Saturday, April 24, 2010

Church of Scientology Responds to Russian Ban


Church of Scientology Blasts Russian Government for Ban on L. Ron Hubbard Writings

April 22, 2010
Yahoo News

The controversial Church of Scientology has been called many things, but it's a safe bet that no one had previously deemed it a threat to the Russian spirit.

No longer. Under a new law empowering the Russian government to ban written work categorized as "extremist materials," the Russian Prosecutor General's Office has declared that the work of L. Ron Hubbard, the American founder of Scientology, belongs on a list of materials "undermining the traditional spiritual values of the citizens of the Russian Federation."

The law lays out fines of 3,000 rubles ($100) for anyone in possession of such materials, or a jail term of up to 15 days — with harsher penalties imposed on repeat offenders and/or those with a criminal history.

According to the Moscow Times, 28 Hubbard-penned titles are now on that forbidden-readings list, including such works such as "The Factors, Admiration & the Renaissance of Beingness" and "The Unification Congress. Communication! Freedom and Ability." The writings were reportedly intercepted by Russian transport officials, who forwarded them to a panel of "psychiatrists, psychologists, and sociologists" for review. The panel determined that the Scientology works justified using "violence in general" against critics of the church — while also containing "hidden calls for social and religious hatred."

Not surprisingly, the church has blasted back with a statement denouncing the panel's decision. The ban — which Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw points out has yet to go into effect — constitutes "the latest action in an ongoing campaign by extremists in the Russian government to suppress religious freedom in Russia," the church announced in a statement furnished to Yahoo! News. The statement spells out plans to challenge the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights, which has condemned Russia for its past effort to refuse official registration of three Church of Scientology organizations to operate within its borders. Under that 2009 ruling, the court had the Russian government pay damages to the groups, in addition to making it pay for their legal expenses. In a phone interview with Yahoo! News, church spokesman Tommy Davis stressed that including Hubbard's work under the extremist-materials ban is tantamount to "Russia violating their own constitution." What's more, Davis charges that the Prosecutor General's Office tilts its religious policy calls in favor of the Russian Orthodox Church. "It's like putting someone who believes their religion is the only way in charge of determining if other people's faith should be recognized," he said.

This latest dustup is far from the only international battle that the 10-million-member church is waging. Germany has been fighting to ban Scientology outright for some time, and most European countries refuse to recognize the church as a charitable religious organization, even though they still permit the church to operate within their borders on a commercial basis.

— Brett Michael Dykes is a national correspondent for Yahoo! News.

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