Boston Herald ~ Scientology school gets close study

By Dave Wedge | Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | | Local Coverage

A Boston city councilor is raising concerns about a pilot school’s proposed curriculum and its ties to an arm of Scientology, while a prestigious Hub charitable foundation is taking a second look at its grant to help launch the controversial school.

“We’re reviewing the grant proposal in light of new materials,” Boston Foundation spokesman David Trueblood said of the organization’s $20,000 gift to the proposed “Cornerstone for Success Academy.”

The Herald reported yesterday that the proposed taxpayer-funded high school would base its curriculum on a model created by Applied Scholastics International — the educational arm of the Church of Scientology. Applied Scholastics officials, however, say the program is not religious and is run separately from the church.

The grant will be used as seed money by a group of Hub teachers pushing for the new pilot school, which needs approval of Boston school and union officials. Trueblood said the Boston Foundation did “no evaluation” and didn’t know of the Scientology link — despite references to Applied Scholastics in the group’s application.

Scientology is a federally recognized religion but has been widely criticized as a destructive, mind-controlling cult. A national anti-Scientology campaign was recently launched by Anonymous, a group of computer hackers and protesters who have blasted the church’s teachings.

Boston Teachers Union spokesman Richard Stutman criticized the Boston Foundation grant as “irresponsible,” in light of financial woes facing existing city schools.

“The $20,000 could be far better used in any of the 144 other schools,” Stutman said. “To them (the foundation), $20,000 is not a lot of money. Tell that to a school suffering hardships.”

City Councilor Sam Yoon has called a hearing on the plan, citing concerns about a taxpayer-funded school with a “hidden agenda.”

“It’s about full disclosure,” Yoon said. “I would want to know if a school I’m considering is basing its entire curriculum on something that comes out of the Church of Scientology and what that connection is.”

In a statement, Boston Church of Scientology spokesman Gerard Renna said the teaching methods pioneered by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard are “tremendously effective.” He added that the curriculum “is entirely secular and recognized throughout the world.”

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Boston Herald ~ Planned academy tied to Scientology

April 15, 2008 under Applied Scholastics, Boston HELP

‘Cult’-linked pilot school gains $20K grant

By Dave Wedge | Tuesday, April 15, 2008 | | Local Coverage

A proposed taxpayer-funded pilot school linked to an arm of the controversial Church of Scientology has scored a $20,000 grant from a blue-chip Hub charitable foundation, the Herald has learned.

The Boston Foundation recently awarded the planning grant to the proposed “Cornerstone for Success Academy,” a high school for at-risk students that would base its curriculum on a model created by Applied Scholastics International – the educational arm of the Church of Scientology.

The celebrity-backed religious organization is often criticized as a destructive, mind-controlling cult, and critics have blasted the educational curriculum as a back-door avenue to recruitment.

The Applied Scholastics Web site includes several testimonials from celebrity Scientologists, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Still, Applied Scholastics spokeswoman Keri Lee said, “Our organization is a secular organization. It’s not religious.” In a statement, she added, “There is no religious mission nor religious material in our programs.”

Officials from Boston’s Church of Scientology did not return calls.

Documents pitching the proposal provided to the School Department by the Boston Foundation include a report about a Louisiana school that states Applied Scholastics is a creation of Scientology leader L. Ron Hubbard.

But Boston Foundation spokesman David Trueblood said the charity was unaware of the proposed school’s connection to the controversial religious sect.

“We give these planning grants to start the conversation,” Trueblood said. “Our interest here as a foundation is to get as many educators and as many schools as possible talking about pilot schools. We are unabashedly pro-pilot schools. We know many are funded and few become pilot schools.”

The proposed school is the brainchild of a group of city teachers, including many from Jeremiah Burke High School and Boston Latin. A bid by the same group to create a charter school was rejected by the state in 2000.

The group has no official headquarters, and individual members could not be reached last night.

The grant can be used as seed money to pay for members’ travel, training, a Web site and other expenses related to making the school a reality. Pilot schools are funded through the city’s school budget and require approval from the school superintendent and the Boston Teachers Union.

“The Boston Foundation obviously didn’t pay careful attention to who they gave the planning grants to,” said teachers union president Richard Stutman. “We respect the church of a Scientology as a church, but public dollars ought not to be spent on activities that borrow from church teachings and philosophy. There has to be a separation of church and state.”

Stutman called the grant a “waste,” predicting it would be overwhelmingly defeated by the union. School department spokesman Jonathan Palumbo said Superintendent Carol Johnson hadn’t yet seen the group’s application but would consider the Scientology ties in a review.

A school that uses Applied Scholastic’s curriculum is already operating in Milton. Delphi Academy was criticized a decade ago for interjecting Scientology into the classroom, a claim rejected by administrators.

But noted cult expert Steve Hassan said he considers Scientology to be a “destructive cult.”

“It is not an organization that promotes critical thinking and freedom of mind,” Hassan said.

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Boston Globe ~ A new word in literacy — Scientology

October 22, 2006 under Boston HELP

By Adrienne P. Samuels

Church-run charities abound by the dozens in Roxbury, but they are not usually operated by the oft-controversial Church of Scientology, which last month kick-started classes at its Washington Street literacy center with a grand opening that offered free food and sidewalk chalk for children.

The church members who staff the literacy center, in a storefront marked with bright-yellow “Boston Scientology Ministry” signs, say they wanted to do something about the increase in violence in Boston, which they attribute in part to poor education.

The ministry used to be in Dorchester’s Codman Square, but moved in May to Roxbury to be closer to the main church and to share space with another Scientology organization, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, focusing on antipsychiatry efforts.

“My goal is to infuse the community with tools they can use,” said Robert Castagna , a Scientology minister who heads up the literacy program. “I’m not here to save your soul, but if you can’t read, you have a major handicap spiritually.”

Scientology, founded in the 1950s by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, is a religion that has often drawn the suspicion of the American public. Billing itself as an “applied religious philosophy” that believes humans live many lives and can achieve higher states of awareness, the church teaches that psychiatry is a hoax. It also has been criticized as a cult that extracts money from its followers.

A number of parents who use the literacy services say they enjoy the tutoring as long as proselytizing is left out.

“I’m not really into the ministry because I’m a Christian, but they’re good as far as helping your child,” said Tycia Feagin , 28, of Roxbury, whose 6 -year-old son attends the program. “They helped me to help him. I like what they’re doing.” The program runs from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Yet, Feagin, like many who work and live nearby, remains cautious about getting too close to the group’s teachings.

“It seems the way they go about it, you trick your mind,” she said. “It’s interesting, but I’ve tried many religions and I feel God is my way.”

Somalia native Ruqiya Bule , 23, of Roxbury, said her 7 -year-old son likes the program.

“I think it’s helpful for the kids,” said Bule, who is a Muslim and didn’t learn until recently that Scientology is a religion. “They give you one-on-one attention.”

Not everyone in the neighborhood appreciates the church’s activities, which include free handouts of a main Hubbard book, “Dianetics.”

“What they preach, I don’t think I have the same belief,” said Patricia Doely of Lynn, who works in a hair salon on Washington Street and worships at the 12th Baptist Church in Roxbury. She didn’t read the pamphlets that Scientology ministers left in the shop. “If I had kids, I wouldn’t let them go there. They bring their books by and try to bring people in.”

Salon owner Helen Roy said people on the block have noticed the Scientology center but many won’t walk inside.

“People talk about it. They talk about how crazy Tom Cruise is,” citing the actor’s well-publicized statements backing Scientology.

Yet the program appears to meet a community need.

“I’ve contacted other places, but they said I had to sign up in January,” said South End resident Brenda Powell, 55 , who is working on a general equivalency diploma, or GED. “And that’s why I’m here.”

Most of the volunteer ministers, like Castagna, are graduates of a Scientology program that they say qualifies them to teach Hubbard’s study techniques. They say they don’t intend to bring people into the religious fold.

“Yes, we’re proud of our founder, but I don’t have a plan of action to recruit anyone here,” said the Rev. Gerard Renna , leader of the church’s Back Bay congregation. “I have a plan to help the mayor and the police.”

To that end, the Washington Street church collected nearly 100 guns in the buy-back program launched this summer by the city.

Northeastern University professor Susan Setta said Scientology, like the Boston-based Church of Christ, Scientist, and the Church of Latter Day Saints before it, is now the nation’s preferred anti religion. Their Roxbury outpost is no different than any other religious program, she said.

“Some religions help by example,” said Setta, department chair for religion and philosophy. “The Scientologists believe they have the answer and they believe they can help people. They think that if you’re a Scientologist, it would be better, but I think they think they can help you even if you’re not.”


LETTERS The Boston Globe

What controversy?

October 29, 2006

Thank you for your article on the Scientology literacy program in Roxbury (“New word in literacy — Scientology,” Oct. 22, City Weekly).

The truth is that Scientology really does help people, the program is free to the community, the volunteers at the ministry are civic minded, generous of their time and resources, and effective in using L. Ron Hubbard’s very workable technology to the benefit of others.

Now really, what’s so controversial about that?

Fran Mackay Randolph

© 2006 Globe Newspaper Company

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Boston Herald ~ Mayor, council star in urban comedy

February 16, 2001 under Boston HELP

by Tom Keane

It once was that when I walked by the Beacon Street headquarters of the Church of Scientology, church followers would accost me, asking me to take a personality test. Now, thanks to the largesse of the city of Boston, I expect they’ll be demanding I take a literacy test.

Boston’s inadvertent grant to the Scientologists to promote reading has provoked an outcry because when we talk about government aid to faith-based organizations, we don’t mean those faith-based organizations. We mean our faith-based organizations.

It has been a hectic few weeks in the urban comedy that is Boston.

Down at City Hall, there’s a hue and cry over the stratospheric earnings last year by the city’s police officers. Many made over $100,000, a few over $200,000. This is an outrage because police officers are only worth, well, I don’t know how much they’re worth. But there’s no way they should be making as much as 25-year-old, first-year associates at law firms who are trying to keep out of prison the guys the cops are arresting, right? And they certainly shouldn’t be making as much as the jean-clad, Foosball-playing dot-com executives who just wasted $20 million of their investors’ money building a company that went belly-up last week.

Meanwhile Mayor Thomas Menino, still hoping that the current hit movie “Thirteen Days” is a description of how long he’ll have to spend on his re-election campaign, has been spearheading efforts to fix Boston’s Web site. A column in this space a year ago took the city to task for failing to update the site. The mayor’s schedule, for example, was three months out of date.

Well, Menino took care of that, all right.

The mayor’s schedule is no longer posted on the Web site.

Menino in any event is basking in glory. He’s in the last year of his second term and looking forward to another four years of what he has frequently called the “best job in America.”

The latest triumph?

The mayor has just gotten approval to install eight public bathrooms around the city. It took four long years of toil, filled with dark machinations and secret backroom deals, but, dadgummit, he got it done.

That, my friends, is power.

And it’s power Menino intends to keep as his own. Two city councilors are currently nosing around, trying to figure out whether they should run for mayor. One, Mickey Roache, reportedly just spent $4,800 for polling. He says the numbers look good for him.

Bad news, Mickey. A decent poll costs at least $15,000. Going cheap probably means you hired friends to make the calls (“But Mickey’s a terrific guy! Are you sure you wouldn’t consider supporting him?”). If they’re telling you to run, think twice.

Besides that, you’re better off staying in the City Council, where the proposal du jour is to have city councilors, rather than the mayor, run the schools. Backed by Menino’s other possible challenger, Councilor Peggy “If Menino says it’s Tuesday, then it must be Wednesday” Davis-Mullen, it would end up taking away most of the mayor’s power and handing it to the council.

(All of which makes one wonder: If Peggy really supports this idea, why then would she want to be mayor?)

I think it’s a great idea. It’s time we got the school department to focus on its real mission: hiring friends and campaign workers of politicians.

But why stop with the school department? Let’s have the council run public works as well. Right now when it snows, the city clears major roadways first. Once the council’s in charge, that’ll change.

First to be cleared? South Boston. It’s No. 1 in voter turnout. Then it’s on to neighborhoods like West Roxbury, East Boston and Charlestown. And the financial district? All those workers live outside the city anyway. The spring thaw will take care of them.

I also think the council should run the election department. Today, challengers to incumbents can walk right into City Hall, file their papers and get on the ballot. The council will put a stop to that. “You want to run against whom? Just a second . . . Oh, I’m sorry. There seems to be something wrong with your signatures.”

This will have the added advantage of doing away with elections entirely, saving money and making sure that councilors can focus on the people’s business rather than wasting time knocking on doors.

And that business? I saw a group of Hare Krishnas chanting in Copley Square a few days ago. Now that we have the Scientologists tutoring our kids in reading, perhaps we can pay the Krishnas to teach them to sing.

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Boston Herald ~ Scientology-linked project to get scrutiny

February 10, 2001 under Boston HELP

by Steve Marantz

A top Menino administration official said yesterday that a literacy project with ties to the Church of Scientology will be closely monitored in its use of city funds to help school-age children read.

The group, H.E.L.P. Boston, received a $1,000 grant from the city’s Safe Neighborhood Fund.

The grant was approved by officials who knew of the program’s connection to the controversial Scientology movement.

But they apparently failed to tell Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who in a statement released by his office said he had no knowledge of the Scientology connection.

Human Services chief Juanita Wade said yesterday that the city will be watching to see if H.E.L.P Boston presents Scientology teaching in its curriculum.

Critics claim that the “study technology” used by H.E.L.P. Boston is a disguised form of Scientology scripture.

“Part of the responsibility of a grant program is to monitor – we don’t walk away,” said Wade. “If something comes up that we’re concerned about we’ll handle it.

“Lots of faith-based organizations get funding from the city,” she added. “As long as that activity they seek funding for doesn’t promote a particular religious ideology they’re eligible.”

Two e-mail complaints were received yesterday concerning the grant, Wade said, a small number suggesting to her that “this is not as big a deal as some folks would make it.”

“I’ve gotten more complaints on other matters,” she said.

One complaint criticized the city’s grant-review process and warned that the H.E.L.P. program can now use Menino to promote itself in other parts of the country.

A photo of Menino posing with H.E.L.P. Boston director Tasia Jones appears in promotional material for a fund-raising concert scheduled for tomorrow evening.

“Money is not the issue,” read one e-mail sent to City Hall. “It’s an endorsement. Menino and the city of Boston have now endorsed the program and all that it stands for, good and bad.”

Meanwhile, the national director of H.E.L.P (Hollywood Education and Literacy Project) said yesterday that she has been a member of the Church of Scientology for 25 years and that the Boston director, Tasia Jones, is also a member.

“I don’t see why that’s an issue,” said Kinder Hunt. “Why can’t you just write about the good things this program is accomplishing?”

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Boston Herald ~ Scientology-linked project gets city grant

February 9, 2001 under Boston HELP

by Steve Marantz

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has endorsed a literacy project affiliated with the Church of Scientology, which critics say is a step towards offering cult-like teachings to school children.

When Menino posed for a photo at a December awards ceremony with the director of H.E.L.P. Boston – and gave a $1,000 city grant to the group – aides said they were aware that the group teaches a “study technology” developed by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the movement. But Menino, through a press office spokesperson, said yesterday that he did not know of H.E.L.P. Boston’s Scientology connection. In any event, city officials say the group’s program is nonideological and nonreligious, and are standing behind the grant to be used for the city’s school-aged youth, even as a Scientology-watch Web site is urging the public to “complain about Boston’s support of this cult scam.”

“The literacy curriculum we funded doesn’t use any religious ideology,” said Juanita Wade, Menino’s human services chief. “The organization may have some connection to (Scientology), but our policy is that any program we fund must not promote any particular religious ideology.”

However, an academic researcher claims that “study technology” is a disguised effort to proselytize for the Church of Scientology.

“Scientology jargon and religious beliefs . . . are inseparable from Study Tech,” writes David S. Touretzky of Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Department, in a paper entitled “The Hidden Meaning of Hubbard’s Study Tech.”

“These concepts are presented in a doctrinaire manner that is also characteristic of Scientology religious instruction. Study Tech actually helps lay the groundwork for introducing Scientology into the schools,” Touretzky maintains.

Wade said City Hall has received just one complaint.

Officials who reviewed applications for $400,000 of grants from the Safe Neighborhood Youth Fund, she added, were aware that H.E.L.P. Boston is linked to Scientology through its sponsor, Delphi Academy of Milton.

“The review team did appropriate research on this grant,” Wade said. “I am comfortable with this decision.”

A 1998 Herald report revealed that Delphi Academy used the same “study tech” as the Boston Church of Scientology on Beacon Street, where the methods are considered religious scriptures, and sent 10 percent of each child’s tuition money to the Association for Better Living and Education, a Scientology organization in Los Angeles.

Delphi was enrolling large numbers of children from middle-class and professional black families, the report said, as part of the church’s nationwide plan to recruit minorities.

The mayor is featured prominently in a H.E.L.P. Boston promotion of a “Benefit for Literacy” concert scheduled for Sunday evening at Massachusetts College of Art. Menino is pictured standing next to the group’s director, Tasia Jones, at the Safe Neighborhood awards ceremony.

A national spokesperson for H.E.L.P. (Hollywood Education and Literacy Project) said yesterday the program is “nonreligious and applicational.”

Kinder Hunt, speaking from the group’s Hollywood office, said, “We teach reading, phonics, math, GED preparation and job readiness. It’s about how to overcome the barriers of study. We don’t discriminate against any religion but it’s secular.”

But Scientology critic Teresa Summers, assistant director of the McPherson Trust based in Clearwater, Fla., said, “The city of Boston should know that in a roundabout way it is supporting the Church of Scientology. The city is supporting a study technology that has no scientific basis or proof of efficacy. There is no proof these children do well.”

Summers, who said she was a Scientologist for 20 years before leaving the church, characterized the city’s grant as “highly unusual.”

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