Mayors sign 'cult' petition; Leaders criticized for adding names to drug campaign

Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: March 23, 1990

by Bob Harvey

Gloucester Mayor Harry Allen and Cumberland Mayor Brian Coburn are among "hundreds" of local opinion leaders who have signed an anti-drug petition sponsored by the Church of Scientology.

The church, founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has been criticized by the American and British governments as well as by Canada's anti-cult movement.

The church is one of the groups "that we get the most calls about, from families concerned about problems in the family and from people seeking reimbursement," says Mike Kropveld, of the Cult Project in Montreal.

"We get calls from all over the country about this group, including from Ottawa. People in a position of influence should take the time to check out who the organization is that they're lending credibility to," said Kropveld.

Coburn said that since he signed the petition, "it's been drawn to my attention that this is a cult group.

"We're not tied to them in any way, but it certainly does give credence to them."

Two years ago, the church offered "millions of dollars" to help drug addicts, the poor and the elderly if the Ontario government would drop criminal charges arising from a 1983 raid on the organization's downtown Toronto headquarters. The government refused, and the case is still before the courts.

The church and 15 of its members were charged with the theft of photocopied government documents detailing church activities.

Jocelyne Roy, Allen's executive assistant, confirmed that Allen signed the petition, which says only "Say No to Drugs." She said she booked the five-minute meeting when Allen met church representatives and "we didn't really connect" the petition to the Church of Scientology.

Allen is out of the country on vacation. Roy said she has received complaints about the mayor's action, and has asked Gloucester police to check their records for any complaints about the church.

Rev. Cathie Mann of the Church of Scientology named a number of local politicians, businessmen, athletes and others that she said are among hundreds who have signed the "honor roll."

Most of the politicians were not available to confirm they had signed it. But Hull-Aylmer MP Gilles Rocheleau said he signs many petitions and it's possible he signed this one. He said he's not concerned about giving the church credibility. "If they're against drugs, I'd sign it."

Mann said the church is not circulating the petiton out of self-interest, but "yes, it does promote the church, and I want growth in the church."

She said most people who enter the church go through a "purification rundown" including a regime of exercise, saunas and vitamins to get rid of the effects of prescription drugs and alcohol as well as hard drugs.

"We do it because we're a church and we're trying to enhance spiritual awareness because drugs cloud thinking."

Mann said there a couple of hundred people taking courses from the church in Ottawa, and "any group that's been growing as fast as we have is bound to be attacked."

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