Church challenged to inquiry

The Sydney Morning Herald/February 6, 2010

The independent senator Nick Xenophon has challenged the Church of Scientology to agree to a Senate inquiry after the church succeeded in having Hansard altered to include its response to his attack on its activities.

"Senator Xenophon's statements under parliamentary privilege were false and unsubstantiated," reads the long reply to the November attack detailing allegations of abuse and criminality that was put onto the parliamentary record this week.

The church claimed former members upon whose testimony the senator had relied were linked to a cyber-hate group called Anonymous which had also been involved in "unlawful attacks on the Australian Prime Minister's website".

The Senate Privileges Committee refused to allow a second Scientology document, enclosing more material about the allegations of forced abortions and financial misdealings, to be recorded.

Senator Xenophon said the committee had made it very clear that it had not made any judgment on the truth of the reply by the church's Australian president, Reverend Vicki Dunstan, when allowing it.

"I challenge the Church of Scientology - if they are so confident of their position, they should welcome a Senate inquiry where they can give evidence," Senator Xenophon said yesterday.

He has been in discussions with Greens and Coalition senators about an inquiry into the tax-exempt status of the church.

A spokesman for the church said the allegations in its reply about links to the hacker group Anonymous had been sourced from internet media reports.

Most of the 58 applications to the Senate for a right of reply have been allowed unchanged.

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