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3 lawmakers, FEMA aide help open Scientology national office

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Columnists

Three House members this week helped to open the first-ever Church of Scientology National Affairs Office in Washington, drawing politics into the controversial movement just as a new movie inspired by church founder L. Ron Hubbard opens.

Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Danny Davis, D-Ill., spoke at the Wednesday opening on Dupont Circle. Also joining in the opening ceremony was Liz Gibson, a senior program manager at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The church said it needs a national office due to its worldwide growth.

In a release, the Church quoted Burton praising the church's work for families. Lee lauded the church's work on human rights. "I want to thank L. Ron Hubbard for recognizing that courage is not rewarded but it is valued." And Davis cited cooperation between Congress and the church in pushing criminal justice legislation.

Always controversial, Scientology has been in the news recently as a result of Tom Cruise's divorce from Katie Holmes, which some reports blamed on the church. Plus there is a new movie, "The Master," coming out that tells the story of Hubbard and one of his followers.

Below is the release the church just sent out:

On Wednesday, September 12, national dignitaries joined more than a thousand Scientologists and guests to celebrate the grand opening of the Church of Scientology's National Affairs Office in Washington, D.C.

Located in the historic Fraser Mansion at Dupont Circle, the new National Affairs Office stands as the central point from which the Church coordinates its many social and humanitarian initiatives on a national and international level.

The establishment of the National Affairs Office is necessitated by the Church of Scientology's unprecedented worldwide growth and commensurate demand for Church-sponsored programs. In the past several years, dozens of new Ideal Churches of Scientology (Ideal Orgs) have opened in major cities across the world. In the United States, new Churches now stand in Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle, Denver and Phoenix, to name but a few. While internationally, they also now stand in Rome, London, Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, Hamburg, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Moscow and Tel Aviv. Ideal Orgs are designed to both serve the needs of parishioners as well as the community at large, while the National Affairs Office serves to facilitate implementation of the Church-sponsored programs both nationally and internationally.

These programs include a worldwide human rights initiative; equally far-ranging drug education, prevention and rehabilitation programs; a wide-reaching criminal reform program; a global network of literacy and learning centers; a moral education movement restoring the brotherhood of Man; and the Scientology Volunteer Ministers, the world's largest independent relief force providing emergency response at major disaster sites for more than a decade.

Underscoring the importance of the new National Affairs Office to the Church's greater social and humanitarian mission, Mr. David Miscavige, Chairman of the Board Religious Technology Center and ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion, led the dedication. In honoring the occasion, he said: "Here is an Office designed to give back to a United States government that steadfastly guaranteed our religious rights--the very freedom that allows us to do what we are doing today. And with that, we extend our reach by invoking what we hold to be the greatest of all rights, the one right which must be invoked if one is to fight for the freedom of others--the right to help. And yes, that's what we pledge today with the inauguration of this new Church of Scientology National Affairs Office."

Dignitaries joining in the opening ceremony included Members of U.S. Congress Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Danny Davis (D-IL); as well as Liz Gibson, Senior Program Manager, Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Honorable Dan Burton spoke to the Church's signal contributions in the protection of children from psychotropic drugging and preservation of the rights of families: "I applaud you for taking the time to pursue this issue, and for helping make the Child Safety and Medication Act the law of the land. Working together we have been part of a course of correction to safeguard America's youth while promoting and protecting liberty."

Acknowledging the Church for its abiding commitment to human rights, the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, Member of US Congress, said: "I want to thank L. Ron Hubbard for recognizing that courage is not rewarded but it is valued. And to be able to have the wonderment of people coming together and ensuring that people come together for peace. That's what I see in the Church, that you have come together for peace. I welcome and support that."

The Honorable Danny Davis thanked the Church for its commitment to improving one of today's most pressing social problems--criminal reform: "Since 2004, the Church has been part of the broad coalition that has tirelessly worked with us in Congress to get the Second Chance Act passed into law, which is a monumental first step in reforming our criminal justice system nationwide. I am extremely grateful for the work you do to help those individuals who are most in need."

Ms. Liz Gibson, Senior Program Manager, Federal Emergency Management Agency, highlighted the effectiveness of Church volunteers in all forms of disaster response and community need: "You have consistently come to the aid of major and many minor disasters around the country. You arrive, help, then help some more and stay on after others have gone home. All our work from the policy level down to the local level depends on groups like the Churches of Scientology Disaster Response--these partnerships are and will be in the future the strength of our work here in this country."