Senator Nick Xenophon's statement to Parliament about the Church of Scientology
November 18, 2009
THE full text of Senator Nick Xenophon's statement to Parliament about the Church of Scientology.
Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (8.09
I rise to speak tonight on an issue of utmost seriousness
that I believe deserves a great deal of scrutiny
by law enforcement agencies and by this parliament.
In the past few weeks, I have been contacted by former
members of the Church of Scientology after I questioned
the tax exemption status the organisation has
under our tax laws during an interview on the Seven
Network’s Today Tonight. I want to take this opportunity
to pay tribute to the work of reporter Bryan Seymour,
who, under the leadership of Craig McPherson,
Executive Producer of Today Tonight, has prepared
more than two dozen stories on this organisation. I also
commend the network for its willingness to dedicate
considerable resources in the courts to ensure these
stories have rightly been put to air.
I was also concerned by a recent story in the Australian
about the coronial inquest into the death of Edward
McBride. Coroner John Lock had requested personal
records of Mr McBride held by the Church of
Scientology as part of the inquest but these documents
were not forthcoming. Instead, they were shifted by the
organisation from Brisbane to Sydney and then on to
the United States. Since I made those initial comments
about taxation on Today Tonight, a number of former
followers of Scientology have written to me. These
people rightly see themselves as victims of Scientology
and they have provided long and detailed letters to me
about the workings of this organisation. I seek leave to
have copies of these letters tabled, some of which have
had the names of some Scientology followers deleted
with the permission of the authors.
Having read the statements
and subsequently met with the people who provided
them, as well as having read a significant amount
of research conducted by my office, I am deeply concerned
about this organisation and the devastating impact
it can have on its followers. In my view, this is
two-faced organisation. There is the public face of the
organisation founded in 1953 by the late science fiction
writer L Ron Hubbard, which claims to offer guidance
and support to its followers, and there is the private
face of the organisation, which abuses its followers,
viciously targets its critics and seems largely driven by
In France, the organisation was recently convicted
of fraud and it is also facing charges in Belgium.
Meanwhile, in the USA a number of former highranking
Scientology executives have broken their silence about the organisation, talking to the St Petersburg
Times in Florida where its international headquarters
The executives say they witnessed the
head of the organisation, David Miscavige, assault staff
members dozens of times and they say he also urged
others to commit assault. The executives also claim the
organisation has used blackmail and threats against
former members and perceived critics of the organisation,
and that the organisation has knowingly repeatedly
obstructed justice. Claims have also been made
that information provided to the organisation by members
during what are known as auditing sessions, which
are a crude hybrid of confession and counselling and
for which the organisation claims so-called priest penitent
privilege, was then used to blackmail and manipulate
What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse
and criminality. On the body of evidence this is not
happening by accident; it is happening by design. Scientology
is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal
organisation that hides behind its so-called religious
beliefs. What you believe does not mean you are not
accountable for how you behave. The letters received
by me which were written by former followers in Australia
contain extensive allegations of crimes and
abuses that are truly shocking—crimes against them
and crimes they say they were coerced into committing.
There are allegations of false imprisonment, coerced
abortions, embezzlement of church funds, physical
violence, intimidation, blackmail and the widespread
and deliberate abuse of information obtained by
the organisation. It is alleged that information about
suspicious deaths and child abuse has been destroyed,
and one follower has admitted he was coerced by the
organisation into perjuring himself during investigations
into the deaths of his two daughters.
These victims of Scientology claim it is an abusive,
manipulative, violent and criminal organisation, and
that criminality is condoned at the highest levels.
Aaron Saxton is one of the victims of Scientology who
wrote to me. He was born into the organisation and
rose to a position of influence in Sydney and the
United States. In his statement, he says that when he
was a child his mother was coerced into signing over
guardianship of him to a Scientology official so he
could be moved to Australia. In or around January
1990, he was told by the organisation not to report the
attempted rape of him by a man. He says this was due
to the organisation’s public relations policy.
Aaron was still a child when, he says, he was asked
to cover up the defrauding of credit cards and cash by a
Scientology employee. He says the organisation exercised
frightening levels of control over followers. At
least 10 times was forced to endure a diet of beans and
rice for periods of up to two weeks as punishment. And
because of Scientology’s bans on medications and
seeking medical attention, he says, he was forced at
times to extract his own teeth without the aid of painkillers.
At age 16, Aaron says, he was made a security guard
for the church. In this role, he says, he issued so-called
non-communication orders on no less than half a dozen
families, including his own. These orders forced members
of the organisation to cut off all contact with relatives
and friends for fear of punishment.
In his statement, Aaron says he was also forced to participate in
the illegal confinement and torture of a follower who
was kept under house arrest. Aaron says he accessed
more than 150 files that contained personal information
on followers, much of which was obtained during socalled
auditing. This information is meant to be confidential.
It is not. Aaron says this information was used
to blackmail followers to keep them in the church as
well as to discredit former followers if they left. This
was a condoned violation of the so-called priestpenitent
privilege. Aaron says he was also involved in
deleting files of a member who had suicided.
Disturbingly, Aaron has also spoken out against the
organisation’s policy on abortions. He says while under
the control of Scientology he was involved in coercing
female followers to have abortions. He says this was in
line with a policy designed to keep followers loyal to
the organisation and to allow them to keep working for
Aaron says women who fell pregnant
were taken to offices and bullied to have an abortion. If
they refused, they faced demotion and hard labour.
Aaron says the hope in the organisation was that if
these pregnant women were given these punishments
they would give in and have an abortion or miscarry.
Aaron says one staff member used a coat hanger and
self-aborted her child for fear of punishment. He says
she was released from the organisation and the files
In 1991 Aaron says he was sent to Scientology
headquarters in Florida, where he was involved in the
removal of funds from Scientology bank accounts to
pay for private services for executives in the organisation.
He also says he was made to falsify bank records
and ordered more than 30 people to be sent to Scientology’s
work camps, where they were forced to undertake
hard labour. He also says he used personal and
financial information of followers to track them down
if they tried to leave. Aaron has said the organisation
forced him to create fraudulent education certificates
for children under the age of 15 in order to allow them
to work for the organisation. He also says he was coerced
into putting five individuals under house arrest
on five separate occasions. These people were not
permitted to leave until the organisation had obtained,
through coercion, the statements it wanted.
Aaron also claims knowledge of two instances
where followers in the United States confessed to murder but this information was not passed on to police.
He also says while in the United States he was ordered
by superiors to remove documents that would link a
Scientology staff member to murder. Aaron says he and
other members opened the files of several celebrity
Scientologists in order to glean information which
could be used as leverage to force a greater commitment
to the organisation. Some might call that blackmail.
In his statement he also details attempts which
were made to coerce one celebrity Scientologist into
having an abortion. He says the young man who impregnated
the celebrity was forced from the organisation
and cut off from his parents, who remained Scientologists.
Aaron said he was so heavily under the control of
the organisation’s bizarre power structure he was complicit
in ordering the beating of one follower and facilitated
the beating of another. He says he was ordered to
help a Scientologist who was hiding from authorities
and admits to ordering the throwing overboard of a
man from the Scientology ship the Freewinds. He is
not sure if this order was ever carried out.
Aaron has now left the organisation and is willing to
cooperate with police investigations into these matters.
He was born into the cult, and he says he regrets the
control it had over him and the things he did as a result.
I ask my fellow senators: do these things sound like
religious activities to you? Does this sound like an organisation
that should be receiving support from the
Australian taxpayer in the form of tax exemptions because
they claim to be a religion?
I have also received correspondence from Carmel
Underwood, another former member and another victim
of Scientology. She says that while she was working
for the organisation in Sydney she fell pregnant and
was put under extreme pressure to have an abortion.
When she refused, she was put on a disappearing program.
Carmel also worked for the organisation’s financial
planning arm and says that when requests for payments
for abortions were made by the organisation’s
executives they were never questioned, even though all
other requests for funds were met with delays and haggled
over. Carmel says she also witnessed a young girl
who had been molested by her father being coached as
to what she should say to investigating authorities in
order to keep the crimes secret. Carmel says she was
physically assaulted by a representative of the organisation
during an argument.
And when she finally left the organisation, she says,
information she divulged during so-called auditing was
used by members to discredit her. Carmel says she
chose to speak out because she knows there are many
more victims of Scientology, many of whom are still
caught up in the organisation and are being physically,
financially and mentally abused.
Tim, supports his wife’s story and says the couple suffered
serious financial hardship because of their involvement
in the organisation. He says they were
forced to pay more than $100,000 to publicise the organisation
and for so-called religious texts and courses.
It is incredible to think that the Christian Bible is free
in every hotel room in the country, but Scientology
texts and courses can cost followers their life savings
and even fortunes they do not have and feel compelled
One of the saddest correspondences I have received—
and they are all sad—is from Paul Schofield.
He also alleges the cover-up of child abuse by the organisation
and admits being part of a campaign to
cover up the facts surrounding the deaths of two of his
daughters. Paul says his first daughter, Lauren, who
was 14 months old, was being babysat at the organisation’s
building in Sydney when she was allowed to
wander the stairs by herself and fall. She died in hospital
two days later. Paul says he felt pressured by Scientology
executives not to request a coronial inquiry—
pressure he ultimately gave in to. He was also told if he
sought compensation from Scientology he and his wife
would be ineligible for any other services.
His second daughter, Kirsty, who was 2½, died after
ingesting potassium chloride—a substance used as part
of a so-called purification program run by the organisation.
Under the direction of Scientology executives,
Paul says he perjured himself to the police, and during
the coronial inquest, in order to protect the organisation.
Under incredible pressure he agreed to lie because
he was scared he would be heavily punished by Scientology
if he told the truth. It is a decision he regrets to
I have received statements from Anna and Dean Detheridge
who claim to have been subjected to physical
and mental abuse during their time with the organisation.
Anna says she was instructed by the organisation
to disconnect from her sister because her sister was gay
and therefore, according to Scientology, dangerous,
perverted and evil. Anna and Dean also provided evidence
where information they and others have revealed
to the church have been used to blackmail and control.
They also provided more information about coerced
Kevin Mackey wrote to me detailing his 26 years of
abuse in the organisation. In his letter, which I have
tabled, he says:
When one begins Scientology there is nothing weird or space
alien about it ... in fact Scientology as seen by a newbie is a
Godsend to a troubled soul.
But he goes on to say:
Once you have taken the bait and become hooked, the real
Scientology is presented, very slowly, over years.
This psychological conditioning Kevin is talking about
eventually saw him and his wife hand over almost a
million dollars to the organisation in exchange for services
Other families have contacted me expressing grave
concerns about their children who are still under the
control of this organisation. But they have asked that I
do not identify them for fear of never hearing from
their children again. Another victim of Scientology,
Peta O’Brien, wrote of being discouraged by the organisation
from seeking treatment for cancer. She has
also provided evidence of being assaulted and cut off
from her son while they were both part of the organisation.
These allegations are serious, and many names have
been removed from the letters I have tabled in the Senate
tonight, but those names have not been removed
from copies I am providing to the police. This organisation
must be investigated. These victims of Scientology
have spoken out at considerable personal risk, and
I commend them for that. And I would encourage other
victims of Scientology to come forward, contact the
police or contact my office—but, most importantly,
I also believe the activities of this organisation
should be scrutinised by parliament because Australian
taxpayers are, in effect, supporting Scientology through
its tax-exempt status. I say to all Australians: as you fill
in your tax return next July or August, ask yourself
how you feel knowing that you are paying tax and yet
this criminal organisation is not. Do you want Australian
tax exemptions to be supporting an organisation
that coerces its followers into having abortions? Do
you want to be supporting an organisation that defrauds,
that blackmails, that falsely imprisons?—
because, on the balance of evidence provided by victims
of Scientology, you probably are.
Do we really want to be funding an organisation that
turns supporters into victims in its pursuit of power and
wealth? That is why I am calling for a Senate inquiry
into this organisation and its tax-exempt status. In the
past Scientology has claimed that those who question
their organisation are attacking the group’s religious
freedom. It is twisted logic, to say the least. Religious
freedom did not mean the Catholic or Anglican
Churches were not held accountable for crimes and
abuses committed by their priests, nuns and officials—
albeit belatedly. Ultimately, this is not about religious
In Australia there are no limits on what you
can believe. But there are limits on how you can behave.
It is called the law, and no-one is above it.
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