That is not a short story for the Dutch Scientologists. In 2013, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal recognized Scientology as a genuine religion and also recognized that its activities should be treated as any other religion in the Netherlands, meaning as a Public Benefit entity and tax exempted. Nevertheless, at that time, the tax authorities of the country challenged this decision and, whilst agreeing with the religious character of the Church of Scientology, did not apply the tax exemption, having questions about the activities of the Church and its finances.
That led to an extensive review of all finances and financial flows of the Church of Scientology in the Netherlands, as well as a complete review of all its activities by the authorities. And boy, the review lasted until today! That makes it certainly the most extensive review any religious entity had to undergo in order to be awarded the official Public Utility status in the Netherlands.
And today, August 30, 2022, the tax office rendered its decision: all activities of the Church of Scientology are to be considered beneficial to the public at large. The tax office did not comment on the decision, but the Church of Scientology did. In a press release sent out today, its Dutch Director of Public Affairs stated his gratefulness towards the Dutch authorities who “have properly confirmed our religious activities and practices and our work toward the humanitarian aims of Scientology as of public benefit” and reminded that its founder L. Ron Hubbard had set humanitarian aims to his Church from the outset.
It’s not the first time that the Church of Scientology struggled to obtain either religious recognition or public benefit recognition. But it looks that each time, they succeed in making their point across. Spanish religious recognition, for example, has been the result of a long struggle, but the Spanish authorities finally abided by a decision of the Audiencia Nacional (a national competency court in Madrid) in 2007, and in 2015, a ministerial decision recognized that promoting the teachings and practices of Scientology is of public benefit. In 2013 it was the UK Supreme Court that recognized the UK Church of Scientology as a genuine religion and granted it the right to perform official marriages. These recent years, the Church added several successes in terms of recognition, as in Mexico (yet a very Catholic country), Colombia, and North Macedonia. These recent recognitions add to the numerous dozens of recognitions that the Church has obtained since its inception in the 1950s.
The Netherlands, a FoRB country
The Netherlands is usually considered a pretty good country in terms of respect for freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). And not only its Constitution guarantees religious freedom for all (which is sometimes the same in countries that in fact do not respect it by far), but it also participates in global efforts by democratic countries to promote FoRB all around the world. It has a special envoy for FoRB belonging to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is part of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, a network of like-minded countries fully committed to advancing FoRB around the world.