Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive

Anti-cult group accuses watchdog of naivety

Scientology TV campaign gains official approval

The Times, September 13 1996


THE Church of Scientology is to begin its first television
advertising campaign in Britain next week after winning approval
for a pilot commercial. 

Uisdean Maclean, director of the Broadcast Advertising Clearance
Centre, confirmed that the commercial had been approved in July.
In April the Independent Television Commission lifted a ban on
advertising by the group. The move has been criticised by people
who monitor the activities of such groups. 

The 60-second advertisement, produced at the group's studios in
America for 70,000, features people from different cultures saying
the word "trust". It ends: "On the day we can fully trust each other
there will be peace on Earth", and features a telephone number for
further information. 

The Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by the American
science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, has
100,000 members in Britain who often visit its headquarters at
East Grinstead, West Sussex. Hubbard, who died in 1986,
claimed to have discovered "Dianetics", which he promoted as the
science of mental health. He left more than 500,000 pages of

The advertisement will run for a month on the satellite channels UK
Gold and UK Living and, if successful, could move to ITV and
Channel 4. Religious groups are prohibited by the commission
from advertising if their meetings are not open to the public; the
group had successfully argued that this was not the case. 

Concern about the advertising campaign has been expressed by
the Cult Information Centre. Ian Howarth, the general secretary,
said: "I am very concerned for the welfare of anybody who might
finish up being interested in going to a Scientology meeting
after seeing these advertisements. It is a group about which we are
deeply concerned, and always have been, and it is most
unfortunate that they have been allowed to go on television. I think
the ITC has been most unwise and rather naive in its decision." 

In the past, the group has been accused of high-pressure sales
techniques and imposing a strict discipline that has been held
responsible by the group's detractors for mental breakdowns and
suicides. Worried parents attempting to extract their children from
membership have used anti-cult groups and kidnappers. The
group has also been criticised for the cost of courses that
adherents follow. 

However, the group, which help drug addicts, alcoholics and those
with family difficulties, claims it has been a victim of campaigns
here and in America. In recent years, with the adherence of
celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Priscilla
Presley, its image has improved. Scientology is recognised
as a religion in Britain. 

The advertisement had to be approved by the Broadcast
Advertising Clearance Centre before being screened. The
commission would take action only if a complaint was made after
broadcast. In April the commission said it had decided to lift the
ban after considering new evidence from an academic source
submitted by the Church of Scientology over whether the
group held meetings open to the public. At the time, the group said
it was pleased that a "discriminatory" ban had been lifted. 

Rachael Ryerson, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology,
which denies allegations that it operates as a cult, said yesterday:
"It is more of a message than an advertisement. It will get across
the values that we stand for and enable people to find out more
about us."

Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive