Migrant group cancels event amid complaints over Scientology link
Presence of scientologists at meetings is becoming more noticeable, say charities
The Church of Scientology community centre in Firhouse, where a mutlicultural event had initially been planned. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
A migrant support group has cancelled plans for a multicultural event in a Church of Scientology community centre in Dublin following complaints about the arrangement.
The Say No to Direct Provision Group announced on Facebook last month it was holding a cultural talent show in September but posted five days later that the event was being postponed following multiple requests that it be moved elsewhere.
A number of supporters of the group said they would refuse to be part of an event at the Scientology centre in Finglas while others claimed the church was trying to “lure” supporters of migrant rights into handing over personal data such as emails and phone numbers.
The group’s administrator said the Church of Scientology had offered the use of their building free of charge and that the cost of another venue was too high. He subsequently created a gofundme page to raise the money needed to hold the cultural event at a later date.
He told The Irish Times members of the church had offered the free use of the community centre during a migrant support event in late 2018.
The presence of scientologists at migrant, or asylum seeker, related events around the country has been increasingly observed in recent months. A number of organisations have reported that representatives of the church – who work in pairs – are distributing pamphlets on drug addiction at events.
Some say they are not worried about the group’s presence and that the pamphlets are harmless. However, others have expressed concern that the church’s offer of support and guidance is part of its attempt to normalise its presence in Ireland.
It is understood representatives from the church attended a human rights conference in Dublin in January where they handed out pamphlets while, more recently, they took part in the Waterford India Day celebrations following their participation in last year’s Indian Diwali events.
A spokeswoman for Akidwa, the network of migrant women living in Ireland, said the charity had noticed scientology members appearing at recent events uninvited but representatives only took part in public events and never gate-crashed private meetings.
“Akidwa has no personal connections to scientology,” she noted.
A statement from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland said it had “no formal or working relationship with any religious group, church or cult”.
The group said:“All supporters have diverse views on religion. We respect people’s rights to religious freedom.”
Director of public affairs for the Church of Scientology in Ireland Diana Stahl said scientologists had been invited to attend “numerous events covering current topics such as human rights, drug education and the like”.
Asked to comment on the Say No to Direct Provision Group’s rearranged plans, Ms Stahl said the organisation in question had neither booked nor requested to book an event at the centre.
She added that there had been no pushback against scientologists’ presence at migrant meetings and that the purpose of pamphlets distributed at events was “to educate and hence empower people to make informed choices about drugs”.
On the question of data retention, Ms Stahl said people could “easily subscribe or unsubscribe” to Scientology mailing lists and that two separate contact lists existed - one for “community events and humanitarian programmes” and another for those interested in Scientology services.