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The 'religion' with a cross, but without any prayers

Title: The 'religion' with a cross, but without any prayers
Date: Tuesday, 12 April 1994
Publisher: The Argus (UK)
Author: Paul Bracchi
Main source: link (1.02 MiB)

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[Picture / Caption: Canon Walker: No tenets of Christianity]

THEY call themselves a Church and their symbol is a cross.

But the Scientologists' religious image fails to stand up to scrutiny, experts say.

The Vicar of Brighton, Canon Dominic Walker, says the sect should not be described as a Church.

He said: "Scientology does not have any of the central tenets of Christianity and yet they use a cross as a symbol and their ministers wear clerical collars.

"In calling themselves a Church they give an impression that they are Christian, which they are not."

He added: "The characteristics that people associate with a bona fide religion is that it is founded by someone whose own life was one of holiness.

"That would apply to Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.

"When a 'religion' is founded by someone who has not lived a life of holiness and made a lot of money of out it, you would have to be suspicious."

Scientology's message emphasises self-improvement in a way which is at odds with the Church of England's view of religion.

Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, says his movement aims to create a civilisation "where man is free to rise to greater heights".

Canon Will Pratt, spokesman for the Chichester Diocese, which covers the Church of England in Sussex, said: "Religion is primarily to do with the worship of God and the care for the poor.

"It is not to do with self-improvement, although that may be a by-product.

The great religions tend to bear witness to an attempt to look outside and beyond yourself, not within yourself."

But Scientologists argue that the word 'Church' and the sign of the cross are not, in fact, Christian.

Peter Mansell, public affairs officer at the Scientology headquarters in East Grinstead, said: "Scientology is a religion and the word 'Church' is used to inform people of this fact.

"The religious nature of Scientology has been confirmed by courts and governments all over the world.

"The cross has been a religious symbol long before the time of Christ and is used by many religions, including Scientology."

A recent investigation by the U.S. Government's tax office, the IRS, classified Scientology as a religious institution for tax exemptions.

But that has not convinced authorities in Britain, including the Independent Television Commission, which sets standards on acceptable advertising.

The ITC says its rules on religious advertising reflect a concern that the power of television should not be used by manipulative organisations to attract vulnerable people into situations in which they could be exploited emotionally or financially".

Bob Towler is a director of Inform, a charity set up with Home Office funding to look at the work of new religious movements.

He said: "Broadcasters define religion in terms of groups that have places of worship which are freely open to the public.

"This lack of collective observance is what counts out Scientologists.

"They want to advertise their Dianetics books on radio and TV, but are not allowed to on the grounds that they are not a religion in the accepted sense."

He added: "For Scientologists who are not in East Grinstead, there is nothing they can do on a week-to-week basis.

"There are no prayers to be said before you go to bed. It is so much nearer to being a form of therapy.

Last year, the ITC upheld a complaint against Scientology which was advertising on Superchannel TV.

The commission found that the public cannot attend Scientology meetings without first buying a book about the sect.

It also judged that the advertisement broke the rules by promoting "the organisation's philosophy" rather than its activities.

Other complaints upheld by the ITC last year, include one against the Worldwide Church of God and another against the Philadelphia Church of God.

FACTFILE

* The ITC's rules on religious advertising ban the following items:
* Appeals for cash funds for the advertisers.
* Preaching religious doctrine.
* Rubbishing other religions.
* Claims for miracles or faith healing.