Opponents fight to protest outside Church of Scientology

A Chicago judge will decide this month whether a city code prevents protesters who oppose Scientology’s teachings from expressing their discontent any time the church’s doors are open or only during its conventional Sunday worship service.

Alex Hageli, a north suburban lobbyist and one of many opponents who insist the Church of Scientology isn’t upfront about its teachings, was cited in October with violating a city code banning pickets from houses of worship.

The code, drafted years ago, precludes anyone who “pickets or demonstrates on a public way within 150 feet of any church, temple, synagogue or other place of worship while services are being conducted and one-half hour before services are to be conducted and one-half hour after services have been concluded.” Peaceful labor protests are exempt.

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Last year, when protesters showed up outside Church of Scientology of Illinois headquarters at 3011 N. Lincoln Ave., church leaders posted a sign in the window announcing services from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Can Scientology claim to have services all day long to keep protesters 150 feet away from their door front?” said Hageli, a lawyer by training who attends Harvest Bible Chapel in Arlington Heights. “I’m 100 percent confident that they can’t do that.”
[…]

But Rebecca Cusano, a church spokeswoman, said the Church of Scientology doesn’t stick to the Christian definition of a worship service. Self-improvement is at the core of the church’s teachings, Cusano said, so counseling and study sessions also qualify as services.
[…]

Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city’s law department, said that in preparation for the hearing, the city is examining the factors that led to the citation as well as the wording and intent of the ordinance.
[…]

Hugh Urban, an Ohio State University religion professor who is writing a history of the religious movement, said church leaders “basically recast auditing as a spiritual practice analogous to confession so they could avoid scrutiny from the FDA.” A 26-year battle with the Internal Revenue Service ended in 1993 with the church being declared a tax-exempt religious institution.

Opponents, including Hageli and a group called Anonymous, claim the church overcharges for spiritual counseling and literature and hides its beliefs regarding humanity’s origins and afterlife until someone has shelled out thousands of dollars for auditing sessions.
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: Opponents fight to protest outside Church of Scientology, Manya A. Brachea, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 2, 2011 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See Also

Research resources on the Church of Scientology
Why We Protest

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday January 4, 2011.
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