Catalyst (RMIT student newspaper), Wed 21 Jul 1976, p6-7

[Note: I've fixed quite a few obvious typos. Non-obvious ones have been left as is. I suspect a few paragraphs got shuffled around when they laid out the article, too.]

A Questionable Religion

Federal and State Govt's disagree whether Scientology is a church

Eleven years ago a law was passed in Victoria prohibiting the practice of scientology. Now in a house in Inkerman Road, Caulfield, scientology is practised as, what is asserted to be, a religion.

Victorian scientologists, numbering a claimed 10,000 people, are practising the "religion" of scientology which is registered as Church of the New Faith.

The church was named differently from the religion because of legislation directed against the word scientology. The Victorian legislation - the Psychological Practices Act 1965 - prohibited the practice of scientology.

The Act made it a criminal offence to demand or receive any fee or reward for the teaching practice or application of scientology, or to hold oneself out "as being willing to teach scientology".

It also provided for the registration of all psychologists with a newly created Psychological Council, and restricted to registered psychologists the practice of psychology for fee or reward, the use of the word "psychologist" and related advertising.

In addition it restricted the practice of hypnotism.

Eight years after this scientology prohibition bill was passed by the State Government, the then Australian Government authorised scientologists to perform marriage ceremonies. This meant that according to the Psychological Practices Act scientology was a recognised religion. The Act does not apply to anything done by a priest or minister of a religion.

So while scientology was specifically prohibited by the Act, the Act may not apply to scientology because it was included in the definition of a religion.

The contradiction in the law would have to be cleared by the courts - this was the view of a spokesman from the State Attorney-General's Department, the registrar of the Victorian Psychological Council and a lawyer.

They give their reasons later in this article. The lawyer, a university lecturer, explains in detail the conflict in the law which places doubt on whether in Victoria scientology falls outside the definition of a recognised religion.


The State Government has not acted on the Federal Government's decree that scientologists can perform marriage ceremonies. Victoria for some years has been refusing applications by scientologists who asked to be registered as church marriage celebrants.

While the Victorian Government may register scientologists as civil marriage celebrants, the refusal to recognise them as church marriage celebrants would seem to extent to a denial of the concept that scientology was a religion.

No Government in Australia, I believe, would refuse a church the right to perform marriages.

Scientologists in this article claim they practice a religion and that they can, and do, act the same as before the scientology prohibition bill.

The State Government legislated against scientology because of recommendations in the Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology by Mr. Kevin Anderson, QC.

When Mr. Anderson was appointed by the Victorian Governor-in-Council to make the inquiry, he was a distinguished Melbourne barrister. Since the inquiry he has been elevated to the Victorian Supreme Court Bench.

Scientology, Mr. Anderson wrote, claimed to be the branch of psychology which treated and embraced human ability. "In that it deals with a variety of real and imagined activities and conditions of the mind," said Mr. Anderson, "scientology may be classed as a kind of psychology, though often irrational and perverted."

"Its techniques are a conglomeration of procedures, based on misconceptions of psychiatry, psychology, psycho-analysis and other sciences, as well as a heavy leavening of procedures that are its founder's own brain-children."

Its founder was an American, Lafayette Ron Hubbard, who was a successful science fiction writer until 1950 when he founded scientology and "continued to demonstrate his remarkable flair for fiction and fantasy", wrote Mr. Anderson.

Many of the scientology processes involved hypnotism, said Mr. Anderson, and normal inhibitions and restraints of the scientology student were relaxed, so when "matters of sex and perversion are introduced into the processing (the scientology term for its main psychology technique), as is often the case, they are discussed and probed and dwelt upon sometimes for hours on end."

In 1970 scientologists tried to sue Mr. Anderson and Mr. Gordon Just who assisted the inquiry. (Before the Anderson Report was presented to Parliament, Mr. Just became Judge Just of the County Court.)

The Victorian legislature passed a law which conferred absolute immunity upon Mr Anderson and Judge Just. The Evidence (Boards and Commissions) Act 1971 provided that people constituting a Board of Inquiry, and legal practitioners and all others appearing before it were deemed to always have had the same immunity as if they had acted in a Supreme Court.

Need Help

It induced its students to mentally debase themselves, said Mr. Anderson, and "it has done and is capable of doing, grave harm to the mental and physical health of its victims by the practice of dangerous procedures and by persuading them that orthodox medical care and treatment, which some of them may urgently require, is evil and to be avoided."

The Church Guardian of scientology in Victoria, Mr Laurie Allen, told me in a recent interview that the conclusions of the Anderson Report, which denounced scientology, were formed long before the evidence had been presented and the conclusion of the Board.

"It consistently relieves them of large sums of money in payment of fees for processing and training."

"It was a witch-hunt," he said.

"The State Government," said Mr. Allen, "brought in a retroactive bill to protect their own. It was an incredible travesty of justice. I would very much like to go to press, and the government take action against me on the basis of that statement."

"Any person who sits in judgement of others should be legally accountable for his decisions."

Mr. Allen's secretary, Ms. Sue Trapp, claimed that 90 percent of the Anderson Report was questionable.

Concerning the Psychological Practices Act she said: "Our interests are not different from any other religion, or civil rights group."

"The legislation aimed at stopping us from pursuing those ends in our way is discriminatory."


Mr. Allen compared legislation against scientology and the State Government's refusal to recognise scientology ministers with previous persecutions of religion.

"People threw Christians to the lions. In any new philosophical viewpoint or religion there has been opposition to its early concept."

"The main effect of the Act on scientology," said Mr. Allen, was "irritation but it has not restricted our activities." He said scientologists were not acting differently now compared with before the Act.

The Act should be struck off the books, however, because of the harm it caused other groups, he said. "We have sufficient laws in Victoria to protect citizens from exploitation," he claimed. "We do not need the useless Psychological Practices Act."

In an "iniquitous" situation in Victoria, he said, this state has refused to recognise the ministerial status of ordained ministers of scientology.

'No Coercion'

While a few courses in scientology were free, most cost money, said Mr. Allen, but there was no coercion towards the inquirer.

Explaining why the State Government does not register scientologists as church marriage celebrants, Mr. Ray Erridge, personal assistant to the Undersecretary of the Chief Secretary's Office said the practice of scientology was legislated against in 1965.

Early '73 the then Commonwealth Government proclaimed the Church of the New Faith an authorised denomination under the Commonwealth Marriage Act. This meant they could celebrate marriage in the Commonwealth territories - the ACT and the Northern Territory. It was then up to state registrars to approve authorisation of celebrants in the individual states.

The Victorian Government was still considering the scientologists' application, said Mr. Erridge.

A spokesman from the State Attorney-General's Department said the question was still open whether Scientology was a religion, and therefore whether scientologists could ignore the Victorian Act against them and say they were not affected by it because the Commonwealth Government authorised them to perform marriages and placed them in the definition of an established religion.

The Supreme Court which has the greatest authority in the state would have to determine if scientology could be defined as a church, but it would only be brought to the courts if the government prosecuted the scientologists, he said.

The registrar of the Victorian Psychological Council, Mr. Ian Crook, said his opinion was that the Act was no longer effective in controlling scientology because of its exemption clause for religions.

"But I cannot give the official stand," he said, "because there has not been a court case which tested the Act."

"In my view, for the Act to be effective it would require an amendment to specifically exclude the scientology organisation from the religion definition."


The Psychological Council, said Mr. Crook, has been receiving complaints about scientology, but he had no idea how many had been received this year.

Asked if a religion could legally charge fixed prices for psychological counselling, Mr. Crook first said: "No, a church does not act that way."

"You make regular weekly contributions and priests never ask for money when they counsel you." When, however, he was told that fixed charges were part of the normal practice of the church, he said that charges could be made.

A lecturer in law at Melbourne University, Mr. Tony Duggan, said the Act does not apply to recognised religions because of its religious exemption in section 2(3).

Section 2(4) defined recognised religion as meaning either a church whose priests, ministers or members were authorised to celebrate marriages under the law of Commonwealth, or a church which was proclaimed by the Victorian Governor in the Victorian Government Gazette.

On January 18, 1973, the then Governor General, Sir Paul Hasluch decreed that members of the Church of the New Faith were authorised to perform marriages under the Commonwealth Marriage Act.

While the State Government will not register scientologists as church marriage celebrants, scientologists can still legally perform marriages in Victoria.

Registration under the Commonwealth Marriage Act gives them the power to perform marriages anywhere in Australia. Mr. Allen's wife, Rev. E.I. Allen, for example, was issued in South Australia with a licence under the Commonwealth Marriage Act but she lives in Victoria and celebrates scientology weddings here.

Scientologists have been trying for years to persuade the Victorian Government to issue them with licences to perform church marriages, said Mr. Allen who hopes and expects the Government to allow it this year.

"There are new faces in the Victorian Government and the type and quality of the new Ministers seems extremely good," he said.

Scientology was a recognised religion within the meaning of section 2(4) of the Act so the Act does not apply to scientology because of the religious clause in section 2(3).

"Section 31, however, specifically purports to prohibit the practice of scientology," he said.

"So you have a situation where an Act which does not apply to scientology because it is a religion, also specifically prohibits its practice."

"The contradiction would need judicial interpretation to work out which of the two provisions should take precedence."

If scientology was not a recognised religion then the prohibition on the practice of scientology could take effect, said Mr. Duggan.

The authoritative law book, Galley on Libel and Slander explains why statements made in judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings (including an inquiry) were awarded absolute immunity from legal action.


It was not to prevent actions where they should have been brought because of the malice or falsehood by judges or witnesses, but it was the fear that without this protection, numerous actions would be brought against people who were merely doing their duty.

Judges, counsel and witnesses would be constantly in fear of actions, whereas they should act with a mind uninfluenced by the fear of being sued, says the book.

It would be only scientologists or their friends who could suggest that malice was involved in forming the inquiry, or in the conclusions that resulted from it.

One of the conclusions reached by Mr. Anderson after hearing numerous witnesses was that there was an almost standard routine for making scientology inquirers sign up for hundreds of pounds of processing.

The prospect would be slightly acquainted with scientology and having attended free lectures believed he needed some processing, said Mr. Anderson.

The prospect would be interviewed by the registrar who would obtain the prospect's signature to receive a relatively small amount of processing, around 25 hours.

The registrar would escort the prospect to the Director of Processing, who would go through the motions of considering the application.

The director would then sign a printed certificate on the back of the application form saying he had considered the application but a "stable" result could not be obtained in less than a specified number of hours, around 250 to 300.

The director would say he was prohibited by the laws of the Board of Trustees from accepting the applicant.


"One is almost aghast at the deliberate callousness of this routine, which involved the generating of worry and distress in the mind of the prospect," said Mr. Anderson, "and when virtually the refusal of assistance claimed to be efficacious, unless he committed himself for some hundreds of pounds of auditing (processing), which was said to be the least that could be expected to produce the mysterious 'stable result'.

"The prospect, by now thoroughly upset, and whether or not he was really aware of what he was doing, regularly signed up for the much greater number of hours ..."

Perhaps this zeal for more members and money could be compared with the excesses which some other religions have passed through after they were first founded.

If this type of behaviour was just a "difficult birth" I would hope that it would not be too far away before scientology was declared a religion in Victoria, and enjoyed the same privileges as other religions.

But I trust that before scientology would be considered a religion in this state, the scientologists of the day are compared with those described in the Anderson Report to see how far, in fact, their actions differ.

Carmen Kosler

[Illustration: typed Creed of the Church of Scientology, on Church of the New Faith letterhead; photo of L. Ron Hubbard.]