The Church of Scientology says allegations made in Federal Parliament by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon are an abuse of parliamentary privilege.
Senator Xenophon used a speech in Parliament last night to raise allegations of widespread criminal conduct within the church, saying he had received letters from former followers detailing claims of abuse, false imprisonment and forced abortion.
He says he has passed on the letters to the police and is calling for a Senate inquiry into the religion and its tax-exempt status.
“I am deeply concerned about this organisation and the devastating impact it can have on its followers,” he told the Senate.
A spokeswoman for the church, Virginia Stewart, says she is shocked to hear Senator Xenophon’s claims, as no-one within the church seems disgruntled.
“If these people had key issues, then how come they haven’t contacted the church officially?” she said.
“We actually have an entire section that responds to people. So if someone has a complaint about the church, we really are so happy to meet with them.”
Ms Stewart says the church tried to contact Senator Xenophon earlier this year after he spoke about Scientology on television.
“We offered to meet with him, to be completely open, answer any of his questions,” she said.
“He didn’t even bother to reply so I think it’s a bit disingenuous that someone stands up in Parliament, where they can say whatever they want.
“He hasn’t even spoken with us before, and we have attempted to speak with him.”
Senator Xenophon told Parliament the Church of Scientology was a criminal organisation that hides behind its “so-called religious beliefs”.
“Do you want Australian tax exemptions to be supporting an organisation that coerces its followers into having abortions? Do you want to be supporting an organisation that defrauds, that blackmails, that falsely imprisons?” he asked.
“Because on the balance of evidence provided by victims of Scientology you probably are.
“The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia contain extensive allegations of crimes and abuses that are truly shocking.
“These victims of Scientology claim it is an abusive, manipulative and violent organisation.”
Thanks to JT Hundley for this submission.