Church anger at 'cult' space

Evening Mail (UK)/April 24, 2004
By James Cartledge

Church leaders and council bosses were locked in a row today after a group branded "little more than a cult" was allowed to take over prominent public space.

The Diocese of Birmingham attacked the city council's decision to let the Church of Scientology launch its volunteer ministers' centre in Centenary Square.

Diocesan spokesman Arun Arora said the controversial movement, founded by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard and backed by Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta, was "as much a religion as a dog is a vegetable".

But the city council said the group was allowed to use the square as it was not a banned or illegal organisation.

Mr Arora, diocesan director of communications, said Scientology was "regarded by many as little more than a cult".

"Scientology has rightly been refused recognition as a religion by the UK Charity Commissioners.

It is a multi-million pound business with a couple of film stars on its books," he said.

The ministers' centre was housed in a giant marquee in the square from Sunday until Wednesday and will be back there from tomorrow until Wednesday.

A Scientology spokesman said the Church of England's criticism "hardly warranted a response" and said Scientology had been recognised as a religion by other experts.

The city council said it responded to an application for a "volunteer minister roadshow with an anti-drugs message, aimed at helping people in the community".

"The city centre squares are used by a variety of voluntary and community organisations," a spokeswoman said.

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