Saturday, 13 October 2012

Mexico: Scientology applying for recognition as a church

Scientologists in Mexico applied to the Secretariat of the Interior (Secretariat of Governance) on December 12, 2011 for registration as a religious association. If they do not obtain it, they will claim discrimination.

Translation of a Spanish article posted on Feb. 25, 2012 on the website of the Mexican daily El Diario:
Solicitan cienciólogos otra vez ser registrados como iglesia
Scientologists again applying to be registered as a church

by Verónica Sánchez
Agencia Reforma
February 25, 2012

Mexico City — With an 80-kilo dossier [NOTE: the second article below says 8, not 80], the Church of Scientology in Mexico is for a second time seeking registration as a religious association. Its earlier application in 1999 was not granted.

With the approval of their leaders, church members last December 12 presented to the Directorate of Religious Associations of the Secretariat of the Interior more than 1,700 pages of attestations to its activity in Mexico since the 1960s.

Luis González, director of Community Programs Support for the church, says that, at the time of the first application, the authorities argued that the church did not meet the requirement of having well-known roots, in other words a presence of five years in Mexico. Accordingly, the Directorate administratively withdrew the application and the case was closed.

González says that the church had provided statements from its members, but then requests began for statements from outside persons, from officials, notaries, etc.

"The requirements reached such a point that we had to put the application dossier on wheels."

To avoid the same outcome, González explains that the new dossier contains 200 statements from neighbors and workers in businesses located near Scientology's temples, from notaries who certify the actions that Scientologists have performed, as well as from officials with whom Scientologists have worked on charitable projects.

Due to the weight of the 13 folders, González says they had to be transported from the Scientology temple at the corner of Balderas and Juárez to the government offices at Paseo de la Reforma in a file cabinet to which wheels were added.

"It is clear in our conscience that, if registration is denied, it is solely because of discrimination. There wouldn't be any doubt for us, this is not because of the law.

"This is an issue of equity. Ultimately, it's about the workings of a secular state. Either we are all equal, or we are not," contends González.

González points out that Mexico is the Spanish-speaking country that has the highest number of Scientologists, a total of 5,300, but is paradoxically the only one where Scientology is not recognized as a religious association. He explains that the only reason for which registration is being sought is to comply with national regulations in this area and because Scientology's own members have requested it.

"It is part of our belief to know that we follow the rules and norms of a country. We are in 167 countries and the rules are very different in each country," says González.

Roberto Blancarte, director of the Center for Sociological Studies of El Colegio de México, says it is not customary for so many preconditions to be required of a church.

"There certainly has been more required from them than from others, so there is some fear they won't be treated equitably or justly," notes Blancarte.

According to the Law on Religious Associations, to obtain registration, the church must also prove that it has endeavored for the practice and propagation of a doctrine, that it has sufficient resources to devote to its purpose, and that it possesses internal statutes.

Blancarte mentions that, once the registration process begins, the Directorate of Religious Associations analyzes the submitted documentation but does not specify a time limit for its response.

When the Directorate lacks information, it notifies the organization and gives it three months to comply.

Translation of a Spanish article posted on February 23, 2012 on the website of the weekly Mexican magazine Milenio:
Cienciología solicita registro con 8 kilos de documentos
Group wants to avoid second denial

Scientology seeks registration with 8 kilos of documents

by Eugenia Jiménez
February 23, 2012

Scientology has for the second time applied to the Secretariat of the Interior for registration to become a religious association. Approximately 8 kilos of information were submitted to avoid having the request turned down because of a lacking document.

On December 12 of last year, church members delivered various letters in which they explain the work they've done together with the Federal Attorney General's Office in prevention programs against drug use, along with testimonials from neighbors and businesses near Scientology temples to demonstrate that Scientology has well-known roots in the community.

Ana Rosa Lugo and Luis González, two of the church's leaders, announced that the certified documentation has been delivered, with the signatures of public notaries who validated public religious activities and exhibitions about the meaning of Scientology.

The dossier consists of more than 200 statements from neighbors who provided visual testimony and are not members of the church, but work in nearby businesses.

Scientology's first application to become a religious association was filed in 1998, but the Secretariat of the Interior denied it in 1999 because it was not proven that Scientology has well-known roots among the population, even though this group has existed in Mexico since 1960.

For the 1998 registration request, only statements from Scientologists were provided to the Secretariat of the Interior, and the Secretariat explained that this was not valid. This time, neighbors were sought out and their statements were made before a notary. Documents from the boroughs of the Federal District were also submitted.

Ever since the year in which the denial of registration occurred, the leaders of the church have held meetings with the Directorate of Religious Affairs to find out the causes that led to the refusal of status as a religious association.

The process has taken 14 years, but during that time, the authorities have been given reports about what the activities of the church are.

It is "awkward not being registered like other churches, because both they and our parishioners have been asking us why the church doesn't have the registration," explains Luis González.

Scientology is currently present at the national level and its facilities are located in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. It has 5 thousand followers.

Translation of a Spanish article posted on October 10, 2012 on the website of the Mexico City daily newspaper Excelsior:
Ahora, cienciología
Now Scientology ...

by Enrique Aranda
October 10, 2012

Its mandate now about to end in December, the second Mexican federal government formed by the National Action Party is preparing to strike a hard blow—"one more" as some would say—to the Catholic Church, whose doctrine the party say it draws upon and whose principles, the party’s members claim, entirely or at least partly inspire their actions.

Within a few days, Alejandro Poiré, the Secretary of the Interior, and undersecretary Gustavo Mohar are expected to sign and officially deliver the registration that recognizes the "church" of Scientology as a religious association. This will deepen the profound differences that, for the past six years, at least, have characterized the relationship between government authorities and the Catholic hierarchy, which formally represents more than 80% of Mexico’s population.

Today, it is, in fact, safe to say that official recognition has already been granted to Scientology, even though a third party could legally challenge this decision, but the fact is that the favorable outcome was announced last September 13 in the Diario Oficial [“Official Gazette”], which clearly stated that Scientology’s promoters had exhibited "sufficient evidence to prove that the religious group has existed for a long time and has well-known roots among the population."

It should be emphasized that the application filed, curiously enough, on December 12, 2011 [December 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a national symbol of Mexico] was not the first attempt by Scientology—a philosophical/religious system based on the teachings of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard and claimed to promote self-realization through a spiritual therapeutic method—to seek legal recognition. It had already tried in 1999 and the request was denied ... as had happened before in countries such as Greece, Ireland, Chile, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium ... or even in Spain, where it only succeeded after lengthy litigation.

This time, however, the services of Roberto Blancarte, director of the Center for Sociological Studies of El Colegio de México, and Jonathan Marduk Rico, Scientology’s spokesman for Latin America, paid off in getting the authorities to put aside the very serious potential or real public allegations leveled against Scientology by various sources—brainwashing for financial gain, psychological and physical abuse of its followers—and, moreover, to ignore the experience that has prompted other countries to proceed with caution in assessing similar requests for recognition.

But what truly matters now in this case, beyond the granting of registration in itself, is the serious confusion and malaise that this recognition will generate (and has already caused) between the Catholic hierarchy and other faiths. There will undoubtedly be a (political) cost to pay.

We shall see, and we will no doubt be commenting on this again ...

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