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Voters living in the 90029 zip code area were first required to pass several Scientology members handing out promotional leaflets at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.
They then walked down a long pathway to the entrance of the building at 4810 Sunset, one voter tells The Hollywood Reporter, where they were instructed by a church member to descend a set of stairs.
Along they way, voters were made to pass several framed posters. One beckoned to “attend a Scientology Sunday service.” Another featured the silhouetted image of a man staring out at a sunlit path, promising that attendees of a “Happiness Rundown” would “flourish and prosper and live a happier life.”
The polling stations were manned by several volunteers who did not appear to be associated with the church, the voter told THR.
Two posters that greeted L.A. voters at Scientology headquarters.
“The Church of Scientology of Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard is a polling station today,” says Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw. “That church has been doing this off and on since the mid-2000s and plans to continue. This is one of the many services that they are happy to provide to the community.”
Scientology owns more historic buildings in Hollywood than any other entity, a vast real-estate stronghold that includes seven landmark properties worth about $300 million.
Critics of Scientology have claimed for years that it is a dangerous cult, but the church dismisses the claims and counters that it is a legitimate religion. The United States government agrees, with the Internal Revenue Service identifying Scientology as a tax-exempt religion since 1993.
Churches have long served as polling stations in United States elections — in some areas of the country, as many as 50 percent of polling stations are houses of worship.
While the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits government from promoting a specific religious belief or compelling any citizen to enter a house of worship, courts generally uphold the use of churches as polling places so long as a reasonable alternative is provided, such as mail-in voting.
A midterm election ballot directs voters in the Hollywood area to the Church of Scientology.
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