Scientology operates in the UK under an entity known as COSRECI, or Church of Scientology Religious Education College, Inc, which is an Australian-registered Charity that operates exclusively in the UK. The entirety of Scientology’s UK activities operate through COSRECI, including its East Grinstead headquarters Saint Hill Manor, and the ‘Ideal Orgs’ located in London and Birmingham.
In 1993, Scientology registered a new company called Church of Scientology (England and Wales), which remains an active business registered with Companies House. It was this entity that applied for, and was later denied, charity status in 1999.
To be a charity (and thus tax exempt) in the UK, organisations must only have charitable purposes which – crucially – must be for the public benefit. In applying to the UK Charity Commission, Scientology were required to provide evidence their existence is for the benefit of others and were they to be successful, they would legally obligated to submit a detailed annual report on how their activities have benefited the public.
The Gov.uk website explains the benefit aspect as “a way that is identifiable and capable of being proved by evidence” and and that “any detriment or harm that results from the purpose (to people, property or the environment) must not outweigh the benefit.”
In 1999, the Charity Commission rejected the Church of Scientology’s application, stating it did not meet the requirements for it to be classed as a religious entity, and perhaps most interestingly ruled that “was not established for the charitable purpose of promoting the moral or spiritual welfare and improvement of the community”. It was ruled “public benefit had to be present in fact for an organisation established for the advancement of religion to be charitable”.
Although the Church of Scientology (England and Wales) has not appealed the Charity Commission’s 1999 decision, it has remained active as a legal entity with Companies House, dutifully filing annual accounts every year since.
In April 2023, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed with the Charity Commission, seeking to establish whether Scientology had appealed the initial rejection, or made any contact regarding a potential second application in the future. The response reveals Scientology have not yet started the appeal process, but the fact the Church of Scientology (England and Wales) remains active indicates the option to do so remains open, and very possible indeed.