At the grand opening of the Church of Scientology Advanced Organization in Sydney, Australia, Dr. David Bennett addresses the thousands of Scientologists, dignitaries and their guests assembled for the historic occasion. Dr. Bennett speaks of the “dramatic and revolutionary court victory in the name of religious freedom” that led to the landmark 1983 Australian Supreme Court decision affirming that Scientology is a religion. He recounts that “what began as a fight for what is fair, led to a decision that has spread across the world to guarantee the rights of people of all faiths.”
When I was eight years old, someone told me that there was a profession where you got paid for talking and arguing. It never occurred to me after that that I would do anything else.
I have now had almost fifty years as a barrister, and I can tell you that in those fifty years, there is no case of which I am more proud than the case I ran for your church in 1983.
Prior to 1983 the legal definition of religion in Australia was very limited. Although it was not immediately apparent, one of the basic freedoms, freedom of religious belief, was at stake. We thus won a great victory not only for Scientology, but also for the religious freedom of all religions.
The Australian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but it’s not much use having freedom of religion unless you define what constitutes a religion, and that’s the true significance of the Scientology case.
The argument I put forward to the High Court on your behalf was founded on three primary concepts:
First, that a religion’s beliefs must encompass “ultimate” ideas, such as life and death, man’s role in the universe and a proper moral code of right and wrong.
Another is that the group must lay claim to an ultimate and comprehensive truth.
The third characteristic is that it should have some of the traditional accoutrements of religion such as religious services, ceremonial functions, and an ecclesiastical hierarchy. And may I say, it’s a physical base. As we all know, these are certainly true of Scientology.
This argument in the end led the High Court to remove many of the restrictions affecting the meaning of religion. And all those years ago, the High Court judges recognized that Scientology was a religion, one of the judges describing that proposition as “irresistible.”
Since that time, courts around the world have relied on the Australian definition. A number of American jurisdictions have modified their definitions and most significantly, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom followed the decision of our High Court in preference to previous UK decisions. That’s a very rare example of the UK following an Australian case in preference to its own.
And so, to be here celebrating with all of you I can see just what can result from a dramatic and revolutionary court victory in the name of religious freedom.
Today, with the opening of this magnificent facility you are charting the course to freedom for all Mankind.
Long live the Church of Scientology.