Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has written to the United Kingdom’s tax office (HMRC) calling for an investigation into the Church of Scientology and their finances, claiming “Scientology has a history of fraudulent activity internationally”.
Responding to a letter from Scientology Business Editor Alexander Barnes-Ross, the Member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said she had written to HMRC urging them to “look again at options” to appeal a January 2023 tax ruling in which UK Scientology chapels were designated places of public worship and subsequently exempt from paying Business Rates.
Ms. Abbott went further, asking HMRC to “more broadly investigate the Church’s finances for fraudulent activity” and cited concerns about Fair Game, stating “other former Scientologists have also attested to the horrific treatment of former members” and commending those who have spoken out publicly.
The request comes as pressure mounts on government to act after claims of abuse and harassment at Scientology’s Saint Hill headquarters were raised at an East Grinstead Town Council meeting last week and Mid-Sussex District Council admitted concerns of ‘Fair Game’ were well founded.
Scientology was rejected by the Charity Commission in 1999 but continues to operate in the UK through an Australian-registered charity called ‘Church of Scientology Religious Education College, Inc’. During my time on staff, I was locked in a room and told I couldn’t leave until I’d confessed what I’d done wrong against the Church, and was paid an average of £20 a week, for holding a full-time position working for the Church Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm.
In January of this year, Scientology won a minor legal victory in the UK after their buildings were deemed ‘places of public worship’ and thus exempt from business rates. However, this lawsuit was based almost entirely on their ’Sunday Service’, which is advertised as free and open for all to attend. However, Church policy makes it clear you have to be a Scientologist in good standing to attend – which is in complete contradiction to the 2023 ruling.
Evidence also exists that Scientology has been engaging in potentially fraudulent activities in the UK for years – it’s accounts filed with the Australian Charities & Nonprofits Commission reveal a surge in UK income through the years 2013 – 2018, which coincides with the ‘Chase Wave’ – a well documented case of Scientology committing fraud, which resulted in Chase bank blocking payments to the Church in the US.
Since speaking out, I have been the victim of ‘Fair Game’ – which is the Church’s tactic of attacking and discrediting former members. Hate videos have been made about me online, and my website has been subject to a sustained program of prolonged hacking attempts which I believe can be linked to the Church.Letter written by Alexander “Apostate Alex” Barnes-Ross to Diane Abbott, September 2023
Abbott has persevered through decades of abuse and harassment, an Amnesty International report in 2017 finding half of all abusive tweets about female MPs were directed at her. According to The Independent, she receives ten times more abuse than any other MP and as one Youtube subscriber says, “Diane Abbott is a really principled woman who is therefore treated like shit by the British media. She’s always on the side of the underdog against the powerful, and this is another example.”
You can read the letter from Diane Abbott in full below.
16th January 2024
Thank you for writing to me about Scientology and what you have faced since leaving the Church of Scientology. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you. I am very sorry to hear about the harassment you have faced since leaving the church, no-one should face such a horrific campaign of harassment. I want to commend you for speaking out publicly.
On the matter of harassment and potential criminal actions by members of the church, I regret that as your MP I am unable to provide you with legal advice regarding whether the hate videos or hacking attempts you describe would constitute a basis for legal action. On this issue I would advise you to consider seeking legal help if you have not done so already.
More broadly, I share your concerns about the legality of some of the actions described. As you have said, Scientology has a history of fraudulent activity internationally and other former Scientologists have also attested to the horrific treatment of former members.
I have written to HMRC, who brought the case against the Church of Scientology for ruling that their “chapel” was a place of worship, urging them to look again at options to appeal this decision and also to more broadly investigate the churches finances for fraudulent activity. I will share with you any response I receive.
Thank you again for contacting me about this important matter. If you would like to learn more about what I do in Parliament, please feel free to visit www.dianeabbott.org.uk
Rt Hon Diane Abbott MPJanuary 2024 letter from Rt. Hon Diane Abbott
Member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington