Scientology missions spring up in hurricane-damaged areas

Associated Press/May 14, 2006

Jackson, Miss. The Church of Scientology has opened its first mission on the Mississippi Gulf Coast amid the ruins of Hurricane Katrina.

The Church of Scientology was created by science fiction writer L- Ron Hubbard. In his 1950 book "Dianetics," Hubbard said the mind has a subconscious level that exerts a "hidden influence" to make a person behave a certain way. The book also says the soul suffers from negative "engrams" implanted in this life and previous lives.

The religion has been under increasing scrutiny, especially since actor Tom Cruise ranted against psychiatry on N-B-C's "Today" show and criticized Brooke Shields' use of antidepressants for postpartum depression. Scientology is Cruise's religion of choice.

The church sent 800 volunteer ministers to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans area to counsel hurricane victims.

A media relations representative with the Church of Scientology International says Scientology-trained ministers provided auditing -- the core religious practice of Scientology -- free of charge. Auditing is a form of spiritual counseling in which an auditor listens to a subject without offering solutions, advice or evaluation.

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