Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review
Volume 4, Issue
by Rod Keller
Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review summarizes the most significant postings from the Usenet group Alt.religion.scientology for the preceding week for the benefit of those who can't follow the group as closely as they'd like. Out of thousands of postings, I attempt to include news of significant events, new affidavits, court rulings, new contributors, whatever. I hope you find it useful. Like many readers of a.r.s, I have a kill file. So please take into consideration that I may not have seen some of the most significant postings.
The articles in A.r.s Week in Review are brief summaries of articles posted to the newsgroup. They include message IDs for the original articles, and many have a URL to get more information. You may be able to find the original article, depending on how long your site stores articles in the newsgroup before expiring them.
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Presstext reported on March 14th that Scientology has been distributing
anti-psychiatry literature at Austrian schools.
"A brochure distributed in front of Viennese schools by a sub-organization of the Scientology sect cause some excitement. Entitled 'Scientology deceives children and puts them on drugs,' 37 pages described how, from the viewpoint of the authors, children were harmed by child and youth psychiatrists' prescribing psychopharmaceuticals. Max Friedrich, board of the University Clinic for Neuropsychiatry for children and young people protested against what was, in his opinion, the defamatory statements about his profession. In the masthead, a 'Commission for Violations of Psychiatry against Human Rights' was named. This sub-organization of Scientology has repeatedly made headlines of the Austrian and German press.
"'The publication is distributed by a committee of the International Association of Scientologists,' said Friedrich. 'Defamation of the professional position of child and youth psychiatrists should be clearly countered; Austrian child and youth psychiatry is currently understood to be a subject of wholeness medicine.' That means the physicality, the intellect, the emotions and socialization are attributed equal significance.
'The brochure speaks of American doctors unknown to us and cites European psychiatrists in single sentences which are taken completely out of context. The entire brochure is composed tendentiously, Friedrich stated. Friedrich announced that he would take all steps possible to prevent further distribution near Austrian schools. Brochures from the 'Commission for Violations of Psychiatry against Human Rights' were appearing in front of schools as early as 1997. At that time, Austrian Educational Minister Elisabeth Gehrer instructed all state school boards and directors in a letter to forbid the distribution of the mentioned Scientology brochure."
>From Kurier on March 14th:
"Peculiar glossy brochures were found in the mail by Viennese school directors today. The expensively laid out informational booklet by a worldwide 'Commission for Violations of Psychiatry against Human Rights' dramatically warned of psychiatry, which was said to lie to children and put them on drugs. The publisher purported that the publication had been promoted by a committee of the International Association of Scientologists. Enraged school directors promptly consulted with the Viennese city school board, and also with the board of the Viennese University Clinic for Child and Youth Neuropsychiatry, Prof. Max Friedrich.
"The specialist categorically rejected the accusation that children and youth whose behavior was conspicuous were being senselessly injured by dangerous pharmaceuticals. He said that Austrian child and youth psychiatry took pains to help patients through a network of widely diverse institutions."
De Morgen reported on March 17th that a Belgian investigation has found
indications of fraud in Scientology's finances.
"The controversial religious movement has also repeatedly violated the law on privacy. Scientology unlawfully keeps medical and personal information on its members on file. This information was confirmed by assistant district attorney Christophe Caliman of the financial section, who is coordinating the ongoing judicial investigation. The investigation was launched after a complaint in 1997 from an ex-member of Scientology, who had tried in vain to get a refund of 700,000 Belgian francs [approx. US$ 17,000], which she had paid for various courses. Last September searches were made at a total of 25 locations, by request of investigating judge Van Espen. Analysis of the huge amount of data is taking longer than expected due to a shortage of staff, and the investigation won't be concluded for another year.
"There are already 'very sound indications' that Scientology committed tax fraud, amongst other means by writing phony invoices. Scientology companies sent each other invoices for services that were 'more than likely' never delivered. The bulk of the money was transferred to the American headquarters of the cult.
"The controversial movement kept files about its members that hadn't been registered with the Commission for the Protection of Privacy, which is legally required. On top of that, there are indications of the unlawful practice of medicine."
Mark Bunker reported on a court hearing in Chicago this week, in which he
was charged in connection with an attack by Chicago Police officers
outside the org during filming.
"I was surprised to see that this little misdemeanor trespassing charge was big enough to merit the appearance of Elliot Abelson. I am very fortunate to have as my attorney, Stephen Komie. He is highly regarded and a Board Member of the Illinois State Bar Association: A bailiff walked by us in court and said to me of Komie, 'You have the best attorney in the city.' The state asked for an increase in bail. The judge denied this motion saying that I appeared in court for this appearance and I didn't seem at risk of jumping bail. He also granted my motion to allow me to travel freely between my home in Florida and Chicago.
"Then the prosecutor really shocked me by saying they were adding three charges against me: creating a public disturbance, resisting arrest battery against a police officer. These charges are completely false and while I expected this behavior from the Scientologists, I was surprised to see that they could convince the state to press these lies. My video camera was rolling through the entire event and you could have seen and heard exactly what happened but that tape has gone missing while in the custody of the police. My attorney then entered a protective order for the videotape, demanding that the evidence be preserved. The prosecutor claimed there was never any videotape in the camera. With that, a court date was set for April 4th where I believe I am to be arraigned. I have every faith that I will prevail since I am completely innocent."
The Calgary Herald reported on March 14th that Scientology plans to open a
mission in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
"The Church of Scientology is re-building a mission in the Calgary area more than 20 years after an acrimonious split with a group of former followers, the Herald has learned. Church officials say the Calgary Mission 'is composed of a loosely associated group of Scientology parishioners who currently meet every Sunday for services and other functions' and is not an official congregation. Deborah Jurt did say, though, the controversial church is growing in popularity.
"A Millarville resident is believed to be the church's mission holder -- the person who brings in new members and receives a commission for their purchase of materials and courses instructing in the faith.
"Critics say Scientology is a cult that masquerades as a religion. Its purpose is to make money, say former members. Reaching the advanced processing stage can cost upwards of $100,000, the former head of the Calgary church said years ago in her quest to expose the group's inner-workings. Lorna Levett, who still speaks out against the group, said she was used by the organization to collect more than $200,000 -- perhaps as much as $350,000 -- from Calgarians. 'I knew it would just be a matter of time.' The church unsuccessfully sued Levett and six others for defamation and was ordered to pay in $60,500 in legal fees. Since then, local Scientologists have maintained a low profile -- until now.
"An upbeat voice recording that answers the phone at Dianetics Calgary tells callers they have reached the Church of Scientology Calgary Mission and asks them to leave a message. There is neither an address for Dianetics Calgary in the telephone book nor a business license listed with the city. However, a Millarville post-office box is listed on the organization's global Internet locator as the mailing address for the Church of Scientology Mission of Calgary. Some Millarville residents are concerned the group may build a Scientology church in their close-knit community. 'I think there would be a fair bit of resistance to that kind of thing,' said Richard Erb, a local rancher and part-time pastor at the Millarville Community Church. 'I know enough to say that (Scientologists) are not Christian and I would define them as a cult, but that's only my opinion.'"
Louise Cook reported that a Canberra, Australia Scientology display in a
public building has been removed.
"I was informed that the local Government shopfront had a Scientology display. It was an arrangement of Clear Body Clear Mind books and pamphlets with a few signs saying things like Are you toxic? and an invitation to a public meeting on the purification program at The Church of Scientology. I promptly marched into the office and asked to speak to the manager. I registered a public complaint from a concerned citizen. I told them the space was meant to be for non-profit community organisations, not a promotional space for a product that is sold for about $2000. I told them that the program is also potentially dangerous, an outdated and unresearched program that has not taken into consideration modern ailments such as Hepatitis C and AIDS. I am pleased to report that by the time I returned home there was a message on my answering machine saying that the display had been removed."
The Washington Post reported on March 14th that singer Chaka Khan is
participating in purification methods identical to those of Scientology.
"'I'm doing a purification,' she confided. 'It's some time spent in the sauna every day and a heavy regimen of vitamins to cleanse away all the past toxins. I'm getting rid of a lot of crap.' Khan, who turns 47 next week, has collaborated with everyone from Prince to David Bowie, and lately has moved to jazz from R&B. She has been promoting issues such as the importance of art education, getting help for the homeless and battered women, and 'working to get Ritalin out of schools,' she said, referring to the prescription drug commonly used to control hyperactive behavior. 'It is a heavy drug, and it's a terrible thing to give to kids--really nasty and ugly,' said Khan, who has survived her own hard struggle with non-FDA-approved drugs. 'I thing if you have a problem, psychiatric drugs just mainly mask and hide and push it aside. They dull the senses of people who are taking them.'"
The European Court of Justice this week ruled in favor of Scientology
against France, removing notification requirements on the importation of
funds from outside the country.
"The Paris branch of the Church of Scientology and a British-registered trust belonging to the church had said that the 1996 law, requiring notification of investments which could threaten public policy, health or security, was tantamount to a refusal of a request to repeal such restrictions. The Court ruled that any such notification system was a restriction on capital movement and could be tolerated only within clearly defined guidelines giving investors a right of redress -- criteria which the French law did not meet. 'The excessively general nature of the definition of investments that are such as to represent a threat to public policy and public security, without any reference to specific circumstances, renders the French legislation contrary to the treaty,' the Court said.
Die Welt reported on March 8th that the minority CDU party is unhappy
about access provided to records on Scientology.
"After the Scientology Organization's move, Representative Antje Blumenthal asked, concernedly, whether Constitutional Security was informed as to their intentions. Answer: 'Constitutional Security's method of operation can only be presented to the presiding Parliamentary controlling committee.' As to whether the Senate, in view of the massive support for the Scientologists from the USA, would want to increase public information? Answer: 'Measures taken so far to inform the public need no intensification.' From the CDU view, a 'null answer.'"
Stuttgarter Nachrichten reported on March 10th that Scientology is planning a recruiting event in Stuttgart.
"'We have no legal alternative to prevent this event,' verified Otto David from the codes office. The exhibition on 39 Friedrich Street, which is to be opened this Friday morning, will also be observed by Constitutional Security 'with interest.' According to spokesman Reinhard Egy, Scientology is counting on 'at least 100 visitors per day.' Among other things, 'the Dianetics methods will be demonstrated.' But the true goal is recruitment of members. 'We would be happy if membership came about from acceptance,' commented Egy.
"The circumstances in which the 200 square member spaces were leased were apparently nebulous. The respected real estate corporation immediately took its distance from the controversial short-term renters, 'Our corporation is not in the least involved. We have nothing to do with this matter.'"
Hamburger Abendblatt reported on March 16th that Scientology continues to ask for access to government files.
"Schleswig-Holstein sect commissioner Matthias Knothe is preparing for an unusual visit. Scientology would like to poke around in his documents, thereby making use of a new state file access law for the first time. Scientology also has put in inquiries at several ministries and chambers. A Scientology Germany 'human rights office' headquartered in Munich asks whether the agency has files on 'Scientology,' 'sects' or 'psychogroups.' If that is the case, agencies must provide access to this recorded material. The principle is the new state freedom of information law which has been in effect since February 25. It says that state, county and local governments may only block off personal data, operational secrets, or data that would endanger inner security.
"He says he will let Scientology have a look 'in the generally accessible documents.' Folders concerning citizen inquiries or former members remain closed. Scientology has to be treated as any other association or citizen: 'the law does not divide good and evil, green or white.'"
Der Tagesspiegel reported on March 16th on a business deal for Hessian politicians that had involvement in Scientology.
"It was in fall 1996 when the legal political speaker of the CDU state assembly faction of the time, Christean Wagner, told his faction colleagues, Volker Bouffier and Norbert Kartmann, about a hot investment opportunity: in Zwickau in Sachsen there were attractive buildings from the time of the city's founding being offered for sale, Eastern tax write-off included. Their business partner, construction tycoon Kurt Fliegerbauer, was and is a prominent Scientologist. Volker Bouffier, who has been Hesse's Interior Minister for one year, Christean Wagner, Justice Minister and CDU faction chief Norbert Kartmann, all of whom have been propagating a hard line against the Scientology sect, bought from Fliegerbauer, although they would have had to have known of his involvement.
"'We are aware that several business consulting companies and several real estate companies are affected by Scientology's influence, and that many questions need to be asked there,' warned CDU colleague Karin Wolff in 1996 in the Hessian State Assembly.
"Green State Assembly Representative Tarek Al Wazir has drawn parallels to the embarrassing proceedings on the Hessian CDU financial affairs and voiced a suspicion 'that it seems to be a fundamental requirement for a Hessian CDU politician that, where money is concerned, no questions are asked about where the money comes from or with whom one is dealing.'"
Heilbronner Stimme reported on March 14th that a Scientologist has sued Heilbronn District Bank for firing her illegally.
"The tip from a customer was handled promptly by the Heilbronn District Bank: because Regine W., a bank officer in the bank's securities department, was involved with the Scientology Organization as a high-ranking functionary, she was dismissed without notice. The 47 year old woman sued in the Heilbronn Labor Court. Yesterday, both sides agreed on a settlement in court: the termination without notice was changed to a regular termination. Besides that, Regine W. received a settlement of 60,000 marks.
"According to the association register, she is recorded in Heilbronn as the presiding President. She herself declared that she holds the position of 'chaplain' and said that she holds services weekly. There were several reasons for the District Savings Bank to let W. go when they became aware of her Scientology activities. For instance, the organization is being observed by Constitutional Security because of a suspicion that it is following goals hostile to the Constitution. The female officer was said to be a 'security risk' for the bank because Scientology requires its members everywhere to gather information. The securities department is one of the most sensitive areas.
"The dismissed officer's attorney argued that W., in her free time, was involved with a 'religious association.' The attorney argued that 'prejudice against Scientology which had been uncritically accepted' was being applied to his client in a small degree."
Tagesanzeiger Zuerich reported on March 11th that a court will allow
Scientology to advertise and distribute leaflets in Zurich.
"The court did not only decided in favor of Scientology, but it also made a a groundbreaking decision that paves the way for additional heartburn for the police department. Not only may the Scientologists distribute leaflets, but restaurants and shops. Such a practice would be tied with large administrative expense and would probably lead to a flood of paper similar to the case of that of the new free newspapers. Because of that the Zurich city council will appeal to the Federal Court. Even Scientology is only conditionally happy about the 'victory,' because the court is giving the sect a break.
"Scientology stated in the proceedings that distributing leaflets was not serving commercial, but religious, interests. The court did not agree and gave the organization a clear rebuff. Neither the leaflet nor the personality test would give the impression that 'a religious organization is advertising its beliefs here,' it said. Because of that, according to the judgment, the distribution of Scientology's printed matter does not fall under the protection of religious freedom. The court again came to the conclusion that the commercial slant of Scientology was shown in the comprehensive price lists, mass rebates and commissions. Besides that the organization was said 'to sell its services to the public at large with professional marketing methods.'"
The St. Petersburg Times reported on March 15th that Judge Susan Schaeffer
has returned to preside over the Lisa McPherson criminal case against
"Schaeffer, 57, the circuit's chief judge, had assigned the case in February to Judge Brandt C. Downey III, citing health reasons that she did not disclose. She said it would have been difficult for Downey, who has a full caseload, to accommodate the expected six-week trial in October.
"Scientology is hoping the case never gets to trial, arguing the prosecution places an unconstitutional burden on a religion. The church's Clearwater entity is charged with abusing and illegally practicing medicine on Scientologist Lisa McPherson, who died in 1995 while in the care of church staffers at the Fort Harrison Hotel.
"Schaeffer, who has resumed a full schedule, said the recusal issue was not a factor in her decision to relieve Downey. She also reiterated that her medical problem was personal. 'Certainly, my health is better than it has been in years,' she said. 'I'm happy to be back.'"
"Spiker", Bill Fahey, and "Edmonton Entheta" protested the Edmonton,
Alberta. Canada org this week.
"When I was a block away from the picket I saw two people carrying protest signs, and about 8 or 9 milling about. However it turns out that about 1/3 of them were Scientologists. At the first handshake with an SP I was immediately zoomed in on by a clam running a video camera. In the half hour I was there I was photographed more than I was when I was at my sister's wedding. In the half hour I was there I saw 3 flyers handed out. I heard two honks. Had one drive-by Thumbs Up. And a fellow in a Jeep unrolled his window to show his support.
"There were about 4 or 5 $cientologists milling about at any given time. One of them was obviously designated as the handler for the day. He seemed to be discussing the moral and philosophical implications of $cientology, while criticizing us for not giving out our names. The rest of the $cientologists were of retirement age, with the exception of the $cientologist's videographer."
"It was difficult to tell the critics from the scientologists (except for the two with the picket signs) and people were understandably leary about me when I showed up. I was 'engaged' by one of the scientology handlers. He walked up to me and demanded to know who I was. I demanded right back and we exchanged first names. He turned out to be a 25 year public scientologist named Andre and we proceeded to have a fairly lengthy conversation.
"There was an idle picket sign on the ground so I grabbed it and started walking up and down the sidewalk in front of the scientology building. I made sure the side that read 'No OT's here' was visible to the scientologists in the building. The other side of the sign read 'Why won't Mick Mcoy call his mom?'. Another scientologist came up to ask if I know Mr. Mcoy. I asked the scientologist why Mr. Mcoy won't call his mother. He responded that if I knew Mr. Mcoy's mother, I wouldn't want to talk to her either and said something along the lines of 'She's a bitch'. I put the sign on the sidewalk, leaning against the scientology building with the 'No OT's here' side showing. It stayed there for about half an hour until the scientology ED grabbed it and took it inside."
"Our picket signs included 'The Truth is out there - www.xenu.net', 'Remember Lisa', 'No Ot's Here', and 'Why won't Mick Mcoy call his mother?'. Mick Mcoy, a 20+ year Scientologist is the son of Betty Mcoy of the Edmonton Society Against Mind Abuse, a long time critic of the cult. One of the Scientologists said that Mick won't call his mom because she's a bitch. One of the Protesters, Reg, was a Scientologist in Edmonton for 20 years. The Scientologists were speaking freely about things that were in his PC folder, but Reg was not intimidated.
"The Executive Director of the Edmonton Org, Carol-anne, came out briefly a couple of times, but mostly stayed inside. Debora Jurt, the Director of Special Affairs came out for a bit to talk to the media, but she too mostly stayed inside."
>From The Edmonton Sun on March 13:
"Four protesters failed to win any converts yesterday when they staged a picket outside the Church of Scientology. The four engaged members of the church in heated debate on the sidewalk outside the church at 10206 106 St. where an open house was being held to mark the 89th anniversary of founder L. Ron Hubbard's birth. 'I'm not protesting the religion, I'm protesting the church organization,' declared one of the pickets who'd only identify himself as Cameron because he said he feared he would be harassed by church members.
"Rebecca Brownlee, a 27-year member of the church, was also unconvinced. ' It's a joke,' she said. 'This is against religious freedom.' The protesters handed out flyers accusing the church of behaving more like a mind-control cult than a reputable religion and scamming its followers for money."
>From the University of Alberta Gateway newspaper:
"Protesters opposed to the Church of Scientology gathered on Sunday to commemorate a different kind of birthday party. Cameron, who refused to give his last name, accused the Church of 'practicing medicine without a license.' Cameron, a U of A graduate of Political Science, carried a sign displaying the Internet address of Operation Clambake, an anti-Scientology website.
"The Church's director of public affairs, Deborah Jurt, called the protesters anti-religionist. She questioned the legitimacy of the data the protesters used and cited her right to freedom of religion. According to Cameron, 'the religion is not the subject of the demonstration, the [Scientology] management is.'"
Louise Cook protested in Canberra, Australia.
"Two of us celebrated LRH's birthday by picketing the Canberra org. We had two signs and four different kinds of flyers. I was handing out $cientology - Insane Cult, and $cientology's founder: Con Man. Many people requested all information available and we pointed many to the web. We had the usual community support, some asking us why we were there and stopping to talk and others congratulating and encouraging us.
"I stood on the corner for a while shouting 'L. Ron Hubbard went to Venus and almost got run over by a steam train, read about it here' and 'Find out about Xenu, Scientology's evil galactic warlord here'. I sounded like a paper crier, and am very loud so we got a lot of attention. I met a long lost friend outside the org, and he joined in, telling Lara and Jeanette Lang what a bunch of ugly losers they were, that they were uneducated stupid people and the like. We ended our picket with a promenade around town with the signs. A lot of people approached and asked for more info, and when we were crossing the road, someone yelled at us from a car for some flyers, and told me they were a bunch of crooks, and 'Good on you for doing something about it', which summed up the general response to the recent pickets.'
"Norman" picketed the Munich, Germany org on March 4th.
"Location: Leopold Str., with a view of the Org. Duration : about 1 - 4 p.m. Flyers distributed: about 200 Participants: 4 altogether most frequent reaction: many passersby expressed their agreement to the operation. OSA man Altendorfer and a female staff member of his each got a flyer. The OSA man communicated that he wanted to photograph me, which is certainly legal. However his camera was on strike. He finally got a picture with a different camera. In doing so he was photographed by a person whom I had been speaking with a while. He made an effort to snap a picture. I prevented him, and pointed out that X was not a person of public life. The OSA man asserted strongly and firmly that anybody who took a picture of him was a person of public life."
Sean Ostler protested at the Salt Lake City, Utah org.
"I arrived at the Salt Lake org at 1 pm and saw that Deana was already there, sitting in her car. Deana and I began walking back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the org. Almost everyone was looking at our signs and we got plenty of thumbs up, waves, smiles, laughs, shouts, and honks.
"There was absolutely no 'handling' from the org. They didn't even bring poor Phil out of mothballs. About the only activity we witnessed was a staffer or two using the receptionist phone. At one point, Judy Steed, the ED, sat at the receptionist desk and watched us for about 10 minutes. We decided to stop picketing at 2:30 because we were both kind of tired and because we had already accomplished so much that day. It was a very successful picket."
, Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.96.1000313204428.114Aemail@example.com>
Arbetet Ny Tid in Gothenburg, Sweden reported on February 26th that
Scientology wants to set up a school with the help of public funds.
"Scientologists want to start a private school in Gothenburg. They are applying for a city subsidy of 630,000 SEK [$72,000]. But both the chairman and the treasurer of the association have a history of business failure, and owe the state more than 2.1 million SEK [$240,000]. The scientologists are planning to open their school this fall, with 15 students in grades 1-3 [7-9 year olds]. Seven years from now they expect to have 69 students in grades 1-5. Applications have been made to the City of Gothenburg, and the National School Board who make the final decision.
"Behind the application is the Association for Active Studies. All of its board members are scientologists. The school is to use a study method based on the study technology created by founder of scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. The National School Board has found insufficiencies in the application, but has not yet made a decision. The treasurer, Dan Rutstroem, formerly represented the Foundation for Small Businessmen which went bankrupt almost one year ago. He owes over 2.1 million SEK to the state in unpaid taxes, fees and fines. Also the chairman of the association, Bengt Alvaang, is wanted by the enforcement office for tax debts and fees amounting to 74,000 SEK [$8,500]. When asked how having these debts agrees with being responsible for the finances of a school, Alvaang says 'I haven't thought about that.'
Also from Arbetet Ny Tid on March 10th:
"Bengt Alvaang, chairman of FAS, confirms that their application has been withdrawn. 'There comes a time when you have to put an end to things. We will need to reword our application. There will be a new board behind it', Bengt Alvaang says. Both Alvaang and treasurer Dan Rutstroem will resign at the next annual board meeting.
"Last Thursday, the National School Board turned their application down, due to board members being heavily in debt, and the uncertainties regarding financing of the school. 'An anonymous sponsor has promised to contribute 220,000 SEK [$ 25,000] per year', says Jan Evertsson at the National School Board.
"Another question mark, apart from the board members, is the issue of license money to the scientology movement. In Denmark, a scientology school pays a license fee to Applied Scholastics foundation. Jan Evertsson says that a similar agreement would be unthinkable in Sweden. 'That would result in public money going to the scientology movement', he says. 'We are not going to pay tax money to Applied Scholastics', says Bengt Alvaang. But he denies that it will be in the form of a school fee, which is not allowed in Swedish basic schools. 'It will be money from voluntary sponsors', he says."
Sweden recognized Scientology as a religious community this week, according to reports from the Associated Press on March 15th.
"The change of status came as part of a broader new law to separate the national Lutheran church from state control. The law says all churches that fulfill certain conditions will be considered religious communities with equal status. The National Judicial Board for Public Lands and Funds decided Monday to register the Scientologists - who have long worked for recognition as a church - as a religious community. The decision means the church can apply for the right to wed people, but it has little other practical significance."
Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat published an editorial on the subject on March 16th.
"Sweden's decision to give religious status to Scientology doesn't give any direct benefits for them. Even so, the decision was sad. It gives sort of dignity to Scientology, now that it has same status as christian churches. One can doubt in principle the competence of the state to evaluate what kind of teachings and habits belong in 'religion' separate from other kind of communities. When one is asked for registration, one must have criteria for that. In Sweden this is done by Camar Gollegion, a spokesman who said that they didn't want to evaluate Scientology's activities and that it was a 'purely formal decision, not a stamp of quality.'
"That must have been Gollegion's meaning, but the effect could become a different one. One can predict that Scientology would describe the decision in a later meaning. When they sell their expensive courses and services it's important for them to describe them as clearly religious teachings instead of business ones.
"In 1998 Finland's Minister of Education declined Scientology's application. A new application is in at the moment. There is hardly the kind of change in their activities that would be a reason to change the previous decision."
>From Aargauer Zeitung on March 15th:
"In Sweden the official registration of the Scientology Organization as a Church resulted from the basis of the new church law, which also does away with the status of the Protestant Church as the State Church. The decision about recognizing religious denominations was made by the 'Kammerkollegium.' The revenue agency had already recognized Scientology last November as a charitable, idealistic association, thereby granting it income and luxury tax exemption."
>From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on March 19th:
"The nation of Sweden, which until this week appeared to be a lovely little country filled with handsome blond people on toboggans, Volvo drivers and Ricola users, upgraded Scientology from a nonprofit group to a religious one. Uncle Sam long ago caved in after a $25-million-dollar campaign of, oh let's say intimidation, by the church, which sued the Internal Revenue Service and individual employees of the IRS. The change for Scientology means little except that it can apply for the right to marry people. Maybe they can marry people to the incredibly dead Hubbard, who seems to be some sort of god in the organization.)
"Denmark holds out, as does Germany and much of Europe, against Scientology. The German government views Scientology as an 'enterprise out to bilk its members' and keeps the group under surveillance as a threat to democracy. France registers Scientology on a list of 173 groups 'that should be closely screened for cult activities,'. Belgium has investigated the group's finances and Britain has denied it charitable status. We must revise our opinion of Sweden now."
>From the Austrian ORF service on March 15th:
"A spokeswoman of the government agency responsible said on Tuesday that Scientology has the same legal basis as do the Roman Catholic Church and other non-Swedish churches. There are no special rights associated with that; the organization was acknowledged only as a legal entity and registered as an association. Only the Lutheran Church is officially recognized by the government in Sweden as a religion.
"Sweden's tax agency recognized Scientology as a charitable, idealistic association last November, thereby exempting it from both income and luxury taxes.
"In Austria, Scientology is recognized as a registered association, but not as a religious denomination. By its own statement, Scientology has, here at home between 7,000 and 10,000 adherents, whereby the number of 'active members' is said to be somewhat less. The movement operates two 'churches' in Vienna, and one mission each in Salzburg, Kaernten and Styria."
>From NLZ on March 15th:
"Eva Uerbrandt from the KammerKollegiet emphasized that any church is subject to a purely rote review in obtaining status as religious denomination. Things checked, for instance, include whether the applying organization would be an idealistic association, whether it has a board of directors, whether it held church services thereby acting like a church. All those conditions were filled with Scientology, and therefore the Kammerkollegiet granted it the status of religious denomination. 'This, however, is not at all a qualitative assessment of the Scientology Church, neither does it give it any special rights,' said Uerbrandt to our newspaper. She said the administration has not yet decided whether Scientology will receive state support.
"In addition, the status of religious denomination does not automatically mean protection against legal prosecution in the event that Scientology were to transgress any Swedish law in force, opined Uerbrandt. There is currently a legislative proposal in progress which, among other things, is meant to more severely punish 'illicit' practice of religion. What is also important is that the churches registered as religious denominations will be required to have a certain degree of openness which would simplify governmental review."