The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 06 Mar 1980, p1, p12
The Church of Scientology has refunded amounts of up to $690 to five Sydney people following their complaints to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The people, who decided not to undertake courses run by the church after paying for them, had complained of their treatment when they asked for a refund.
They were given a six-page "refund repayment application" (which had to be completed in duplicate), setting out 27 steps to be carried out before the money could be refunded.
To complete the form, a person must see 20 people, some more than once, all of whom have to sign the document.
They include: the technical secretary, the qual interview and invoice officer or authoritative officer, the ethics officer, the director of income, the banking officer, the LHR communicator or the keeper of tech and policy knowledge, the assistant guardian for finance, the DGF continental and the director of inspections and reports.
The assistant guardian for finance for the church, Mr Gordon Bolstead, told an officer of the department last year:
"A person completes the form, (and) with the form they attach evidence of payment. The form is them forwarded to the UK and this takes approximately five to six weeks: There is no guarantee that the money would be refunded."
In one case, it was five to six months after the initial request was made before a refund was received.
Scientologists say the delay was because the person had refused to fill in the form.
They say it was a coincidence that the refund cheque arrived shortly before the case was due to be heard before the Consumer Claims Tribunal.
One woman was told in a letter: "If you do decide to take this matter to a lawyer, you will find that it will not only delay payment through legal proceeding but will also increase your costs in doing so."
The cover sheet of the form says that its purpose "is to facilitate smooth, and eventually satisfactory handling of refund and repayment requests.
"Sometimes a claimant in mid stream, so to speak, realises that he or she does not want to cut themselves off from the help that Scientology can and has given them, and does not want to continue it [the application to recover their money].
The assistant guardian of the church in Australia, the Rev Audrey Devlin, said the form was designed to help a person air any complaints in any area.
Her daughter, Jane, the surch's public relations officer, said that often the reason that people ask for their money back was that they had some misunderstanding about the church or its courses.
"If they are upset, we like to find out why."
With the aid of the form "we can correct any fault in the church if we find one."
"About half decide to change their minds" after their problems have been sorted out.
She said that the form took one or two hours to complete if done quickly. People did not have to use the form if they were "insistent."
Step 14 of the form lists a number of grounds on which "your claim may be rejected as false or not valid."
The person must sign underneath to show that he or she understands.
The last condition may come as an unpleasant surprise to some people - the rules for one of the courses forbid a person to take drugs, be under medical supervision or have dental treatment, or have sex with someone else doing the course.
Miss Devlin said most of these conditions had never been used to reject claims.
The second point, for example, was "just put in as a safeguard."
She said that being under medical treatment could interfere with a person's progress. "It takes a week for an anaesthetic or drug to wear off."
If people were under doctor's instructions, "they come back when they are better."
She said that sex between members of the same course would not make for ideal communications. "It is the same as if you work with someone.
"It is different if they are already boyfriend and girlfriend."
Miss Devlin seemed upset that the Herald put questions to her about the form.
"We have 10,000 members in NSW, of which one or two may be a little upset. If you want to do a cross-section, 90 to 95 per cent of them are very happy."
She said the church received about one form a month.
She pointed out the community activities of Scientology-sponsored groups, such as the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights.
The church was trying to institute reforms for the mentally-ill in conjunction with such groups as the Council for Civil Liberties.
The church also aimed to help senior citizens, criminals and drug addicts.
The sign outside the building offers "free personality tests."
Those who are curious enough to walk up the stairs will be directed to a large room and asked to sign the visitors' book.
The room looks like a cross between a doctor's waiting room and the study section of a school library.
Near the door, comfortable chairs nestle round a low table spread with magazines and books; around the walls people sit at desks; and in the centre are tables where people do their tests.
But 201 Castlereagh Street houses neither doctors' clinics nor a library - it is the new $800,000 State headquarters of the Church of Scientology.
Previously, the church was based at 1 Lee Street, in an out-of-the-way building at the back of Railway Square.
During that time, earnest young people, armed with clipboards, were seen frequently near the escalators outside the Sydney Technical College building.
They were not technical college students doing a survey, as some people might at first have thought, but members of the church whose job it was to bring people back to the church's headquarters.
Although the Scientologists say that they have had few complaints about this tactic, Sergeant Frank Anderson, of Regent Street police station, says that the station received many complaints about them stopping people.
The shopkeepers in the area and people who worked in the college building also complained.
"They got quite blatant before we stepped in," Sergeant Anderson said.
The police were looking into the matter when those parts of the Summary Offences Act which might have been relevant were changed.
In any case, the Scientologists moved late last year to the greener pastures of Castlereagh Street, where the greater number of people walking past perhaps makes such recruiting techniques less necessary.
According to Jane Devlin, the Church's public relations officer, about 150 people visit the church during a week.
Although Miss Devlin is at pains to point out that they are of all ages, the majority would seem to be in their 20s.
In a survey the Church did in June, 1977, of 30,200 of its claimed 5,437,000 members worldwide, more than 72 per cent were under 30, while almost 45 per cent were under 25.
Many of the people who walk through its doors will have come to do the personality test, although the Church says it is now phasing this out in favour of introductory films and lectures.
The test, called The Standard Oxford Capacity Analysis, has been in use for 30 years, according to one Scientologist.
The test is marked to show copyright 1978 held by Ron L. Hubbard, founder of the church, but nobody seems to know how it is connected with Oxford.
The 200 questions remind one of some of the quizzes found in women's magazines: are you happy, do you like responsibility, have you many close friends, do you often sing or whistle, have you ever thought of committing suicide, have you ever felt that people were talking about you behind your back, do you think you talk too much?
There are also questions about opinions on aspects of the prison system. (The Scientologists have strong ideas about the way prisons should be run, and have formed an organisation called Crimenon to lobby for them.)
One question asks the person being tested how he would feel about his country's conscientious objectors if his country invaded another.
Most of the questions are designed to gauge the person's perception of himself.
If the person has problems, if he is unemployed or lonely, it is probably that he would have a poor opinion of himself, and consequently would do badly in the test.
Lee Roberts, 19, is unemployed. She did the personality test late last year after having been approached by a Scientologist at Railway Square, while on her way back from the Kent Street CES office.
(She has asked us not to use her real name.)
"After they had graphed the results of my test, this lady came up to me and said: "Well, I don't want to ... it's not a personal comment on you, you understand, we are not personally trying to put you down, but this is your graph,' and it was just scraping along the bottom, way below normal.
"Then another lady came and talked to me about doing a course with them, because though I had an abysmal personality, they could fix it, they could scrape me up from the bottom.
"She hit on a few nerves that were really sensitive at the time - I'd split with my boyfriend, I'd only just moved into a place of my own, I didn't have a job, I didn't have any money and I was feeling really lonely and insecure."
Miss Roberts signed up to the "communications course" (previously called the Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist Course) costing $9.50. (Courses after that increase rapidly in price, many of them costing hundreds of dollars.)
When Miss Roberts walked into the room where the course was being held, she was applauded by the other students.
"They all looked really naive and sheltered. A lot of them were unemployed," she said.
According to her instruction folder, "the course is designed to increase and improve your ability to communicate," but, according to Miss Roberts, "it did the exact opposite."
The exercises she did involved sitting opposite someone, first with her eyes closed, then with them open.
When she could do that for two hours without "cracking up, fidgeting or laughing," she had achieved a "major stable win."
"The next exercise was called bull-baiting," Miss Roberts said. "The person opposite you can do anything or say anything to make you laugh or crack up. They can jump up and down, swear at you and even touch you, the only restriction being that they can't leave their chair.
"I never got to a complex stage with that one - as soon as they would open their mouth I would laugh.
"But I saw some students doing it - after a while they could sit there with someone practically having convulsions and just keep a straight face.
"I asked them how they did it and they said they just took everything in and dismissed it. It is the most effective way of stopping communication I know.
"At the end of the second day, I was distinctly uncomfortable and suspicious, so I went and saw my father and told him all about it.
"He told me not to go near them. 'I'd be happier if you took up whoring for six months,'" he said.
"He was really that scared. He just freaked out in a very quiet way, and because he was scared and because I trust him, I just didn't go to the course any more."
The day after Miss Roberts stopped going to the course she got a telegram asking her to come back and finish it.
A few days later, two Scientologists went to see her, but she was out.
Since then they have sent her several letters asking her either to finish the course or to tell them why she didn't like it.
"They asked me what was my next stop in life; what were my plans?" Miss Roberts said.
"If you were really down and out, they are the sort of letters that would get you to come crawling back to them, and then you'd feel emotionally obliged."
However, the week Miss Roberts stopped doing the course, things improved for her, she said.
"I had been to see my father - it was the first time I'd ever asked his advice - and that broke a lot of ice; I had found a job and met some old friends.
"I thought, 'what the hell are you doing with those people that you have to give money to, when you've got real ones?'
"I give them credit, because with 99 per cent of me saying 'you've got to be joking - look at all this transparent American hardsell,' I still signed my name and handed over my money.
"If you're young, if you're unemployed, I think you are just bait for them.
"You have unlimited time, it is something to do, and there is some sort of structure, which a lot of people miss when they don't have a job.
"It is almost like being back at school.
"You walk in there and they are so nice you begin to wonder what is wrong with you. If you were lonely, the church would seem like heaven.
"If you walk around the City, especially if you are looking for a job, you get a lot of hostility directed at you.
"And so, in a fairly hostile city, they come across as being warm and friendly people.
"They say genuine things, they look at you in the eye, smile, and call you by your first name.
"However, their whole aim is to turn you into part of the machinery of Scientology. It is not so you can wander off on your own happy track into the sunset, a happier and more fulfilled person."
Jane Devlin says this is incorrect:
"If you realise that Scientology is for you then that's great; if you don't, fine. No one is forced into it."
She says that people are free to stop after doing the communications course, or to continue with others if they wish. Most of the 800 people who did the course last year benefited from it.
She has supplied The Sydney Morning Herald with Success Story Record forms completed by satisfied students.
The top of each form says: "This is the Dept. of Success where you realise and communicate the wins and gains you have made as a result of the service you have just completed."
According to these forms, one person from Cambelltown has written that he has gained "the ability to confront" and has thus rid himself of a lot of problems. He had found it hard to answer telephones, for example.
He continues: "My heart would beat twice as much, my hands would shake ... You would think I was crying if you were on the other end of the line. This problem no longer exists."
Jane Devlin says: "Some people find that Scientology helps them; some people don't."
In the United States, last August, a 22-year-old woman was awarded more than $2 million after a jury found the church guilty of fraud and outrageous conduct.
After the verdict Julie Christofferson said she considered the communications course that brought her into the church to be a fraud.
"It is all recruiting," she said in an interview.
"There is no actual communication. I see it as a real threat because a person spends all his money, as I did my college savings, or gives all his money.
"They keep you in courses as long as you have money. When all your money is used they put you on the staff and have you start doing little chores and recruiting. If you leave, you are left with nothing."
The church is confident that it will win its current appeal against the decision. It says that not only was the decision made by a biased small-town jury, but that it was in conflict with the Constitution because it was contrary to the First Amendment, which guaranteed separation of church and State.
[photo: hand-painted white-on-black sign, 'FREE PERSONALITY TEST'] A poster outside the office pictured yesterday.
[photo] Ron L. J. Hubbard ... the founder.
[photo] The scientologists' office in Castlereagh Street.
WASHINGTON, Wednesday. - The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that the Church of Scientology is "a religion within the purview of the First Amendment."
It ruled also that the Scientologists' mother Church in Los Angeles was organised "exclusively for religious purposes."
But it still says the Church should not be exempt from tax. It says the Church has channelled money to private people and has committed illegal acts.
The Internal Revenue Service made its ruling as a stipulation in a tax court case in Los Angeles where it is seeking almost $A1.6 million in taxes and penalties from the Los Angeles church for the period 1970-72.
The stipulation seems to mean that the IRS is willing to accept the Church of Scientology as a religion and not a business, but that it believes the Church has not met the standards for religious exemption from tax.
Ron L. Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, was sentenced in absentia by a French court in April, 1978, to four years' jail and fined $A6,160 for fraudulently obtaining funds.
The Scientologists say that this represents only one side of the story.
"He has never been to France, and was charged and convicted without being advised of the charge," they told the Herald when the report was published.
After a successful appeal by another Scientologist involved in the case, Mr Hubbard is appealing.
His third wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, is also appealing against a five-year jail sentence in the United States.
She and eight high-ranking members of the church were found guilty by a Federal judge in October of conspiring to bug government offices and to steal government papers. The church says the FBI raid which led to their arrest was illegal.