The Church of Scientology apparently wasn't thinking about the environment when it opened a new church in southern California Saturday. Images shared by the church show hundreds of helium balloons being released during the Ventura center's grand opening, KTLA reports. The pictures quickly sparked anger, with groups including the Surfrider Foundation wondering what the church was thinking. Balloons and their remnants are well known for killing marine life and animals when ingested, littering the environment, and even causing power outages if they hit power lines. Ventura's mayor says the church asked for a balloon release in its permit application for the event and was told the city wouldn't allow it, but the church went ahead with it anyway.
"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's mayor tells 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." Scientology officials attended the city council meeting Monday night and apologized, the Ventura County Star reports. "This is not the way we wanted to introduce ourselves to the community," the president of the Ventura chapter said. "We are here to apologize. … We have been doing beach cleanups and starting tomorrow we will be doing daily beach cleanups." (Read more Scientology stories.)