The case of Scientology’s application for Charity status in the UK:
The following is self explanatory and concerns the reasons that the UK Charity Commission refused charity status to the Church of Scientology. It makes an interesting case study of why certain organisations may be refused Charity status. The section below about the ‘test of public benefit’ is perhaps the most interesting. Link to full information: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/library/start/cosfulldoc.pdf
Here are some of the main points:
DECISION OF THE CHARITY COMMISSONERS FOR ENGLAND AND WALES
MADE ON 17TH NOVEMBER 1999
APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION AS A CHARITY BY
THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY (ENGLAND AND WALES)
1. The issue before the Commissioners
The Board of Commissioners considered an application by the Church of Scientology
(England and Wales) (CoS) for registration as a charity pursuant to section 3(2) of the
Charities Act 1993. In reaching their determination of the application the
Commissioners considered whether CoS is charitable as being an organisation:
(i) established for the charitable purpose of the advancement of religion and/or
(ii) established for the charitable purpose of the promotion of the moral or spiritual
welfare or improvement of the community,
and if in the case of (i) or (ii) above CoS is so established for such a charitable
purpose, whether it is established for the public benefit.
The Commissioners having considered the full legal and factual case and supporting
documents (including expert evidence) which had been put to them by CoS and having
considered and reviewed the relevant law, taking into account the principles embodied
in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Commissioners
concluded that CoS is not established as a charity and accordingly is not registrable as
such. In so determining the Commissioners concluded as follows -:
CoS is not charitable as an organisation established for the advancement of religion
because having regard to the relevant law and evidence:
(a) Scientology is not a religion for the purposes of English charity law. That
religion for the purposes of charity law constitutes belief in a supreme being
and worship of that being (section 6, pages 12 to 25). That it is accepted that
Scientology believes in a supreme being (section 6, page 25). However, the
core practices of Scientology, being auditing and training, do not constitute
worship as they do not display the essential characteristic of reverence or
veneration for a supreme being (section 6, pages 25 to 26).
(b) That even were CoS otherwise established for the advancement of religion,
public benefit should not be presumed given the relative newness of
Scientology and public and judicial concern expressed – ie the presumption of
public benefit available to religious organisations as charities was rebutted
(section 8, pages 40 to 43); and that
(c) Public benefit arising from the practice of Scientology and/or the purposes of
CoS had not been established (section 8, pages 43 to 44 and pages 47 to 48).
2 CoS is not charitable as an organisation established to promote the moral or spiritual
welfare or improvement of the community because having regard to the relevant law
(a) The practice of Scientology and the purposes of CoS are not analogous to the
legal authorities establishing the moral or spiritual welfare or improvement of
the community as a charitable purpose (section 7, pages 26 to 29), and in
taking a broader view of the authorities, would not be likely to achieve such a
purpose (section 7, pages 30 to 37).
(b) That even were CoS otherwise established for the promotion of the moral or
spiritual welfare or improvement of the community, public benefit arising out of
the practice of Scientology and/or the purposes of CoS had not been
established (section 8, pages 45 to 47 and page 49).
In relation to the test of public benefit under the fourth head of charity law for the
moral or spiritual welfare or improvement of the community the Commissioners
The question of accessibility by the public was key to the existence of public benefit.
As indicated above, the Commissioners had already concluded that the central
practices of Scientology (auditing and training) were conducted in private rather than
in public, and were in their nature private rather than public activities. In addition
there was the practice of requesting donations in advance of receipt of those services.
This led the Commissioners to conclude that the restricted access to those practices
meant that any benefit flowing from Scientology as advanced by CoS is of a private
rather than a public kind. In addition the description of the benefits of Scientology,
both in Scientology published and promotional literature and by individual
Scientologists, as already acknowledged by the Commissioners, confirmed them in
The Commissioners concluded that it could not be said that CoS had demonstrated
that it was established for the public benefit so as to satisfy the legal test of public
benefit of a charitable purpose for the advancement of religion or for the moral or
spiritual welfare or improvement of the community."
As a point of interest this is the remit at the Charity Commission for the SES. Is this a similar objective to that claimed by the Scientologists – in other words does it come under ‘moral or spiritual welfare or improvement of the community’? And I wonder how it would perform under the ‘test of public benefit’.
"313115 - THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SCHOOL OF ECONOMIC SCIENCE
THE PRIMARY ACTIVITIES ARE:
- TO PROVIDE CLASSES IN PHILOSOPHY, ECONOMICS AND OTHER SUBJECTS FOUNDED ON SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES EXPRESSING THE NATURAL LAWS APPLICABLE TO HUMANITY, AS DISCERNED FROM THE GREAT SPIRITUAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL TEACHINGS OF THE WORLD.
- TO PROMOTE ARTS AND SCIENCES THROUGH LECTURES, SEMINARS, CONCERTS ETC.
- TO SUPPORT OTHER CHARITIES WITH SIMILAR ACTIVITIES AND OBJECTS."
I like the way they put this: '...AS DISCERNED FROM THE GREAT SPIRITUAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL TEACHINGS OF THE WORLD'. As discerned from great spiritual teachings, or by the SES hierarchy??!
There is also:
"313115-1 THE SCHOOL OF ECONOMIC SCIENCE BENEVOLENT FUND
TRUST DEED DATED 5TH MARCH 1966.
PROVISION OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR POOR STUDENTS ATTENDING ANY OF THE CLASSES CONDUCTED BY THE SCHOOL OF ECONOMIC SCIENCE
Area of benefit
10 March 1964"
I wonder who has benefited from this scheme? I never heard about this whilst I was there. Any info anyone??