Calls for judicial inquiry into Scientology

The West Australian/May 19, 2010

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has called for a judicial inquiry into the Church of Scientology following further claims of systematic abuse of members.

The daughter of the president of the Church of Scientology in Australia has claimed many children who have grown up in the organisation have been subjected to physical and emotional abuse.

Scarlett Hanna, whose mother Vicki Dunstan is the president of the group in Australia, has alleged children, including herself, were separated from their parents, denied food and healthcare and subjected to psychological abuse.

Ms Hanna, in an interview on ABC Television on Tuesday night, said she was separated from her father for a number of years, after he was sent overseas by the organisation as a form of punishment.

She also said children were forced to live apart from their parents in groups of up to 25, and that children were made to feel like "cattle".

The church, in a statement released today, rejected the claims made by Ms Hanna.

"Her remarks are not in accordance with the experiences of other young people who were in the Cadet Org at the same time," the statement said.

Cadet Org is a unit within the church.

"Parents and children who grew up with Scarlett also reject her comments about their living conditions. They lived in comfortable houses and apartments close to beaches or parks."

Senator Xenophon, who last week secured a Senate inquiry into the tax exempt status of organisations such as the Church of Scientology, said the fresh claims of abuse also warranted a judicial investigation.

"Too many people have come forward with sickening tales of systemic abuse within this organisation," he said.

The allegations made by Ms Hanna were so serious that a judicial inquiry with the powers of a Royal Commission was needed to investigate the activities of the church.

"We have allegations of child abuse, coerced abortions, false imprisonment, bullying and extortion. Surely the victims of Scientology deserve a proper inquiry," he said.

The Church of Scientology said the claims made by Ms Hanna were between her and her family and refused to comment directly on the allegations.

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