Presenting Rod Keller's
Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review

Volume 8, Issue 11 - June 29 2003

APUME reported on June 23rd that a new Scientology organization has been formed to distribute The Way to Happiness in the Middle East to promote peace. "The so-called 'Association for Peace and Understanding in the Middle East' (APUME) seems to be little more than another ploy to promote Scientology. On its website APUME says, 'We are volunteers - American, Palestinian and Israeli' with offices in 'Florida' and 'Los Angeles,' two bastions of activity for Scientology. "Their featured publication is titled The Way to Happiness by Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard. APUME says it has handed out more than a million of these booklets in Hebrew and Arabic and hung up 'thousands' of promotional 'posters.' APUME claims it is 'not a religious group and does not have a religious agenda.' "APUME says you too can help bring peace to the Middle East by giving them money to produce and distribute more booklets. They advise, 'Every dollar that you donate buys one copy of The Way to Happiness booklet for an Israeli family and one for a Palestinian family.'" Message-ID:


The Sydney Morning Herald reported on June 24th on a student at a Scientology school in Sydney, Australia who has overcome his shyness. "Tears before school was a Monday morning ritual for Raja, a little boy lost at his large local primary school in the inner west. Then she stumbled across an advertisement for a Newtown school which boasted that no class exceeded 15 pupils. Mrs. Nallathambi, a Hindu, was unaware that The Athena School is Sydney's only Scientologist school. 'Now he's more confident, there's no more tears,' she said. 'At the other school he had no friends, now I can't get him to come home at the end of the day.'. "The Athena School has 90 pupils, from pre-school to year 10, and eight teachers, who have reportedly completed six months training in L. Ron Hubbard teaching techniques, rather than holding formal qualifications. Fees are about $1500 a term. The principal, Clare Holbrook, says that no religion, including Scientology, is taught. But the school does base its teachings on Hubbard's philosophy of education, centred around the theory that children, like adults, need to 'learn how to learn.' "Values are inculcated through a Scientologist booklet, The Way to Happiness, whose principles would not look out of place alongside the commandments of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions." Message-ID:


Letters to the editor of the St. Petersburg Times on June 25th again addressed the issue of Scientology's impact on downtown Clearwater. "The Church of Scientology has done more to clean up and rebuild downtown Clearwater than any other single group that I have seen since I first came here in 1970. They have rid N Fort Harrison Avenue of most of the hookers and undesirables and they have turned the dilapidated motels that were populated with drug dealers and vagrants into clean units that have clean-cut people coming and going all day. "We can walk freely to a concert or an event in Coachman Park (many of those supported by the Church of Scientology) and not worry about leaving before dark out of fear of being assaulted. We can shop downtown or enjoy sitting outside having a cup of coffee while watching the people or the sunset from the bluff because of the prosperity the Church of Scientology has brought to Clearwater. "As a good Catholic, I do not want to belittle the author of 'It's a cult,' but suggest that he and all of us live together, respect each other's views, religions and lifestyle preferences, and make Clearwater and Pinellas County a great and prosperous home for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and the tourists. - Thomas J. Murrin, Belleair "What prompts this letter is the specific warning in your editorial about church officials marketing downtown Clearwater. You should be applauding the effort, not deriding it. I was assistant city manager for economic development in Clearwater for more than four years. I never had a more honorable ally and advocate than church staff, starting at the very top. Directly said, the church is a key and positive component on the downtown mix. "The church's efforts in the mailing were small, targeted and based on public information. As your story pointed out about halfway through, senior city officials knew well in advance what the Scientology staff wanted to do. Just because they neither raised an objection nor informed their elected officials is hardly reason for commissioners, top management or you to imply that something untoward had occurred. "Downtown development is going to take a lot more than pretty pictures and vague promises. It is going to take the concerted efforts of everyone who has a stake in progress and the future of Clearwater. The Times needs to make a decision of conscience and without old prejudices. Are we going to work in the present and the future or continue to live with past mistakes and biases? - Robert Keller, Clearwater Message-ID:

Lisa McPherson

The St. Petersburg Times reported on June 27th that Scientology has asked that the Lisa McPherson wrongful death case be moved out of the county that includes Clearwater, Florida. A similar request to move the related counter-claim case was recently withdrawn. "The Church of Scientology says that media coverage of the landmark Lisa McPherson wrongful death case has turned back the clock to days of 'overt hate mongering and media-fueled public animus' and it can no longer get a fair trial in Tampa Bay. The church on Wednesday filed a motion seeking to move the wrongful death trial to either Palm Beach or Broward county. Church attorneys blame a 'barrage of negative media coverage' about the lawsuit for widespread community prejudice against Scientology, documented in a random survey of shoppers at Tyrone Square Mall in early spring. "And the culprit for much of that negativity, the motion argues, is the repeated inclusion of 'inflammatory and unethical' quotes from Ken Dandar, the attorney for the estate of McPherson, a Scientologist who died in 1995 after 17 days in the care of the church in Clearwater. 'For six years Dandar has made outrageous claims, accusing Flag of 'capturing' and then 'imprisoning' Lisa McPherson, then torturing and intentionally causing Lisa McPherson's death - indeed murdering her,' the motion states. 'Yet Dandar knew all of these allegations to be utterly false and eventually they were found to be false by judges.' "Dandar stood by his statements Thursday. Dandar said the church's attempt to move the trial is aimed at running up his expenses in hopes it will persuade the estate to settle the lawsuit. "According to the motion filed Wednesday, decades-old community prejudice against Scientology had 'subsided markedly' prior to Dandar filing the wrongful death suit. 'To the extent the tide had been turning by 1997, however, this case changed matters,' the motion states. Attached to the motion are copies of hundreds of newspaper articles, editorials and letters to the editor - enough to fill a shopping cart - which contain, the motion states, 'derogatory content of one kind of another on Scientology.' "After taking a public relations hit when it released the results of the survey in the previous motion for change of venue, this time church attorneys were careful to characterize the context of the negative comments made about the church. Robert C. Sorensen of New York, who orchestrated the survey of 300 people, noted that on the subject of the Scientology religion generally, there were an equal number of neutral and negative responses. But when asked about Scientology in connection with the wrongful death case, four out of five gave negative opinions, he stated." Message-ID:


The Battle Creek Enquirer reported on June 28th that Scientology has opened a new Narconon facility in Battle Creek, Michigan. "The Narconon Stone Hawk Rehabilitation Center has been in operation since late January. The facility will hold its grand opening today with residents, local officials and the leadership of the national Narconon organization in attendance. Festivities, will include food, entertainment, a traditional Native American blessing and guest speakers including State Reps. Michael Nofs and Lorence Wenke. "'Tomorrow is going to be a huge celebration,' Kate Wickstrom said Friday. Wickstrom is executive director of the facility, on St. Mary's Lake in Pennfield Township. Wickstrom, who operates the facility with her husband, Per, said more than 400 people have turned in reservations for the event, and it's open to the public. Narconon centers follow a strict regiment of classes, proper eating habits and the use of saunas, as laid out by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in his book 'Clear Body, Clear Mind,' to teach people how to beat their addictions, Wickstrom said. "Last year, when the Wickstroms sought approval for a use variance from the Pennfield Zoning Board of Appeals to begin operations, numerous neighbors spoke out against the property being used as a drug rehabilitation facility. However, the variance was approved 2-to-1. "One neighbor moved soon after the Pennfield Zoning Board of Appeals approved the special use permit for Narconon, he said. 'He put it on the market the day after the township approved it,' Booher said. 'I think there's some skepticism among the neighbors.' "Currently there are about 45 residents in the facility, which is expected to house as many as 100 people when it's at full capacity. So far, Wickstrom said, nine people have graduated from the program." Message-ID:

Scam Artist

The Arizona Republic reported on June 28th that a Scientologist has been sentenced to prison for stealing the money of investors in his company. "A former Carefree man who pleaded guilty to spending elderly investors' money on planes, luxury cars, and jewels was sentenced Friday to 17 1/2 years in prison. Benjamin Franklin Cook III, 55, who has been jailed since October 1999, agreed to plead guilty to three theft counts in exchange for the dismissal of more than 30 other charges. Admitting that 'mistakes had been made,' Cook asked for probation so he could try to repay about 300 investors more than $43 million he collected between Jan 1, 1998, and March 15, 1999. "'If this isn't an aggravated case, I don't know what is,' he told Cook, who once lived on a 10-acre spread in Carefree. 'This is so much money and the fraud is so gross, there just has to be a major sanction against you.' Cook's Dennel Financial Limited collapsed after a nearly three-year investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Arizona Corporation Commission, the U.S. Customs Service and state Attorney General's Office. Prosecutors said Cook promised to sink investors' money into a secretive European Bank Trading Program but spent it on two planes, a 31-foot cabin cruiser, jewels and fat commissions for top salesmen, including a BMW. "Lawrence Warfield, a certified public accountant appointed as the receiver in the Cook case, testified Friday that the money was never invested and the type of foreign investment Cook promised 'doesn't exist.' Warfield's seizure and sale of Cook's home and other assets netted about $15 million. That includes the $1.5 million Cook donated to the Church of Scientology, which handed over the money as part of a civil suit." Message-ID:

Reed Slatkin

Knight Ridder Tribune Business News reported on June 19th that a hearing was held in the Reed Slatkin investment fraud case, which may lead to some investors getting money back from the Slatkin estate. Slatkin was a Scientology minister, and many of the investors are Scientologists. "There were hundreds of winners and losers after a court decision Wednesday concerning the Reed Slatkin investment scandal that erupted two years ago in Santa Barbara. More than 400 defrauded investors are now a step closer to receiving the first distributions of recovered money in the $254 million case. "But there's disappointment among more than 100 others who object to Mr. Slatkin's guilty plea and the very foundations that the case is built upon. After their arguments were rejected Wednesday by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robin Riblet, their attorney said he plans to appeal. The dissenting group, represented by attorney Howard Kollitz of Los Angeles, wants to convince a judge that Mr. Slatkin did not operate a Ponzi scheme. They also argue that Mr. Slatkin was a stockbroker and was ineligible to seek bankruptcy relief under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection two years ago. "Judge Riblet said Wednesday that Mr. Slatkin was not a stockbroker and did run a Ponzi scheme - a Ponzi scheme is illegal because investors are not told that their money is simply being used to pay off earlier investors. "Friday, Judge Riblet will review and possibly approve the long-awaited plan that's been OK'd by a vast majority of creditors. That would lead to millions of dollars being sent to victims later this year. Mr. Neilson said these 100 dissenters received more money from Mr. Slatkin than they invested with him, and are using these tactics to try to avoid refunding millions of dollars. Mr. Neilson has already sued some of the dissenters to recover funds." Message-ID:


The Western Gazette, a newspaper in Dorset and Somerset, England, reported on June 19th that Scientology is being accused of harassing potential recruits in public. "A Top politician has criticised the methods a religious sect is using to spread its message, saying shoppers are being unfairly harassed. Shoppers said they felt uncomfortable at the way they were persuaded to follow representatives into the centre's temporary base at Woods Wine Bar in Middle Street and given a pamphlet offering a 'free personality test'. "This included questions such as: Do you often 'sit and think' about death, sickness, pain and sorrow?; Would it take a definite effort on your part to consider the subject of suicide?; and Do you ponder over your inferiority? "Anne Davis, aged 22, of Yeovil said: 'This girl just stopped me in the street and started asking me some questions. They started off quite general but when she asked me to follow her to the basement below Woods wine bar it got a bit creepy. By this stage I was starting to have my doubts and when she sat me in a chair and told me to look through a book I started to get a bit worried. The simple fact is her perseverance started to unnerve me. I felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. The questions got more and more personal and she started asking me about past relationships. I don't necessarily have a problem with people's belief in Scientology but I don't like having it shoved down my throat.' "South Somerset District Council chairman Tony Fife said he was uneasy, too. He said: 'I am concerned about this religion and I would not like to see them encouraged in Yeovil. There are enough established religions in the town. I think it is totally outrageous that they are persuading shoppers to go into this basement with them. "The Dianetics Centre's local representative Simon Harrison, 34, of Yeovil said he was sorry if people had felt unnerved. It carried out these kinds of book-selling sessions every Friday and nobody complained. Mr Harrison said: 'We ask people a few questions and if they will do a survey. If they say yes, we ask them to come in and ask about the book. I am not a salesman, I do not get paid.'" The East Grinstead Observer reported on June 25th that Scientology volunteers have organized clean-up events near the Saint Hill compound. "Volunteers have been giving a brush-up to the Park Road Bridge site in East Grinstead over the past couple of weekends. The team spent two consecutive Sundays clearing the site in liaison with the Town Council. "About 120 bags of rubbish were removed with 11 shopping trolleys and a host of other debris, such as traffic cones, signs and old batteries. The clean-up operation was organised by the East Grinstead Scientology Volunteer Minister Group, assisted by residents and town clerk Chris Rolley. "Tom Shuster of the group said: 'The intention is to put two waste bins at either side of the bridge, but until that occurs we ask people not to discard their rubbish but take it home with them." Message-ID: Message-ID:

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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.

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