Mid-Sussex District Council internal emails reveal Scientology used its close ties with former East Grinstead Mayor Dick Sweatman to interrupt protest plans at the recent Saint Hill IAS event. Tony Ortega reports…
In the days leading up to the return of Scientology’s ‘IAS gala’ to Saint Hill in East Grinstead, England last November, there were conflicting rumors about what was going to happen with three days of protest and a march planned by Alex Barnes-Ross.
We were told that Alex had been successful at convincing local authorities not only to allow the march, but to close down the road to Saint Hill for it. But then we heard that Scientology had been able to block this with a road closure of their own.
Ultimately, the march and protest went off as planned, and Scientology was unable to prevent it. But now, Scientology Business has been able to obtain emails from local government officials through a public records request, and they reveal why some of these rumors were swirling at the time.
This is our summary of what was contained in those emails, which reveal how closely some East Grinstead politicians are with the Church of Scientology.
On October 11 at 2:19 pm, Alex emailed the Mid-Sussex District Council, explaining that he had spoken with someone on the phone about the particulars of the protest he was planning for November 3-5. He described the exact route for Friday’s march (Nov 3), and inquired about at least a partial road closure until the marchers could get by.
Only a little more than an hour later, he received a response, asking him about the approximate size of the demonstration, and he sent a brief reply.
The next day, October 12, at 4:51 pm, Nigel Cannon at the Mid-Sussex District Council emailed Paul Collard, the council’s Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Manager.
“The demonstration situation has escalated,” Cannon said. “I have received calls from Cllr Dick Sweatman, Ward Member for Herontye, asking how the Church of Scientology can apply for a road closure on an open day.”
Cannon said in his email that he told Sweatman the church can apply for a closure, and Cannon realized that Sweatman was talking about the same date that Alex had asked for.
“I require help on this,” Cannon said.
It’s worth noting Sweatman has been a longstanding Scientology supporter, having opened the UK Narconon centre during his tenure as Mayor of East Grinstead and appearing in multiple Church videos praising their “help in the community.”
The next day, more emails passed back and forth between council figures. Lucy Corrie, assistant director for communities, spelled out the situation for another district official.
“In essence, Cllr Dick Sweatman, Ward Member for Herontye, has asked how the Church of Scientology can apply for a road closure for an open day. On the same day a protest group have asked for a road closure to allow a march. Please do pass the info to your police contacts.”
The emails provide stunning evidence of a local government official, Dick Sweatman, swinging into action only hours after Alex made his request in order to help Scientology find a way to block the protest.
“Saint Hill isn’t even in Dick’s ward, so he’s not even the representative for their area, which makes the fact he is the one asking about road closures on behalf of Scientology even more worrying,” Alex says. “He has a history of being one of the biggest Scientology supporters in local government. He opened the Narconon centre in the UK and even went to an exclusive afternoon tea in the Monkey Room at Saint Hill the day after the Mayor turned on their Christmas lights.”
Meanwhile, on October 14, Alex emailed the Mid-Sussex licensing department, saying that after a conversation with a licensing officer, he was now aware that Scientology is in serious breach of its duties as a license holder. Specifically, that it had not notified the district of its plans to have thousands of people attend a three-day event on its premises at Saint Hill.
Alex pointed out that this should, by law, be considered a serious offense resulting in a £20,000 fine and/or six months’ imprisonment.
Jon Bryant is the licensing officer responsible for this at the Mid-Sussex District Council, and two days later he emailed Paul Collard, asking if it was true what Scientology’s Janet Laveau told him, that Collard was aware of the upcoming event.
But Collard responded in an email, telling Bryant that he wasn’t aware of the event, which suggested that Laveau had not told the truth about that.
And then Bryant appeared to make excuses for Laveau: “This is the first event that she is responsible for,” he said, which suggests that she might have also not been truthful about this as well.
“Janet Laveau is ‘CO OSA UK’ and has been for about 20 years, I remember her from my time on staff and so did Mike Rinder. It’s impossible that this is her first time handling the event,” Alex tells us.
Bryant, meanwhile, told Alex that the licensing team had made a site visit to the Scientology facility and that it was in compliance with its license.
This didn’t please Alex, who informed Bryant that an organization being sued for trafficking in the US shouldn’t get a pass.
Bryant replied that the failure of Scientology to notify them about the event “has been dealt with by written advice to the Premise License Holder.”
Alex was disappointed that Scientology’s serious breach only resulted in a stern letter from the council.
“When I filed a complaint suggesting Scientology’s safe pointing and infiltration of local government is a cause for concern, it was rejected before I was given the opportunity to provide evidence and no investigation was done,” Alex says. “This, in addition to the fact a Councillor is making enquiries on behalf of the Church of Scientology, just goes to show how serious this problem is, and that it extends beyond East Grinstead Town Council, up to Mid Sussex District, too. Their integrity has been compromised and the holders of public office need to be held to account for their role in enabling abuse that is occurring at Saint Hill, and has done for decades.”
Certainly, the emails suggest that Scientology’s influence on local government is something that the public should know about, and that local leaders should answer for.
Scientology Business emailed Cllr Sweatman asking him to comment on what was in the emails, but we did not receive a reply.
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