THE WASP* RESPONSE
*WASP = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
As mentioned in an earlier chapter the Church was involved in extended dispute with the US Internal Revenue Service about its rig to tax exemptiOn as a Religion. This started in 1957 and was not resolved until 1975. An almost equally long running dispute was taking place with The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is also a US Government Department This dispute concerned the use of the E-Meter in auditing and whether or not the meter is a medicinal tool. For an explanation the E-Meter see page 00.
In 1963 the FDA asked a court in Washington DC for a warrant to seize the E-Meters from the Washington Org because they were being used for medicinal purposes The warrant was granted and the Washington Church was raided by US Marshals who removed meters, books, tapes and files.
Four years later the case came to trial in the Washington Court and the Court ordered the materials to be destroyed. The Church appealed and won its case in the Court of Appeals in 1969. The FDA asked for a rehearing of the case and the case was heard again in 1973 in the Court of Appeals. The Court recognised the Church as a bona-fide Religion and ordered the return of the meters and other materials seized in the raid 10 years earlier.
In Australia there were several initiatives to ban Scientology by individual States, with the Federal Government only becoming involved at the end. In 1965 the State of Victoria passed the Psychological Practices Act which had the effect of prohibiting the practice of Scientology. initiative for this had come from complaints by the Victoria He Authority to the Minister of Health which had led to a Board of Inquiry
In 1968 similar bills were passed in the parliaments of Western Australia and Southern Australia, The Church in all these states changed its name to the Church of New Faith and carried on its development.
With the change of the Australian Federal Government to Labour, a more liberal climate came about. In 1973 the Attorney General recognised the right of the Church to perform marriages. Slowly the practice of
32 THE SAD TALE OF SCIENTOLOGY
Scientology was rehabilitated in Australia and the prohibition Acts repealed. The Church was granted tax exemption and finally in 1975 all restrictions on the use of the word 'Scientology' in Australia were removed.
In New Zealand in 1968 a petition was presented to Parliament requesting an investigation into Scientology and requesting legislation against it. A commission was set up to conduct an enquiry in 1969. It recommended that no legislative action be taken.
In Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) a Control of Goods Act was introduced in 1968. This prohibited the importation of material that related to Scientology. In 1975 the Rhodesian Court of Appeals ruled this Act to be invalid, because Scientology was a bona-fide Religion.
South Africa followed the usual pattern of an official enquiry into Scientology in 1968. The report of this Enquiry was not accepted or rejected by the government but it was published for public information. Subsequently the history of Church and government action in South Africa has centred on the Church's newspaper 'Peace and Freedom' and its efforts to expose conditions in South African mental institutions.
In Britain matters were handled in a less formal way. At about the same time as all the other initiatives, mid 1968, the Minister of Health stated that he was satisfied that Scientology was socially harmful. The Home Office introduced an Administrative Order banning Foreign nationals coming to Britain to study Scientology. Ron Hubbard himself had left Saint Hill in 1967 and was developing the Sea Org. He was however informed by the Home Office that his visa would not be renewed if he wished to come to Britain again.
An enquiry into Scientology was set-up in 1969. The recommend- dations of this were published in 1971. They were firstly that all psychotherapy should be organised as a regularised profession. Secondly the financial privileges of religions that did not have large followings and did not engage in overt acts of worship should be reviewed. The Commission did however say that people who were otherwise entitled to come to the UK, should not be prevented from studying Scientology if they wished to do so.
Nothing was done to implement the Commission recommendations, nor was the ban lifted. In 1973 a Dutch Scientologist declared at the port of entry that she was coming to study Scientology. She was refused entry and this test case was then referred to the European Court of Justice.
The ban was finally lifted in 1980 but probably less because of the European Court than the sustained lobbying of the Home Office by British lAP's. The Church in the UK seems to have been effective over the years n steadily winning the support of some influential MP's.
CHAPTER EIGHT 33
Overall this adds up to a sad saga of heavy-handed government action throughout the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant world. One is left with the question, why did it all happen?
The Church and Ron Hubbard would claim that it stemmed from the medical establishment. They would say that the medical psychiatric practitioners were incensed at this body of knowledge and its practices invading their privileged province.
It is true that in most of the countries instanced above, the initiative did come from the Ministry of Health. It was only after repackaging itself as a religion that Scientology was able to escape the efforts by the health lobby to restrain it.
This leads to another question. Why was it so difficult to get acceptance of its honest claims to be a religion? After all, religions have traditionally brought relief to mental stress and peace of mind, and this is exactly what Scientology and Dianetics claims to do. The reader will in the end have to try to answer this question according to his own beliefs. The starting point is probably what Professor Joad of the Brains Trust would have said, 'It all depends what you mean by a Religion'.
It may be useful at this point to look at the role and motivation of the media in all this.
At the outset it must be obvious to anybody who has read this far that any fair minded discussion of Scientology and Dianetics must take time to agree to its starting point and tools of examination. In addition anyone who takes the claims of the subject at all seriously would appreciate that it relates to the most deeply held personal views about life and immortality.
Unfortunately we do not have, even in the best of our media, any forum for such an examination to be done justice. It may seem glib but regrettably appropriate to quote the maxim about our press 'They make the trivial important and the important trivial.' Unfortunately this description also seems to apply to the media of most countries of the Free World.
In facing a subject of the complexity of Scientology the media seems to have two goals. The first is to 'pigeon-hole' it. That is to find some category that it is similar to. In this case 'Cults or Sects' are a convenient category because they contain overtones of wrenching impressionable youngsters from their homes, 'mind manipulation' and even 'white slaver'. The second goal would be to impute improper financial motives to the people founding or running the movement.
The Church claims that such destructive accusations indicate conspiracy with Government. Probably we don't need to look that deeply
34 THE SAD TALE OF SCIENTOLOGY
into their motives for discrediting anything new and strange. Their need is to sell newspapers. Cult religions, laced with financial exploitation, is good self-righteous headline copy which can be used again and again.
It might be said that the onus is on Scientology to prove that it is doing good work to the benefit of society. This is quite correct. The task is made much more difficult however by superficial media treatment of the subject. This treatment creates a negative image in the public mind and thus prevents open-minded examination and discussion.
A recent example of the British media in action on the subject took place in July 1984. A verdict in the High Court awarded custody of two children, from a marriage between two Scientologists, to the mother who had by then left the Church. In giving his judgment in open court, Mr. Justice Latey strongly criticised the Church for its behaviour in attempting to dissuade the mother from pursuing her claims to the children. He also made it clear that he would deal with any further harassment or intimidation of the mother with the 'utmost severity'. He then went on to give his opinion of the Church and its practices and to criticise Hubbard for his false claims and financial motivation. His statements and criticism were presumably based on the evidence placed before him at the hearing. The Daily Telegraph reported Mr. Latey's comments as such, in inverted commas, and also reported a statement by a representative of the Church made in its defence. The article was overall very critical of the Church but factual in that it reported what the Judge had said.
What was striking however was the response of the popular press. The Daily Mail and The Daily Express in particular used the Judge's statement to launch into several pages of invective, mostly a rehash of previously used material about the Church and its activities. Here there was no attempt at balance. There was a strong self-righteous undertone and a strong 'we told you so' flavour to the copy.
While the popular press handling was perhaps predictable, the handling given by the BBC was not. In their 'World at One' programme the next day, they gave ten minutes to ill-informed comment on the subject, including a recording of part of an interview with Hubbard made about fifteen years earlier. In the interview a challenge is made by Hubbard to the interviewer to study the subject for himself. The challenge was ignored. At the end of the interview the listener's attention was directed by the Radio 4 commentator to the nature of Hubbard's laugh. This was actually instanced as an indication of his doubtful motives!
Return to the book's index