Doyle 'would rethink Scientology visit'

The Age, Australia/February 3, 2011

Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle says he would rethink his decision to attend the opening of a new Scientology centre in Melbourne if given his time again given the furore his presence caused.

Cr Doyle faced widespread criticism for accepting the role of guest speaker at the opening of the Church of Scientology's multimillion-dollar headquarters on Mount Alexander Road in Ascot Vale on Saturday.

Despite insisting he only attended the private function as a friend of Scientologist Kate Ceberano, Cr Doyle said in hindsight he would probably avoid the event if given his change again.

"I probably wouldn't do it because it has been such a distraction," Cr Doyle told radio 3AW today.

"But I didn't mean to offend anybody or lend authority to anybody. I was asked a favour by a friend and I did it and no one should draw any inference about Scientology and me from that.

"But look, you're probably right, given that it has been such a distraction I probably wouldn't do it again."

Also at the event was former planning minister Justin Madden, who says he attended the opening as the Member for Essendon.

Cr Doyle revealed that he arrived at the headquarters in the mayoral limousine and stood with Mr Madden to pull a cord which officially opened the centre, before both men spoke to the congregation.

Leading the chorus of opposition to Cr Doyle's presence was Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who has been spearheading the push to overturn the church's formal recognition as a religious body.

The lord mayor's decision to attend the opening also put him at odds with Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu who said he was "no fan" of the church.

Local newspapers had reported rumours that church director Cheryl Wickens would be joined by guests including celebrity Scientologists such as Tom Cruise or John Travolta at the opening, however none attended.

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