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Group linked to Scientology holds seminar

A controversial group linked to the Church of Scientology is to run a seminar in a leading hotel today, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

The conference was organised by Dee Pearson, a Bermudian, with her husband, Don.

A schedule for the seminar sent out around the island was accompanied by a booklet billed as a “non-religious moral code”, although it was written in 1980 by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

The booklet, The Way to Happiness: a common sense guide to better living, features a satellite photograph of Bermuda on the front and the message “Our gift to you in Bermuda”.

Fine print on the back cover of the booklet distributed in Bermuda insists it is not connected to “any religious doctrine” and readers were encouraged on the first page to pass it around to “greatly enhance your own survival potential and theirs”.

The book’s 64 pages contain advice from “Take Care of Yourself” to “Don’t Do Anything Illegal”, and its text contains no specific references to Scientology.

But Scientology’s website said the booklet was produced by its International Dissemination and Distribution Centre in Los Angeles, California.

It is distributed by the Way to Happiness Foundation, a Scientology affiliate.

The group was accused in 2005 of forging the endorsement of Commander Mike Downing, of the Los Angeles Police Department, for the distribution of its pamphlet in Southern California.

The news led the LAPD to deny it endorsed Scientology or the booklet. Similar accusations were reported by the Associated Press in October 2007, when the picture of Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco, was used on the back page of the brochure, along with the logo of his office.

Hubbard, who died in 1986, became a controversial figure as the movement’s profile grew around the world.

Scientology is not recognised as a religion in several European countries, and in France it was branded a cult by a parliamentary report in 1995.

The booklet has been distributed around the world since it was published in 1981, but its presence in schools across the United States has been criticised. A 1993 exposé in news magazine Newsweek quoted a California principal teacher, who said she felt “deceived” because she had believed the booklet promoted “a self-esteem programme”.

Church officials denied that the tract was a front for their organisation.

The New York Times reported in 1995 that the booklet had started to show up in hotel rooms.

The Washington Post reported in 2005 that Scientologist volunteers had handed the booklet out to survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 230,000 people.

The Pearsons did not respond to a request for comment last night.