Australian Critics of
This page maintained by David Gerard.
Early draft at http://zurix.apana.org.au/asatru/free_bel.htm,
final draft (PDF) at http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/religion/index.html.
This thing is REALLY LONG - 120K or so - and the HTML is pretty crappy. But
it's an interesting read if you want to cover the area. Below is the
entirety of discussion of Scientology.
Free to Believe?
The right to freedom of religion and belief in Australia
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
"Free to Believe?" is Discussion Paper No. 1 released by the
office of Chris Sidoti, Human Rights Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission, Australia.
The Australian legal system purports to treat Australia's many different
religious communities equally. There is no established or State sponsored
religion or church and religious law is not imposed by civil authority.
This section of the paper discusses the extent to which the right to
freedom of religion is protected and promoted in Australia by examining
four relevant sources of law
- the Australian Constitution
- Australian federal laws
- Australian State and Territory laws
- international law.
The High Court considered the threshold issue of defining 'religion' in
Church of the New Faith v Commissioner for Pay-Roll Tax (Vic).
 The Court was asked to decide whether the
Church of Scientology was a 'religious or public benevolent institution'
for the purposes of the Pay-Roll Tax Act 1971 (Vic). If so, it would be exempt from pay-roll tax on
wages paid or payable to its employees. The Court held that the beliefs,
practices and observances of the Church of Scientology did, in fact,
constitute a religion in Victoria. The judges proposed a number of
different tests for the definition of 'religion' under the Act but no
definition secured majority support. The narrowest test was proposed by
Acting Chief Justice Mason and Justice Brennan and required two elements
- belief in a supernatural Being, Thing or Principle
- the acceptance of canons of conduct to give effect to that belief
(though canons of conduct which offend against the ordinary laws are
outside the areas of any immunity, privilege or right conferred on the
grounds of religion).
Justices Wilson and Deane found no single characteristic that could be a
formalised legal criterion for a particular system of beliefs and practices
that constitutes a religion. In their view all that can be done is to
formulate indicia or guiding principles by reference to which the question
is to be decided. They identified five indicia
Justice Murphy also did not propound a definitive 'test' but rejected the
first criterion of Chief Justice Mason and Justice Brennan as no longer
essential to a definition of religion. Justice Murphy held, in part, that
any organisation which claims to be a religious organisation and which
offers a way to find meaning and purpose in life is a religious
- a particular collection of ideas and/or practices involving belief
in the supernatural
- ideas that relate to the nature and place of humanity in the universe
and the relation of humanity to things supernatural
- ideas accepted by adherents requiring or encouraging them to observe
particular standards or codes of conduct or to participate in specific
practices having supernatural significance
- adherents constituting an identifiable group or identifiable groups
regardless of however loosely knit and varying in beliefs and practices
these adherents may be adherents themselves seeing the collection of ideas
and/or practices as constituting a religion.
15. (1983) 154
[Footnote 15 is the High Court decision that Scientology is a religion. 16
refers to Section 10 of the Pay-Roll Tax Act 1971 (Vic).]
[Legal and Government opinions on Scientology]