Calls for Scientology probe

2009-11-23 12:03

Canberra - A man who blames the Church of Scientology for his brother's suicide added his voice on Monday to calls for an Australia Senate inquiry into the religion.

Belfast-born Stephen McBride, 35, flew from the west coast city of Perth to Canberra on Monday to support a senator's call for an inquiry into the church.

The Senate could vote as early as Tuesday on Senator Nick Xenophon's motion to hold a wide-reaching inquiry into the church that was founded in 1953 by the late US science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard.

McBride, an Irish-Australian dual citizen, accused the church of driving his younger brother Edward McBride to suicide in 2007 after he spent $23 000 on courses to become a counsellor.

"It's hard to describe the anger that my family and myself feel about the church's conduct before and after my brother's death," McBride told reporters in Parliament House.

A state coroner found last month that Edward McBride, a 30-year-old army commando who was born a Roman Catholic, received 19 phone calls and text messages from Australian members of the church in the three days before he deliberately electrocuted himself at a power station in the east coast city of Brisbane. He was a trained electrician.

"I believe the bombardment of 19 telephone messages backed him into a corner and he just had no room to breathe," Stephen McBride said.

Coroner John Lock also found that Scientologists had a file on McBride that "may have recorded personal information relevant to Mr McBride's state of mind at the time of his death".

'Criminal organisation'

The file was sent from Sydney to the United States and "despite formal requests, was not produced to the inquest", Lock said.

"There is no doubt that police investigators were interested in obtaining the contents of the auditing file," Lock said, adding that the church was legally entitled to withhold it.

Lock is withholding his final report on the death until after a military inquiry is completed.

Xenophon last week called for a Senator inquiry, outlining allegations of five former members of the church including coerced abortions, torture, illegal imprisonment and embezzlement.

He told the Senate that the church is not a religion but a "criminal organisation" that should be stripped of its tax-free status.

Scientology's Australian president, the Rev Vicki Dunstan, said on Monday that her church fully co-operated with the coroner's inquiry and provided non-privileged documents.

"The file is pastoral notes - just notations about spiritual progress," Dunstan told The Associated Press. "The church had no indication of what would come."

Dunstan accused Xenophon of abusing parliamentary privilege, which protects lawmakers from the threat of litigation over anything they say in Parliament.

"The alleged incidents voiced by Sen. Xenophon came to him from disgruntled former members with their own agendas to forward, used by him to forward his own political aspirations," she said.

Xenophon needs 39 votes in the 76-seat Senate to open an inquiry.

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