Friday, February 29, 2008

The Scientologists are coming! (Maybe)

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But the breathless top story in Thursday's Times-Tribune of Scranton could have used some context. The story, by Sarah Hofius Hall, starts like this: "Rome, Brussels, Scranton? Yes, Scranton. The Electric City will follow those world-class cities in hosting dozens of global leaders this fall for an annual international conference. That event is a prelude to the permanent relocation of a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated human rights and religious freedom center to Scranton from the nation’s capital."

Um. "Nobel Peace Prize-nominated," indeed. Here's the thing. About a third of America, from Ray Angeli at Lackawanna College to Chris Carney, can send in Nobel nominees. Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini are all Nobel Peace Prize nominees. It's kind of like when you read "Pulitzer Prize-nominated," which is always a sign of a bullshitter since anyone can submit a Pulitzer nomination. Being nominated to one of the service academies (like West Point) is substantially more difficult then being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

And Joseph Grieboski's "Institute on Religion and Public Policy" seems to have existed out of the media's view until Thursday. If The New York Times and Washington Post archives are any clue (nothing in the Times and a couple squibs in the Post), the Times-Tribune story was more ink than every previous story about the "institute" combined. That's not a reason to kill the story, but it is a reason to give restrained treatment to what amounts to "tiny group no one has ever heard of to have annual meeting in Scranton."

It's hard to tell if is affiliated with the Church of Scientology. Some folks on the Internet sure think so. It really doesn't matter, but the affiliation would have been nice to note in the story somewhere.


Joseph K. Grieboski said...

Dear Sir:

Thank you very much for the additional press on the possibility of moving the Institute on Religion and Public Policy’s parliamentary program to my hometown of Scranton, PA. I would like to now take the opportunity to clarify some factual errors for the sake of the integrity of your readers, as you have appropriately called upon the Scranton Times to do.

First, you are correct that nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize are not as difficult to receive as one might think. However, there were only 150 nominations last year. Our nomination was made by a member of parliament of Burkina Faso who wrote in his letter:

"The work of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy and the Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom has constructed a new paradigm of peacemaking and governance. No longer are foreign policy, national security, and fundamental rights solely in the hands of national executives and administrations. Instead, legislators around the globe are now taking the responsibility at the initiative of the IPC to address questions of fundamental rights, security, wealth and poverty, global warming, and the countless other vital concerns of the global population in a collaborative, coordinated, and effective manner."

Your assertion that "no one has ever heard of" us is untrue. While we are not a household name like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, the Institute on Religion and Public Policy is very well known among people actively engaged in the promotion of fundamental rights. For example, the Institute:

- Testified several times before the US House and Senate Committees and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

- Provided written submissions to countless international parliamentary committees

- Submitted reports on religious freedom to numerous organizations including the United Nations, Council of Europe, and the European Union

- Attended private meetings in the Oval Office with the President of the United States

- Consulted by Tony Blair on Inter-religious dialogue issues

- Serves on the Panel of Experts for International Religious Freedom of the British Foreign Ministry

- Meets regularly with foreign heads of state and government officials

- Chairs monthly Round Tables with International Diplomats

- Distributes daily religious freedom updates to thousands of interested parties

All of these accomplishments speak to the reputation and credibility of the Institute. Our organization is a voice on religious freedom matters and is recognized on the international level. A cursory perusal of the Institute’s website and blog at demonstrates the volumes of verifiable research that have been performed and released on the status of religious freedom under recognized international standards.

Our reputation is global, as evidenced by the fact that national parliaments of over eighty countries have participated in the Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom throughout its history, most regularly repeating their active presence and participation.

Among the groups with whom we have worked are the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Mormons, Protestants of all variations, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and yes, Scientologists. Were I only to defend the rights of faiths I like, then I would not be a genuine advocate for fundamental rights. Further, were the Scranton Times to “note the affiliation” with Scientology, they would have also had to note the “affiliation” the Institute has with the over 3000 other religious and denominational groups that are recognized in the United States alone and with whom the Institute has interacted. (For the sake of full disclosure, we have never worked with the Church of the Jedi or the Church of SpongeBob SquarePants – both recognized and registered religious bodies in the United States…)

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is a non-denominational, inter-religious, secular organization that fights for freedom of religion. That means freedom of religion for all. As a devout Roman Catholic, I can and do have my own opinions about other faiths, but as a human rights advocate, it is not my responsibility to judge the worth of the beliefs of others. The mission of the Institute is to fight for the rights of all people to practice according to the dictates of their minds, hearts, and consciences - without undue interference by government.

Because we protect the rights of all people, we are continually under scrutiny by those who do not. I make this point because of the source you referenced who is striving to give credence to the belief that we are a front for Scientologists. We have repeatedly dealt with bad press from this person and I leave it to you good readers to determine whether or not his views are based on fact.

Gerald Armstrong is a former clerk in a Scientology organization. Armstrong intended to seize assets of the Church of Scientology. When attorneys of the Church discovered the plan, they obtained permission from the Los Angeles police to conduct an investigation into Armstrong’s plans. The investigation caught Armstrong on videotape stating that he intended to forge and then plant incriminating documents on Church premises, to be discovered in a subsequent raid. When challenged on how he would obtain proof of the allegations he intended to make, he responded that: “We don’t have to prove a god dam thing. We don’t have to prove shit. We just have to allege it.”

If that is not enough, Armstrong once posted a message on the Internet concerning a letter he sent to Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. In the letter, he offered himself to Hussein as a hostage in the Iraqi war. “If either side failed to perform any part of the agreement, the other side could execute me,” he concluded. Armstrong makes clear in his posting that he did not think the letter to Hussein was a joke, but was deadly serious. He quite proudly republishes it and other similar writings from time to time. There is much more I could say on the subject, but will leave it to the readers to research for themselves if they wish to discover the more sordid background of this “gentleman,” who currently has several outstanding warrants for his arrest.

I look forward to continuing to engage with you on the importance of religious freedom issues. The Scranton area has as much to give as it does to gain from its involvement on the world religious stage. I am grateful for your partnership as we together make Scranton, as I like to call it, “the Metaphysical Center of the Universe.”

Thank you very much,
Joseph K. Grieboski
Founder and President
Institute on Religion and Public Policy

Anonymous said...

Griebowski's an asshat.

Anonymous said...

Can you even imagine having that much free time to write what Grieboski just wrote. Wow.

Anonymous said...

They're noting but a front for the Scientology nuts. Nothing but a bunch of fruitcakes.
The dumb asses (Beaupre and Murphy) should be ashamed for giving the space freaks all this ink.
What a bunch of dum f ucks.

Beam me out of here Scotty!

Anonymous said...

And who says Scrantonians are not eloguent.

Anonymous said...

Why are we going after this guy? Do we so not want the area to grow and succeed that we'll have petty fights like this?! If I were Grieboski, I'd tell him to stay the hell out of Scranton cause we're crazy and ungrateful and ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Marry me 10:09!

You had me at asshat.

Anonymous said...

I want an asshat. Where can I buy one?

Smurf said...

I once nominated Ed Christine for a Nobel Peace Prize. That asshat Aung San Suu Kyi won.

Anonymous said...

You mean Rush Limbaugh didn't win a Nobel?

Anonymous said...

Weren't the Jews going to take over Scranton? Won't they be upset?

Anonymous said...

Write? How about copy and paste from "response templates"? Much more efficient.

Anonymous said...

That's EXACTLY what we should encourage: a fight between the Scientologists and the Jews! Why didn't anyone think of that before?!

Anonymous said...

Stay classy, NEPA

Anonymous said...

I don't think Joseph K. Grieboski expected anything like this conversation after his response.

It's so immature but so great all at the same time.

Especially, because a guy who takes the time to respond to blog criticisms kinda deserves whatever he gets.

Anonymous said...

SCIENTOLOGIST AND HASIDIC JEW CAGE MATCH AT THE CYC! Who cares if the CYC doesn't exist anymore.

Anonymous said...

NEPA Media got seriously red-assed.
Trying to peg the Institute as L. Ron devotees is like calling ACLU Hitler Lovers for representing the Klan in Skokie.
Don't Ames public schools teach critical thinking. Where would this "malign first, research later" technique come from? Certainly not a NEPA newsroom.

Anonymous said...

This is a great story for a real reporter. The guy is a self-absorbed phony in Washington trying to make a killing in Scranton because he can no longer cut it in D.C. He's got an uber Catholic agenda and a history that the papers didnt report. Now he brings it up. Go to it, kids. See if you're really up to the job. But I have my doubts.

Anonymous said...

Great story from a great reporter? Doubtful. It's a mediocre story from a mediocre reporter who does need to put context and balance in her stories. Most of her stories read like a cheerleading practice. She should have done a little homework on the reporting of this one instead of taking everything this guy told her at face value.

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding 8:12. Most of her stories are spent red-assing the Scranton School District for its backward ways and she's often loudly called BS on city officials, like when they said the streets were passable after the Valentine's Day snowstorm last year. Either you've confused this reporter with someone else, or you're just talking out your ass.

Anonymous said...

Is red ass the new asshat?

Anonymous said...

hmm, a red asshat... I'd like to try one on for the cage match at the CYC

Anonymous said...

8:12 should reread 11:13 before responding. But it's rare for an NEPA journo to properly research an actual story, much less an Internet post

Anonymous said...

I bet the majority of the 'ananymous' comments are from the IRPP folks or Griebowski himself. He is a fraud, plain and simple.

David J Mudkips said...

Hey, Joe

You c laim to be unbiased, but how about this juicy document from Scientology's Office of Special Affairs?

That, and the fact that Mike Rinder, former head of OSA, admits hiring you?

You've been shilling for them for a LONG time. That makes you a fraud, a liar, and a cult apologist. You are directly culpable in covering up some of Scientology's hideous human rights abuses.

You're not a peacemaker, you're a self-aggrandising cult shill, nothing more. And the truth is cascading out, even as we speak.

OldProspector said...

This guy has given status to a group whose actions are anything but religious. In any area where Scientology is to be found you will find the scandals and lawsuits to prove it.

OldProspector said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OldProspector said...
This comment has been removed by the author.