The Church of Scientology in Australia has disputed the allegation made by Senator Nick Xenophon in Parliament last week, that they were responsible for the death of a 14 month old toddler in February 2000.
In a statement released to the media last night, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology in Australia said the Senator’s allegations in relation to the church’s role in the death of Lauren Schofield were false.
“Based on detailed evidence, Deputy State Coroner Jacqueline Milledge ruled that Lauren’s death was an accident and that an inquest was unnecessary,” Church spokeswoman, Virginia Stewart said.
“It was a devastating accident that affected the whole Sydney Scientology community and distressed many people who knew and loved the Schofield family.”
Ms Stewart said Senator Xenophon had claimed in his speech that ‘Lauren, who was 14-months-old, was being babysat at the organisation’s building in Sydney, when she was allowed to wander the stairs by herself and fall’.
“This claim is false. Two witness statements attest that Lauren was in the care of her father, Paul Schofield and three teenagers, at the time of the accident. She was not wandering the stairs by herself but rather walked to the top of the stairs while she and a group of small children were being moved from one room to another, under close supervision,” she said.
“Both witness statements clearly attest that Paul Schofield was a matter of a few metres from his daughter when she fell down a flight of stairs.”
“In his speech, Senator Xenophon, without a scintilla of evidence, also accused Church of Scientology executives of pressuring Paul Schofield not to request a coronial inquiry. This is wrong and demonstrates a lack of understanding of coronial procedures. There was no attempt by Church executives to interfere in either the thorough police investigation into Lauren’s death or the full investigation by the Coroner. Based on detailed evidence, Deputy State Coroner Jacqueline Milledge ruled an inquest into Lauren’s death was unnecessary.”
Ms Steward added, “Senator Xenophon has exploited this personal tragedy and made some shocking and untrue allegations to impugn the reputation of the Church of Scientology.”
The Church of Scientology says they will respond to other allegations made by the Senator Nick Xenophon in the coming days.