Gala dinners, jive bands and Tom Cruise: how the Scientologists woo City police

Unlikely relationship has blossomed since July 7 Contacts are mutually beneficial, claims group

The Guardian, UK/November 22, 2006
By Sandra Laville

It began with tea and biscuits for constables at the police cordon after the July 7 terrorist attacks, progressed to lunches with senior officers and continues with regular invitations to gala nights and jive concerts.

The Church of Scientology appears to be involved in an effort to woo officers from the City of London police - an unlikely partnership perhaps, but one that seems to be blossoming. Details of how more than 20 officers, from constables to chief superintendents, have been invited to a series of engagements by the scientologists over the last 15 months have been revealed by a freedom of information inquiry by the Guardian.

The hospitality included guest invitations in May for two constables and a sergeant to attend the premiere of Mission Impossible 3 in Leicester Square, where they were able to rub shoulders with the best known Scientologist of all and the star of the film, Tom Cruise.

The Guardian requested details of meetings between police and scientologists after a senior officer from the City appeared as a guest speaker at the opening of the £23m Scientology centre near St Paul's Cathedral last month.

At the lavish ceremony, Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley, the fourth most senior officer in the force, praised the scientologists for the support they had provided after the July 7 attacks, when followers of L Ron Hubbard's movement appeared at the police cordons of the Aldgate bomb site offering help to those involved in the emergency operation. The relationship flourished in the following months, according to the City police's register of hospitality, which all officers are required to fill out.

Since July 7 the Church of Scientology has invited four police constables, an inspector and a chief superintendent to a charity dinner at their British headquarters, Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex, where the officers received a donation of £5,000 for a City of London children's charity.

The hospitality continued with a member of the Hubbard Foundation buying lunch for about £20 for a chief superintendent at Boisdale restaurant in Bishopsgate, central London, where the £28 set menu currently includes mini-Macsween haggis, fish or meat of the day and raspberry cranachan.

Most of the engagements detailed in the register of hospitality were approved by a senior officer: either Frank Armstrong, the assistant commissioner of City police, Mr Hurley or his colleague Chief Superintendent Ken Stewart.

But the register of hospitality contains gaps on at least two occasions, where it is not known which officer attended an event or who authorised it.

The invitations to the Mission Impossible 3 premiere in May for three officers were followed in August by another event at the East Grinstead centre for an unknown number of officers. In September the register does not specify how many officers attended a concert at Bishopsgate police station by the Jive Aces; a band made up of Scientologists whose advertising states that they play "hot jive" and "big band swing".

The night before last month's grand opening of the Church of Scientology's centre in the City, one of the force's two chief superintendents joined a detective superintendent, a uniformed constable and a detective constable at a star-studded charity dinner at Saint Hill Manor, where prizes are awarded to followers who donate the biggest sums to the movement.

The dinner was attended by Cruise, who sat at a special table nearest the past year's biggest donors.

The next day, Sunday October 22, a sergeant recorded being offered refreshments worth between £3 and £5 by scientologists as he was policing the opening of the London centre. Another officer, a constable, was a guest at a charity gala in East Grinstead the following night, where he recorded receiving £50 worth of hospitality. Most recently, on October 24, two sergeants and two constables attended a Jive Aces concert at Saint Hill.

The relationship between the police and the scientologists comes despite controversy that the tactics adopted by the church are akin to that of a cult and the Charity Commission's refusal to recognise it as a religion in the UK.

The scientologists have also been criticised in the US over their role in counselling firefighters and police officers after the September 11 attacks when they set up a a medical clinic two blocks from Ground Zero in New York for professionals involved in the emergency operation.

Inside the centre some firefighters abandoned the medical care and emotional counselling provided to them by the fire department's doctors, and instead took up a treatment devised by Hubbard. This included saunas, physical workouts and taking pills; a treatment which constitutes the scientologists controversial detoxification programme.

Mark Salter, a London-based psychiatrist said the scientologists were trying to replicate their ideology by disseminating it as widely as possible.

"You may well find that one or two police officers become followers. Look at the masons, I am sure they are well represented inside the police force," he said.

"They are a cult who are trying to maximise their influence by putting feelers out and using spin to make contacts and network in quite dangerous ways."

Janet Kenyon-Laveau, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology in the UK, said the relationship between the police and followers was mutually beneficial, with followers engaged in clean-up campaigns in drug ridden inner city areas, which were praised by the police.

The City of London police declined to comment.

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