Kiwi blows the whistle on Scientology
Thursday 26 Nov 2009 7:15 p.m.
But a New Zealander's whistle-blowing about the church has made it all the way to the Australian parliament.
Aaron Saxton has been on the inside of scientology, and claims to have seen abuse - including coerced abortions.
Mr Saxton left the church in 2006, ashamed of what he'd seen and his role in it.
Today he went to confront the head of scientology in New Zealand, Mike Ferriss, for his response to these allegations.
Ex-scientologist Genny Long says she was one of many women asked to have an abortion while she was working for the church in Sydney.
She was told to have a baby, she must first seek permission from the church's management. She had not, so the church authorised her pregnancy be terminated.
Head of scientology in New Zealand, Mike Ferriss, denies any knowlodge of such activities in the church, and labels Mr Saxton a "nutter" and a "consummate liar".
Mr Saxton, who worked in both the Sydney and Los Angeles church offices, says personal files detailing counselling sessions were accessed by staff in senior management, called the Sea Org.
"I can tell you right now if the likes of John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jenna Elfman or Leah Romini think for one second that their files haven't been read by other members of the Sea Org, I can assure them right now there are a number of Sea Org members that have nothing to do with counselling that have read their files extensively."
Anyone seen to be against the views of scientology can be declared a disconnected person, meaning all scientologists must never communicate with them - a practice condemned by a 1969 New Zealand government report into scientology.
Ms Long, a scientology member for seven years, says the church has reintroduced disconnection.
"I ordered some," says Mr Saxton. "I ordered the very disconnection of several people here in New Zealand."
The church in Australia put out a letter of their own about Mr Saxton. In it, they call Mr Saxton a "mean, hateful young man who carried a knife and dangerous spikes".
Mr Saxton says it's true he was a bully, but says he was promoted because of it.
The church in Australia and New Zealand is registered as a charity so it does not have to pay tax.
"The Church of Scientology is not a charity," says Ms Long, "it is a money-making cult… based on the pyramid scheme."
Psychology lecturer Marc Wilson has studied scientology and says the non-traditional belief system does lean towards a cult rather than a church, but that has no bearing on its tax free status.
"It meets the same requirements for tax-free status as a charity as many other organisations do," says Mr Wilson. "It's important to make the distinction between the organisation and the individual members. It doesn't mean that scientologists don't have to pay tax for example, so in that regard they're working well within the rules."
The Church reserves the right to ex-communicate someone from its ranks. This does not occur very often, but when it does it is for good reason. Mostly however we seek to help and rehabilitate the individual and give them a lot of leeway before any ex-communication occurs.
If a person is ex-communicated then we ask that other members of the group cut ties with them. Should the person want to re-join the group, then the door is always open and the person can, and quite often does, take advantage of this.
(NB. Should there be a specific allegation from Aaron Tweddell regarding this matter, it should be noted that he pushed to have his mother ex-communicated in 1997 which he told me about on the telephone this morning.)
The Church of Scientology is a charitable organisation in New Zealand like any other religion. The Church's charitable works are considerable from drug education programmes to human rights, disaster response and moral education. We work in the community and these initiatives are shared extensively within the community.
Religious people tend to assist and work voluntarily in areas of society where it needs it most which is why they are tax exempt as this would otherwise be paid for by government social services.
Senator Xenophon's statements about the Church of Scientology.
Senator Xenophon has only looked at very negative and false claims made about the Church without verifying their credibility.
His claims are without any basis in truth. What he is saying has no bearing on the New Zealand Church and nor the Australian Church as the claims are now being investigated and they are being found to be untrue. The Church in Australia is now releasing its findings as each claim is being investigated.
There are no forced abortions in Scientology and if Aaron Saxton or anyone else coerced someone into having an abortion then they are way outside of the Church's policy and ethical conduct. We respect human life and the rights of mother's and families in such matters. The Church does not intervene.