Protest as Scientologists set out stall to peddle 'nonsense'

Evening News, UK/June 4, 2011

Scientologists are preparing to launch a new assault on Edinburgh - by setting up in a Leith shopping centre.

The controversial group has applied for a street traders' licence for the New Kirkgate Centre in Leith, to run from 9am to 7pm every day from July 1 to December 31.

Local councillor Gordon Munro has vowed to block the group from promoting what he called "its nonsense" in Leith.

A spokesman for the group said that if the application was granted, members would carry out "stress tests" and related activities with passers-by.

The Church of Scientology, which includes John Travolta and Tom Cruise among its followers, already has a centre on South Bridge called the Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence where members ask passers-by to enter and take "personality tests", before promoting their lectures and publications by Scientology leader the late L Ron Hubbard.

Munro said: "The last thing Leith needs is a bunch of Scientologists pretending they are the answer to personal problems and the planet's problems.

"This application seeks to take over the foot of the Walk every day from 9am to 7pm from July to December to promote this nonsense.

"I hope the committee sees sense when they consider this and will reject this application."

Cllr Munro has lodged a written objection to the licence application which states that the location is "a busy pedestrian route which will be inhibited by the location of this organisation's activities".

He also wrote that the proposal would bring about "the distinct possibility of undue public nuisance".

The licence application is in the name of the Hubbard Foundation Scotland and Gordon Reid.

Mr Reid, a spokesman for the Scientologists, said when asked what was planned: "We do different things, we do stress testing and what we normally do. At this stage it's just an application, so there's not really any comment."

In April, Mr Reid helped to organise an anti-drugs protest by young mothers at the New Kirkgate Centre. During the protest, mothers handed out information produced by Drug Free World, a Scientology-backed anti-drugs movement.

The protest saw the mums donning T-shirts and protesting in front of banners produced by Drug Free World, although they said that they had only used the materials because they were free, not because they were themselves Scientologists.

In 2008, anti-Scientology protest group Anonymous Scotland held a protest in Hunter Square, close to the South Bridge centre, to complain about the church's activities.

In October 2008, Scientologists also aroused anger among passers-by, by putting up a tent in front of General Register House on Princes Street to act as a "mission".

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