Scientology's mission to the British Government

23 Aug 2001

ronthewarhero@yahoo.co.uk (Chris Owen)

Like Dave Bird and co. at the weekend, I've also visited the "Scientology Expo" at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. The Jive Aces were playing outside on the grassy knoll in front of the building, and the normally yellow Dianetics bus has been repainted to promote the exposition. Aggressively besuited leafleters accost passers-by outside the building. A very large "Scientology Expo" sign is positioned above the entrance to the conference centre. Inside, although it's located in an impressive location, the contents of the exhibition are somewhat underwhelming. They are little changed from the "What is Scientology?" exhibition which was held in a vacant shop on Oxford Street earlier in the year, with the usual e-meter demonstrations, videos etc. Members of the public were significantly outnumbered by Scientologists.

This is no doubt due to the location of the centre - it is hardly a tourist attraction and is on the other side of the (very busy) road from Westminister Abbey. However, the exhibition isn't aimed at the general public. The location is the key - see the map at http://www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?client=europe&=&overviewmap=ap&lang=&width=700&client=europe&addr1=&addr2=&addr3=&pc=SW1P3EE&db=ap&cname=United+Kingdom&height=400&coordsys=gb&SUBMIT=Find (the centre is at the bottom of the red circle). It is right at the heart of London's government district - indeed, the centre is itself a government building, run for profit by a government agency, which is somewhat ironic considering Scientology's rocky relationship with the British Government over the years.

Look at where the centre is located with regard to government buildings. Downing Street is a few hundred yards to the north. The Department of Health (drugs and psychiatry) is located just across the road. The Home Office (charities, prisons) is just to the west. Parliament is directly across the square, although it's currently out of session. The Department for Education and Employment (schools) is virtually next door, down Tothill Street. The real reason for the exhibition's strange and hugely expensive location is simple: it's Scientology's mission to the British Government. Invitations have gone out to the media and, almost certainly, to Government ministers.

Scientology has periodically made representations to the British Government, particularly concerning its "health technology" - L. Ron Hubbard did so personally back in the 1960s but was rightly rebuffed as a quack. The organisation has several significant issues with which it is unhappy with the Government. The Home Office has banned its Criminon arm from working in prisons. Narconon is virtually quiescent and appears to undertake little or no activity in this country. (It is perhaps significant that Scientology is promoting drug rehabilitation through Scientology proper, rather than through Narconon.) Scientology has been denied charitable status by the Charity Commission, an offshoot of the Home Office. "Study technology" is used, as far as I know, only in the Scientologist-run Greenfields school in East Grinstead.

Clearly there is much that Scientology could do if it had the support, or at least acquiescence, of government. I rather doubt, though, if it will get this any time soon. Government organisations have regularly investigated Scientology's activites in detail, from Special Branch in the 1950s to the Charity Commission in the 1990s, and on every significant occasion the organisation appears to have been found wanting. I have long believed, and experience has borne me out in this, that many of Scientology's claims melt away like the morning mist when they are subjected to serious scrutiny. As long as its claims are subjected to such scrutiny and absenting political pressure to cave in - as in the US - I don't think it very likely that Scientology will make much progress in this country. Bigotry has nothing to do with it; if the CoS continues to make claims that don't stand up (like the "250,000 people salvaged from drugs" posters which have so riled the Anglican Church), it can hardly expect to gain many friends.

| Chris Owen - ronthewarhero@OISPAMNOyahoo.co.uk |
http://www.ronthewarhero.org |


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