Scientologists are refused charitable status

Independent (England), December 10, 1999
By Damien Pearse

The Church of Scientology failed in its attempt to become a registered charity yesterday because the organisation was not of "public benefit". The Charity Commission rejected the application for charity status after detailed consideration and despite taking a "broad and flexible" view of the law, it emerged. The Church of Scientology had sought to be registered as a charity on the grounds that "it was established for the advancement of religion or to promote the moral or spiritual welfare or improvement of the community".

The organisation had also argued that it was established for the public benefit. But the Charity Commission said it had rejected all of these arguments. A spokesman said: "The commissioners considered specifically whether the Church of Scientology met the test which is essential for charitable status, that of conferring public benefit.

"The commissioners concluded that the core activities of scientologists - auditing and training - were private in nature and in the benefit they delivered. In the absence of public benefit, the Church of Scientology would not be charitable in English law, regardless of whether or not it was a religion or otherwise established for a potentially charitable purpose." The organisation's failure to achieve charity status follows a high-profile advertising campaign launched by the group in Britain this summer. Founded in 1954 by the late American science fiction writer, L Ron Hubbard, the Los Angeles-based organisation claims it has more than eight million followers worldwide. One of the group's main teachings is that the human race's problems are due to disembodied souls brought to the planet millions of years ago.

On their path to spiritual enlightenment, followers are given intense one-to-one counselling by people known as "auditors", who attempt to identify areas of trauma in the brain. The Church of Scientology says it has 15,000 people attending its churches in Britain. Celebrity followers of the group include the film stars John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The Church of Scientology described the commissioners' decision as discriminatory and said it would appeal against the rejection through the courts. "The decision is wrong on the law and wrong on the facts," said Graeme Wilson, the church's public affairs director.

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