Admirers of L. Ron Hubbard have launched a major environmental and morality offensive in Southern California’s beach cities, rankling critics who say the proselytizers have been less than forthcoming about their ties to the Church of Scientology.
The controversy first flared when Scientology Surf Club president Rob Hoover asked the city of Malibu to proclaim March 13 L. Ron Hubbard Day, in honor of Scientology’s founder. The request made the City Council agenda, but was withdrawn by Hoover when March 13 came and went with no action.
“I was shocked when I saw [the proclamation request] on the agenda,” said longtime Malibu resident Ruby Fader. “I don’t see any reason to promote the Church of Scientology. To me, it is a cult.”
Both the ACLU and the Malibu city attorney said the proclamation would have violated the constitutional separation of church and state. That didn’t stop the San Diego County city of Encinitas, however, which in March issued a Hubbard Day proclamation — without realizing that Hubbard was Scientology’s founder, according to Encinitas Mayor James Bond. Bond said Hoover told him only that Hubbard was a writer and surfer who lived in Encinitas in 1934.
“I think that, in truth, he should have let us know that [Hubbard] was a founder of Scientology so we at least had that knowledge,” Bond said. “What his motive was for not sharing it with me only he knows.” (Hoover, who used Scientology letterhead to make his request, said he had assumed Bond knew who Hubbard was.)
Adding clout to Hoover’s requests for proclamations was his beach cleanup work with Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation, two well-respected groups dedicated to saving California’s coastline. Maria Ferrara, vice president of public affairs for the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Center, is on the Surfrider foundation‘s executive committee.
In pitching the Hubbard Day idea to Malibu, Hoover presented the City Council with a copy of Hubbard’s 1981 “Way to Happiness” moral code. The code is disseminated worldwide by the Way to Happiness Foundation. The foundation claims to be separate from the Church of Scientology. But executive director Joni Ginsberg and celebrity spokeswoman Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) are both Scientologists. Bridge Publications prints both the “Happiness” code and Hubbard’s religious and science-fiction writings.
“We use [the “Happiness” code] as an inspiration,” said Ferrara. “It is separate from the church. We employ the book because it is so universal.”
In April, foundation members took part in the Church of Scientology Celebrity Center International’s Adopt-a-Beach cleanup at Zuma Creek. Ferrara got a photo credit for a picture of the cleanup that appeared on the front page of the April 27 issue of the Malibu Times. The newspaper did not disclose Ferrara’s connection to the church or the cleanup event. Copies of the 95-page “Happiness” handbook, with 21 moral precepts, including “Don’t be promiscuous,” “Do not murder” and “Safeguard and improve your environment,” were passed out to surfers and contestants during a Malibu surf competition last month, put on by the Way to Happiness Foundation.
Ferrara, however, insisted church members are trying to clean up the beaches, not recruit new members.
“It is the most unglamorous thing you can do in your life,” said Ferrara. “We’re out there in a social capacity, not a religious one.” —Christine Pelisek
LOSING HIS RELIGION?
In other Scientology news, OffBeat was amazed to read in US weekly earlier this month that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman had begun severing their ties to the Church of Scientology. US also reported that Cruise, while filming the Warner Bros. film Eyes Wide Shut, had “hinted” to the studio that releasing the John Travolta project Battlefield Earth would be a mistake. A week later, however, US Weekly ran a “For the Record” notice declaring that the magazine had subsequently “found” that Cruise remains an “active and committed member of the Church of Scientology” and that the actor had never said, much less “hinted,” anything negative about Battlefield. Nevertheless, the widely panned sci-fi groaner, based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s novel, appears to be going down as a colossal box-office failure. OffBeat, which has been the object of Scientology’s none-too-tender PR ministrations, would love to know what went on behind the scenes of the correction . . .
ANOTHER RAMPART CASE BITES THE DUST
Yet another Rampart CRASH officer was exonerated Friday of internal charges in a case that raises questions about whether the LAPD is competent to root out corruption. Considering the scope of wrongdoing described by ex-Officer Rafael Perez, the central figure in the sweeping Rampart scandal, the charge against Sergeant George Hoopes seemed almost silly — failing to report on-duty officers for toasting a fellow officer at a going-away party. Hoopes’ attorney, Joel Isaacson, suggested at the department hearing last week that the brass was simply looking for scapegoats in the ongoing Rampart scandal. “This is a political case,” Isaacson said Friday.
It was also, as it turned out, a flimsy case. Hoopes was among as many as a dozen officers Perez placed at the March 1998 “mug party” held on the grounds of the Police Academy in Elysian Park for Daniel Lujan, longtime partner to Brian Hewitt, a CRASH officer named in a notorious station-house beating of a handcuffed gang member. Hewitt presented Lujan with a .45-caliber revolver as more than 20 fellow officers looked on; the group then passed around a ceremonial mug of alcohol.
Perez told LAPD brass that Hoopes had witnessed the on-duty drinking. His account originally was backed up by another officer, Camerino Messina. But, testifying last week, Messina recanted, saying he’d mixed up one party with another. Hoopes admitted he’d been at the party, but said he arrived after the drinking.
The case was further undermined by the absence of Lujan, who has himself been named in three separate internal disciplinary cases. According to department officials, Lujan was ordered to appear at the hearing but did not respond. Observed Captain Ron Seban, chair of the Board of Rights, “The case was compromised from the beginning.”
This was the third LAPD internal-discipline case thrown out after Perez’s testimony was contradicted by documents and witnesses. Attorney Isaacson also represents Officer Paul Harper, who faces criminal charges based on Perez’s accusation that Harper conspired to fabricate a felony arrest. “This certainly doesn’t do anything to bolster [Perez’s] credibility,” Isaacson said.
TOO FAT? TOO UGLY?
“So, what are you here for?” the security guard at the Japanese American National Museum asked. “I’m here for the looksism seminar,” OffBeat replied. “Come again?” said the second guard. “You know, looksism, when you judge someone on their appearance,” OffBeat chirped. “Heavy,” said the second guard, oblivious to the double meaning. “Anyway,” he turned to his colleague, “I am going outism and will be back around 9:30ism.”
So the skepticism flew fast and furious at the National Conference for Community and Justice’s lecture on “Looksism: The Last Diversity Frontier” last Wednesday. OffBeat arrived thinking the evening would be dedicated to trading sob stories about large posteriors or flabby bellies. But listening to speaker Juliet Funt, 33, daughter of Candid Camera legend Allen and current “inner-image consultant,” we quickly realized we might be at the birth of a movement to reverse eons of appearance-based discrimination. Needless to say, OffBeat kept her stomach troubles to herself.
As a former 205-pounder, Funt, now a solidly built but by no means fat woman, said she had lived the reality of “aesthetic intolerance.”
“We are told that if we are fat, we are not precious, worthy and lovable,” said Funt. “It is a tragic misunderstanding. There is no such thing as thin enough. Whenever you get where you’re going, she [your inner self] moves the finish line.”
Funt said the dangerous repercussions of looksism have made her a “plain supremacist.” Some statistics: 80 percent of fourth-graders are dieting, male liposuction has risen 200 percent, and inverse anorexia (when musclebound guys think they are scrawny) is skyrocketing. Not to mention the loss of bowel control by consumers of the fat substitute Olestra, she said.
But can we really stamp out the chorus of voices that say you can’t be too lipoed/collagen-lipped/surgeon-sculpted? “Choose to control what is inside your head,” Funt insisted. “Let kids know that what they hear is someone else’s opinion. What makes you precious is on the inside of you.” OffBeat agreed, then headed to the refreshment table and polished off three chocolate-chip cookies. —Christine Pelisek
Edited by Gale Holland