Wed, 04 Jul 2012 16:34 CDT
Mr Xenophon, an Independent senator from South Australia, used parliamentary privilege to detail a host of serious allegations against the church made by former members.
Among them were claims that the Church of Scientology engaged in extensive criminal activity, including assault; imprisonment; the covering up of sexual abuse; embezzlement of church funds and blackmail. It was also claimed that the church had exerted pressure on some members to undergo abortions.
"Scientology is not a religious organisation; it is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs," Mr Xenophon told the senate.
"The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia contains extensive allegations of crimes and abuses that are truly shocking - crimes against them, and crimes they say they were coerced into committing.
"There are allegations of false imprisonment, coerced abortions and embezzlement of church funds."
Mr Xenophon tabled seven letters from former-church members and said all of them were willing to co-operate with police.
One former Scientologist, Paul Schofield, claimed to have perjured himself to police about the deaths of his two daughters, for fear of recrimination from church leaders. Another letter was from a former follower from Western Australia, who was born into Scientology. The man wrote that as a member of the organisation he had participated in the "forced confinement and torture" of others. His letter also states: "Several abortions were ordered as well".
Mr Xenophon urged the parliament and police to set up an inquiry into the church, and review the organisation's tax free status."This is not about religious freedom," he said. "In Australia there are no limits on what you can believe, but there are limits on how you can behave - it's called the law and no one is above it."
An inquiry into the organisation seems likely after Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, indicated his support. Reacting to Mr Xenophon's speech, he said many Australians had concerns over the organisation, "I share some of those concerns".
"But let us proceed carefully, and look carefully at the material which he has provided, before we make a decision on further parliamentary action." However, the church has furiously rebutted the allegations but said it was willing to cooperate with any police investigation.
A Scientology statement said the allegations were "about as reliable as former spouses are when talking about their ex-partner". Cyrus Brooks, the vice-president of the church in Australia, said Mr Xenophon had refused to meet church leaders over the claims.
The Church of Scientology was founded in the US in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. It claims to have has 12 million members, including Hollywood stars Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley.