Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from the Church of Scientology

  1.  I present this submission as the Public Affairs Director of the Church of Scientology in the United Kingdom. They are grateful for the invitation to provide evidence on these important issues.

  2.  Our Founder, L Ron Hubbard, wrote:

    "Tolerance is a good cornerstone on which to build human relationships. When one views the slaughter and suffering caused by religious intolerance throughout all the history of man and into modern times, one can see that intolerance is a very non-survival activity.

    Religious tolerance does not mean one cannot express his own beliefs. It does mean that seeking to undermine or attack the religious faith and beliefs of another has always been a short road to trouble. . .

    Any advice one might give another on this subject is safest when it simply asserts the right to believe as one chooses. One is at liberty to hold up his own beliefs for acceptance. One is at risk when he seeks to assault the beliefs of others, much more so when he attacks and seeks to harm others because of their religious convictions."

  3.  Recently our Church in East Grinstead Sussex hosted an interfaith conference which was attended by the followers of many different denominations. The theme of the conference was: "Filling the Moral Vacuum", and what became very quickly apparent was that all of the religions attending essentially shared the same core moral values, which included the need to respect the religious beliefs of others. Towards the end of the conference we held a multi-denominational service which included contributions from ministers of many different religions; these included an Anglican, a Buddhist, a Catholic, a Hindu, a Jainist, a Jew, Muslims, a Pentecostal, a Scientologist, Sikhs and a Zoroastrian. What was striking about this service was that although there were many different religions, and references to many different religious works, in many different languages, the essence of what each was saying was fundamentally very similar. Man has a spiritual nature, and it is the pursuit of spiritual goals that is the route to true happiness and freedom.

  4.  From our experience then, religious intolerance is created in the main by the misrepresentation of the beliefs and practices of others. This is true to such an extent that if you could at a stroke eliminate the deliberate misrepresentation of others' beliefs and practices, you would all but eliminate religious intolerance, and all of the problems associated with this.

  5.  The purpose of the criminal law is to protect peoples' rights and freedoms. The principle rights and freedoms are set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights conventions. Where a right or freedom is harmed, such as the right to life, the right to own property, the right to communicate the law steps in. The right to believe and to worship freely are such fundamental rights, and the purpose of the law in this area should be the purpose of the law in any other area, which is to ensure that the rights can be exercised without harm.

  6.  In relation to the law of blasphemy, the point is not to protect God from harm. After all who can harm God? The purpose is rather to enable the peaceful practice of religion to occur free from insult or attack. The law of blasphemy can be modernised and extended to all religions if one looks to this purpose.

  7.  The difficulty with trying to formulate a definition for an offence of incitement to religious hatred is that one does not want to curtail the expression of ideas and opinions. One therefore, it seems to us, has to focus on intention. And it should not be forgotten that much protection is already offered by the existing criminal law and that duplication of this protection is unnecessary.

  8.  In the light of the foregoing we would suggest that the law should prohibit:

    (a)  Actions designed to disrupt or interfere with religious worship and practices.

    (b)  The deliberate or reckless misrepresentation of another's religious beliefs with the intention that another should believe that misrepresentation, where the misrepresentation, if believed, would damage the reputation of followers of the religious denomination concerned.

  9.  The advantage of formulations along these lines is that they provide a reasonable balance between the right of free expression and the right to believe and worship freely.

19 July 2002

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