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This rich creepy cult has friends in high places

Title: This rich creepy cult has friends in high places
Date: Tuesday, 15 May 2007
Publisher: Evening Standard (UK)
Author: Francis Wheen
Main source:

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JOHN Travolta is a halfwit. A statement of the obvious, perhaps, given his adherence to a cult which believes we're all infected with the souls of aliens who were banished to earth 75 million years ago by an evil galactic warlord called Xenu. But if anyone doubted it, the former disco-strutter confirmed his asininity by publicly urging the BBC not to screen John Sweeney's Panorama film about Scientology last night. Not to be outdone, Travolta's fellow- cultists gleefully posted on YouTube a clip of Sweeney losing his temper.

Had they paused for a moment's rational thought — tricky, I agree, with extraterrestrial imps running amok in your brain - they'd have realised their actions could only boost the audience for Panorama. Is this what they wanted?

I doubt it. Scientologists loathe journalistic scrutiny, and with good reason. For decades they were visible merely as pod-people who lurked in the Tottenham Court Road, inviting passers-by to come in and take a "personality test" — as familiar and absurd as their near-neighbour Stanley Green, the sandwich-board man of Oxford Street who warned that protein was the root of all evil.

Recently, however, these extraterrestrial creeps have been using their vast wealth to buy respectability; and until Sweeney got on their case they were doing rather well. At the opening of their huge new headquarters in the City of London last October, Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley praised Scientologists as "a force for good — raising the spiritual wealth of society". It then emerged that at least 20 of his fellow officers in the City force had accepted hospitality from the Church of Scientology in the previous year, including invitations to the premiere of Mission: Impossible 3 and tickets to a £500-ahead dinner attended by Tom Cruise.

A Scientology offshoot, the Association for Better Living and Education, sponsored stalls at both Labour and Tory conferences last autumn to promote Narconon, the cult's drug rehabilitation programme. Narconon has also gained access to several London schools, advising children that they can avoid drug addiction by taking saunas and eating vitamins. Reputable drug charities point out that Narconon has no scientific credibility whatever.

Hardly surprising, since the programme was devised by Scientology's founder, L Ron Hubbard, a sci-fi novelist by trade. "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous," he once said. "If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

Better still, disguise the religion as a charity and start f lashing your cash. The villains in last night's Panorama weren't only the Scientologists but also the public bodies in London which aid and abet them. I don't remember schools, police forces and political parties giving the same assistance to dear old Stanley Green.

True, he didn't have a five-storey HQ in the Square Mile and couldn't promise dinner with Tom Cruise. On the other hand, he was quite harmless.