Scientology Accused of Forced Abortions, Crimes in Oz (updat
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.
"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.
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.
11/19/09I made a mistake in my update. I've taken it down.