Grieving family urges Scientology probe
National Nine News
November 23, 2009
For the three days leading up to soldier Edward McBride's suicide, his family say he was bombarded by telephone calls and texts from Church of Scientology members.
The family believe the church played a major role in his death but have spent the past two years without answers or recourse.
Now they've urged the federal government to initiate an inquiry into the controversial religious group, under fire following recent allegations of blackmail, sanctioned beatings, forced abortions and financial fraud.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon last week made a scathing parliamentary attack on Scientology, accusing it of using religion as a front for criminal activities.
He wants the organisation to be investigated by parliament - a call which has so far won the backing of the Australian Greens, but not the government or opposition.
Senator Xenophon and Greens leader Bob Brown on Monday flanked Mr McBride's brother Stephen as he appealed directly to the prime minister to support a formal inquiry.
Police investigating his younger brother's death in 2007 had been stymied by the church, which failed to provide personal audit files as requested, Stephen McBride said.
"Every time I think of Scientology I still get a real bad aftertaste in my mouth," he told reporters in Canberra.
"There's something just not right about it."
Mr McBride was adamant the church contributed to his brother's suicide, with the coroner reporting the telephone messages contained intimidating statements, such as "this behaviour is unacceptable" and "you have missed your interview".
He had spent $25,000 on Scientology courses in his time with the church.
"The bombardment of 19 telephone messages backed him into a corner with no room to breathe," Mr McBride said.
"We've been through hell the last two years - please don't let my brother's death be in vain."
Senator Xenophon has yet to win the support of the government, despite Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saying last week he also had concerns about Scientology.
"It doesn't seem the numbers are there yet, but I will continue to build my case," he said, adding this was not a crusade against freedom of religion.
"This is a hell of a week and I think we are distracted with other issues, but I think it's inevitable there will be an inquiry one way or the other."
Senator Brown, who labelled Scientology a cult, said he would be angry if the government and coalition quashed any move for an inquiry.
Meanwhile, The Church of Scientology has rejected allegations raised in federal parliament about the death of a 14-month-old girl nine years ago.
Senator Xenophon last week said correspondence from former members had implicated the church in a range of crimes, including forced imprisonment, coerced abortions, intimidation and blackmail.
Eight letters from former members of the church were tabled in parliament, including one from Paul David Schofield, who said his toddler daughter Lauren fell down some stairs to her death after being allowed to wander around one of the church's Sydney buildings.
"My wife and I were actively discouraged from seeking compensation from the church," he wrote.
"I was also encouraged by church executives to request no coronial enquiry into her death, something I stupidly agreed with at that time."
But the church on Monday said the allegations were false.
"Based on detailed evidence, deputy state coroner Jacqueline Milledge ruled that Lauren's death was an accident and that an inquest was unnecessary," the church's spokeswoman, Virginia Stewart, said in a statement.
Ms Stewart also rejected suggestions Lauren was allowed to wander around the stairs while under the church's care.
"Two witness statements attest that Lauren was in the care of her father, Paul Schofield, and three teenagers at the time of the accident," she said.
"She was not wandering the stairs by herself but rather walked to the top of the stairs while she and a group of small children were being moved from one room to another, under close supervision.
"Both witness statements clearly attest that Paul Schofield was a matter of a few metres from his daughter when she fell down a flight of stairs."
Ms Stewart also rejected claims church executives pressured Mr Schofield not to request a coronial inquiry.
"Based on detailed evidence, deputy state coroner Jacqueline Milledge ruled an inquest into Lauren's death was unnecessary.
"Senator Xenophon has exploited this personal tragedy and made some shocking and untrue allegations to impugn the reputation of the Church of Scientology."
Disclaimer:This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively. Readers are encouraged to read widely on a topic before forming an opinion. Never accept information from a single source at face value. This website only holds a small amount of information and should not be relied on as a complete source. For example, if you find older information, this should be weighed up against newer information as circumstances can change.