A new Church of Scientology in East Harlem, NY, is set to open in 2014 and will also include a community center.
The future Church of Scientology of Harlem, which will reside at 220 E. 125th St., generated considerable media attention in the news recently over what the community can expect to experience when the new Church opens. According to the New York Daily News, the building “will house a 200-seat prayer room, a café and 12 classrooms” and “will offer East Harlem residents self-help classes and tutoring for school children.”
The story was actually first “scooped” in May 2012 by Ebony Magazine, with its story “And Still They Rise”, about this church and the Church of Scientology of Inglewood, California.
In the Ebony article, journalist Nicole Hutcheson noted “Scientology is making inroads into the Black Community from the East Coast to the West.”
Hutcheson described the new Harlem Church’s location:
“…this new outpost will rise less than two miles away from Abyssinian Baptist Church, the first African-American Baptist church in New York state and one of the oldest in the United States. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, seeing Abyssinian Baptist and the Church of Scientology in the same ‘hood. But it makes sense. If Five Percenters, Buddhists, Christians and Jews can make it in Harlem, why not Scientology?”
Set to open in 2014, what is planned for Harlem actually includes two separate facilities on 125th Street: the Harlem Church of Scientology and the Church of Scientology Community Center.
The precedent for this arrangement—Church and Community Center—was featured in Hutcheson’s article. The Church of Scientology of Inglewood, which opened November 5, 2011, also has a community center located in South Los Angeles, which houses Church-sponsored humanitarian programs. These programs include a human rights initiative, drug education and prevention program and literacy and learning center offering free tutoring to school children and remedial literacy programs for adults. The church has also become a hub for a community-wide anti-crime initiatives and gang-interventionist activity.
Hutcheson writes about the background and foundation of the Church of Scientology in South Los Angeles: “Long before any wall was built, the foundation for Scientology in South L.A. was already laid, largely due to the Rev. Cecil Murray, former pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal church.” Murray is now professor of religious studies at the University of Southern California.
According to Hutcheson, Murray stands by his decision to partner with Scientology and points to the substance abuse program as “one of many reasons why Scientology should be welcomed in the Black community.” Murray asserts, “The problems are too big for us. If the Black church can be supplemented with the Church of Scientology, then there is use and need, and there is brotherhood,” Murray says, “I think that whatever system will expose our people to greater opportunity is one that needs exploring.”
Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw described the establishment of Scientology Churches in Inglewood and Harlem as “a direct outgrowth of our work with community leaders in these areas. Scientologists for years asked that we establish churches closer to their homes. Take Inglewood, for example. We were there during the 1992 riots working with leaders of the First AME Church to help restore calm and rebuild what had been destroyed. When others left, we stayed and sponsored literacy programs, drug prevention education programs and other activities to help young people. Our new Harlem and Inglewood church and community center are extensions of that.”
Murray concurs. A special guest speaker at the grand opening of the Inglewood church, Murray was emphatic in his support of Scientologists and The Church of Scientology.
Cecil Murray, professor of religious studies at USC, speaks at the opening of the Inglewood church
“My friends, this new Church is an opportunity to make change,” he declared in the church opening “I encourage you, the community, to take full advantage.”
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