Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive

Buy-out bid for sect HQ

Factions announce plans to fight 'disconnections'

East Grinstead Courier, 16 February 1984, front page

THE monopoly of the East Grinstead-based Church of Scientology in marketing the philosophy of its founder Ron Hubbard is being challenged by two local groups of disaffected Scientologists.

Both factions are disillusioned with the sect since it has reintroduced "disconnection" policies which are said to be leading to the break-up of some homes and families.

But the dissidents are themselves divided over the best way of either persuading the church to change its policies or overthrowing the present ruling body.

One of the factions whose members still retain their church membership is waging an undercover fight within the UK headquarters.

It has launched a campaign to buy out the Saint Hill Manor HQ and set up a Scientologists' university there "free from the oppression" and policies which it claims are leading to mass resignations from the organisation founded by Hubbard in the 1950s.

There is also a plan to start a school for Scientologists' children.

This faction goes under the banner AFINITIES. the acronym for "Association for Freely Incorporated Non Intimidatable, Trained and Independent Scientologists". It outlined plans for the Saint Hill buy-out and the new Scientologists' school in the first edition of its newsletter which, along with other material, carries an address in Cranston Road. East Grinsteed.

But a former sect member who lives at the address. Mr John Atack, this week disassociated himself from the views expressed in the newsletter.

Mr Atack is one of the leaders of the second faction which claims to have many more members than the AFINITIES group and is made up of all those who have resigned from the church over policy differences.

Its strategy is to set up its own organisation for spreading Hubbard's philosophy. Mr Atack told the Courier that in the past three years Saint Hill had tripled fees for Scientology courses and the man-in-the-street could no longer afford them.

"It now costs about £100,000 to go through at the stages about £70,000 more than three years ago." he claimed.

Many leaving

The reintroduction of the "disconnection" policy was one of the many reasons why church members were leaving in droves both from the UK organisation and from the church - worldwide.

Members of his group met in each other's homes to discuss policy. They were gaining in strength by the day, he said. Mr Atack said that he and his group could not support the way in which the AFINITIES were fighting church management and its disconnection policies.

Disconnection polices were first adopted by Hubbard in 1967. According to AFINITIES newsletter "it caused instant and catastrophic reactions, the result of which took more than 15 years to subside both within the ranks of the church and within the minds of the British public".

Revulsion

The memories of that era still sent "shudders of revulsion" through church staff members who experienced the policy. The cancellation of disconnection practices in 1969 was the cause of much jubilation within the diminished ranks of the few staff left at Saint Hill.

During the time the policies were in use, "the howls of the disaffected those whose family and friends were forced to disconnect from them reached such a crescendo that MPs condemned the practice wholesale.

"The Home Office imposed its ban on foreign Scientologists coming into the country and resignation 'stats' climbed. The public stayed away in droves."

As a result, says the newsletter, the church effectively apologised to one and all and cancelled the disconnection policies.

But now the practices were back in force following a directive by the new management of the church through what is known is its Religious Technology Centre (RTC).

'Dirty taste'

"It's tragic that each generation has to learn by the same mistakes again and again. It's tragic also that, as night follows day, the repercussions of this current bout of RTC folly are now exploding into a field already torn asunder by schism," says the newsletter.

"As the destructiveness of these policies ea?? its way into the lives of field members, the greater will be the uproar, the greater the resignation list, the greater the public reaction. "To the British, disconnection leaves a dirty taste in the mouth."

The British, says the newsletter, had their own phrase for disconnection policy. It was sending a person to Coventry a practice vehemently condemned by all British institutions and organisations as inhuman and dictatorial.

One girl who has resigned from the sect said: "I don't know any longer who to remain connected to. I don't know who to talk to. Children are being forced to disconnect from their parents. Families are splitting up.

"These disconnection policies are awful. This is not spiritual freedom. This is suppression and enslavement."

On Monday a church spokesman Mr Mike Garside said: "There are a few people locally who are harbouring grievances after we expelled them from the church last year as they were found unsuitable to work in the church. They had caused difficulties for us and for their friends.

"Someone has deliberately attempted to stir up trouble between families in the church by misinterpreting church policies and sending round forged letters.

"The whole purpose of Scientology is to increase the individual's responsibility for his life and this includes the family. There are over 2,000 members of the church in the local area and we have warned them to beware of any threatening letters or forgeries," said Mr Carside.

On the subject of Scientology charges for courses, Mr Garside said: "The price of our courses is under constant review, but basic courses still cost less than £50. There are hundreds of different courses available and they can takeas many as they want."

[Sidebar:] Courier exclusive prompts call for Scientology probe

FOLLOWING the exclusive story in last week's East Grinstead Courier on the reintroduction of "disconnection" policies by the Church of Scientology and the resignation of many members, including doctors, there has been a demand for the Home Secretary to launch an immediate investigation.

The call came from Mr Anthony Beaumont Dark, Conservative MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, who said: "I thought these practices had been stamped out". The church is thought to have about 200,000 members in Britain, of whom about 2.000 live in the East Grinstead area. Worldwide membership is put at six million. Money is raised from book sales and counselling courses based on the philososophy of the sect's founder Ron Hubbard.

Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive