Mexico: Scientology applying for registration as a church

Media coverage related to the Church of Scientology.

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Mexico: Scientology applying for registration as a church

Post by mnql1 » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:06 am

Scientologists in Mexico applied to the Secretariat of the Interior (Secretariat of Governance) on December 12, 2011 for registration as a religious association. If they do not obtain it, they will claim discrimination.

Translation of a Spanish article posted on Feb. 25, 2012 on the website of the Mexican daily El Diario:
Solicitan cienciólogos otra vez ser registrados como iglesia
Scientologists again applying to be registered as a church

by Verónica Sánchez
Agencia Reforma
February 25, 2012

Mexico City — With an 80-kilo dossier [NOTE: the second article below says 8, not 80], the Church of Scientology in Mexico is for a second time seeking registration as a religious association. Its earlier application in 1999 was not granted.

With the approval of their leaders, church members last December 12 presented to the Directorate of Religious Associations of the Secretariat of the Interior more than 1,700 pages of attestations to its activity in Mexico since the 1960s.

Luis González, director of Community Programs Support for the church, says that, at the time of the first application, the authorities argued that the church did not meet the requirement of having well-known roots, in other words a presence of five years in Mexico. Accordingly, the Directorate administratively withdrew the application and the case was closed.

González says that the church had provided statements from its members, but then requests began for statements from outside persons, from officials, notaries, etc.

"The requirements reached such a point that we had to put the application dossier on wheels."

To avoid the same outcome, González explains that the new dossier contains 200 statements from neighbors and workers in businesses located near Scientology's temples, from notaries who certify the actions that Scientologists have performed, as well as from officials with whom Scientologists have worked on charitable projects.

Due to the weight of the 13 folders, González says they had to be transported from the Scientology temple at the corner of Balderas and Juárez to the government offices at Paseo de la Reforma in a file cabinet to which wheels were added.

"It is clear in our conscience that, if registration is denied, it is solely because of discrimination. There wouldn't be any doubt for us, this is not because of the law.

"This is an issue of equity. Ultimately, it's about the workings of a secular state. Either we are all equal, or we are not," contends González.

González points out that Mexico is the Spanish-speaking country that has the highest number of Scientologists, a total of 5,300, but is paradoxically the only one where Scientology is not recognized as a religious association. He explains that the only reason for which registration is being sought is to comply with national regulations in this area and because Scientology's own members have requested it.

"It is part of our belief to know that we follow the rules and norms of a country. We are in 167 countries and the rules are very different in each country," says González.

Roberto Blancarte, director of the Center for Sociological Studies of El Colegio de México, says it is not customary for so many preconditions to be required of a church.

"There certainly has been more required from them than from others, so there is some fear they won't be treated equitably or justly," notes Blancarte.

According to the Law on Religious Associations, to obtain registration, the church must also prove that it has endeavored for the practice and propagation of a doctrine, that it has sufficient resources to devote to its purpose, and that it possesses internal statutes.

Blancarte mentions that, once the registration process begins, the Directorate of Religious Associations analyzes the submitted documentation but does not specify a time limit for its response.

When the Directorate lacks information, it notifies the organization and gives it three months to comply.
Translation of a Spanish article posted on February 23, 2012 on the website of the weekly Mexican magazine Milenio:
Cienciología solicita registro con 8 kilos de documentos
Group wants to avoid second denial

Scientology seeks registration with 8 kilos of documents

by Eugenia Jiménez
February 23, 2012

Scientology has for the second time applied to the Secretariat of the Interior for registration to become a religious association. Approximately 8 kilos of information were submitted to avoid having the request turned down because of a lacking document.

On December 12 of last year, church members delivered various letters in which they explain the work they've done together with the Federal Attorney General's Office in prevention programs against drug use, along with testimonials from neighbors and businesses near Scientology temples to demonstrate that Scientology has well-known roots in the community.

Ana Rosa Lugo and Luis González, two of the church's leaders, announced that the certified documentation has been delivered, with the signatures of public notaries who validated public religious activities and exhibitions about the meaning of Scientology.

The dossier consists of more than 200 statements from neighbors who provided visual testimony and are not members of the church, but work in nearby businesses.

Scientology's first application to become a religious association was filed in 1998, but the Secretariat of the Interior denied it in 1999 because it was not proven that Scientology has well-known roots among the population, even though this group has existed in Mexico since 1960.

For the 1998 registration request, only statements from Scientologists were provided to the Secretariat of the Interior, and the Secretariat explained that this was not valid. This time, neighbors were sought out and their statements were made before a notary. Documents from the boroughs of the Federal District were also submitted.

Ever since the year in which the denial of registration occurred, the leaders of the church have held meetings with the Directorate of Religious Affairs to find out the causes that led to the refusal of status as a religious association.

The process has taken 14 years, but during that time, the authorities have been given reports about what the activities of the church are.

It is "awkward not being registered like other churches, because both they and our parishioners have been asking us why the church doesn't have the registration," explains Luis González.

Scientology is currently present at the national level and its facilities are located in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. It has 5 thousand followers.

<Final two paragraphs unrelated to Scientology omitted.>

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Re: Mexico: Scientology applying for registration as a churc

Post by mnql1 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:04 pm

Translation of a Spanish article posted on October 10, 2012 on the website of the Mexico City daily newspaper Excelsior:
Ahora, cienciología
Now Scientology ...

by Enrique Aranda
October 10, 2012

Its mandate now about to end in December, the second Mexican federal government formed by the National Action Party is preparing to strike a hard blow—"one more" as some would say—to the Catholic Church, whose doctrine the party say it draws upon and whose principles, the party’s members claim, entirely or at least partly inspire their actions.

Within a few days, Alejandro Poiré, the Secretary of the Interior, and undersecretary Gustavo Mohar are expected to sign and officially deliver the registration that recognizes the "church" of Scientology as a religious association. This will deepen the profound differences that, for the past six years, at least, have characterized the relationship between government authorities and the Catholic hierarchy, which formally represents more than 80% of Mexico’s population.

Today, it is, in fact, safe to say that official recognition has already been granted to Scientology, even though a third party could legally challenge this decision, but the fact is that the favorable outcome was announced last September 13 in the Diario Oficial [“Official Gazette”], which clearly stated that Scientology’s promoters had exhibited "sufficient evidence to prove that the religious group has existed for a long time and has well-known roots among the population."

It should be emphasized that the application filed, curiously enough, on December 12, 2011 [December 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a national symbol of Mexico] was not the first attempt by Scientology—a philosophical/religious system based on the teachings of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard and claimed to promote self-realization through a spiritual therapeutic method—to seek legal recognition. It had already tried in 1999 and the request was denied ... as had happened before in countries such as Greece, Ireland, Chile, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium ... or even in Spain, where it only succeeded after lengthy litigation.

This time, however, the services of Roberto Blancarte, director of the Center for Sociological Studies of El Colegio de México, and Jonathan Marduk Rico, Scientology’s spokesman for Latin America, paid off in getting the authorities to put aside the very serious potential or real public allegations leveled against Scientology by various sources—brainwashing for financial gain, psychological and physical abuse of its followers—and, moreover, to ignore the experience that has prompted other countries to proceed with caution in assessing similar requests for recognition.

But what truly matters now in this case, beyond the granting of registration in itself, is the serious confusion and malaise that this recognition will generate (and has already caused) between the Catholic hierarchy and other faiths. There will undoubtedly be a (political) cost to pay.

We shall see, and we will no doubt be commenting on this again ...

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Re: Mexico: Scientology applying for registration as a churc

Post by mnql1 » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:09 pm

Translation of a Spanish article published on October 28, 2012 in issue 1878 of the weekly Mexican newsmagazine Proceso (scan image provided below).

The article was also posted on October 31, 2012 on the Proceso website:
La cienciología, entre secta y mafia

Scientology, between cult and mafia

by Juan Pablo Proal
October 28, 2012

With a presence in 165 countries, the Church of Scientology, founded more than 60 years ago by American L. Ron Hubbard, applied once again a few weeks ago for recognition as a religious organization by the Secretariat of the Interior, a request that was denied in 1999. This group has been the object of countless reports in various parts of the world for offenses as diverse as human trafficking, extortion, and even homicide.


In recent years, researchers and specialists alike have been saying that Scientology has degenerated into a highly dangerous cult, but, despite these warnings, Scientology is poised to obtain registration as religious group in Mexico.

Last September 13, Mexico's Official Gazette published the Church of Scientology's application for registration as a religious association. The General Directorate for Religious Associations, an office within the Secretariat of the Interior, announced that the organization founded by American L. Ron Hubbard met the requirements for obtaining recognition as established by the Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship.

Since its inception, Scientology has faced serious accusations that include allegations of forced abortions, human trafficking, extortion, fraud, and even murder.

Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Miguel Perlado, founder and president of the Iberoamerican Association for Research on Psychological Abuse, who has 13 years of experience in treating patients affected by cults, warns that Scientology "is seeking to legitimize its discourse using religion as a pretext." In this manner, he explains, "All of its clearly manipulative and exploitative activities would be covered under the legal framework for religions."

For her part, researcher Myrna García, co-founder, advisor and general coordinator of the Support Network for Victims of Cults, warns that Dianetics does not satisfy the criteria required to be considered as a religious group. "It's a clearly sectarian business," she says. "We are talking about a company that sells courses ... it extorts people."

The Catholic Church is also displeased about the possible inclusion of Scientology in the list of religious groups recognized by the government. The Secretary General of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, Víctor René Rodríguez Gómez, says: "We would be very surprised if the Secretariat of the Interior were to grant approval to this institution that has generated so much controversy all around the world."

In Scientology's defense, Jonathan Marduk, spokesman for the Church of Scientology in Mexico, responds: "Our fundamental belief is that the salvation of man and a closer relationship with God are achieved through knowledge."

A business

Scientology has continually been associated with controversy. For years, dissidents from the movement, experts on religious issues, governments, and journalistic investigations have all concluded that this is all about something worse than a cult. It is "a mafia," they assert.

Dianetics was founded in the early 1950s by American L. Ron Hubbard in Los Angeles, California. Today the movement has 8,600 churches, missions, and groups in 165 countries.

In his book Broca's Brain, scientist Carl Sagan mentions that Hubbard, who made his living as a science fiction writer, created Scientology on a bet: "He had to invent a religion and make money from it."

In El infierno de las sectas ["The Hell of Sects"], Spanish historian César Vidal Manzanares tells a similar story with a quotation attributed to Hubbard himself: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion."

In 1950, Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. This book became the philosophical foundation of the organization: an amalgam of Eastern beliefs. In Scientology, Hubbard is considered a genius who mastered multiple disciplines. But in the biography entitled Messiah or madman?, his eldest son, L. Ron Hubbard, Jr, the father's most notorious detractor, says that "Ninety-nine percent of anything my father ever said or wrote about himself is untrue."

Hubbard died in 1986 after six years of inactivity, and there is as yet no clear information about the causes of his death. Various versions have circulated, including a possible murder.

Dianetics came to Mexico in the early 1960s, and, in 1998, it applied for registration as a religious association. Although the application proceeded through the initial steps, the General Directorate for Religious Associations ruled that the documents submitted were insufficient, and, a year later, it turned down the request.

According to information provided by the movement, it now has 5,500 members in the Federal District [Mexico City], "while, countrywide, approximately 140,000 Mexicans have turned to Scientology".

Why does this group have so many detractors?

"The goal of Scientology and the oil that lubricates the whole Scientology machinery are purely financial," says Miguel Perlado.

He emphasizes that Dianetics has all the characteristics of a religious cult: it relentlessly persecutes dissidents, it abuses its members emotionally, it exploits people financially, it impedes interfaith dialogue, and it promotes intolerance.

In Mexico, the organization owns 12 buildings and is present in Mexico City, León, Guadalajara, Puebla, and Monterrey. Outside its offices, men in suits can be seen inviting passers-by to take a "stress test." This is the first contact. Prospects are then offered inexpensive courses to improve their performance in various areas of their life.

The movement has groups that operate in areas such as business consultancy and the fight against addictions. As followers become more deeply involved with the cult, the price of courses increases, as does the amount of time that members devote to their training.

Threats

According to Mexico's Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship, a religious group must not be organized primarily for profit, must respect different religions, and must promote tolerance.

César Velasco is a former member of the cult. While he was in, he spent more than 500,000 pesos for courses. He defected from the group when his daughter told him that a high-level staff member had sexually abused her. He then wrote to Margarita Ibáñez, the person in charge of Scientology's legal affairs, to demand that Alejandro Aristi, who was named as responsible for the offense, face sanctions.

The "punishment" imposed on the alleged molester was 300 hours of work. Velasco considered this insufficient, and his objection was enough to have him declared "suppressive," the equivalent of an undesirable person (Proceso 1846). As a result, Velasco cannot speak with the members of his family who remain inside the group.

In an interview with Proceso, Velasco maintains that Scientology fosters intolerance and that its orientation is strictly mercantile:

"The simple fact that, when you're expelled from the congregation, you can only speak to a member of the organization known as the International Justice Chief is quite damaging to a person's mental health."

The founder of the Support Network for Victims of Cults, Myrna García, says that Dianetics is one of the most harmful cults. Its main feature, she points out, is that it charges for the courses it offers. The first courses cost about 250 dollars, and as a person progresses along the workshops and certificates, the prices become stratospheric. The devotee borrows money from banks and ends up in bankruptcy working for the organization. If a person wants to leave, García adds, the cult's legal department issues a bill for all outstanding debts.

"We're talking about a totalitarian and coercive group, a group that extorts people," says Myrna García, who is also a researcher and expert in demography.

She adds that the cult's victims match the profile that the American Psychiatric Association in the United States uses to diagnose dependent personality disorder: they have difficulty making everyday decisions, they need to have others take responsibility for their own actions, they fear being alone, and they have an excessive preoccupation with the risk of being abandoned.

Issue 1846 of Proceso presented the testimony of former members of the cult in Mexico. It described the case of Rafael Gómez, who went from being a successful entrepreneur to working 17 hours a day for the group, without the right to any benefits and with an average salary of 200 pesos a week. The article also included the story of Adrian Kelsey, who was denied any possibility of visiting his daughter Estafanía because he was declared "suppressive."

After the publication of the article, some of the dissidents who offered their testimony to Proceso reported that they received threats. Two of them have decided they will no longer speak out on this subject.

On August 25, 2011, the Office of the General Prosecutor issued Bulletin 1722, which announced that Alex Spatz, a member of the Sea Organization, Scientology's operational arm, was sentenced to six years imprisonment for the crime of human trafficking involving a Colombian woman.

Rafael Gómez, a former member of the Sea Organization, revealed that, at number 29 Río Rhin Street in Mexico City's Cuauhtemoc district, a center that belongs to the group, foreigners with tourist visas are living and working in subhuman conditions to carry out the cult's projects.

When asked about the allegations made against Scientology, the organization's spokesman, Jonathan Marduk, says:

"With all due respect, this is a generality and you are probably talking about three or four individuals whose slander and extortion are presently in the hands of the authorities and under criminal investigation, so I won't comment on this."
 
Advantages of registration

Mexico is not the only country where former members accuse the organization of committing various crimes. In October 2009, Dianetics was fined 600,000 euros in France for fraud. In Russia, the Religious Council of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District banned materials by Hubbard because their content was ruled extremist.

The German government has called the group "very dangerous and authoritarian." In the United States, Greece, England, Spain, and Australia, it has been the object of formal complaints filed by some of its former members.

The BBC, Time magazine, The New Yorker, and many media outlets have published stories about cases of extortion and abuse by senior members of Dianetics against followers of the movement in various countries. And not only that: there are dozens of websites where dissidents accuse Scientology of having caused deaths, among them the deaths of Lisa McPherson and Alexander Jentzsch.

"These are slanderous falsehoods," says Jonathan Marduk. "The proof is that there is not a single court judgment that substantiates claims such as these. On the contrary, more than 100 experts from internationally renowned universities have conducted serious, rigorous studies, some for years, and have published reports and academic opinions on Scientology's practices, beliefs, and religious framework."

On December 12, 2011, Scientology filed its formal application with the General Directorate for Religious Associations to be considered as a religious group.

This directorate, an office within the Secretariat of the Interior, decided that the cult "satisfied the requirements" and, accordingly, last September 13, the directorate published the application in Mexico's Official Gazette. The procedure allows those who disagree with the request to lodge an objection within 20 business days. Once the directorate has analyzed the documents concerning the case, it will proceed to reach a final decision.

What is the use of going through this registration procedure?

"This way," says Miguel Perlado, "the church will be able to legitimize itself religiously so as to conceal its primarily mercantile aims. It will also gain access to financial benefits, thanks to donations and tax exemptions, as well as more tools to discredit its detractors."

But, according to the spokesman for the group: "For our church, registration is merely that, a registration. It does not change the practice or observance of our religious doctrine."

He adds that, even though his group meets all the requirements to obtain registration, there has been a systematic smear campaign orchestrated by the extreme right-wing group El Yunque ["The Anvil"]. He cites as an example an article by Enrique Aranda Pedroza, a columnist for Excelsior, whom he associates with the ultra-right-wing organization.

For Rafael Gómez, the registration of Scientology as a religious group could be beneficial, because the complaints and conflicts surrounding this cult could then be addressed by Mexican authorities in an expeditious manner.

The Catholic Church thinks differently. The Secretary General of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, Víctor René Rodríguez Gómez, asked the Secretariat of the Interior to be very careful about the groups to which it grants registration. He mentioned the case of the Santa Muerte cult, to which the Secretariat of the Interior granted registration but later decided to cancel the registration "for serious deviations from the purposes specified in its charter."

Miguel Perlado expects that, if registration is granted to Scientology, this will mark the beginning of a new era for cults in Mexico, where the door has been left open for many more dangerous cults to become officialized.

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Re: Mexico: Scientology applying for registration as a churc

Post by mnql1 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:54 pm

Translation of a Spanish article published on November 2, 2012 on the website of the weekly Mexican newsmagazine Proceso:

México, el paraíso de las sectas

Mexico, the paradise for cults

by Juan Pablo Proal
November 2, 2012

Mexico's Secretariat of the Interior is studying the possibility of granting registration as a religious group to Scientology, a cult that is accused worldwide of serious crimes, including murder, human trafficking, psychological abuse, extortion, and fraud.

Some dissidents of the organization, including Rafael Gómez, think that registration will be beneficial because it will enable the federal government to precisely monitor the activities of Dianetics, as the group is also known. On the opposite side of the coin, two of the key Hispanophone specialists on cults, Miguel Perlado of Spain and Myrna García of Puerto Rico, warn that this will be the beginning of a tragedy.

What is it about the word Scientology, that simply uttering it provokes conflicts? To answer, we have to go back to 1950, when the American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard published the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Years later, the novelist founded his organization, with a creed based primarily on a fusion of eastern practices and theories about space-alien conspiracies.

Inside its walls, Dianetics tells wonderful stories about Hubbard, who is depicted as a mythological genius who excelled in almost all areas life. However, in contradiction to this version, the legend of L. Ron Hubbard began to be tarnished by his own son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr, who wrote a biography of his father entitled: Messiah or Madman?: "Ninety-nine percent of anything my father ever said or wrote about himself is untrue."

Scientist Carl Sagan wrote something similar in his book Broca's Brain, revealing that Hubbard invented the cult to become a millionaire: "He had to invent a religion and make money from it."

Dozens of biographies and specialized books have been written about Hubbard, depicting him as a grim psychological abuser, always surrounded by suspicion that he was committing crimes. In addition to details about the founder of Dianetics, in the 1980s, dissidents from the organization began talking about terrifying practices inside the cult: extortion, homicides, slavery, and psychological abuse.

Regardless of whether the Secretariat of the Interior decides to allow or not allow Scientology's registration, the cult has been operating freely in Mexico since the 1960s.

The principal way it scouts for new followers is to offer a "stress test" to passers-by on the street. The animated sitcom South Park ridiculed this procedure by caricaturing how prospective clients always end up with bad test results, a setup for what comes next: an endless list of very expensive courses. Incidentally, South Park was sued in 2006, after the broadcast of this episode.

Dianetics offers its followers courses, workshops and certificate programs with titles that promise the improvement of professional and personal development. In addition, it uses various front organizations as part of its strategy to attract members, for example, Entiende Más Logra Más ["Understand More, Achieve More"] (education), Narconon (drugs), Soluciones Empresariales [Effective Business Solutions] (business consultants), and the Latin America Way to Happiness Foundation (personal development).

I interviewed seven dissidents of the organization for Proceso magazine's issue 1846. The victims' stories were both diverse and terrifying: abuse of minors, extortion, human trafficking, and disrupted families. Scientology's official response was to question the ethics of the persons who spoke out and to minimize their stories.

Scientology's position is that criticism always comes from "misinformed" persons or reflects "religious intolerance". However, there are thousands of reports on the Internet from serious media outlets — BBC, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Television Española, Time, to name a few — about the tragedy that accompanies those who dare to leave the cult and face the impossibility of seeing their family again.

According to the testimony of the dissidents I interviewed, Scientology violates many of the articles of the Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship in Mexico, because Scientology is organized primarily for profit and promotes religious intolerance.

Scientology is just one of the wide array of cults operating in Mexico, for example: Pare de sufrir ["Stop suffering"], Transcendental Meditation, Osho, the Gnostic Movement, Sai Baba, La Luz del Mundo ["The Light of the World"], ufologists, World Mission Society Church of God, et cetera ad infinitum.

Almost all of them share certain traits: they deny being a cult, they are absolutely intolerant of criticism, but, above all, they steal the lives of their followers.

To understand the magnitude of the variety of organizations operating in Mexico, all one has to do is look at how many associations are registered with the Secretariat of the Interior. There are 3,606 parent organizations and 4,047 subsidiaries. The federal government has had to reconsider cases where it was wrong to grant registration, the most egregious example being the Santa Muerte cult.

When devotees fall into a cult, there is almost no human power that can make them realize they are being subjected to complex manipulations. Family members find it impossible to engage a dialogue. When the family complains to the authorities, the authorities refuse to take action, arguing that the subjects are adults, or the cases are simply filed and forgotten.

Although Mexico is strategic in the geography of sectarian movements, there is a scarcity of specialists, researchers, and associations to investigate the phenomenon. The most comprehensive websites on this subject are: http://victimasectas.com/ and http://www.hemerosectas.org/, located in Spain and Puerto Rico, respectively.

As long as there subsists a legal limbo that allows any group to abuse its followers under the guise of religious freedom, civil society has no alternative but to organize itself.

Some people think that only weak persons fall into the trap of cults, while others minimize the problem, reducing it to a matter of religious belief. These are misconceptions. Almost any well-intentioned person can fall prey to such abuses, and this is not a matter of religious liberty: people lose their family, their freedom of thought, their money, and their individuality.

In addition to steering the life of their followers without any professional training, cults perpetrate psychological abuse and ruin the destinies of entire families.

It is therefore urgent that the Under-Secretariat of Population, Migration and Religious Affairs and legislative bodies analyze the effectiveness of Mexico's Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship, so that all cases of cultic abuse can be monitored and punished with the rigor they deserve.

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Re: Mexico: Scientology applying for registration as a churc

Post by bubbler » Sun Nov 04, 2012 5:21 am

Thank you for posting, mnql1.
Jonathan Marduk, scientology spokesman. Interesting name.
I'll soon have a chance to investigate for myself.

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