Old Bible Society Building now London Scientology Centre

There is a popular anecdote among Christian apologists that Voltaire (1694-1778) once remarked that the Bible would soon become a forgotten book, but the house in which he made this prediction later became the headquarters of a Bible Society who used it to publish or distribute Bibles…The Bible society in question is variously identified as the Geneva Bible Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society.

So begins an article by David Ross which appeared in a New Zealand humanist publication in 2004. Ross debunks the story and expresses scepticism about the supposed statement attributed to Voltaire.

However, the Bible Society now finds itself part of another anecdote about a building being reused in an ironical way; the PA reports:

The Church of Scientology unveiled its new London headquarters today with a grand opening ceremony.

The controversial religion, which counts Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its followers, is expanding its British operation.

It has bought and refurbished the former home of the British and Foreign Bible Society, latterly the offices of BP, for its new HQ.

This is 146 Queen Victoria Street, at the heart of the City of London.

…speakers at the event included United Nations peace envoy Dr Iftikhar Ahmed Ayaz, who praised the faith and told the crowd: “It is my personal belief that this church can restore what this world has lately lost.”

Kevin Hurley, divisional commander of the local Snow Hill police station welcomed the church to the City and said its members were “raising the spiritual wealth of society”.

Ayaz has had public links with Scientology for several years. In 2004, he was part of an interfaith meeting at the new religious movement’s UK HQ in East Grinstead:

Dr. Iftikhar Ayaz, OBE, Honorary Consul for Tuvalu and the representative of the Pacific Islands in a United Nations Peace Forum, commented, “the best outcome was that all the religions and non-religious organisations agreed to form a collective organisation in order to pursue the ideas for creating interfaith and intercultural and inter-ethnic harmony in the British society and to try and make an impact on the various conflict areas of the world, so that we can make our own contribution to the ongoing struggle for realising peace and harmony. Unity gives strength, and the more unity we can create the more strength we will have.”

Last November, he contributed to a Scientology-sponsored conference on children’s rights; Open Press reported:

Participants to an international conference titled “The abuse of Children in Europe and beyond”, held in Brussels today, have unanimously launched a strong, clear-cut appeal to democratic institutions, governments and civil society – to stop any and all abuses committed against children. The conference has also signed a declaration demanding that forced drugging of children on so-called behavioural disorders be ceased immediately due to the growing evidence of harmful effects, such as suicidal tendencies and aggression – a key theme of the expert discussion panel at the end of the Universal Children’s Day conference. The Conference’s Declaration is being forwarded to European national governments and otherwise spread and circulated through the human rights NGO network.

Amongst the participants to the conference held at the European Human Rights Office of the Church of Scientology International, Dr Iftikhar Ayaz, Member of Minority Rights Group of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), Dr. Roberto Cestari, Consultant of the Tuscany and Piedmont Region of Italy for Human Rights and Mental Health and president of the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights, Italian MEP Luciana Sbarbati, and UK author and psychiatrist, Sami Timimi. Dr. Liwiski, Vice President of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Dr. Liwski, also addressed the conference in Brussels via a video conference link from Buenos Aires.

Meanwhile, Kevin Hurley’s involvement in the celebrations for the new London centre has brought him criticism; the Guardian reports:

Chris Peeler, of the Family Action Information Resource Centre, which works with families who believe relatives have been indoctrinated into cults, said yesterday police officers had to be careful which groups they endorsed. He complained to Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley over comments he made at the opening of the Scientologists’ centre in the Square Mile on Sunday. Mr Hurley said the group was a “force for good” and praised it for helping victims of the July 7 attacks last year. Mr Peeler said: “I asked him if…he was aware that the organisation had a controversial record.”

2 Responses

  1. […] Queen Victoria Street” is better known as the London base of the Church of Scientology. Also, one of the two phone numbers given in the press release published by Harry’s […]

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