Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach defends TD's meeting with Scientology group

Leo Varadkar has defended a government politician for hosting a delegation from the controversial Church of Scientology in Leinster House.

The Taoiseach said he had "no difficulty" with Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy's invite in September to meet a group from the church, which many view as a cult.

The Fine Gael leader said he does not know "exactly" what the visit was about, but insisted he did not have a difficulty with it "in principle".

Mr Varadkar said: "I think it made sense.

"Even if you're going to oppose somebody or oppose their plans or stand up to them, I think it always makes sense to engage them first and I think it is reasonable for a TD to actually engage with a group who are establishing a premises in their constituency."

The church, which ranks Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise among its members, opened a massive new Scientology centre in Dublin in October.

At the time, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin described Scientology as a cult and said cults can be "very damaging to people, particularly to young people".

Mr Varadkar admitted there is a "genuine concern about the fact or the possibility that it could be a cult".

He warned however that to balance freedom of religion or freedom of association on the one hand with protecting people from being exploited is always a challenge.

"I don't know enough about the Church of Scientology to know whether or to what extent the allegations made against them would require government intervention of some sort.

"I would be loath to go down that route of starting to interfere with religious groups or restrict people's freedom of association in any way," the Taoiseach said.

Scientology was founded in 1953 by American science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard.

The US and Spain are among the countries that recognise it as a religion, while other governments have declared it a cult.

Scientology has been under increasing scrutiny in the US.

Defections from high-ranking members, and books and documentaries alleging brainwashing and emotional and physical abuse, are drawing unwelcome attention to the organisation.

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