The controversial Church of Scientology, said to be highly homophobic, has been granted tax exemption by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). This according to a statement issued on behalf of the church.

The statement says that it has taken 42 years and 26 applications for SARS to recognise Scientology as “a bona-fide religion,” which entitles it to tax exemption.

Ryan Hogarth, President of the Church of Scientology Johannesburg said “We are ecstatic. This is a memorable and historic day for us as it provides us with an even better opportunity to serve our community and Scientologists. Our future is very bright.”

Despite recent claims to the contrary by celebrity followers such as John Travolta, Scientology is thought to have a very homophobic approach to homosexuality. There is some evidence that the organisation has sought to “cure” homosexual members.

The 1950 book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which is the cornerstone of the religion and written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, describes homosexuality as a physical illness and sexual perversion:

“The sexual pervert (and by this term Dianetics, to be brief, includes any and all forms of deviation in Dynamic II [i.e. sexuality] such as homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual sadism, etc., and all down the catalog of Ellis and Krafft-Ebing) is actually quite ill physically… he is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society…”

In another publication, Hubbard wrote that, “Such people should be taken from the society as rapidly as possible and uniformly institutionalized…”

While there have been assertions by members of Scientology that the organisation has since changed its anti-gay approach, it remains unclear how homophobic the church is today.

According to the Church, Scientology has experienced rapid growth internationally in the last five years, doubling in size during this period. In Southern Africa, the church says that it has acquired seven new buildings to house its growing membership and community programmes.

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