California Rep. Karen Bass, who has emerged as a leading contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate, praised the Church of Scientology during a 2010 ribbon-cutting ceremony for one of the controversial group’s facilities in Los Angeles.
Bass, 66, served in the California General Assembly when she spoke at the event, held on April 24, 2010.
“This day and this new Church of Scientology is an exciting moment because I know your goal and your commitment is truly to make a difference,” Bass told the 6,000 attendees at the ceremony, which was led by Scientology president David Miscavige.
“The Church of Scientology I know has made a difference, because your creed is a universal creed and one that speaks to all people everywhere,” continued Bass, who went on to praise Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
“The words are exciting of your founder, L. Ron Hubbard, in The Creed of the Church of Scientology: that all people of whatever race, color or creed, are created with equal rights,” she said.
“It’s a remarkable credit to your church that this is part of your creed,” Bass said.
Other speakers at the event included Lee Baca, who served as sheriff of Los Angeles County through 2014. Baca pleaded guilty in 2016 to lying to the FBI about inmate abuse at county jails during his tenure. Paul Koretz, a Los Angeles city councilman also spoke at the event.
Bass has praised the church as a U.S. congresswoman as well. In November 2011, she submitted a letter read at the opening of a Scientology center in South Los Angeles. According to reports of the event, Bass praised the church for its “many humanitarian initiatives and social betterment programs for the benefit of South Los Angeles.”
While scrutiny of Scientology has increased in recent years, it was under consistent criticism at the time Bass praised the organization. Former Scientologists have said that church operates as a cult, and that members face pressure to disassociate themselves from non-Scientologists.
The church’s leadership has long been known for dealing aggressively with its critics.
One infamous Scientology document is a memo from 1966 in which L. Ron Hubbard suggested investigating critics or feeding blackmail material on them to the media.
“Start investigating them promptly for FELONIES or worse,” Hubbard wrote in the memo. He also suggested that the church respond to its attackers by “feeding lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.”
The church and Miscavige have come under additional scrutiny in recent years amid allegations of rampant sexual abuse within the organization.
The church settled a lawsuit in July 2018 with a woman who claimed she was forced to have an abortion and prevented from leaving the church.
Last year, four women who accused actor and Scientologist Danny Masterson of raping them sued the church, its president, Miscavige, and Masterson. The Huffington Post reported that the women accused the church and Masterson of stalking them and invading their privacy in order to keep them from coming forward about the rape allegations.
Bass, who is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is considered one of three or four women on Biden’s list of potential vice presidential nominees.
According to CNN, her star has risen due to an intense lobbying campaign on her behalf by California Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Biden has committed to choosing a woman as his running mate. He has also faced growing pressure to choose a woman of color, due in large part to the protests that have erupted in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May.
Other leading contenders to be on the Biden ticket are California Sen. Kamala Harris and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Bass’s office was reached for comment but did not immediately offer a response.