The smiling photo of Gavin Newsom and the city seal emblazoned on a booklet called "The Way to Happiness" sure make it seem as though San Francisco's mayor is heartily endorsing Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's writings.
The booklet's back cover even shows a letter of support purportedly written by Newsom that echoes some of the mayor's favorite buzzwords: San Francisco is "a city of innovation" and is "the finest city in the world."
But the giveaway is in the second paragraph, in which the fictitious letter from Newsom says San Francisco is home to "740,000 souls."
He usually prefers to call them residents.
After a box full of the booklets was delivered to Newsom's City Hall office this week, the city attorney's office promptly sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Southern California group distributing them, saying it was violating city and state laws by using the city seal and the mayor's endorsement without consent.
"The mayor does not support the unauthorized use of his image or the city seal on this booklet," Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said Friday.
Lance Miller, president of the Way to Happiness Foundation International, passed it off as a big misunderstanding. He said just a dozen of the booklets bearing Newsom's photo were printed, and all were sent to Newsom's office as a sort of pitch to the mayor in hopes of recruiting him to participate in a campaign to promote Hubbard's writings.
"He's in the middle of a campaign," Miller said. "I just want to keep this on a high ground. It was a misunderstanding, and I wish him the best."
Miller added that the writings contained in the booklet are "independent of (the deceased Hubbard's) religious work" but are used as part of Scientology outreach efforts and can be found in Scientology churches.
Cities, churches and businesses around the country received similar customized copies of the booklets, and San Francisco just happened to be on the mailing list currently being used, Miller said. According to a story Friday in the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert also was not happy about seeing his ringing endorsement on a batch of booklets sent this week to his office.
The "Way to Happiness" booklet, first published in 1981, contains 21 principles that, according to the foundation's Web site, can "guide one to a better quality of life."
Those principles include everything from preserving your teeth and eating properly to not stealing and being trustworthy.
At San Francisco City Hall, the booklet's use of Newsom's image juxtaposed with some of its contents were causing grimaces.
Rule No. 2 says: "Be Temperate ... Do Not Take Alcohol to Excess." Rule No. 3: "Don't Be Promiscuous." Rule No. 6: "Set a Good Example."
For a mayor who admitted earlier this year to a having an affair with his campaign manager's wife and having a drinking problem, not to mention being romantically linked to a Scientologist actress last year, the ironies - not to mention the potential for embarrassment - were the subject of hallway chatter.
As for promiscuity, the booklet says that sex, when "misused or abused, carries with it heavy penalties and punishments: nature seems to have intended it that way also." When it comes to drinking alcohol in excess, "a little liquor goes a long way."
"Overall, we get an overwhelmingly positive response from people about the book," Miller said. "They're blown away."
The reasons for the sharp reaction to the booklet at San Francisco City Hall seemed lost on Miller, who said, referring to Newsom, "As of yesterday, I hardly knew anything about him."
But after a series of phone calls with San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office, Miller is up to speed.
"There are probably a lot of mayors around the world and a lot of people around the world (who) could utilize the materials, and I'm interested in those that are interested in it," Miller said.
There will be no more booklets bearing Newsom's fictitious endorsement or the city seal, Miller promised, unless city officials decide they want them.
San Francisco law requires that the Board of Supervisors approve any commercial use of the city's official seal. In the city attorney's letter to the foundation, lawyers also cited state law, which prohibits any deceptive or misleading advertising and advertisements that create the appearance that the offer is from a government agency.
"It doesn't have that much to do with the content," said Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the city attorney. "It has to do with the use of the city seal."
It's not the first time Newsom has had to distance himself from a controversial use of the city seal. Earlier this year, he came under fire from conservative pundits when his office issued a laudatory proclamation honoring a local gay porn studio.
Miller said other municipalities have used "The Way to Happiness" as part of city programs to reach out to at-risk youth or victims of domestic violence.
"I didn't particularly expect any mayor to use the book himself," he said.