Scientologists Say Church Tent Will Remain For Two Weeks

Pacific Magazine/August 5, 2008

The saga over the presence of the Church of Scientology in the Cook Islands has taken a new twist.

A church tent, pulled down last month by the Scientology Volunteer Ministers to avoid a legal battle, is up again after the church clarified its position with the Ministry of Justice, especially under the Constitution, which grants freedom of religion and of conscience.

The church was legally challenged by Pentecostal leader Reverend Alfred Morris, who challenged the church's display tent in the middle of the capital Avarua under the Religious Restrictions Act of 1975.

Mathew Andrews, Volunteer Ministers Pacific director, says it seems that the objection to their display came from a small clique who chose not to meet with them to discuss their concerns, but elected to use legal tactics to forward their agenda.

"Because we are not seeking to incorporate a Scientology religious body here in the Cook Islands the Ministry of Justice informed us that the permission to have a tent display did not fall under their jurisdiction," says Andrews.

He says they are happy that they are able to clarify these issues and look forward to an uninterrupted two weeks where they could display their volunteer minister program.

"We have met with a number of religious leaders here on Rarotonga as well as many other people and we have struck nothing but goodwill and interest in what we are doing.

"Our mission is one of goodwill and to help in areas such as disaster response techniques as well as social ills such as drug addiction, violence and crime," says Andrews.

He says the church's Volunteer Ministers program is open to all people from all races and creeds and does not seek to change or convert people from their existing religious beliefs.

"We firmly believe in a respect for all religions and we work alongside all faiths to help restore that sense of spiritual awareness that is within us all in an ever-increasing material world," Andrews says.

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