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Why did top policeman agree to appear in a film for the Scientologists?

Daily Mail, via ThisIsLondon.co.uk, UK
May 12, 2007
www.thisislondon.co.uk

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Saturday May 12, 2007

A senior policeman has appeared in a video praising the highly-controversial Church of Scientology, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Chief Superintendent Ken Stewart, a divisional commander with the City of London police, agreed to be filmed outside Bishopsgate police station for the Scientology film, which is shown to members of the organisation.

Although Mr Stewart insisted he was not a Scientologist, the news is the latest evidence of the extent to which the group has managed to forge links with the City police.

Last year it emerged that officers from the force had accepted £11,000 worth of hospitality from the Church of Scientology, whose followers, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta, believe humans are descended from a race of aliens called thetans.

The American-based organisation, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1952, opened a new centre near St Paul’s Cathedral last year.

A senior officer from the City force attended the opening as a guest speaker, and the force later admitted that its policemen had gone to Scientology dinners and attended the premiere of Cruise’s film Mission Impossible 3.

The church has also secured a discount of £281,344 in rates on its London centre, which comes out of public funds, and is now trying to avoid paying any rates at all.

Sources have told the Mail that the Scientologists intend to use glowing letters of praise from the City of London police to support their application for discretionary rates relief.

But it is the role of Chief Superintendent Stewart, 46, which will come as the greatest embarrassment to the force, whose involvement with the Church of Scientology will be investigated in a Panorama programme to be shown on BBC1 next week.

Mr Stewart agreed to be filmed by Scientologists in late 2005 standing outside the Bishopsgate police station and praising the work of Scientologists who helped man cordons after the Aldgate tube bombing on 7/7 and provided a chiropractor to massage beat bobbies’ tired feet.

In the film, Mr Stewart identifies himself as a serving officer but appears wearing plain clothes.

The video is used by the Scientologists to help show new recruits how they can establish links with local organisations.

But experts have questioned the motives of the Scientologists, pointing out that their main aim is to spread their ideology as far as possible by finding new recruits.

Mr Stewart said he did not want to discuss the video, saying only: “I’m not a Scientologist. I’m a Catholic, as a matter of fact.”

A spokesman for the City of London force said: “This is not a promotional video. It is for internal use within the Church of Scientology.

“Chief Superintendent Stewart acknowledged the assistance given by volunteers to officers manning the cordon at Aldgate station during 7/7.

“At no time did he endorse or promote the aims or views of the Church of Scientology. He is not a Scientologist, and as the commander at Bishopsgate he would have judged that it was OK to take part in the video.”

Mr Stewart was one of three senior officers who approved the hospitality given to up to 20 members of the force between July 2005 and October 2006 – the month when Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley spoke at the opening of the £23m Scientology centre in London, saying the group was “raising the spiritual wealth of society”.

Several officers have attended five gala dinners and concerts at the organisation’s UK headquarters in East Grinstead, West Sussex, with Tom Cruise present at one of them.

At one of the dinners the officers received a donation of £5,000 for a City of London children’s charity.

A Scientology band also gave a concert at Bishopsgate police station.

The City of London police spokesman said Mr Stewart had to “build links” with various members of the ‘diverse’ community he policed, and was not treating the Church of Scientology any differently from other groups.

The Scientologists currently pay rates of £70,336 on their London centre, having secured mandatory relief of £281,344 on the full rates of £351,680 – a discount of 80 per cent.

The discount is paid to the City of London Corporation out of central government funds.

A spokesman for the corporation said the group had been entitled to mandatory relief because it carried out ‘charitable’ works, even though it is not recognised as a church or a charity in the UK and is classed as a commercial organisation.

The spokesman said the church was now applying for discretionary relief on the 20 per cent of its rates which it currently pays, which could mean the organisation paying no rates at all.

The Mail has been told that the Scientologists intend to use letters of thanks from the City of London police to back up their application for the extra discount, but the corporation could not confirm this.

Ian Haworth, of the Cult Information Centre, said the police needed to be aware of the words of High Court judge Mr Justice Latey, who said in 1984 that the Church of Scientology was “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”.

Asked why the church might be courting the police, he said: “Anything that gives Scientology credibility is in their interests.”

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