Scientology reaches out and touches a nerve

A Boys & Girls Clubs director wants the club logo removed from an L. Ron Hubbard booklet.

CLEARWATER – Look where you might bump into the teachings of the Church of Scientology and its creator these days.

If you attended a fashion show that raised money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Clearwater last week, you may have found L. Ron Hubbard’s “Way to Happiness” booklet in your goodie bag.

And if you’re a judge, elected official or community leader in Florida, you might find a Scientology DVD in your mailbox. The church sent out 4,000 of the DVDs to officials statewide this week.

Both are outreach efforts sponsored by the church or its followers, and they’ve gotten a mixed reception.

It was no secret that the fashion show at the Belleair Country Club was sponsored by a nonprofit group established by Scientologists. The annual event, which netted the Boys & Girls Club $15,000 last year, raises funds for the Boys & Girls Club and the Church of Scientology’s annual Winter Wonderland.

What bothered Carl Lavender, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, was that the booklets bore the insignia of the Boys & Girls Clubs on the cover and directions on the back cover indicating that additional copies could be obtained at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast facilities next to Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater. The booklet is a moral code written by Hubbard, creator of the Church of Scientology, and millions of copies have been distributed by church adherents worldwide.

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The material may have been well-intentioned, Lavender said, “but I’m not pleased. You can’t produce materials with our logo on it unless I give permission. We are going to collect all of them back and have them discarded.”

Joanie Sigal of Clearwater Community Volunteers, the Scientology volunteer group, and a member of the Clearwater Boys & Girls Club’s board of managers, originally proposed adding the logo and distributing the pamphlets. She said Thursday she doesn’t know what the fuss is about.

“It is a common sense guide to morals,” she said.

Among the 21 chapters: Honor and Help Your Parents, Love and Help Children, Be Temperate, Don’t Be Promiscuous.

Sigal noted that numerous organizations not related to Scientology already distribute the pamphlet and put their logos on the front, including other religious organizations, several chapters of the NAACP and the Hollywood division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Sigal said the board of the local Boys & Girls Club agreed to use some of the proceeds from the fashion show to customize the pamphlets, but didn’t know they needed the permission of the corporate office in St. Petersburg.

At a board of managers meeting Thursday evening, Lavender denied Sigal’s request to have the corporate board consider endorsing the pamphlet.

“The booklet ends as of today,” Lavender said. “… There needs to be a lesson. This cannot happen.”

Sigal argued that the booklet does not promote a particular religion, but other board members voiced their misgivings.

“It promotes a particular perception in the community,” said board chair Alvina Moore.

The stir over the pamphlets comes at the same time the church is sending out thousands of DVDs to federal, state and locally elected officials, judges, mayors, sheriffs, city managers and other community leaders to explain church beliefs and programs.

The campaign, paid for by a group of local Scientologists, was in response to the enormous media attention focused on Scientology this year, related to outspoken statements by actor and Scientologist Tom Cruise, said church spokesman Ben Shaw.

On the DVD is a speech titled “This is Scientology. An Overview of the World’s Fastest Growing Religion,” made by church leader David Miscavige in California in 2004.

8 Million? Fastest Growing?

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Some elected officials were curious, others ambivalent.

“I didn’t find clarity in the video,” said Clearwater City Council member Bill Jonson. “I am still not ready to articulate what Scientology is.”

“I’m going to take it home and look at it,” said County Commissioner Bob Stewart. “I’m kind of curious. I don’t know much about Scientology except for the controversy.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
St. Petersburg Times, USA
Sep. 9, 2005
Robert Farley, Times Staff Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 9, 2005.
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