Councils misled into giving Scientologists stage time
Scientologists are using fronts called “Drug Free Ambassadors” and “Kids For A Drug Free Future” to dupe councils into giving them information stalls and stage time at family events.
The City of Frankston unknowingly granted the Scientology religion, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, stage time at the Frankston Sea Festival this month.
Events run by Whitehorse and Yarra City Councils have also unwittingly played host to either stage performances or stalls run by the group.
Maxine Sando, events co-ordinator for the Frankston City Council, said she was not aware the group calling itself the Drug Free Ambassadors was run by the Church of Scientology.
“I never realised they were Scientologists,” she said. “Everyone is vetted and we usually know who’s who. This organisation came to us under the name Drug Free Ambassadors and we took them on face value.”
The council even ran an invitation on the Kid’s Activities part of the council website inviting children to “Become Drug Free Ambassadors”, complete with certificate, badge balloon and educational booklet.
The group’s booklets, handed out to the public at the Sea Festival, have the appearance of government-sponsored anti-drug information.
However, the booklet states on the final page: “Learn more about the discoveries of L. Ron Hubbard and his workable technologies that get people off drugs”.
It then lists phone numbers for Scientology centres and addresses for Scientology websites. A spokeswoman for the Melbourne Church of Scientology, Pauline Priest, defended the lack of disclosure about Drug Free Ambassadors.
“I gave the council everything they needed to know,” she said.
“I don’t think we need to say we’re Scientologists up front. It’s not relevant.”
The council disagreed.
Ms Sando said the incident was regrettable and that the council would have appreciated “a bit more information” from the Scientologists during the application.
Tony Wason was involved in running last year’s Eltham Festival when he was approached by a group calling themselves “Kids For A Drug Free Future”.
He recalled: “I don’t think they disclosed the Scientology link initially and they weren’t all that forthcoming with their literature. In the end (the Eltham Traders Association) simply said ‘Thanks but no thanks’.”
The Church of Scientology has previously come under fire for using deceptive recruitment methods.
It has also been accused of brainwashing its members and charging them exorbitant amounts of money. One Australian ex-Scientologist recalls he was recruited after being offered “a free personality test” on a city street.
And many parents of those who have become involved with scientology have hired “cult busters” and “deprogrammers” to get their children back.
Deprogrammers are disillusioned former cult members. High profile Hollywood scientologists include Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley.
Australian singer Kate Cerebrano is also an adherent of the religion.
Scientology was outlawed in Victoria in 1965 by the State Government following a royal commission into its activities but was later allowed to operate here again.