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'An assault on animal life’: Scientologists under fire after giant balloon release leaves California town covered in plastic

Ventura is planning to implement a balloon release ban during all events

Danielle Zoellner
New York
@dani__zoellner
Thursday 27 February 2020 18:51
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The Church of Scientology has apologised after it came under fire for releasing hundreds of balloons in a California town, with people criticising the impact the plastic will have on the environment.

Helium balloons were released in Ventura, California, on Saturday in celebration of a new church opening.

But the moment angered officials, according to CNN, who were concerned about the environmental impact.

The main concern is the remnants of the balloons left behind after they pop, which typically wash ashore and are ingested by marine life and other animals.

"This is a community that voraciously defends its natural environment and we will not stand for this type of assault on our environment and animal life," Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere told CNN. "It is completely hypocritical for the church to claim environmental bona fides and then turn around and do a balloon release which does incredible harm to this environment they claim to protect."

The mayor said the church apologised for the balloon release in a council meeting on Monday.

But an official with the church told CNN there was a miscommunication about what was allowed at the grand opening ceremony by the city.

The Church of Scientology submitted a permit to have a grand opening for its new church that would include a balloon release.

"There were misunderstandings on both sides about the City's written approval of a special events permit that allowed the release of biodegradable balloons at the Church's grand opening on Saturday," the Scientology spokesperson said.

Scientologists came under fire in Ventura, California, for releasing hundreds of balloons outdoors. Marine life can ingest plastic from items like balloons and die, which is what happened to one turtle (pictured) 

The Ventura mayor said there was no miscommunication by the city, saying the position on balloon releases was stated when the church first submitted its permit.

The Church of Scientology also said the balloons used were made with a biodegradable material.

"They (the church) released latex balloons, and these are the type of balloons often found in the stomachs of dead animals," Mr LaVere said.

Ventura and its city council is considering a new ordinance detailing environment regulations to prevent miscommunications in the future between other organisations, the mayor told CNN.

This new ordinance would ban all balloon releases, no matter the type, at all future events. Ventura has also recently passed a citywide ban of all Styrofoam products following its ban of single-use plastics and straws.

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