Concerns over Scientology

Courier Chronicle, UK/December 28, 2006
By Sheila Gow

Forty years ago, just seven years after L Ron Hubbard moved into Saint Hill Manor, the former East Grinstead Urban Council spoke of its "grave concern" over the effect that Scientology would have on the town.

The council held a 30 minute private discussion after hearing minister of health, Kenneth Robinson, tell the House of Commons that Scientology was "totally valueless in promoting health".

Mr Robinson was also asked to "keep a closer eye on activities at Saint Hill Manor, the world headquarters of Scientology."

A full report of the UDC's decision, and the resolution to the minister, appeared in the East Grinstead Courier of December 15, 1966.

A copy of the resolution was also sent to East Grinstead MP Geoffrey Johnson Smith who, with Horley MP Peter Horden, had asked the minister for an inquiry into "the practice known as Scientology".

In his reply, Mr Robinson said: "I do not think that any further inquiry is necessary to establish that the activities of this organisation are potentially harmful.

"I have no doubt that Scientology is totally valueless in promoting health, and in particular, that people seeking help with problems of mental health can gain nothing from the attentions of this organisation."

The 75-room manor house, standing in 30 acres, was once owned by the Maharajah of Jaipur.

Once it became the Scientology HQ, hundreds of adult students - mostly Americans, South Africans, Canadians and Australians - were living in rented or bought accommodation in East Grinstead and surrounding villages - particularly Forest Row and Sharpthorne.

Mr Hubbard described Scientology as a "branch of religious philosophy which handles man as a spiritual being in relationship to the universe."

He was a prolific writer on the subject.

Hearing of the council's action, the Scientologists asked "why they attack a group which is only interested in improving the intelligence and ability of people to solve problems."

They invited the council to elect a representative to the chief advisory body at Saint Hill.

"We hope they will avail themselves of this opportunity to inform themselves that we do not engage in mental healing of any kind and do not engage in the treatment of the sick as they pretend, but that our whole concern is religious philosoophy."

Attitudes have changed in 40 years and although many East Grinstead people are mystified, and sometimes suspicious, of activities at Saint Hill, they are aware of the contribution the group has made to the town.

Staff from Saint Hill played a full part on the committee organising the 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations in the town and were at the helm for the Christmas shopping day on December 10.

Many businessmen are Scientologists and they are involved in shops, schools and other organisations.

They also serve on the Chamber of Commerce.

Now known as the Church of Scientology, the members volunteer to work in several charitable groups and help behind the bar at Chequer Mead.

They hold an open day and fete for the community and money raised at the autumn concert, usually running into thousands of pounds, goes to local charities.

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