The corruption scandal dubbed ‘Cultruption’ East Grinstead are facing has grown deeper as the Town Council attempt to censor victims who have spoken out on the public record… again. Earlier this week, several members of the public attended an East Grinstead Town Council meeting to raise concerns about the growing influence Scientology are having on local government. Safeguarding, discrimination of disabled people and modern slavery were all brought up, only to be shrugged off by Mayor Frazer Visser as ‘not his problem’. Now, the public questions portion of the meeting has been censored from its Youtube, the Council claiming it was a matter of “protecting” those who spoke.
As one commenter said: “At the very beginning of this I thought the council was just naive, now i see they’re corrupt.”
Journalist Tony Ortega attended the meeting and wrote in The Underground Bunker of how Danielle Chamberlin bravely used the Council meeting as an opportunity to tell the story of how as a child, she was sent to work on the Flagship Apollo with L. Ron Hubbard and as punishment was locked in the chain locker. “Her question for the mayor was, why is it OK for the council to accept donations from such an organization?” Ortega explains. “The mayor responded by saying that any accusations of wrongdoing by the church should be reported to law enforcement, not the council. And he repeated that response as three other people asked similar questions.”
We asked those who attended for statements on how the meeting went down in their view.
“From the outset, last night felt tense. The mayor opened with a formal, scripted statement on adhering to standing orders for public question time, in anticipation of challenges on the councils relationship to the Church of Scientology. The mayor rebutted the questions from the members of the public on Scientology – how they handle abuse, allegations of modern slavery, the council’s lack of a safeguarding statement, and the church’s teachings on disabled people. Although I accept in part his response, that there are channels and procedures to report instances of abuse and concerns through West Sussex County Council and the police – what I do not accept is how they are yet to engage in this reporting themselves.
How the council is still to admit any wrongdoing in their interactions with the Church of Scientology in the past year. Or how they have been active in publicly praising a group that has been charged for fraud, under investigation for human trafficking, and are often accused of mishandling cases of abuse. Therefore, as a result of this quite obviously tense meeting, I would urge East Grinstead Town Council, Mid Sussex District Council, and West Sussex County Council to work in their respective positions to do all they can to expose and stop the abuse at St Hill Manor.”
Another observer in the room said:
“I sat there and listened to the questions from the public and there is no doubt that the statement made by the lady who suffered terrible abuse made the Councillors feel very uncomfortable. The atmosphere felt heavy with despair and at one point the Leader of the Council looked very flustered and muttered something along the lines of ‘we need to close this down’.
It was a pity we couldn’t see the people behind the voices. but they were clearly very brave to speak out. It seemed as if the Mayor was making every effort to prevent questions from the public for anything other than the budget and wanted to know where everyone lived which seemed irrelevant.. His responses felt insincere and without empathy.
As casual observers it felt as if the Mayor was trying to close down and avoid answering questions and/or acknowledging concerns for fear of compromising his relationship with the Church of Scientology which was very concerning to witness.”
And another, who asked about safeguarding policies:
“After attending the East Grinstead Council meeting, it is clear that they are not willing to address the serious issues raised and have no concern for not only their local residents but also the wider general public. Through their responses to the questions in the meeting, they demonstrated a complete lack of accountability and empathy. Rather than taking the opportunity then (or suggesting a further meeting) to explore the issues, the public’s concerns and what actions could be taken, they gave constant tick box answers which basically said ‘not my problem’. Their website states ‘The Council fulfills a positive role at the heart of the Community’. This is clearly a false statement. There was no positivity or communtiy support evident at the meeting. This is unacceptable and left me questioning the integrity of local government.”
Earlier today, East Grinstead Town Council uploaded the recording of the meeting to their Youtube channel, but removed the public question section. A disclaimer reads: “Please note that the public question section of this meeting has been redacted due to the sensitive nature of the conversations and to protect any person in respect of any potential allegations that could result in legal action in the future.”
Unfortunately, the only people they are protecting in doing this is the Church of Scientology. The purpose of speaking on the public record is so that it cannot be censored. The Council also took the opportunity to remove the previously available recording of the Council meeting on 8th January, re-uploading it today again, with the public questions section removed.
It is important to note: the questions asked at both Council meetings were not asking for The Mayor’s intervention or for legislation to be passed. Rather, they asked for accountability and attention to be given on a very important local issue.
“As a public figure, with a responsibility as a role model, as well as being a designated safeguarding officer and trained mental health first aider, I am deeply troubled by the seeming lack of responsibility being taken by the council regarding the disturbing evidence of abuse and neglect occurring at Scientology’s Saint Hill base. I am sure you are also concerned about this and want to assure the public. What action are you taking?” one resident asked.
Another question raised was “As a disabled woman, I would not be welcome to participate in the Church of Scientology at Saint Hill. It is against board policy to offer services to anyone with a chronic illness and I am classed as a ‘degraded being’ and not worth saving. Does the Mayor share this view?”
And perhaps the most heart-wrenching: “It’s taken me years to pluck up the courage to speak out and face my trauma. When I was 12, I was sent from East Grinstead to work on a Scientology ship and was locked up in the chain locker for three days and three nights. When I was back at Stonelands in West Hoathly in the UK, I was raped at age 14 and prevented from reporting the abuse to law enforcement. How do you think I feel when the Mayor says he kindly requests that we refrain from discussing the issue on social media or public platforms? I will not be silenced. This is not an allegation. It is the truth.”
We applaud and support the courage and bravery demonstrated by these members of the public who have chosen to speak out, asking valid questions about East Grinstead Town Council’s involvement with the Church of Scientology. The Council’s website states it “fulfils a positive role at the heart of the community” and “is responsible for a wide range of services. These have been developed to meet the needs of the local community.”
How is censoring the public record supporting the needs of the community? In response to the meeting, Scientology Business Editor Alexander Barnes-Ross wrote to the Council:
I have been campaigning to raise awareness within the Council of what goes on behind closed doors at Saint Hill since I first found out the Mayor attended events there in November. This is not a matter of faith or religious belief, rather the abuse of vulnerable people that is enabled and endorsed by a select few who hold positions of responsibility.
My emails ignored, and blocked by the Mayor on social media, I felt I had no choice but to share my personal story of abuse at a Council meeting 3 weeks ago, only to be later told via email that I should refrain from speaking about my concerns publicly, and there’s nothing further Cllr. Visser can do to help me.
Last night, a number of others came forward to pose their questions to the council. The agenda stated “The public are welcome to ask questions of the Council on matters that arise under its remit”, only to be shut down by the Mayor, who was only willing to accept questions about the budget, which was the last of 8 points on the meeting’s agenda.
It is now abundantly clear the Council’s continued partnership and co-operation with the Church of Scientology is a matter of great concern and there is a need in the local community for the Council to take this matter seriously.
According to your own website,‘The council fulfils a positive role at the heart of the community” and “is responsible for a wide range of services. These have been developed to meet the needs of the local community.”
What services do the council provide to meet the needs of those in its community that are trying to escape Saint Hill but are deterred by the motion sensors and psychological coercion? What services do the council provide to meet the needs of those in the community who have been raped as teenagers at Saint Hill and told it was their fault for allowing it to happen and prevented from reporting it to the Police?
And what about those of us who are fortunate enough to have escaped, but remain damaged and want our voices heard -so that something can be done to prevent others suffering too?
It is outrageous to think it would be acceptable for any Mayor to attend an event and accept a charity cheque from an organisation that has been found guilty of organised fraud in France (and other countries) on multiple occasions. And yet, it has happened almost every year for decades. And now the Mayor, the Clerk and the Leader of the Council refuse to engage with members of the public seeking to understand the Council’s role in this, and the countless stories of abuse that have emerged from Saint Hill.
In 1975, government ministers described Scientology as ‘mafia-like’ and discussed the ‘barbaric punishments’ staff members are subject to on the RPF, which was ‘harmful’, ‘evil’ and ‘disrupted families’. An internal report concluded “The Church of Scientology does not merely persuade people to part with their money. It is a harmful movement with an evil reputation.“ In 1999 the Charity Commission ruled Scientology does not benefit the public, and in 2023 it confirmed this is not a judgement that could be overturned. And yet, Scientology continues to succeed in its mission to build partnerships with local government and silence its critics and former members in any way possible.
I would like to work with the Council to develop a pathway that educates and informs the local community on what life is like at Saint Hill – and how best to support someone who may well be the victim of human trafficking and modern slavery. I would like to make it evidently clear: I have no problem with those choosing to believe in L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings, or practice the religious aspects of the faith. But what I will not stand for is abuse.
The Mayor describes Scientology as a “large and valued” part of the Town.. and unfortunately, so is the path of destruction it leaves behind in people’s lives.
Would it be possible to arrange a meeting with the Council, where I could brief you all on why this is an important issue that needs to be taken seriously?
I feel perhaps then we could establish a more collaborative, rather than combative, approach and work together to support the needs of local residents on this issue.
And in response to the censorship of public questions, lodged a formal complaint on the following day.
Dear Town Clerk,
Please consider this a formal complaint.
I noticed the recording of the East Grinstead Town council meeting on 8th January 2024 was removed from the East Grinstead Town Council Youtube channel yesterday, and was later re-uploaded today, but with the public question time edited out.
I find the timing of this concerning, in light of the Council’s disapproval of questions raised at the Council meeting on 29th January relating to the Church of Scientology,
The newly uploaded version of the 8th January Council meeting is accompanied by a disclaimer that says “Please note that the public question section of this meeting has been redacted due to the sensitive nature of the conversations and to protect any person in respect of any potential allegations that could result in legal action in the future.”
Please could you explain why my question, and the Mayor’s response has been censored? The question, as it was raised during public question time, is now a matter of public record and is captured in the Council’s minutes, which is published on the website. The meeting on 29th January has also been censored on Youtube.
The only people who the Council is protecting by this decision is the Church of Scientology.
It is laughable to think the Council is pretending the reason for censorship is to “protect” those who have spoken out – When the only reason I asked my question at the meeting was because the Council and Mayor were ignoring my emails, refusing to engage in conversation – and this was the only way of getting my voice heard. The Council’s actions forced me to speak publicly at the meeting, and is now attempting to censor me and claim doing so is “protecting” me? This is nothing short of insulting.
You previously sent me the filming protocol, and in the photograph you sent Point 3 of the Protocol states “those attending the meeting are deemed to have consented to the filming, recording or broadcasting of meetings” and continues “the chairman of the meeting has the authority to stop a meeting and take appropriate action if any person contravenes these principles”
At no point during the meeting did the Mayor choose to stop the meeting due to these principles being contravened, meaning everybody in the meeting consented to its filming and publication on Youtube.
Under point 5, it says “the council ask those recording proceedings not to edit the film or recording in a way that could lead to misinterpretation of the proceedings… this includes refraining from editing an image or views epressed in a way that may ridicule, offend or show lack of respect towards those being filmed or recorded”.
I did not give my permission to the Council to censor my question or my words, spoken at a public meeting on the public record.
Unfortunately, by editing out the public questions you have indeed ridiculed my concerns that the Council may be unduly influenced by the Church of Scientology, and are indeed showing a complete lack of respect towards those being filmed. As an ex-Scientologist, I am fighting the attempted censorship and silencing of my story on a daily basis – I am fighting an authoritarian cult that has taken too much of my life away. It is attempting to censor me, stop me from speaking out, and control the narrative.
Asking a question at public question time was for the exact reason that it was on the public record – and could not be censored. I did not accuse anybody of anything, I just recounted a personal experience and asked the Mayor what he was doing to protect people from abuse.
How dare you censor me, when I spoke on the public record, and I am speaking on a local issue of national importance? This was a public meeting, that should not be redacted in any way.
I am shocked, outraged and horrifically offended that you have once again furthered the aims of the Church of Scientology in its goal of silencing critics.
This is the second time the Council has acted in an attempt to muzzle the public debate on this topic, after the Mayor asked me not to speak publicly about it via email. The purpose of speaking on the public record is so that it cannot be censored.
You will not silence me. And you will not censor me.
How dare you.
By editing out my question from the Youtube video, you have once again chosen the side of my abusers, rather than the abused. Where is your compassion? Where is your sympathy? And when will you listen to what we are saying?
Please consider this a formal complaint and a request to reinstate the originally uploaded version of the Council Meeting on 8th January, which includes the question I asked during public question time at the beginning.
Alexander Barnes-Ross MCIMFormal Complaint lodged to East Grinstead Town Council, 31st January 2024
East Grinstead Town Council’s attempt to censor concerns raised during a public meeting is more than a cause for concern: it suggests a wider problem of cult corruption and suppression of freedom of speech.
Those wishing to voice there concerns are urged to raise a complaint with a higher tier of local government, Mid-Sussex District Council, who oversee East Grinstead Town’s operations. A petition is also underway and has attracted over 1,000 signatures calling for the end to local government support of Scientology.
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