Scientology-linked project to get scrutiny

The Boston Herald/February 10, 2001
By Steve Marantz

A top Menino administration official said yesterday that a literacy project with ties to the Church of Scientology will be closely monitored in its use of city funds to help school-age children read.

The group, H.E.L.P. Boston, received a $1,000 grant from the city's Safe Neighborhood Fund.

The grant was approved by officials who knew of the program's connection to the controversial Scientology movement.

But they apparently failed to tell Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who in a statement released by his office said he had no knowledge of the Scientology connection.

Human Services chief Juanita Wade said yesterday that the city will be watching to see if H.E.L.P Boston presents Scientology teaching in its curriculum.

Critics claim that the "study technology" used by H.E.L.P. Boston is a disguised form of Scientology scripture.

"Part of the responsibility of a grant program is to monitor - we don't walk away," said Wade. "If something comes up that we're concerned about we'll handle it.

"Lots of faith-based organizations get funding from the city," she added. "As long as that activity they seek funding for doesn't promote a particular religious ideology they're eligible."

Two e-mail complaints were received yesterday concerning the grant, Wade said, a small number suggesting to her that "this is not as big a deal as some folks would make it."

"I've gotten more complaints on other matters," she said.

One complaint criticized the city's grant-review process and warned that the H.E.L.P. program can now use Menino to promote itself in other parts of the country.

A photo of Menino posing with H.E.L.P. Boston director Tasia Jones appears in promotional material for a fund-raising concert scheduled for tomorrow evening.

"Money is not the issue," read one e-mail sent to City Hall. "It's an endorsement. Menino and the city of Boston have now endorsed the program and all that it stands for, good and bad."

Meanwhile, the national director of H.E.L.P (Hollywood Education and Literacy Project) said yesterday that she has been a member of the Church of Scientology for 25 years and that the Boston director, Tasia Jones, is also a member.

"I don't see why that's an issue," said Kinder Hunt. "Why can't you just write about the good things this program is accomplishing?"

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