A front group linked to the Church of Scientology has sent thousands of leaflets, posters and DVDs to Irish schools in which they subtly promote their religion.
The glossy material, labeled educational in nature, hails their founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a champion of human rights similar to Mandela or Gandhi.
The material comes from the Los Angeles-based Youth for Human Rights, which is is financed and run by members of the Church of Scientology The literature makes no mention of the organization’s links to the church and the connection is easy to miss.
“They embed the ideology into it in a very discreet way. You’d have to really look to see it. It’s kind of a covert way of getting into schools,” religion teacher, Chris Gueret, told the Irish Times.
Other teachers told the newspaper they had also put the material in the bin as soon as they realized who it was from, but a number said they knew of colleagues who had used it.
Ireland’s Scientology community remains small – only 87 members according to the last census – but it has long hoped to establish itself as a major force in Irish society. As long ago as 1956 L. Ron Hubbard set up an office for the organization in Dublin and after several years living and working in the Emerald Isle he said, “If the weather is cold, the Irish heart is warm. The country and the people could not be improved upon.”
Last year the group launched what it called a “National Affairs Office” in Dublin city center and in October opened a community center in the suburb of Firhouse. The church says thousands have already visited, but local Sinn Féin legislator Seán Crowe labeled the group a “cult.”
Concerns have also been raised about the church’s views of science: an undercover reporter for the Irish Independent was recently told by Scientologists that psychiatry and counseling cannot help people with mental illnesses.
Instead, they were advised to pay $89 for a course that would help them "overcome ups and downs" after they were diagnosed on the spot as suffering from depression.
The group has also handed out leaflets denouncing psychiatry to Irish patients walking in and out of medical facilities.
It’s thought that the organization is trying to build up its Irish base as a springboard into Europe. With Ireland’s English-speaking population and favorable tax rates the church has judged it an ideal bridge between its US headquarters and the European citizenry it hopes to influence.
The Church of Scientology in Dublin has been contacted for comment.