A Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Scientology Business reveals the Church of Scientology have breached a condition of their premises licence – which allows them to hold large events- just weeks before thousands of parishioners are expected to arrive for what they describe as “the greatest gathering of Scientologists.”
In the United Kingdom, large gatherings are considered a ‘licensable activity‘, meaning strict controls are in place to prevent disorderly conduct, disruption to the local community and to ensure safety is properly considered. Scientology’s UK headquarters, known as Saint Hill near East Grinstead, holds a Premises Licence which allows them to hold events for up to 7,000 attendees with several strict conditions.
The Premises Licence was issued by Mid Sussex District Council, which is the local authority which presides over the area. It stipulates very clear conditions such as the time live music and the serving of alcoholic drinks may start and must conclude.
Last week, Scientology Business broke the news that Scientology are planning to hold what they describe as ‘the greatest gathering of Scientologists’ on the 3rd – 5th November at Saint Hill. The weekend marks a return to the Church’s international events program after a 4 year hiatus, and is expected to be hosted by reclusive leader David Miscavige, who is currently evading process servers in the United States after allegations were filed against him alleging human trafficking, harassment and intimidation.
According to their licence, Scientology are “required to notify the relevant health and safety enforcing authority of all upcoming events to be held within the grounds of Saint Hill Manor, 6 weeks prior to the actual event occurring detailing the nature of the event and any activities carried out on site”
Having noticed this very particular condition, we contacted Mid Sussex Council asking if Scientology had in fact issued such notice. They came back and confirmed they had not yet received notification, despite the advertised dates of 3rd – 5th November being just 3 weeks away.
This means Scientology have breached the conditions of their Premises Licence, for which the penalty is a £20,000 fine or six months’ imprisonment.
After speaking with a Licensing Officer at Mid-Sussex Council, we were told they would be making a visit to the site in the coming days to ask why they failed to issue the required notice and inspect the health and safety plans necessary for the event to go ahead.
Although it is unlikely this breach will result in the event’s cancellation, it serves as an example of Scientology’s blatant disregard for the regulations with which they must comply and suggests they were planning to hold the event irrespective of the conditions of their licence.
We were advised by Mid-Sussex Council that we would be kept informed of the outcome of their site visit, and will of course report back in due course. Meanwhile, plans for a protest against Scientology have been announced to coincide with the event. Those interested can participate via the live stream online, or register to attend in person on the IAS Protest website.
You can read the full FOI request and response below.