186A.r.s Week in Review - 6/29/2003
- Jun 29, 2003Alt.religion.scientology
Week in Review Volume 8, Issue 11
6/29/2003 by Rod Keller [rkeller@...]
Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review summarizes the most significant
postings from the Usenet group Alt.religion.scientology for the preceding
week for the benefit of those who can't follow the group as closely as
they'd like. Out of thousands of postings, I attempt to include news of
significant events, new affidavits, court rulings, new contributors,
whatever. I hope you find it useful. Like many readers of a.r.s, I have a
kill file. So please take into consideration that I may not have seen some
of the most significant postings.
The articles in A.r.s Week in Review are brief summaries of articles
posted to the newsgroup. They include message IDs for the original
articles, and many have a URL to get more information. You may be able to
find the original article, depending on how long your site stores articles
in the newsgroup before expiring them.
Free A.r.s Week in Review subscriptions are available. Subscriptions are
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> APUMECultnews.com reported on June 23rd that a new Scientology organization has
been formed to distribute The Way to Happiness in the Middle East to
"The so-called 'Association for Peace and Understanding in the Middle
East' (APUME) seems to be little more than another ploy to promote
Scientology. On its website APUME says, 'We are volunteers - American,
Palestinian and Israeli' with offices in 'Florida' and 'Los Angeles,' two
bastions of activity for Scientology.
"Their featured publication is titled The Way to Happiness by
Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard. APUME says it has handed out more
than a million of these booklets in Hebrew and Arabic and hung up
'thousands' of promotional 'posters.' APUME claims it is 'not a religious
group and does not have a religious agenda.'
"APUME says you too can help bring peace to the Middle East by giving them
money to produce and distribute more booklets. They advise, 'Every dollar
that you donate buys one copy of The Way to Happiness booklet for an
Israeli family and one for a Palestinian family.'"
> AustraliaThe Sydney Morning Herald reported on June 24th on a student at a
Scientology school in Sydney, Australia who has overcome his shyness.
"Tears before school was a Monday morning ritual for Raja, a little boy
lost at his large local primary school in the inner west. Then she
stumbled across an advertisement for a Newtown school which boasted that
no class exceeded 15 pupils. Mrs. Nallathambi, a Hindu, was unaware that
The Athena School is Sydney's only Scientologist school. 'Now he's more
confident, there's no more tears,' she said. 'At the other school he had
no friends, now I can't get him to come home at the end of the day.'.
"The Athena School has 90 pupils, from pre-school to year 10, and eight
teachers, who have reportedly completed six months training in L. Ron
Hubbard teaching techniques, rather than holding formal qualifications.
Fees are about $1500 a term. The principal, Clare Holbrook, says that no
religion, including Scientology, is taught. But the school does base its
teachings on Hubbard's philosophy of education, centred around the theory
that children, like adults, need to 'learn how to learn.'
"Values are inculcated through a Scientologist booklet, The Way to
Happiness, whose principles would not look out of place alongside the
commandments of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions."
> ClearwaterLetters to the editor of the St. Petersburg Times on June 25th again
addressed the issue of Scientology's impact on downtown Clearwater.
"The Church of Scientology has done more to clean up and rebuild downtown
Clearwater than any other single group that I have seen since I first came
here in 1970. They have rid N Fort Harrison Avenue of most of the hookers
and undesirables and they have turned the dilapidated motels that were
populated with drug dealers and vagrants into clean units that have
clean-cut people coming and going all day.
"We can walk freely to a concert or an event in Coachman Park (many of
those supported by the Church of Scientology) and not worry about leaving
before dark out of fear of being assaulted. We can shop downtown or enjoy
sitting outside having a cup of coffee while watching the people or the
sunset from the bluff because of the prosperity the Church of Scientology
has brought to Clearwater.
"As a good Catholic, I do not want to belittle the author of 'It's a
cult,' but suggest that he and all of us live together, respect each
other's views, religions and lifestyle preferences, and make Clearwater
and Pinellas County a great and prosperous home for ourselves, our
children, our grandchildren and the tourists. - Thomas J. Murrin, Belleair
"What prompts this letter is the specific warning in your editorial about
church officials marketing downtown Clearwater. You should be applauding
the effort, not deriding it. I was assistant city manager for economic
development in Clearwater for more than four years. I never had a more
honorable ally and advocate than church staff, starting at the very top.
Directly said, the church is a key and positive component on the downtown
"The church's efforts in the mailing were small, targeted and based on
public information. As your story pointed out about halfway through,
senior city officials knew well in advance what the Scientology staff
wanted to do. Just because they neither raised an objection nor informed
their elected officials is hardly reason for commissioners, top management
or you to imply that something untoward had occurred.
"Downtown development is going to take a lot more than pretty pictures and
vague promises. It is going to take the concerted efforts of everyone who
has a stake in progress and the future of Clearwater. The Times needs to
make a decision of conscience and without old prejudices. Are we going to
work in the present and the future or continue to live with past mistakes
and biases? - Robert Keller, Clearwater
> Lisa McPhersonThe St. Petersburg Times reported on June 27th that Scientology has asked
that the Lisa McPherson wrongful death case be moved out of the county
that includes Clearwater, Florida. A similar request to move the related
counter-claim case was recently withdrawn.
"The Church of Scientology says that media coverage of the landmark Lisa
McPherson wrongful death case has turned back the clock to days of 'overt
hate mongering and media-fueled public animus' and it can no longer get a
fair trial in Tampa Bay. The church on Wednesday filed a motion seeking to
move the wrongful death trial to either Palm Beach or Broward county.
Church attorneys blame a 'barrage of negative media coverage' about the
lawsuit for widespread community prejudice against Scientology, documented
in a random survey of shoppers at Tyrone Square Mall in early spring.
"And the culprit for much of that negativity, the motion argues, is the
repeated inclusion of 'inflammatory and unethical' quotes from Ken Dandar,
the attorney for the estate of McPherson, a Scientologist who died in 1995
after 17 days in the care of the church in Clearwater. 'For six years
Dandar has made outrageous claims, accusing Flag of 'capturing' and then
'imprisoning' Lisa McPherson, then torturing and intentionally causing
Lisa McPherson's death - indeed murdering her,' the motion states. 'Yet
Dandar knew all of these allegations to be utterly false and eventually
they were found to be false by judges.'
"Dandar stood by his statements Thursday. Dandar said the church's attempt
to move the trial is aimed at running up his expenses in hopes it will
persuade the estate to settle the lawsuit.
"According to the motion filed Wednesday, decades-old community prejudice
against Scientology had 'subsided markedly' prior to Dandar filing the
wrongful death suit. 'To the extent the tide had been turning by 1997,
however, this case changed matters,' the motion states. Attached to the
motion are copies of hundreds of newspaper articles, editorials and
letters to the editor - enough to fill a shopping cart - which contain,
the motion states, 'derogatory content of one kind of another on
"After taking a public relations hit when it released the results of the
survey in the previous motion for change of venue, this time church
attorneys were careful to characterize the context of the negative
comments made about the church. Robert C. Sorensen of New York, who
orchestrated the survey of 300 people, noted that on the subject of the
Scientology religion generally, there were an equal number of neutral and
negative responses. But when asked about Scientology in connection with
the wrongful death case, four out of five gave negative opinions, he
> NarcononThe Battle Creek Enquirer reported on June 28th that Scientology has
opened a new Narconon facility in Battle Creek, Michigan.
"The Narconon Stone Hawk Rehabilitation Center has been in operation since
late January. The facility will hold its grand opening today with
residents, local officials and the leadership of the national Narconon
organization in attendance. Festivities, will include food, entertainment,
a traditional Native American blessing and guest speakers including State
Reps. Michael Nofs and Lorence Wenke.
"'Tomorrow is going to be a huge celebration,' Kate Wickstrom said Friday.
Wickstrom is executive director of the facility, on St. Mary's Lake in
Pennfield Township. Wickstrom, who operates the facility with her husband,
Per, said more than 400 people have turned in reservations for the event,
and it's open to the public. Narconon centers follow a strict regiment of
classes, proper eating habits and the use of saunas, as laid out by
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in his book 'Clear Body, Clear Mind,'
to teach people how to beat their addictions, Wickstrom said.
"Last year, when the Wickstroms sought approval for a use variance from
the Pennfield Zoning Board of Appeals to begin operations, numerous
neighbors spoke out against the property being used as a drug
rehabilitation facility. However, the variance was approved 2-to-1.
"One neighbor moved soon after the Pennfield Zoning Board of Appeals
approved the special use permit for Narconon, he said. 'He put it on the
market the day after the township approved it,' Booher said. 'I think
there's some skepticism among the neighbors.'
"Currently there are about 45 residents in the facility, which is expected
to house as many as 100 people when it's at full capacity. So far,
Wickstrom said, nine people have graduated from the program."
> Scam ArtistThe Arizona Republic reported on June 28th that a Scientologist has been
sentenced to prison for stealing the money of investors in his company.
"A former Carefree man who pleaded guilty to spending elderly investors'
money on planes, luxury cars, and jewels was sentenced Friday to 17 1/2
years in prison. Benjamin Franklin Cook III, 55, who has been jailed since
October 1999, agreed to plead guilty to three theft counts in exchange for
the dismissal of more than 30 other charges. Admitting that 'mistakes had
been made,' Cook asked for probation so he could try to repay about 300
investors more than $43 million he collected between Jan 1, 1998, and
March 15, 1999.
"'If this isn't an aggravated case, I don't know what is,' he told Cook,
who once lived on a 10-acre spread in Carefree. 'This is so much money and
the fraud is so gross, there just has to be a major sanction against you.'
Cook's Dennel Financial Limited collapsed after a nearly three-year
investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Arizona
Corporation Commission, the U.S. Customs Service and state Attorney
General's Office. Prosecutors said Cook promised to sink investors' money
into a secretive European Bank Trading Program but spent it on two planes,
a 31-foot cabin cruiser, jewels and fat commissions for top salesmen,
including a BMW.
"Lawrence Warfield, a certified public accountant appointed as the
receiver in the Cook case, testified Friday that the money was never
invested and the type of foreign investment Cook promised 'doesn't exist.'
Warfield's seizure and sale of Cook's home and other assets netted about
$15 million. That includes the $1.5 million Cook donated to the Church of
Scientology, which handed over the money as part of a civil suit."
> Reed SlatkinKnight Ridder Tribune Business News reported on June 19th that a hearing
was held in the Reed Slatkin investment fraud case, which may lead to some
investors getting money back from the Slatkin estate. Slatkin was a
Scientology minister, and many of the investors are Scientologists.
"There were hundreds of winners and losers after a court decision
Wednesday concerning the Reed Slatkin investment scandal that erupted two
years ago in Santa Barbara. More than 400 defrauded investors are now a
step closer to receiving the first distributions of recovered money in the
$254 million case.
"But there's disappointment among more than 100 others who object to Mr.
Slatkin's guilty plea and the very foundations that the case is built
upon. After their arguments were rejected Wednesday by U.S. Bankruptcy
Court Judge Robin Riblet, their attorney said he plans to appeal. The
dissenting group, represented by attorney Howard Kollitz of Los Angeles,
wants to convince a judge that Mr. Slatkin did not operate a Ponzi scheme.
They also argue that Mr. Slatkin was a stockbroker and was ineligible to
seek bankruptcy relief under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection two years
"Judge Riblet said Wednesday that Mr. Slatkin was not a stockbroker and
did run a Ponzi scheme - a Ponzi scheme is illegal because investors are
not told that their money is simply being used to pay off earlier
"Friday, Judge Riblet will review and possibly approve the long-awaited
plan that's been OK'd by a vast majority of creditors. That would lead to
millions of dollars being sent to victims later this year. Mr. Neilson
said these 100 dissenters received more money from Mr. Slatkin than they
invested with him, and are using these tactics to try to avoid refunding
millions of dollars. Mr. Neilson has already sued some of the dissenters
to recover funds."
> UKThe Western Gazette, a newspaper in Dorset and Somerset, England, reported
on June 19th that Scientology is being accused of harassing potential
recruits in public.
"A Top politician has criticised the methods a religious sect is using to
spread its message, saying shoppers are being unfairly harassed.
Shoppers said they felt uncomfortable at the way they were persuaded to
follow representatives into the centre's temporary base at Woods Wine Bar
in Middle Street and given a pamphlet offering a 'free personality test'.
"This included questions such as: Do you often 'sit and think' about
death, sickness, pain and sorrow?; Would it take a definite effort on your
part to consider the subject of suicide?; and Do you ponder over your
"Anne Davis, aged 22, of Yeovil said: 'This girl just stopped me in the
street and started asking me some questions. They started off quite
general but when she asked me to follow her to the basement below Woods
wine bar it got a bit creepy. By this stage I was starting to have my
doubts and when she sat me in a chair and told me to look through a book I
started to get a bit worried. The simple fact is her perseverance started
to unnerve me. I felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. The
questions got more and more personal and she started asking me about past
relationships. I don't necessarily have a problem with people's belief in
Scientology but I don't like having it shoved down my throat.'
"South Somerset District Council chairman Tony Fife said he was uneasy,
too. He said: 'I am concerned about this religion and I would not like to
see them encouraged in Yeovil. There are enough established religions in
the town. I think it is totally outrageous that they are persuading
shoppers to go into this basement with them.
"The Dianetics Centre's local representative Simon Harrison, 34, of Yeovil
said he was sorry if people had felt unnerved. It carried out these kinds
of book-selling sessions every Friday and nobody complained. Mr Harrison
said: 'We ask people a few questions and if they will do a survey. If they
say yes, we ask them to come in and ask about the book. I am not a
salesman, I do not get paid.'"
The East Grinstead Observer reported on June 25th that Scientology
volunteers have organized clean-up events near the Saint Hill compound.
"Volunteers have been giving a brush-up to the Park Road Bridge site in
East Grinstead over the past couple of weekends. The team spent two
consecutive Sundays clearing the site in liaison with the Town Council.
"About 120 bags of rubbish were removed with 11 shopping trolleys and a
host of other debris, such as traffic cones, signs and old batteries. The
clean-up operation was organised by the East Grinstead Scientology
Volunteer Minister Group, assisted by residents and town clerk Chris
"Tom Shuster of the group said: 'The intention is to put two waste bins at
either side of the bridge, but until that occurs we ask people not to
discard their rubbish but take it home with them."