L. Ron Hubbard, the controversial founder of the Church of Scientology, will not be honored on March 13 in Tinley Park - after Mayor Edward Zabrocki moved quickly Monday to avoid such an embarrassment. A clerical error resulted in a proclamation declaring March 13 as L. Ron Hubbard Day in the village making it onto the agenda for tonight's village board meeting.
Hubbard, who died in 1986, founded Scientology in 1954. The international church, based in Clearwater, Fla., is known for its aggressive recruitment tactics, which have caused many to view it as a cult.
The Internal Revenue Service in 1993 ruled that Scientology was a religion and entitled to tax-free status.
When a reporter questioned Zabrocki about the agenda item on Monday, Zabrocki said he knew nothing about it and would check into it. Zabrocki called back a short time later and said the proposed proclamation was placed on the agenda in error when a clerk's office employee mistakenly thought Zabrocki had given his blessing to the item.
"It's off the agenda. There's a conflict of church and state. We don't want to get involved in that," the mayor said.
The proclamation had arrived at the village hall resembling an official proclamation. The Church of Scientology routinely sends such documents to communities nationwide, hoping they'll honor Hubbard on March 13, his birthday, church spokeswoman Sue Strozewski said.
"None to my knowledge have named a day for him," she said.
Orland Park has received such releases, but "we try to keep such days (of honor) village-oriented," said Kathy Zuro, secretary to Mayor Daniel McLaughlin. Scientology counts celebrities such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise among its faithful, but it tends to find controversy, along with lots of money, worldwide, according to Paul Rutgers, executive director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.
"One of the major things (followers) lose is money," Rutgers said. "It's one heck of a money-making scheme."
Village trustees said Zabrocki was right to pull the proposed proclamation from the agenda - even though it had no chance of being approved by the board.
"It's a cult," Trustee Mike Bettenhausen said of Scientology. Strozewski has heard that before.
"The IRS said we were a religion after a long, drawn-out investigation," she said. "We are and always have been a bona fide religion." Just one without a day in Tinley Park.