Religious leaders' concern at library Scientology stock

This is Kent, UK/December 16, 2011

Church leaders in Tonbridge have questioned why almost a quarter of the library's religious section is dedicated to books on Scientology.

Seventeen of the 72 books, written by founder and science fiction author L Ron Hubbard, in the section at the Avebury Avenue library are devoted to the controversial religion.

Following enquiries by the Courier, Kent County Council this week vowed to review the number of Scientology books in Tonbridge Library.

Scientology is a movement founded in 1954 which, in recent years, has gained high-profile exposure through the backing of Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Religious leaders this week expressed their surprise and concern at the "unrepresentative" selection of literature, which takes up the bulk of an entire shelf of the three comprising the religious section.

The Rev Mark Brown, of Tonbridge Parish Church, said: "I think people need to be free to explore other views and other perspectives, but the books seem to be overly weighted in one direction.

"I am surprised there are so many of them.

"I wouldn't go as far as to ask for them to be removed, but I would question why there are so many."

The Rev Jim Thorneycroft of URC Christ Church, agreed with this view. "It seems excessive and out of proportion to what you expect," he said. "It just makes me wonder where they've come from. I'm certainly concerned.

"Someone's trying to promote it big-time, I would have thought.

"It's very unusual, you wouldn't expect the majority of people to be interested in it, especially in such a small town like Tonbridge."

A spokesman at the Scientology headquarters in East Grinstead, Graeme Wilson, said the books were donated to the library.

He said: "Despite the growth of the internet, the British lending library system is still a wonderful resource for people to freely find out information on any subject.

"We have therefore donated sets of basic Scientology books to libraries around the country.

"These are of course for libraries to use at their own discretion, to meet the needs and requests of their customers," he added.

The Courier asked residents for their views. Nadine Elliott, 70, of Barden Road, Tonbridge, called it "ridiculous", while Peter Winch, 52, of London Road, Maidstone, said it didn't bother him.

He said: "As an atheist, whether it's a religion or cult, it's a matter of semantics.

"If it's what other people believe in, then it's just as legitimate as Christianity or paganism. It doesn't annoy me to see it."

The county's libraries are run by Kent County Council.

A spokesman said: "We are committed to providing materials on a wide range of beliefs and interests, which may include items donated to the library service, such as the Scientology books donated to Tonbridge Library.

"We undertake a regular programme of stock-weeding, maintenance and revision in all our libraries and will review the balance and demand for this area of stock in Tonbridge Library."

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