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Television lifts ban on Scientologists

The Times, 1 May 1996


THE Church of Scientology will be allowed to advertise on television after the Independent Television Commission lifted a ban imposed three years ago.

The religious group, which denies allegations that it operates like a cult, was last night celebrating the opportunity to reach millions of potential new members.

The Cult Information Centre and other groups that monitor the activities of new religions expressed shock and disquiet at the ruling. Ian Haworth, its general secretary, said: "I am extremely concerned and very surprised by this ruling.

"The Scientologists will obviously use this decision to present themselves in a favourable way to society, which may lead to further recruitment and more people taking their courses."

The Scientologists, whose British headquarters is in East Grinstead, West Sussex, have fought a legal battle against the ban since it was imposed in February 1993.

The Independent Television Commission imposed the ban after a complaint about an advertisement broadcast on Superchannel. Its decision was based on a clause that prevents advertising by bodies "whose rights or other forms of collective observance are not normally directly accessible to the general public".

The commission said it had decided to rescind the ban after taking advice from legal experts and a professor of sociology.

Suzanne Prance, for the commission, said: "At the time the evidence we had suggested they were not openly accessible to the general public. We have now been presented with new evidence and that is why there has been a change."

A Church of Scientology spokesman said: "We are very pleased this now gives us the same rights as other religions. We considered the ban to be discriminatory."

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