Despite residents’ fears the Church of Scientology, which counts the likes of US actor Tom Cruise among its member, could “take over” the entire south west coast of Britain, Plymouth City Council gave the religious organisation the go-ahead to spend an eye-watering £2.3million ($3million) to renovate the building. The club was acquired nine years ago by the Church for £1million ($1.27million) but only recently the organisation were given the rubber stamp to concert it into an official place of worship. Residents started a 100-signature petition to stop the works which involves a library, 96-seat chapel, bookstore, lecture rooms, offices, conference facilities and a sauna to be used in “worship rites”, Plymouth Live reports.
They also voiced concerns over the planning application, with one resident, Sarah Anderson, raging the Church will be located adjacent to a primary school.
She said: “I feel it is inappropriate for the base of a dangerous and highly unethical organisation to be adjacent to a primary school.
“Situating the base of a cult in a residential area will increase levels of distress to vulnerable and elderly people living nearby.
“The modus operandi of the organisation includes knocking on doors to try and recruit new members, and their tactics when they are turned away can become very forceful. This could cause unnecessary distress to residents in the immediate vicinity.”
But the Church hit back and said Scientologists had enjoyed a growing popularity in the UK.
The church said in a statement: “The demand for Scientology services has had a steady increase over the last ten years in the UK and internationally.
“This has included a growing online presence as well as more traditional paper media, including information relating to combating the use of drugs, encouraging human rights awareness, as well as information for schools.”
The Church also said the new refurbished centre will “cater for residents in Plymouth” but also said because the building intends to be the largest Church of Sinology in Britain, locals should expect “more occasional visits from those outside of Plymouth”.
Scientology was launched in May 1952 by American author L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, who originally called his programme of beliefs Dianetics.
When he went bankrupt and lost the rights to publish books on the subject, he changed the name of his ideas and called it Scientology.
He claimed human beings are immortal and that Scientology worshippers were derived from aliens.
The Church has faced several controversies in its time, including its initiation which sees potential members take high dietary supplements during five-hour long sauna sessions to purify them and rid them of toxins. There have also been claims Church members have harassed people into joining.
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