Scientology and Nation of Islam Exposed in Florida School Takeover

February 27, 2012 under Clearwater FL, World Literacy Crusade

By Tony Ortega
The Village Voice
February 26, 2012

The Tampa Bay Times has done it again with another explosive report on the Church of Scientology. Drew Harwell’s thorough report shows an alarming partnership between Scientology and the Nation of Islam that has drained dry a troubled charter school in Dunedin, Florida.
We also have a startling report out of Israel, where a new court pleading has Scientology’s own attorneys accusing church leader David Miscavige of lying in order to drum up donations.

With reports like that coming in, we couldn’t wait for our usual Thursday worldwide roundup. So hold on to your hat as we summarize this Sunday’s bombshells.

First, today’s Tampa Bay Times features Harwell’s story on its front page, and it’s a densely packed and shocking look at Life Force Arts and Technology Academy, a struggling charter school in the town of Dunedin.

Harwell reports that Life Force receives about $800,000 a year in public money, but after opening in 2007, by 2009 it was on the ropes financially. That’s when “Dr.” Hanan Islam, of California’s World Literacy Crusade, stepped in with another one of her businesses, the Art of Management, saying that she was going to save the place.

Parents and former teachers, however, charge that Islam instead led a covert takeover of the school by the Church of Scientology.

Islam’s World Literacy Crusade promotes L. Ron Hubbard’s “study tech,” which it argues is a secular set of study materials. But as Harwell points out, Hubbard’s materials — which place an oddly single-minded focus on the use of dictionaries for nearly all educational problems — has been rejected by school boards around the country as a covert way of getting Scientology’s ideas into schools. [For a thorough expose on Hubbard's "study tech" and how it attempts to wedge Scientology into the schools, see this series of essays by Carnegie Mellon professor Dave Touretzky.]

Even stranger, the takeover of Life Force appeared to be a joint effort between Scientology and the Nation of Islam. We’ve written previously about the strange relationship that has been growing between Scientology and Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader.

At the center of that odd pairing is a man named Alfreddie Johnson.

[photo of Alfreddie Johnson, Louis Farrakhan, and Stacy Frances]

That’s Alfreddie in the photo behind Farrakhan and former X-Factor contestant Stacy Francis at a Scientology Celebrity Centre event from a few years ago.

It’s Johnson who reached out to Farrakhan and got him interested in Dianetics about six years ago. And Harwell reports that Johnson was on the scene as a Nation of Islam “brother,” Louis Muhammad, was made board chair of the charter school. Johnson himself showed up at fundraisers for Life Force.

But that fundraising didn’t seem to get Life Force out of its struggles. Harwell reports that parents were concerned about the meager resources at the school. But while the school struggled, it “funneled tens of thousands of dollars more to Islam’s business interests than she told the bankruptcy court she would charge.”

At the same time it was funneling money to Islam’s Scientology front group, the school was so poor, it argued to the local sheriff’s station that it authorized a parent to rip out the copper wiring and other fixtures of a closed nearby hotel as a way to raise money. (The hotel denied that it gave the school permission to do so, Hartwell writes.)

Hartwell even shows that Islam’s “doctorate” is from a diploma mill.

With the school such a train wreck, Pinellas County would like to close it, but it can’t do so because Life Force is currently in bankruptcy court.

Perhaps the most troubling detail: once Scientology took over the school, it seems to have installed its own version of elementary school RPF.

Rehabilitation Project Force is the name for Scientology’s prison detail for its Sea Org members who run afoul of rules or otherwise disappoint their leaders. It can take years of working at menial labor and shunned by other church members for parishioners in the RPF to restore themselves to good standing. In the case of Life Force, the Pinellas County school district found that children needing discipline were assigned to work with janitors. “Islam defended the practice,” Hartwell writes.

For now, the school is trying to change its name, and Islam’s group is still aggressively marketing it to locals.

One parent objected that his 11-year-old daughter was sent home from the Christmas Party with a book by L. Ron Hubbard with the title The Carnival of Death. He burned it.

Hartwell’s story is packed with amazing detail. Please give it a look, and we’ll hope the Times keeps us updated as the school moves through bankruptcy.

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Controversy over Scientology influence clouds future of Pinellas charter school

February 27, 2012 under Clearwater FL, World Literacy Crusade

By Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer
The Tampa Bay Times
Published Sunday, February 26, 2012.
Link to original article

DUNEDIN — One Friday afternoon in December, leaders of a tax-funded elementary school called Life Force Arts and Technology Academy shepherded students into a Scientology church in Tampa’s Ybor Square.

The children were fed candy and pizza, given Scientology books and DVDs, and shown a performance of a play written by Scientology’s late founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Some posed for photos with Santa Claus in front of a silver Scientology cross.

It was, as Life Force leaders had promised, a Christmas party, the school’s first since a small Clearwater company called Art of Management had been hired to reorganize the school as it filed for bankruptcy.

Though company president Hanan Islam was also executive director of the World Literacy Crusade, a California organization that promotes Scientology study methods, she had reassured parents then that her group would “not push any religion” at the school.

But as Life Force parents stood in one of Scientology’s newest churches, dedicated last year by Scientology’s worldwide leader, David Miscavige, some felt their trust had been betrayed.

Some parents and former teachers at Life Force, which receives about $800,000 a year in public funding, say the Pinellas County charter school has become a Scientology recruiting post targeting children.

Opened to serve a low-income Clearwater neighborhood and advertising classes in computers and modern dance, Life Force had begun pushing Hubbard’s “study technology,” which critics call a Trojan horse Scientology uses to infiltrate public classrooms.

And while Life Force students and teachers worked in poorly stocked classrooms and teachers went unpaid, the bankrupt school funneled tens of thousands of dollars more to Islam’s business interests than she told the bankruptcy court she would charge.

“There can be no accountability when this kind of stuff goes on,” said teacher Tim Roach, who said he was fired from Life Force last month after criticizing the school. “It’s the students who are going to suffer.”

Though mixing public education with religious doctrine is not allowed by the Pinellas County School District, which oversees charter schools, the district has been stymied in attempts to close Life Force because it is under bankruptcy protection.

In response to questions from the Tampa Bay Times submitted over the last two months, Islam and Louis Muhammad, who chairs the school’s board of directors, responded with brief email statements calling the Life Force reorganization an unquestionable success.

“This is the real story and needs to be told,” Muhammad wrote. “We are making a charter school work.”

• • •

Islam told the Times in July that she wanted to “save the school” using the World Literacy Crusade’s experience in setting up “programs in churches and schools” worldwide. “There are no intentions of taking over,” she said.

But as the 2011-2012 school year began for about 95 students in August, Islam and other Life Force administrators began insisting on the use of Hubbard’s “study tech” in the classroom, former teachers said.

Every teacher was given Learning How to Learn, an illustrated children’s book and starter’s guide to study tech that includes a biography of Hubbard. Teachers also were trained in Smart Way, a phonics program designed by Scientologists.

One teacher took photos of white boxes stacked in the principal’s office labeled “L. Ron Hubbard Books.”

Teachers were required to attend training sessions at Scientology’s flagship resort in downtown Clearwater, the Fort Harrison Hotel.

Islam posted pictures online with a caption saying teachers were “trained on the barriers to study,” a Hubbard study tech fundamental. Teachers were taught extensively about one study tech solution, “word clearing,” in which fatigued or frustrated students must trace back their problem to a “misunderstood word.”

Though teachers believed their students’ struggles often stemmed from broken homes or social problems in their neighborhood, they were taught to point troubled students to a dictionary.

“The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused,” Learning How to Learn states, “is because he has gone past a word that was not understood.”

Teachers who questioned study tech were told they had no choice but to implement it. Fifth-grade teacher Jason Lowe, who was fired in January, said Life Force director of operations Vikki Williams told him, ” ‘We are a study tech school,’ and that if any of us had a problem with it, we had to get over it.”

Three teachers said they were terminated last month without explanation. Lowe said he was fired because school leaders suspected he spoke with the Times. Several parents and teachers who talked with the Times were reluctant to be quoted because they feared retribution.

Study tech combines common educational concepts like hands-on learning and word comprehension with what Hubbard defined as “barriers of study” and their manifested responses. “The real things or the objects that you study about are called mass,” explainsLearning How to Learn. Studying something without having the “mass” of it could make a student “feel squashed” or “sort of spinny,” the book states. To get past that barrier, the student might be instructed to craft the idea with clay.

Supporters of study tech say the methodology is effective with struggling students. Academic critics say, however, that it hasn’t withstood enough peer review.

Representatives from Applied Scholastics, a nonprofit founded by Scientologists to promote study tech, defend the methodology as secular and appropriate for public education. According to online writings, their interest is not in Hubbard as Scientology’s founder but as “one of the most prolific and successful wordsmiths of all time.”

But study tech’s controversial links to Scientology have generally kept the program out of public schools. The Florida Department of Education has approved Applied Scholastics as a supplemental educational services provider, but schools and school districts in Georgia; San Antonio, Texas; St. Louis; Nevada and Toronto have backed away from study tech after complaints from teachers and parents.

Greg Blunt, whose 11-year-old daughter, Ta’Shannia, was one of Life Force’s first students in 2009, removed her from the school last month because of what he called Scientology’s “takeover” of the school — something the church denies.

School administrators, Blunt said, have long lied to parents about the church’s involvement. When Ta’Shannia returned home from the Ybor Christmas party with The Carnival of Death, one of Hubbard’s pulp-fiction books, he burned it.

“Everyone knows the easiest way is through a child,” said Blunt, who has some convictions for nonviolent crimes. “Here, little girl, have some candy. Here, little boy, have some books to read. … Kids are kids. They’re impressionable. If you can get through to the kids, trust me, you can rule the world.”

• • •

Opened in 2009 in Clearwater, Life Force was slated to offer art-heavy classes to the predominately black and low-income children of that city’s North Greenwood neighborhood. Like other charter schools, it would be run by its own board of directors but funded by tax dollars.

Yet by summer 2011, audits show, Life Force was in a state of “financial emergency,” with more than $400,000 in debts. The school’s first principal was fired, charged with stealing from a family trust.

Seeking a savior, the Life Force board signed a contract with Islam’s Art of Management company. In a court declaration, Islam boasted of being a “dynamic leader” who was skilled at winning government contracts and had tripled the World Literacy Crusade’s annual income.

Calling herself “Dr. Hanan,” Islam also said she was a naturopathic physician with two doctorates and a master’s degree from Rochville University and the Eden Institute. Rochville is an online school the Washington Post called “a diploma mill.” No university named “Eden Institute” could be found by the Times.

Though she touted her successes as executive director of the World Literacy Crusade beginning in 1998, the organization has had its troubles. Tax records show the Crusade’s 2007 revenues of more than $270,000 had been cut in half by 2010.

And in 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported, 100 protesters marched outside the Crusade’s Compton, Calif., headquarters, claiming the group had sold free government-issued Section 8 housing vouchers for $1,500 each — vouchers that turned out to be phony.

After she was hired by Life Force, Islam helped appoint new members to the school’s board of directors, said former Life Force board chairman Maurice Mickens. Tapped as board chairman was Louis Muhammad, a Nation of Islam student minister who is called “Brother Louis.”

• • •

Islam and Muhammad were joined in leading Life Force by the founder of the World Literacy Crusade, the Rev. Alfreddie Johnson. He flew in from California in October to give the keynote speech at a Life Force fundraiser at the Fort Harrison Hotel. That month, Life Force bankruptcy filings show, the school paid the Crusade more than $15,000.

Johnson is a regular speaker at Scientology events and a longtime proponent of Hubbard study tech. In 2006 he was the speaker for Scientology’s Ebony Awakening Awards at the Fort Harrison Hotel, where he told the Times of a plan to train Nation of Islam members to administer study tech.

A black separatist movement, the Nation of Islam has promoted education and training initiatives aimed at black empowerment and self-improvement, but critics say the movement is a racist hate group. Louis Farrakhan, its outspoken leader, once proclaimed “Hitler was a very great man.”

Johnson, who has called Farrakhan “God’s man on the scene,” was called “the liaison between the Church of Scientology and the Nation of Islam” last October by the Nation’s official newspaper, The Final Call.

Johnson helped sell Farrakhan on Hubbard’s ideas, and in recent years Farrakhan has pushed Nation of Islam followers to embrace Scientology. In April, The Final Call reported Johnson was helping Farrakhan “to deliver the technology of Scientology to the Nation.”

The Final Call reported last year that 4,000 Nation of Islam members were involved in study or training courses based on Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Hubbard’s seminal bestseller. Nearly 700 Nation members have been certified as Hubbard Dianetics auditors.

Johnson did not return messages left by the Times last week.

Scientology spokeswoman Pat Harney said the Church of Scientology’s contributions to Life Force have been merely a way to support a school in need.

“Our only interest is as a member of the community,” Harney said. “The Church of Scientology would like to see any organization that is helping children do well.”

In an email, Islam defended the “many religions” involved in her work and said she does not discriminate based on religious beliefs.

“I make it my business to associate with anyone,” Islam wrote, “actively working to benefit mankind.”

• • •

Even after the school filed for bankruptcy protection in July, Islam’s work at the Life Force academy proved lucrative for her business interests.

Life Force paid the World Literacy Crusade more than $33,000 in September and October, bankruptcy court filings show, though they do not detail what that money bought. Islam’s management company was paid more than $56,000 in the three months after the school’s bankruptcy — nearly double the rate Islam told the courts she would charge the school.

While public education funds streamed out of the school, former teachers said the educational environment at Life Force declined.

The “arts and technology academy,” which had promised parents their children would have access to Kindles and laptop computers, instead provided only a small lab with two working computers. Music, science and art classes were nearly nonexistent.

Teachers and parents began resorting to unorthodox means to keep the school afloat. When the school stopped paying for bus service, former teachers said, parents and teachers carpooled. After administrators denied requests for classroom materials like paper, pencils and textbooks, teachers wrote to parents asking for help with supplies.

Some teachers resorted to buying their own supplies, downloading free online curriculum sets, and copying whole workbooks and teachers’ guides, former teachers said. Paid $85 a day before taxes, without benefits or sick days, some teachers waited months to receive their paychecks.

The desperate measures to keep the school funded took a bizarre and potentially dangerous turn just before Thanksgiving, when a Life Force parent went into two empty buildings beside the Dunedin school and ripped out copper wire, doors, sinks and air-conditioning units.

According to a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy’s report, Islam told school leaders the owner of the closed Fenway Hotel, a historic structure next to the school building, had agreed to let the school sell scrap metal from the Fenway’s old staff quarters and carriage house. Principal Lenor Johnson asked the parent to help.

But when deputies arrived, they learned Fenway owner George Rahdert, a lawyer who represents the Times, had never consented to the demolition. No one was arrested, but repairs were estimated to cost more than $15,000. An entire fire-sprinkler system had been dismantled.

“What kind of school,” Rahdert asked, “is going to create a fire hazard right next to where little kids are playing?”

• • •

One morning in November, a Pinellas County schools employee saw two young boys sitting in the Life Force lobby. Near them stood the school custodian, holding a wringer bucket and an industrial-sized mop.

The boys, the employee told school district officials, had gotten in trouble. For punishment they were to work alongside the school custodian. One boy would mop the floors; the other, scrub a bathroom.

Williams, Life Force’s director of operations, told the school district this was ordinary practice at Life Force. Student discipline entailed forfeiting recess for “work detail.”

Dot Clark, the school district’s coordinator of partnership schools, told Life Force administrators that forcing young children to clean bathrooms was “inappropriate, unhealthy and a possible safety concern.”

But Islam defended the practice. “We have found in many programs,” Islam wrote to Clark, “having children contribute to the cleanliness of their environment (can) enhance their level of ownership and build their self-esteem.”

Later that day, Life Force board chairman Muhammad said he talked to Islam about the work detail’s “age-appropriateness.” Principal Johnson then wrote to Clark that the discipline would “stop immediately.”

The punishment mirrors the approach of the Church of Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force, where staffers in the Sea Org, Scientology’s religious order, are forced to perform menial labor to redeem themselves for what the church considers transgressions.

Life Force’s academic performance also has been questioned. The school failed to achieve four of the six goals it reported to the Pinellas County School District in its last evaluation, including increasing scores on the SAT and reading FCAT, enrolling students in a book club, obtaining library cards, and distributing a parent survey. The school did meet two of its goals for FCAT math scores: About 60 percent of third- and fourth-grade students received a passing grade.

The Pinellas district, which is required by state law to monitor and evaluate charter schools, was making plans last summer to shut down Life Force but was prevented from doing so when the school filed for bankruptcy reorganization, Clark told the Times. The next hearing in bankruptcy court is scheduled for April.

Last month Life Force administrators asked the school district to drastically change the school’s charter and rename it SMART Academy (“Science, Math, Arts, Reading and Technology”). Superintendent John Stewart will discuss that request at a School Board meeting next month.

The school continues to advertise. In December, fliers displaying the World Literacy Crusade’s logo invited the public to Scientologists’ yearly Winter Wonderland in downtown Clearwater and offered free gifts to newly enrolled Life Force students.

The school posted a promotional ad last month on YouTube from Gary Ravenscroft, a Scientologist documentarian whose film, The Truth About Drugs, was produced by an antidrug group funded by Scientology. And this month, the school was promoted under its unauthorized new name in automated phone calls voiced by Crusade founder Alfreddie Johnson.

On the phone he promised the school could secure for children a “bright future.” Parents said they sought out Life Force because they wanted exactly that. Touted as an advanced and secular public school in a poor neighborhood with few opportunities, the school, parents had thought, could be the start of a better life for their children.

But after months of questionable lessons and evasions, some parents and former teachers were convinced their public school had become a vehicle for something other than education, with their children as unwitting recruits.

On the first day of school after the Scientology-hosted Christmas party, a soft-spoken fourth-grade girl raised in a Baptist household stopped her teacher, Tim Roach, during class. She had a question.

“Mr. Roach,” she said, “what is Scientology?”

Times researcher Natal Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@tampabay.com. Write letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.


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Boston Herald ~ Church keys programs to recruit blacks

by Joseph Mallia

The Church of Scientology has targeted black families in Massachusetts with a learn-to-read program that critics say is just a rehash of old methods that leans heavily on the church’s religious teachings.

The learn-to-read program – the World Literacy Crusade – is part of a nationwide effort by the church to entice blacks into Scientology and then convince them to take other, expensive programs, according to critics and former members of the church.

A Herald review has found that Scientologists have:

Targeted a literacy campaign at inner-city Boston programs for minority children, including Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn’s Youth Development Program, the Roxbury YMCA and the Roxbury Youth Works.

Attracted dozens of middle class and professional black families to Delphi Academy in Milton. This Scientology-run school uses E-Meters – devices akin to lie detectors – on children, according to a former Delphi student.

Taught Scientology methods to ninth-grade teachers at Randolph High School – which has many black students – after persuading headmaster James E. Watson that their techniques work.

Taught Scientology’s study techniques to Boston Public Schools students at Brighton High School through teacher Gerald Mazzarella, who is also a church member.

Created 26 World Literacy Crusade programs – in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Miami, Memphis, Tenn., and a host of other U.S. cities in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Gained the endorsements of prominent local blacks such as Georgette Watson, co-founder of Drop-A-Dime and former anti-drug aide to Gov. William F. Weld.

The teachings

Scientologists say the literacy campaign is nonreligious, and thereforedoesn’t violate laws separating church and state.

But critics say the church plays fast and loose with definitions, calling identical programs “religious” in one context and “secular” in another.

Church documents and books show that Scientology clearly identifies Study Technology as a religious practice. It is taught at the church’s local headquarters on Beacon Street in Boston in the $600 Student Hat program, as a first step into church membership.

This learn-to-read “technology” – or Study Tech as the church calls it – teaches children to distrust their own intelligence and rely passively on what the church teaches, said high-ranking church defector Robert Vaughn Young.

“Study Tech is an extremely dangerous technique,” Young said. “Critical thinking? There is no critical thinking. Criticism is the part that is not allowed,” said Young, who once directed Scientology’s worldwide public relations effort.

The Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, denied that black children or families are being recruited through the literacy program.

“We’ve found that African-American families are as interested as everyone else in what works . . .. They might not necessarily join the church but the quality of their lives has been improved by it,” he said.

Scientologists say the literacy techniques offer the only way to end gang violence, teen pregnancy and other inner-city problems.

“I think parents are being driven to find answers. They want their kids to be educated, for heaven’s sake. God bless the World Literacy Crusade,” Jentzsch said.

He said Scientology’s study techniques are so effective they raised his own IQ by 34 points, and helped his children read far above their grade levels.

The Herald asked Harvard University literacy expert Victoria Purcell-Gates to assess the World Literacy Crusade’s learn-to-read book, the “Basic Study Manual,” written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

“This is all `old stuff,’ and has been taught in the schools for at least 30 years (probably more) now,” the Harvard professor wrote in an assessment for the Herald.

“Basically, there is nothing new in this text that is not known by reading/study specialists at a very basic level,” she added. “The only thing really `different’ is that Mr. Hubbard has renamed basic concepts to fit into his overall scheme of things.”

Steve Hassan of Cambridge, a cult deprogrammer, warned that the way Scientologists use the book, in one-on-one tutorials, is a first step toward hypnotic mind control.

And the literacy materials are the same as church scriptures – except the schoolbooks leave out the word “Scientology,” Hassan said.

For example, the “Basic Study Manual” teaches children about the Scientology practice of “disconnecting” – used to separate new recruits from non-Scientologists, including parents. ” `Experts,’ `advisers,’ `friends,’ `families’ . . . indulge in all manner of interpretations and even outright lies to seem wise or expert,” the manual says.

The manual also promotes Scientology’s anti-psychology agenda, linking psychology to German fascism and saying psychotherapists reduce humans to the level of animals.

Scientology spokesman Bernard Percy, however, defended the World Literacy Crusade, saying it has no harmful agenda, and that its study principles can turn a child’s life around. For example, Percy said, the program requires children to look up in a dictionary each and every unfamiliar word – and that becomes a lifelong habit with tremendous benefits.

Scientologists also claim the literacy campaign is not controlled by the Church of Scientology – so they are not breaking the laws prohibiting religion in the schools.

But that is a false claim, because the campaign is funded and directed by the Church of Scientology, Hassan said.

The connections

Although local Scientologists deny that the World Literacy Crusade is directed by the Church of Scientology, anyone who uses L. Ron Hubbard’s name, or his trademarked Study Technology techniques, is strictly controlled by licensing contracts with Scientology groups in Los Angeles, in particular the Religious Technology Center, according to Young and church materials obtained by the Herald.

The World Literacy Crusade’s independence from Scientology is a “fiction,” Young said.

A World Literacy Crusade videotape, viewed by the Herald, clearly states that it has a licensing agreement with RTC – Scientology’s most powerful organization – allowing it to use L. Ron Hubbard’s name.

Also, Scientologists get a 10 percent to 35 percent commission on any church course bought by someone they recruit through the literacy programs, according to Church of Scientology documents dated last month.

Once Scientology attracts a new recruit, its staff applies skillful, high-pressure sales tactics, Hassan said. Members must pay more than $300,000 in “fixed donations” – or barter their full-time labor – to achieve complete salvation.

When the Mo Vaughn group or another agency buys Scientology’s literacy books – which cost about $35 each – most of the money goes to several Scientology organizations in Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, the church’s in-house publisher; Author Services Inc., Scientology’s literary agency; and RTC, which owns the rights to the trademarked name L. Ron Hubbard.

Also, church members sometimes get government funding.

Scientologists got a federal grant for the literacy program in Memphis, former church spokeswoman Kit Finn said.

Federal money was also spent in Boston on Scientology materials, said Gerald Mazzarella, a Scientologist who teaches at Brighton High School. Mazzarella told the Herald he used part of a $5,000 federal grant to buy Scientology textbooks and checklists during the 1980s, which he then used at Brighton High.

Hub beginnings

Boston’s kickoff of Scientology’s literacy program was an April 22, 1995, reception at Roxbury Community College.

The guest of honor was Isaac Hayes, the first black musician ever to win an Academy Award.

The “Shaft” composer impressed a few prominent local blacks – including James E. Watson, the Randolph Junior/Senior High School headmaster.

“It obviously helps kids improve their learning. It seemed to be a positive,” Watson said.

Watson toured Delphi Academy in Milton about three years ago, then asked the school’s headmistress, Ellen Garrison, to begin teaching Study Technology to his ninth-grade teachers at the Randolph school in December.

“It’s at its infancy stage, and what it would cost isn’t clear yet,” the headmaster said at the time. Watson, who has been praised for easing racial tensions in Randolph, recently said there is no longer any connection between the two schools.

The head of a youth program founded by one of Boston’s most-admired black athletes was also interested.

“I think they’re right on when they say illiteracy is a problem that leads to other problems,” said Roosevelt Smith, executive director of the Mo Vaughn Youth Development Program.

“We contracted with the World Literacy Crusade to bring seven kids up to speed,” Smith said. Five of the children, who were 13-16 years old, improved their reading ability using the “Basic Study Manual,” he said.

“Most of the stuff is free. They only asked us to pay for books and materials,” Smith said.

Mo Vaughn himself knew about the Scientologists’ program, but “he hasn’t met with them directly,” Smith said.

But the Scientology religion “is not a part of what we’re doing,” Smith said. “I don’t think the kids even know what Scientology is.”

Roxbury Youth Works, however, allowed World Literacy Crusade workers to tutor teenagers there three years ago, but had second thoughts after learning more about the group’s links to Scientology, said Roxbury Youth Works administrator Dave Wideman.

“We as an organization were a little apprehensive. It seems like they were trying to recruit people,” Wideman said. “The target group was the particular population we serve, predominantly young black men and women.”

But if the Randolph High School literacy program succeeds, Scientologists hope to teach the same “tech” in Boston classrooms, said Finn, the Scientologist.

“That’s definitely the plan,” Finn said. “It’s like Mr. Watson. Somebody has to be bright enough to want it.”

Virtually every top Scientology official is white, according to ex-members and photographs of church leaders. But the new literacy campaign shows Scientology wants to attract blacks and Hispanics, said Priscilla Coates, formerly of the Cult Awareness Network in Los Angeles – an anti-cult group that was bankrupted by Scientology lawsuits and then taken over by the church.

Any non-Scientologist youth who is taught Study Technology is ripe for recruitment, Coates said. “The child has a possibility of becoming a Scientologist,” she said.

Elsewhere in the United States, the World Literacy Crusade has installed its programs at a New York City police athletic league, a Los Angeles probation department, and the Tampa (Fla.) Housing Authority. Other programs are in Washington, D.C., Denver, and throughout California.

In Memphis, Tenn., public officials were angered to learn that the World Literacy Crusade had run a pilot program – with federal grant money – for 75 students in a public school building, without getting a needed permit and without disclosing its ties to Scientology. The church was not allowed to use the school facilities again.

In the inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton, more than 700 black children, including gang members, participated in the World Literacy Crusade and the program saved their lives by giving them an alternative to street life, Jentzsch said.

“If you know what the statistics are in Compton, (it is) just miraculous,” Jentzsch said. “I’ve seen kids from the Crips and the Bloods sitting there working with other kids to get them educated.”

Study Tech

Larry Campbell brought his daughter to the Scientologists at the Roxbury YMCA because she was having reading problems in a public school outside Boston, which he would not name.

“I brought my daughter here because these guys help,” Campbell said. The father acknowledged that he also enrolled himself in the literacy program, to improve his reading skills.

“This is what the public schools should be doing,” the father said. “It should be attended to not next year but now.”

So for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and each Saturday morning, Campbell, a deacon at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Roxbury, brought his elementary school aged daughter to a neon-lit YMCA room furnished with an old sofa, two foldout tables and a stack of plastic chairs.

There, she and other black children were coached in Scientology’s study methods by church members Simaen Skolfield and Cliff Dufresne.

During one session observed by a Herald reporter, neither tutor had a spontaneous conversation with a child, but read from a script.

Dufresne, who dropped out of Boston College Law School to work on the literacy program, helped Doug Walker, a pupil at the William Monroe Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester.

Doug Walker’s mother said the school wanted to solve her son’s problems by giving him medication such as Ritalin, Dufresne said. But, he added, the mother wanted to try drug-free Scientology lessons first.

Meanwhile Skolfield, a bearded British emigre, helped Tanzania Campbell – whose ambition is to be a schoolteacher in Atlantic City, N.J. – with a Study Technology lesson.

Campbell and others at the Roxbury YMCA literacy program were expected to pay nothing at first. “Not yet,” Dufresne said.

But Dufresne hopes his students will, in turn, teach their friends the Scientology techniques. “That’s the whole idea. They learn this and then they circle back and teach somebody else. Because there’s not enough of us,” he said.

Scientology literacy sessions are no longer allowed at the Roxbury YMCA, after officials there learned that the program is associated with the church.

But, an official at Dennison House in Dorchester said Dufresne met with house representatives last year and Dennison House invited World Literacy Crusade workers to come in as tutors. The tutoring has not yet started.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Not about manipulation

It’s appalling that the Herald has chosen to attack the World Literary Crusade, which is helping families and children lead a better life. Your paper has tried to lessen the work that we do by questioning the motives of the staff and volunteers of this program. Good people in many cities, including Boston, have given their time and energy to help others. You make their good work seem like an act of manipulation.

Mr. Mallia did not take the time to really look at the positive results created by these programs; instead he manufactured hidden motives and implied that African-Americans involved in the WLC are being duped. Since 1992, thousands of lives have come through the WLC and literally been saved from the world of street violence and possible death, a success attributable to L. Ron Hubbard’s Study Technology.

The Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, Founder, World Literacy Crusade, Compton, Calif.

Literacy is power

I first became aware of Delphi Academy and the World Literacy Crusade more than five years ago. I found Delphi to be an excellent school that was dedicated to empowering its students by giving them educational tools that encouraged them to develop good learning habits and to think for themselves. I proudly wear the hat that founder the Rev. Alfreddie Johnson gave me – a symbol of his commitment to provide the freedom and power that comes with access to written word.

The article on Delphi and the WLC has hints of “only whites know what is best for black people.” I am most disturbed that you don’t believe that people have the capacity to think for themselves. These programs are helping young people. We need to support them, not put them down.

Mel King, Boston

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Christian Science Monitor ~ One Man’s Crusade to Heal Illiteracy Ills

October 30, 1997 under World Literacy Crusade

Daniel B. Wood, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

COMPTON, CALIF. — The Rev. Alfreddie Johnson says the problem with inner-city America is not the usual litany of woes: drugs, crime, gangs, teen-pregnancy, domestic abuse.

All of the above are deeply rooted in something far more fundamental, he says. In a word, illiteracy.

“If you go into any American city and look into the eyes of young people, you will see anger and alienation,” says this nondenominational preacher. “Why? They are surrounded by a wealth of opportunity in this country yet are convinced such opportunity is not for them. This is the result of illiteracy.”

Mr. Johnson should know. He grew up in this Los Angeles-area inner city, which has the nation’s third-lowest educational level, with a 40 percent school dropout rate. Joblessness is three times the national average (at 20 percent), and nearly half of those of high school age are considered “functionally illiterate” – unable to read a map or menu.

In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which devastated this community, Johnson planted seeds to change that. Already active in the neighborhood with an eight-year-old outreach program for youths, he founded the Compton Literacy and Learning Project. A year later, it was named the World Literacy Crusade (WLC) and has . since become so successful that chapters have been cloned in 30 other cities around the world.

The curriculum Johnson uses is a simple system from a controversial source. In the 1930s, L. Ron Hubbard, who later founded the Church of Scientology, designed a way to help potential readers of all ages overcome their own barriers to learning: He stressed that readers must know where, when, and how they become confused.

In the WLC program, students are urged to look up any unclear words in dictionaries before proceeding in schoolwork or reading. They are taught to backtrack to lesson areas where their comprehension derailed or attention waned, to continually monitor their own understanding, and to construct ideas and concepts in materials like clay so they may literally grasp them.

“The concepts are incredibly simple, which is partly why they are powerful and why they have been overlooked elsewhere,” says Sandy Chapman, a 20-year reading specialist and curriculum writer in San Diego.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., and a disciple of Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief that individuals can make a difference in their communities, Johnson was led to the cause of literacy by a lifetime of church activism.

“St. John said, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,’ “ says the preacher, in a clerical collar and jeans. “I always knew that the spirit of God was bound up in words. I knew there was power in words.”

How it all began

He launched WLC in a local church hall, then expanded it to a small storefront for several years before moving recently to much larger offices in a warehouse next to a local school. Students there get one-on-one attention with trained tutors, sitting at large tables spread around the perimeter of several quiet rooms.

A volunteer staff of 20 to 40 tutors works with up to 70 students for six days a week. The program has graduated about 700 local youths in Compton during the past five years.

One of those, DeShawn Washington, entered the literacy project five years ago, reading at a second-grade level. Now he is studying to tutor at the center, reads at a college level, and is writing a book of poetry.

“When I came in I was really angry and frustrated because I thought I was stupid,” says the young adult. “They taught me to calm down, to laugh, to take things at my own speed. It has opened up a whole world for me.”

As a grass-roots, community-based project, WLC is ideally suited to diagnose root causes of illiteracy, understand the cultural motivations and resistances of students, and ensure long-term participation, experts say.

“The WLC is where the rubber meets the road in terms of solving illiteracy problems in America,” says Carolyn Staley, deputy director of the National Institute for Literacy. “They have gone outside the box of conventional approaches to give people the skills which will help them continue to help themselves.”

Indeed, tutors here urge students not only to search out and discover their own goals and interests, but also those of their schools and employers.

‘The WLC is where the rubber meets the road in terms of solving illiteracy problems in America.”

Carolyn Staley
National Institute for Literacy

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Students are also encouraged to master drills in communication, composure, and self-control that enable them to focus on education, ignoring the host of intrusions that are common in most classrooms. This ability to give students the tools to change their own lives – and through that, a sense of hope – is perhaps the major reason for WLC’s success.

“It has been proven time and time again that hope is the key ingredient in overcoming the entrenched problem of illiteracy,” says Bob Caswell, president of Laubach Literacy, a nonprofit educational corporation. “By focusing on this…, WLC has shown that once a student gets it, his literacy can ignite like a grass fire.”

The costs of illiteracy in the US are high. The Washington Literacy Council says functionally illiterate adults cost $224 billion a year in welfare, crime, job incompetence, lost taxes, and remedial education. Moreover, more than 3 of 4 people on welfare are illiterate, as well as 85 percent of unwed mothers, and about 60 percent of inmates.

Saving more than dollars But Johnson’s mission is not just about saving dollars. Of his 700 graduates, only seven have been arrested and not one shot – compared with a rate of about 1 jailed or imprisoned per 7 in the black community at large in Compton.

“That’s not a big statistic to most people, but in this community it is,” says Johnson, noting that 40 local youths have been shot or killed in the past 30 days.

Yet the program is not without controversy. The educational writings of Mr. Hubbard, which form the foundation of the course, made national headlines this summer after a Los Angeles teacher applied to start a charter school that would use them as core curricula. Concern was expressed that such books might contain religious views, breaching the separation of church and state. But the state Department of Education review panel – and some experts – say the materials have no religious content.

Such questions are beside the point to Ronald Brown, a middle-aged man who stopped reading in second grade because he was told he had a learning disability. He came to the center six months ago and now reads at an eighth-grade level. “I always got kicked out of school when it came time to read ’cause I would start a fight rather than confront the situation,” says Mr. Brown, adding that he eventually turned to drugs for escape and spent 13 years in prison.

Program instructors here say misdiagnosis of learning disabilities is a major problem. “When a student isn’t getting something they are quick to pronounce some mysterious medical condition rather than realizing it’s something the teacher has control over,” says tutor Jeannie Dillard.

“Kids in these neighborhoods don’t have ‘attention deficits,’ “ adds Johnson. “They can play video games six straight hours, play sports all weekend, and chase down every dollar in a drug deal while drunk or high. Don’t tell me they can’t learn how to read.”

© Copyright 1997 The Christian Science Publishing Society. All rights reserved.

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Tampa Tribune ~ Letters to the Editor

September 4, 1995 under World Literacy Crusade

Letters to the Editor

This is in reference to Darlene McCormick’s article “Issac Hayes plugs course on literacy” (Florida/Metro, Aug. 10). I teach high school in the Clearwater area and my wife teaches first grade. We’ve become very interested in what Applied Scholastics International and The World Literacy Crusade are offering as a solution. Good for them. They’re doing something to handle the reading and comprehension ability of many of our children and adults. This is very much needed. I don’t think anyone will tell you it’s a cure-all, but I understand it is getting great results.

However, as I read this article, I was jarred by the sudden, inapplicable inclusion of all kinds of “crap” about the Church of Scientology. Your article states that The World Literacy Crusade was founded by two Baptist Ministers, the Rev. Alfreddie Johnson and the Rev. Fred Shaw. I understand that they are using a study technology developed by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. But all parties seem to agree that the purpose is strictly the enhancement of literacy in the community. Fronting for another religion doesn’t fit the description of any Baptist minister I’ve ever known.

So why the mixed message and culpable innuendo? Perhaps you dipped this “crap” out of the “CAN,” aka the Cult Awareness Network. There is nothing as fragile as one’s integrity and one’s credibility. I would be very careful to evaluate your sources. CAN may be a good source for a lime pit recipe but not for anything the rest of us would want jammed down our throats.

The Tampa Tribune has had a reputation for well-written, honest and thoughtful articles. I like reading your paper enough to bother writing this letter. Perhaps The World Literacy Crusade’s success in increasing literacy will assure the ultimate survival of a paper with enough integrity and wisdom to support it.

DAVID N. SHADD

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) ~ Scientology-based literacy program raises questions

September 3, 1995 under World Literacy Crusade

Scientology-based literacy program raises questions
Taught at city schools site
By Marc Perrusquia

A literacy group with ties to the Church of Scientology says it used teaching materials by church founder L. Ron Hubbard in a pilot reading program housed in a Memphis City Schools facility.

The group, the World Literacy Crusade of Los Angeles, is now lobbying to make the program permanent through fund-raising brochures that quote a school employee who endorses the program.

The brochures also tell interested parties to call the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational and Cultural Center, a city schools-owned property at 620 S. Lauderdale.

Responding to an inquiry by The Commercial Appeal, city schools Supt. Gerry House said she will review the matter to see if school officials may have violated any policies.

Concerns include the literacy group’s contention it used Hubbard texts and teaching techniques last winter in a district-sponsored, after-school tutorial program attended largely by city school students.

With Memphis singer Isaac Hayes as their spokesman, literacy crusade organizers said they’ve done nothing wrong and hope to help children and adults in Memphis’s inner city.

The group says its teaching materials are nonreligious, effective tools that teach people “how to learn.” Largely through Hayes’s influence, the group is gaining local support.

For example, school board member Carl Johnson and Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey have agreed to serve on the literacy program’s board of advisers.

And a riverfront concert in July headlined by Hayes and sponsored in part by WMC television and radio raised about $ 15,000 for the literacy crusade, said crusade co-founder Rev. Alfreddie Johnson.

The crusade is also vying for $ 50,000 in U.S. Department of Labor funds to make the reading program permanent.

Cult critics are concerned the group is downplaying its ties to Scientology to make inroads here.

“Scientology is masterful at creating organizations which are subtly and intricately linked to the Church of Scientology itself. And oftentimes the public may not be aware of the link,” says Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the Cult Awareness Network, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization.

They point to fund-raising brochures that include comments from Hayes – who joined the church in 1993 – but do not make reference to Scientology.

The literacy crusade has no formal affiliation with the Church of Scientology, Johnson said. But several crusade leaders are involved with the church, and the organization is licensed to distribute Hubbard texts from a church satellite operation.

Some literacy professionals are skeptical of the group’s claims it can improve reading skills as much as four grade levels in as little as two months.

School board member Barbara Prescott said she was unfamiliar with the program but said she’ll ask House to take a closer look.

City schools spokesman Janice Crawford said there is no record the literacy crusade was issued a permit needed to run a program at the center: “If they did not have a permit, then the staff was wrong to allow them to be there. That’s why we have those kind of policies, so we can know who’s working with our children.”

As for Hayes, he said he’s not trying to mislead anyone. Hayes said he’s witnessed positive impacts the literacy crusade has had on youths in inner-city Los Angeles and hopes the same can happen in his hometown.

“The Study Technology (teaching techniques developed by Hubbard to study both his religion and secular matters) has nothing to do with Scientology,” said Hayes, 53. “It’s secular. Anybody can use it and get results.”

Hayes said he wasn’t hiding his ties to the church.

But he also said he was concerned about possible negative publicity that could hurt the literacy crusade’s efforts here:

“If an article comes out that puts a blight on my program by bringing Scientology into the picture, then that hurts my program, and it hampers my cause as far as bringing literacy to the inner cities.”

A man named John volunteers

It began with a press conference at the MLK Center last September. Hayes and literacy crusade leaders said the California-based nonprofit organization would open a literacy program here.

News reports noted that Hayes liked the center because of existing programs there.

MLK center administrator J. B. Payton, a city schools employee, told reporters the center offered GED classes and after-school homework help.

A year later, city schools officials are offering different accounts about how the literacy program got into the center.

Willie Slate, Payton’s boss, said she was not aware the literacy crusade ran a pilot literacy program there as it claims.

Slate, a city schools director of youth and family services who keeps her office at the center, said a volunteer – a man named John from California – pitched in for several weeks to tutor youngsters there.

City schools operates an after-school tutorial program at the MLK center, formerly a junior high building where the school system now allows public and private agencies to keep offices and provide services.

The after-school program, staffed and financed by the school system, is designed to help schoolchildren in the neighborhood get help with their homework.

Slate said she was aware the man named John was affiliated with the World Literacy Crusade. She said she observed John working with children in the after-school program and talked with him about his teaching philosophies.

But she said she did not know he considered his work to be “a pilot project.” He never mentioned Hubbard, Slate said, and he did not bring outside instructional materials with him.

“I saw no evidence of any of that at all. If I had to go on a witness stand, I couldn’t attest that was going on,” she said.

The volunteer was John Ellis, a Scientologist who was on the payroll of Applied Scholastics, a California organization that distributes Hubbard texts, when he was tutoring at the MLK center, said Rubina Qureshi, literacy crusade deputy executive director.

Ellis used Hubbard texts and Hubbard teaching techniques in assisting children at the center, Qureshi said. The books were displayed at the September press conference and have been at the center ever since, she said.

The hardback books, observed recently at the center, cite authorship based on “the works of L. Ron Hubbard.” With titles that include Learning How to Learn, How to Use a Dictionary and Study Skills for Life, they are published by Bridge Publications, a Los Angeles firm and an offshoot of the Church of Scientology.

A four-page World Literacy Crusade brochure says the group “ran a pilot program” at the MLK Center with the help of community support generated by Hayes, who “saw Study Technology as the solution for handling the rising unemployment, poverty and violence in his hometown of Memphis.”

The pilot involved more than 75 participants, including an 8-year-old girl whose “reading grades went from F to B,” the brochure says.

The brochure does not offer statistics documenting the success, but Hayes said he’s seen plenty of success stories here and in Los Angeles.

“If I didn’t think it was credible and viable,” he said, “I wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place.”

The brochures also quote Payton, the MLK administrator: “This literacy program is a gold mine for the community. People are waking up and coming alive.”

In a recent interview, Payton said he understood there was a pilot program at the center and expected a permanent program to open in a couple of weeks.

The brochure, distributed during the July 3 Star Spangled Celebration, asks readers to “send a tax deductible contribution” and to call the MLK Center for more information.

The situation raises questions about whether several city schools policies were followed.

For example, a policy governing curriculum and instruction pilots requires textbook companies and publishers of instructional materials to “receive approval from the appropriate departmental assistant superintendent” before introducing “textbooks, instructional materials, instructional programs and/or learning activities in the Memphis City Schools.”

Supt. House said “official” pilot programs require a proposal from the outside agency and approval by administration.

Literacy crusade organizers say they operated a pilot program. House said she’s been told by subordinates only that a volunteer helped tutor at the center and there was “no pilot program that was implemented.”

Still, a city schools leaflet listing programs operating at the MLK center includes the “World Literacy Organization Homework/Tutorial – Adults/Children.”

At one point, city schools spokesman Crawford said she could not explain the listing. Later she said the listing referred to the tutor’s involvement months ago.

Another city schools policy question involves permits.

Crawford said permits are required for groups to use city school facilities. She said a permit was not issued to the World Literacy Crusade.

But, she said, if the incident at the center involved a volunteer, a permit would not be required. At best, the literacy program’s presence at the center doesn’t seem to involve a “major infringement on policy,” Crawford said.

“It seems to be a major concern to you,” she said.”But, no, it is not a major concern to us.”

Crusade makes big promises

Rev. Johnson said he formed the World Literacy Crusade in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. “We’ve been able to take kids out of gangs, off gangs, and give them back hope and a future because now they believe they can read and write and understand,” he said.

The literacy crusade also has centers in New York, Oakland, Calif., and Sydney, Australia, and is opening centers in Tampa and Portland, Ore., Johnson said. The program in Compton, Calif., outside Los Angeles, has tutored more than 500 adults and children, many who have made literacy improvements, Johnson said.

“In a period of say three months or two months we can raise (reading levels) two or three or sometimes even four grade levels,” he said.

The literacy crusade employs Hubbard’s Study Technology, which adherents say is a nonreligious set of methods that can help people “learn how to learn.”

Employing a Hubbard concept known as “the misunderstood word,” the literacy crusade teaches that a person should consult a dictionary when encountering any word that is new or not understood. Johnson, a Baptist minister who has studied Scientology course work, said his group is licensed to distribute Hubbard texts through Applied Scholastics International, a Los Angeles organization spun off from Scientology.

Rosemary Dunstan, media coordinator of Applied Scholastics, said Scientologists use Hubbard’s study technology to study their religion, butit can be used by anyone “to overcome barriers encountered in studying and in learning.”

Johnson said the texts for a permanent literacy program at the MLK center would be purchased from Applied Scholastics by the literacy crusade and not involve any school money.

He said the literacy crusade supplements Hubbard’s study technology with some other books, including Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, as well as phonics studies.

Still, some literacy experts are skeptical. “This kind of frightens me,” said Carole Talan, director of the State Literacy Resource Center of California in Sacramento, a state agency overseeing literacy efforts there.

“Particularly since I know what a movement like that, if it gets the right connections . . . I can see a lot of people coming forward to support literacy programs without realizing what they might be getting into.”

Talan said she had never heard of the World Literacy Crusade but said she was skeptical. The use of grade levels often is not applicable to adults, she said.

Gay Johnston, executive director of the 21-year-old Memphis Literacy Council, also questioned the literacy crusade.

Established literacy programs generally employ a wide variety of texts, said Johnston, whose nonprofit organization has helped more than 10,000 Memphians improve their reading and writing skills since it was established in the 1970s. She said she’s never seen a program that relied so heavily on a narrow set of teaching materials.

“After doing a lot of research and reading, I’m convinced this literacy project, as they call it, is really a way to spread the message of L. Ron Hubbard,” Johnston said. “That’s what it’s all about. Otherwise, they’d use a lot of different materials and a lot of different authors.”

But Judge Bailey, who “tentatively” agreed to serve on the advisory board because of his “friendship and confidence in Isaac,” said: “I just have to look at what they’re doing and how they’re going about doing it.”

School board member Carl Johnson added: “I’m getting educated as I’m talking to you and other people.”

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Tampa Tribune ~ Isaac Hayes plugs course on literacy – public housing program draws lesson from Scientology

August 10, 1995 under World Literacy Crusade

ST. PETERSBURG – The Tampa Housing Authority and musician Isaac Hayes announced Wednesday the start ofa public housing literacy project using study techniques developed by the founder of the Church of Scientology International.

But neither religion nor recruitment for the controversial church will be the program’s focus, organizers said at a news conference before Hayes addressed the annual meeting of the Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Organization Wednesday.

Hayes, a Scientologist who made his name in music and acting two decades ago, described himself as international spokesman for World Literacy Crusade. It was founded by ministers Alfreddie Johnson Jr. and Fred Shaw Jr. of California after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Johnson, also on hand at the beach resort meeting site along with Shaw, said the crusade is associated with Applied Scholastics International. That nonprofit organization promotes use of “study technology” developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who founded Scientology.

Over its 40-year history, the Clearwater-based church has won tax-exempt status, fought allegations of monetary exploitation and mental coercion, and thrived through perceptions of being more cult than religion.

Eleven of its top leaders were sent to jail for infiltrating and burglarizing more than 100 government and private agencies in the 1980s. In 1992, Scientology’s Toronto branch was convicted of planting spies in Canadian government offices.

Scientologists use a course of study to try to rid themselves of unconscious images of physical and emotional pain built up over a lifetime.

People can pay up to several thousand dollars for each course.

Tampa Housing Authority Director Audley Evans said his agency was thinking only about education when it got involved with the program and helped arrange for it to come to the Audley Evans Multi-Purpose Youth Center in College Hill Sept. 5.

Evans said the program, which will be voluntary and continue indefinitely, will be funded by Bradley & Bradley Development Group Inc. of Tampa.

That company was involved in building the youth center named for Evans and recently became a joint-venture partner with public housing residents for no-bid construction work worth more than $14 million at North Boulevard Homes.

Company President Jim Bradley said he will give as much as $25,000 to the project because he and his partner, Tom Bradley, are “focused on things that help the community.”

The literacy material, already used elsewhere, teaches children and adults how to study by breaking down barriers to education, Johnson said. He called illiteracy the root of crime, drug addiction and other social ills.

World Literacy Crusade claims some two dozen programs around the world. Most are funded privately, Johnson said, but at least one in Memphis received a federal Community Development Block Grant.

Johnson said he didn’t know of any program participant later joining Scientology. He described himself as a Baptist minister at True Faith Christian Center and New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Compton, Calif.

Priscilla Coates, head of a Cult Awareness Network office in Glendale, Calif., said a Rev. Alfreddie Johnson is identified in a 1995 Scientology magazine as taking Scientology classes. And World Literacy Crusade literature encourages people to send tax-deductible contributions to an address in Clearwater.

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