Protesters, many of them former members of the wealthy international cult, gathered in Birmingham at the weekend to loudly decry the opening of a luxurious new Church of Scientology HQ in the city.
According to this report, the cash-grabbing cult – which insists it is a “true religion” and not a cult – bought the Grade II listed Pitmaston House ten years ago for £4.2million and has finished renovating the property.
The new premises were opened to members only, with a garden sing-along to “We Built This City” and numerous speeches. Coaches blocked the road view of the property, with security and police officers on hand to ensure no one saw the opening ceremony.
Protesters released mini alien balloons as the grand opening went underway.
Adrian Bailey, 51, who was a Scientologist in his twenties, said:
I never saw the really bad side of it that some people did. They helped me with my confidence. What annoyed me the most was that they always asked for money. And with all the secrecy, it’s not surprising people think it’s a cult.
The teacher from Great Barr added:
William Drummond, 67, a former Scientologist of 51 years, with relatives who remained in the church and whose mother, Betty Wordie, was a high ranking Scientologist, said:
I’m a bit skeptical that they’ll hit it off here. It’s more an American thing.
People don’t understand what’s going on in their local area and that’s very frightening. The main motivation for them is money, property and expansion and that’s evident here.
Protesters came from across the UK and some had been campaigning against Scientology for twenty plus years. Yet the newly renovated church wasn’t met with only criticism.
One local resident said:
We’re a welcoming city so I think it’ll be interesting to have the group on our doorstep. The building was run down but now they’ve really rejuvenated the place. I walk past it everyday and you could see the vast improvement they were making to it.
But another resident said:
It’s insane. I live down the road and I can’t believe they’d want to be here.
Any claims of being a cult have been strenuously denied by the US-founded church, which says it is a legitimate religion – something that was backed by the Supreme Court in December 2013.
Graeme Wilson, the Church of Scientology’s UK-based Public Affairs Director, previously said:
A major function of our churches is to give help in the local community, including with drug education, human rights education, literacy programmes, crime reduction programmes, helping those in need, and more.
Hat tip: AgentCormac