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Gain for Scientology – Sweden oks group as religion

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The Church of Scientology has upgraded its status in Sweden from nonprofit organization to religious community, the Associated Press reports.

“We are delighted to have our name registered after 30 years in the country,” Tara Vulto, a Scientology spokeswoman, told AP.

“We now have the legal status we are entitled to. We have always claimed to be a religion and this is now confirmed.”

Scientology changed its status under a broad new law intended to separate the Swedish Lutheran church from state control. The law says all churches that meet certain standards are considered religious communities with equal status.

The only major practical result of the upgrade is that the church can now apply for the right to marry people.

Scientology is recognized as a religion in the U.S. but generally is not accepted as a religion in Europe.

In Germany, the government views Scientology as a profit-making scheme and keeps the organization under surveillance as a threat to democracy.  France includes Scientology on its list of groups to be watched for cult activities, Belgium has investigated its finances and Britain has denied the group charitable status.

Scientology was founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1954. Hubbard believed that traumatic memories from past lives could be cleared through church counseling.

The church has about 8 million members worldwide.

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