The United Kingdom is home to around 2,000 Scientologists and the former home of it’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, still plays a vital role in its worldwide operations. Every year, thousands of parishioners from across the globe descend on the town of East Grinstead to attend it’s annual IAS event (International Association of Scientologists) at Saint Hill. It is the biggest fundraising event in Scientology’s calendar, and 2023 will mark the return of their international events program following a 4-year hiatus.
Scientology has been under fire since its inception, with the UK government raising concerns in 1975 about it’s ‘mafia-like’ reputation for ‘barbaric punishments’ staff members are subjected to. The government concluded Scientology was ‘harmful’, ‘evil’ and ‘disrupted families’, an internal report stating “it does not merely persuade people to part with their money. It is a harmful movement with an evil reputation.“
The group was placed under surveillance and it was later found the largest infiltration of US Government in history, known as Operation Snow White was being directed from their headquarters at Saint Hill, Sussex. Jane Kember and her deputy Mo Budlong were later found to be directing the campaign and extradited to the US, where they were convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison.
In 1999, Scientology were rejected tax-exempt status by the Charity Commission after they failed to prove a public benefit, but this has not stopped them from gaining small – but tactically important – victories in the British judicial system. In 2013, the Supreme Court redefined ‘religion’ in British law in order to allow Scientology the right to perform religious weddings at its London chapel and more recently in January 2023, a Specialist Valuations Tribunal ruled their UK facilities were places of “public worship” and thus exempt from business rates.
Despite the open criticism of Scientology, it has continued to operate in the United Kingdom, generating some £22 million in annual revenue – which it funnels through an Australian-registered charity named ‘Church of Scientology Religious Education College, Inc.’ in order to avoid Income Tax.
In the United States, Scientology leader David Miscavige has been running from process servers looking to serve him legal papers in a number of harassment, child trafficking and forced labour cases. Stories from former members such as Mike Rinder, who was thrown in the lake at Saint Hill as punishment, make it crystal clear Scientology’s harsh and abusive practices are prevalent at every level of the organisation – including here in the UK.
We are protesting to send a clear message to Scientology: the abuse must stop.
Join us, 3rd – 5th November 2023.