Scientology under fire in New Zealand

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but...but...but... it could get "cult" status!!!

                                                    NEW ZEALAND              Sunday 19th Feb 2012
also posted on "Latest News from the org" thread

                        Drugs education link to Scientology church

A controversial Church of Scientology drug-awareness programme has received government funding to spread its unorthodox views through schools and community groups.

In the past six months, drug-free ambassadors linked to the church have circulated 130,000 drug education booklets around New Zealand, paid for in part by the Department of Internal Affairs' Community Organisations Grant Scheme.

The ambassadors claim at least 18 community groups – including their "partners" the Maori Wardens – plus at least seven high schools, endorse and use the materials.

Advice offered in the pamphlets is based on research by Scientology's controversial founder, LRon Hubbard, who did not believe in medical drugs or psychiatry but instead in purging oneself of painful experiences to gain immortality.

Ross Bell, executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, warned that the group's information was flawed pseudo-science and could prove harmful to youth.

"This kind of quackery should not be in our schools – we are talking about young people's lives," he said.

"Drug and alcohol issues are complex and therefore we need well-qualified, proper, evidence-based support advice and information."

Bell said Scientology's views on mental health were not based on science, and had been discredited "time and time again" in the countries they worked in.

Other critics, including former Scientologists, say the drug-free ambassadors are also a front group aimed at recruitment which does not openly disclose its ties to the church.

The group, which has various aliases, has also come under fire overseas, including in Australia where its links to the government were described as "worrying".

However, the Church of Scientology New Zealand says its anti-drug group is not aimed at recruitment, instead wanting only to arm young people with factual information about drugs.

"We promote good educational materials on the drugs in use on the streets that people of all ages can relate to and decide for themselves whether or not to start using," said Mike Ferriss, head of Scientology in New Zealand.

He said the booklets were based partially on Hubbard's teachings, plus using local statistics and information.

Only some of the money came from government, Ferriss said. The International Association of Scientologists also made a grant. "As a group we believe that something effective can be done about any problem and it does not have to cost a lot of money."

Several groups of Maori Wardens, which are mainly volunteer organisations funded by the taxpayer, have partnered with the drug-free ambassadors.
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One of the group's leaders, Rita Peters, is a warden, a Scientologist and an ambassador. She spends much of her time handing out the booklets in places like Otahuhu and Mangere in South Auckland.

Mangere ward leader Thomas Henry said he talked with the group after its members consistently approached him with their pamphlets. He said drugs and alcohol were a problem in South Auckland and there was a need for the material.

"For us, it was free information. We don't have money to pay for these resources so we were thankful that we were able to have a relationship with them," Henry said.

Figures show that during 2011 the Church of Scientology New Zealand, a registered charity, listed its income for 2010 as $1.2 million. Drug-Free Ambassadors, also a registered charity, had an income of approximately $6700, of which $6500 was grants.

Green MP Kevin Hague said any funding given to a group that was a front for the church should be stopped.

"In the case of someone who is struggling with drugs, they are very vulnerable. So their exploitation by the church for their own ends is despicable."

King's College principal Bradley Fenner took up an invitation to speak at an event run by the drug-free ambassadors last year, only to find out afterward it was linked to Scientology. "I was disappointed. In general we would not align ourselves with a group like that," he said.

The drug-free ambassadors programme was launched by one of Scientologist actor John Travolta, more than 10 years ago. In 2003, actor Tom Cruise donated $1500 to the Auckland branch.

                                          Anti-drug campaign under fire

An anti-drug group run by the Church of Scientology will be investigated to ensure money granted to it by the government was not misspent.

Revelations that the drug-free ambassadors were given taxpayer cash to publish drug awareness pamphlets based on Scientology teachings, have also sparked a review by the Department of Internal Affairs.

The group, and its sister organisation Drug Free Aotearoa, received around $10,000 from various Community Organisation Grants Schemes committees during 2011.

Drug education experts say the information in the pamphlets funded by the grants is not based on science, and should not be given government money or disseminated by schools.

Scientology teachings are widely regarded as controversial. Founder L Ron Hubbard did not believe in psychiatric drugs or psychiatry.

However, the Church of Scientology said the ambassadors' programme gave out good information about the dangers of illicit drugs.

Despite the church's stance, the Department of Internal Affairs, which oversees the grants scheme, is to review its procedures so local committees have adequate information when making decisions.

"Groups have to account for the use of a grant and the department will be checking [the ambassador's] accountability information to ensure the funding was used for the purpose for which it was granted and not for religious purposes," a spokesman said.

Community grants provide funding to non-profit community organisations that deliver social and community services such as food banks, services to youth and grief counselling.

While this included services provided by religious groups, grants were not available to fund the promotion of religious views or objectives, the department said.

The spokesman would not say if the department would check the material printed with the help of the grants for suitability.

Green MP Kevin Hague, who last week called for the grants to the drug-free ambassadors to cease, said anyone applying for a grant should have to be open about their affiliations.

"It wouldn't be so much of an issue if the Church of Scientology was open that it was behind things. But the use of other names that don't give the public or the funders a clue about what the groups really are is a problem."

Hague said it was more important the Department of Internal Affairs made safeguards for the future rather than worrying about this particular set of grants.

New Zealand's Scientology head, Mike Ferriss, said the groups given money by the grants would not have misused it.
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Ferriss wanted it to be known that one of the church's critics, the New Zealand Drug Foundation, only supported a mental health approach to drug rehab and education.

"They could be seen as a psychiatric front group lobbying the government and attacking faith-based drug rehab which has a good record of getting people off drugs."

New Zealand Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said the foundation supported evidence and scientific-based mental health and addiction services.

- © Fairfax NZ News

                                 The New Zealand Listener.

                      Jane Clifton: What was Nick Smith thinking?

Published on March 23, 2012

In the great scheme of things he made a small mistake, but still a thumpingly obvious one that has cost him his career.

In the normal course of events, there are people and situations that politicians very quickly learn to avoid. These include anything to do with Scientology, fluoridation, abortion, the gun lobby and, broadly speaking, anybody who fixes them with a glittering eye à la The Ancient Mariner. The latter is the trickiest category to steer clear of, because MPs’ electorate clinics are full of them. They are the walking wounded, typically having come out the wrong end of dealings with the Family Court, an insurance company, an ex-partner, Immigration New Zealand or – as is currently the hot button – the ACC.

We all know someone like this, because they “holdeth one of three” to tell their tale of woe. And we sympathise. We really do. But at some point in such people’s terrible journey, their world has become so small that their albatross has become everything to them. At this point, the only sensible, humane advice anyone can give them is to rule a line under the atrocity, pick up what’s left of their psyches and, as Helen Clark would say, Move On.

Which is only one of the reasons Nick Smith made a dopey, career-blighting mistake in respect of his friend Bronwyn Pullar – a woman who by her own admission in emails had become quite consumed by her albatross. When she badgered him for support in her battle to get accident compensation, he should have kept saying no. And not just for the reasons most of us would have had to say no: that her fight was narrowing her life-focus, that state agencies have disproportionate power over the individual and will always win, that possibly she wasn’t entitled to compo. He had this reason: he was the Minister in Charge of ACC at the time.

Now, we shouldn’t have to put this in italics, but apparently the ferociously bright Smith, who has a doctorate, is one of the few on this earth who understands the emissions trading scheme and even knows how to tie his own shoelaces, was having a major brain outage. After sensibly refusing his friend’s requests for help, he then hit on the idea of attesting to her health and vigour before her accident. Somehow, he thought that even though he was writing in support of his friend on ministerial letterhead, if he just said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on her actual claim, his intercession in support of his friend, a former high-ranking National Party official, in her battle with his department would be okay.

Dear Lord, shoot me now. How many more times do we have to ask the question, of even the most shrewd and purposeful politicians – Rodney Hide when he took his junkets, Trevor Mallard when he nickel-and-dimed it on Trade Me – what were they thinking? Perhaps the question is, why weren’t they thinking?

The case for resignation/sacking doesn’t get much stronger than this. You do not use, or even look as though the thought had momentarily flitted through your mind of using, your ministerial position to advantage a friend, relative, brother-in-law of a long-ago next-door neighbour or, indeed, anyone at all. In the great scheme of things this was a small mistake – but still a thumpingly obvious one. And as Prime Minister John Key was forced to admit, since it was followed by a failure by Smith to disclose his conflict of interest when he signed off another letter the corporation wrote to Pullar along the way, it was one mistake too many.

Although all parties are guilty of cronyism, this affair suggests it is so deeply ingrained that even super-bright MPs like Smith don’t even realise they’re engaging in it, or in danger of being seen to engage in it. The thing about Smith is, he’s not a great one for lengthy deliberation. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, he was a scrappy little cockatoo in a recent past life – to the point where you can actually see his hair rise in a crest when he’s excited in Parliament. (It’s probably static electricity, but the effect is the same.) To have a conversation with Smith is to be high-pressure-hosed with absolutes. Once he has made up his mind about something, he has a go. You’ve only to see the way he’s attacking the local government sector. Tact and diplomacy be damned.

So when someone of whom he was fond – and to take it from Winston Peters, under parliamentary privilege, very fond – asked for help, his instinct was obviously to help if he could. Tellingly, Pullar’s other friend and supporter in this was long-time National Party knuckle-cracker Michelle Boag. Boag argues she has no official party role these days and was involved purely as a civilian, but as a PR maven, she must know the power of a reputation like her own. Again, you can’t fault her for friendship, but no one – least of all ACC officials – could fail to pick up the whiff of Beehive waiting-room upholstery when a client walks into a case meeting with such a muscular political figure as Boag as her advocate.

An inquiry has yet to determine whether, as has been claimed, Pullar made her surrendering of accidentally leaked ACC client details conditional upon her receiving the compensation she has been battling for. But that aside, when you have friends in high places, you’re best to leave them behind when you have dealings like this, because to include them looks just plain ugly.

A further mischief from this affair is that it shifts the focus from the ACC’s case-management stewardship. Suddenly, the news angle is an attempt to bully the corporation, when the more serious problem is the ACC’s sorry record of bilking genuine claimants using underhand tactics. Irrespective of the merits of Pullar’s case, there’s a stack of evidence that officials have arbitrarily changed the rules around some injuries, and have shopped for suitable medical advice accordingly. There’s no secret about its repeated attempts to deem even well-documented accident injuries to be the result of long-term deterioration – in the teeth of specialists’ diagnoses.

Also not looking too crisp for Smith in his retrospective role as ACC minister is the new question mark over his assurances the corporation was ready to be opened to private sector competition.

The present minister, Judith Collins, is trying to be tactful about why this isn’t happening, but it’s clear Smith’s prep on the issue was somewhat gung-ho. It now turns out that unless the corporation is recapitalised – and there’s not a prayer of this given other fiscal priorities – there’s no way it can compete. Insurance companies would cherry-pick big business clients with good deals, leaving small businesses and the ACC to bear the brunt of higher costs elsewhere.

In fairness, Smith is by no means a write-off. In time he may be reappointed to the Cabinet. But it’s just as possible he may in time himself be detaining one-in-three with skinny hand and glittering eye to tell the horror story of the one ghastly mistake that cursed his career. Having to hand over a whopping local government reform agenda that was very dear to his heart – he was elected to his local council barely out of short pants and remains fanatically interested in the field – is a high price to pay. He won’t share the Ancient Mariner’s fate of being condemned to a rotting sea from which “slimy things did crawl with legs” and gloating death heads – but for someone like Smith, demotion to Parliament’s backbench can seem just as unpleasant.


                     New Zealand Herald    

               Greens say tax payer money going to Church of Scientology

By Kate Shuttleworth
 Wednesday May 9, 2012

Green's drugs spokesman Kevin Hague has alleged in Parliament that the Church of Scientology is using tax-payer money to promote an anti-psychiatry agenda and messages against medication used to treat mental illness through charities disguised as social service organisations.

Mr Hague said he had watched members of the church on Auckland's Queen Street target vulnerable people.

Using parliamentary privilege, Mr Hague said groups affiliated to the church had been able to receive community grants.

"There's a bunch of smiling young people with clipboards who approach people who are going past and invite them to do a personality test," he said in Parliament.

"Those that take the personality test invariably find that the solution to the problem to their personality lies some how with the Church of Scientology."

Mr Hague claimed 30,000 children had received the leaflets from the group.

He said the church was against the use of medicines used to treat mental illness and psychiatry and targeted vulnerable members in the community.

"It is evil to try to dissuade people with mental illness to avoid proper health professional services that they need."

"I don't object to churches providing social services, provided the church is transparent and that the service is not a front for recruiting into the church, but the Church of Scientology fails of both of those fronts."

Mr Hague said that among the groups acting as a front for the Church of Scientology were Drug-Free World, Drug-Free Ambassadors, Commission for Human Rights, Rehabilitate New Zealand and World Literacy Crusade.

He called for the Minister of Internal Affairs to follow through with an investigation promised by the department in February.

Church of Scientology secretary Mark Ferris confirmed Drug-Free Ambassadors and Drug-free Aotearoa were registered charities and had received a $6500 community grant to fund fliers promoting a drug-free life.

Mr Ferris said the groups listed in Parliament by Mr Hague were well-known affiliates of the church.

He said the leaflets were distributed widely and had not targeted children and did not address psychiatric drugs.

He said Mr Hague's comments were not accurate.

"They are stupid, because we are doing something in terms of drug education that no other group is," he said.

Mr Ferris said the church was against the over-use of medication in psychiatry but not against medication overall.

"They are saying that a drug-free life is better than taking drugs," he said.

"We use medical doctors like anyone else. In fact, we have members of in the church who are doctors," he said.




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