Russia has named two Church of Scientology-linked organizations in California as “undesirable,” a move that could officially ban the group.
The attorney general’s office said in September that the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises International and the Church of Spiritual Technology “pose a threat to the security of the Russian Federation.”
The issue will now be taken up by the Justice Department, which Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty said could ban the groups under laws governing “unwanted” foreign non-governmental organizations.
In recent years, Russian authorities have attacked the Church of Scientology, ordering the closure of the group’s Moscow branch, according to reports. The Justice Department also declared some of the extremist group’s literature, Reuters reported.
The government banned more than 30 groups under a 2015 law that made membership in “undesirable” organizations a criminal offense, the Associated Press reported. In 2017, Russia found the religious group of Jehovah’s Witnesses “extremist” and has since sentenced 14 adherents to six years or more in prison.
Scientology was founded in 1952 by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author, and the Church of Scientology has been recognized as a religion in the United States since 1993. Scientology is known for its famous followers, such as the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta. .
The church has claimed it has 8 million members worldwide, about a third of them in the United States, but many critics have suggested that there are between 25,000 and 55,000 active Scientologists.
On Netflix, a docuseries hosted by actress Leah Remini features former Scientology members who share testimonies of abuse and harassment from the church.
In related news, most Americans don’t believe Scientology is a true religion, according to a recent poll by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair.
The survey, conducted by CBS News, found that 70 percent of Americans say Scientology is not a true religion; 13% think so; and 18 percent don’t know or care.
Of more than 1,000 people surveyed, American Christians were even more likely to question Scientology’s status as a religion: 79% of Evangelicals, 74% of Protestants, and 72% of Catholics surveyed said they did not. didn’t think Scientology was a religion.
L. Ron Hubbard, science fiction author, founded Scientology in 1952, and the Church of Scientology has been recognized as a religion in the United States since 1993. Scientology is known for its famous followers, such as the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
It is difficult to say exactly how many people are practicing Scientology in the United States.
Calls for comment from the church’s Washington, DC office were not returned.
Each month, 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair conduct a telephone survey of a random sample of Americans. The questions cover a variety of topics ranging from religion to politics to celebrities. The September poll asked, “What field of work would Jesus be in today?” Half of those surveyed said Jesus would be a teacher, while 18% said he would be a carpenter.
– Religious Information Service / via Associated Press