After the Fraternity of Saint-Pius X (see 5th arrondissement), here is the main Paris hideout of another group of adorable individuals: the Scientologists. The 17th arrondissement is actually their favourite stamping ground in the French capital - to such an extent that they have tried, with limited success, to buy other properties in the area. Unfortunately for them, local residents would prefer different neighbours and have organised street protests to block attempts by the Scientologists to extend their empire. At the end of 2001, several dozen inhabitants of the area organised a protest outside the Scientologists' new centre on rue des Moines, just around the corner from rue Legrendre in the Batignolles area of the 17th arrondissement.
For the moment, the sect's main front office remains here at 69, rue Legrendre, also known as the "Celebrity Center" because of the music and acting courses it runs. At least patrons of the Celebrity Center know that they are entering a place run by Scientologists and hence run the risk of being brainwashed and fleeced of every last penny they earn. Other Scientologist outlets in the Batignolles area (including a travel agency, a training institute and a publishing house) do not openly fly the flag, prefering to advance their cause by surreptitious means. Another favourite method of recruitment is through "stress tests" distributed on the street. You fill in the form, then send it to rue Legrendre for an "expert" interpretation of the results and, hey presto, you are invited onto the Scientology recruitment programme.
A "bizarre climate" reigns in the Batignolles area, according to some. Every opening of a new retail outlet is viewed with suspicion by local residents, and certain shops are avoided for fear they are run by the sect. The following story is told by a local retailer: "[One day] a person...came in and asked me if she could stick up a poster in my shop window announcing an upcoming anti-sect protest in the district. I said yes. The next day, another person came by saying that she belonged to an anti-drug association. She wanted me to take down the poster put up the previous day and replace it with another condemning the anti-sect protest. She claimed that the organisers of the protest themselves belonged to an ultra-Catholic sect. She then said that there were 1,000 Scientologists in the district and that they were all potential customers. I just took down the two posters."
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