Londoners See a Disaster, But Scientology Sees an Opportunity!
Some (mostly annoying) Scientology updates today while we wait for tomorrow's big reveal in our countdown:
In the suburbs of London (and in nearby Birmingham), where rioting has reached end-times proportions, Scientology's "Volunteer Ministers" have been spotted in their yellow jackets, handing out church propaganda. From the website Political Scrapbook:
A "Scientology Volunteer Force" appeared at the cleanup operation in Birmingham City Centre this morning, purporting to be there to help sweep up. In reality, they stayed for around ten minutes - just long enough to convince members of the public to come back to their centre and "learn more" about the organisation. According to cleanup helper @BrumProtestor, the five volunteers, who wore the sect's trademark yellow jackets, each left with a member of the public in the direction of their nearby recruitment office.
Hey, 9/11, the Haiti quake -- Scientology has never seen a disaster it can't exploit. L. Ron Hubbard to the rescue!
UPDATE: Speaking of Haiti, after that earthquake, Anonymous put together a little primer on the Volunteer Ministers. It includes some classic footage of Scientology executives very plainly describing the VMs as a recruitment tool for the church:
And from Los Angeles, a different sort of exploitation, this time of kids.
Some time ago, Scientology hit on another of its "good works" campaigns that help to distract the public from all the controversies the church is mired in. This time, instead of baking addicts in saunas while soaked with niacin, they pestered poor old Eleanor Roosevelt.
Back in 1948, Ms. Roosevelt did a wonderful thing. She wrangled the United Nations into adopting a "Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It's a lovely document that enshrines all of the basic rights and dignities human beings around the world should be entitled to, like the right to live, the right not to be tortured, and the right to think and speak freely. It's good stuff.
But in it, Scientology sees an opportunity. Using slick videos and print campaigns, Scientology has formed new front groups that are disseminating this stuff like nobody's business. That's not entirely bad in itself -- except, of course, that they never mention that it's really a big PR campaign for the Church of Scientology, which usually goes unidentified -- but what's really troubling is that the new campaign is all about the children.
As in, kids roped into promoting Scientology's interests.
Recruiting kids to wear "Youth for Human Rights" T-shirts so they can hand out literature just feels like dirty pool. And on August 27, the campaign is trying something new: making a big show at a Major League Soccer game in Los Angeles, between Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake. According to a flier put out by the International Association of Scientologists [IAS]:
Thanks to an IAS grant, all public at the stadium and an estimated TV audience of 500,000 viewers will receive the message of Human Rights front and center. The grant will fund the production and distribution of 7,500 custom edition What Are Human Rights? booklets, as well as Youth for Human Rights T-shirts commemorating the event.
And if that's not enough, according to the IAS, the soccer team is going to provide a great bottleneck for fans trying to get into the game!
Chivas USA will be providing Youth for Human Rights volunteers with spaces at the entrance of the stadium where the booklets can be distributed and soccer fans will be asked to sign the Youth for Human Rights petition.
I've put in a call with Chivas USA's media relations officer to see if the team was aware that the innocent-sounding "Youth for Human Rights" was actually a front group for a religion that's been having a lot of human rights problems of its own. I'll let you know what he says.
See all of our recent Scientology coverage at the Voice
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard's organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga -- Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story -- How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself The Jason Beghe Defection -- A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue The Robert Cipriano Case -- A Hellacious Example of Fair Game The Paul Haggis Ultimatum -- The 'Crash' Director Tells Scientology to Shove It The Marc Headley Escape -- 'Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle' The Aaron Saxton Accusation -- Australia turns up the heat on Scientology The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation -- Scientology's former PR genius comes clean The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross -- Scientology lures a young defector into a trap A Church Myth Debunked -- Scientology and Proposition 8 Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back -- Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits When Scientologists Attack -- The Marty Rathbun Intimidation A Scientologist Excommunicated -- The Michael Fairman SP Declaration The Richard Leiby Operation -- Investigating a reporter's divorce to shut him up The Hugh Urban Investigation -- An academic takes a harsh look at Scientology's past Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh -- A precedent for a Scientology-Branch Davidian link Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology -- A masterful telling of Scientology's history The Western Spy Network Revealed? -- Marty Rathbun ups the ante on David Miscavige Scientology's Enemies List -- Are You On It? Inside Inside Scientology -- An interview with author Janet Reitman Scientology and the Nation of Islam -- Holy Doctrinal Mashup, Batman! Scientologists -- How Many of Them Are There, Anyway? Roger Weller's Wild Ride -- Scientology When it was Hip The Marc Headley Infiltration -- A Scientology Spying Operation Revealed Placido Domingo Jr: Scientology's Retaliation is "Scary and Pathetic" An Interview with Nancy Many, Former Scientology Spy The Paulien Lombard Confession -- A Scientology Spy Comes Clean The Deputy Benjamin Ring Hard Sell -- Scientology wants your 401K The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology -- the whole series! The Squirrel Busters Busted -- Unmasking the Scientology PI in Charge
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.