The New Birmingham ‘Church’ of Scientology
Every October, Scientologists come to Saint Hill Manor in England (just outside London) from all over the world to attend a formal event celebrating the International Association of Scientologists (IAS).
This organisation started life as a legal defence fund for Scientologists, and gradually morphed into a general-purpose fund for the leadership to spend at a whim.
David Miscavige, the current leader of the Church of Scientology is always the centre of attention at IAS events, and makes marathon speeches.
IAS funds were likely used to finance an expensive effort to complete new Scientology facilities in Dublin, Ireland and Birmingham, England so that Miscavige could open them while he was relatively nearby.
When I went to Ireland, to observe the opening there, I wondered if the trip would be worthwhile. After all, people like me, and the locals, would be utterly excluded. When I got there, I realised that showing the remarkable ‘security’ operation mounted by Scientology in order to do this was actually and excellent illustration of its paranoid and controlling nature.
An organisation which presents itself as a religion behaved as if their new Church was a military base. Measures taken included closing sidewalks, surrounding it with private security guards and using outward-facing loudspeakers to mask the sound of the speech.
I’ve given an eye-witness report from Dublin in a previous post. This one is from Birmingham, concerning the opening of Pitmaston house as a Church of Scientology on the 22nd of October.
Scientology remained true to form, and repeated the incredible behaviour they had exhibited in Ireland.
This was the public’s view of Scientology’s new facility (in the Republic of Ireland at Firhouse, which is just outside Dublin). The picture to the left was taken on the day of its opening – the 15th of October 2017.
The white area all around the perimeter isn’t a wall. It is exterior quality board, painted white and firmly fastened onto the outside of railings. It’s only purpose is to stop local people seeing what is going on inside and must have cost a few thousand Euro in materials alone.
Just in case someone might have brought a stepladder and looked over the wall, the pavement and cycle track that run around the building were surrounded by crowd-control barriers (incidentally closing the bus stop, too). Private security guards, retained by the Church of Scientology excluded local people from the area for the entire day – but admitted Scientologists.
The council may have given permission for the closure because they were told it was necessary for building works. They may not have authorised this if they has known that the real purpose was to stop outsiders looking over the wall and seeing the leader of Scientology, David Miscavige, performing the opening ceremony.
Approximately 14 private security guards were retained. Most gathered at the main gate (at the opposite end to the guard in this picture) . However one man always ‘patrolled’ the fenced-off area, admitting Scientologists to the pavement and trying to turn away locals, forcing them to cross a fast road instead of using a public path.
This high-handed attitude has provoked a strong response from the people and the press of Ireland.
Read on for an eye-witness account, with pictures and video.
Every year, Scientology throws a huge party for members of the International Association of Scientologists (IAS). This takes place at the UK headquarters of Scientology, Saint Hill Manor, and up to five thousand members from all over the world turn up.
L Ron Hubbard bought this estate in 1959. He seems to have enjoyed playing English country squire because he ran Scientology’s affairs from the site until he was refused re-entry into the country in 1967.
The event is held every year, and its main purpose is to encourage donations to the IAS. As is the case with all Scientology fund-raising, this can involve a very hard sell indeed, and attendees are unlikely to leave without having given as much as they can afford.
The IAS started life as a legal defence fund for the Church of Scientology, but critics characterise it as a huge slush fund under the exclusive control of the present leader, David Miscavige. Little is known about how this money is spent, of even whether is spent at all.
This year, the event took place on the 6th, 7th and 8th of October, and I was there on the Friday with a small group of protesters.
After the Anonymous campaign against Scientology changed the game by seriously damaging Scientology’s ability to suppress opposition, protests have tailed off. It’s now rare to see more than small groups of activists, and the public might think that they don’t achieve much even as they support the effort (passing drivers frequently honked, waved and shouted approval).
In the case of protesters at the IAS event, however, this isn’t true. They cost Scientology at least tens of thousands of pounds just by being there. If that sounds incredible – it is. However, read on to understand why, and assess the figures for yourself.
Press View The FBI Raid Download as .pdf (Download link will appear in a new tab) |Church of Scientology | 1977
When they were first presented, L Ron Hubbard quite explicitly asserted, in writing, that both Dianetics and Scientology were scientific enterprises – not religious in any way.
The problem with that approach was that dianetics and Scientology organisations had to pay tax, and Hubbard’s wild claims were subject to objective examination in the courts, where they could easily be refuted by real experts.
His eventual response was to reverse himself and register Scientology as a religion. This made it tax-exempt, and transformed easily falsifiable ‘scientific’ claims into religious doctrines protected by the US first amendment.
However, Hubbard made it clear to Scientologists that status as a ‘Church’ would not, “upset in any way the usual activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants and solicitors”. In other words, it was a convenient pretence
Scientology’s ‘religious cloaking’ was seriously deployed in the aftermath of an FBI raid on ‘Guardian’ offices in Los Angeles and Washington, and today’s 31-page document shows it in action.
The Guardian’s Office was at that time Scientology’s secret police (subsequently replaced by the Office of Special Affairs or OSA). It had tasked two Scientologists with infiltrating the IRS. When they were apprehended by FBI agents, raids were mounted to seize documentary evidence of suspicions that the Church of Scientology was running a systematic espionage operation. It subsequently emerged that scientologists had been illegally gathering information on an astonishing scale, stealing records from the offices of not only government agencies but also, bizarrely, psychiatrists. The operation was codenamed “Snow White”
For today’s post, I am indebted to an supporter of osteopathy, who has provided some interesting information about the activities of Narconon, which recently opened a small facility in the UK
Narconon is a Scientology front group, which claims to provide paid drug rehabilitation treatment, but actually delivers Scientology indoctrination.
The website Osteobiz, aims to coach osteopaths on the business side of their occupation. In one entry, the author warns about a range of cons and swindles which osteopaths are liable to be exposed to.
One of these is headlined “The Drug Rehab Centre Scam”… and that’s where Narconon comes in. Continue reading
A few days ago, I came across a Facebook page for “Scientology Plymouth“which contained the remarkable image at the right (there is a larger version below, after the break).
At first glance, it looks rather like a building decorated to celebrate a Nazi rally. It is, in fact, a rendering representing the old Royal Fleet Club / Hotel in Plymouth (UK) – a old building with 50 rooms, two ballrooms and a number of kitchens.
If you follow this blog, you will know that this place was bought by The Church of Scientology for £1,000,000 in 2010. Over the intervening years they have claimed, time and again, that it is going to be renovated to a high standard, and become an ‘Ideal Org’ serving the South-West of England.
Presumably, this image represents what they hope to achieve – however, many of the renovations presented in it are simply not possible.
To illustrate this, I went to the building to take a picture of the real thing for comparison purposes – and discovered some interesting developments. It is possible that the Ideal Org project in Plymouth (the only one in the UK which is self-financing) is on the move again.
I have never been involved in Scientology. This blog is an attempt to understand why clever, capable people accept its doctrines (which are, in the face of it, bizarre and incoherent) and follow its practices.
One approach that I have taken is to examine Scientology training and assess whether or not this has an influence. It seems to me that Scientology’s nine ‘training routines’ do, beginning with TR0 (AKA Training Routine Zero).
In TR0 two people are requited to sit close together and stare fixedly at each other for prolonged periods of time. Research shows that unchanging sensory input can lead to a form of sensory deprivation, which has strange effects – including a dissociated state (you feel detached from you body) and ‘strange face’ hallucinations.
Scientologists constantly practice their Training Routines, so they are soon able to slip into altered states of consciousness almost at will (the likely reason for the strange, unsettling ‘thousand yard stare’ they apply to protesters).
It has seemed to me that such compelling experiences, interpreted according to Scientology doctrine – for example as evidence of a ‘previous life’ – which could be a powerful incentive towards conversion.
First, I have to reconcile the fact that, during online discussions I am occasionally told by some ex-Scientologists that they had no hallucinatory experiences during the TRs, and by others that had compelling, life-changing experiences.
I think I can do that now, thanks to something I have recently learned about myself. Continue reading