Scientologists admit to altering New Year photos

Church of Scientology altered photos of a millennium rally to make it appear that more followers were present

The controversial Church of Scientology has been accused of fraud after it was shown to have posted computer-manipulated images of its New Year celebrations to its Web site, according to reports.

French newspaper Liberation reported Friday that an ex-member of the sect who now campaigns against its activities has found clear-cut evidence that photographs of thousands of revellers at a Scientology celebration in Los Angeles were altered by computers in a similar way to crowd scenes in many Hollywood movies.

The Church of Scientology posted press photographs on its Web site showing a 28 December rally of 14,000 followers in the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Arnaldo Lerma of Virginia posted images to his Web site illustrating that many small images were repeated and altered to give the impression of a larger crowd at the millennium celebrations.

The original pictures were swiftly removed from the Scientology Web site soon after Lerma revealed his evidence and announced the fraud in anti-Scientology newsgroups.

Scientology representative Karin Pouw told Liberation that the pictures were manipulated for entirely aesthetic reasons as many of the crowd had left their seats to take part in a procession. Pouw claimed that the 14,000 attendance figure was accurate.

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