East Grinstead ‘Cultruption’: The Council that endorses modern slavery

Nestled in the picturesque Sussex countryside about 27 miles south of London, East Grinstead exudes the idyllic charm one might expect from a quaint British town. However, behind the façade of tranquility lurks a sinister movement determined to tighten its grip on society and bring local government under their control.

No, this isn’t the start of a fantasy novel but a description of the place the Church of Scientology calls home. Since founder L. Ron Hubbard established a base at Saint Hill in 1959, Scientologists have been hard at work building relationships with local opinion leaders and widening their sphere of influence by employing a tactic they call ‘Safe Pointing’.

According to Hubbard, Scientology’s ‘viability depends on having all areas and persons who could affect or influence the operation under PR control,” which is achieved by “carefully and painstakingly find out who exactly are the top dogs in the area in financial and political circles, and their associates and connections.” The policy directs Scientologists to “get a job on the secretarial staff or the bodyguard, use any talent one has to get a place close in” and goes on, “don’t ask for permission. Just enter them and start functioning to make the group win through effectiveness and sanity.

East Grinstead Town Council have been subject to safe pointing for decades and as a result have established a concerning partnership with Scientology and run the risk of a very specific form of corruption we’re coining ‘cultruption’. Mayor Frazer Visser has attended events regularly at Saint Hill alongside other Councillors and last month described them a “valued and large part” of the town in a defensive Twitter exchange with a local resident.

In 2021, Scientology were awarded a ‘Covid Heroes Award’ by local Member of Parliament Mims Davies after East Grinstead Town Council nominated them in recognition of their support efforts during the pandemic. Davies, who was “extremely delighted” to issue the award, described Saint Hill’s contributions as “phenomenal” and wanted to recognise “all their hard work”. More recently, at the town’s Christmas lights switch-on event in November, the Mayor used his speech to thank Scientology “volunteers” for their help marshalling traffic and staffing the official Council marquee.

East Grinstead Town Council nominated Scientology for a ‘Covid Heroes’ award

Staff at Saint Hill are members of the elite ‘Sea Organisation’, an unincorporated membership group of devout followers who have signed a one billion year contract dedicating their life (and eternity) to work for the Church. Paid no more than £50 a week and often expected to work 12 hour days, 7 days a week, Sea Org members are offered accommodation, food and free servicing in return for their commitment and are responsible for executive and management roles. The nature of their lifetime ‘spiritual pledge’ gives Scientology complete control over their day-to-day lives with time off, starting a family or going on holiday seen as a distraction and breach of their contract.

Those wishing to leave are faced with months of interrogations, hard manual labour and are expected to pay a ‘freeloader debt’ – a bill, which often runs into the tens of thousands, for any services received while working for the Church. Scientology also use psychological coercion to keep hold of staff, declaring defectors ‘Suppressive Persons’ – which requires followers in good standing to disconnect – even from family.

According to the Home Office Modern Slavery Statutory Guidance, which applies to all local authorities in the United Kingdom, psychological coercion can include “ritual oaths to make an individual fearful and compliant”, “threats of rejection from, or disapproval by, a peer group or family members”, and is frequently used in cases of modern slavery. “Victims are forced, threatened or deceived into situations of subjugation, degradation and control which undermine their personal identity and sense of self.”

Under section 52 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 councils are under a legal duty to notify the Home Office when they identify a potential victim of modern slavery. The Local Government Association explains “Councils have an important role to play in tackling modern slavery” and must “ensure that staff have received training in modern slavery and its indicators.”

Despite this, East Grinstead Town Council welcome and endorse Scientology’s ‘volunteers’ at official events – and neglect to recognise their exploitation and lack of free will. Instead, they award Saint Hill for their “hard work” and “valuable” contributions to society, only further enabling their abuse and supporting Scientology’s ongoing pursuit of legitimacy.

Meanwhile, an online petition calling for an end to East Grinstead’s endorsement of Scientology has attracted more than 1,000 signatures and earlier this week, former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott urged HMRC to investigate Scientology’s finances, noting their “history of fraudulent activity internationally.”

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Alexander Barnes-Ross https://www.scientologybusiness.com

Scientology Business provides analysis and commentary on the Church of Scientology's corporate structure, business operations and functions in the United Kingdom and Europe. The website looks at Scientology's shell companies, financial records and maps the web of international corporate entities responsible for their UK and European activities.

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