Imagine the scene in the Church of Scientology’s PR department at the moment. Apoplectic managers and scared juniors, admin staff desperately scrambling for the ‘When A-Listers Go Rogue’ risk management documents. An albino Thetan grimly tapping the Holmes/Cruise file.
They’re going to need auditing right through the next few reincarnations to get over the trauma. “Remind me again why Valium is bad?” they might be asking.
Katie Holmes’ split from Tom Cruise is just the latest scandal to hit the church/cult/franchise. The brightness of the Hollywood lights ensure all shadows are cast long.
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There are 20 minutes remaining. Score’s locked at 16-all. The young family is in the lounge room, a rare event in itself, nervously watching their Wests Tigers.
As a scrum is formed, Ray Warren proclaims with a hint of surprise the Tigers are $2.15 to win on TAB Sportsbet. Dad, slumped in his armchair, jolts, bolt upright. He commands his eight-year-old boy to bring him the phone. The little boy marvels as he watches Dad punch in the numbers with vigour.
Dad replaces his customary “hello” for a mysterious set of numbers, before announcing down the line - no, demanding - he will have a hundred dollars on the Wests Tigers, and doing it with a sense of pride. The conversation ends, the phone dispensed with.
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Senator Nick Xenophon says he faced a “serious moral dilemma” when deciding whether to name a priest accused of raping Archbishop John Hepworth 40 years ago. No shit. On the one hand, as Xenophon explained under Parliamentary privilege last night, he was privy to certain information and frustrated at what he called the “Catholic Church in South Australia’s mishandling of sexual abuse claims”. And unlike most of us, he had the power, the protection and the platform to do something about it.
On the other hand he named a man who may be innocent, who indeed categorically denies the accusation, who is not even the subject of a police report at this stage.
Parliamentary privilege protects Mr Xenophon from legal action. But it doesn’t protect him from accusations he abused this privilege, one which should be used sparingly. What if he’s wrong?
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It’s all too easy in Australia – set up a religion, get tax-free status, a bunch of followers willing to donate, and you’re set. Maybe predict the end of the world to get things moving along with a sense of urgency.
Senator Nick Xenophon suggests that Australia needs a “cult-busting agency”, similar to those already operating overseas.
Mr Xenophon – who has previously tackled Scientology and questioned its tax-exempt status - says he wants a dedicated government agency to “monitor and control the activities of cults in Australia”. The issue’s come to the fore again with the arrest in Fiji of Rocco “Brother Rock” Leo for breaching his visa. Leo is the leader of the Agape Ministries of God group. Agape has previously run into trouble over fraud, illegal weapons, assaults and tax debts.
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A mate of mine has a nephew at private school in Sydney. Apparently, many of the kids are betting on the dogs, with one boy losing $1200 in a single day.
Some might think the loss of $1200 is just deserts for a rich little twit with too much cash on his hands. I think it’s just one more sign that sports betting is out of control in Australia.
Here’s another one: an Adelaide businessman recently rang SA Senator Nick Xenophon’s office in a bid to warn others about online gambling during AFL matches. He’d lost $85,000 in three weeks after being enticed by one of those gambling ads that run relentlessly during televised games.
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John Tsouroutis has taken a $1 million salary cut to join a crusade to make states look after themselves. He’s now on the relative hardscrabble of an adviser’s pay in the office of independent senator Nick Xenophon.
Tsouroutis was managing director of the TIO banking and insurance group from 2003 until 2008 when the commute from Adelaide to Darwin became too much for the family.
From his business career he knows how government can force individuals to insure themselves. Just take third party cover for motorists. He wants to make sure state governments do the same thing, rather than expect someone else to pay reconstruction costs after a natural disaster. Tsouroutis was on an elite salary with TIO and hopes to get back on one soon. But he’s got a big job to complete first.
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Last week’s Senate inquiry into the private member’s bill, the Tax Laws Amendment (Public Benefit Test) Bill 2010, was only allowed to run with the credence and terms of reference of a broad ranging review of the tax exempt status for all charities and religions in Australia.
A very different story became apparent when questioning began. It was heavily slanted with witnesses against one religion under the guise of a tax inquiry.
Senator Doug Cameron notably kept his questions on track and asked intelligent, direct and reasoned questions.
But despite repeated reassurances by Liberal Senator Alan Eggleston as the inquiry Chair that “the behaviour of specific individuals and organisations is not within the terms of reference of this committee”, five former Scientologists were invited by Senator Xenophon to appear before the committee where they, to put it colloquially, dumped a bucket on the Church.
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There are few modern politicians enthusiastic about using the powers of parliament to interfere in religious belief.
And there is a good reason for this. Politicians have no role to play in people’s personal belief systems and most agree with this.
If members of a church are seen to have offended against the laws of society, then society has ways of providing redress through the institutions of the law.
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