BelgiumFrankfurter Rundschau reported on March 30th that members of Scientology have been charged as being part of a criminal association. "A spokesman for the public prosecutor's office has confirmed that proceedings are being instituted against the members of the sect who had been the subject of previous reports in the Belgian media. Apparently the action that has been taken is the consequence of 25 house searches carried out against Scientology in 1999. Investigations at the time had been triggered by a former member of the sect, who had demanded the repayment of the contributions and course fees he had paid. All nine accused are also being charged with being members of a criminal association It now remains only for the charges to be approved by the appropriate court. "La Libre Belgique, a French-language Catholic daily newspaper, reported that the house searches in 1999 had provided grounds for believing that several members of parliament, a journalist and members of the Belgian Gendarmerie (an organisation that has since been dissolved and absorbed into the local and federal police force) were also members of the sect. Furthermore, links with Belgium's extreme right wing had emerged during this operation. "A fact-finding parliamentary committee had included Scientology on the list of sects and classified it as 'damaging and dangerous.' In a petition to Mary Robinson, the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Scientology organisation demanded the return of 2000 files that had been seized by van Espen." Message-ID: email@example.com
Prison workersThe Buffalo News reported on April 6th that prisoners worked to renovate the new Scientology org in Buffalo, New York. "Buffalo's Church of Scientology, soon to be forced from its downtown church for a new city parking ramp, turned to Erie County prison inmates to help get its new Main Street home ready. A crew of six inmates from the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, dressed in orange prison jumpsuits and guarded by corrections officers, spent the last month helping with interior renovations in the new Scientology Church at Main and Virginia streets. "Sheriff Patrick M. Gallivan, questioned Thursday by The Buffalo News about a government agency providing free labor to a church, removed the prison crew from the building several hours later. 'He decided to pull them until they resolve this,' said Mary Murray, a spokeswoman for the sheriff. "Gallivan earlier told The News that, while he had a firm policy that prison crews could only provide labor to county departments and non-profit groups, he had never thought about the longtime tradition of separating church and state. 'Now that the issue is raised, we will immediately look at it,' Gallivan said. 'It's just something we hadn't considered, and it's apparent we should have.' "The county's assistance comes after a Scientology benefactor and church member financed a trip to inspect Mexican prisons for H. McCarthy Gibson, the county's top jail administrator, and one of his deputy superintendents, Robert Huggins. Gibson said they took the trip in October 2001 to look at a Scientology anti-drug program being used in Mexican prisons that he thought might work here. It was never begun at the county prison. "Gallivan said helping the church renovate its new home was unrelated, suggested by a West Seneca insurance agent impressed by the prison crew's work on another project. 'I think it's an outstanding program,' the sheriff said of the prison's Service Assistance Corps. 'We're providing a service to the community and the inmates are doing something productive with their time, rather than just sitting there.' "The Internal Revenue Service designated Scientology a church for tax purposes a decade ago. That's enough for Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a lobby group in Washington, D.C. 'Houses of worship should be built by private donations without any help from government at all,' he said. "Gibson, the county's chief prison administrator, said the inmates working on the building were model prisoners who are considered prison trustees. He said there were no sex offenders or violent offenders among them. 'It's an inmate works program,' he said. 'These are people who have never had an opportunity to work before. We designed the Service Action Corps to do some non-profit community related projects.' "Gibson said the trip to Mexico that he and Huggins took allowed them to see a Scientology Second Chance drug program that uses long sessions in a sauna with large doses of vitamins and minerals. 'It was a holistic program involving saunas and a vitamin regimen that actually purged the toxins out of your body,' he said. Gibson said he had hoped to start a pilot program involving the Scientology methods here, but said prison administrators have not had time to do it." Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
GermanyAgence France Presse reported on April 1st that Scientology has sued the German government in order to stop surveillance by the Office of the Protection to the Constitution. "The German branch of church has asked an administrative court in Cologne to order the country's interior ministry to 'cease surveillance of the Church and its parishioners by the state security police,' the church said. It also wants the court 'to declare that such 'observation' is illegal,' it said in a statement issued from its Los Angeles headquarters. "A parallel suit was filed against the interior ministry of the State of Berlin to end alleged observation of church members by its Office of the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), it said. "The announcement of the suit against the German government came as the State Department said in its human rights report for last year that German authorities, notably the federal and state OPCs, remained wary of Scientology. 'Scientologists continued to report discrimination because of their beliefs,' the report said. 'A number of state and local offices share information on individuals known to be Scientologists.' The State Department report said the church had been singled out by OPCs for scrutiny as they believed it posed a threat to the state's 'democratic constitutional order.' The perceived threat was because the church allegedly 'advocates replacement of parliamentary democracies by an undemocratic system of government based on principles of Scientology,' the report said." From the Associated Press on April 2nd: "All but one of Germany's 16 states have been monitoring the Scientologists since June 1997, on suspicion of being a religious cult with purely economic interests that poses a danger to the democratic political order by trying to infiltrate governments and companies. The Scientologists insist, however, they are a religious organization and claim surveillance is 'politically motivated, based on no facts, and abuses Scientologists' rights to freedom of religion and belief.' "Sabine Weber, a spokeswoman for the Scientologists said the organization hopes a victory in the Cologne case against the federal agency will be precedent-setting. The Berlin suit was filed after a court there ruled in favor of Scientologists in a 2001 case forbidding state officials from planting informants in the church. It was not clear when either case would be heard, she said." Message-ID: XVDia.18444$gU.email@example.com Message-ID: IHXia.18778$gU.firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Marie PresleyFox News published a story on April 3rd on Scientology celebrity Lisa Marie Presley, who is conducting a publicity tour to support her first album. "I'd like to say Lisa Marie Presley should have her head examined. But she can't, since she doesn't believe in psychiatry. I mean, she really doesn't believe in it. On her album, which will be released next Tuesday, Presley even sings the whole title track about this. The song, 'To Whom It May Concern,' is a screed about psychotropic drugs being bad for kids. ('When there's something wrong take an antidepressant. You can even choose which kind you want by the latest suicide.') "Of course, this is the position of the Church of Scientology, of which Presley is an adherent: They are anti-psychiatry and anti-medication. They would rather be the cure for what ails you. You'd think Rolling Stone, which has Lisa Marie on its new cover and has promoted the heck out of this fact, would have asked Presley about some of this in the story. In fact, the writer of the 8,000-word piece glosses over it, as well as the fact Presley's Web site promotes a charity called the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights, or CCHR. "In fact, this is Scientology. There are 23 registered non-profit chapters of CCHR, and their purpose, besides lobbying and promoting Scientology, seems to be to raise money for the group. On their tax filings, CCHR chapters spend lavish amounts on promotion and press, paying consultants far more than the charity's local directors. "Writer Chris Heath could have asked Lisa Marie if she only listens to Scientologists or goes to their parties based on this information. After all, that's why some people think it's a cult. Presley does break with Scientology philosophy, which says we shouldn't blame others for our mistakes. To get publicity for her album, she turns on Michael Jackson and blames him for their highly publicized bad marriage. She even sends Heath lyrics to a song not on the album that imply Jackson is 'masturbative.'" Message-ID: email@example.com
Org NewsThe Seattle Times reported on April 3rd that Scientology plans to purchase a building from the Seattle School Board. "The district has reached a deal to sell its former computer center on Fourth Avenue North in Lower Queen Anne for $2.25 million. The buyer is the Church of Scientology of Washington. The computer center is the last of four properties that became surplus when the district last fall opened its new headquarters, the John Stanford Center for Education Excellence, south of downtown." The San Francisco Business Times reported on March 28th that the same firm that helped Scientology purchase a new building in San Francisco will help sell the old org on McAllister St. "Steve Pugh of GVA Whitney Cressman represented the Church of Scientology in the organization's $7 million purchase of 701 Montgomery St. Pugh is also brokering the sale of the Church of Scientology's existing 38,000-square-foot space at 83 McAllister St. The asking price is $2.9 million." Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org Message-ID: email@example.com
U.S. State DepartmentThe annual U.S. State Department Human Rights report was released on March 31, 2003. "Austria - In March the Catholic Diocese of Linz, in conjunction with the provincial government of Upper Austria, publicly distributed a CD-ROM entitled 'The Search for Meaning: An Orientation Guide to Organizations that Offer the Solution.' It included information on a wide range of recognized and unrecognized religions ranging from the Roman Catholic Church to the Church of Scientology. "Sensitivity to members of the Church of Scientology and fears of infiltration remained high. Individual Scientologists were subjected to discrimination in hiring during the year. Scientology leaders complained that the church's bank account was closed without cause and that they did not receive permission to set up an informational tent in downtown Vienna. "France - In 2001 charges were filed against the Church of Scientology for fraud and false advertising in a lawsuit brought by three former members. In May the court found the Paris branch guilty of violating the privacy of former members and fined it approximately $8,316 (8,000 euros); however, the branch was cleared of attempted fraud and false advertising. The court fined the president of the Ile-de-France section of the organization approximately $2,079 (2,000 euros). Church of Scientology representatives reported that a case filed by a parent whose child attended an 'Applied Scholastics'-based school remained ongoing. "Scientologists continued to report cases of societal discrimination during the year. Panda International software company claimed that press reports in 2001 and critical statements by government officials linking it to the Church of Scientology continued to cause a significant loss in business. "Germany - Several states, noting their responsibility to respond to citizens' requests for information about nontraditional religious groups, have published pamphlets detailing the ideology and practices of these groups. Scientology was the focus of many such pamphlets, some of which warn of the alleged dangers posed by Scientology to the democratic political order and free-market economic system and to the mental and financial well being of individual Scientology practitioners. For example, the Hamburg OPC published 'The Intelligence Service of the Scientology Organization,' which claimed that Scientology tried to infiltrate governments, offices, and companies, and that the church spied on its opponents, with the aim of defaming and 'destroying' them. "Bavaria announced in November that it might seek to ban Scientology based on recommendations of a recently released study commissioned by the state. The basis for the ban would be medical malpractice associated with Scientology's 'auditing' techniques. The Bavarian Interior Ministry is expected to test a ban in courts during 2003. "The federal OPC's annual report for 2001 concluded that the original reasons for initiating observation of Scientology in 1997 still were valid, but noted that Scientology had not been involved in any criminal activity. When the issue of OPC observation was discussed at the annual gathering of state interior ministers in Bremen in December, the ministers also acknowledged that Scientology had not been involved in illegal activities. In December 2001, the Berlin Administrative Court ruled that the Berlin OPC was barred from using undercover agents or other covert means for observing Scientology activities. However, the observation of Scientology activities through other means was not affected by the ruling, which applied only to the city-state of Berlin. "In March the Baden-Wuerttemberg Administrative Court ruled that Scientologists were not permitted to sell books and brochures in pedestrian zones in the cities of Stuttgart and Freiburg. The court noted that such activity required a permit, which the Church of Scientology never applied for. The Church of Scientology argued that this restriction violated the basic right of religious freedom; however, the court did not accept this argument. "In the state of Bavaria, applicants for state civil service positions were required to complete questionnaires detailing any relationship they may have with Scientology. According to Bavarian and federal officials, no one in Bavaria lost a job or was denied employment solely because of association with Scientology; Scientology officials confirmed this fact. A number of state and local offices shared information on individuals known to be Scientologists. There were numerous unconfirmed reports from Scientologists that they were denied banking services when the account was to be opened under the name of the Church of Scientology, and were denied the right to rent facilities to hold meetings and seminars. "Greece - An appeal by the Church of Scientology to obtain recognition and a house of prayer permit was pending at year's end. The non-Greek Orthodox churches must provide separate and lengthy applications to government authorities on such matters as gaining permission to move places of worship to larger facilities. "Russia - Efforts to liquidate the Moscow branch of the Church of Scientology were defeated in the courts. At year's end, the Church continued to be engaged in legal battles in other localities. The Moscow Department of Justice, a branch of the Ministry of Justice, filed a liquidation suit in 2001 against the Moscow branch of the Church of Scientology, but the Church won both the suit and ensuing DOJ appeal in July. While the Moscow Church had not been cleared to reregister by October, the group continued to operate. The Scientologists filed a suit with the ECHR against the liquidation order. The St. Petersburg branch of the Church of Scientology filed an application to register in February, but was refused twice. In Khabarovsk the local Department of Justice filed for the liquidation of the Dianetics Center. The Church of Scientology lost on appeal and the case was under consideration by the federal Supreme Court. In a related case, the director of the Dianetics Center was convicted on criminal charges of the illegal practice of medicine and education. She lost on appeal and was given a suspended sentence of 6 years. Local media attention included references to 'totalitarian sects' in their coverage. The case was also under consideration by the Supreme Court. "In October 2001, police arrested five suspects believed to have been involved in tossing a Molotov cocktail into the Moscow headquarters of the Church of Scientology in 2001; the church had received bomb threats by telephone prior to the incident. In February one of the five defendants was found guilty and sentenced to 2 years in jail. "UK - The Government did not recognize Scientology as a religion for the purposes of charity law. Scientology ministers were not considered ministers of religion for the purpose of immigration relations or facilitating prison visits. However, prisoners were free to register their adherence to Scientology." Message-ID: ZcYia.18779$gU.firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/
VancouverThe Vancouver Courier published an article on Scientology on March 31st. "Since it was created by world traveler-cum-science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, Scientology has remained a relatively small, if controversial, player among world religions, best known for high-profile followers like John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Lisa Marie Presley, Isaac Hayes and Nancy Cartwright - the voice of Bart Simpson. "In Vancouver, the Church of Scientology has occupied the corner of Hastings and Homer since 1980 with volcano-adorned window displays of Dianetics and signs beckoning passersby to drop in for a free Personality Test. That's what James Wood encountered when he found himself jobless, with plenty of time on his hands and broke from spending all his money on pot. "'Then I went to the library to prove Scientology wrong, to read one of their books and say, 'Well these guys suck' - like everything else I had ever read.' Much to his surprise, Wood agreed with everything he read in A New Slant on Life - a collection of Hubbard's essays on family, children and the state of the world. Wood says that since immersing himself in Scientology and the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, he no longer uses drugs, he understands how to communicate better and his relationship with his family has improved tenfold. He's also gotten married and now has a son. "The book that seems to have smacked the most people in the head is Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Published in 1950, Dianetics was Hubbard's explanation of what makes people tick. He postulated that humans possess an analytic mind and a reactive mind - the part of the mind that acts unconsciously and causes unwanted sensations, emotions and psychosomatic illnesses. Dianetics is essentially Hubbard's prescription for how to 'clear' one's reactive mind. This is done through a technique called auditing, where someone trained in applying Dianetics and/or Scientology processes assists a 'preclear' to defeat his or her reactive mind. "While Scientology believes in a supreme being, it doesn't dictate who or what that supreme being is. It's up to individuals to decide as they become more enlightened. Enlightenment, however, doesn't come cheap. One of the first steps for anyone wanting to move up The Bridge to a state of 'clear' and beyond is the Purification Rundown - a regimen of vitamins, minerals, exercise, rest and sauna time to rid the body of toxins, pollutants, alcohol and drug residue that apparently block mental and spiritual development. In Vancouver, the Church of Scientology's purification program costs $1,609.87. "Then there's the cost of the seemingly endless stream of L. Ron Hubbard lecture CDs, workbooks, courses, training programs to become an auditor, buying your very own 'Super VII Quantum E-meter' - all of which can add up to thousands upon thousands of dollars in expenses, with the promise of faster progress up The Bridge. 'Soar to OT,' announces an advertisement in one of Scientology's many promotional magazines. 'Your fastest route to Clear and OT starts here,' claims another. "I take a tour of the premises with Angela Ilasi, the church's public relations officer. As Ilasi walks me through the church, I notice that nearly every room has a framed photograph of L. Ron Hubbard, usually in an ascot or a captain's hat, often looking wistfully out at the ocean or standing on the bow of a ship. Downstairs, there's a sauna, auditing rooms and classrooms. In one of the rooms, a man and a woman, both training to be auditors, sit and face one another in silence. 'They are practising being able to confront,' Ilasi whispers. 'They're practising being able to comfortably be in a space without bothering you. Later as it gets higher to where people are yelling at you, you practice keeping it together.' "Dr. Stephen Kent, a University of Alberta sociology professor specializing in the study of religion, says the information superhighway has hindered Scientology's expansion into the mainstream. 'The Internet seems to have caused a problem for Scientology. People who might be interested in the organization can log on and find out a lot of material by the organization itself, but also a tremendous amount by its critics. So the Internet has inhibited Scientology's ability to control information on itself.' "One of the church's most vocal critics is Gerry Armstrong, a former Scientologist and Hubbard biographer who calls himself 'Scientology's Salman Rushdie.' Armstrong left the church in 1981 and has dedicated his life to speaking out against what he frequently refers to as a 'psycho cult.' 'My goal is for every Scientologist or ex-Scientologist to be able to speak freely about his experiences,' says Armstrong. 'I was lured into Scientology the same way everyone else is - by its false promises. The cult promised to raise IQ a point per hour of 'auditing.' It promised stable psychological states far above what man has achieved before. It promised superhuman abilities. I bought the package.' Even calling Scientology a religion is controversial. 'Since the KGB and mafia are not considered religions by thinking people, neither is Scientology,' says Armstrong. "'Scientology can be very aggressive against perceived opponents,' says sociology professor Stephen Kent, who himself has been a target. In 1998, after Kent spoke to German government officials who were gathering evidence against Scientology, the church paid for an advertising insert in the Globe and Mail in which he was compared to Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. "'Scientology is a multidimensional, transnational organization, only one part of which is religious - Scientology would like to replace conventional mental health practices with its own techniques, but most Scientologists have no scientific training, which makes their ability to offer intelligent criticisms somewhat limited. From time to time, Scientology has helped uncover mental health abuses, but much of what it claims is shrill.'" Message-ID: email@example.com
A.r.s. Week in Review is put together by Rod Keller ©
This collection is organised for WWW by Andreas Heldal-Lund.
Only edits done by me is replacing word encapsuled in * or _ with bold and underscore, and made links into HTML.