Dentist Makes Schools Offer To Push Scientology Book

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch
Date: October 16, 1992

A West End dentist is offering money to local schools to get children to read a book by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Dr. Donald M. Fox, a Henrico County orthodontist, is the local business sponsor of a nationwide contest based on Hubbard's book, "The Way To Happiness." The competition, called the American Set A Good Example contest, seeks to have schoolchildren read Hubbard's book - it is not a religious text - and devise a project to help the community.

The national contest is sponsored by the Concerned Businessmen's Association of America, an organization that has been linked to Scientology.

The contest offers $5,000 to the school that develops the best project nationally. Dr. Fox is offering awards between $500 and $2,000 for the best local project.

"The Concerned Businessmen's Association has been in contests like this before. This is just one more twist," said Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network. "What they're trying to do is build credibility."

Barbara Ayash, founder and chief executive officer of the association, said the contest and dissemination of the book are simply efforts to help youth. She said the association, which is based in Marina del Rey, Calif., is not part of the Church of Scientology. She said she is a member of the church but added that members of the association come from a variety of denominations.

A 1991 Time magazine article reported that the Way to Happiness Foundation has distributed to children in thousands of the nation's public schools more than 3.5 million of copies of the late founder's book. The church called the effort, according to Time, "the largest dissemination project in Scientology history." A 1990 Los Angeles Times article quoted Scientology publications as saying the book is "the bridge between society and Scientology."

Shortly after the Time article, the church launched a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to counter negative publicity. It took similar measures after articles in the Los Angeles Times.

Dr. Fox said schools in Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover counties and Richmond will be taking part in the contest.

Chesterfield school administration officials, however, said they had not heard of the contest and do not have Hubbard's book on any approved library list. But Dr. Charles W. Martin, another local dentist, said he has distributed Hubbard's book for the past three years to schools including Monacan and Manchester high schools in Chesterfield, and George Wythe High in Richmond.

Dr. Martin said he is a member of the Concerned Businessmen's group but did not respond when asked if he was a member of the Church of Scientology.

Monacan Principal John B. Titus said that his school has received copies of the book, presumably from Dr. Martin, but that he routinely throws them out "because it's affiliated with the Church of Scientology."

Manchester Principal David C. Jones said the book hasn't been distributed there. Dr. James W. Bynum, principal of George Wythe, said he had never heard of the contest or the book.

Henrico school officials said at least two schools were approached about the contest - Short Pump Middle and Dumbarton Elementary - but principals there declined to participate. Lynn H. Thorpe, Short Pump's principal, said the school has a number of community partnership programs and didn't want to spread its resources too thin by getting involved in another activity.

Hanover and Richmond school officials said they have received no information about the contest.

Promoters say the "The Way to Happiness" focuses on trust, honesty, competence, temperance, industriousness, responsibility, honoring of parents and avoidance of harmful drugs.

"We're not hiding the fact that L. Ron Hubbard wrote the book," Dr. Fox said. However, contest promotional material sent to The Times-Dispatch does not mention that Hubbard wrote the book, nor does it make any mention of Scientology.

Dr. Fox, who said he is a member of the Church of Scientology and "a born-again Christian," said he is not trying to promote his beliefs. He said he was promoting the contest to help improve the community.

He plans to hire a full-time coordinator for the contests and wants to visit local schools to talk about the project. He is looking for other business sponsors to get involved.