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As politicians talk -- a cult plans ahead

Title: As politicians talk -- a cult plans ahead
Date: Wednesday, 1 January 1969
Publisher: The Age (Australia)
Author: Nicholas Turner
Main source:

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THE New Zealand Government is expected to make an announcement shortly on the setting up of a formal board or commission of inquiry into scientology.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Holyoake) has said that Ministers are seeking information from abroad before making a final decision.

He has been attacked by the Opposition Leader (Mr. Norman Kirk) for delaying the announcement. A 10-member joint committee of the House of Representatives conducted a preliminary inquiry Into the cults activities in October and recommended the full investigation.

Parliament unanimously accepted this recommendation on November 7 and called on the Government to institute a formal board or commission on the subject.

Since then, while the Government has been hesitating, the New Zealand headquarters of scientology has taken steps to put its house in order, at least as far as its public image is concerned.

It has announced "code of reform" to abolish certain practices brought to light during the first inquiry and which came under sharp criticism.

This original inquiry began after a petition to Parliament by Mr. and Mrs. F P. O'Donnell, of Hamilton, and 714 others, calling for the establishment of board of inquiry and for legislative control over scientology practices.

The O'Donnells claimed their teenage children, Erin and Noel, had been alienated from them as a result of becoming involved with the cult.

The inquiry heard evidence of the alleged hiring of private investigators from Australia, on behalf of scientology, to unearth incriminating information about persons who attacked the cult.

Other practices discussed included "disconnection" — the process by which a member of the cult cuts off all contact with persons considered "suppressive", or unsympathetic to scientology.

It was alleged that the O'Donnell children had "disconnected" from their parents and their whereabouts were unknown. Two witnesses for the scientologists refused to reveal the children's address to the inquiry.

It is understood that although many politician were deeply disturbed by some of the matters brought out in the first inquiry, they would be very reluctant to outlaw the cult as has been done in Victoria and elsewhere.

However, strong public opinion has been aroused over some of the cult's activities and methods and it seems likely there will be pressure for the imposition of some control through registration and possibly for the outlawing of certain specific practices.

It appears that scientology's "code of reform" is aimed at pre-empting any such moves.

The changes in the cult's policies were announced following the widespread circulation of a questionnaire among sections of the public, especially school teachers asking what aspects of scientology they most objected to.

One of the scientologists' leading witnesses said before leaving New Zealand for her home In England that a full-scale inquiry into scientology "cannot become anything but a witch-hunt."

The cult's Auckland headquarters has issued a statement saying it would gladly take part in an inquiry—under certain conditions.

These would be that the board's membership be approved by scientologists as "fair and impartial", that the inquiry should look into all branches of mental healing and all religious groups and that there should also be a full inquiry into those attacking scientology.