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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 466


Senator DURACK (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I ask the Attorney-General, firstly, whether he is aware of a statement made by Senator Murphy recently on behalf of the Labor Party that he and his Party favour recognising Scientology as a church and permitting that organisation to perform marriage ceremonies? Secondly, can Scientology be classified in any circumstances as a church? Thirdly, is the Attorney-General giving any consideration to amending the Marriage Act or other relevant Commonwealth legislation for the purpose of recognising Scientology?


Senator GREENWOOD - I can answer the last part of the honourable senator's question without any difficulty. The Com monwealth has no current intention of altering the Marriage Act and certainly there has been no contemplation of altering it insofar as it may facilitate the recognition of Scientology as a religion. As to whether or not Scientology is a religion, Mr Justice Anderson, as he now is, who conducted the inquiry into Scientology in 1965, said quite explicitly that it was not a religion. Lord Justice Denning in a case concerning Scientology in Great Britain within the last 2 years said that as far as he was concerned Scientology was more a philosophy than a religion. In Australia we have a varying situation. I appreciate that some scientologists have said that a decision by a magistrate in Western Australia indicates that Scientology is a religion. All 1 will say is that I would have the gravest doubts whether on any argument one could hold that Scientology was a religion. On whether it is a religion or is not a religion the position of the Commonwealth Government is quite clear. Under the Marriage Act the AttorneyGeneral may authorise any religious body to be a body which can authorise celebrants of marriages. Many applications have been made to my predecessors and to me for persons who practice Scientology to be so authorised and on each occasion those applications have been refused. The view which I take is that while the practice of Scientology is specifically prohibited in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria the Commonwealth Government should not lend itself to making legal what in those States is unlawful.







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