Scientologists Lose Privacy Appeal

Source: Globe and Mail
Date: April 21, 1989

The Church of Scientology lost another round yesterday in a long-running legal effort to keep religious confessions out of the hands of police and prosecutors.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in a decision released without comment, refused leave to appeal for the church and 120 members who wanted to overturn an Ontario Court of Appeal judgment that went against them last December.

The decision means the appeal judgment will stand, and police will not be required to return written confessions which the church had argued were confidential communications between priest and penitent.

The issue arose when Ontario Provincial Police, acting on warrants alleging possible tax fraud, raided the Toronto premises of the church and the home of one member in 1983, seizing more than 850 boxes of material including files, books, correspondence and other documents.

A variety of charges, including theft, possession of stolen property and breach of trust, were later laid against the church and several members.

The charges relate in part to the theft of confidential documents from Ontario government offices.

Church lawyers initially tried to quash the search warrants and have all the material returned.

After the courts rejected that effort, the lawyers argued on narrower grounds that some 2,000 documents consisting of religious confessions should be returned.

The court decisions so far have centred on pre-trial issues such as the proper rules for issuing search warrants and detaining property during police investigations.

Four of 19 people charged have pleaded guilty and received absolute or conditional discharges.

Trials have not yet been held for 15 others and for the church itself.

The Church of Scientology, founded by the late American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, claims seven million members in several countries, including 22,000 members in Canada.

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