May 4, 2000

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Sweden's decision expected to set precedent for Europe

In a landmark recognition carrying international impact, the Church of Scientology was today fully recognized as a religion in Sweden when the National Judicial Board for Public Lands & Funds granted its ministers the right to perform marriages.

In a four-page statement dated May 4, the National Judicial Board outlines the religious character, permanence and organization of the Church and concludes that Scientology fully meets the criteria for recognition as a religion. Noting that its churches had been granted the status of religious communities earlier this year, the Board finds that Scientology also qualifies under the more stringent criteria of the Marriage Act.

Granting ministers the legal right to conduct weddings was the final step to achieving full and complete recognition as a religion in Sweden.

Sweden is the second country in just over a month to formally recognize Scientology as a religion. On March 31, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa also granted ministers of the Church of Scientology the right to marry.

The Swedish Church provides ministerial education, consisting of “prayer ceremonies, ceremonies for name-giving and funerals and the marriage ceremony,” the National Judicial Board states.

The Board also finds that “Scientology is a religion built upon the research, writings and teachings of its founder L. Ron Hubbard. Its sacred practices consist of spiritual counseling, called auditing, studies of the Scientology scriptures and devotion....”

Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology, acclaimed the recognition as a milestone for the Church of Scientology in Europe and for religious freedom.

“The Swedish government is establishing true religious freedom in Europe by applying its Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Rev. Jentzsch. “This recognition from a member of the European community sets a standard for all other European governments.”

In November, Swedish tax authorities declared the Church a non-profit organization with a religious purpose that serves a public benefit, thus entitled to exemption from taxes. In March, the National Judicial Board for Public Lands and Funds granted churches of Scientology the status of religious communities.

Scientology was founded in 1954 and celebrated its 30th anniversary in Sweden last year. The Church of Scientology in Sweden has churches in Stockholm, Goteborg and Malmo and ministers to more than 3,000 members. As part of its social mission, the Church supports many charitable and social programs in the areas of drug rehabilitation, criminal reform and literacy programs.

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