Friday, 7 September 2007

Scientology On Trial?

Following a 10-year investigation, the Brussels arm of the Church of Scientology is to face criminal charges, the Associated Press press reported a few days ago.

Belgian prosecutor, Jean-Claude Van Espen's inquiry concluded that, "Scientology's Brussels-based Europe office and its Belgian missions conducted unlawful practices in medicine, violated privacy laws and used illegal business contracts," according to Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman at the Federal Prosecutors Office.

The investigation, which followed numerous complains of intimidation and extortion from ex-members, culminated in the prosecutor recommending that the Church of Scientology should stand trial for fraud and be labeled a criminal organisation.

Such allegations against the Church of Scientology are not new, however. In the UK, documents recently disclosed by the National Archive show that, in the 1960s and 1970s, the British government had grave concerns about the church, according to the BBC. A 1977 report produced by the then Department of Health and Social Security for Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, described the church as a "considerable evil".

At the time, the Church of Scientology had gained a reputation for targeting critics, as well as mistreating and exploiting members. The report alleged that the church created family discord and broke up marriages, and mentioned the case of a six-year-old who was declared a "suppressive" because she would not leave her mother.

According to the report, members had been instructed to carry out "noisy investigations" on any critics and any person classified as an "enemy" was considered "fair game" by the church. The document said such a person may be "deprived of his property by any means, be tricked or sued or lied to or destroyed".

These tactics are frequently associated with the Church of Scientology. Indeed, it's founder, science fiction author L. Rob. Hubbard, is reported to have formalised its "Attack the Attacker" policy in the late 1960s. He described it as a four stage process:

"1) Spot who is attacking us.
2) Start investigating them promptly for felonies or worse using own professionals, not outside agencies.
3) Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them.
4) Start feeding lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.

Don't ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way. You can get "reasonable about it" and lose. Sure we break no laws. Sure we have nothing to hide. BUT attackers are simply an anti-Scientology propaganda agency so far as we are concerned. They have proven they want no facts and will only lie no matter what they discover. So BANISH all ideas that any fair hearing is intended and start our attack with their first breath. Never wait. Never talk about us - only them. Use their blood, sex, crime to get headlines. Don't use us. I speak from 15 years of experience in this. There has never yet been an attacker who was not reeking with crime. All we had to do was look for it and murder would come out. -- Attacks on Scientology, "Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter," 25 February 1966"

Such individuals and groups are treated as "fair game", a term which has a specific meaning within the Church of Scientology. In 1965, Hubbard, formulated the "Fair Game Law", in which problematic Suppressive persons could be considered "Fair game" for retaliation:

"A Suppressive Person or Group becomes fair game. By FAIR GAME is meant, may not be further protected by the codes and disciplines or the rights of a Scientologist."

Suppressive Persons, or SPs, is a term often used by the Church of Scientology to describe its enemies, and, although Hubbard expressed some concern about abuse of the term, he also made it clear that entire groups could be declared suppressive. Under this broader definition, suppressiveness included more than just publicly opposing Scientology; it also included any group supporting activities to which Hubbard was strongly opposed, especially psychiatry.

Negative associations between Scientology and the science of psychiatry are also well documented. The 1977 British Government report noted allegations that the Church of Scientology took in young English people with a history of mental illness, accepted fees of £450 or £550 from them, and then, when they suffered breakdowns, classified them as troublemakers and cast them out onto the streets.

Indeed, this position is so closely associated with Scientology that an article published yesterday by CBS News summed up Scientology in these terms: "The basic theological tenets of the Church of Scientology are well known: a fanatical hatred for psychiatry coupled with a creation myth that involves an evil alien ruler named Xenu and his sundry galactic allies."

Naturally, representatives of the Church of Scientology strenuously deny any wrongdoing, either in Brussels, the UK or anywhere else. Of the current allegations in Belgium, the church said, "For the last 10 years, the prosecutor has been using the media, trying to damage the reputation of the Church of Scientology and not being able to put a case in court."

It may be some time before the case gets to court this time, too, as the church intends to challenge the prosecutor's allegations when an Administrative court decides whether or not to press charges. In the interim, it will be interesting to see whether Van Espen becomes known as a Supressive Person, and finds himself Fair Game in another high scoring round of Attack the Attacker - I suspect he will!

Billy Seggars

No comments: