Scientology Sets Up Shop at SUNY University at Buffalo

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Pictures of Scientology's Shop at UB

Front of the Commons
Scientology Located on Second Floor
Window at Night
Empty Scientology Office
Religion for Sale

The Spectrum's Article Announcing the Church of Scientology's Move onto Campus

SUNY Buffalo Campus News Story: Solving Scientology's Mysteries

I think there should be more open debate about Xenu and OTIII on campus. Below are articles sparked by the current debate of the Church of Scientology's presence on campus.

Letters to the Editor

Feedback – NOVEMBER 7th, 2005
Students should beware of Scientology's background
Letter to the Editor
DALENE M. AYLWARD – University at Buffalo, Convener, Campus Minister

After reading the article about a Scientology Center coming to campus (“Scientology center to open on campus,” Nov. 2), I felt the immediate need to inform students of two very important points:

1) The Commons is not owned by UB, but by a private real estate owner who will rent space to any constituency who can afford it.

2) Any religious/spiritual organization on campus must either be recognized by the Student Association or the Campus Ministries Association.

The article did not state that this organization is recognized by anyone at the University at Buffalo.

Further, I would caution students to be wary of any organization that has allegations of brainwashing, causes of death or cult-like traits. One common trait of a cult is to first earn your trust, then begin to teach/convince you to think as they doŚnot empowering you to think critically for yourself, but conform to their ways. This is not freeing and will not help a student to “understand life.”

Research Scientology allegations and look for anything that does not have to do with Tom Cruise. Research for yourself. For example, I have found that Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico and Spain do not believe that Scientology is a religion.

Think for yourself! And please heed this advice for your own safety.

Feedback – NOVEMBER 7th, 2005
Scientology extortion should not be on campus
Letter to the Editor
ROSS STEIN – UB student

The Spectrum’s article on the Church of Scientology (“Scientology center to open on campus,” Nov. 2) in Wednesday’s issue missed some important facts.

The Church of Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, who was previously a science fiction writer. One of the hidden beliefs of Scientology is that suffering exists on Earth because an alien warlord named Xenu brought millions of beings to earth and slaughtered them.

The souls of these beings now haunt mankind, causing sickness, depression and insanity. The teachings of Scientology are supposed to be able to remove these ghosts. This is not revealed to members until they reach a high enough level, probably because no one would believe it without previous indoctrination.

While the respected religions of the world give their knowledge freely, the Church of Scientology requires its members to pay for courses. Prices range upwards from $1,000 for lower-level courses, and it is estimated that the entire track of courses can cost over $300,000. Members of the Church are encouraged to take out loans or even sell their homes if they are not able to afford these courses.

The Church directly harasses, attacks, and even uses physical violence against critics. They attempt to prosecute any leaks of information through spurious copyright and media protection lawsuits.

Members are encouraged to eliminate all contact with friends or family members who criticize Scientology. The Church has been implicated directly in the deaths of at least 3 people, particularly that of Lisa McPherson, who died after being held for 17 days by Scientologists in Clearwater, Fla.

The sleek, clean profile that the Church of Scientology gets from its celebrity members is not its true face. The title of a Time Magazine article in 1991 on the Church was “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power.” This does not describe a group we want to welcome onto our campus.

The Debate on Campus Stimulated More Articles

Campus News – NOVEMBER 14th, 2005
Scientology center sparks debate
SIOBHAN COUNIHAN – Campus News Editor

Scientology has come to UB, and as one might expect from the often-controversial religion, its new center in The Commons has some people on campus upset over the arrival.

Part of the concern has come from other religiously affiliated groups that point to Scientology’s cult reputation. Dalene Aylward, the convener of the Campus Ministries Association, said she is worried about the group’s past history and its perception as a reclusive organization.

“One of the most important things with any questionable organization is to find out what’s true,” Aylward said. “That’s my main concern because of their past history and typical practices.”

Scientology typically charges for their services, called auditing classes, and costs can get into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Aylward.

“I don’t understand how they think they can do business here, or at any college. Students are working long hours to pay for tuition,” she said. “Many already take out loans, so I’d hate to see students go into debt to purchase their auditing classes.”

Other members of campus-affiliated groups have also expressed concern.

“I am not excited about this,” said Mike Krantz of Trading Post 317, part of the Campus Ministries Association. “This is ultimately very detrimental, and I wish I had more details.”

“The things I’ve heard, the rumors, are that (Scientology) was started as a bet,” said Andrew Hill of the Bridge Campus Ministry, “The founder isn’t credible.”

L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, is best known as a science fiction writer who has also been accused of bigamy, abuse and stealing government documents.

The Campus Ministries Association has said that if the Church of Scientology wants to join the organization, they will have to apply. On the wall in the office of the CMA, there is a chart of cults and Scientology is right in the middle.

“You have to submit an application. There’s an interview and a vote by everyone in the CMA,” Aylward said. “Groups have been turned away in the past.”

UB administrators have also been aware of the center’s addition to campus.

“There’s no question that when somebody new moves in the neighborhood and concerns are expressed about them, (you) have to go into it with eyes wide open,” said Dennis Black, vice president for student affairs. “This is a group that people have referred to as a cult or cult-like, so we certainly need to be aware and sensitive to that.”

“We’ve got standards here at the university and we’ve got to be sure that new people understand and adhere to those standards,” he added. “And obviously, we want to be alert to possible problems and be prepared to deal with them as necessary.”

One way for students to avoid such problems is to make informed choices when affiliating themselves with any organization. Black compared such decisions to researching a class before signing up to take it.

Aylward said students should remember Black’s advice when approaching Scientology.

“Students just need to be aware of any organization that has specific allegations of wrongful death, and other illegal activities,” Aylward said.

A dangerous association

This year, in fact, is the ten-year anniversary of one such alleged wrongful death associated with the Church of Scientology.

On Dec. 5 1995, Lisa McPherson was pronounced dead on arrival at New Port Richey Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., and for seven years afterwards, a battle was waged in the courtroom over the wrongful death lawsuit that was finally settled in June 2004.

According to St. Petersburg Times articles published in 1997, McPherson was in a minor car accident that November. While she was apparently not hurt by the accident, she took all her clothes off and seemed mentally unstable. She was taken to a hospital where she was physically evaluated as being unharmed, but the hospital wanted her under psychological care.

However, her fellow Scientologists arrived and stated that Lisa did not believe in psychiatry, and she checked out after a short evaluation and left with her church members.

At that point, according to the Times, McPherson was brought to the Fort Harrison Hotel, where she was put on the “Introspection Rundown,” a program that Scientology uses to handle those who have had mental breakdown. The program calls for isolation from family, friends and any other person that is not a member of the Church of Scientology, according to the church’s agreement and general release regarding spiritual assistance.

After having been in the church’s care for 17 days, McPherson was brought to hospital again and the coroner documented that she was underweight, severely dehydrated, and had bruises and bug bites.

In June 2004, the estate of Lisa McPherson and the Church of Scientology reached an out-of-court settlement, the terms of which were confidential.

Denouncing psychology

More recently, Scientology has been in the spotlight because of actor and Scientologist Tom Cruise, who made headlines this summer for denouncing psychiatry and its treatments on the Today show.

“The thing is they take advantage of the lack of proof of causality,” said Greg Privitera, a UB Ph.D. candidate in psychology and a lecturer. “Do you have abnormal brain physiology, or does a stressor in the environment cause your brain physiology to change? (Then) you’re a schizophrenic.”

This thinking can be seen in the case of Jeremy Perkins, a Buffalo Scientologist with paranoid schizophrenia who stabbed his mother 77 times because he thought she had an “evil eye.”

Elli Perkins was treating her son’s disease with vitamins, according to the four-part Buffalo News series about Scientology that ran last January.

Regardless, Privitera said, behavior--meaning normal or abnormal psychology--isn’t possible without physiology.

“It seems logical, that between initial cause and behavior, physiology must be involved,” he said. “To dismiss physiology contradicts the major basis of scientific theory.”

Open eyes, ears and minds

Regardless of the bad press Scientology has received, UB will not be taking any steps to hinder the center’s outreach to students or their move into The Commons.

“This campus is probably the biggest marketplace for ideas in the country,” Black said. “We’re not big on censorship. We’re not going to sit here and say, ‘These are words and groups we like, so you can come in. These are words and groups we don’t like, so you can’t come in.’ ”

As long as the organization abides by the rules of the university, the administration welcomes their addition to the community.

“We all have our own set of interests and prejudices, but the fact is that this is a group that’s legal,” Black said. “This group is not an undercover organization barred from society. This is an organization that owns a building in downtown Buffalo that the mayor went to a grand opening for.”

“That it may be a pariah to some and it’s a prophet to others,” he added. “We’re going to judge the organization the same way that we judge other organizations and students: by conduct.”

If concerns are expressed about the group’s compliance with UB rules, Black said they will be immediately addressed.

“We have rules here against harassment, against solicitation and against disruption or interfering with operations on campus. We have rules here against putting people at physical or mental risk and endangering their safety,” Black said. “We apply those rules to individuals and organizationsŚnobody’s above that.”

In the end, though, it’s not up to the university to decide who can or cannot espouse their views on campus.

“Who picked us to decide who can talk and who can’t? Who picked us to decide who can march and who can’t? That’s not our rule,” Black said.

Another Letter to the Editor

Feedback – NOVEMBER 16th, 2005
Scientology teaches to act for oneself
Letter to the Editor
SUSAN HAWLEY – Batavia, N.Y.

I am writing in response to a letter written on Nov. 7 (“Scientology extortion should not be on campus”) in which a student decided he would write down “some important facts” about the Church of Scientology. My latest understanding of “facts” is something that has to do with truth. In fact, the definition right out of the dictionary states that a fact is “a piece of information presented as having objective reality – truth.”

The following italicized portions are my own personal commentary to Susan Hawley's letter. -- Tanya Durni

Conveniently, Scientology offers a “Perception of Truth” lecture.

I have been a Scientologist for 15 years and have never seen, heard, or experienced any of the “facts” that Mr. Stein wrote about. In searching for the truth, one actually needs to go to the source and observe for oneself. Mr. Stein readily quotes the media and I would invite him to actually find out for himself versus believing what he has read in the media. In fact, in an article by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, entitled “Personal Integrity” Hubbard writes, “What is true for you is what you have observed yourself and when you lose that you have lost everything…What is personal integrity?...Personal integrity is knowing what you know.” He goes on to say, “Nothing in Dianetics and Scientology is true for you unless you have observed it and it is true according to your observation.” This rings home for me.

This Hubbard cliche of, “What is true for you is what you have observed yourself…” is a weak argument that is used over and over again by Scientologists. Believing that line, is one way to keep a member from listening to dissension. Practiced and enforced “disconnection” within the group is another way Scientologists keep each other from being exposed to critical thought. Cutting members off from criticism is a common characteristic found in cult-like groups.

I myself did much research and soul searching before I ran into Scientology in 1990. I had especially been looking for a religion or a church. I was, and am, more interested in philosophy and helping my fellow man. I was wary of churches and I found no indoctrination or dogma in Scientology as I had found in other religions.

Yes, instead Scientology has TR routines, scripted lines to practice, and OT doctrines to study. No indoctrination or dogma?

Scientology is the first “religion” that I have found that helps the individual learn to think and act clearly for himself. This is done through education and training in basic life skills such as relationship development, communication, and study skills for life. Hubbard taught that one can have high survival for himself and others if one works on supporting the individual, his family, his groups and the people and life forms on earth.

Yep, that’s what she’s trying to sell you.

The Buffalo News Responds

Scientology office at UB Commons sparks criticism of campus administration
News Staff Reporter


Derek Gee/Buffalo News
Dalene Aylward of UB’s Campus Ministries Association is “very concerned” about Scientology’s offfice on campus.

A controversy has erupted at the University at Buffalo over the Church of Scientology’s obtaining an office in The Commons, a privately operated space on the North Campus in Amherst near the Student Union.

UB contends it has no say in who rents space, and that it has an obligation to be tolerant of all views. Critics contend the administration is abrogating its responsibility to protect students by permitting a group some consider a cult to have a staging ground to recruit students.

The Church of Scientology is not recognized on campus by Student Affairs, and it’s not one of the 30 religious organizations – each with a religious adviser – in the Campus Ministries Association.

“I am very concerned about their presence on campus,” said Dalene Aylward of the UB Campus Ministries Association and a senior academic adviser. “I am concerned they will take advantage of students who do not know what they are getting into, do not know the financial costs that are involved or the history behind the organization.”

Matthew Schwartz, an active member of Hillel of Buffalo, said, “We shouldn’t allow anyone with cult-like tactics to put students in danger. I think the university has an obligation to protect its students, and if it fails to do so, it should be held accountable.”

Representatives of the church, founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and known for its anti-psychiatry stance, declined to comment.

Dennis Black, vice president for student affairs, said the publicly funded school has “no say” in who First Amherst Development leases space to in The Commons.

As an example, Black said, alcohol and credit card solicitations are allowed there but not on the rest of campus.

“It’s a private, commercially owned enterprise,” Black said.

Black acknowledged allowing office space to the Church of Scientology has aroused concerns among some.

“This is a group that some view as a cult, or cult-like, so clearly it’s a concern,” said Black.

He said the administration plans to talk to the Church of Scientology “about the concerns that have been addressed, and about our unwillingness to tolerate lawless behavior. We will make it clear the community has standards, and those standards will be monitored and enforced.”

On the other hand, Black added, “as a university, we are open to lots of messages. Some of them are repugnant to us, some are offensive, some are challenging, but in the marketplace of ideas we cannot get involved with viewpoint discrimination.”

The controversy has been fueled on campus by articles in the Spectrum, the UB student newspaper.

“We have had about 10 letters to the editor, almost all of them negative and citing whether it’s a cult,” said Evan Pierce, Spectrum’s managing editor. “That’s significant, because we usually don’t get that big of a reaction to anything we write.

“We have been unable to find any student initiative in bringing this group on campus. When we’ve asked [Scientology officials] to put us in touch with students involved, they have been unable to do so.”

Students expressed mixed views over whether Scientology should be allowed to maintain an office on campus.

“There are other church groups on campus, and they should be able to represent their views as well. Especially if they are paying for their space,” said law student Jeff Hulet.

Freshman Stephanie Sharpe agreed. “I find Scientology very interesting. I think it’s a cult, and I know I would never get involved with them – I think it’s more like absurd – but I think if people want to do it, they should be able to do it.”

Law student Ray Walter disagreed.

“Any publicly funded institution has a responsibility to the public at large. It would have a responsibility if the Ku Klux Klan wanted to rent out a space.”

Benjamin Obletz, president of First Amherst Development, said he wasn’t aware of any complaints.

Rich Dunning, a former Buffalo church staff member who left the Church of Scientology in May 2003, said students are one of the organization’s prime targets.

“They pursue students because they think they are at a crucial point in their lives,” Dunning said.

“You’re having a bad time in your life as a young adult and you’re trying to find your way through it – hey, we can help you study better or get through financial troubles or other hardships that you have,” he said, in his description of its approach.

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