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Court upholds warrants used by OPP in raid on Scientology

Title: Court upholds warrants used by OPP in raid on Scientology
Date: Friday, 26 June 1987
Publisher: Toronto Star (Canada)
Main source:

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The Church of Scientology has lost the final round in its fight to quash search warrants that allowed some 250,000 documents to be seized in a 1983 raid on their Toronto headquarters.

The Supreme Court of Canada yesterday rejected the church's application to challenge an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that the warrants were legal under the Constitution.

Yesterday's decision validated the lower court's finding that groups cannot escape criminal investigation simply by claiming organized religion status.

But church president Earl Smith said the Scientologists would continue their battle by going to the federal attorney-general.

Religious freedom

"This is not over yet," Smith said. "It's a fight of religious freedom which we are guaranteed under the Constitution."

In their ruling earlier this year, the Appeal Court rejected a church argument that the Ontario Provincial Police were investigating religious practices in their raid on the Yonge St. offices.

The Scientologists had claimed they were not subject to prosecution for their religious principles and practices because of freedom of religion guarantees in the Constitution.

In a unanimous judgment, however, the Appeal Court ruled those freedoms, set out in the Charter of Rights, were not absolute.

The March 3, 1983, raids were conducted by about 100 OPP officers and led to charges against the church and several of its current and former members.

The charges included breach of trust, theft and possession of stolen documents.

Would need trial

The Ontario court said police allegations that the church was a criminal organization veiled in the fabric of religion could "only be resolved at a trial on proper evidence.

"The Crown does not contend that Scientology is sham," the Appeal Court said in its 164-page judgment.

"However, it does not follow that because Scientology is a religious organization, it could not also be a money-making organization and thus disentitled to status as a non-profit organization."

Founded in the 1950s by former science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology teaches that an individual's true spiritual being can be revealed through a process called auditing.

In an audit, an individual confesses his transgressions while holding on to two tin cans which are hooked up to a device called an E-Meter.

Copyright 1987 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.