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Scientology Backed By Celebrities But Dogged By Suspicion

Press Association Newsfile, Tuesday, 17 September 1996


LENGTH: 438 words

BYLINE:  Chris Moncrieff, PA News

    The Church of Scientology, founded in 1954, is a movement which has
attracted more hostility and suspicion than any other religious group in
this country - and probably the world.  But its leaders and devotees - the
church claims to have 100,000 members and followers in Britain - fiercely
deny allegations that it is a dangerous and sinister cult which splits up
families. They insist that it provides practical wisdom to help people
lead a happier and more fulfilling life. The commercials say: "Force
yourself to smile and you'll stop frowning. Force yourself to laugh and
you'll find something to laugh at."
    The inspiration behind the Church of Scientology is American science
fiction writer Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) who developed a set of
beliefs about the workings of the human mind and spirit in Dianetics,
published in 1950.
    He then developed Scientology, a practical philosophy to help people
"clear" their spirit. Everyone is a temporary vessel for immortal souls
called Thetans whose eternal enemies are Engrams. These Engrams can be
measured by means of an electrode device passing a current through the
body, and can be purged. 
    The first Church of Scientology was set up in Los Angeles in 1954. In
1959, Hubbard bought Saint Hill Manor, a 55-acre estate in East Grinstead,
Sussex, which remains the British HQ. 
    But Hubbard's elder son left the Church in 1959, publicly branding his
father "insane" while his other son committed suicide in 1976. 
    The Church claims eight million members worldwide. It is registered as
a charity in Australia. It makes play of the fact that 65 courts around
the world have ruled it is a religion and that the American tax
authorities have given it tax-exempt status as a bona fide religion. 
    But the Charity Commission continues to insist that it cannot be
considered a religion under British law. 
    Worldwide its income has been put at L200 million a year with another
L270 million in assets. The cost of courses ranges from L30 for the
introductory to L15,216 for the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course, which
takes a year. 
    The Church has faced allegations - which it denies - of brain-washing
and of persuading people to part with large sums of money to undergo
"auditing" sessions. 
    Celebrities who have been reportedly associated with Scientology
include John Travolta, who said it changed his life, Tom Cruise, who says
it helped him overcome dyslexia, Sharon Stone, Priscilla Presley, Demi
Moore, Shirley MacLaine, Kirstie Alley, Emilio Estevez, and Kelly Preston.

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