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INFORMATION ABOUT THE
AND RECENT ISSUES
by the Church of
Committee of Privileges
Persons referred to in the Senate
Vicki Dunstan on behalf of the Church of Scientology
Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
This document was
produced by the Committee of Privileges, and printed by the Senate
Printing Unit, Parliament House, Canberra
MEMBERS OF THE
Senator the Hon. George Brandis (Chair) (Queensland)
Senator Jacinta Collins (Deputy Chair) (Victoria)
Senator Don Farrell (South Australia)
Senator Julian McGauran (Victoria)
Senator the Hon. Jan McLucas (Queensland)
Senator Kerry O’Brien (Tasmania)
Senator Marise Payne (New South Wales)
PO Box 6100
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6277 3360
Facsimile: (02) 6277 3199
1.1 On 11 January 2010
the President of the Senate, Senator
the Hon. John Hogg, received a submission from the Rev. Vicki Dunstan,
President, Church of Scientology
Australia seeking redress under the resolution of the Senate of 25
February 1988 relating to the protection of persons referred to in the
Senate (Privilege Resolution 5).
1.2 The submission referred to comments made by Senator Xenophon in the
Senate on 17 November 2010. The President, having accepted the
submission as a submission for the purposes of the resolution, referred
it to the Committee of Privileges on 1 February 2010.
1.3 On 1 February 2010 the President of the Senate, received further
correspondence from the Rev. Vicki Dunstan enclosing further material
with the request that it be added to her original submission of 11
January 2010. The President referred the further correspondence to the
Committee of Privileges on the same day.
1.4 The Committee met in private session on 4 February 2010 and,
pursuant to paragraph (3) of Privilege Resolution 5, decided to
consider the submission and the additional correspondence. The
Committee resolved to recommend that the
initial response of 5 January 2010 be incorporated in Hansard in full
and without change.
1.5 In accordance with paragraph (8) of Privilege Resolution 5, the
Committee resolved not to recommend that the additional material
provided on 1 February be incorporated in Hansard. In considering the
submission, the committee
did not find it necessary to confer with the person making the
submission nor with the Senator
1.6 The committee draws attention to paragraph 5(6) of the resolution
which requires that, in considering a submission under this resolution
and reporting to the Senate, the committee shall not consider or judge
the truth of any
statements made in the Senate or of the submission.
1.7 The committee recommends:
That a response by Vicki Dunstan, President Church of Scientology
Australia in the terms specified at Appendix One, be incorporated in
Response by Vicki Dunstan
on behalf of the Church of Scientology Pursuant to Resolution 5(7)(b)
of the Senate of 25 February 1988
Reply to comments by
Senator Nicholas Xenophon in the Senate –
Pursuant to resolution 5 (7) (b) of the Senate of 25 February 1988 I
make this submission on behalf of the Church of Scientology regarding
comments made in the Senate concerning the Church by Senator Nicholas
Xenophon on the
evening of 17 November 2009.
At the outset, the Church of Scientology notes that Senator
Xenophon’s statements under Parliamentary privilege were
and unsubstantiated, and that they were apparently designed to
adversely affect the reputation of the Church of Scientology, its staff
and their association with others.
The Church of Scientology is a worldwide religion comprising over 8,000
Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, made up of millions of
members in 165 countries of the world. The Church and its members are
globally recognized sponsors
of successful humanitarian programs addressing societal ills such as
drug abuse, illiteracy, human rights and intolerance.
The Church’s more than 200,000 Volunteer Ministers are an
force in disaster relief efforts worldwide. Scientologists volunteer
their help, both in times of major disasters, such as the Victoria
Fires, and in times of more personal
disasters that befall all of us. The Church’s bright yellow
Volunteer Minister tents can be seen in such diverse locations as the
Sydney Metropolitan area to Alice Springs.
When the devastating Asian Tsunami of 2004 struck, more than 500
Volunteer Ministers worked for six months in India, Sri Lanka,
Indonesia and Thailand. When huge
bushfires occurred in the Blue Mountains in January 2002, our Volunteer
Ministers worked 24/7 assisting community authorities and helping
victims and disaster relief
workers cope with the trauma associated with such a major event.
This amount of growth in a religion only a little beyond its first
half-century of existence has only been possible through the dedicated
support of members of the religion. Scientologists sincerely believe in
their religion and they
are active supporters of the Church and it humanitarian initiatives.
Courts and governmental agencies in the United States, Europe and other
countries have repeatedly acknowledged Scientology’s
In October 1983, The High Court of Australia in Church of the New Faith
v. Commissioner of Payroll Tax (Vic) recognised Scientology.
That decision adopted criteria for determining religiosity that have
since become generally accepted by courts and religious scholars around
(1) a belief in some Ultimate Reality, such as the Supreme or eternal
truth that transcends the here and now of the secular world;
(2) religious practices directed toward understanding, attaining or
communing with this Ultimate Reality; and
(3) a community of believers who join together in pursuing this
Ultimate Reality. These criteria have become the standards for
determining religiosity throughout Australia and New Zealand.
In April of 2007, and again in October 2009, the European Court of
Human Rights held that Scientology churches must be afforded the same
rights as any other religious institutions throughout the 47 countries
that comprise the European
Senator Xenophon’s 17 November presentation misrepresented
Scientology’s true status while ignoring the above decisions
acknowledgements. Instead, the presentation focused on unfounded and
unproven allegations from
overseas newspaper reports and other sources whose accuracy cannot be
confirmed and in many instances have been proven as false.
The bulk of the Senator’s presentation relied on letters
containing unsubstantiated allegations made by a few disgruntled
apostates. No religion can possibly satisfy everyone, and the Church
regrets that these individuals did not find
what they were seeking in Scientology.
Such bitter testimonials have at their root a common phenomenon
attributable to apostates of any faith. An essay on apostates by Lonnie
D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies Southern Methodist
University, describes it as follows:
is no denying that
these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a
distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the
courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify
against their former religious associations and activities.
act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting
responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the
various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new
religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social
scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated
efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional
religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion.
hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists,
scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no
grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their
past religious experience in the light of present efforts to
re-establish their own selfidentity and self-esteem.”
Many of the apostates upon whom the Senator relied have gone even
further and have publicly supported the cyber-hate group, Anonymous, a
group whose members boasted about their unlawful attacks on the
Minister’s website earlier this year, and whose members have
prosecuted criminally in the United States for illegal attacks on
Church of Scientology websites.
The Church has no desire to air in public the personal experiences of
members of the Scientology religion–even former members such
these who have chosen to attack their previous faith. That said,
nevertheless, the Church vigorously denies the claims of these former
members. Had Senator Xenophon sought confirmation of any of the
allegations with the Church, we would have provided to him factual
documents, including coronial reports, refuting them and endorsements
of the Church by numerous community groups and countless individuals,
including former members.
For example, Kevin Mackey stated publicly that he attributed his
success in life to what he learned from Scientology. Dean and Anna
Detheridge similarly voiced positive opinions of their Scientology
experiences. Such positive
statements are consistent with the experiences of millions of other
parishioners of Scientology. That these people now hold a different
view is entirely their own personal
The allegations of Aaron Saxton and Carmel Underwood regarding forced
abortions are untrue. The Church of Scientology does not counsel
expectant mothers to have abortions and has never forced anyone to
obtain one. Sworn statements
have been obtained from numerous female Church staff members who served
during the same time as Carmel Underwood, all of whom became pregnant
while on staff,
some as many as three times, and all of whom state that they were never
encouraged, pressured or even suggested to have an abortion. They all
state that they were
well cared for and given time off as needed to care for their children,
as was Carmel Underwood.
The Church is very reluctant to bring the Schofield family more pain
than they have already suffered over the loss of two of their children,
but public records in both cases starkly contradict Senator Xenophon's
claims. Both deaths were
determined by the proper authorities to have been tragic accidents.
Moreover, sworn witness statements confirm that, in the case of the
first daughter, Paul Schofield was
himself looking after his child and was a short distance from her when
she accidentally fell down a flight of stairs at the Church and was
In the case of his second daughter, she was in the full care of both
parents at home when she ingested over 30 tablets of a potassium
chloride supplement called "Slow K" that her parents kept in the home
within reach of the child. Potassium
chloride is not part of any Church program or service in Australia or
internationally. The subsequent coronial inquest found that the
parents' misunderstanding of the risks accompanying an overdose of
"Slow K" led to the girl's death and recommended greater
precision in the product's warning label. In both instances, the Church
assisted the family during this time of great loss.
Aaron Saxton and Peta O'Brien claim they were denied medical treatment.
They both know it is a fact that all Scientologists are not only
encouraged to seek medical attention to address physical ailments and
injuries; they are required
to do so by Church policy. And without going into the nature of their
medical problems, records
indicate that both of them received extensive and regular medical
treatment while on Church staff.
Aaron Saxton went so far as to falsely allege he participated in a
"cover up" of financial misdealing by an individual whom Church
executives not only dismissed from staff when they discovered his
activities but diligently reported
to the police and successfully prosecuted.
All of these matters
are the subject of documented evidence
and sworn witness statements that the Church was prepared to provide to
Senator Xenophon had he asked for them. Yet, Senator Xenophon never
responded to the Church's request for a meeting with him prior to his
parliamentary speech on 17 November 2009.
We regret that this matter has come before the Senate in this manner
and seek only to correct the record.
Thank you for your consideration.