East Grinstead Hustings: Candidates challenged on Scientology ahead of election

Last week, politicians standing for election in East Grinstead – home of the Church of Scientology’s UK headquarters – debated important local issues and faced questions from the public in an open hustings event at Trinity Methodist Church. Here’s the report we received from one of our contributors, who attended the debate and challenged the candidates on Scientology’s presence in the town ahead of this week’s general election.

The general election hustings last Wednesday at Trinity Methodist Church, for the new East Grinstead and Uckfield constituency, was the fifth of the campaign for the candidates. Representatives from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green, English Democrat parties attended, as did an Independent candidate.

The event was popular, with over 100 local residents coming togther in the church hall to hear what candidates had to say on local and national issues. One of those attendees happened to be Liz Osterman, responsible for handling the relationship between the Church of Scientology and local politicians. I wonder who she’s voting for…

Questions had to be submitted in advance, so I posed to the candidates about what they would do to support those residents who live in the constituency who are Scientologists if they wished to leave, or how they would support those reporting abuse. Despite my question being accepted by the chair, unfortunately time ran out before it could be asked. Nevertheless, I decided to hang around to try and catch some of the candidates after the event to ask them what they thought about Scientology’s activity in the area.

Mims Davies, who attended the Scientology IAS event in November, took part in the debate

The first candidate I spoke to was Mims Davies, the Conservative Party candidate, who has represented the area as a Member of Parliament since 2019. Davies is not unfamiliar with Scientology, having issued the organisation with a “Covid Heroes” award after the pandemic and having attended the International Association of Scientologists fundraising gala last November.

When asked about those who have suffered abuse and harassment from the organisation, Davies said that first and foremost, people who have faced these issues “need a solicitor”, saying that “nobody is above the law, including Scientology”. She encouraged those who are victims of abuse to report it to the police and she would support the legal process as it unfolded.

I told Davies that I was disappointed that she attended the IAS event. Her response was “I attend a lot of events, some run by organisations I support and others I don’t. I have never done anything others haven’t – remember though, nobody is above the law” as she walked off. East Grinstead is considered a Conservative safe seat and it is expected that Davies will be re-elected later this week, but her responses to other questions raised at the hustings seemed to leave voters unimpressed.

The second candidate I spoke to was Ben Sebastian-Cox of the Labour Party, who said “I will defend anybody who has an issue with the Church” and went on to offer support to those who need it. “If anyone you know is getting affected by this, do message me and I will try my best by them”

The final candidate I spoke to was Christina Coleman, who is standing for the Green Party. Despite a low voter base nationally, the Greens have done well locally in the constituency, with the Leader of Wealden Council being a Green.

Coleman declined to comment on the presence of Scientology without “sitting down to truly understand the situation,” which seemed fair. She did spend some time speaking to me about my experience and conviction on the matter, sharing that she had spoken to residents who shared the same concerns.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, none of these three candidates can now claim they aren’t aware of concerns about Scientology’s activities in the area – and thankfully they all seemed willing to listen and be open to working with those suffering at the hands of the “Church” of Scientology.


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