Try as they might, threatening people, revealing confidential information and harrassing anyone who dares to question their motives is hardly going to endear people to the Scientologists, the cult that masquerades as a religion.
Here is a report from Private Eye:
Former Church of Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder spilled the beans in John Sweeney’s BBC film this week. After half a century inside the church, Rinder now says that it is a cult.
But some public figures in Britain are still happy to give it the benefit of the doubt. “I don’t think Scientologists get a fair deal,” Jonathan Ross wrote in his autobiography. When Tom Cruise repaid the favour by appearing on Ross’s show, the sycophantic host gave him a very fair deal indeed by not asking about Scientology at all.
Another admirer is the coalition’s new minister for climate change, Charles Hendry, a Tory MP whose seat borders the 59-acre Scientology estate in East Grinstead. In 2004 Hendry attended the premiere of Tom Cruise’s film Collateral. “I thought Tom was absolutely amazing,” he gushed. When the star chatted to Hendry’s stepdaughter on the MP’s mobile phone, Hendry said: “Clare thought it was the coolest thing ever.” A year later, in July 2005, Hendry told the House of Commons: “Although Scientology may be very controversial… undoubtedly as human beings they do a great deal of good… certainly as an organisation it’s gone through serious hoops in terms of making sure it has the right to broadcast on TV, satisfying the broadcasting commission that it isn’t a cult.”
The “broadcasting commission” is a reference to the Independent Television Commission, which has since been succeeded by Ofcom. Neither body was in a position to say whether the church was or was not a cult, and neither did. But Judge Latey in the high court in 1984 called it exactly that: “a cult… corrupt, sinister and dangerous… out to capture people and… brainwash them.”
In Britain, the church operates as the Church of Scientology Religious Educational College Inc, a not-for-profit organisation which filed an income of £12,958,196 in 2008. Despite its wealth, and the Charity Commission’s ruling that the church isn’t a charity for religious purposes, the City of London Corporation grants 80 percent rates relief for its “London Org” (ie HQ) on Queen Victoria Street, thus saving it a total of £1,306,363 in rates since the centre opened in 2006. Westminster city council gives 80 percent rate relief on its “London Celebrity Centre” in Leinster Gardens, saving it £165,303 over the past decade. Birmingham city council gives 80 percent rates relief on the Scientology property at Winston Churchill House, as does Sunderland council at the new £5m “Org” on Fawcett Street. Whether the church enjoys rates relief on the most famous Scientology property in Britain, its “stress test centre” on Tottenham Court Road, is a secret: Camden council refuses to answer questions on the subject.
A few brave local authorities haven’t yet been brainwashed. Manchester city council charges the full commercial rate on the £5m “Org” in Deansgate, as does Mid-Sussex district council for the estate at Saint Hill Manor near East Grinstead. With a government minister on the Scientologists’ side, however, can it be long before the dissenting councils cave in to Tom Cruise’s creepy church?