-Meter unless a trained psychologist and it became a criminal offence to receive or teach Scientology materials.

The newspaper headlines at the tme in Australia are a telegrammatic way of conveying the charges in the report which had been prepared by Mr Kevin Anderson QC. Scientology was variously held out as 'perverted', 'a form of blackmail', 'caused delusions', 'expited anxiety', 'a menace', 'product of an unsound mind'. This last charge referred to the diagnosis of Hubbard from a distance by Dr E. Cunningham Dax, chairman of Victoria's Mental Health Authority, who gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that Hubbard was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. One cannot help feeling sympathy for Scientology, which seemed to be condemned without a proper hearing, if one reads the account of the episode in Garrison's The Hidden Story of Scientology. He tells how Hubbard had volunteered to testify to the Board if they paid his expenses, but it is difficult to accept the bona fide of this when one reads that Garrison congratulated Hubbard on his good sense in failing to turn up in person when the Australian legal profession began discussing whether he could be charged with fraud.

The South African government was considering holding a similar Inquiry into Scientology in 1966 and McMaster was dispatched by Hubbard to trouble-shoot. The Inquiry was not held until 1969, by which time a banning order had been brought in the UK preventing leaders of Scientology from entering Britain. (It remained in force until 1980, although a report by Sir John Foster to Parliament written in 1970 and published in 1971, recommended the ban be lifted.)


As mentioned earlier, the mid-sixties was a period of great fluctuation in the fortunes of the Church of Scientology. While Apollo was at sea, governments began to take notice of the Anderson Report of 1965 in Victoria, Australia. It was unambiguous in its denunciation of Scientology: 'Scientology is evil; its techniques evil; its practice a serious threat to the community, medically, morally, socially, and its adherents sadly deluded and mentally ill. The principles and practice of Scientology are contrary to accepted principles and practices of medicine and science and constitute a grave danger to ... the mental health of the community. Scientology is a grave threat to family and home life .' You can't say much stronger than that. Perhaps the Church of Scientology deserves sympathy for this verdict which appears to


be a case for the prosecution rather than an objective assessment. It would certainly agree that the Anderson Report influenced other governments to act who might not have done so without a clear-cut condemnation.

The Minister of Health in Britain, Mr Kenneth Robinson, addressed the House of Commons in the following terms in July 1968: 'The Government is satisfied, having reviewed all the available evidence, that Scientology is socially harmful. It alienates members of families from each other and attributes squalid and disgraceful motives to all who oppose it; its authoritarian principles and practices are a potential menace to the personality and well-being of those so deluded as to become its followers; above all, its methods can be a danger to the health of those who submit to them.' Mr Robinson went on to announce a ban on Scientology students entering the UK.

In 1968 acts were passed in South and Western Australia. In 1969 the South African government instituted a Commission of Inquiry into Scientology, and in the USA the FDA won a decision ordering the destruction of the E-Meters seized in 1963, while in the same year, 1969, the tax-exempt status of the Church of Scientology in Washington DC was revoked. Only in New Zealand was there any comfort for Hubbard and his crew when the Commission of Inquiry reported in mild tones in 1969 recommending no legislation provided Scientology kept its nose clean.

The Church of Scientology responded by modifying some of its penalties for 'lower conditions'. Then it won an appeal on the FDA case in 1969 when the E-Meter was judged to be a religious artefact and as long as E-Meters were labelled as ineffective in treating illness they were permissible. In 1971 the Foster Report in Britain modified the tone of previous criticism by declaring it would be contrary to the best traditions of the Anglo-Saxon legal system to ban Scientology as in Australia. Although the British ban on foreign Scientologists working in the UK remained in force until 1980 and Scientology did not win final recognition as a religion (and therefore zero payroll tax) in Australia until 1983 by a decision of the High Court, the intense heat was on in 1970. Not so on the high seas, however, for by 1970 the shipboard operation was turning sour. The Apollo was meeting with a less than ecstatic reception at the Mediterranean ports at which she docked.


Nevertheless, the church has chalked up two verdicts around the world which it hails as establishing its status as a religion in countries previously hostile to its presence. In AUSTRALIA in October 1983 the High Court considered an appeal by the Church of the New Faith (Scientology's alter ego adopted when it was outlawed in 1965 in Victoria by the Psychological Practices Act). It was brought against the Commissioner for Payroll Tax, claiming tax-exemption as a religion. The Church of Scientology won that action and the judgment included the following sentences 'Church of Scientology is, for relevant purposes, a religion ... the adherents accept the tenets of Scientology as relevant to determining their beliefs, their moral standards and their way of life.' Acknowledging that Scientology includes doctrines related to Eastern ones of reincarnation, the court turned its attention to the evidence of less attractive features of Scientology practices. Reference was made to some unusual features of membership and to the strong commercial emphasis in its practices. 'However incongruous or even offensive these features and this emphasis may seem ... 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 all relevant purposes, be accepted as "a religion" in Victoria. That does not, of course, mean that the practices of the applicant or its rules are beyond the control of the law of the State or that the applicant or its rules are beyond its taxing powers.' The verdict is a purely legal one and clearly falls short of enthusiastic endorsement. However, the opponents of Scientology in Australia were not slow to hit back. A Select Committee of the South Australia legislature recommended in October 1985 to their parliament in Adelaide that the


Church of Scientology should be monitored for a year so that its financial practices could be assessed. If these were not satisfactory then legislation should be introduced which would strictly control the finances of 'spiritual organizations'. The Church of Scientology protested that this was State interference with religious freedoms and that the Committee had given undue stress in its report to the testimony of seven disaffected Scientologists among the two hundred and forty witnesses they had heard. Legislation is not planned but the report is a significant warning shot across the bows of 'Commodore' Hubbard's Navy that its future in Australia is not likely to be one of live-and-let-live.

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