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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