Scientology ‘church’ threatens to sue over cult label

The Church of Scientology is threatening to sue a volunteer organisation for publishing a brochure it claims labels the ‘religion’ a ”cult,” the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

But the Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS) group, which helps victims of cults and their families, refuses to bow to the demands of the Scientologists, saying they will continue their ”humanitarian support work”.

The brochure advertises the support group’s national conference in Brisbane next month and quotes one of the speakers, Senator Nick Xenophon, from a speech in Parliament in 2009 in which he labelled Scientology a criminal organisation.

The brochure contains allegations from that speech that members of Scientology had experienced ”blackmail, torture and violence, labour camps and forced imprisonment and coerced abortions”.

But in a legal letter, the Scientology lawyer, Kevin Rodgers, of Sydney firm Brock Partners, said the brochure was ”grossly defamatory of [the Church of Scientology], its officers and parishioners”.

”The Church considers the brochure conveys defamatory imputations that it €¦ ‘is a cult’, is an ‘abusive and destructive group’, that it ‘psychologically manipulates persons under coercive controlling circumstances and runs a ‘labour camp’.”

The Age writes

Scientology spokeswoman Virginia Stewart told The Sunday Age that in the most offensive parts of the brochure, CIFS had compared its practices to ”the tragic and extreme beliefs and actions of David Koresh and Jim Jones”.

The legal letter said the church and its officers ”strenuously deny these unfounded basely [sic] accusations”, and demanded CIFS withdraw mention of Scientology and provide a written apology.

Failure to do so would ”be used in any additional action our client Church is advised to take to claim punitive damages”.

Ms Stewart said the church ”shares none of the characteristics of a cult”. […]

CIFS president John McAlpin, a former member of the Exclusive Brethren, told The Sunday Age that all the references to Scientology in the brochure were already in the public domain, and the legal threats were an attempt to stop victims speaking freely.

The conference at Brisbane Parliament House is designed to offer support to former cult victims and their families, and to help train health professionals in how to deal with the after effects of involvement with a cult.

Former Scientology member Paul Schofield said Senator Xenophon’s statements about the religion ”certainly fit with my personal experience – and if they want to sue me they can go ahead”.

It should not noted that L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Scientology cult, encouraged abuse of the legal system:

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.
– Source: L. Ron Hubbard, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955 (See: The Purpose of a Lawsuit is to Harass)

What aspects of Scientology are cult-like? Is Scientology a cult or a religion?
Disconnection — Scientology’s destructive nature at work
Research resources on Scientology

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday July 11, 2011.
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