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Angry teens picket Sun // Links to Scientology cut into fundraising efforts for Narconon

Title: Angry teens picket Sun // Links to Scientology cut into fundraising efforts for Narconon
Date: Thursday, 8 August 1991
Publisher: Winnipeg Sun
Author: Pat St. Germain
Main source: link (132 KiB)

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About 30 teenagers hired to raise funds for Narconon — a drug rehabilitation program linked to the Church of Scientology — picketed The Sun's offices yesterday to protest news reports on Narconon and the church last week.

Several teenagers — accompanied by an adult spokesman bearing press kits — complained a recent Sun story linking Narconon to the alleged cult left the perception the teen salespeople are linked to the cult as well.

"All we were trying to do was get some summer employment," one 18-year-old protester said of the teens' jobs selling pepperonl and T-shirts door-to-door to raise funds for Narconon.

"It's made it a lot harder on the sales reps."

Sun stories pointed to the connection between Narconon and the Church of Scientology — alleged by U.S. experts to be a dangerous cult involved in criminal activity which uses the Narconon program to recruit members.

Paul Wattman of Mr. Pepperette, the division of Wellington Food Service running the fund-raising program, denied he organized the protest, and claimed the company is raising money for Narconon because the drug program has an impressive track record.

However, medical professionals say Narconon's claims it has a 75 to 95-percent success rate are unsubstantiated, and its methods are questionable at best.

A church spokesperson, who flew to Winnipeg from British Columbia to handle publicity after the stories appeared, denied the church had anything to do with yesterday's protest.

Robbie Hepburn also denied the church is affiliated with Narconon, although both follow the teachings of church-founder L. Ron Hubbard, and the church supports and recommmends Narconon for drug treatment.

The teens — some who said they were hired by Mr. Pepperette just this week — said the publicity is turning off potential customers and putting their summer jobs in jeopardy.

"We didn't do nothing wrong. It's hard enough to get a job, why take ours away?" said a 17-year-old youth who has worked for the company for three weeks.

A 13-year-old girl said the youths — some wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan Say No to Drugs — believed they were helping in the fight against drug abuse.

However, the teens said they hadn't heard of any link between the church and Narconon until they saw The Sun's stories.

And that was the main point of the story, said senior editor John Bertrand — letting the kids, and the public know who they're dealing with.

"It is about truth, and making sure the public is aware of all the details of something they've been asked to get involved in."

The Sun is not trying to prevent anyone from fund-raising or campaigning against drug abuse, he said, adding it's "fine and fair" if people still want to contribute to Narconon.

A Wellington Food Service manager, Brian Knowles, who is a member of the church, said his company is involved only in fund-raising for Narconon, which gets 10 per cent of the profits from sales.