Concern at Scientology drugs packs for schools – Sunday Independent

Health officials raised concerns about a Church of Scientology-sponsored group that circulated glossy anti-drugs brochures to primary schools in Dublin’s north inner city, records reveal.

Internal emails disclose unease across the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) about approaches made to schools and local drugs tasks forces by Foundation for a Drug Free World and Truth about Drugs, both of which are sponsored by Scientology. However, their links to the controversial “religion” were not disclosed in educational packs that were sent to schools.

In an email last February, the co-ordinator of a drugs task force in Dublin wrote: “I have just received some very glossy looking training and workshop materials from the ‘Church of Scientology’ who apparently are conducting drug talks in schools in the north inner city of Dublin and are interested in spreading the word this direction. I am concerned about this.”

The coordinator proposed linking in with the Department of Health on the issue, “because if they haven’t already, schools here will need to be approached. The materials are very enticing and I worry about the potential reach.”

In response to questions from the Sunday Independent, the Church of Scientology yesterday declared plans to step up its anti-drugs activities in Ireland while taking aim at “vested interests” and “agendas”.

The statement said the Church also intends to “significantly increase” its efforts to “educate” Irish people. It also claimed that 600,000 Truth about Drugs booklets have been distributed in Ireland in the past two years.

The Church of Scientology has invested heavily in Ireland in the past two years, generating much controversy but issuing little comment on its plans for the country.

It opened a €6m community centre in Firhouse, south Dublin, a national affairs office on Merrion Square in Dublin, along with a number of other properties, including a former nursing home in Ballivor, Co Meath, that it plans to turn into a drug rehab centre.

The Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has called the Church of Scientology “a cult” that could damage young people. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has acknowledged there are “genuine concerns” that it could be a cult.

Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that unease about Scientology has also reached official circles.

Asked about the booklets by a Department of Health official, a HSE official replied that: “The content doesn’t look ridiculous at first glance. Endorsement by official Ireland of their approach, though, would bring a very negative press once the backer was reported. In this post-truth, fake fact world, it’s really hard to know what is really going on.”

Another official emailed colleagues to say that guidelines for Outside Visitors were being “updated” to “ensure that schools are discouraged from using speakers/resources such as this”.

The Department of Education said it has had no contact with the Department of Health or the HSE on this matter but will issue “revised circulars” to schools in March to provide strengthened guidance on external programmes.

The Church of Scientology’s statement to the Sunday Independent said drug abuse is a “huge problem” for Ireland. It is “educating” people on the “truth about drugs”, providing free “secular” educational materials that “we are continually told” are not otherwise available.

“The Church’s efforts to discourage drug abuse through education have come across vested interests and agendas in the past and are likely to continue to do so,” it said.

Scientologists accused of targeting children with playground and events – The Times

The Church of Scientology has been accused of “targeting” families with children as it has applied for planning permission to build a playground at its centre in south Dublin.

A notice was erected outside the group’s church and community centre in Firhouse over the weekend and outlines plans for a 17 sq m internal playground.

Carly Bailey, a Social Democrats councillor for the area, said that she was concerned by the development because the centre has already held a number of events aimed at children.

“They are absolutely without question targeting young people and families with young children. They had a six-week Christmas show with a full on carnival, real reindeer and free hot chocolate. There’s also been an Alice in Wonderland event and a Frozen event. They do anything you can think of for families with children,” Ms Bailey said. “We hear from people who are concerned but also from people who think that it’s here and it’s free so it’s fine. The point is we don’t know what it is they’re interested in. It’s clearly a long-term project given the amount of money invested in it.”

A spokesman for the Church of Scientology in Ireland denied it was targeting anyone and said that the decision to build the playground was taken after consulting with local councillors about what was needed in the area. He said that a rugby and GAA pitch would also open on the site in March.

Martina Genockey, a Labour councillor for the area, said that she had not met with the group as she had concerns about their presence in the area.

“I think Scientology is extremely cult-like, and I would not like to see local people caught up in it unwittingly by using facilities they have provided,” Ms Genockey said.

“The council has a significant play-space programme, and any playgrounds that were needed were considered as part of that plan. I know there is a playground just down the road.”

Diana Stahl, the director of public affairs at the Firhouse branch of the Church of Scientology, said that over 4,500 people have visited the centre since it opened. It is understood that only 100 people attend services in the church every Sunday.

“We have held a number of very successful events for the community and will continue to do so, as we believe that helping people and bringing joy into the community is a natural part of life. We welcome anyone to come in and visit, to have a tea or coffee, use the facilities or if they wish they can find out what Scientology is,” Ms Stahl said. “Children or anyone under 18 who wishes to do any course, or undergo any testing, are strictly forbidden to do so unless they have written permission from both of their parents or guardians. The church also supports effective social betterment programmes for the benefit of all.”

The Sunday Times reported last September that the Church of Scientology hired stands at a state-run education conference and asked school administrators for permission to make presentations to students. It has also hired stands at the TY transition-year exhibition attended by 7,000 secondary school students in Leopardstown.

The organisation bought the former Christian church in Firhouse for about €6 million. It was converted and opened as a centre for Scientology’s Irish operations last year. It has also purchased a school building in Co Meath which will be used for its controversial drugs treatment programme.

Ballivor’s resounding ‘No’ to proposed Narconon drugs treatment centre in the village – The Meath Chronicle

Residents of Ballivor have sent a clear message to Meath County Council, the HSE and Government that they will not tolerate the Church of Scientology and Narconon locating a drugs rehabilitation centre in their village.

Over 140 people turned out for the protest which was spearheaded by Cllr Noel French and Claire O’Meara of the Ballivor Says No campaign.

The scene of the protest was the former national school which was sold by the parish some years back.

In June 2016, the former primary school in Ballivor came on the market with CBRE, with a half-built nursing home development on the site.

The school building was refurbished and extended to accommodate a modern 15-bedroom nursing home, while on an adjoining 2.26-acre site, some foundations have been laid for a 41-bedroom extension. CBRE was asking €1 million for the ‘Raspberry Wood Nursing Home’ site. The agents are understood to have sold it to another agent, acting for a client.

In August of 2016 it’s understood the Narconon Trust applied to Meath County Council seeking a declaration that the site would be exempt from a change in planning. This was confirmed by the Council.

Cllr Noel French said he was heartened by the turnout for the protest. “The people of Ballivor don’t want this here. We have petitions out in shops, we need our TDs, our councillors, our senators, our ministers and our Toiseach to support this campaign.”

Deputy Shane Cassells said the village of Ballivor needed support and investment and not a facility from “such a shady organisation”.

“I’ve raised this issue on the floor of the Dail with the Taoiseach asking him if this is the type of facility he wants to see operating and the Taoiseach came back and said he certainly didn’t want to see any medical facility operate where there were no suitably qualified people and I’ll be holding the Taoiseach to his word on that so that we don’t have a Narconon drugs rehabilitation centre operating in Ballivor”.

Claire O’Meara of Ballivor Says No group said that the village was completely unsuitable for locating such a facility and she said the campaign to see the project stopped would continue.

Exposing Scientology's fraud and abuse in Dublin