Church keys programs to recruit blacks
Boston Herald/March 2, 1998
By Joseph Mallia
The Church of Scientology
has targeted black families in Massachusetts
with a learn-to-read program
that critics say is just a rehash of old methods
that leans heavily on
the church's religious teachings.
The learn-to-read program - the
World Literacy Crusade - is part of a
nationwide effort by the church to
entice blacks into Scientology and then
convince them to take other,
expensive programs, according to critics and
former members of the
A Herald review has found that Scientologists have:
- Targeted a literacy campaign at inner-city Boston programs for
children, including Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn's Youth
the Roxbury YMCA and the Roxbury Youth Works.
- Attracted dozens of middle class and professional black families to
Delphi Academy in Milton. This Scientology-run school uses E-Meters -
akin to lie detectors - on children, according to a former
- Taught Scientology methods to ninth-grade teachers
at Randolph High
School - which has many black students - after
persuading headmaster James
E. Watson that their techniques work.
- Taught Scientology's study techniques to Boston Public Schools
at Brighton High School through teacher Gerald Mazzarella, who
a church member.
- Created 26 World Literacy Crusade
programs - in Boston, New York, Los
Angeles, Denver, Miami, Memphis,
Tenn., and a host of other U.S. cities
in the wake of the 1992 Los
- Gained the endorsements of prominent local blacks
such as Georgette
Watson, co-founder of Drop-A-Dime and former
anti-drug aide to Gov. William
Scientologists say the literacy campaign is
nonreligious, and thereforedoesn't
violate laws separating church and
But critics say the church plays fast and loose with
identical programs "religious" in one
context and "secular"
Church documents and
books show that Scientology clearly identifies Study
Technology as a
religious practice. It is taught at the church's local headquarters
Beacon Street in Boston in the $600 Student Hat program, as a first step
into church membership.
This learn-to-read "technology"
- or Study Tech as the church
calls it - teaches children to distrust
their own intelligence and rely
passively on what the church teaches,
said high-ranking church defector
Robert Vaughn Young.
"Study Tech is an extremely dangerous technique," Young
"Critical thinking? There is no critical thinking. Criticism
part that is not allowed," said Young, who once directed
worldwide public relations effort.
The Rev. Heber
C. Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International,
that black children or families are being recruited through the literacy
"We've found that African-American families are as
everyone else in what works . . .. They might not
necessarily join the church
but the quality of their lives has been
improved by it," he said.
Scientologists say the literacy
techniques offer the only way to end
gang violence, teen pregnancy and
other inner-city problems. "I think
parents are being driven to find
answers. They want their kids to be educated,
for heaven's sake. God
bless the World Literacy Crusade," Jentzsch
Scientology's study techniques are so effective they raised his
own IQ by
34 points, and helped his children read far above their grade
The Herald asked Harvard University literacy expert Victoria
to assess the World Literacy Crusade's learn-to-read book,
Study Manual," written by Scientology founder L. Ron
is all `old stuff,' and has been taught in the
schools for at least 30 years
(probably more) now," the Harvard
professor wrote in an assessment
for the Herald.
there is nothing new in this text that is not known
specialists at a very basic level," she added. "The
really `different' is that Mr. Hubbard has renamed basic concepts
into his overall scheme of things."
Steve Hassan of
Cambridge, a cult deprogrammer, warned that the way Scientologists
the book, in one-on-one tutorials, is a first step toward hypnotic mind
control. And the literacy materials are the same as church scriptures -
except the schoolbooks leave out the word "Scientology," Hassan
For example, the "Basic Study Manual" teaches
the Scientology practice of "disconnecting" -
used to separate
new recruits from non-Scientologists, including parents.
`advisers,' `friends,' `families' . . . indulge in all
manner of interpretations
and even outright lies to seem wise or
expert," the manual says.
The manual also promotes
Scientology's anti-psychology agenda, linking
psychology to German
fascism and saying psychotherapists reduce humans to
the level of
Scientology spokesman Bernard Percy, however, defended
the World Literacy
Crusade, saying it has no harmful agenda, and that its
can turn a child's life around. For example, Percy said,
the program requires
children to look up in a dictionary each and every
unfamiliar word - and
that becomes a lifelong habit with tremendous
Scientologists also claim the literacy campaign is not
the Church of Scientology - so they are not breaking the
religion in the schools.
But that is a false
claim, because the campaign is funded and directed
by the Church of
Scientology, Hassan said.
local Scientologists deny that the World Literacy Crusade is
the Church of Scientology, anyone who uses L. Ron Hubbard's
name, or his
trademarked Study Technology techniques, is strictly controlled
licensing contracts with Scientology groups in Los Angeles, in particular
the Religious Technology Center, according to Young and church materials
obtained by the Herald.
The World Literacy Crusade's independence
from Scientology is a "fiction,"
Literacy Crusade videotape, viewed by the Herald, clearly states
has a licensing agreement with RTC - Scientology's most powerful
organization - allowing it to use L. Ron Hubbard's name.
Scientologists get a 10 percent to 35 percent commission on any
course bought by someone they recruit through the literacy programs,
according to Church of Scientology documents dated last month.
Once Scientology attracts a new recruit, its staff applies skillful,
high-pressure sales tactics, Hassan said. Members must pay more than
in "fixed donations" - or barter their full-time labor
- to achieve
When the Mo Vaughn group or
another agency buys Scientology's literacy
books - which cost about $35
each - most of the money goes to several Scientology
organizations in Los
Angeles: Bridge Publications, the church's in-house
Services Inc., Scientology's literary agency; and RTC,
which owns the
rights to the trademarked name L. Ron Hubbard. Also, church
sometimes get government funding.
Scientologists got a federal
grant for the literacy program in Memphis,
former church spokeswoman Kit
Federal money was also spent in Boston on Scientology
Gerald Mazzarella, a Scientologist who teaches at
Brighton High School.
Mazzarella told the Herald he used part of a $5,000
federal grant to buy
Scientology textbooks and checklists during the
1980s, which he then used
at Brighton High.
Boston's kickoff of Scientology's literacy program
was an April 22, 1995,
reception at Roxbury Community College.
The guest of honor was Isaac Hayes, the first black musician ever to
win an Academy Award.
The "Shaft" composer impressed a
few prominent local blacks
- including James E. Watson, the Randolph
Junior/Senior High School headmaster.
"It obviously helps kids
improve their learning. It seemed to be a
Watson toured Delphi Academy in Milton about three years
ago, then asked
the school's headmistress, Ellen Garrison, to begin
teaching Study Technology
to his ninth-grade teachers at the Randolph
school in December.
"It's at its infancy stage, and what it
would cost isn't clear yet,"
the headmaster said at the time.
Watson, who has been praised for easing
racial tensions in Randolph,
recently said there is no longer any connection
between the two
The head of a youth program founded by one of Boston's
athletes was also interested.
they're right on when they say illiteracy is a problem
that leads to
other problems," said Roosevelt Smith, executive director
of the Mo
Vaughn Youth Development Program.
"We contracted with the
World Literacy Crusade to bring seven kids
up to speed," Smith said.
Five of the children, who were 13-16 years
old, improved their reading
ability using the "Basic Study Manual,"
of the stuff is free. They only asked us to pay for books and
Mo Vaughn himself knew about the
Scientologists' program, but "he
hasn't met with them
directly," Smith said.
But the Scientology religion "is
not a part of what we're doing,"
Smith said. "I don't think the
kids even know what Scientology is."
Roxbury Youth Works,
however, allowed World Literacy Crusade workers
to tutor teenagers there
three years ago, but had second thoughts after
learning more about the
group's links to Scientology, said Roxbury Youth
Works administrator Dave
"We as an organization were a little apprehensive.
It seems like
they were trying to recruit people," Wideman said.
group was the particular population we serve,
predominantly young black
men and women."
But if the
Randolph High School literacy program succeeds, Scientologists
teach the same "tech" in Boston classrooms, said Finn,
"That's definitely the plan," Finn said.
"It's like Mr.
Watson. Somebody has to be bright enough to want
Virtually every top Scientology official is white,
according to ex-members
and photographs of church leaders. But the new
literacy campaign shows Scientology
wants to attract blacks and
Hispanics, said Priscilla Coates, formerly of
the Cult Awareness Network
in Los Angeles - an anti-cult group that was
bankrupted by Scientology
lawsuits and then taken over by the church.
[Note: WARNING! The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was recently
bankrupted and bought up by Scientology. We strongly recommend you do
not contact them for assistance.]
youth who is taught Study Technology is ripe for
said. "The child has a possibility of becoming
Scientologist," she said.
Elsewhere in the United States,
the World Literacy Crusade has installed
its programs at a New York City
police athletic league, a Los Angeles probation
department, and the Tampa
(Fla.) Housing Authority. Other programs are in
Washington, D.C., Denver,
and throughout California.
In Memphis, Tenn., public officials
were angered to learn that the World
Literacy Crusade had run a pilot
program - with federal grant money - for
75 students in a public school
building, without getting a needed permit
and without disclosing its ties
to Scientology. The church was not allowed
to use the school facilities
In the inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton,
more than 700
black children, including gang members, participated in the
Crusade and the program saved their lives by giving them
to street life, Jentzsch said.
"If you know
what the statistics are in Compton, (it is) just miraculous,"
Jentzsch said. "I've seen kids from the Crips and the Bloods sitting
there working with other kids to get them educated."
Larry Campbell brought his daughter to the
Scientologists at the Roxbury
YMCA because she was having reading
problems in a public school outside
Boston, which he would not name.
"I brought my daughter here because these guys help,"
said. The father acknowledged that he also enrolled himself in
program, to improve his reading skills.
is what the public schools should be doing," the father
"It should be attended to not next year but now."
for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and each Saturday morning,
Campbell, a deacon at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Roxbury,
his elementary school aged daughter to a neon-lit YMCA room
an old sofa, two foldout tables and a stack of plastic
There, she and other black children were coached in
methods by church members Simaen Skolfield and Cliff
During one session observed by a Herald reporter,
neither tutor had a
spontaneous conversation with a child, but read from
Dufresne, who dropped out of Boston College Law School
to work on the
literacy program, helped Doug Walker, a pupil at the
William Monroe Trotter
Elementary School in Dorchester.
Walker's mother said the school wanted to solve her son's problems
giving him medication such as Ritalin, Dufresne said. But, he added,
mother wanted to try drug-free Scientology lessons first.
Meanwhile Skolfield, a bearded British emigre, helped Tanzania
- whose ambition is to be a schoolteacher in Atlantic City, N.J.
a Study Technology lesson.
Campbell and others at the
Roxbury YMCA literacy program were expected
to pay nothing at first.
"Not yet," Dufresne said.
But Dufresne hopes his
students will, in turn, teach their friends the
"That's the whole idea. They learn this and
then they circle back
and teach somebody else. Because there's not enough
of us," he
Scientology literacy sessions are no longer allowed at the
after officials there learned that the program is
associated with the church.
But, an official at Dennison House in
Dorchester said Dufresne met with
house representatives last year and
Dennison House invited World Literacy
Crusade workers to come in as
tutors. The tutoring has not yet started.
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