The Bona Fides of the
Scientology Religion

Scientology is recognized around the world as a bona fide religion. As the religion moves into its fifth decade, it continues to enjoy substantial growth with thousands of churches and missions and related organizations and millions of members on six continents in more than 100 countries.

The religion's bona fides have been unequivocally and unambiguously recognized in a host of judicial and administrative decisions throughout the world. Hundreds upon hundreds of such decisions have been rendered over the past 40 years and a few of these have been highlighted on the following pages.

Tax Exemption

Wherever the issue of tax exemption has been examined closely, the conclusion has routinely been that Scientology is a bona fide religion, that its activities are exclusively charitable and that its churches are exempt from taxes.

On October 1, 1993, the United States Internal Revenue Service recognized the Mother Church of Scientology, the Church of Scientology International, and all of its subordinate churches and related charitable and educational institutions located in the United States as tax-exempt organizations.

The IRS determined that:

  1. The religion of Scientology is a bona fide religion;
  2. These churches of Scientology and their related organizations are operated exclusively for recognized religious purposes;
  3. These churches and their related institutions benefit the public, not private interests.
  4. No part of the net earnings of these churches inures for the benefit of any individual or noncharitable entity.

On October 27, 1983, the High Court of Australia, in Church of the New Faith v. the Commissioner for Payroll Tax, found: "The conclusion that it [the Church of Scientology] is a religious institution entitled to the tax exemption is irresistible."

On February 27, 1984, the United States District Court, Central District of California, in Peterson v. Church of Scientology of California, ruled: "This court finds that the Church of Scientology is a religion within the meaning of the First Amendment. The beliefs and ideas of Scientology address ultimate concerns -- the nature of the person and the individual's relationship to the universe. The theories of Scientology involve a comprehensive belief system. Additional indicia of the religious status of Scientology include the following: a) Scientology has ordained ministers and ceremonial functions; b) it is incorporated as a tax-exempt religious organization; and c) it characterizes itself as a church."

Religious Recognition

Scientology is treated as a religion with respect to all facets of its activities by courts and agencies at all levels of government.

The Assessment Appeal Board, province of British Columbia, ruled in 1990: "The Church of Scientology is a religious organization."

On December 21, 1993, the Inspector General of Financial Institutions for the government of Quebec recognized the Church of Scientology of Montreal and the Church of Scientology of Quebec City as religious corporations.

After reviewing the judicial precedents concerning the religious nature of Scientology, the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization v. City of Clearwater stated on September 30, 1993:

"The history, organization, doctrine and practices of Scientology have been thoroughly recounted in numerous judicial decisions. We need not reiterate this background because the district court found that no genuine factual issues existed to dispute Scientology's claim of being a bona fide religion."

On January 19, 1983, in Founding Church of Scientology of Washington, D.C. v. Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States District Court, District of Columbia, ruled: "The Church of Scientology must be treated the same as any established religion or denominational sect within the United States, Catholic, Protestant or other."

On January 30, 1985, in In Re Karl-Friedrich Munz, the Stuttgart District Court ruled: "[The Church of Scientology's] purpose in this world is considered to help man in his striving for spiritual freedom and to completely free him from problems and burdens to reach total freedom in order to recognize himself as a spiritual being and experience the existence of a Supreme Being...."

In Hernandez v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, on June 5, 1989, the United States Supreme Court found as follows: "Scientology was founded in the 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard. It is propagated today by a mother church in California and by numerous branch churches around the world. The mother church instructs laity, trains and ordains ministers, and creates new congregations.... Scientologists believe that an immortal spiritual being exists in every person. A person becomes aware of this spiritual dimension through a process known as auditing.... The Church also offers members doctrinal courses known as training. Participants in these sessions study the tenets of Scientology and seek to attain the qualifications necessary to serve as auditors.... Scientologists are taught that spiritual gains result from participation in such courses."

And in Italy, in the case of State v. Eight Defendants, the Trento Court of Appeals made the following finding: "Scientology ... has the target to achieve an inner and outer freedom, one that transcends the human, one that belongs to the field of spiritual things, and that moves up to infinity; indeed, the progress toward realization of the eighth dynamic force -- concerning Infinity and God -- actually is the characteristic that describes Scientology as a religion and as a church."

The Courts' Final Word

All new religions in history have been attacked, usually by bigoted and prejudiced individuals. But even in these instances, the courts have upheld the rights of Scientologists, the Church of Scientology and its religious foundation in recognizing the framework in which these services are offered.

In a decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals on May 3, 1982, in Christofferson v. Church of Scientology of Portland, the court stated: "We have found that it is established in this case that the mission is a religious organization and that Scientology is a religion.... These facts may be highly persuasive evidence of the contention that the courses and auditing plaintiff received were religious in nature and that the statements regarding their nature and efficacy were religious statements."

In the Supreme Court of the State of New York, on January 31, 1994, in the case of Jo Ann Scrivano v. The Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation Inc., et al., the court ruled: "Assuming the church to be a religion, the adjudication of the tortious conduct alleged in the complaint necessarily involves an adjudication regarding the merits of the practice of auditing, a spiritual precept of the religion. Accordingly, the Court finds that the complaint must be dismissed as defendant enjoys a First Amendment immunity."

Court decisions in Germany dealing with taxes, dissemination practices and other issues have all found that Scientology is a religion. In Canada, the United States, Australia, and other countries, Scientology ministers are officially recognized as ministers of religion allowing them to perform marriages. Churches of Scientology are registered in countries throughout the world as religious organizations, including former communist countries such as Hungary and Russia. Churches of Scientology are recognized as exempt from value added tax in a number of European countries, including Holland, Belgium and Denmark.

The above are only a handful of the scores of decisions recognizing Scientology's religious bona fides around the world. And while it is gratifying to achieve such recognition, the unalterable truth remains that -- with or without such official acknowledgement -- Scientology would still be a religion.

Its traditions are as old as Man, even though its practice and applications are as new as the technology which brought us to the surface of the moon. And which will ultimately take us to the stars and beyond.

This concludes this section. Click here to return to the Leisa Goodman’s home page on Scientology.

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