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Roving Brief - Government U-turn Backs Scientology

Observer, 29 December 1996, Page 4

Anti-cult campaigners yesterday accused the Home Office of opening the way for the controversial Church of Scientology to achieve charitable status, after a government U-turn designated it as a 'bona fide religion', write Peter Beaumont and Martin Bright. They say the decision to allow senior Scientologists to enter Britain and work as 'religious ministers' challenges a Charity Commission ruling that it fails the 'test of a religion as propounded in English law, namely of being founded on belief in and worship of a deity'.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed that, under the ruling, Scientology could be considered a 'bona fide religion' for immigration purposes. But a spokesman for Escape, the anti-cult organisation, said: 'Twenty-two years after Scientology was declared not to be a religion, it appears to have been deemed respectable.'

Campaigners are concerned that Ministers have given the Scientologists the ammunition they need to persuade the Charity Commission to overturn its previous rulings that it is not a proper religion.

Earlier this year, Scientologists persuaded the Independent Television Commission to allow them to advertise. They also re-registered their UK money-making interests in a new company - Church of Scientology (England and Wales) - describing its principal function as 'charitable'.

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