May 09
Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.


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NOVEMBER 18, 2009 9:37PM

Scientology Accused of Forced Abortions, Crimes in Oz (updat

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In a bizarre turn of events, an Australian Member of Parliament has accused the Church of Scientology of all manner of crimes from the floor of the Senate.

In a senate speech late on Tuesday, independent south Australia senator Nick Xenophon said: “Scientology is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”

The senator tabled letters he received from former Scientology members detailing claims of abuse, false imprisonment, forced abortion, embezzlement and the covering up of children’s deaths.

 Xenophon quoted Aaron Saxton, from Perth, who said he engaged in torture and blackmail while working for the church in Australia and at its American headquarters between 1989 and 1996.

"Aaron says women who fell pregnant were taken to offices and bullied to have an abortion. If they refused, they faced demotion and hard labour," Xenophon said. "Aaron says one staff member used a coat hanger and self-aborted her child for fear of punishment.".

One letter from a former executive director of the Sydney branch of the church, Carmel Underwood, said that when she fell pregnant she was put under extreme pressure to have an abortion.

"Carmel says she also witnessed a young girl who had been molested by her father being coached as to what she should say to investigating authorities in order to keep the crimes secret," Xenophon said.

Australian Prime Minister Rudd has urged caution in proceeding in the investigation of the charges. The charges, laid before the Senate in letters tabled by Xenophon, have also been turned over to law enforcement officials. 

The Age, an Australian newspaper, says that Xenophon has collected testimony in letters from former members of the Church. Included in the letters are the following allegations:

One man, Paul Schofield, told Senator Xenophon he lied about his daughter's death while she was in the care of the church to shield it from controversy. He said a second daughter died after ingesting potassium chloride: ''I covered up that this substance was widely used in … 'purification' programs.''

He also alleges a parishioner ''jumped to his death from a high-rise building'' because he saw no way out of the enormous debts he owed the church.

Another former member says she was forced to do ''hard labour'' to redeem herself for supposed ''crimes'' against the church. This consisted of breaking and carting rocks to help build a road and car park at a church site in the Sydney suburb of Dundas. She describes not being able to speak until spoken to, having to address staff as ''sir'' and having to seek permission to contact her family.

Another describes how she was pressured to have an abortion, became embroiled in a cover-up over child abuse and was subjected to an intimidation campaign after leaving.

Another wrote: ''We had one staff member who used a coat hanger and self-aborted her child for fear of being placed into the penal colony.''

Spokespersons for Scientology have denied the charges, and say that taking these charges at face value is akin to believing an ex-spouse's stories about their former partner. 

The full text of Xenophon's speech is here. 

The charges are horrific. One of the most chilling of the charges, from my perspective, was the idea that once you had become a member of the Church, there was no way out. According to Xenophon's informant, Aaron, whom Xenophon quoted:

He also says he was made to falsify bank records and ordered more than 30 people to be sent to Scientology’s work camps, where they were forced to undertake hard labour.

He also says he used personal and financial information of followers to track them down if they tried to leave. Aaron has said the organisation forced him to create fraudulent education certificates for children under the age of 15 in order to allow them to work for the organisation. He also says he was coerced into putting five individuals under house arrest on five separate occasions. These people were not permitted to leave until the organisation had obtained, through coercion, the statements it wanted.

 In addition to an investigation of the criminal charges, Xenophon wants to revoke Scientology's tax-exempt status in Australia. It is not a religion, he says. It is a cult.

I am certain that in the coming days, we will see some of Scientology's more famous members come forward to not only deny the charges, but to condemn as "religious persecution" the investigation. 

I do not know if these charges are true. I do know that the lengths that Xenophon went to: leveling these charges within the halls of the Australian Parliament, means that the charges cannot be ignored. If there are such things as Scientology work camps, and if women have been held against their will and forced to have abortions, if children have died as a result of purification rituals, how will the Church justify these activities as "religious?"

Right now, I keep thinking about Jim Jones. It was a Congressman who went to investigate the People's Temple. Representative Leo Ryan was brutally murdered by Jones' minions, shortly before the mass murders and suicides that took place in Jonestown. 


I made a mistake in my update. I've taken it down.


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this story is so bizarre it's almost unbelievable. If recent history didn't reflect that these things happen, I'd not believe it. But I think people are telling the truth.
The Greens are backing an inquiry which tells me something right there. I imagine the fall out from this will be huge.
Scientology has always struck me as very cult like, and the more I've learned about it the worse it gets. Should be interesting to see how this unfolds in Australia.

As an aside it is so Australian to use the term "fell pregnant," as if pregnancy were like tripping or falling into a hole.
I read about this, this morning. Disturbing and beyond bizarre. ~R~
I can barely read this, and I mean, I had to skim it.

My lovely sister has been a Scientologist for decades. I cannot, due to personal pain and honest fear, truly express how it has hurt her and our family.

I just can't read this, I'm sorry.
Waking--I am sorry. I had no intention of causing anyone pain. I send you peace.
I find this disturbing on so many levels. I've been thinking about some of the issues raised by Xenophon--about religions, about cults, etc., and finding out that this is going on right now was like a blow.
Natalie--what is the general reaction in Australia to this? And what does it mean, politically, that the Greens are involved in the investigation?
I had assumed much of this over the years... but you know, seeing it in print is so hard.

You are right to post this, though. People really need to know. People have to know.
It's pretty big on the news. The Greens, and in particular their leader Senator Bob Brown, have an excellent reputation for honesty. Sen Brown is a man of integrity who I trust more than any other politician. If he believes an investigation is warranted, that's good enough for me.
This should be very, very interesting.
Craziness - how/why do people get into these things?
My daughter and I went to a Scientology center. It was scary in many ways. I did not tell the guide that I was a psychologist. Her comments on psychology and psychiatry were astounding in their lack of scientific knowledge. Fear-based reasoning is worse than no reasoning, in my opinion.
I will be checking the Australian papers later today for updates.
I went to Jonestown to retrieve the Congressman's body and that of his entourage. As with many brutal murderers they too commit suicide rather than be held accountable. What is problematic with these types of allegations ( my own opinion aside, they probably are true ) finding witness to such is hard when millions have already been brainwashed, or even coerced into lying. How long has the Catholic church shielded priests, and continue to do so, even with insurmountable evidence against them. Natalie is right from her perspective that some will see this as politically motivated and a witch hunt of some sort. People are prone to believe irrationally when they themselves are confused and fearful. Does a suicide bomber wake up one morning and think for him/herself I'm going to strap explosives to myself and kill innocent people because.......? My wife once asked me why I only write about the humorous things in my life, I told her I have lived and seen the other side of midnight and they wouldn't believe in that. Your friend, older/exasperated
Scientology has a well-oiled, very adept methodology for dealing with dissent within and without the ranks. I was partly responsible for a threatened lawsuit and getting the paper picketed when we probed the local organization. And this was back in the 70s.

So yes, I'm inclined to believe a) much (or all) of the allegations and b) that there will be a backlash from the organization.
Scientology seems freaky to me, and I hope that, if these allegations are true, the dangers of scientology are trumpeted worldwide. It seems to have been founded by a sociopathic nut.

From an article on Hubbard's life (,0,7104164,full.story):

During the legal proceedings, Sara (second wife) placed in the court record a letter she had received from Hubbard's first wife.

"Ron is not normal," it said. "I had hoped you could straighten him out. Your charges probably sound fantastic to the average person -- but I've been through it -- the beatings, threats on my life, all the sadistic traits which you charge -- 12 years of it."

Here is a journal article in which someone debates if scientology is even a religion:

A State Attorney for Florida laid two felony charges [unauthorized practice of medicine and abuse and/or neglect of a
disabled adult) against a Scientology organization as a result of the death (Circuit Court..., 1998), and McPherson's estate launched a lawsuit that accused Scientology "of allowing McPherson to
languish in a coma without nutrition and liquids while she was in isolation as part of an Introspection Rundown" (Tobin, 1997: 12A). In this context, a Scientology lawyer acknowledged
"that the Introspection Rundown remains 'part of church services'" (Tobin, 1997: 12A).
I'm still shaking my head over the fact that this morning's papers are reporting that, rather than taking the charges seriously, members of the Church are making fun of the Member of Parliament's name.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
I have no problem believing these allegations. Scientology is strictly nightmare-nutjob stuff as far as I'm concerned. Remember when some Scientologists put a live rattlesnake in an ex-member's mailbox? What more do you need to know? And they're insanely lawsuit-happy, any criticism is met with ridiculous (but expensive) lawsuits.

I'd say they were on a par with the Sun-Myung-Moon psycho organization, but I think the Moonies aren't as crazy as Scientologists.
Beware invoking the wrath of Tom Cruise!
Scientology is a cult and if even half of what has been alleged against them is true it's horrifying. I did a paper on them in college and the stuff I read about them in Time alone would stand your hair on end. They don't seem to be waning in power any either. Scary.
Yes, bizarre. The conspiracy theorist in me believes these allegations. The rest of me is waiting for proof.

Thank you once again for shining a light on a situation that we might not have heard about.
I'm not much of a believer in "evil" per se, but I believe the COS comes as close to it as you can get. I also believe that the low-level rank and file members aren't privy to the evil acts perpetrated by those closer to the center of power of this organization. They're brainwashed victims.

I believe newbies like Will Smith probably still fall into the brainwashed victim category, but since celebrities move up quickly in the COS I believe that folks like Tom Cruise and John Travolta are aware of the misdeeds of the church or choose to be blind to them.
Let's not forget child abuse by those other "scientists," the Christian Scientists:
I knew they were nuts when I read they hold psychiatry responsible for the Holocaust. Talk about needing meds....
While hearing allegations of misconduct in any religious organization is hard (ie, the Catholic Church), these must be investigated. While many think this religion is insane, most organized religions are. Most however are not hounded by allegations in countries all over the world. This needs to be investigated immediately!!
Bizarre is definitely what it is! There is just no way to explain so many followers of this organization. It will be interesting to see what happens.
One can only hope this will be just the beginning of a real investigation. If Scientology has nothing to hide, is doing nothing wrong, then they should welcome the scrutiny to clear their name. Somehow, I feel that won't be the case.
If this was the first time such allegations had been made, it would be one thing. But the church has a history of some shady stuff (the snake in the mailbox, as was mentioned) and they tend to go after people who leave the church. I know that we tend to label "cult" as anything we don't like, but in this case, I do see the scientologists as a cult, and I want to know what kind of "good works" they do with the millions of dollars that they are taking in each year, and getting a tax exemption for.
You're correct, NoName. I did misread the section. My apologies.
I'd appreciate your posting a correction about the error where you suggested that it was the Scientologists rather than their adversaries who were making fun of Xenophon's name. Your misapprehension undermines the credibility of your article, which I think, considering the manifest evils of the Co$, it is important to share widely.

I'd also like to point your readers to an excellent biography of L. Ron Hubbard, which can be read online at
and also to a UK television expose of Hubbard's criminal career at
The 1978 snake-in-the-mailbox was Synanon, not Scientology. Confusion has been common since the event happened, due to the oddness of both groups and because Scientology sponsors an organization with a similar-sounding name, Narconon (a drug rehab program).


Some of the charges I believe because I recognize them not as criminal, but as Scientology's take on certain kinds of religous activities. These are the non-violent charges.

I was involved in top management of Scientology for a number of years and while lots of odd stuff happened, nothing like forced abortions (or the rest of the criminal charges)ever occurred to my knowledge (and I had a lot of knowledge).

The idea that Scientology is "not a religion" is absurd. Religions are ridiculous by nature. Not one of the world's major religions would withstand scrutiny if they were created now. While I am no longer a Scientologist, I will not stand for anyone deciding which particular ridiculousness I am allowed to believe in. Although I would go for removing ALL privilege for ALL religions, bottom to top, classroom to congress. That would be the best solution of all.

And if there have been crimes committed, investigate and apprehend the criminals. But remember, INDIVIDUALS commit crimes, not RELIGIONS. It's true for pedophile priests and their defending bishops, and its true for Scientologists as well.
Surely you've ready Paul Haggis's letter resigning from the Church:

Check it out, including the site referenced above. It's very interesting.

Thank you for that. I had not, in fact, seen Paul's resignation. It has been many years since I myself left the Church over similar (but more internal) matters.

It saddens me to see that the Church backed the California anti-gay marriage proposition. I did not know this, either (excuse me while I brush some more sand out of my hair!)

I guess even as feeble an attempt of defense as I made up above is fraught with danger anymore. Sigh. I still believe in Scientology's right to exist, and people's right to belong to it. But it's been a long, long time since I sent anyone their way, and it's likely to continue to be that way in perpetuity.
I worked for a Scientologist for a brief while and I believe this report completely. They are psychotic.. I know exactly what you mean.

I came across their "church" communication which was bizarre and definitely a controlled system of mental manipulation within their ranks.. even within a family. They continuously "audit" each other.. which is a mind control system (devolving into "shark tank" behavior), where no one feels safe to talk to anyone else without being criticized about their "integrity". It's pathetic.. and makes everyone feel weak and strong at the same time.. while they all become controlled by their superiors.

Also the amount of money they extract off each other is absurd. The person I worked for had paid $40K in one year to their "church" for advanced training.. that's the pull.. each level makes them feel superior so then they can extract money from other members through audits. They do hate true psychoanalysis, because that's what they charge each other for... of a Scientologist's twisted variety of course. They use code words which sound like an child's club.

Also they reinforce that everyone outside their system are idiots, bad, wrong, misguided, lesser, etc.

They are a cult. It should be stopped.

Everyone knows this.. decades ago their devious behavior got them religious status in the first place.. it's sickening.. just like all the other cults in America.

Sad indeed.

Good job reporting this.. and people.. let's stay on task.. "fell pregnant" mean unintended. That's all.