Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle under attack over Scientology church
Wes Hosking, Evonne Barry
From: Herald Sun
January 31, 2011
MELBOURNE'S Lord Mayor has fended off claims his appearance at the opening of a new Scientology centre meant he endorses the religion.
Premier Ted Baillieu has questioned Lord Mayor Robert Doyle's judgment in attending a Scientology church opening.
Cr Doyle has been attracted strong criticism, including from the Premier, for addressing the opening of the controversial group's new Ascot Vale headquarters on Saturday.
Former Labor minister and football great Justin Madden was also among the 2000 guests.
Cr Doyle today maintained his appearance was a favour for singer friend and scientologist Kate Ceberano and nothing more, despite a Scientology media release suggesting he was there as the Lord Mayor, turning up in an official car.
“I was there out of my friendship for her, not any for other reason and there shouldn’t be any other imputation taken from it,’’ Cr Doyle told radio 3AW today.
“When friends ask you to make a tough call that’s why you are a friend.
“This was a tough call and I made that as a friend to go and do it.
“But I certainly didn’t praise the church in any way.’’
Cr Doyle said Ceberano had contributed a lot to Melbourne City Council.
She has performed to raise money for the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation and was last year crowned Moomba queen.
“I am a very loyal person and when friends ask me to do something as far as I possibly can I will do it, even at the cost of some personal controversy or discomfort,’’ Cr Doyle told 3AW.
Cr Doyle said the Premier was entitled to his opinion on whether it was appropriate to attend the opening.
"He’s allowed to have an opinion on what I do and I accept that,’’ he said.
“I know it is a contentious church and there are people who would argue that it is not a church and not a religion, I understand that.
“Our High Court has said that it is, but nevertheless there would be people who argue differently from that.’’
Mr Baillieu yesterday questioned the wisdom of the appearance of the former state Liberal leader.
"I'm not a great fan (of Scientology), to be frank," Mr Baillieu said.
"It is a matter for Mr Doyle, but it isn't something I would have done.
"I, like many Australians, have concerns about the role Scientology has played in the past."
Victoria's shadow small business and tourism minister Justin Madden was effusive in his praise of the church, describing the church as “as Melbourne as Melbourne gets”.
Mr Madden praised the landmark building’s preservation, as well as the church’s work in drugs and literacy.
“Unselfishly, you work to provide ways and means to uplift our society. You have set the standard for the community with your restoration of this building and with your social programs—an example I will point to for others to follow,” Mr Madden said.
“Your new church is as Melbourne as Melbourne gets.”
Paul Giuliano also welcomed the church and the building’s restoration.
“I cannot think of a better custodian than the Church of Scientology,” Cr Giuliano said
The comments came a week after Mr Baillieu and Cr Doyle disagreed over the future of the Formula One Grand Prix - the Lord Mayor having declared "time's up" for the F1 race in Melbourne.
Scientology's Australian president, Vicki Dunstan, said yesterday Mr Baillieu was "entitled to his opinion" but challenged him to visit the centre.
"The church is pretty open. You can see what we do. If anybody came into the church, they would see for themselves. I think it would soon dispel any fears. (Mr Baillieu) is welcome any time," she said.
The church, founded by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, is classified a sect in some countries, but Ms Dunstan said protesters at the Mt Alexander Rd building were misinformed.
"Religious intolerance is not something new to Australia," she said.
Ms Dunstan said Melbourne was home to "several thousand" Scientologists and was important because L. Ron Hubbard had given lectures here.
The headquarters include a "purification centre" where members sweat out "mental and spiritual damage caused by drugs".
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