Fire-raising threat to Scientologists

Share this article

POLICE are investigating a fire-raising threat sent to the Scientology offices in Edinburgh in the wake of the organisation's bid to set up a stall at a Leith shopping centre.

The Evening News revealed last weekend that the controversial group had applied for a street traders' licence for the Newkirkgate shopping centre, where they planned to carry out "stress tests" and discuss the organisation's beliefs with passers-by.

In the wake of the news, the Scientologists' Edinburgh base, Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence on South Bridge, received the threat, contained in a letter, on Tuesday.

Scientology spokesman Gordon Reid said that despite the controversy that surrounds the group - which counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its followers - it should be afforded respect. He said: "First Minister Alex Salmond recently announced priority plans to tackle sectarianism. Given the amount of conflict and bloodshed that has been fuelled by religious intolerance for too many years, many support this initiative.

"An article in Saturday's News reported on intolerance towards a newer religion, Scientology. Following this article, the Church of Scientology received an arson threat.

"There are many different religions in the world, and even strongly different views within religions. There is nothing to lose from respecting another's religious beliefs, and potentially much to gain - including the creation of a more harmonious society, for one."

The application submitted by the group for the Newkirkgate Centre was to set up every day from 9am to 7pm, from July to December.

It would use "volunteer ministers" to carry out what the group calls stress tests, similar to those offered to passers-by on South Bridge, where members also promote their lectures and publications by Scientology leader, the late L Ron Hubbard.

The application was strongly opposed by Leith councillor, Gordon Munro, who branded the church's beliefs "nonsense" and wrote to object to it.

Councillor Munro said: "I think reason, not arson, is the way to argue against the Scientologists, and I deplore anybody that makes that kind of threat. I understand why they engender such strong emotions because of the exploitative way they treat people. However, I would advocate reason."

The group has previously had one-off events run by volunteer ministers in the shopping centre and in Princes Street.

In 2008, anti-Scientology protest group Anonymous Scotland held a protest in Hunter Square to complain about the church's activities.

A police spokesman said: "We have received a complaint regarding a threatening letter, and an investigation is under way. Anyone with any information that can assist our inquiries should contact the police."