Nick Xenophon says Scientology 'criminal organisation'
November 18, 2009
A SENATOR has labelled the Church of Scientology a "criminal" group, saying it is hiding behind religion to chase power and money.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has accused the Church of Scientology of being a "two-faced, criminal organisation" hiding behind religious beliefs to get rich.
He has told Parliament he has been contacted by a number of former Scientologists, after he questioned the tax exempt status given to the organisation, which has has said "turns supporters into victims in its pursuit of power and wealth".
"They have provided long and detailed letters to me about the workings of this organisation,'' he told the Senate yesterday. "These people rightly see themselves as victims of Scientology.''
Senator Xenophon has tabled the letters in the Senate. They accuse the organisation of a range of crimes, including forced imprisonment, coerced abortions, embezzlement of church funds, physical violence, intimidation and blackmail.
The Church of Scientology released a statement accusing Senator Xenophon of an "outrageous" abuse of parliamentary privilege and later said they would work with police in any investigations that arose from the allegations.
In a letter from Perth man Aaron Saxton, he admits to torture and blackmail while working for the Church of Scientology in Australia and at its US headquarters between 1989 and 1996, The Australian reported.
Another letter from Carmel Underwood, a former executive director of the church's Sydney branch, alleges a child abuse cover-up in the 1980s in which the vicim was "coached" to lie to authorities.
In the third letter, Sydney man Dean Detheridge, part of the church for 17 years, says the church "culled ... embarrassing revelations and confessions" from counselling sessions that could be used against members who turned against the church.
He also says he witnesses and participated in "concerted efforts to extract as much money as possible" from parishioners with "absolutely no regard" for their financial situation.
"I am deeply concerned about this organisation and the devastating impact it can have on its followers,'' Senator Xenophon told the chamber.
Senator Xenophon said the Church of Scientology had been convicted of fraud in France and was facing similar charges in Belgium.
A number of the organisation's former high ranking executives in the US had also recently spoken out against its leader, David Miscavige, saying they had seen him assaulting staff and urging others to do the same, he said.
"What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality,'' Senator Xenophon said. "On the body of evidence, this is not happening by accident, it is happening by design.
"In my view, this is a two-faced organisation," he told the Senate. "Scientology is not a religious organisation, it is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.''
The Church of Scientology dismissed Senator Xenophon's claims as "hate speech".
"Senator Xenophon is obviously being pressured by disgruntled former members who use hate speech and distorted accounts of their experiences in the church," the church's statement read. "They are about as reliable as former spouses are when talking about their ex-partner."
The church described the former members' statements as constituting a "propaganda campaign that would suit a totalitarian regime, not Australia, a country that recognises freedom of religion".
Later, the vice-president of the church in Australia, Cyrus Brooks, said the church took any claim of illegal activity seriously. "We would co-operate with police in any of these matters," he said on Fairfax radio.
He said the church had tried to contact Senator Xenophon repeatedly, but he would not speak with them.
- From The Australian and AAP
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