The Age (Melbourne)
Scientology religion claim sham, says judge
By PRUE INNES and AILEEN BERR
19 December, 1980
The Scientology organisation's claims to be a religion were a sham, a
Supreme Court judge said yesterday. Some of its services were grotesque, a
mockery of religion, he said.Mr Justice Crockett made the comments in
dismissing an appeal by the organisation, calling itself the Church of the
New Faith, against a decision of the Commissioner of Payroll Tax not to
grant it exemption
from the tax as a religious institution.
The Guardian of the Melbourne Church of Scientology, the Reverend Elaine
Allen, said there would be an immediate appeal
against the judgment. Mr Justice Crockett described some of the
including "christening" services, as a "grotesque parody
Some of its practices and professed beliefs were "no
more than a mockery of religion", and the fact that some gullible people
accepted it as a genuine religion did not make it so, he said.Mr Justice
Crockett said the only question to decide in the case was
whether Scientology was a religious institution. The organisation's
difficulty was that it had not always described
itself as a religion. It had done so in Australia only in recent years."An
institution does not, of course, become a religion in character simply
because its members choose to call themselves, and the corporate
body by which they are organised, a church," he said. "Despite the
clerical connotation suggested by the title description ... the association's title
peculiarly secular ring about it."A further difficulty, he said, was that
there were several unequivocal
rejections in the Scientology literature tendered in court of the notionthat Scientology
was a religion.
The judge also said that by
the 1960s there was concern in Victoria that the organisation's practices
might be harmful. A board of inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Anderson, was
highly critical of the organisation, found its practices were evil, and
recommended legislation to control it.As a result, the Psychological
Practices Act was passed in 1965, to register and supervise those who
practiced psychoolgy, and to prohibit the use of a device known as an
E-meter or similar instrument. E-meters
were said to be able to detect emotional reaction.Mr Justice Crockett said:
"This section was clearly aimed specificallyat Scientologists.
The E-meter is an important, and seems the only, apparatus employed in
Scientology. It is an instrument designed to register electrical resistance.
"The Psychological Practices Act makes it an offence for anyone to hold
himself out as willing to teach Scientology, although an exemption is
provided for a priest or minister of a recognised religion defined as
celebrate marriages.Mr Justice Crockett said that the history of
Scientology's treatment at the hands of the Parliament of Victoria "render
it scarcely likely that
the Governor-in-Council would proclaim Scientology as a recognised
religion."But, he said, the
Commonwealth might have proved more
amenable if theorganisation was "metamorphosed so that a recognisable semblance of
might be commonly thought to be the structure of a
religious body was
"The organisation thus adopted many ecclesiastical
trappings and took on many of the characteristics of a Christian
denomination. At the same time, Scientology's essentially secular
philosophy was reinterpreted, if not rewritten, into a philosophy which
could be construed as religious
dogma. Sunday "worship" and similar traditional religious services were adopted.
The E-meter was now described as a religious artifact
the "church confessional".An American booklet describing ceremonies included
services, weddings and christenings. "They are there described in a
somewhat grotesque parody of Christianity, with which Scientology has
little or nothing in common," Mr Justice Crockett said.
"The probability is that those so-called
ceremonies were devised and published as a device to enable with
such attendant advantages as would thereby accrue, Scientology to be
paraded as a church in the United States," he said."Presumably, the
professed religious aims of the 'founding churches' in the United States,
as they are to be found in their respective articles, are to be explained
as no more than a cynical manipulation for advantage of the laws relating
to financial immunity granted to religious
organisations in that country."
He said that in
a decade of reinterpretation of Scientology works and the adoption of
ceremonies and creed, there was an obvious attempt to enhance the illusion
that the organisation had become a religion.
The "ministers" wore garb indistinguishable from that of a Christian
priest or minister, and a symbol was adopted which bore a striking
resemblance to the crucifix.
Mr Justice Crockett said the Victorian legislation
drove the organisation underground, or into other States, and there was no
better method to avoid destruction than to simulate, and become accepted
as, a religion. "There can be no denying that the new image assiduously
cultivated since the enactment of the Victorian legislation ... has been
singularly successful," he said.Mr Justice Crockett said that the other
three States where Scientology was practices, New South Wales, South
Australia and Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, had
granted payroll tax exemption.
But he most favorable administrative decision was the ruling in
February1973 by the then Federal Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, that
Scientology was a "recognised denomination" under the Marriage Act.
This meant that Scientology's ministers were authorised to act as
marriage celebrants and the practice of Scientology had a virtual immunity
from the prohibitions of the Victorian Psychological PracticesAct
He said these were administrative rulings which gave little assistance
to the organisation in this case.Mr Justice Crockett said had he seen only
publications since 1970, he might agree that the institution was
religious in character if he
accepted its principles, beliefs and practices as genuine.
"However, I am persuaded ... Scientology is not, subject to one
reservation, a religious institution because it is, in relation to its
religious pretensions, no more than a sham," he said.
Its bogus claims to believe in prayer and other aspects of a creed
based on a divine being, were "no more than a mockery of religion.
was not practised is in reality the antithesis of a religion".
Crockett said the adroitness with which it had so cynically adopted itself
served only to rob the movement of the sincerity and integrity that must
be cardinal features of any religious faith.
The only qualification was whether Scientology, as evolved by its
founder L. Ron Hubbard, and practised in its "pure" form until 1965,
ought to be regarded as a religious institution.
"It is not for me, of course, to pass any judgment on
the correctness or otherwise of the doctrines of Scientology," the judge
said. But it seemed to be more concerned with its doctrines relating to
the soul or spirit, the self, than with any concept of a divine being."The
aims, objects and purposes of Scientology were, I think, accurately
summed up by its principal spokesman before the Victorian board of
inquiry when he described them as being "to increase the efficiency
and well-being of the individual person ... to increase the efficiency and
well-being of society as a whole".
The judge said this could in no sense be regarded as
a religion, and at that time, Scientology did not wish to be regarded as
such, making express claims that it was non-religious.
Mr Justice Crockett said there were five or six thousand members of the
organisation in Victoria. He said the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs
had refused to allow the organisation to register itself as the Church of
Scientology Incorporated, although it used that name in three other
States.Mrs Allen, the organisation's Melbourne Guardian, said the Supreme
Court case had cost the Church of Scientology $10,000 or $12,000 so far.
"I must say I am horrified at the cost of justice, but we will spend
as many thousands again, if we need to, to win," she said."There are
many ways up the mountain side and we will find the right one."Scientology
was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, and teaches his views. Its first so-called
church was set up in California in 1954.
What Judges Say About Scientology
Also from Melbourne Age in 2003:
Superman Christopher Reeve Blasts Scientology