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Scientologists Try to Ease Concern on Altadena Plans

June 13, 1985|MARK ARAX | Times Staff Writer

ALTADENA — Incorporation papers filed by the Church of Spiritual Technology seemingly contradict public assurances by church officials that their planned training center here will not be used as a base to espouse the tenets of Scientology.

Officials of the Church of Spiritual Technology, an affiliate of the Church of Scientology, tried to allay community concerns Tuesday over their plans to buy a 198-acre complex in the Altadena foothills, which was occupied until last year by the La Vina Hospital.

During a two-hour public hearing called by the Altadena Town Council, church officials told residents and council members that the Church of Spiritual Technology is an affiliate of the Church of Scientology but is interested only in training ministers and safeguarding the writings and taped lectures of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

'We Are Scientologists'

"We are Scientologists, but we have a different function than the Church of Scientology," Leo Johnson, a minister and spokesman for the Church of Spiritual Technology, told the crowd of 200. "We won't have people knocking on your doors or handing out leaflets."

"It will not promulgate. It will not disseminate. It will not go outside the walls of La Vina," Johnson said.

But articles of incorporation papers filed with the state of California in May, 1982, show that the Church of Spiritual Technology was formed for a different purpose.

Under the heading "Purpose of Corporation," a church attorney listed several functions at the time of incorporation. "Specifically its purpose is to espouse, present, propagate, practice, ensure and maintain the purity and integrity of the religion of Scientology."

The incorporation articles further state that the Church of Spiritual Technology was formed to "serve as a means of promulgating, preserving and administering the religious faith of Scientology throughout the world."

Claims No Contradiction

Johnson acknowledged in an interview that the church has not filed an updated incorporation paper, but he disagreed that the document contradicted the group's public statements. "Let's see how I can put this. The promulgation would come in our ministers, at various stages of their careers, going to our 600 churches and promulgating the religion. The espousing would also be to members of our church only.

"We will definitely and irrevocably not be disseminating to the public."

Frank Bridal, chairman of the Altadena Town Council, said the incorporation papers, which were not introduced at the public hearing, raise questions about the church's intentions. "There are a number of questions that were not answered at the public hearing and that is one of them," Bridal said. "It does seem as though that is a contradiction of their public statements."

The Church of Spiritual Technology has entered escrow to buy the property from Huntington Memorial Hospital of Pasadena, which acquired the complex through a merger. Completion of the sale depends on the church's ability to obtaina conditional-use permit from the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission. The commission will weigh the recommendations of the Altadena Town Council, an advisory body, when making its final decision.

Much of the community concerns center on the controversial practices of Scientology and the suspicion that the Church of Spiritual Technology is nothing more than a sham corporation set up in anticipation of a federal ruling last year that denied the Church of Scientology nonprofit, tax-exempt religious status.

Scientology was founded in the mid-1950s by Hubbard, a reclusive science fiction writer who has not been seen in public since 1980. Its counseling procedures, for which thousands of dollars may be charged, are based on the theory that the human mind can be cleared of negative influences through a process called "auditing."

A crude lie detector device known as an "E-meter" is used to identify psychological problems. Some former members say auditing sessions often degenerate into interrogations in which a trained auditor exacts secrets from members that are later used to silence dissent.

"I told auditors things I wouldn't tell my wife or mother on the mistaken belief that holding back these secrets would get in the way of my healing," a former member, who requested anonymity saying he feared reprisal by the group, said in an interview. "You soon realize that the secrets can be used against you and are powerful security tools for the group."

Johnson compared auditing to a confessional in the Catholic Church. "That information is sacred and would never be used in such a manner. Our ethics and our code prevent us from utilizing information from an auditing session."

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