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Long History in Portugal Jorge Martins with Joao Henriques "Diferencial" Newspaper - 3rd April 1996 (*)

Church of Scientology (CoS). A name pratically unknown to the majority of the portuguese. And yet, thousands of people in Lisbon [capital of Portugal], have already been approached by this organization: it is this same Church that has that habit of distributing, near several subway stations, some panflets alleging, quoting Einstein, that we only use "10% of our mental potential". Using this tactic, Scientology makes a first contact with the potential followers and also tries to sell the cult sacred book, written by Hubbard, "Dianetics - The Modern Science of Mental Health". This book has a portuguese edition, by "Europa-America" editors, and in some libraries of our country we can find Church publications.

Riot in the 70's

Scientology was founded in 1954, in the United States, and about a decade later started trying to expand to the Caribbean, Europe and North Africa. Ronald Hubbard bought the Apollo ship and, in the end of the 60's and beginning of the 70's, visited several sea ports of countries going through political or economic crisis, where he expected to find suitable conditions to establish the Church. Portugal was important at that time. In the Church's calendar for 1995 most of the photographs are from ports visited at the beginning of the 70's: Setubal, Lisbon, Porto and Funchal [all ports of portuguese cities; Funchal is the capital of the portuguese island of Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean]. In this calendar is also stated that Hubbard compiled a "historical series for the Maritime Museum of Lisbon" and there is a mention to the "remarkable portrait of Marcello Caetano" [the last leader of our 50 year dictactorship]. On the cover, the Tower of Bethlehem [Torre de Belem - Monument in Lisbon]... William Robertson, Captain of the Apollo at that time [founder of the Free Zone splinter group in 1982], revealed that in 1972 Hubbard rented a movie theatre in Lisbon where all the crew attended the world premiere of the movie "Butterflies are free", from director Milton Katselas (a scientologist). There is also another report, according to which Hubbard had rented a theatre in Portugal, about the same time, for the recording of an album of his private band, the Apollo Stars.

When visiting sea ports (sometimes very frequently), the ship always rose some suspicions about his mysterious activity. But, the scientologists always answered with the same story: they were training executives in management techniques. At the 3rd October 1974, in Funchal, the Apollo Stars were scheduled to appear in a concert. Once more, the boat story sounded false and, in a political reunion of the MRPP [a left-wing political party], the rumour was spread that the boat was from the CIA (after the end of the dictactorship the left-wing parties were fighting against the interference of the United States in internal affairs). An angry crowd decided to attack the ship (with stones, sticks and other objects) and even throwed to the water 2 motorcycles and 2 small cars belonging to the crew. After the fight between scientologists and local people (that, apparently, lasted for more than one hour) the ship had to abandon the port. There are strong indications that Hubbard was aboard the Apollo at that time and this incident was the end of his approaches to the countries of Europe and North Africa.

Route of the Church

Scientology installed permanently in Portugal at the beginning of the 80's, being directed by spanish people at that time. For several years, the CoS has dedicated its time to approach people on the street, inviting them to do a "personality test" and trying to persuade them to enroll in one of its courses. The Church has also used small publicity actions, like newspaper ads our the above mentioned distribution of panflets about Dianetics. The portuguese press has dedicated some attention to the activities of this cult. The weekly newspaper "Tal & Qual" described the saga of Mafalda, who went to take a course in Denmark and ran away, with the portuguese embassy financing her trip back. In 1984, Victor Paulo worked at the Church for 3 months and left, disappointed with what he found there. In an interview to the "Correio da Manha" newspaper, Victor described the methods to "draw money", referred a secret account as destiny of 70% of the money and mentioned some alleged "brainwashing" practices where the victims were sujected to cure sessions, staring for 1 or 2 hours at the eyes of the auditor. Victor Paulo said that, after some sessions like these, people "freaked out" and could be easily convinced to participate in other courses, spending their money or their family's. After abandoning the cult, Victor Paulo alledgely received several anonymous threatening phone calls...

At the beginning, the Church was situated at Chiado [location in Lisbon]. Posteriorly, the scientologists moved to Actor Taborda Street and, at the 9th September 1995, the new facilities were opened, at Conde Redondo Street, in Lisbon, with the presence of the director for the Iberic Peninsula [name for the land occupied by Portugal and Spain], Antonia Navarro (who was arrested in Spain, in 1988, because of a suit yet to go to trial). According to an article of the "Diario de Noticias" newspaper (10/09/95), the CoS now wants to open a local org in Porto [portuguese city also known as Oporto]. At the beginning of the 90's there was also the news of a possible installation of a Narconon clinic in Viseu [another portuguese city, not a big one; - Narconon is the organization of the drug addicts rehabilitation clinics of Scientology].

Conferences at the Technical Superior Institute (IST)

In November 1994, the Scientology rented an auditorium at the IST, through a young assistant of the Mathematics Department (whose name we prefer to omit) that takes Church courses. That assistant convinced several of his freshman students (and also other students, since he asked to speak in other teacher's classes) to attend at one of the events that would take place. In 2 consecutive saturdays, 12th and 19th, two distinct conferences were held, under the suject of "Study Methods". The price, symbolic, was 3000 escudos [about 20 american dollars] and 3 very simple techniques were studied. According to some of the participants, only some common sense techniques were mentioned and some were even disappointed. At the end, the participants were asked to fulfill a questionaire with some personnal data and to give an opinion about the conference they had just attended to. It was that the time when some students discovered that the organization of the event was the responsability of the Church of Scientology. They were also invited to participate in an advanced course, at the Church facilities, that would cost about 15000 escudos [about 100 american dollars]. According to our sources, some students accepted the offer and participated in the advanced course.

Meanwhile, after the second conference, the Student's Association got to know who really was the organizer of the conferences and discovered some irregularities in the renting process of the auditorium (the assistant had rented the space for the Maths Department), later corrected by the Church. Also, some propaganda had been placed in the 'campus' without authorization. Since then, the portuguese Scientology Church never again tried to put up any activities at the IST and the assistant had his case taken care internally in the Maths Department, where he still works.

Violent deaths in Lisbon

Still in 1994, there was a serious event related to Scientology. At the 29th July, Joao Cancela, a 32 year-old enterpriser, showed up with a gun at the Church's Lisbon org, at Actor Tabord Street, and shot several times. Maria do Rosario Almeida, an employee of the Finances State Department and part-time worker at the Church was deadly hit. A second person was also injured before the attacker was stopped by Jose Jesus, another part-time worker and employee of the Transports Company of Lisbon. Joao Cancela was arrested and, according to the "Independente" newspaper, he confessed to the judge his intention to kill and his "intense antipathy to the Church of Scientology doctrine". After the detention, Cancela's phsicological condition soon declined and he was transferred to the Phsychiatric Hospital of Caxias [Prison Hospital], where he committed suicide, hanging himself, at the 16th August.

According to the investigation conducted by the "Independente" the conclusion is that Joao Cancela had, apparently, no previous relation with Scientology, and his motives were unknown. The efforts of our paper did not lead us to collect new facts referring to this case, seeming to confirm the version of the portuguese director of Scientology, that the man suffered from mental disorders. Filomena Pereira, who agreed to discuss some topics with our paper, claimed no knowledge on any obscure activities of Scientology, as well as on the judicial defeats in foreign countries, and denied some accusations of critics towards the Church. As a matter of fact, this director even guarantees to the portuguese members of Scientology that the Church never lost a single court case...


[ (*)Academic newspaper of the most prestiged engineering school in Portugal. The paper is generalist, totally free, edited by the Student's Association of the Technical Superior Institute (IST), in Lisbon. The paper comes out in 6000 copies and there is a version for the WWW (only in portuguese, at the moment) at: ]

[ This is the second of 3 articles about the Church of Scientology. The story was covered because of the conferences that were held in our Institute. Another article is about the war in the Internet and the last one is about the Church's doctrine and beliefs, the critics and the situation worldwide. ]

[ Copyright 1996, by "Diferencial" Newspaper. Permission for distributing, archiving, copying, printing, etc, is granted as long as the article is kept is this original from (including all information in square brackets) and is not used for commercial purposes. ]