Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Year in Review: The Way to Happiness Spreads Hope

The Nashville chapter of The Way to Happiness Foundation had a whirlwind of a year, from distributing booklets to an entire community to reaching out to Native Americans, its message went far and wide.

The Way to Happiness, a book by L. Ron Hubbard, is comprised of 21 precepts, each one predicated on the fact that one’s survival depends on the survival of others—and that without the survival of others, neither joy nor happiness are attainable. In the two decades since it was authored, some 80 million copies of the book passed hand to hand, thus inspiring the international movement which has found its way to Nashville, TN.

The Nashville team decided to distribute copies of the book to neighboring communities.  “It’s our responsibility to pass it along,” says program coordinator, Rev. Brian Fesler. “This book can uplift whole societies, reduce crime and encourage cooperation.”

Throughout 2013 the group volunteered in local health fairs, festivals and community gatherings.

In April, they participated in the Earth Day celebration where they distributed over 1,000 copies of the book. “There is an entire chapter about safeguarding and improving the environment around one, and that is very timely for this world today,” says Fesler.

To ring in the end of the school year, Volunteers participated in a local festival where they distributed copies of the book to youth.

Over the summer, volunteers joined up with the Edgehill Youth Council to distribute copies of the booklet to an entire neighborhood: 750 booklets went to the residents. “When copies of the booklet go out in bulk like this in an area, we have noticed a reduction in crime and immorality. That’s why it’s so important to spread it around,” says Fesler.  

The team in Nashville has plans to reach out to the rest of the counties in Tennessee, spreading this positive messageThe book is secular, and its only discussion of religion is the advice to respect the religious beliefs of others. 

For more information, visit

Nashville Church of Scientology Celebrates the Holiday Season

How do Scientologists celebrate the holidays?  You might be surprised.

Because the Scientology religion is practiced in 165 countries and territories, Scientologists come from a wide variety of faiths and cultural traditions. But no matter their background, they, like most people, gather with loved ones to enjoy the warmth of friends and family and celebrate the joy of the season.

Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard honored the great religious leaders of the past for the wisdom they brought to the world, writing that Scientology shares “the goals set for Man by Christ, which are wisdom, good health and immortality.” It is in this spirit that Scientologists celebrate the holiday season, whether they observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other religious or cultural tradition.

Pastor of the Nashville Church, Rev. Brian Fesler, says, “our church captures the spirit of the holidays. We bring people together to celebrate and plan the year ahead, and everyone is welcome here throughout the season.”

The Church annually celebrates New Year’s Eve with a large-scale event that all parishioners are invited to attend. It is at this event that the church reviews the accomplishments for the year and sets the course for the year to come.

For more information about Scientology, visit

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

2013 Year in Review – Drug-Free South Tackling Drug Problem in Tennessee

A recent study of 7th-12th-grade students revealed 10 percent of them abused over-the-counter drugs typically found in the home medicine cabinet. The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that prescription drug abuse is the country’s fastest-growing drug problem. Drugs are finding their way into the nation’s classrooms and schoolyards.

For a quarter of a century, Scientologists around the world have been working with youth, educators, parents, religious and community leaders and law enforcement officers to provide drug education to children and teens. The result is a series of drug education resources that work—a multimedia program that speaks to the youth of today, informing them of the truth about drugs and empowering them to make their own decisions to live drug-free.

The cornerstone of the program is a series of booklets that provide the facts about the most commonly abused drugs: marijuana, alcohol, Ecstasy, cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal meth, inhalants, heroin, LSD, prescription drugs, painkillers, and Ritalin.

Next is a series of 16 award-winning “They Said, They Lied” public service announcements. They are contemporary, high-impact communications aimed directly at youth.

Finally, the core of the Truth About Drugs educational program is a 100-minute documentary, The Truth About Drugs: Real People, Real Stories. The film is a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred presentation told by former users who themselves survived life-shattering addiction.

Parents and teachers can order Truth About Drugs booklets and DVDs free of charge from the website or download the free Truth About Drugs Education Application onto their iPads or iPhones.

The Tennessee Chapter of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, which uses The Truth About Drugs materials, began the year with a bang, visiting four counties before Spring. Each visit, the chapter delivers seminars to students on the Truth About Drugs program which includes the documentary film and educational booklets. By the end of the year, volunteers for the program had traveled nearly 5,000 miles, educating students along the way.

To date, the Tennessee chapter has visited 30 counties, delivered over 230 seminars on the program, and distributed more than 50,000 booklets to those in need.

For more information on the Truth About Drugs program, or to order materials, visit

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Year in Review – Inspiring a Movement for Human Rights in Tennessee

In 2013, human rights organizations joined together to inspire and educate about human rights in Tennessee.

While it is true that in 2012 the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations released a report which showed Davidson, Shelby, Knox and Coffee Counties among the highest ranked in regard to the number of human trafficking victims, with about 4,000 victims statewide, Tennessee has also made advances for the state of human rights.

This was the 50th anniversary of the Metro Nashville government as well as state and local agencies concerned with human rights. With that came many celebrations and events to broaden awareness and make human rights more known.

Recognizing the global need for human rights education, Tennessee human rights agencies decided to end the year with an event recognizing those leaders who’ve brought us through tough times and those who are shining a bright light into the future.

The Church of Scientology joined with local and state government as well as non-profit organizations spanning the state to plan the Tennessee Celebration of International Human Rights Day, which occurs every year on December 10th.  The celebration was held in the Howard School Building, a government facility in Nashville, Tennessee.

Three lifetime advocates received awards for their work, including the Rev. James "Tex" Thomas, pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church; Elliot Ozment, the founder and managing attorney at Ozment Law; and Carrie Gentry, who was active during the civil rights movement in Nashville.

“Rising Advocate” awards were given to individuals showing great promise in the field of human rights.  This year, recipients included Gatluak Thach with the Nashville International Center for Empowerment and Stephanie Teatro with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Rev. Brian Fesler who chaired the event planning committee said, “Our goal is to inspire more people to fight for human rights. We want people to know they, too, can achieve great things. That is what these awards represent.”

For more information, visit

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Human Rights Still Have Far to Go

Today, Tennessee celebrates International Human Rights Day. On this day 65 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Assembly proclaimed its principles as the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations.” It represents the universal recognition that basic rights and fundamental freedoms are inherent to all human beings, inalienable and equally applicable to everyone, and that every one of us is born free and equal in dignity and rights. These rights are internationally recognized and accepted norms and values which promote dignity, fairness and opportunity for all people in communities around the world.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Through this office, the potential of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has become more focused. The office has revitalized the human rights movement and generated progress in implementing human rights principles into common law.

Progress has been made in the advancement of rights for women, minorities and people with disabilities, the development of international law which institutes accountability for human rights abuses, human trafficking, torture and modern slavery, emerging rights (rights of older people, right to the truth, right to a clean environment, right to clean water and sanitation and the right to food) and a greater understanding of individual and universal human rights.

Many challenges lie ahead in the struggle to promote and enhance the dignity, freedom and rights of all human beings. As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1963, we must have a “fierce urgency of now” to continue progress and confront challenges.

In Nashville, we commemorate this day to reflect on our history and work with others to create a view to make our city, our state and our nation better. We will recognize three individuals for Human Rights Lifetime Achievement: the Rev. James “Tex” Thomas, pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church; Elliott Ozment, the founder and managing attorney at Ozment Law; and Carrie Gentry. Also, two individuals as Rising Advocate — Gatluak Thach with the Nashville International Center for Empowerment and Stephanie Teatro with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

A panel that includes Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College; Tasha French Lemley, executive director of The Contributor; and Pat Shea, executive director of the YWCA of Middle Tennessee, will speak on education, homelessness and domestic violence. It will be moderated by Oscar Miller, chairman of the Tennessee State University sociology department.

The committee organizing the event for Human Rights Day includes the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Metro Human Relations Commission, Church of Scientology, United Nations Association and Amnesty International.

The Tennessee Celebration of International Human Rights Day will take place at the Sonny West Conference Center on the Howard School Campus and is free and open to the public. Networking begins at 4 p.m., and the program starts at 4:30. For more information or to become involved with this year’s celebration, visit

Beverly Watts is the executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Artlightenment 2013 Art and Film Festival Awards Announced

Artlightenment 2013, the art show and film festival which showcased over 70 visual artists, painters, sculptors and filmmakers officially hit its stride this year as the five-year-old festival enjoyed record attendance.

Artlightenment is an annual event that was created by Robyn Morshead in 2009. It is held at the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre Nashville in the old Fall School building. Rev. Brian Fesler, Pastor of the Nashville Church says, “It is part of our mission to assist the artists in society, as they are the ones who uplift the culture.  So this art show ties right in with our purpose.” 

This year, the festival ran from November 14-16. Artlightenment producer, Robyn Morshead said, “In particular, the students from MTSU’s Film and Video Department captured the spirit of Artlightenment in their films.” Overall, Morshead was pleased with this year’s festival, which she said was a testament to the festival’s objective of “bringing a new renaissance in filmmaking and visual art to Nashville.”

Awards for this year’s films and visual art were presented on Saturday evening.  It was met by an enthusiastic and large crowd, as Artlightenment’s festivities wound to a close. The highlight of this year’s Artlightenment Festival was celebrity photographer, Raeanne Rubenstein who was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her incomparable body of work.

The Artlightenment Best Film Award went to Jaclyn Edmondson with MTSU for her film “Sbocciare.”  Winner of the Overall Competition for Best Art went to Jennie Schut. The full list of awards can be found online at