Scientology wants NZ to 'ease up' on it

The New Zealand Herald/February 7, 2013

Church issues guide for media to clear up misconceptions.

Scientology has no official doctrine that we are descended from aliens. However, members of its monastical order do sign billion-year contracts "to symbolise their eternal commitment".

A publicity document released in New Zealand, The Workings of Scientology: A guide for media, has attempted to clear up misconceptions about the movement.

It followed the airing of a million-dollar Super Bowl television advert on Monday which featured the tagline: "The one thing that's true is what's true for you."

Mike Ferris, the spokesman for Scientology in Auckland, said there was no particular publicity push.

"There's no real connection [with the Super Bowl]. The church is always up to something ... [trying to] keep media accurately informed about some of the things we do, rather than let wild rumours [spread]."

Mr Ferris has been a member of Scientology since 1980, and the outward face of the church in Auckland.

Two executive directors run the church's business, but it is Mr Ferris who has fronted whenever Scientology - whose followers include Tom Cruise, John Travolta and other celebrities - has come under fire.

"It's an easy target. People reject new ideas. They really do," Mr Ferris said. "Does it ever bother me? Well, I guess it did once. But not really any more."

Mr Ferris said the Salvation Army had been attacked when it was founded, because it was trying to tell people to quit drinking. He could understand people's fears of Scientology, considering the common characterisation of it as a cult.

"Of course I can. I would be silly to say otherwise, because Scientology has certainly been given that label, and all the other groups [in history] have been given that label.

"Scientology is copping it now - but this has happened to other religions, so, ease up on it, guys."

Fewer than 400 people in New Zealand declared their religion as Scientology in the most recent Census.

Mr Ferris said about 5000 were taking courses, and 25,000 people had studied Scientology in Auckland since it arrived here.

In the supplied media guide, section 2.2 ("Basic theories and principles") says Scientology's key beliefs include that a person is an immortal being, whose experience extends "well beyond" a single lifetime.

And it says people's "capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realised".

Mr Ferris said the religion did not discount anything - but generally it was about improving everyday abilities like communications skills.

"We're not talking about telekinesis or telepathy. Possibly those things do exist - but one doesn't take a course in Scientology to do that."

Among the most ridiculed aspects of the religion is "OT III" - a step along the ladder of self-improvement that supposedly involves learning about founder L. Ron Hubbard's "space opera" about H-bombs in volcanoes and a possible alien overlord-type character, Xenu, 75 million years ago.

Mr Ferris said - when asked about Xenu, though not about OT III - that Scientology was not forcing anyone to believe in Mr Hubbard's writings about the distant past.

"If one was trying to look at it from a philosophical point of view, maybe there is something [like such stories about Xenu] there, and people are going to [use it for] ridicule."

It was no different from the esoterica of angels and demons in Christianity, or Hindu mythology, with "strange beings of human crossed with animals".

The media guide also touches on the "Sea Org", an order of the religion's most committed members.

They sign a billion-year pledge symbolising their commitment to Scientology, the guide says.

Mr Ferris said there were no Sea Org members in New Zealand.

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