Church of Scientology: We're being vilified
November 20, 2009
Senator Nick Xenophon is a lawyer. So he understands the difference between allegations and facts.
Yet when he spoke in the Senate on Tuesday night he presented unsubstantiated allegations as if they were factual evidence of what he labelled "criminal" behaviour.
He spoke under Parliamentary privilege, so as to avoid the risk of defamation. But in the sense that he presented spurious allegations as if it were evidence, he abused the privilege that Parliament offered him.
This was not free speech. It was abuse and slander protected by the forms of our Parliament.
The Church of Scientology has been subjected to almost two years of attack – sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant — in various media, in Australia and overseas. There's been a great deal of scuttlebutt and gossip; there has been very little reliance on truth.
There's something of a campaign being pursued against our church.
There is a relatively small group of ex-members of the church who interact online in conjunction with Anonymous, which could be fairly described as a hate group.
These people hacked into and brought down the church's websites for 12 days at the beginning of 2008 and more recently have gained Senator Xenophon's ear. They have calculatedly lobbied him and they hit the jackpot on Tuesday night.
What is occurring here is vilification on a grand scale — falling into a pattern of denigration and dehumanisation of religion, and particularly of religious minorities, which is well known to the world because of its long, tragic history.
Senator Xenophon states as "fact" that Scientologists cannot be believed. Yet he has refused to meet church representatives despite repeated invitations. (Editor's Note: This claim has been strongly refuted by Senator Xenophon.) Such a meeting would have given him the opportunity to raise his concerns and allegations – and for us to respond to them factually, and with proof where this was required.
Yet the Senator consistently denied us this opportunity, stating that a former staffer lost the letter. Well, there were letters. Were Senator Xenophon truly interested in the facts, he would have accepted one of these repeated invitations to meet us and to discuss his concerns.
It's not as well known as perhaps it should be that the Church of Scientology is the only religion in Australia unanimously declared by the High Court of Australia to be a bona fide religious group worthy of tax exemption. That judgment was handed down in 1983, after another period in which the church has experienced great vilification.
Scientology is now recognised in most civilised countries as a religious group and our members are free to practise the religion of their choice, as they should be.
Even the French Government, which is especially prickly about new religions, has not tried to remove Scientology's right to practise as a religious group. And just last month the European Human Rights Court upheld Scientology's case against Russia's refusal to recognise Scientology.
Scientology is a practical religious philosophy that answers questions about life and about living. Its tenets can be used to improve one's own life and to help others.
But ultimately Scientology helps people regain spiritual self-knowledge. These spiritual truths are not unique to our church — all religions have them or seek them.
We believe that Scientology is a workable way to attain spiritual truth. We believe in good works, spiritual fulfillment, and truth telling.
We understand the difference between allegation and fact.
Cyrus Brooks is the vice-president of the Church of Scientology, Australia.
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