United Kingdom

Church of Scientology apologizes for releasing hundreds of balloons at California event

The Church of Scientology was forced to apologize after releasing hundreds of balloons at the opening of a new school. 

The release of the helium balloons, which can damage the environment and affect marine life, infuriated local officials on Saturday. 

The city Council of Ventura, which lies some 68 miles northwest of Los Angeles, say the Church was not granted a permit. 

Church representatives said there had been 'misunderstandings on both sides about the City's written approval of a special events permit.' 

The Church of Scientology was forced to apologize after releasing hundreds of balloons at the opening of a new school

Church representatives said there had been 'misunderstandings on both sides about the City's written approval of a special events permit'

They reportedly apologized to city officials, who fear environmental damage caused by the balloons, during a council meeting on Monday.  

According to Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere, The Church of Scientology applied for a permit with the city, which included asking for permission to release the balloons. 

'The city was very clear with them that they would not approve the balloon release,' LaVere told CNN. 

'However, the final permit submitted by the church included language which said 'balloon/confetti release.'

According to the Mayor, a junior member of staff signed off the permit thinking the Church would listen to the instruction on not to release the balloons. 'The church will say they had a permit, but the truth is they knew the city did not want any balloons being released and did not approve the release,' he said.

A Church of Scientology Building in Los Angeles (File image). Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw said: '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.'

He added: '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.' 

Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw told CNN: '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.' 

To avoid future confusion, the Ventura city Council is now considering an umbrella ban on the release of any type of balloon. 

Environmental organizations warn that released helium balloons return to earth as litter and can be swallowed by animals or end up in seas and rivers, where they become a risk to marine life. 

Even balloons marked as biodegradable can take several years to decompose.