Scientology status by country
Scientology status by country describes the status of Scientology and its recognition as a religion or otherwise in different countries. The Church of Scientology pursues an extensive public relations campaign for state recognition of Scientology as a religion and cites numerous scholarly sources supporting its position. The level of recognition Scientology has been able to obtain varies significantly from country to country.
The Church of Scientology has been recognized as a religious denomination in its home country, the United States, and has received full recognition in various other countries such as Italy, South Africa, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain; it thus enjoys and regularly cites the constitutional protection afforded in these nations to religious practice. Some countries, mostly in Europe, have regarded Scientology as a potentially dangerous cult, or at least have not considered local branches of the Church of Scientology to meet the legal criteria for being considered religion-supporting organizations, seeing Scientology as a business.
The 2014 ruling in London, which had five judges in the UK Supreme Court unanimously rule that a Scientology chapel is a “place of meeting for religious worship,” solidified the church’s status as a religion in the region. While some theologians critically approach Scientology’s status as a religion, social scientists as a whole agree that it “satisfies the abstract criteria for recognition as a religion.”
Status by country
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|Argentina||Argentina recognizes Scientology as a religion.|
|Australia||The Australian High Court has ruled that Scientology is a religion.||Scientology in Australia|
|Austria||Not officially recognized as religion, but tax-exempt status as a charitable organization.|
|Belgium||In 2005 Scientology's application for the status of a recognized religion was refused.||Scientology in Belgium|
|Brazil||Not registered as a religion. Registered as a non-religious "private association" under CNPJ number 05.586.122/0001-25. The organization has the following registered activities: sound recording and music edition, book publishing, distribution of movies, videos and TV programs.|
|Canada||The 1997 Freedom of religion and belief: a world report by the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex stated that "the Church of Scientology has been recognised as a religion [in Canada] through several administrative decision on matters such as tax exemption and authorisation to perform marriages." The Varsity, a student newspaper, reported in 2007 that the Church of Scientology's ministers can perform marriages in Canada and that Scientologist public servants are allowed to take time off work for Scientologist holidays. A 2008 article in the Torontoist stated that the Church does not have status as a federally registered charity for tax purposes. Religious scholars Douglas E. Cowan and David G. Bromley stated in a 2006 publication that "Scientology has yet to receive official recognition as a religion in Canada".||Scientology in Canada|
|Chile||As of 2009, Scientology is considered a cult.|
|China||China as of yet has refused to legitimize Scientology.|
|Croatia||Croatia recognizes Scientology as a religion since 22 December 2003|
|Czech Republic||Officially recognized as religion.|
|Denmark||In Denmark the Church of Scientology is not officially approved as a religion. It first applied for approval in the early 1970s; two further unsuccessful applications followed in 1976 and 1982. In mid-1997, the Church of Scientology filed a fourth application, which was suspended at their own request in 2000. In suspending their application, the Church asked the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs to clarify the approval procedure, but was told that it must first submit an application before any feedback could be provided. Despite Scientology's unofficial status, the Church of Scientology maintains its European headquarters in Copenhagen.|
|Finland||Scientology is not officially recognized as a religion. An application by the Church of Scientology to be registered as a religious body was denied by the Ministry of Education in 1998 on the grounds that "the known nature of the activities is not public worship in the sense meant by the law on freedom of religion". The denial was issued after the Church "had failed to comply with a request for more information".|
|France||Since 1995, Scientology has sometimes been classified as a secte (cult), for instance in a report of the National Assembly of France. On this basis, a hostile stance is generally taken against the organization. In 2009, Scientology was fined the equivalent of almost US$900,000 upon conviction for fraud.||Scientology in France|
|Germany||The status of Scientology in Germany is unresolved. Two points are contested: firstly, whether or not the teachings of Scientology qualify as a religious or ideological teaching, and secondly, whether or not these teachings are only used as a pretext for purely commercial activity; if the latter were the case, this would most likely imply that Scientology would not qualify for protection as a religious or ideological community under Article 4 of the German constitution.||Scientology in Germany|
|Greece||In the case "Attiki Prefecture vs KEPHE," the practice of Scientology was ordered ended in Greece. An appeal to the Athenian Court of Appeals ended with a reaffirmation of the verdict. The verdict was originally issued on December 20, 1995, but was not immediately put into effect. In January 1998 a Greek appeals court ordered Scientology's assets liquidated.
According to the U.S. Department of State, Scientologists, who are mostly located in the Athens area, practice their faith through a registered non-profit civil-law organization. Two laws from the 1930s require recognized or "known" religious groups wanting to open houses of worship to obtain "house of prayer" permits from the Ministry of Education and Religion. There is no formal mechanism in Greece to gain recognition as a known religion. By law, the Ministry may base its decision to issue permits on the opinion of the local Orthodox bishop; documentation provided to the Department of State by Scientology representatives and the Greek Orthodox Church indicated the Ministry did indeed consult with local bishops in some cases. According to Ministry officials, applications for additional houses of prayer were numerous and approved routinely; however, Scientologists in Greece had not been able to register or build a house of prayer.
|Indonesia||According to Freedom of religion and belief: a world report (1997), Indonesian government legislation recognizes the "right of all religions to exist and function in society" and "the Church of Scientology has experienced no difficulties in gaining registration".|
|Israel||In January 1987 a parliamentary commission on cults, headed by MK Miriam Glazer-Ta'asa, declared Scientology a cult, although no further measures were taken. Its practice is legal.|
|Ireland||In Ireland, the Church of Scientology has not been successful in its attempts to obtain tax-free, charitable status.|
|Italy||In terms of corporate status, the Italian Church of Scientology is one of Italy's non-profit and common-law associations; it has neither an intesa (recognition agreement with the Italian state), nor is it a recognized confessional community (ente di culto).
Some courts, including those in Rome and Turin, have viewed Scientology as a religion, although the Appeals Court of Milan did not do so during the 20-year-long criminal trial of various Scientologists. After it twice refused to recognize Scientology as a religion, its decisions were overturned by the Italian Supreme Court. The Italian Supreme Court gave exact guidelines to the Appeals Court of Milan to follow. Following these guidelines the Appeals Court exonerated the defendants of all charges. In March 2000, the Italian Supreme Court upheld Scientology's religious status in Italy while reaffirming that Narconon is a non-tax-exempt for-profit business.
|Kazakhstan||According to the U.S. State Department's 2008 International Religious Freedom Report, Scientologists are among many minority groups facing increasingly negative media coverage in Kazakhstan. During an April 10, 2008, press conference, a spokesperson for the Kazakh government's Procurator General's Office claimed that there were approximately 1,870 religious organizations in the country that presented a threat to national security and were engaged in destructive operations, citing Scientologists as one of the examples (these statements were later removed from the press conference transcript posted on the PGO website).
In 2008, parliament discussed new draft legislation which would severely restrict religious freedom. In February 2009, Interfax reported that Kazakh prosecutors were seeking liquidation of the Scientology Church in Karaganda. In a statement on its website, the Kazakh Prosecutor General's Office cited concerns over national security, as Scientologists' activity was aimed at undermining the "Kazakh nation's health through inflicting harm on people's psychic and physical health", and added that Scientologists were practising medicine outside medical institutions, and without the requisite education.
|Kyrgyzstan||The U.S. Department of State's 2005 Report on International Religious Freedom announced that the Church of Scientology had been registered as a religious group by the Kyrgyzstan State Commission on Religious Affairs.|
|Mexico||The Secretaría de Gobernación denied its petitions in 1999, 2004 and 2012. In 2017, the Church of Scientology obtained registration as a religious association.|
|New Zealand||The Inland Revenue Department of the government of New Zealand issued an official decision in December 2002 which accepted that the Church of Scientology of New Zealand met the requirements of the definition of Charitable Purpose in s OB 1 of the Income Tax Act 1994. The Inland Revenue Department made no ruling about whether Scientology was a religion or not. In June, 2008 the New Zealand Charities Commission accept the registration of the Church of Scientology as a charity under the category of religious activities. It made no ruling as to whether Scientology was a religion. The New Zealand Charities Commission is currently considering requests for the Church of Scientology to be deregistered as a charity.||Scientology in New Zealand|
|Netherlands||On 17 October 2013 the Court of Amsterdam determined that Scientology is a charitable organization. But on December 12, 2014, the Supreme Court annulled the verdict, regarding Art. 6.33 Wet IB 2001 en art. 41a Uitv.reg. IB 2001 (tekst 2008)
|Norway||Norway does not recognize the official Scientologikirken (Church of Scientology) as a religious community, but it is registered as a non-profit. Although it is estimated that around 8000 people have taken scientology-related courses in Norway, the church only has around 100 active members.
Scientologikirken has a history of settling legal cases out of court, although it was sentenced to refund 600.000 Norwegian kroner worth of course fees to a former member, in addition to the unsuccessful 6-year-long legal battle to grant it official status as a religion.
Norwegians in general regard Scientologikirken as a cult.
As of February 2016, the Church has vacated their offices, and have not released information regarding a new location. Their former offices are to be torn down as part of an urban development and housing project.
|Scientology in Norway|
|Philippines||The Philippines recognizes the Church of Scientology as a religious organization.|
|Poland||Poland does not officially recognize Scientology as a religion.|
|Portugal||The Portuguese Government officially recognized Scientology as a religion in November 2007.|
|Romania||The Romanian Scientology Church has only 70 members. According to the Law no. 489/2006 Scientology is not included among the 18 officially recognized religions by the State.|
|Russia||The Church has been subjected to considerable pressure from the state in Russia. In April 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Russia for repeatedly refusing to consider the Moscow Church of Scientology's application for the status of a legally valid religious association. The court found that the reasons given to deny re-registration of the church by the justice department and endorsed by the Moscow courts had no legal basis.
In July 2007, the St. Petersburg City Court ordered that the city's Scientology center be closed for violating its charter by engaging in unlicensed health care services. A court in Samara came to a similar decision in November 2008, closing down the activities of the local center for practicing without a license.
In September 2009, the European Court of Human Rights issued a binding ruling in favor of two Scientology branches in Surgut and Nizhnekamsk, which had been denied registration as "religious organizations." The two organizations were awarded €20,000 in costs and damages. The ruling, which cannot be appealed against, said that Russia could not ban the Church of Scientology simply because it did not have a long history in the country.
In 2010 some of the works of L. Ron Hubbard were included into the Federal List of banned extremist materials, but removed on 3 May 2011. Another such attempt was made by prosecutor in mid-2011 but was unsuccessful.
|Scientology in Russia|
|Slovenia||According to a 2008 Le Monde report, Slovenia recognizes Scientology as a religion.|
|South Africa||In 1975, Scientology was recognized as a non-profit organization in South Africa, despite the 1972 report of a formal government Commission of Inquiry that recommended otherwise. In April 2000, Scientology ministers were granted the right to perform marriages. In December 2007, South Africa granted a certificate to the Church recognizing it as a "Public Benefit Organisation".|
|Spain||On 31 October 2007 the National Court in Madrid issued a decision recognizing that the National Church of Scientology of Spain should be entered in the Registry of Religious Entities.
The administrative tribunal of Madrid's High Court ruled that a 2005 justice ministry decision to scrap Scientology from the register was "against the law." Responding to a petition filed by the church, the ruling said that no documents had been presented in court to demonstrate it was anything other than a religious entity.
Authorities had earlier declared that the government would not interfere in any way with the activities of the Church of Scientology.
|Sweden||On March 13, 2000 Scientology was registered as a "religious community".|
|Switzerland||The Federal Council (Bundesrat) issued a written statement on 25 Nov 1996: "According to their nomenclature and their statutes, the Church of Scientology is viewed as a new religious movement, and is to be treated to the existence of other facts as such. The Federal Court shares this view."
In a final decision the Federal Court (Bundesgericht) of 14 Feb 1992 confirmed that the Church of Scientology is pursuing religious purposes and falls under the protection of freedom of faith, conscience and worship.
|Taiwan||In 2003, the National Ministry of the Interior for Taiwan recognized the Church of Scientology of Taiwan as a charitable religious institution, officially adding it to the rolls of the country's recognized religions. Taiwan has 15 Scientology missions and churches, including the one in Kaohsiung.|
|United Kingdom||The Church of Scientology was not classified as a religious institution by the UK government until December 2013. The Church's application for charity status in England and Wales was rejected in 1999, and the Church has not exercised its right of appeal. However, in 2000, the Church of Scientology was exempted from UK value added tax on the basis that it is a not-for-profit body. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Scientology is "an officially recognised religion in the Royal Navy". The UK Prison Service does not recognize Scientology as a religion, but prisoners who are registered as Scientologists may practice their religion and are given access to a representative of the Church of Scientology if they wish to receive its ministry. In a December 2013 decision, the UK Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a London Church of Scientology chapel was a "place of meeting for religious worship" and should be registered as a place for marriage. This judgement endorsed the Australian High Court decision of 1983 "Of the various attempts made to describe the characteristics of religion, I find most helpful that of Wilson and Deane"  Under Scots law, Scientology ministers had been authorised to perform marriages in Scotland even prior to the December 2013 Supreme Court decision.
The UK government has openly criticized the Church in the past, as documented in 1971 in the Foster Report, but places no restrictions upon its activities.
|Scientology in the United Kingdom|
|United States of America||Since 1993, the Internal Revenue Service in the United States has formally recognized Scientology as a religion for tax purposes.||Scientology in the United States|
Scientology is not recognised by any of the other 157 member states of the United Nations at this point.
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