Scientologists cruise in for exhibition

Church Of Scientology officials are hoping Hollywood star Tom Cruise's popularity in Taranaki will ignite interest in his religion.

The Auckland-based church will be holding a two-day exhibition at New Plymouth's Grand Central Hotel this weekend in an effort to to enlighten people on the philosophies of the religion.

Church director Mike Ferris, of Auckland, said publicity surrounding Cruise's religious beliefs since arriving in New Zealand had undoubtedly helped raise the church's profile in the country.

Cruise openly declared he became a convert to the Church of Scientology after he claimed it helped him overcome his dyslexia.

"There has been a lot of interest in Taranaki about the church since Tom Cruise has been down there. People have been asking what it's all about, so we're coming down to show them," Mr Ferris said.

The church runs literacy programmes in Auckland for at-risk youth. A recent anti-drugs programme organised by the church received a $1500 donation from Cruise.

Mr Ferris said Cruise would not be attending the two-day exhibition.

"I believe from what we have been told he is leaving on Friday."

Meanwhile, Cruise has made a donation to the Rescue Helicopter Trust, but it is keeping quiet about the amount.

Trust manager Noel Watson confirmed yesterday that a cheque had arrived from Cruise after the trust had written to The Last Samurai production asking for a donation.

"We're not saying how much it was. It will be enough to purchase equipment we wanted for the helicopter," Mr Watson said.

The money would be used to buy a locater beacon.

Prices quoted to The Daily News for locater beacons ranged from several hundred dollars up to $2000.

Mr Watson said an upgraded rescue helicopter was due in Taranaki in six weeks time. It was currently being used on The Last Samurai production and would be taken away and refitted before arriving back in Taranaki in June.