Highland Beach – A group that sent out thousands of unsolicited copies of a guidebook promoting Scientology precepts is ending the practice after receiving hundreds of complaints from elected officials.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote the 64-page, soft-cover book titled The Way to Happiness: A Common Sense Guide to Better Living.
“The mailing is not going to be sent out like this again due to some complaints of recipients about ‘using’ their logo or photograph without consent,” Joni Ginsberg, executive director of The Way to Happiness Foundation International, wrote in an e-mail.
While the booklet promised happiness, it caused discontent in the Highland Beach Town Hall. Employees discovered 20 booklets when cleaning up outgoing Mayor Harold Hagelmann’s office last week.
Hagelmann doesn’t know how 20 books with Scientology-related philosophies and with his name written across the front got into his inbox six months ago. He said he didn’t ask for them and didn’t hand them out.
In fact, he knows little about the religion, other than he’s heard that many celebrities have joined.
“A lot of movie stars belong to that, but I’m not a movie star, I’m only a mayor,” Hagelmann said.
Besides the mayor’s name on the front, the booklets have the town’s address on the back, inviting the reader to contact Hagelmann at Town Hall if they have any questions. They also have an image of the Florida state flag. They sat in his office collecting dust for months without him bothering to throw them away.
Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams also received 11 copies of the happiness guide, along with a DVD, in September.
“It’s junk mail,” Abrams said. “As mayor, your name appears in all kinds of places you aren’t aware of.”
Word of the booklet confused Highland Beach officials who thought that the mayor might be distributing religious literature in Town Hall. The rumors were soon quashed, but speculation about where the literature came from continued.
“I was dumbfounded,” said Commissioner Doris Trinley. “I don’t begrudge anyone their religion. However, I do take serious umbrage with saying on the back of the book to contact the town of Highland Beach.”
The back of the booklet said that the material: “Does not infer connection with or sponsorship of any religious organization.”
The Way to Happiness Foundation International, based in Glendale, Calif., does not identify itself as a religious organization. It does, however, share the philosophies of the church of Scientology.
“The foundation is definitely something that the church is supporting. We encourage their activities,” said Karin Pouw, church of Scientology spokeswoman.