Let's be clear from the outset -- the 'church' of Scientology is not a church. Nor is it a religion. This isn't just the view of someone from the Church of England whose bias is showing through, but rather the view of such august bodies as the Charity Commission and the Court of Appeal. The Council of Europe also views Scientology as a cult and has noted its ability to drain individuals of money and self-confidence through manipulation and hard selling techniques.
The Scientology travelling road show has just left Birmingham. Part of the publicity for the ten-day summer exhibition included billboard posters alleging that Scientology could claim "250,000 lives salvaged from drugs" as a direct result of their activities.
Feeling that it was unlikely that Scientology had a quarter of a million signed statements from individuals saying the cult had cured them from their drug addiction, the Diocese of Birmingham lodged a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Agency. We await their decision.
For former members of the cult, the process of sharing their bitter experience with the wider world can be a difficult one. In 1999, Bonnie Woods was subjected to a campaign of harassment and slander from local Scientology members after she renounced her membership of the cult and became a born-again Christian. Ms Woods sued Scientology for libel and harassment and won both substantial damages plus an unreserved apology from Scientology for its behaviour.
But perhaps the most worrying aspects of Scientology are the charges which were upheld by a New Zealand judicial enquiry into their practices. They found the cult "breaks up families, manipulates the young and places improper or unreasonable pressure upon individuals". The authorities in an Australian state enquiry concurred stating: "Scientology is a delusional belief system based on fiction and fallacies, and propagated by falsehood and deception". In Britain an enquiry by Sir John Foster QC found Scientology to be "socially harmful" and criticised the manner in which "it alienates members of the family from each other and attributes squalid and disgraceful motives to those who oppose it."
Complaining about adverts won't stop Scientology in its tracks. But it may begin to bring to light the scandalous activities of this cult and the very real dangers they pose to those in our society who need our help most.