Scientology protest – 10th February

scipro2.jpgLast Sunday protesters gathered on South Bridge in Edinburgh to show their disapproval of Scientology. The demonstration was part of a worldwide campaign that seeks to show the perceived ethical problems in Scientology.

Demonstrations occurred in 93 cities across four continents. In the UK, protests took place in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

At noon police counted approximately 125 people outside the Scientology center in Edinburgh. One constable said the rally was allowed one hour but they’d under estimated the amount of people that would be involved. The protest was allowed to continue for several hours as “they’re causing no danger, and no harm”.

Hooded figures picketed outside the ironically named “Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence”. One masked goon said “my personal campaign is to make everything in Scientology free”. Others carried placards saying, “knowledge is free” and “Scientology is not a religion”.

The ‘campaign’ hides under the cloak “Anonymous”. As a Star Wars masked figure said: “There is no leader.” The ‘Anonymous’ following gained international coverage recently with messages circulating on Youtube.

While the origins of ‘Anonymous’ are unsurprisingly unclear, its members are known to coordinate through social networking sites such as Facegroup and Myspace.

The orchestrated effort on Sunday took the online following out of their bedrooms and onto the streets. The day itself, chosen as it commemorated the death of Lisa Macpherson, who protesters believe died in 1995 as a result of her involvement in the ‘church’.

The main issues for campaigners are money and censorship: they believe that the Church of Scientology has numerous human rights violations and regularly suppresses dissent. One protester, wishing to be referred only as ‘man in black’, said “the money is the big thing… the Church exploits its followers, sometimes to the extent that their livelihoods are in threat.”

Members of Scientology have been quick to dismiss the “cyber-terrorists”. In an official statement, Church officials said, “Anonymous is perpetrating religious hate crimes against Churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists for no reason other than religious bigotry.”

Referring to the recent attacks against Church websites, Scientology officials claim that ‘Anonymous’ has “repeatedly attempted to suppress free speech through illegal assaults on church websites so as to prevent Internet users from obtaining information [in addition to engaging in] other harassment, including threats of violence in telephone calls, fax transmissions, and emails, not to mention the Anonymous mailing of white powder to dozens of our churches.”

Videos started appearing last January on Youtube under the guise “message to Scientology” and it promises to “systematically dismantle Scientology in its present form”. Subsequent messages have emerged stating ‘war’ with Scientology.

Xenu.net is also an organisation that tries to ‘undress the Church’ and is run by Andreas Heldal-Lund, a Norwegian critic of the ‘church’.

Recently, Tom Cruise – one of the most famous members – did a television interview stating his views on Scientology causing worldwide controversy, and laughter. Youtube banned the video. Members of Anonymous alleged this was a result of pressure from Scientologists. The use of copyright laws as a method of censorship is another top issue for members of ‘Anonymous’.

Germany has become the first state to publicly condemn Scientology. So much so, last summer they banned Tom Cruise and his staff from filming in Germany because of the actor’s connections with the group. Good example to follow?

Interestingly, Cruise was in Germany to play the role of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, leader of the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. The German authorities took special interest in his case, as they wanted an accurate portrayal of the ‘fallen hero’. Berthold Stauffenberg, the colonel’s son, personally objected to Cruise playing the role because of the actor’s position within the Church.

Is it an exclusionary, lucrative cult? Or, albeit peculiar, just another alternative to the great ‘unanswered questions’?

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One Response to “Scientology protest – 10th February”

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