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The Story Behind the Controversy
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Experts all say: Scientology is a religion

very time religious scholars or sociology experts have looked at Scientology, they have come away with the conviction that it is a genuine religion. Among them were many prestigious European scholars who, after studying it thoroughly and comparing it to other belief systems, concluded that Scientology fulfills all criteria necessary for a religion.

The findings of these top European experts confirm recognitions of Scientology by courts and governments, which, unlike the German government, have put aside all prejudices and preconceptions to view the religion objectively. In the words of Dr. Bryan Ronald Wilson, Reader Emeritus in Sociology at Oxford University, “Scientology is a bona fide religion and should be considered as such.”

Dr. Wilson is one of the most distinguished scholars of religion in the world. A graduate of London and Oxford Universities, he is a Fellow of both All Souls College at Oxford and the British Academy. His research into religions, including minority religions spans four decades and includes movements in countries as diverse as Britain, Ghana and Belgium.

Deeply versed in the expert literature in his field, Dr. Wilson has lectured on new religious movements in more than a dozen countries, including Germany, Britain, Japan, Australia, France and the United States and has provided expert written evidence on religious movements for the British House of Commons and the courts.

His study of Scientology began more than 26 years ago. In addition to visiting Churches of Scientology in Britain, he has read dozens of volumes of Scientology scripture and interviewed numerous Scientologists. His November 1994 90-page paper on the subject includes a detailed analysis of Scientology beliefs and practices in comparison to those of other religions.

Dr. Wilson concluded that “the Church of Scientology is one of a number of new religious movements which embraces features which correspond in certain respects to some of the trends evident in the mainstream of western religion. It employs language which is contemporary, colloquial and unmystical; and it presents its dogmas as matters of objective fact. Its conception of salvation has both proximate and an ultimate dimension.”

Dr. Wilson also found that “[Scientologists] perceive their beliefs and practices as a religion, and many bring to them levels of commitment which exceed those normally found among believers in the traditional churches.... As a sociologist, I see Scientology as a genuine system of religious belief and practice which evokes from its votaries deep and earnest commitment.”

Wilson was also impressed by the quality of ministry that the Scientology religion, by its very nature, affords those who practice it. After describing auditing (which is what spiritual counseling is called in Scientology), the central religious practice of the Church, as “a systematic and controlled endeavour to promote self-enlightenment and spiritual knowledge,” he noted, “The one-to-one relationship required by auditing and the intensive system of training of auditors constitute a pattern of care for the spiritual progress of each specific individual which far exceeds in its pastoral concern anything which could be offered by conventional forms of congregational ministry.”

Dr. Wilson also examined and debunked the myth of “inside information” coming from former members of religions who provide statements or testimony adverse to their earlier religious beliefs and practices.

“Every religion which makes claim to a definitive body of doctrine and practice which it regards as exclusively its own, is likely to be faced with the fact that from time to time some erstwhile members will relinquish their allegiance and cease to be subscribed to the formularies of the faith,” he stated. “There have been dramatic instances on a large scale, as in the so-called ‘great schism’ of the eastern (Orthodox) and western (Catholic) churches, and in the emergence of Protestantism at the Reformation.”

In his analysis, Wilson stated that “[n]either the objective sociological researcher nor the court of law can readily regard the apostate as a credible or reliable source of evidence. He must always be seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to both his previous religious commitment and to his former associates.”

Numerous other experts on religion have also provided testimony on their studies about Scientology. Many contain interesting and useful insight into the religion and its practices, particularly debunking misconceptions about how these compare to other religions.

An earlier study found that “Scientology is absolutely comparable to Asiatic high religions in view of the presented material and the expressed justification for the origin and the authority of the preached knowledge.”

The study concluded that “Scientology is not a by-product of Buddhism or a new Hinduistic religion, but a new religion, where the concept ‘new’ is especially referring to the young historical existence of this religion.”

In view of some of the allegations that have been made by officials in the German government, it is worth recording that another scholar determined that no evidence existed to suggest that “the Church of Scientology, by means of its doctrine or activity, would violate any laws or regulations set by our legal system.”

The findings of top European experts confirm recognitions of Scientology by courts and governments, which, unlike the German government, have put aside all prejudices and preconceptions to view the religion objectively.

He concluded that the Church is a religious community and should enjoy the right to claim privileges for its ministers to which it was entitled by law.

Again and again the findings of reputed scholars expose allegations of German government officials against Scientology as outrageously untrue, arising not out of a dispassionate examination of the facts but from ignorance or some more sinister motive.

As far back as 1978, a professor of the University of Munich researched Scientology to determine whether it was entitled to protection under the Constitution. His conclusion: “The self-understanding of the Church of Scientology plainly shows that its teachings have to be characterized as religion, which enjoys the protection of Article 4....”

The professor stressed that the constitution forbids the state to interfere in religious practices. German courts have subsequently endorsed this finding, yet the government has continued to intrude into the protected field of religion, bringing sharp criticism of Germany from international human rights groups as well as several U.S. Senators and Congressmen. (See “World Leaders Call for Action Against German Discrimination,” page 26.)

In other European countries, experts have drawn the same conclusion as those in Germany and Britain: Scientology is a religion.

Dario Sabbatucci, Professor of History of Religions at the University of Rome, concluded last year that “what makes Scientology become a religion isn’t only its resemblance to other religions (already ascertained in this report) but especially the fact that ... everything which is said or done in Scientology can and has to be understood only if Scientology is viewed as a religion.”

Jacques Robert, Associate Professor of Public Law at the University of Paris II, thoroughly examined Churches of Scientology in France to form a legal opinion on the structure and practices of the Church. After examining aspects ranging from belief in a Supreme Being to donations from parishioners and its corporate structure, Professor Robert found that Scientology “corresponds to the criteria of a religion; it is in no way different from other religions and thus calling it a religion is well-founded.”

Robert also noted, “the Scientology religion has adopted the legal frame laid down by the legislator for the different religions. Here again, in its legal structure, the Scientology religion is not different from the other religions.”

Regis Dericquebourg, sociologist and author of Healing Religions and other texts, similarly conducted an in-depth examination of Scientology Churches and the religion. He found that “Scientology is indisputably a therapeutical religion,” and noted that “[Scientology Founder] Ron Hubbard offers a personal development which returns lost power to the follower.... This treatment is therefore part of a religious way to freedom, of which it is a first step.”

Professor Lonnie D. Kliever, a renowned American expert on religion who has published several books and taught and lectured extensively on the subject over the past 33 years, concluded that “Scientology clearly meets the scholarly definition of any religious tradition, clearly pursues the goals of any religious quest, and clearly exhibits the dimensions of any religious community.”
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