Mid-Sussex District Council have acknowledged Scientology engages in harassment and intimidation under its policy of ‘Fair Game’. Responding to calls for an investigation into East Grinstead Town Mayor Frazer Visser’s involvement with the church, the Council referenced fear of “reprisals” for speaking out against the group and confirmed “on the balance of probabilities”, such fears “could be well founded”.
Mid-Sussex District Council is the local authority responsible for the area in which Scientology’s UK headquarters are located. Bought by founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1960s, today Saint Hill serves as a major hub for large gatherings, recently hosting the International Association of Scientologists anniversary event in November last year.
Under the Premises Licence issued by the same local authority, Scientology are required to provide 6 weeks’ notice of large gatherings – something they failed to do in November. This breach of licence conditions is considered a serious offence under British law and was reported to the Council, but resulted in just an advisory email to Saint Hill, rather than the £20,000 fine and/or six months’ imprisonment stipulated under the Licensing Act.
An investigation into Scientology’s attempt to infiltrate and influence local government by Scientology Business last year revealed East Grinstead’s Town Mayor, Frazer Visser, had attended a number of events at the property last year and resulted in a number of complaints to Mid-Sussex District Council.
The complaints alleged Cllr. Visser broke the Code of Conduct by bringing the Mayor’s office into disrepute based on his association with the group, when taking into account Scientology’s policy of ‘Safe Pointing’. The tactic, devised by Hubbard to assert “PR Area Control”, instructs members to infiltrate key government offices in order to create more favourable rulings for the Church.
“Get a job on the secretarial staff or the bodyguard, use any talent one has to get a place close in, go to work on the environment and make it function better“, one policy states. “The cue in all this is don’t seek the cooperation of groups. Don’t ask for permission. Just enter them and start functioning to make the group win through effectiveness and sanity.“
Scientologists are told to “carefully and painstakingly find out who exactly are the top dogs in the area in financial and political circles, and their associates and connections, and to what each one is hostile” and that infiltration is vital for the success of the group. “Viability depends on having all areas and persons who could affect or influence the operation under PR control.”
Despite the policy making it very clear Scientology’s intention is to influence key decision makers, Mid-Sussex District Council have decided not to investigate, with the Monitoring Officer stating “there is nothing in the allegations which could reasonably be regarded as reducing public confidence in Cllr Visser’s ability to perform that role.” and perhaps most questionably, “I have not been provided with any evidence (nor is any direct allegation made) […] that CoS is seeking to do business with the Town Council or seek any other significant advantage.”
Under Mid-Sussex District Council’s Code of Conduct policies, on receipt of a complaint about a local official, the Monitoring Officer assesses whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation into the matter – known as a ‘Standards Committee’. The Monitoring Officer responsible for the initial assessment, Kevin Toogood, decided the concerns raised were not worth further attention.
A petition launched last month on Change.org, which has since attracted over 1,000 signatures, calls for an end to local governmental support of Scientology – which has us perplexed as to how this does not provide evidence to warrant further investigation by a Standards Committee.
Mr. Toogood also refused to respond to several emails after the initial complaint was raised in which the complainant attempted to provide further information of Scientology’s policies and evidence of the alleged infiltration.
However, his response does make reference to ‘Fair Game’, Scientology’s policy of using harassment and intimidation to silence critics and former members.
It is worth noting at this stage that the anonymous complaint was made by a former member of the CoS. They expressed a fear that they could face reprisals if their identity was made public. I am aware of some high-profile publicity regarding some of the practices of the CoS and it appears that these fears could (on the balance of probabilities) be well founded. I therefore consider it is appropriate to withhold the identities of all of the complainants.Mid-Sussex District Council, 28th December 2023
US actress Leah Remini recently filed a lawsuit against the Church and its leader David Miscavige, claiming she has fallen victim to Fair Game – something Scientology have not denied, instead using “free speech” as a defence to the stream of hate comments attacking her on social media.
You can read the response in full below.