Scientology accused of what other religions do

Marla Schevker

Religion is a deeply personal issue. Everybody believes something different and it’s their prerogative to do so. Last week, the Associated Press reported in an article, “Scientology Faces Criminal Charges,” that a Belgian prosecutor recommended that the Church of Scientology stand trial on charges of fraud and extortion, and decided that the church should be labeled as a criminal organization.

The article shows that prosecutor Jean-Claude Van Espen accused the church, during Belgian missions, of conducting unlawful practices in medicine, violating privacy laws, using illegal business contracts and intimidating and extorting ex-members. The church is being blamed for committing illegal acts. But looking back at the past several years, it appears that the Church of Scientology isn’t the only church to have participated in such acts and therefore shouldn’t be punished as if they were the first group to do so.

My former religious studies 150 professor, Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha, made very clear throughout the semester that every religion has skeletons in their closets. No religion is perfect, nor does any religion have perfect behavior all of the time.

Recognizing these flaws in religious institutions is the first step to understanding the actions that religious institutions have taken throughout history, even if the decisions made haven’t always been the most responsible or legal decisions.

In 1517 A.D., Martin Luther saw illegalities in the church with the use of indulgences. He felt that the church was taking advantage of the churchgoers’ desire to go to heaven by forcing them to pay to ensure their soul wouldn’t stay in purgatory. The Catholic Church was participating in fraudulent acts, even if the term ‘fraud’ wasn’t necessarily around at the time. And there weren’t people to legally hold the church accountable.

Some might say that there should’ve been individuals to legally hold the church accountable for their actions many years ago. However, back then the church was the law and there was no way around what the church told people to do. Although countries are currently run by governments and, for the most part, the church is a separate entity, we must remember that the Church of Scientology isn’t the only church to partake in unlawful acts.

While people have the right to practice whatever religion they choose, other individuals have the same right to question and try to reform that same religion. Suing the Church of Scientology for a lot of money won’t necessarily bring about the right reformations to the church. It can instead lead to more unlawful behavior to try to make up for the money that’s now missing. It’s up to the individuals who desire to see a change to go out and create it. No positive change will ever come about if there aren’t individuals who are willing to put forth some sort of effort.

True, Scientology isn’t a religion that’s recognized everywhere, but to label a religion as a criminal organization would be to basically accuse all religions of the same. I’m not saying members of the Church of Scientology shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. If they were breaking the law or intimidating members, they should be called on it and forced to make amends. But it seems naive to expect one religion to pay for the same mistakes made by most other religions.

Do you have more to say than a comment? Want any feedback from the writer? Story ideas? Head to The Gripevine.