Scientology is a modern religion, the only major religion to emerge in the 20th century. Through perseverance, dedication and effectiveness, Scientologists stood fast and thrived, achieving a long string of victories that vanquished anti-religious hate and bigotry and reaffirmed religious freedom not only for Scientologists but for all religions.
Throughout its brief history, the Church has repeatedly and successfully discredited and overcome the most outlandish allegations imaginable as well as unprecedented attacks by vested interests so vicious that other organizations would never have survived. Others subjected to similar onslaughts are now a footnote in history. Yet the Church of Scientology has emerged fully vindicated, celebrating significant and precedent-setting decisions in country after country that advance religious freedom for all.
Indeed, Scientology’s modern-day battles against hate and discrimination are not unlike what other religions endured over the centuries. Virtually every new religion was suppressed in its early days. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Mormons all were persecuted for their beliefs, often driven by hate-inspired stereotypes. Religions that weather these storms and emerge even stronger do so because their adherents find value in the spiritual teachings, giving them the strength to confront and dismiss attacks by religious bigots.
With Scientology, history has shown that so-called “controversy” is nothing more than the “controversy” itself, born out of the lies and corruption of individuals seeking to advance their own hidden agendas and interests.
Once fully vetted, be it by judicial or government bodies, the controversy fueling these attacks is inevitably exposed as meritless.
When confronted with religious hate, bigotry and discrimination, the Church exposes the perpetrators, their lies and hidden agenda. No other religion today is as outspoken and tenacious when it comes to fighting for modern-day religious freedom for all.
By comparison, acceptance of Scientology as a world religion has come quickly, with the Church of Scientology rapidly establishing its global presence.
IN THE UNITED STATES, courts and government bodies broadly recognize Churches of Scientology as bona fide charitable religious organizations. Most significantly, in 1993 the Internal Revenue Service recognized all Scientology Churches as tax-exempt charitable religious organizations. This vindication came after a 40-year battle to overcome calculated efforts to destroy the religion, emanating from IRS personnel at every level. Faced with a barrage of harassment and intimidation tactics from the most powerful U.S. government agency, the Church made extensive use of Freedom of Information Act requests to uncover agency dirty tricks.
Documents obtained proved embarrassing to the IRS, exposing an over-the-top vendetta against the Church. Information obtained even revealed high-level meetings where the IRS Chief Counsel proposed to redefine “church” in the tax code to exclude Scientology. Still another IRS attorney directed the use of local statutes “to curtail or close down” Church operations.
Corrupt IRS agents further abused their power by squandering taxpayer funds on a years-long investigation into the leader of the Scientology religion, Mr. David Miscavige, claiming he was involved in a “conspiracy” to defraud the IRS in the 1960s—when he was all of 6 years old. IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agents set up an informant to conspire with ex-Scientologists to use the power of the IRS to overthrow Church management by planting false documents in Church files. The Church found out about their plot and put a bright spotlight on it. When the criminal activities of these rogue agents were eventually exposed, a Congressional investigation singled out the CID agents who had been at the core of the harassment of the Church, its leader, staff and parishioners as examples of the rampant corruption in the IRS.
As improper conduct was being documented through public records obtained under FOIA, the Church filed damages suits, outing the corrupt agents behind the harassment by documenting and exposing their false reports. One IRS official submitted an affidavit falsely claiming the Church engaged in threats and harassment of the agency, ranging from the outlandish claim of skinning cats to arson. A federal judge struck down the affidavit as unfounded and scurrilous, awarding attorney’s fees and costs to the Church when the IRS refused to produce the IRS agent who had signed the false affidavit. The Church exposed another IRS agent who had filed a forged document in federal court, attempting to implicate the Church’s leader in wrongdoing.
Even as the Church produced thousands of pages of records during a two-year audit, agents issued a ruling falsely claiming that the Church had not provided any.
At that point, enough was enough. The Church leader went straight to the top of the IRS, confident that if the agency were to honestly examine all aspects of the Church’s activities and finance, it would reach the inevitable conclusion that it fully qualified as a tax-exempt organization. That prompted a two-year review from 1991 to 1993 in which the Church voluntarily submitted to the most extensive examination in the history of the exempt organizations division of the IRS. Every false report circulated about the Church was fully disproved.
In October 1993, this unprecedented review culminated in the recognition of all Churches of Scientology and related entities as tax-exempt, charitable organizations. The legacy of that decision today is 14 feet of publicly available documents when lined up end to end, the largest administrative record in IRS history for tax-exempt organizations.
In addition to tax-exempt status in the U.S., the Church has achieved other significant and legendary victories elsewhere in the world.
IN AUSTRALIA, the Church won a key victory on behalf of religious freedom. In 1965, false allegations by mental health industry professionals, relying on perjured testimony along with media attacks, fueled a State of Victoria “inquiry” into Scientology. The inquiry ultimately brought about a ban on the practice of the religion in three states. The Church fought back, proving the information being spread was false and forcing the state governments to repeal their laws against Scientology. In 1976, former Senator and Deputy Premier of Western Australia, Herbert Graham, publicly apologized to members of the Church, stating that the ban on Scientology was the “blackest day in the political history of Western Australia.”
After 18 years, the matter ultimately reached the Australian High Court which issued a landmark ruling: “[T]he conclusion that [the Church] is a religious institution entitled to tax exemption is irresistible.” The High Court decision is now recognized as the seminal decision on the definition of religion in Australia.
IN ITALY, the Church was fully vindicated after a decade-long religious inquisition. Similar false reports disseminated from abroad caused the government in 1986 to send in a swarm of 450 machine-gun-toting carabinieri to simultaneously raid every Church and Mission of Scientology in the country. Police arrested 38 Church staff, holding some in jail for months, and shut down every Church, going so far as to chain the doors. These intimidation tactics did not deter Scientologists from practicing their religion. Instead they expanded their Churches and social programs throughout the country.
The Church investigated and exposed the corruption of the judge and prosecutor who orchestrated the attacks and disproved each of the false allegations. Vindication was achieved in 1997 when the Italian Supreme Court acquitted all defendants and issued a decision determining that Scientology is a bona fide religion. The Court also examined the Church’s fundraising practices and found them to be more equitable than those of the Catholic church.
The decision has been hailed by legal and academic experts as a landmark ruling on religious freedom and remains the leading judicial pronouncement on religiosity in Italy.
IN SPAIN, Scientologists obtained full recognition under the Spanish Constitution after overcoming a military-like crackdown by the fascist government to suppress their right to freely practice their religion.
On November 20, 1988, acting on a years-old false complaint by a single expelled apostate, and fueled by years of accumulated police false reports, the Guardia Civil, brandishing machine guns, raided a religious assembly and arrested all foreign Scientologists in attendance, handcuffing 72 in all and parading them in front of the media. The International Church President and others were imprisoned in Madrid’s infamous Carabanchel Prison, notorious for medieval conditions and inhumane treatment of political prisoners during the Franco regime.
When the case finally came to trial 14 years after the initial raid, the Court unequivocally acquitted all defendants of all charges. The ruling was so decisive that the government did not appeal.
With vindication came full religious recognition. In October 2007, the National Court in Madrid affirmed the rights of Scientology parishioners and Church organizations to religious freedom, holding that the Church of Scientology of Spain was entitled to registration as a bona fide religion under the Spanish Constitution. The National Church of Scientology Spain, which stands in Madrid’s legendary Literary Quarter, was officially entered in the National Register of Religions of Spain in December 2007.
IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, the Church achieved a victory that ended 40 years of discrimination against British Scientologists and resulted in the repeal of anachronistic Victorian-era law curtailing religious freedom.
It began in 1970, when the UK Court of Appeal denied an application by a Scientology minister to register the Chapel at the Church of Scientology, Saint Hill Manor, as a place of worship. The Court cited an 1855 Act of Parliament to prohibit Scientologists from engaging in a legally binding and recognized religious marriage ceremony.
The Church challenged the discriminatory application of this 19th-century law, and in December 2013 the UK Supreme Court unanimously held that the Chapel of the Church of Scientology must be registered as a religious place of worship. The Court stated that to not recognize Scientology as a religion “would be a form of religious discrimination unacceptable in today’s society.” The decision has been hailed by the British press as a landmark ruling redefining religion for the modern age.
IN BELGIUM, the Church uncovered and exposed the bias of a prosecutor who had sent armed police in riot gear to raid the Church and homes and businesses of Scientologists in what amounted to an inquisition into the beliefs and practices of the religion.
The Church documented that the prosecutor relied on long discredited false reports from abroad. When the case went to trial, the Court reprimanded the prosecutor and investigators for prejudice against Scientology and its parishioners, calling the prosecution’s charges “incoherent,” “contradictory,” “imprecise,” “unclear” and “incomplete.”
After a seven-week trial, on March 11, 2016, the First Instance Court of Brussels issued a decision dismissing all charges against all defendants—the Church of Scientology of Belgium, a related organization and 12 individuals. The Court’s 173-page judgment vindicated the Church while condemning the bias and bad faith of the prosecution. The decision set an overriding precedent of religious freedom that secures the future for the Church of Scientology in Belgium and in the European Union.
Yesterday’s bigots have been consigned to the dustbin of history. A similar fate awaits anti-religious zealots and corrupt individuals who still use biased media to recycle the same old tabloid lies, creating controversy where none exists.