Updated: Saturday, 8th August 2020 @ 9:26am

Manchester protesters slam Scientology as 'dangerous cult' – but Church brands rally 'pointless'

Manchester protesters slam Scientology as 'dangerous cult' – but Church brands rally 'pointless'

By David Aspinall

Anonymous protesters wearing Guy Fawkes' masks staged a noisy campaign against Scientology on Deansgate on Saturday.

A group armed with signs saying 'Honk if you're driving' and stereos blasting out Gangnam style aimed to bring people's attention to what they perceive as injustices by the Scientology church.

A spokesman for the group, a 23-year-old law student from Manchester, who goes only by the name of 'White' for security reasons, outlined the aims of their protest.

"The fewer people that join, the fewer people that go in the building, the less money they have," White said.

"The less money they have the quicker they die! We want to starve them of money."

He has been involved in the protest, which is held every second Saturday of the month and is an extension of Project Chanology, since it began in Manchester.

Internationally, Chanology started in January 2008, when a video of actor Tom Cruise went viral in which he praises the church, and the 'hacktivist' group were served with a cease-and-desist order for copyright violation.

In retaliation the group bombarded the church with hoax telephone calls and black faxes, and ever since relations between the two have escalated.

White railed off story after story about cases of fraud involving the church across the globe, in places like France and Australia.

"They won't tell you about their religion until your cheque has cleared; they weigh your wallet when you go in," White claimed.

"They pass themselves off as a religion but for all intents and purposes they operate as a business. What religion says ‘you're not allowed to use our imagery, not before you pay us!’"

In response Sam Butler, a church representative, was extremely scathing. He said: "It all seems a bit pointless, and I mean pointless; there is not actually an end goal to this."

He continued: "It's sort of a minor inconvenience that once a month a group of people with masks on, who want to hide their identity, play loud music, dance around and hold signs that say 'Honk if you drive' and more offensive things, stand outside my church.

"It does sort of seem that they lose their own message and purpose whereas mine and my organisations is quite strong; we are here to help people become more able."

The 26-year-old Mancunian has been a practising Scientologist for 11 years and has worked at the Deansgate church for eight.

He says he has become used to the arguments that have been made against his church over the last four years and vehemently disputes the accusations his 'religion' is a 'dangerous cult' and 'money-making machine'.

He was keen to stress their spiritual and philosophical side and vehemently denied the quote used by Anonymous as the basis for their attacks.

They claim that the religion's founder L. Ron Hubbard said: "The easiest way to make a million dollars is to start a religion."

Mr Butler argues that the context in which Hubbard said these words was misconstrued and claims to have documentary evidence to prove that he was quoting an author.

"If you were to take all these accusations and dump them on a person who doesn't know about Scientology then it would be very easy to think that it's bad and all the people are corrupt," Mr Butler said in response to the wider allegations.

"None of them have ever come into a church of Scientology to try and better their own lives so I don't expect them to understand how it works."

Scientology was started in 1952 by Hubbard, a science fiction writer, as a successor to his self-help system, Dianetics.

It is not a recognised religion in the UK, but does enjoy not-for-profit status.

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