About the Church of Scientology®
Resolution of religious intolerance
Resolution of religious Intolerance towards the Church of Scientology:
It goes without staying that all new religions have had to endure, at the times
of their birth, trials of acceptance. The same was true of Scientology. But with
the Church’s growing prominence and visibility has come recognition and
understanding. Today the religiosity of Scientology has become fully
acknowledged by courts and governments on both sides of the Atlantic and
throughout the rest of the world.
Courts in the United States had always held that Scientology is a religion;
indeed, in a September 1993 federal appeals court ruling, the judges pronounced
that there is not a single instance in which a United States court held
The most significant legal recognition of the Scientology religion came in
October 1993, when the U.S. Internal Revenue Service granted full non-profit
status and tax exemption to all churches of Scientology and related social
betterment organizations, concluding after an exhaustive and thorough review
that Scientology churches are "organized and operated exclusively for
religious and charitable purposes."
The IRS examination was not limited to the United States, but specifically
included reviews of the financial affairs and activities of Church organizations
from Australia to Europe.
European governments have since then bestowed similar recognitions of religious
and charitable status on churches of Scientology. Often, they were preceded by
rulings of the leading courts.
As early as 1980, the Appeals Court in Paris ruled that Scientology must be
granted full protection as a religion under the French Constitution and the
European Convention on Human Rights. This decision was later supported by the
Appeals Court in Lyon, a ruling upheld by the French Constitutional Court.
In 1997, the Church of Scientology in Milan won a ruling that scholars in
religious studies regard as one of the most important legal precedents relative
to religion by any top court in Europe. The Italian Supreme Court overruled a
lower court that had narrowly defined religion as Judeo-Christian, noting that
Taoism, Buddhism and many other great religions had thereby been excluded. The
Court described in considerable detail why Scientology deserves to be regarded
as a religion — a decision followed by the Italian Ministry of Finance, which
soon afterward granted non-profit recognition and tax exemption to Scientology
churches in Italy.
Only a few weeks later, it was the turn of the Federal Administrative Court in
Germany to announce that Scientology religious practices are "spiritual counseling" aimed at
"the attainment of a higher level of being." Germany’s
administrative courts and appeals courts have consistently held in more than 40
rulings over the last three decades that the Scientology religion is to be
afforded the protection of Article 4 of the German Constitution, which
guarantees the freedom of religious belief and practice as well as ideological
In November 1999, the government of Sweden declared the Church of Scientology to
be a charitable, non-profit organization with a religious purpose. The following
year, the Swedish government officially further recognized the Church by
granting its ministers the right to perform marriages.
In recent years, authorities in the United Kingdom have issued similar decrees.
The Ministry of Defence, specifically the Royal Navy, recognized the Scientology
religion as one of the faiths that sailors must be allowed to practice and
provisions to do so made accordingly. In May 2001, Her Majesty’s Customs and
Excise granted churches of Scientology exemption from value added tax on the
basis that they are religious organizations. That same year, England’s Internal
Revenue decreed that employees of the Church who are part of its religious order
are not subject to the ordinary wage laws but must be treated in alignment with
the rules for religious institutions. In fact, a near-identical determination
was made by Germany’s Federal Labor Court in October 2002 which stated
explicitly that the staff members of Scientology churches are "seeking
idealistic purposes and [their] own spiritual perfection through the teachings
Most significantly, in January 2003, the German Federal Finance Office granted
the Church of Scientology International, the Mother Church of the Scientology
religion, full tax exemption on monies given in support of the mother church by
nine churches of Scientology in Germany — a decision reported in hundreds of
newspaper articles across the country.
Such confirmations and similar recognitions have been forthcoming during the
same time period virtually everywhere — in Holland, Hungary, Portugal,
Switzerland, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, India and Japan.
The Austrian tax office, too, came to the conclusion that the work of the Church
of Scientology in Vienna is for the public benefit and not for anyone’s personal
profit. It thus granted that Church tax-exempt status as a charitable religious
In December 2002, the government of New Zealand issued an official decree fully
recognizing the Church of Scientology of New Zealand as an exempt religious and
charitable organization in that country.
And in March 2003, the National Ministry of the Interior for Taiwan also
recognized the Church of Scientology of Taiwan as a charitable religious
institution and officially added it to the rolls of the recognized religions of
These recognitions were not necessarily easily won. As mentioned, it was often
necessary to appeal to the arbiters of justice. Church officials not
infrequently had to deal with misconceptions about Scientology, and even false
reports. But every time, when courts and government officials honestly and
objectively examined the facts, they came to agree with the Australian High
Court, which found in 1983 that "Scientology is irresistibly a religion."
Attacks by the anti-cult movement (ACM):
Many emergent religions suffer repeated attacks by anti-cult
groups. Scientology was one of their main targets. The attacks continue today,
but at a diminished level. Their
main organized opposition seemed to have come from two organizations: the Fight Against
Coercive Tactics network (FACTnet) and the old Cult Awareness Network (CAN).
The original CAN
closed in mid 1996. Its bankruptcy was caused by costs assessed by a court
resulting from their involvement with criminal activity -- a kidnapping and assault. In an ironic twist, its name, logo,
phone number and other assets were purchased by a new group run by a multi-faith board
which is dedicated to promoting religious tolerance. 1
"Another look at Scientology & the anti-Scientology movement" is an
interesting and balanced discussion of the activities of anti-cult groups
against Scientology. 2
The anti-cult movement has been largely
discredited in North America because of its involvement with criminal
deprogramming activities and because its claims concerning mind control have
been shown to be without foundation. The anti-cult movement is strong in some
European countries, but is in gradual decline there.
- The new Cult Awareness Network as reorganized by the "Foundation for
Religious Freedom" has a Web site at: http://www.cultawarenessnetwork.org
- "Another look at Scientology & the anti-Scientology movement" at:
Copyright © 1997 to 2008 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-FEB-02
Author: Al Buttnor and B.A. Robinson