[Note: typos preserved.]

The Age (Melbourne), Fri 19 Dec 1980, p3

Scientology religion claim sham, says judge


The Scientology organisation's claims to be a religion were a sham, a Supreme Court judge said yesterday. Some of its services were grotesque, a mockery of religion, he said.

Mr Justice Crockett made the comments in dismissing an appeal by the organisation, calling itself the Church of the New Faith, against a decision of the Commissioner of Payroll Tax not to grant it exemption from the tax as a religious institution.

The Guardian of the Melbourne Church of Scientology, the Reverend Elaine Allen, said there would be an immediate appeal against the judgment.

Mr Justice Crockett described some of the organisation's activities, including "christening" services, as a "grotesque parody of Christianity".

Some of its practices and professed beliefs were "no more than a mockery of religion", and the fact that some gullible people accepted it as a genuine religion did not make it so, he said.

Mr Justice Crockett said the only question to decide in the case was whether Scientology was a religious institution. The organisation's difficulty was that it had not always described itself as a religion. It had done so in Australia only in recent years.

"An institution does not, of course, become a religion in character simply because its members choose to call themselves, and the corporate body by which they are organised, a church," he said. "Despite the clerical connotation suggested by the title description ... the association's title has a peculiarly secular ring about it."

A further difficulty, he said, was that there were several unequivocal rejections in the Scientology literature tendered in court of the notion that Scientology was a religion.

The judge also said that by the 1960s there was concern in Victoria that the organisation's practices might be harmful. A board of inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Anderson, was highly critical of the organisation, found its practices were evil, and recommended legislation to control it.

As a result, the Psychological Practices Act was passed in 1965, to register and supervise those who practiced psychoolgy, and to prohibit the use of a device known as an E-meter or similar instrument. E-meters were said to be able to detect emotional reaction.

Mr Justice Crockett said: "This section was clearly aimed specifically at Scientologists. The E-meter is an important, and seems the only, apparatus employed in Scientology. It is an instrument designed to register electrical resistance."

The Psychological Practices Act makes it an offence for anyone to hold himself out as willing to teach Scientology, although an exemption is provided for a priest or minister of a recognised religion defined as authorised to celebrate marriages.

Mr Justice Crockett said that the history of Scientology's treatment at the hands of the Parliament of Victoria "render it scarcely likely that the Governor-in-Council would proclaim Scientology as a recognised religion."

But, he said, the Commonwealth might have proved more amenable if the organisation was "metamorphosed so that a recognisable semblance of what might be commonly thought to be the structure of a religious body was achieved."

The organisation thus adopted many ecclesiastical trappings and took on many of the characteristics of a Christian denomination. At the same time, Scientology's essentially secular philosophy was reinterpreted, if not rewritten, into a philosophy which could be construed as religious dogma. Sunday "worship" and similar traditional religious services were adopted. The E-meter was now described as a religious artifact used in the "church confessional".

An American booklet describing ceremonies included procedures for conducting services, weddings and christenings. "They are there described in a somewhat grotesque parody of Christianity, with which Scientology has little or nothing in common," Mr Justice Crockett said.

"The probability is that those so-called ceremonies were devised and published as a device to enable with such attendant advantages as would thereby accrue, Scientology to be paraded as a church in the United States," he said.

"Presumably, the professed religious aims of the 'founding churches' in the United States, as they are to be found in their respective articles, are to be explained as no more than a cynical manipulation for advantage of the laws relating to financial immunity granted to religious organisations in that country."

He said that in a decade of reinterpretation of Scientology works and the adoption of ceremonies and creed, there was an obvious attempt to enhance the illusion that the organisation had become a religion.

The "ministers" wore garb indistinguishable from that of a Christian priest or minister, and a symbol was adopted which bore a striking resemblance to the crucifix.

Mr Justice Crockett said the Victorian legislation drove the organisation underground, or into other States, and there was no better method to avoid destruction than to simulate, and become accepted as, a religion.

"There can be no denying that the new image assiduously cultivated since the enactment of the Victorian legislation ... has been singularly successful," he said.

Mr Justice Crockett said that the other three States where Scientology was practices, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, had granted payroll tax exemption. But he most favorable administrative decision was the ruling in February 1973 by the then Federal Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, that Scientology was a "recognised denomination" under the Marriage Act.

This meant that Scientology's ministers were authorised to act as marriage celebrants and the practice of Scientology had a virtual immunity from the prohibitions of the Victorian Psychological Practices Act.

He said these were administrative rulings which gave little assistance to the organisation in this case.

Mr Justice Crockett said had he seen only the organisation's publications since 1970, he might agree that the institution was religious in character if he accepted its principles, beliefs and practices as genuine.

"However, I am persuaded ... Scientology is not, subject to one reservation, a religious institution because it is, in relation to its religious pretensions, no more than a sham," he said.

Its bogus claims to believe in prayer and other aspects of a creed based on a divine being, were "no more than a mockery of religion. Scientology was not practised is in reality the antithesis of a religion".

Mr Justice Crockett said the adroitness with which it had so cynically adopted itself served only to rob the movement of the sincerity and integrity that must be cardinal features of any religious faith.

The only qualification was whether Scientology, as evolved by its founder L. Ron Hubbard, and practised in its "pure" form until 1965, ought to be regarded as a religious institution. "It is not for me, of course, to pass any judgment on the correctness or otherwise of the doctrines of Scientology," the judge said. But it seemed to be more concerned with its doctrines relating to the soul or spirit, the self, than with any concept of a divine being.

"The aims, objects and purposes of Scientology were, I think, accurately summed up by its principal spokesman before the Victorian board of inquiry when he described them as being "to increase the efficiency and well-being of the individual person ... to increase the efficiency and well-being of society as a whole".

The judge said this could in no sense be regarded as a religion, and at that time, Scientology did not wish to be regarded as such, making express claims that it was non-religious.

Mr Justice Crockett said there were five or six thousand members of the organisation in Victoria. He said the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs had refused to allow the organisation to register itself as the Church of Scientology Incorporated, although it used that name in three other States.

Mrs Allen, the organisation's Melbourne Guardian, said the Supreme Court case had cost the Church of Scientology $10,000 or $12,000 so far. "I must say I am horrified at the cost of justice, but we will spend as many thousands again, if we need to, to win," she said.

"There are many ways up the mountainside and we will find the right one."

Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, and teaches his views. Its firtss so-called church was set up in California in 1954.

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