Australian TV reports that the national Fair Work Ombudsman is alleging the Church of Scientology is guilty of false imprisonment of members and forced labor violating Australian slavery laws.
The Ombudsman’s preliminary report found some Scientology workers paid as little as $10 a week by the church — forcing them to rely on government assistance — despite the church’s reported earnings of more than $17 million in 2009.
“The allegations … may potentially be a breach of the provisions of the Criminal Code Act 1995 dealing with slavery … the Fair Work Ombudsman will refer the witnesses’ allegations to the relevant authority for further investigation,” Australia’s ABC Television quoted the draft report as saying.
The church had argued that some members were not covered by the Fair Work Act because they were in holy orders. That defense was rebutted by a former high official in the church — which is atheistic in its doctrines, teaching there is no god and that members can achieve “cleansing” by paying the church large sums for “audits” that remove the debris left from past lives.
The report also found the church had incorrectly classified as volunteers or voluntary workers people who were entitled to be classified as employees, which could mean it is forced to backpay people if the final statement of findings reflects the draft report.
Former U.S. Church of Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder said the findings could have worldwide repercussions for the church.
“I think a bunch of governments particularly in Europe and the Commonwealth will follow in the footsteps of the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman and begin their own investigations and reviews,” Rinder told ABC Television.