Spanish court rules Scientology can be listed as a religion

AFP/November 1, 2007

Madrid — A court in Spain has ruled in favour of listing the controversial Church of Scientology among the nation's official register of religions, according to a decision obtained by AFP Thursday.

The administrative tribunal of Madrid's High Court ruled that a 2005 justice ministry decision to scrap the church from the register was "against the law."

Responding to a petition filed by the church, the ruling said that no documents had been presented in court to demonstrate it was anything other than a religious entity.

"As a result it is more correct, and within a liberal interpretation which applies to the matter, to grant the requested inscription (in the list)," the text of the ruling said.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology was founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who described it as an "applied religious philosophy."

It teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems and counts actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its 10 million members.

In 1993, after a long legal battle, the US Internal Revenue Service officially recognised it as a church for tax purposes.

The movement is still viewed with suspicion in many European countries, including Belgium, France, Germany and Greece, where opponents accuse it of manipulating members for financial ends.

It has been active since 1983 in Spain where it operates a large, luxurious head office in central Madrid.

Last April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had blocked Scientology from registering as a church in Moscow and ordered payment of 10,000 euros (13,000 dollars) in damages.

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