The Sydney congregation of the Church of Scientology Inc. complains against The Australian concerning an article by James S Murray entitled "Lessons for the Hubbard faithful" published on 6 February 1986, and another entitled "End of the world here for two - thank God" by Phillip Adams published on 22/23 February 1986. Both articles were under by-lines rather than news items, and both were critical of scientology and of L Ron Hubbard who was closely associated with the church from its inception. Whether or not he was the founder of the church is one of the many matters in dispute, the church stating that he did not found the church but "... the Scientology technology and scriptures." A number of other matters are also in dispute in particular those in the article written by James Murray. The complainant alleges a violation of a number of principles of the Press Council. In reply, The Australian, and in particular its writer Mr Murray, insist upon the veracity of most of the matters of substance contained in the article.
It is not for the Australian Press Council to rule on the veracity of the claims of either party. This is a particularly controversial matter which in a democratic society must be the subject of open debate.
The present complaint by the Church of Scientology Inc. is that The Australian would not publish a rebuttal of the quite severe criticisms made. The complainant states that documents and evidence proving the inaccuracies of Mr Murray's article were sent to the editor together with a letter of retraction which they requested to be published. It was not published.
The Press Council believes that while there should be an unfettered right in newspapers to make fair and honest comment in the public interest on matters such as that of the Church of Scientology Inc., it equally believes that those criticised should have reasonable access to present their views to the community. This does not mean that every critical item published automatically gives rise to a right of reply. The Council does not uphold the complaint.