Scientology is accepted as a religion throughout the world. Since the establishment of the first Church of Scientology in 1954, the religion has grown to millions of members worldwide. Scientologists practice their religion in virtually every country in the world.
Wherever formal Church ministries are established, the Church endeavors to register as some form of nonprofit association with religious purposes, according to the laws of that country, with the exception of countries where such registration is not possible. The legal systems of each country often differ significantly. Some have official registries of religions where all groups are obliged to register and meet certain criteria. Others take the opposite view and specifically prohibit keeping official lists of accepted religions, considering that this is not a matter that falls within the jurisdiction of the State. Governments and courts of many countries recognize the religious character of Scientology.
In a few countries the Church has been forced to litigate the issue of its religiosity, either affirmatively or in response to unfounded criminal charges. Inevitably the Church has prevailed in these cases and its religious bona fides have been unequivocally recognized. Some of these decisions, including decisions by the United Kingdom Supreme Court, the Cassation Court in Italy and the High Court in Australia, are now considered by leading scholars and judicial authorities to have established the standards regarding religious recognition that all religions must meet.
Scientology is a truly unique contemporary religion—the only major religion to emerge in the twentieth century. Key international religious recognitions of the Church of Scientology are detailed below.
Belgian Court Dismisses All Charges in Baseless Case Against the Church of Scientology in Landmark Victory...
On 11 March 2016, in a landmark decision, the First Instance Court of Brussels found in favor of defendants and completely dismissed all charges against the Church of Scientology of Belgium…
UK Supreme Court Issues Landmark Decision Regarding the Scientology Religion
On 11 December 2013, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom issued a unanimous, landmark ruling declaring that the Chapel at the London Church of Scientology must be recognized as a place of religious worship under UK law.
National Church of Scientology of Spain Officially Recognized as World Religion
The Church of Scientology is officially recognized as a religion in Spain. On 31 October 2007, the National Court in Madrid issued a unanimous landmark decision affirming the right to religious freedom in Spain by recognizing that the National Church of Scientology of Spain…
Church of Scientology IRS Tax Exemption
Church of Scientology International (CSI)—the Mother Church of the Scientology religion—and more than 150 affiliated Churches, missions and social-reform organizations in the United States were recognized as fully tax-exempt religious organizations by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), America’s federal tax agency, in October 1993.
1983 Australian High Court Decision: Church of Scientology
The Australian High Court’s decision regarding the Scientology religion in Church of the New Faith v. Commissioner of Payroll Tax (1983) is recognized as a landmark legal decision, establishing the standard for the definition of religion and religious charities in both Australia and New Zealand, and, indeed, throughout the Commonwealth of Nations.
RELIGIOUS RECOGNITIONS AROUND THE WORLD
Argentina has a mandatory religious-registration law. On 18 November 2008, the Ministry of Justice of Argentina added the Church of Scientology of Argentina in Buenos Aires to the National Register as a religious denomination.More
The seminal decision on the definition of religion in the Commonwealth of Nations, recognized as such in both Australia and New Zealand, is the Australian High Court’s decision regarding the Scientology religion in Church of the New Faith v. Commissioner of Payroll Tax (1983) 1 VR 97. The High Court determined that the Church of Scientology “has easily discharged the onus of showing that it is religious. The conclusion that it is a religious institution entitled to tax exemption is irresistible.”More
In a decision dated 1 August 1995, the Administrative Court of Vienna, Austria, ruled that “in addition to the fact that after several decades of thorough investigations, Scientology has been granted the status of a bona fide religion and charitable organization by the IRS, less than two years ago in the United States, the country with the greatest number of Churches of Scientology, sufficient evidence was also given by [the Church] to convince us that the Church of Scientology of Austria is a religion.”More
Brazil has a voluntary religious-registration law. On 9 September 2004, the Church of Scientology of Brazil was registered by the Office of Civil Justice as a religious association.More
One way a religious denomination is officially recognized at the provincial local-government level in Canada is by the grant of an application for the right to have its ordained ministers solemnize marriage. Another way is by the grant of an application for property-tax exemption as a religious organization. Scientology ministers have been granted the right to perform marriage ceremonies in every province of Canada where such churches exist.More
The Church of Scientology is officially recognized as a religion in Colombia. On May 5, 2017, the Ministry of Interior of Colombia granted full religious recognition to the Church of Scientology Bogotá.More
Costa Rica has a voluntary religious-registration law for religious organizations. In August 1991, the Public Registry for Associations registered the Association Church of Scientology within the juridical framework for churches and religious nonprofit organizations in Costa Rica.More
In Croatia the 2002 Law on the Legal Position of Religious Communities broadly defines religious communities’ legal positions and covers such matters as government funding, tax benefits and religious education in schools. Registration of religious groups is not obligatory. However, registered groups are granted “legal person” status and enjoy tax and other benefits. The Church of Scientology Croatia was officially registered as a religious organization on 22 December 2003 in the Register of Religious Communities in the Republic of Croatia.More
The 1937 Law of Worship requires religious groups in Ecuador to register with the Ministry of Interior. To register, a religious organization must possess a charter; have nonprofit status; include in its application all names used by the group, to ensure that names of previously registered groups are not used without their permission…More
In line with France’s constitutional concept of secularism, the State recognizes no religious denomination. All religious communities in France carry out their activities in the form of associations under the Law of 1901 on associations and/or under the Law of 1905 on Separation of Church and State, and the Church of Scientology is no exception.More
Religious groups in Germany may operate in various legal forms that are open to both religious and non-religious communities, ranging from nonprofit “idealistic” associations to public law corporations. Churches of Scientology in Germany are registered in the legal form of nonprofit idealistic associations, clearly stating their religious aims, and as such their formal legal status is no different from that of many other well-recognized religious communities.More
There are no requirements for religious groups to be registered or licensed in India. On 7 February 2003, the Religious Foundation of Scientology of New Delhi was registered by the Registrar of Companies of Delhi and Haryana. On 24 November 2003, the Director of Income Tax Exemptions for New Delhi granted the organization charitable tax-exempt status.More
To obtain formal religious recognition in Italy, an organization is required to go through two steps. The first step is a process by which the entity representing the religious denomination in Italy at the national level obtains recognition as a legal personality from the Ministry of Interior. After an application is filed, the Ministry of Interior conducts an investigation into the qualifications of the applicant and, on acceptance, registers it as a recognized religious association.More
The Kenyan Government requires new religious organizations to register with the Registrar of Societies, which reports to the Office of the Attorney General. On 19 May 2005, the Church of Scientology Mission of Nairobi was registered as a religious organization by the Registrar of Societies.More
The Church of Scientology of Macedonia is officially recognized as a religious organization. On April 20, 2017, the Primary Court Skopje II ruled that all legal prerequisites were met according to the law on the legal status of churches, religious communities and religious groups of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia.More
The Church of Scientology is officially recognized as a religion in Mexico. On October 30, 2017, Mexico’s Minister of Interior entered the Church of Scientology of Mexico into the federal registry of recognized religions.More
In Nepal there are no mandatory registration requirements for religious groups. In 2004, the Chief District Officer in Nepal registered the constitution of the Scientology Mission in Nepal, giving it the authority to operate as a religious organization.More
In the Netherlands, there is no dispute regarding the religious status and nature of the Church of Scientology by the government. Over the years, both the Executive Branch and the Courts have issued numerous recognitions of Scientology as a religion and the Church of Scientology as a religious organization providing religious services to its parishioners. The Church of Scientology is registered as a religious organization and the Scientology Church is incorporated as a legal entity.More
The High Court decision in Centrepoint Community Growth Trust v. Commissioner (1985) 1 NZLR 673 set the standard for determining what a religion is under New Zealand law. In this case the New Zealand High Court cited with approval, and relied upon, the tests for religion adopted by the Australian High Court in Church of the New Faith v. Commissioner of Payroll Tax (1983) 1 VR 97 regarding the Church of Scientology. The High Court determined that the Church of Scientology qualifies as a religion and a charity, as it “meets the requirement of being exclusively charitable in nature by advancing religion” and “meets the requirement of being for the benefit of the public.”More
The government’s requirements for legal recognition of religious groups in Nicaragua are similar to requirements for other non-governmental organizations. A group must apply for personeria juridica (legal standing), which the National Assembly must approve. Following approval, the group must register with the Ministry of Government as an association or foundation. The Church successfully applied for recognition as a religious organization. By Decree 4734 of the President of the Republic of Nicaragua, published in the Official Diary on 7 September 2006, the Church of Scientology of Nicaragua was registered as a religious association.More
In 1988, the Church of Scientology of Portugal was officially recognized as a religious organization. In 2001, Portugal enacted a new religion law, requiring certain religions, including Scientology, to reapply for official registration as religious communities. On 18 September 2007, the Church of Scientology of Portugal was again officially recognized as a religious organization under the 2001 religion law.More
The European Court of Human Rights issued a unanimous landmark decision on 5 April 2007 in favor of the Church of Scientology, upholding the right of Scientologists and their religious associations to religious freedom. This decision has effect throughout the forty-six nations, including Russia, that have signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1950. By ruling in favor of the Church of Scientology, the Court reaffirmed the right to religious freedom not only for Scientologists, but members of all religions throughout Europe.More
Scotland does not have any religious-registration requirements for religious groups. It does, however, recognize religions through registration of ministers to engage in legally binding religious weddings. To have a religious wedding in Scotland, the minister must be registered as a religious-marriage celebrant. The registration of religious celebrants is governed by section 9 of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977.More
The Religious Freedoms Act codifies the Slovenia Government’s respect for religious freedom, legal status and rights of churches and other religious communities, rights of members, process of registration with the government, rights of registered churches and religious communities, and responsibilities of the government’s Office for Religious Communities. The Church of Scientology was registered and recognized as a religious community by the government of the Slovenian Republic Office for Religious Communities in 1995, with all attendant rights and privileges.More
The South Africa Government does not require religious groups to be licensed or registered. It does, however, recognize religions through registration of ministers to engage in legally binding religious weddings. To have a religious wedding in South Africa, the minister must be registered as a religious-marriage celebrant. In addition, religious groups may qualify as public-benefit organizations exempt from paying income tax.More
The Church of Scientology is officially recognized as a religion in Spain. On 31 October 2007, the National Court in Madrid issued a unanimous landmark decision affirming the right to religious freedom in Spain by recognizing that the National Church of Scientology of Spain is a religious organization entitled to the full panoply of religious rights that flow from entry in the government’s Registry of Religious Entities.More
On 29 August 2006, the Registrar of Companies of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka registered the Scientology Mission in Sri Lanka as a religious foundation.More
Neither recognition nor registration is required to carry out religious activity in Sweden. However, religious groups that want to receive government tax exemption and subsidies to support their community-betterment activities must apply to register as a religious organization. In addition, Sweden does recognize religions through registration of ministers to engage in legally binding religious weddings. To perform a religious wedding in Sweden, the minister of a recognized religion must be registered as a religious-marriage celebrant. Scientology has been recognized as a religion and as a tax-exempt religious organization in Sweden. In addition, Scientology ministers have been authorized to celebrate legally binding religious weddings in Sweden.More
Approximately thirty religious organizations are registered with the Ministry of Interior Religious Affairs Section in Taiwan. Religious organizations may register with the central authorities through their islandwide associations under the Temple Management Law, the Civic Organizations Law, or the chapter of the Civil Code that governs foundations and associations. On 14 March 2003, the Ministry of Interior of Taiwan added the Church of Scientology to its list of formally recognized religious organizations.More
In Tanzania religious organizations must register at the Ministry of Home Affairs on the mainland and with the chief government registrar on Zanzibar. On 27 September 2004, the Registrar of Societies of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania registered the Church of Scientology Mission of Kilimanjaro as a religious organization.More
Philippine law requires organized religions to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to establish tax-exempt status. On 16 December 2003, the Church of Scientology Mission of the Philippines was registered under the category 9191 Activities of Religious Organizations by the Republic of the Philippines.More
For religious groups in the United Kingdom, other than the Church of England, Jews and Quakers, a religious wedding ceremony may only occur in a building that is registered as a place of worship under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855.
When a parishioner of the Church of Scientology failed to persuade the Registrar General to register the London Church of Scientology chapel so that she could be married there, she applied to judicially review that decision.
Eventually the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, recognizing Scientology as a religion, ruled that the London Church of Scientology chapel “is a place of meeting for religious worship within section 2 of the Places of Worship Registration Act.” The Supreme Court accordingly ordered that the Scientology chapel be registered by Registrar General as a place of worship and as a place for the solemnization of marriages. Thus Scientology gained full religious recognition in this country.More
In the United States of America, every Church of Scientology and all related social betterment activities have been recognized as tax-exempt and organized exclusively for charitable purposes.
Following a two-year examination of unprecedented scope and depth, encompassing all the Church’s worldwide operations, the IRS issued ruling letters on 1 October 1993, recognizing the tax-exempt religious and charitable status of the Church of Scientology International, the Mother Church of the Scientology religion, and 150 affiliated Churches, missions and social betterment organizations—all distinct and separate entities recognized in their own right. The IRS also recognized the charitable and religious status of the International Association of Scientologists, a membership organization open to all Scientologists from all nations.More
The Directorate of Justice and Religion (DJR) in the Ministry of Interior and Justice in Venezuela is charged with maintaining a registry of religious groups, disbursing funds to religious organizations, and promoting awareness and understanding among religious communities. Each group must register with the DJR to have legal status as a religious organization. On 1 February 1999, the Ministry of Interior and Justice of the Republic of Venezuela registered the Church of Scientology of Venezuela as a religious organization.More
Today there is no question of the status of Scientology as a world religion. Millions of Scientologists from over 150 countries around the world are committed to the tenets and practices of the religion. Scientology is their religion and fulfills their deepest spiritual needs. This is the most important test of any religion. Nevertheless, if one relies on secondary sources, then courts, scholars and governmental agencies around the world have repeatedly determined that Scientology is a bona fide religion in all respects.