City Rejects Scientology Corporation's Dirty Money

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Scientology's doublecross

Forward: The Scientology corporation creates and adopts a large number of fake front names, titles, and fictitious entries to hide its own notorious identity behind. Thanks to the Internet, however, it doesn't take long for such frauds and scams to be quickly identified and exposed.

City Rejects Scientology Corporation's Dirty Money

Article Published: Saturday, January 15, 2005 -
City rejects $10,000 request
Scientology link nixes donation

By Eugene Tong
Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- The city has declined a request from a group linked to the Church of Scientology that is seeking donations to assist orphans in nations struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The Santa Clarita City Council was considering a $10,000 donation to Los Angeles-based International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance and ordered the city staff to conduct standard background checks, after foundation President Michelle Seward pleaded for cash before the panel Tuesday.

But City Manager Ken Pulskamp, on advice from the city attorney, decided against the donation when staffers found possible ties between the foundation and Scientology during the vetting process.

City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said the First Amendment forbids government from making direct donations to religious groups, and that there will be no further discussion of the request by the City Council.

"It was not abundantly clear whether or not they were members of the Church of Scientology, but there were enough indications that gave us pause," she said Friday. "Our status as a government entity precludes us from donating money to any religious organization, so we're erring on the side of caution."

Seward said she regretted the city's decision, but would continue to raise money for the cause.

"Of course, we at the foundation are very disappointed," she said Friday. "We think these children should be the most important thing. I believe the city is going off wrong information."

A local resident and friend of Mayor Cameron Smyth, Seward has said the foundation is an independent group dedicated to promoting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that Scientology is among her organization's financial backers and action partners.

The foundation, in a statement Wednesday, said it was preparing a team "with the support of the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology International" to aid displaced children believed at risk after the Dec. 26 tsunami killed more than 150,000 people among 11 countries.

UNICEF officials have warned that human traffickers could be targeting refugee camps for orphans to sell into labor or the sex trade, and hard-hit nations including Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand are monitoring the problem.

"The city of Santa Clarita wishes Michelle Seward and her International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance well," Ortiz said. "Helping these children is a very noble goal, and we wish her success."
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Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253 eugene.tong@dailynews.com

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Article Published: Thursday, January 13, 2005 -

City aid eyed for tsunami orphans: Kids need protection, advocates tell council

By Eugene Tong
Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- To help protect children orphaned by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Santa Clarita City Council members are pondering an appropriation of $10,000 for a nonprofit group whose largest donors include the Church of Scientology.

Michelle Seward, president of the Los Angeles-based International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance, made a plea to the council this week for cash toward providing shelters for the tens of thousands of orphans believed to be targeted by child-trafficking rings.

"We want a team there now," Seward, a local resident and friend of Mayor Cameron Smyth, told the council. "Another day is another child unprotected."

The council, backing the proposal in concept, unanimously ordered the city staff to perform standard background checks and prepare a motion for approval at the Jan. 25 meeting.

"You have kids being placed at these shelters with adults, and you need to get kids to these separate facilities," Smyth said Wednesday. "Aside from 9-11, I can't think of a tragedy that has affected people as this one has.

"I think we're dealing with a very unique, once-in-a-lifetime tragedy. ... It's an appropriate use (of city funds)."

Councilmen Frank Ferry and Bob Kellar also supported donations, but questioned whether they should come from local taxpayer dollars.

"This is public money, and giving is up to the individual," Kellar said.

Since the Dec. 26 tsunami swept through 11 countries and killed more than 150,000 people, officials for the United Nations Children's Fund have warned that human traffickers might be targeting refugee camps for orphans to sell into labor or the sex trade. In Indonesia's Aceh province, officials estimate 35,000 children have lost one or both parents.

While hard-hit nations have begun monitoring refugee camps and placed restrictions on children traveling abroad, Seward believes more could be done.

"Just because they're not traveling out of the country doesn't mean there isn't human trafficking within the countries they're already in," Seward said. "I just felt the city of Santa Clarita needs to get behind saving these kids.

"Our very first goal is to get a team over there to truly protect these children. There is no group that I'm aware of that solely 100 percent protects these kids."

Founded in 1997, the 3,500-member Foundation for Human Rights has organized rallies and athletic events promoting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Seward said. It had an operating budget of about $231,000 in fiscal year 2002, according to the national nonprofit database GuideStar.

Though the nonprofit group has received large grants from the Church of Scientology, it's an independent charity, Seward said. The church has funded specific foundation projects, including the printing and distribution of human-rights literature.

"You're definitely going to promote your largest backers," said Seward, adding that Scientology's goal of promoting religious tolerance coincides with goals of the foundation. "They're one of the best and most phenomenal groups we've ever worked with."

The foundation's Web site includes a link to the church's Human Rights Department, alongside links for Human Rights Watch, the U.S. State Department and the United Nations.

Seward said the foundation already has sent a six-person team to Sri Lanka to aid children there and hopes to collect more donations to send another team to help build orphanages or reunite families.

"The budget to get over there and start building is about $50,000," Seward said. "That's just a start."

The foundation has scheduled a news conference about the undertaking for 3 p.m. today at Santa Clarita City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd. in Valencia.

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