Scientology in the spotlight amid fresh allegations
Fresh evidence implicating the Church of Scientology in the mistreatment and exploitation of some of its most loyal adherents will be aired on Four Corners tonight.
The allegations come just days before an expected Senate vote on whether to launch a Parliamentary inquiry into the church.
Tonight’s program, Scientology: The Ex-Files, focuses on the stories of Australians and Americans who have left the church and are now speaking out. Some are taking legal action against the church.Preview. Watch the full program.
The men and women featured in the program belonged to Scientology’s elite unit of full-time staffers, the Sea Organisation – or Sea Org.
The allegations in tonight’s program include first hand accounts that some women have been coerced into having abortions because the Sea Org does not allow its members to have children while they work in the organisation; that children as young as 15 are interrogated about their sex lives, asked to work excessive hours, and punished severely if they fail to meet targets for recruiting members of the public; and that ‘public’ Scientologists – Scientologists who live and work in the broader community – are pressured over long periods of time into donating their life savings to the church.
The church itself denies the allegations, and is vigorously defending the legal actions which are underway in the United States.
As a religion, the Church of Scientology is tax-exempt in Australia and the United States. In other countries – for example, the United Kingdom – it does not have charitable status.
The UK Charity Commission has determined that the Church of Scientology was not established for the public benefit.
Over the past year, the Church has opened a number of new churches around the world, largely it is believed, funded by tax-free donations from ordinary parishioners.
Tonight’s Four Corners presents evidence that women inside the Sea Org in Australia have also been put under pressure to have abortions when they fall pregnant.
This week Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is expected to move that an inquiry take place into “the abuses against Australians that have taken place within the organisation of Scientology”.
Senator Xenophon told the Senate last November: “Scientology is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd commented at the time: “Many people in Australia have real concerns about Scientology. I share some of those concerns.”
Scientology has been hit by a fresh wave of allegations, likely to give added weight to calls for a Senate inquiry into the church.
Several Australians have spoken out for the first time about their experiences with the church, accusing it of forced abortions, holding slave labour camps and exploiting child workers.
Former rugby league player Joe Reaiche told ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday of being coerced into spending $400,000 on spiritual books and being paid just $20 a week as an employee.
He also accused the organisation of preventing contact between him and his children after his expulsion in 2005.
It was an experience shared by Liz and James Anderson, who have not seen their eldest daughter – still with the church – for the past five years.
Also on Four Corners, there were repeated claims of forced abortions from various former devotees and of Scientology’s slave labour punishment camps, all of which were rejected by a church spokesman.
The Senate is due to vote on a possible inquiry into Scientology this week.
Former scientologists speak out about abuse, abortions
MARK COLVIN: The Church of Scientology is expected to come under closer scrutiny over the coming days.
The Senate is preparing to vote on a possible inquiry into alleged abuses against Australians which have occurred within the organisation.
Tonight’s Four Corners program details claims of mistreatment and allegations that some women were pressured to have abortions.
Former members in Australia and in the United States have spoken openly for the first time about their lives in the Church.
Scientology has denied their claims but their stories raise more questions about whether the Church of Scientology should keep its status as a tax free charity.
Emily Bourke compiled this report.
EMILY BOURKE: The former members of the Church of Scientology who’ve spoken out were members of an elite religious unit known as the Sea Organisation.
One former Sea Org member whose identity will be revealed in tonight’s Four Corners program has detailed allegations of a strict regime of discipline and punishment in place during the 1960s.
SEA ORG MEMBER: I mean looking back I, you know, I deeply regret my, even my fringe participation in some of the things that went on. And I’m ashamed of some of them.
People were thrown overboard. Hands bound and feet bound and blindfolded. You know women of 55-years-old, you know, for, for, for running a process incorrectly. A counselling technique incorrectly in a, in a auditing session, you know.
EMILY BOURKE: Those people thrown overboard were rescued but the criticism of the Church’s practices and policies continues to this day. Sea Org members must sign a contract for a billion years, promising to serve the church for this lifetime and endless lifetimes to come.
JOE REAICHE: Because it’s not really a church. It may have a philosophy that’s religious but it’s strictly business.
EMILY BOURKE: Australia’s Joe Reaiche, a former NRL Player, was a star recruit for the Church. He claims he made massive payments to the Church in his pursuit of a spiritual pathway to clear thinking.
JOE REAICHE: Well, they don’t tell you that’s going to cost you as well. And there’s this whole route, all the way through the top. “Oh, that’ll run you a $150 to $250,000.”
JOURNALIST: How much did you spend in all?
JOE REAICHE: Well, prior, prior to the marriage and, and with the marriage, I would say a total between my wife and I, at the time, maybe $4-500,000.
EMILY BOURKE: As a former employee of the Church, Joe Reaich claims he was given a weekly allowance of $20.
Tommy Davis, a spokesman for the Church of Scientology has defended the wage system.
TOMMY DAVIS: We do so out of our own religious conviction and our desire to, to work for and be part of, and contribute to our religion and its activities. And, as as such we don’t, as such we don’t expect a wage and we don’t do it for a wage.
EMILY BOURKE: He’s also denied the church is a commercial enterprise.
TOMMY DAVIS: No, it’s a religion. It’s a large international religion that, that, you know, is exactly that, a religion.
EMILY BOURKE: As Joe Reaiche and others discovered questioning the order led to, not only being labelled a suppressive person and expulsion from the church, but also being cut off from family.
The publishers of Apologetics Index — the website behind Religion News Blog — consider the Church of Scientology to be a commercial enterprise that masquerades as a religion and acts as a hate group.