Is Scientology a dangerous cult?
The Irish Times
'THE PHELAN Family [from Clonmel] has not seen or heard from their brother Tony since January 2002. Prior to that we had only seen him on a couple of occasions since 1994 when we made our first public protest against Scientology. Tony's involvement in Scientology has led him to disconnect from us. He has a family who loves him and wants him to reconnect. Scientology has broken up our family." - flier handed out by members of the Phelan family at a protest in Dublin on April 12th, 2008.
Is the Church of Scientology a dangerous cult? Absolutely. This is not a question of being intolerant of the beliefs of others. Rather, this is about recognising a dangerous and manipulative organisation for what it truly is. The Church of Scientology engages in suppression and harassment, not only of its critics, but also of its own members.
One method by which the Church of Scientology controls and retains its members is the policy of "disconnection" mentioned above. If a Scientologist is in contact with friends or family who are critical of Scientology, they can be ordered to "disconnect" - to completely sever contact with them. Scientologists are told that those friends or family are "Suppressive Persons" or "SPs", and that they must disconnect to avoid becoming a "Potential Trouble Source", or "PTS".
By surrounding converts with other Scientologists, and isolating them from those who have differing opinions from the church, they make it extremely difficult for people to break away.
In addition, the mental and emotional abuse suffered by members of the church has been well-documented both here and abroad. In 2003, Scientology's Mission of Dublin settled an eight-year court case taken by Irishwoman Mary Johnston, who claimed she had been subjected to brainwashing and other mind control techniques.
In an interview on RTÉ television's The Late Late Show, Ms Johnston also told of how the church had trained her to deal with family and friends who were sceptical of Scientology.
Also troubling are the deceptive techniques used by the church to recruit members of the public. A common introduction is the personality test offered at Church of Scientology missions.
Virtually all test-takers are diagnosed to be unhappy, unstable and liable to depression - all findings designed to induce fear and feelings of inadequacy.
Once prospective converts have taken the test and been shown their results, "problem" areas are highlighted and they are pressured into taking Scientology courses to treat them.
Upon completion of these courses, a further set is recommended, again playing on any perceived emotional or psychological weaknesses. This can be very effective in coercing recruits into progressing further into the church, to the very highest levels of Scientology teaching, the so-called "OT levels", which are reported to cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete.
The dangers of this test have made world news of late, following a recent tragedy in Norway. On March 28th this year, a 20-year-old student, Kaja Ballo, the daughter of a Norwegian MP, took the church's personality test. According to the church, Kaja's results showed that she was "depressed, irresponsible, hyper-critical and lacking in harmony".
A few hours later Kaja had taken her own life leaving a suicide note to say she was sorry for not "being good for anything".
Another Norwegian MP, Inga Thorkildsen, stated to Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that "everything points to Scientology having played a direct role in making Kaja choose to take her own life".
Many countries already recognise the dangers of the Church of Scientology. It has been banned from Greece, is officially considered a cult in France and is considered by Germany to be such a threat to democracy that a special commission, the Scientology Task Force of the Hamburg Interior Authority, has been formed to monitor it. Germany's concerns, though seemingly far-fetched, are based on clear evidence.
During the 1980s the wife of L Ron Hubbard (the founder of Scientology), Mary Sue Hubbard, was convicted and imprisoned, alongside several other high-ranking church members, for the burglary of the Washington offices of several federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, in the case of United States vs Mary Sue Hubbard et al (District of Columbia District Court, 1979).
Some may find it easy to dismiss the Church of Scientology as yet another new age religion, bizarre but harmless. To do so would ignore the very real danger the cult poses to Ireland and its citizens.
Any organisation which has shown such blatant disregard for the human rights it so frequently claims to espouse should not be encouraged to operate within our borders.