Three weeks ago, I raised concerns over Scientology’s attempt to assert control and influence over local government officials in East Grinstead, the home of it’s Saint Hill headquarters. Town Mayor Frazer Visser was criticised by local residents for publicly defending the controversial group after he was photographed on stage accepting a £50,000 cheque for his charity at last month’s International Association of Scientologists (IAS) event. It was also revealed he joined Tom Cruise on the red carpet at the Mission Impossible film premiere earlier this year and returned to Saint Hill in November as the guest of honour to switch on their Christmas lights display.
Despite making up just 0.18% of the local population, The Mayor described Scientology as a “valued and large part” of the town and has so far refused to address the concerns raised by local residents. Scientology and its leader David Miscavige are currently under fire after a string of lawsuits were filed in the US alleging human trafficking, hard manual labour and harassment of former members.
East Grinstead Town Council issued a statement claiming “the Church has no influence on the workings of the Town Council” and they “value their contribution in the same way as the Lions, Rotary and other volunteers“, but we are yet to hear from the Mayor himself on his decision to overlook these serious allegations for the sake of financial contributions to local causes.
After being blocked on Twitter, I wrote to Cllr. Visser on 5th December in an attempt to better understand his choice to attend Scientology events. However, in the absence of a response, I’ve decided to publish the email as an open letter in the hope he takes into consideration the numerous accounts of abuse and neglect that have emerged from former Saint Hill staff members.
Here is the letter in full
Dear Cllr. Visser,
I wanted to reach out to you personally in the hope that I can better understand your decision to support the Church of Scientology.
I do not wish you any ill-will, and I would certainly much rather focus my efforts on helping people leave and recover..
But as an ex staff member myself, who was locked in a room as a teenager and told I couldn’t leave until I’d confessed to my ‘crimes’ against the Church, I do feel an obligation to hold those to account who’s actions – knowingly or not – enable this abuse.
Would it be possible to arrange a phone call, meeting – or perhaps continue the conversation over email?
I’m not sure if you’ve seen the video I released last week, but I’ve assembled some short 1/2 minute clips of people sharing a story from their time at Saint Hill and I wonder if it’s just simply a case of educating officials on the reality of life as a Scientologist in East Grinstead… https://youtu.be/BfWIBcWPGtw
If you’re more of a reader, I’ve written also them up on my blog: https://www.scientologybusiness.com/featured/behind-closed-doors-personal-stories-from-inside-scientologys-saint-hill-base/
Even if you are not open to continuing this conversation, I ask at the very least that you please take a moment to hear their stories – as local residents
Thank you and kind regards