Asia & Pacific

Calls for Probe into Scientology’s Charity Status in Australia after Media Investigate Finances

Many groups and individuals have challenged Scientology’s legitimacy as a religion since its foundation by US science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s.

Australian politicians are calling on Australia’s charity regulator ACNC to probe the Church of Scientology’s charity status after The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s investigation dug into the controversial religion’s finances.

The two outlets reported last week that have found out that the Church of Scientology had made tax-free profits by shifting tens of millions of dollars into Australia from abroad.

According to the probe based on financial reports, the Church of Scientology Australia enjoyed net profits of $65.4 million between 2013 and 2019, but the number of its followers fell during that period.

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Greens Treasury Spokesman Nick McKim said that “there is a very clear case for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to review Scientology’s charity status.”

“They should investigate whether Australia is being used as a tax haven for the organisation’s international revenue,” he said.

Australian Labor’s shadow assistant minister for charities, Andrew Leigh, said that the religion needed to explain itself and provide “greater clarity” over its structure and finances.

“It would be in the interest of the Church of Scientology to provide more information about how the broader Australian community benefits from their tax deductible status,” he said, adding that many people would have concerns that “Scientology operates quite differently from other religions” after seeing the documentary “Going Clear,” a film which reveals abuses within the controversial organisation, featuring interviews with former members of the religion.

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An ACNC spokeswoman said that the regulator was unable to comment on the “particular circumstances of a charity,” noting that charities can make a profit “but any profit must be used for its charitable purposes”.

International Spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology Karin Pouw stressed to The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald that there was “no accumulation of ‘profits’” and that all its funds “are dedicated to furthering its religious and charitable mission.”

Pouw, however, refused to comment on the claim the number of followers had decreased, adding that Scientology is “in the midst of an explosive expansion in Australia.”

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