Scientology says 'cult' tag defames the church
Sydney Morning Herald
July 10, 2011
THE Church of Scientology is threatening to sue a volunteer organisation for publishing a brochure it claims labels the religion a ''cult''.
But the Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS) group, which helps victims of cults and their families, refuses to bow to the demands of the Scientologists, saying they will continue their "humanitarian support work''.
all the references to Scientology in the brochure were already in the public domain
The brochure advertises the support group's national conference in Brisbane next month and quotes one of the speakers, Senator Nick Xenophon, from a speech in Parliament in 2009 in which he labelled Scientology a criminal organisation.
The brochure contains allegations from that speech that members of Scientology had experienced "blackmail, torture and violence, labour camps and forced imprisonment and coerced abortions".
But in a legal letter, the Scientology lawyer, Kevin Rodgers, of Sydney firm Brock Partners, said the brochure was "grossly defamatory of [the Church of Scientology], its officers and parishioners".
"The Church considers the brochure conveys defamatory imputations that it … 'is a cult', is an 'abusive and destructive group', that it 'psychologically manipulates persons under coercive controlling circumstances and runs a 'labour camp'."
The legal letter said the church and its officers "strenuously deny these unfounded basely [sic] accusations", and demanded that CIFS withdraw mention of Scientology and provide a written apology. Failure to do so would "be used in any additional action our client Church is advised to take to claim punitive damages".
A church spokeswoman, Virginia Stewart, said the church "shares none of the characteristics of a cult".
"We do not have a messianic leader, we do not predict the end of the world, our members are urged to think for themselves and are not subject to 'coercive persuasion or mind control'. And we most certainly do not promote suicide or murder as solutions to human unhappiness. Quite the opposite," she said.
The president of CIFS, John McAlpin, said all the references to Scientology in the brochure were already in the public domain.
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