Chick Corea Performs For Scientology Protest
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Some 2,000 people gathered in a park for a free concert by jazz pianist Chick Corea as members of the Church of Scientology continued a protest over a jury’s verdict against their church.
Corea, speaking at a rally earlier Monday, said he had cut short a concert tour in Japan, the first such cancellation in his 20 years as a musician, so he could ″support my group here.″
″I, as a musician ... really value the right to speak freely and create freely and this is the issue that is under attack right now,″ Corea added.
Thousands of Scientologists from the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico have come to Portland since a jury Friday returned a $39 million judgment in a fraud suit against the church and its reclusive founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The protests have included rallies and marches in downtown Portland.
Actor John Travolta also flew in Monday to lend his support.
Police Sgt. Jay Decker estimated ″a few thousand″ church members participated in a march Monday. ″There will be more″ as the weeklong series of rallies and concerts progresses, he predicted.
The Scientologists set up a base of operations in a park across from the courthouse where jurors awarded the money to Julie Christofferson Titchbourne. The 27-year-old Portland woman maintained the church fraudulently claimed it could improve her eyesight, intelligence and creativity.
Church members contend the judgment is an affront to their First Amendment rights of freedom of religion. They have 10 days to appeal the verdict.
At a news conference Monday, Ms. Titchbourne’s attorney, Garry McMurry, denied that the case had anything to do with religion.
The instructions to the jury, which asked each juror to decide whether services were offered to Ms. Titchbourne ″on a wholly non-religious basis,″ were agreed upon by both sides, he said.
Jurors unanimously answered yes to that question, ″so the argument that this was an attack on religion doesn’t really fly,″ McMurry said.
He said he believed the judgment would be signed by Multnomah County Circuit Judge Donald Londer. The judge is on vacation until May 28.
Ms. Titchbourne said she planned to use the money to set up a foundation to help people who have left Scientology and other such organizations.
″I joined up to be a part of a scientific organization,″ she said, adding she did not think Scientology was a religion during her nine-month membership in 1975 and 1976.
The purpose of the rallies was to ″send the message out that attacks on religion have to stop,″ said the Rev. Ken Hoden, president of the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles.
Hoden said about 3,000 Scientologists had arrived in Portland by Monday. ″We’re wondering where we’ll start putting people up to sleep,″ he said, adding that most were staying at local Scientologists’ homes or hotels.
Hoden, who wore a clerical collar, said Portland residents ″don’t seem to care″ about the rally, but that a contingent of Scientology security guards armed with walkie-talkies was on hand to ″keep trouble from happening.″
Decker said that aside from parking problems and a few arguments between Scientologists and bystanders, police had received no trouble reports.