LOS ANGELES (AP) – City school officials were surprised to learn that the Church of Scientology was involved in a planned school event, a potential violation of the separation of church and state.
On Monday, teenagers from about 25 countries are to meet with students at Jordan High School in Watts for a human rights conference. The gathering is part of a three-day event organized by a group called Youth for Human Rights International, which has close ties to the Church of Scientology.
Jordan Principal Stephen Strachan and school counselor Al Johnson said conference planners did not make clear the group’s links to Scientology when the idea for the conference came up last month.
“We never engaged in any conversation about the Church of Scientology,” Strachan said Friday. “I never knew they were involved.”
Johnson said he knew some planners were Scientologists but was surprised when Scientology staff sent out a news release listing the church as a co-organizer.
School officials met with Mary Shuttleworth, director of the youth group, to review the content of the meetings, and a letter was sent to parents notifying them of the event and requiring their permission before children could participate.
Last year, the school district issued a warning to campuses after more than a dozen schools used a drug prevention program based partly on Scientology’s teachings. In February, a state investigation found that the program, called Narconon, did not “reflect accurate, widely accepted medical and scientific evidence.”
Shuttleworth agreed to remove the church’s name from the promotional material for Monday’s event and said she and church officials had not intended to hide Scientology’s involvement.
“It’s only fair that if someone helps you a lot, you give them credit for their work,” she said.
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