Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Church of Scientology reopens on The Drag after several delays, sparking protests

Roberto Ramirez
Protester Pearl Gomez records Scientology members leaving the opening ceremony on Saturday. Gomez, along with others present came from different cities in Texas and states to counterprotest the reopening of the Scientology Church building on Guadalupe Street.

Over 1,500 people from across the nation packed the Church of Scientology on Guadalupe Street to celebrate the building’s grand reopening on Saturday after almost seven years of renovations and delays, said the community liaison for the church in an email.  

Two University alumni opened the Guadalupe location in 1967. The church relocated to the Hancock neighborhood in 2017 while the original building underwent renovations. The pandemic and other complications further delayed the re-opening. 

David Miscavige, head of the Church of Scientology, led the event and welcomed other Texan Scientologists. Multiple speeches emphasized the church’s mission of humanitarianism, mental health awareness and ending drug abuse. 

Charles Guine drove to Austin from Arizona to protest. He held a sign calling the church a cult and drivers honked or shouted in agreement as they passed. 

“(They’re here for) young, impressionable people who want to make a difference,” Guine said. “They have a good story, ‘Come in, we’re gonna save the planet, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna help you with this, we’re gonna help you with … relationships, families.’ But then eventually they tear those things apart. You walk in the door to become a better person and then you never leave because they got you.”

In 2009, Scientology member Marc Headley sued the church after he earned an average of 39 cents per hour after 15 years of employment. In a 2019 lawsuit, two women claimed “That ‘70s Show” actor and Scientologist, Danny Masterson, assaulted them, but they said the church discouraged them from speaking out. 

“They call it a church, (but) it’s not a church,” Guine said. “There is no god in their book — their god is money. You can only go in there and take a couple of free courses, and in a year you’re (at) $10,000 because it’s high-pressure sales. If they get their hooks in you, you will be sorry.”

The protestors stood outside the guarded building because the opening was invitation-only. Guadalupe and 22nd streets were closed with a permit from the city due to the high event capacity. 

Law student Oceane Maher said she heard about the reopening, went to the church with her cousin out of curiosity and took a 200-question personality test the church created. After the test, a member separated the cousins and individually told them they were irresponsible and cold-hearted, she said. 

Maher said when she claimed the results were false, they tried to make her question herself and offered to turn her into a better person. 

“If you’re in a vulnerable state, I could see how it works,” Maher said. “I think they can prey on students who are in that state.” 

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