The Advertising Standards Authority Versus The Church of Scientology Plymouth

self-analysis-frontOn the 5th of December 2016, I published a video showing members of  the Church of Scientology Plymouth (UK)  distributing leaflets outside of Charles Cross Police station. This is just around the corner from their modest Org in Ebrington Street.

In the process, I was given a flier, and carefully read it. It seemed to me that the text made two highly questionable claims.

According to the rules of the UK advertising regulator (the Advertising Standards Authority) advertisers who make specific, testable claims must be in possession of objective evidence which supports their case. If the advertiser cannot present such evidence when asked to do so by the  ASA the claims made are deemed to be misleading, and must not be repeated.

I duly submitted a complaint online. Yesterday, I was informed that it has been upheld.

This kind of decision could severely limit Scientology’s ability to make similar claims in future – and could ultimately force them to submit whole classes of promotional material to the ASA for pre-approval.

All that is required is for more people to collect Scientology advertising containing potentially misleading claims.

Details of the offending leaflet, my complaint, the ASA response and the likely consequences appear after the break.

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Scientologists in Plymouth (UK) Recruiting for Christmas – What Can Go Wrong?

Plymouth Scientologists used to regularly deploy a handcart, bearing books for sale and an e-meter for the ‘stress test’ in Plymouth City Centre. It has not been seen for two years, after a local critic pointed out to the City Council that Scientology did not have any of the necessary permits for this kind of street trading.

Recently, the handcart reappeared. This video shows it being set up and goes on to illustrate the attitude of local people (who swerve all over the wide pavement to avoid the Scientologists)  quite well.

There is a lot more to this story, click the ‘continue reading’ link for details.

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Plymouth Ideal Org – Fantasies and Lies

fantasy-fleet-clubA 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.

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Battlefield Plymouth – Why L Ron Hubbard’s Newly Republished Fiction Is Not Going to Make an Impact in the UK

Battlefield EarthBookIn 1982, a work of fiction by L Ron Hubbard called “Battlefield Earth” was published. It was a long rambling story in which a hero inspires humanity to rise up and expel an alien occupation.

Recently a new edition was released by “Galaxy Press,” a publishing house that is wholly owned by the Church of Scientology. They also produced a long ‘dramatised’ audio book, based on the story, featuring a small cast of voice actors.

The promotional campaign has now made its way to the Scientology Org in Plymouth, in the UK. Both the book and its audio version are on display to staff there.

Strangely, these products are presented so that the covers can only be seen by the people inside. They have their backs turned to the window display and the buying public. (images below).

Subsequently, I went to all of the bookshops in the nearby shopping centre. Not a single copy of “Battlefield Earth” was on sale in any of them, and assistants had never heard of it. In fact, no Plymouth bookshop stocks it.

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Google Maps Versus Scientology – Guess Who Is Winning.

Google maps recordIn a previous post, I noted that Google Maps had been (accidentally) pressed into service by critics of Scientology. First, the background.

In 2010 the Church of Scientology bought a historic building in Plymouth (in the UK). There is currently an ongoing campaign to persuade local government to refuse them permission to renovate it and use it as an ‘Ideal Org’. You can follow the campaign via this blog.

So far, the campaign has included  a public meeting to put the case to local residents. The local newspaper attended, and took some photographs, which were included in a sympathetic article. This appeared in both the printed and online versions of the Plymouth Herald.

It seems that somebody downloaded one of these photographs from the online article and posted it on the Google Maps page for the Church of Scientology in Plymouth (which invites you to add pictures and reviews). A campaigner noticed this, and posted some more, not only only on the listing belonging to the Plymouth site, but also more than 80 others, internationally.

He expected these images to be taken down when they were noticed. What nobody realised at the time was that these sites are owned and operated by Google Maps, not the Church of Scientology. The owners can put up a link to their website, but that’s about it. Pictures and reviews cannot be removed by Scientologists – only Google can do this, and only if they violate their terms of service. The images have stayed put.

A week later, the campaigner received a message from his Google account (image right). These pictures had received 5,000 views. They are now approaching 10,000. That’s one person.

I initially thought that it was interesting and amusing that one man could give such a powerful organisation a black eye in this way.  I now realise that his actions have more serious (and interesting) consequences for the Church of Scientology in Plymouth – and the whole world. Continue reading

Scientology Makes You More Capable – Except When it Doesn’t

2015-11-23 14.16.05I recently read a book by the US TV actress and ex-Scientologist Leah Remini entitled “Troublemaker.” It discusses her experience in Scientology.

In her book, she describes how Scientologists live in an isolated social world which is dedicated to the pursuit of an apparently endless series of ‘courses’ (she says she was expected to ‘study’ for two-and-a-half hours every day, regardless of other commitments).

Whenever a course is completed great pains are taken to insure a sense of achievement –  gaudy ‘certificates’ are issued and the student makes a formal speech (called a “success story”) to admiring comrades, who applaud and congratulate them. Almost immediately, they pay for, and move on to, the next course.

Consequently, as long as you stay within an exclusively Scientology environment(and you don’t have much time for anything else) it is easy to feel that you are making constant progress in life, and becoming (as promised) a more capable person. However, Remini also notes that Scientologists often struggle to maintain this illusion when they try to  apply Scientology to problems in the wider word – only to find that they still encounter the same difficulties as anyone else. All that have really learned is how to be a better Scientologist.

I decided to illustrate this conflict by taking a close look at the visible progress of my local Scientology Org in Plymouth, England (image above) towards its stated goals. Does this show that trained Scientologists really are  “more capable”, as they claim? Continue reading

Plymouth Ideal Org Revisited

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Click on any of the images on this page to see an enlarged version

I have described the building that is supposed to become Plymouth’s Ideal Org in previous posts.

Situated close to the Royal Dockyard in Devonport, it was built to provide visiting Royal Navy personnel and Royal Marines with a (respectable) place to stay.

After it was sold by the Royal Navy, it had a brief and unsuccessful career as a hotel. In 2010 the building was sold to the Church of Scientology for £1,000,000 ($1,680,187).

It is now 2015… and the place is still empty and untouched. It’s not difficult to see why – it has 50 rooms, 2 ballrooms, kitchens, storage areas and… well, it’s a big building – too big, considering that, according to the 2011 National Census, there were only 26 Scientologists in Plymouth (including ‘independents’) and only 2,418 in the entire country.

Local Scientologists soldier on in their more modest premises near the central shopping area (where they at least have access to foot traffic). In contrast, their Ideal Org is in an out-of-the-way part of the city increasingly surrounded by affordable housing.

So what has changed since June the 6th 2014, when I last photographed  the place? Continue reading