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Group promotes Scientology leader in schools
November 23, 2009
A group sponsored by the Church of Scientology says it's been targetting children in thousands of schools across Australia.
The group, Youth for Human Rights, has been distributing DVDs and brochures that spread the word about human rights and name the founder of Scientology as a leader on the issue. The admission comes as the federal independent Senator Nick Xenophon pushes for an inquiry into the church.
Primary schools in the eastern state of New South Wales have been ordered not to hand out the material, but the group's activities are more widespread.
Presenter: Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop
Speakers: Tara Kuru from Youth For Human Rights; Nick Xenophon, Federal Senator; Geoff Scott, NSW Primary Schools Principals Association
EXCERPT FROM DVD: Human right number one - we are all born free and equal. What are human rights? Find out at youthforhumanrights.org.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Tara Kuru says she's in a group that distributes DVDs and booklets with that message to thousands of schools across Australia.
TARA KURU: The fact that the funding is provided by the Church of Scientology is not hidden at all. But I've never once promoted Scientology whilst talking to youth about human rights.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The 25-year-old grew up in a family of Scientologists but she says she joined the group, called Youth For Human Rights, by coincidence five years ago. Its material names the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, as a human rights leader alongside Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
TARA KURU: I think he's made some very profound help towards human rights and he wants people to promote the Universal Declaration for Human Rights because that's like the foundation of the rules to human existence.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The New South Wales Education Minister Verity Firth has ordered all primary school principals not to hand out the material after she was told about it on Friday.
The Minister says it's aimed at year-six students but Tara Kuru says children of all ages have been targeted for at least three years.
TARA KURU: Most schools in Australia would have at least seen the booklet once or twice. For like nine out of ten, I've had nothing but positive responses.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The Church of Scientology describes Youth for Human Rights as a secular organisation. But the Federal independent Senator Nick Xenophon says governments across Australia need to be more vigilant against Scientologists.
NICK XENOPHON: They are not being up front in terms of their affiliations and this shouldn't be used as a recruitment mechanism for new members of the Church of Scientology.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The Senator is pushing for a federal enquiry into the church's tax-free status as well as allegations of abuse, forced abortions and imprisonment, fraud and blackmail. He suggests the religion has been plagued by misconduct since its foundation.
NICK XENOPHON: Putting L Ron Hubbard in the same league as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi is laughable but it is also very serious in the context of the sorts of things that L Ron Hubbard got up to when he was running the Church of Scientology.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: A Sydney school has confirmed it received the material and threw it out but Geoff Scott, from the state's Primary Schools Principals Association, says the reference to Scientology could have gone unnoticed at other schools.
GEOFF SCOTT: It's possible but generally, if there are things that are likely to be controversial, it raises a little concern sometimes in the minds of principals to check out the source of the material and I guess on this occasion there have been some concerns expressed.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Tara Kuru doesn't see a problem.
TARA KURU: If I was helping World Vision which has a very Christian background which they promote, why would it matter? I am helping people, you know.
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