Livingstone bans Scientologists from Trafalgar Square

Reuters/August 31, 2001

Scientologists who wanted to promote an anti-drugs campaign in one of the capital's biggest tourist attractions have been banned by mayor Ken Livingstone.

Mayor Livingstone's efforts to spruce up pigeon-ridden Trafalgar Square have included banning bird-food sellers and fast food stands. The religious sect is the latest victim.

The Church of Scientology wanted a six-piece jazz swing band to play in the square as members handed out leaflets about a drug rehabilitation programme that the church claims has been used by people to cure themselves of their addictions.

But Livingstone refused. "It would not be responsible for me to allow it to be used to advertise a spurious medical programme which many drugs professionals are concerned about," Livingstone said in a statement on Friday.

The church, which is not recognised as either a religion or a charity, follows the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard who believed man was an immortal spiritual being. It is famous for celebrity followers like actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

"Nothing about the activities of this group leads me to believe that this is anything other than a cynical method of promoting the Scientology creed. I would urge Londoners not to be duped by their expensive campaigning," Livingstone added.

The Church of Scientology said they were baffled by the decision. "It beats me," Graeme Wilson, of the Church of Scientology in London, said. "Apparently it is based on his advisers. I think we are looking at some vested interests here," he told Reuters.

The Mayor's office said allowing permission for a band to perform would imply endorsement but said that the square will in the future be used for purposes including political demonstrations and rallies with which Livingstone will disagree.

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