Chapter 6

Scientologists and the Law I

The 'church' of scientology has been both resourceful and persistent in 'having the law' on its opponents. Those who attacked scientology, as Ron has said (see page 43), must be 'made to realise that it was the biggest mistake they ever made'; and the law offers numerous opportunities for such instruction. Mr Peter Hordern, MP, of course spoke rhetorically when he said in the House of Commons on 6 March 1967 that 'every newspaper which so much as mentions Scientology is served with a writ for libel'. (After all, some papers have said that scientology ought to be left alone.) But legal actions which involve the discussion, or even the bare mention, of way-out themes like mysticism, reincarnation, or home-made psychology, or of anything that remotely suggests religious persecution, are always good press copy; and they can be a reasonably cheap form of publicity for any kind of campaign prepared to risk money on a big scale.

Before looking briefly at some of scientology's brushes with the law of England, it may be interesting to consider its legal position in England as a movement of 'alien' origin and of unorthodox doctrine.

It was the chance that scientology was of alien (i.e. American) origin, and its students predominantly of American nationality, which enabled the British Government to curtail its activities in 1968. Mr Kenneth Robinson, as Minister of Health, though disturbed by what he regarded as scientology's threat to mental health, had no powers under which he himself could proscribe it. But the Home Secretary at that time had absolute and unchallengeable power under the Aliens Order of 1953 to prohibit the landing in this country of any alien (as distinct from a British citizen) coming from abroad; and he had equally unchallengeable power to deport an alien whose presence in this country he considered was not 'conducive to the public good'. Accordingly it was the Home Secretary, and not the Minister of Health, who should have been the target for the scientologists' wrath; but against whomsoever it was turned, that wrath could find no legal way of appeasement. There was, as the law then stood, no possibility of an appeal against the refusal to admit an immigrant. On 14 August 1968, more than 800 scientologists from abroad who had booked passages and accommodation for a three-day conference at Croydon were refused admission. On 15 October 1968, two foreign scientologists tried to persuade the High Court, on behalf of 100 others, that the Home Secretary had gone beyond his powers in forbidding their entry. And as all such applicants have done in the past, they found the terms of the Aliens Order invincible. They pleaded that the ban had resulted in serious financial loss to the movement and had 'tarnished the names of all concerned'. It was of no avail.

The law of blasphemy, which is dead but refuses to lie down, can today be disregarded. But at any period in history the mere claim to be a 'church' and to have spiritual insight of a special nature would have fallen outside its definition. Scientologists have never, in this country at least, 'denied the existence of God or providence', or 'contumeliously reproached Jesus Christ or vilified or brought into disbelief or contempt or ridicule Christianity in general or any doctrine of the Christian religion, or the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer' [1]. The 'Services' that take place in the 'chapel' at Saint Hill Manor, where a white-robed choir sings 'scientology hymns' and a speaker delivers an address on 'some aspect of human rights and freedom', are not blasphemous rites. The congregation do not appear to see themselves as worshippers or communicants, but even if they did they would not (I think) claim to be worshipping Ron or communicating with spirits. In the chapel, christenings and weddings are solemnised, but christenings and weddings take place in some odder places and they offend no law. Unless they are followed by an orthodox ceremony in a church (or a registry office) they are of no legal effect, but that does not make them unlawful in themselves. The law of blasphemy is unlikely to be invoked against scientology, which now makes copious references to God in its new forms of evangelism.

It is true that the English courts have declined to follow the example of America's in recognising scientology as a 'church'; its chapels are not 'places of worship' within the meaning of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. In 1969 an application was made by Mr Michael Segerdal, 'a minister of the Church of Scientology of California', to the Registrar-General for a certificate that the chapel at Saint Hill Manor was 'a place of meeting for religious worship'. The application was supported, as the Act required, by the signatures of twenty people. If the 'chapel' was qualified for such registration, it would acquire certain taxation and other advantages (among the 'others' being the fact that anyone making a disturbance during one of its services would be guilty of a criminal offence). In support of the idea that it was a church, Mr Segerdal supplied copies of two scientology pamphlets for the Registrar-General to read. One of them was called Ceremonies of the Founding Church of Scientology: the other was Scientology and the Bible - and this one contained the words 'Scientology is a religion'. One of the requirements that qualifies a place for registration is that prayers take place during 'services'. The Registrar-General could find no reference to prayers in these pamphlets. The service was to be 'conducted with dignity' (and it might be thought to be a little odd if it were directed to be conducted otherwise), but it did not have to be 'solemn and reverent'. The scientology creed did not - at least at that time - have to be read during the service. Scientology and the Bible suggested that scientology was open to people of all religious beliefs and was an organisation serving as a meeting point through which people of all beliefs might 'better appreciate their spiritual character'.

The Registrar-General decided this was not a 'place of meeting for religious worship' and refused it registration. The scientologists promptly secured the services of Mr Quintin Hogg, QC, and on 14 November 1969 applied to the High Court (Queen's Bench Division) for a writ of mandamus ordering the Registrar General to effect the registration. Mr Segerdal produced some further evidence about the services in the chapel. 'He averred that a choir sang at the services', said Mr Justice Ashworth, 'but did not state what they sang; and he said that the two creeds of the church were the only prayers in general use - read by the Chaplain aloud or by the congregation silently; and after a sermon on some phase of scientology there was a moment's silence for contemplation or prayers. He also mentioned other religious services at the chapel, christening or naming ceremonies, funeral and wedding ceremonies (after marriage at a register office). With the Lord Chief Justice and Mr Justice Cantley, Mr Justice Ashworth considered all this. Then he delivered the Court's judgment that the Registrar-General, who was bound to enquire whether the place in question was indeed a place of meeting for religious worship, was exercising a quasi-judicial as well as a ministerial function, and that accordingly his decision was open to review by their Lordship's Court if challenged; the burden of proof being on the challenger. 'In the present case, as there is nothing in the description of "church service" (in the book relating to ceremonies) to indicate that it is a place of religious worship, and as the additional evidence of Mr Segerdal in conflict with the information before the Registrar-General should not be accepted, the latter was fully justified in refusing to register. I appreciate', his Lordship went on, 'that forms of religious worship vary enormously, and that worship may take place without any set form of liturgy. But when a set form of service is prescribed, as in the booklet, one would at least expect that there would be some opportunity provided for worship, in the form either of spoken vows or silent meditation. I can find none.'

Against this decision the scientologists appealed, and on 6 July 1970 in the Court of Appeal Mr Peter Pain, QC, presented their case. It failed. Lord Denning, after an interesting and brief survey of the history of 'religious worship' for the purposes of registration, said that on the evidence and the creed of the Church of scientology he thought it was 'more a philosophy of the existence of man or life than a religion. That might be said of Buddhism,' he conceded. 'So be it. But the essential is the nature of the worship. Religious worship means reverence, veneration of God or of a supreme being. I do not find that in the creed of the Church of scientology. ... Adherents believe that man's spirit is everlasting and goes from one human frame to another; but it is the spirit of man and not of God. ... I find nothing in the nature of worship here.' Lord Justice Winn agreed, and said it seemed to him that the scientologists were 'concerned far more with the education and development of Thetans than they were with God in any shape or form'. They did not humble themselves, he said, in reverence or recognition of the dominant power and control of any entity or being outside their own bodies and life. And Lord Justice Buckley, also agreeing, said that what took place in the chapel was a ceremony of instruction in the tenets of scientology.

Leave to appeal the House of Lords was refused. But the scientologists could, one supposes, set about reorganising their chapel services on lines now seen to be acceptable to the Judges' sense of what is religious and prayerful; and then go again to the Registrar-General with their twenty signatures.

Among the first of the writs for defamation (both libel and slander) issued by the scientologists as they felt the 'campaign' against them to be developing, was one served on the NAMH and its quarterly journal Mental Health on 6th February 1967, for reporting scientology's movements and the statements made about it in the House of Commons by the Minister of Health, Mr Kenneth Robinson. The Association continued to report the activities of the scientologists, and in January 1968 it received a further letter from the latter's solicitors filling in a few details about what the NAMH had been doing. It now found itself accused of:

  1. Advocating brutal and savage treatment of the insane.
  2. Seeking to discredit the rights of others to approach the problem and to 'discover an unsavoury condition of wilful injury and murder for profit, advocated and conducted by the defendants for their own gain'.
  3. Insinuating one of its officers, Kenneth Robinson, into the Government.
Then came the writs served on the East Grinstead Urban District Council - which had really set things off by urging the Minister of Health into action. There were also slander writs on a teacher at a local convent school, on the Chairman of the Urban District Council's Health and Housing Committee, on a farmer whose land adjoined Saint Hill Manor, and who had spoken disapprovingly of his neighbours, and on about thirty-eight people who had written nasty things concerning scientology in the public prints.

The East Grinstead writs were served on the eve of the big Croydon scientology conference, which so many intending foreign visitors had been so expensively unable to attend. According to the Daily Telegraph (19 August 1968) roughly 600 scientologists went to this, and mixing with them were about twenty idly inquisitive members of the public and two professionally inquisitive members of the Special Branch. The occasion is mentioned here because it led to the only statement, so far as I know, from a scientologist spokesman as to the size of the movement in Britain at that time. Mr David Gaiman told a Daily Telegraph man that their British membership was then 150,000 and that 'despite the Home Office ban' (by which he may well have meant because of it) they hoped to reach 300,000 by the middle of 1970.

In England alone [Mr Gaiman said] we take £64,000 a week, excluding the sale of books. Our world-wide turnover runs into millions. Unless we are blocked by the Government we plan to open three offices in the Midlands, one in Southampton and another in the West Country. Our London offices have had to be extended. Either we go into hiding or we push ahead. We have chosen to fight.

And the relevance of this to the libel situation is that the bigger they grow the more they can afford the litigation and the less vulnerable they are to defamation. The NAMH had continued to report all these activities in Mental Health, and on 30 October 1968 they received a further writ for doing so. (It was very soon after this that the scientologists stopped attacking the NAMH and turned their energies to the 'Campaign Against Psychiatric Atrocities' and the general vilification of the British mental health movements.)

Two months later they decided to withdraw the thirty-six libel writs against British newspapers. 'This,' they said in a press statement on 25 November 1968, 'is in celebration of the fact that we now know who is behind the attacks on scientology in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Britain.' It was an 'international group' which had recently moved its headquarters to the United Kingdom; and documents about this defamatory lot had been sent to the Attorney-General, the Home Office, and the Attorney-General's equivalent in other countries, where legal actions would begin soon. It was a privately constituted international group (Mr Gaiman told The Guardian on 26 November 1968), with possibly some sort of quasi-official status, which spent a great deal of its activities on money-raising; and it was 'against any organisations which are effective and unashamedly insist on the spiritual nature of the individual'. What could it be?

On 6 August 1968 the scientologists were ordered by Mr Justice Fisher in the High Court to pay the costs of three national newspapers against whom they had issued writs for libel. They were the News of the World, the Sunday Express, and the Sunday Mirror. The scientologists had been trying to obtain interlocutory injunctions against these papers, to restrain them from publishing the alleged libels again, pending the trial of an action for defamation. Having brought the newspapers to court on two separate days, their Counsel intimated on the second day that, on the evidence he had to offer, he was no longer prepared to ask for the injunctions; and the Judge, dismissing the applications accordingly, ordered that the trial of the full case was not to come on until the newspapers' costs were paid.

But on 9 August 1968 the scientologists found the law on their side. They wanted to build an extension to a mock-Norman castle in the grounds of Saint Hill Manor, because they needed lecture rooms, 'processing' rooms and studies; and they described this purpose as an 'educational' one. The East Grinstead Urban District Council nevertheless refused them planning permission, basing its refusal on 'agricultural and traffic grounds'; and they appealed to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The Minister appointed an Inspector to conduct an enquiry, and public hearings began at East Grinstead on 15 July 1968.

The Town and Country Planning Acts have had the not unexpected effect of giving statutory force to the strongest feelings of unneighbourliness; and many a socially beneficent project has come to grief because its proposed use of premises was different in some small way from what went on in the premises before. Some of the people living near Saint Hill Manor did not feel neighbourly towards scientologists, and a succession of witnesses came before the Ministry of Housing Inspector to tell him why.

They fastened on the scientologists' claim that Saint Hill Manor's purpose was 'educational'; and one Counsel, representing several of them, called the Inspector's attention to one of Ron Hubbard's pamphlets called Certainty. He wanted the Inspector to consider just how educational it was to say this kind of thing:

We are not a law-enforcement agency, but we will become interested in the crimes of people who seek to stop us. If you oppose scientology, we promptly look up - and will find and expose - your crimes. If you leave us alone we will leave you alone. ... Those who try to make life hard for us are at once at risk. ... And we have this technical fact - those who oppose us have crimes to hide. It is perhaps merely lucky that this is true; but it is true. And we handle opposition well only when we use it.

A planning consultant who appeared for the scientologists objected to this being read out. It was irrelevant, he said. But it was adjudged to be relevant, and the anti-scientologists' lawyer, having read it out, said he could not conceive any document which had so little educational value - 'it might be regarded as an incitement to blackmail'.

The scientologists' man retorted that they were not enquiring into the 'Church' of scientology. 'Only such matters as are relevant to planning should be brought into the arena. Everything else must be rejected. I maintain that the College at the Manor has an educational background, recognised by the local authority and their agents. The Council has already approved a number of planning extensions in these 42-acre grounds. The Minister will have to make his decision against the background of planning requirements alone. ... There is no substance in the argument that the activities of the manor are commercial rather than educational - there have been no complaints from the planning authority about what has been going on there.' (And indeed the Inspector's report was to say, in due course, that the 'nuisance' had been minimal, and that the scientologists had 'shown their willingness to meet reasonable complaints'.)

Mrs Jane Kember was called as a scientology witness - she was a 'deputy guardian of the Church of scientology'. (She figures in photographs of big scientology rallies wearing a flowing gown and a massive chain and pendant, and standing on a floodlit podium with her hands folded like Aimée Semple Macpherson.) She told the Inspector that her job was to 'see that the policies of the organisation were adhered to by members'. She said that 234 students went to Saint Hill Manor learning scientology, and the total number of staff on the payroll was 140.

'Are the students neurotic, or unable to adapt themselves to life, or immature?' she was asked by scientology's own representative. The usual answer, in relation to almost any college or university in the world, would have to be 'Yes, a lot of them are.'

But the scientology students were not, she said; 'Our policy specifically forbids psychological or psychiatric treatment,' she added.

When she was cross-examined it was suggested to her that Hubbard had originally bought Saint Hill Manor 'as a place in which he could study and write in peaceful surroundings and carry out experiments on plants'. (Instead of which, the implication seemed to be, you people are trying to turn it into some kind of academy for cranks.)

No, she did not know that. And indeed it must have come as a revelation to many.

'Is it correct to say that the vast majority of the students come from overseas?'

'No,' said Mrs Kember.

'And that they accost the people here in the streets?'

'They do not accost people. I would call it attempting to communicate.'

'Are you aware that some of your staff members have visited various schools in East Grinstead in an attempt to give instruction in scientology to pupils?'

'Oh, yes,' she said.

When she was asked about the boycotting of certain East Grinstead shops and services by scientologists, she denied that this had been an attempt to stifle local opposition to expansion plans.

'The intention', she said, 'was simply to indicate to scientologists those people in the town who were making critical and destructive remarks about our religious belief.'

But a barrister who was there to give evidence on behalf of a neighbour and himself was another of those making critical and destructive remarks:

No one [he said] who has anything to do with the simple-minded and gullible people who pay for these expensive courses would deny that they are in need of self-improvement - indeed any improvement.

He was the owner of a neighbouring forestry estate and of farmland totalling 140 acres, separated by only 150 yards from Saint Hill Manor. He was 'only too anxious to live at peace with them', but they were very bad neighbours. He asked Mrs Kember some questions:

'Were you aware that a mentally deranged member of your establishment was ranging at large over my property and frightening my children?'

'No,' said Mrs Kember, but she agreed that 'a certain amount of noise does go on during teaching at the college'. She had already told another questioner that the age-range of the students was from 'about 16-17, possibly younger.'

'Do you employ any form of educational test or selection?'

'Not particularly.'

'What are your criteria for entry?'

'That an individual is not insane, is not there for any kind of medical purpose, and is not there for any purpose other than attempting to improve personally.'

A farmer actually told the Inspector that scientology students had brought foot-and-mouth disease to the district by using public footpaths. And then a chartered town planning consultant, called by the scientologists, said that, in his opinion, if the Urban District Council's reasons for refusal were valid now, they were valid in 1960 when the scientologists did get planning permission.

So the enquiry ended, and the Inspector's deliberations, plus those of the Minister whom he was to advise, began. They seem to have taken a whole year. Exactly a month after the enquiry ended the Minister of Health, Mr Kenneth Robinson, had made his announcement in the House of Commons that no more foreign visitors would be allowed into the country to study scientology. Soon afterwards he became Planning Minister and would thus normally have had to adjudicate on the Inspector's report about the Saint Hill Manor extension. But it was arranged that the report should go instead to Mr Anthony Greenwood, the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

A further complication was that the scientologists' planning consultant had, on their behalf, registered a strong protest 'as a matter of principle' that Mr Kenneth Robinson should have taken a step so prejudicial to his clients while the planning appeal was still undecided. 'Whatever the principles and practice of Scientology may be,' he said to the Daily Telegraph (7 August 1968), 'they mean nothing to me. I had never heard of them before I was asked to represent the college in a professional capacity.' The statement by Mr Kenneth Robinson, he said, had created 'a state of affairs the like of which I have not known in all the years I have been engaged in public enquiries'. While the appeal was sub judice in one Government Department, the head of another Department had made a statement about action against his clients; and with this background the Minister had to arrive at a decision ... 'The question is just how far the principles of fairness to which the Government is committed can be expected to be scrupulously followed in these circumstances? That question is of vital importance to anyone who appeals to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and it is right that it should be asked now.'

The Ministry assured the Daily Telegraph that they had not yet seen the Saint Hill Manor report, and that 'it would be treated like any other case - decided on planning grounds purely: it will make no difference whether the Minister of Health has banned the cult or not'.

The scientologists' planning adviser seemed sceptical about this, for he reported the circumstances to the Council on Tribunals, which keeps an eye on the working and the impartiality of a wide variety of statutory enquiries. But that useful body's decision was never made known, because the scientologists won the day. On 9 August 1969 Mr Anthony Greenwood, having studied the Inspector's voluminous report, announced that the Urban District Council's decision must be overruled and that planning permission must be granted.

A month before that was made known, i.e. on 15 July 1969, it was announced that Mr Kenneth Robinson's solicitors were about to serve writs for defamation upon the Church of scientology, on the editor of Freedom Scientology, and on Mr L. Ron Hubbard, who had said that Mr Robinson had set up 'death camps' as a means of liquidating mental patients. The solicitors' letter to the scientologists referred to 'a number of scurrilous and defamatory statements' about the Minister of Planning, and said that

while in the main our client would be inclined to the view that they are so extravagant and absurd as not to be taken seriously, nevertheless he has decided that the time has come when he is left with no choice but to take steps to protect his reputation. Accordingly we are instructed to take the appropriate proceedings for damages and an injunction, but he will wait seven days to enable you to make any proposals which you may wish to put the matter right.

The response from the editor of Freedom Scientology was prompt:

It is a great relief to me that your client has at last decided to sue. I have no doubt that the trial will prove interesting. [2]

On 9 February 1970 The Economist, which had erroneously reported that the 'church' of scientology, in one of its numerous libel suits, had been on the losing side, agreed to pay damages to the scientologists; and Mr Justice Hinchcliffe gave leave for the record of a libel action against The Economist to be withdrawn. [3]

The foregoing is very far from being a full account of scientology's involvement, so far, with the law of England. Nor is it perhaps adequate by itself as a prologue to an account of scientology's major battle with the National Association for Mental Health, with which the rest of this book is concerned. But to round off the picture, and to indicate the lengths to which 'the law' may be pushed if it is felt to be inadequate, let us consider in some detail an Act of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Victoria which was passed as a direct result of the Anderson Report on scientology: the Psychological Practices Act, 1965 - 'an Act to provide for the registration of psychologists, the protection of the public from unqualified persons and certain harmful practices, and for other purposes'. This sets up a permanent body called the Victoria Psychological Council, empowered to appoint a Registrar of Psychologists. Anyone not on this register is liable to a fine not exceeding 500 dollars (about £250) if he advertises by newspaper, broadcast, handbill, pamphlet, card or circular that he is skilled in the 'practice of psychology', willing to practise it, competent to teach it, willing to teach it, or looking for 'human subjects for any investigation or research' involving the practice of it.

And 'the practice of psychology' is carefully defined:

(a) the evaluation of behaviour or cognitive processes or personality or adjustment in individuals or in groups through the interpretation of tests for assessing mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, emotions, motivation or personality characteristics:

(b) the use of any method of practice calculated to assist persons or groups with adjustment or emotional or behaviour problems in the area of work, family, school or personal relationships: or

(c) the administration of any test or the use of any prescribed technique, device or instrument for assessing mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, emotions, motivation or personality characteristics.

The Act does not control any of these tests (or 'practices') in universities, State schools or other prescribed educational institutions. But it might be thought to be going far enough to bring scientology within its control. The legislators, however, wanted to be more than certain. Part III. of the Act which applies to 'Hypnotism and other Practices', goes for scientology by name. Here is the full text of section 31:

1. Any person who demands or receives directly or indirectly, any fee or reward of whatever kind and by whomsoever paid or payable, for or on account of or in relation to the teaching, practice or application of scientology, or who advertises or holds himself out as being willing to teach scientology, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable for a first offence to a penalty of not more than 200 dollars and for a second or any subsequent offence to a penalty of not more than 500 dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years.

2. In this section 'scientology' means the system or purported system of the study of knowledge and human behaviour advocated in the writings of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard and disseminated by the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International, a company incorporated in the State of Arizona in the USA, and includes any system or purported system associated with or derived from the same and the system or purported system known as dianetics.

And not even this was enough to reassure the Victoria State legislature. The Act also claps a penalty of 500 dollars upon anyone who uses

any galvanometer, E-meter or other instrument which detects or measures, or which is represented as being able to detect or measure, any emotional reaction, unless he is a registered psychologist or he has obtained the consent of the Council.

In case anything should still have been left unsaid, section 39 provides a 1,000-dollar fine for anyone who, not being registered as a psychologist, practises psychology for fee or reward or the expectation of it - even if the fee or reward is to go to someone else. And premises in which any 'scientological records' are stored or kept can be entered by force at any time of day or night by anyone armed with a warrant from the Attorney-General, so that the records can be destroyed. 'Scientological records' means documents and registers, gramophone records and tapes and any method of recording and reproduction. And if anyone possessing such things would prefer not to have his house broken into for search, he must see to it (by virtue of section 32 (2)) that they are 'forthwith' sent to the Attorney-General for destruction.

It was hardly to be expected that the scientologists would succumb to this without a struggle. They say in fact that their creed still flourishes in the State of Victoria, that the ban has brought them an influx of recruits, and that scientology lecturers have sent advance notice to the Attorney-General that forbidden meetings are going to be held - in addition to publishing press advertisements to the same effect - and that nothing has happened.

Nevertheless in January 1970 they served writs in Melbourne upon Mr Justice Kevin Anderson and Judge Gordon Just (the latter was Counsel 'instructed to assist' in the Anderson enquiry) demanding damages for 'loss of reputation and good will resulting in loss of members, loss of book sales turnover, and loss of staff between 28th day of September 1965 and the 14th day of December 1965'. The writs complained that the defendants failed to confine themselves to their terms of reference, examined the record of scientology in other countries, wanted to know too much about Ron, examined irrelevant and damaging publications, and flouted the principles of 'natural justice'. They alleged that Mr Kevin Anderson referred to Ron's writings as 'science fiction fantasies', made no attempt to understand them, harried and interrupted witness and counsel, used intemperate and 'coloured, prejudiced, adjectival language', declared that scientology was 'not a religion' without hearing evidence on the point, permitted his own religious beliefs to obtrude, decided without any evidence that scientologists had rendered persons insane, and protected scientology's opponents from publicity while allowing scientologists' names to be published. This is a mere selection from paragraph 9 of the Writ, which contained 42 sub-paragraphs, each detailing a separate complaint about the Anderson board of enquiry. And paragraph 10 of the Writ said that Mr Kevin Anderson had 'needlessly and irresponsibly reported that he had witnessed a woman being processed into insanity' during a demonstration before the Board of Enquiry, 'well knowing that the woman had previously been a mental patient and had voluntarily returned to a mental institution some time after the said demonstration, following severe family disturbances which included her husband's immoral and shameful conduct towards her daughter'. Few people were surprised when this action against the two Melbourne Judges was unsuccessful.

The State of Western Australia followed Victoria's example in November 1968, but its 'Scientology Act 1968' is noticeably terse by comparison. Here is its principal provision - it is section 3:

1. A person shall not practice Scientology.

2. A person shall not, directly or indirectly, demand or receive any fee, reward or benefit of any kind from any person for, on account of, or in relation to the practice of scientology.

Penalty: for a first offence two hundred dollars and, for a subsequent offence, five hundred dollars or imprisonment for one year or both.

Anyone possessing 'any scientological record' after 13 November 1968 has to hand it to the police (for destruction if the police think fit); and the police can break into houses to search for such records on reasonable suspicion that they have not been given up. There is a 200-dollar fine for the use of a galvanometer (an 'E-meter') on anyone except by a doctor; and scientology is defined as meaning:

the dogma relating to, and the system or proposed system of, the study of knowledge, the human mind and human behaviour proposed or advocated in the writings and utterances of one Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, and disseminated by the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International, a company incorporated in the State of Arizona, or by any agency, subsidiary or successor (whether incorporated or not) of that company; and the term includes any dogma, system or purported system associated with or derived from any so disseminated, and also the so-called science of dianetics.

But of course the scientologists say that scientology still flourishes there as if nothing had happened; and since the election of a Federal Labour Government, Scientology 'churches' have been authorised to perform marriage ceremonies in all Australian States.

In 1969 the Government of New Zealand set up a three-man enquiry into scientology, consisting of Sir Guy Powles (the 'Ombudsman'), Mr Eric Dumbleton, a former newspaper editor, and (as 'Counsel assisting') Mr G. S. Orr, LL.B. This enquiry reported that the practice of scientology in New Zealand had estranged families, affected the control of minors, and subjected former members to 'improper and unreasonable pressures'; but it felt able, on the strength of evidence that scientology now had a 'changed outlook', to say that no legislation was either necessary or expedient at this stage. It added that there would be 'no further occasion for Government or public alarm if the scientologists forbore to reintroduce their former disciplinary measures against defectors, always obtained the written consent of a minor's parents before training or "processing" him', and cut down the flow of promotional literature sent through the post to people who didn't want it.

From all of which there may perhaps emerge a reasonably full picture of the 'church' of scientology, its methods, its aims and its consequences, and what the law thinks about it.


1. Russell on Crime, 12th edition, Vol. 2, p. 1519.

2. It did. The scientologists agreed to pay 'substantial damages' and costs. They apologised in open court and promised never to repeat the libel.

3. The Times, 10 February 1970.

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