By Patrick Brogan
Scientology is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland. Most people have heard of it , so there is no real need to give a redundant explantation. The Scientologists describe it as “a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.” Wow. Sign me up.
While these notions sound positive and the coverage of this organisation seems almost quaint and it can almost be dismissed as ridiculous fantasy, they are a very dangerous group. In Ireland, we could easily look at this as the play thing of the Hollywood elite, but they are very active on these shores and their branch-off organisations are working their way into the fabric of Irish society like an insidious octopus.
Some months ago, I was travelling into town on a Dublin Bus. As I went up stairs to sit down, all the empty seats had a small green leaflet on antidepressants from the CCHR. This is a front organisation for Scientology which is only mentioned in the last few pages. I’ll get into who they are further on in the article. There was one on the seat I sat on, too. I picked it up and had a brief look through, nothing too in depth. When I got home later that day, I was a bit shocked with what the literature contained and how it was presented. I wanted to write a story on this, but put it on the back burner.
That was until I was on the same route, this time going home, and seen the same leaflets again. Their content worried me and this is how this article came about. So, what was in this leaflet that was so troubling? Well, initially, there doesn’t seem too much to worry about it but then the gist of it becomes antidepressants are bad for you and mental conditions are caused by physical problems. That’s how CCHR works, it lulls you in.
The first page starts off with friendly advice. “If you are taking these drugs, do not stop taking them based on what you read here. You could suffer serious withdrawal symptoms.” This fake piece of concern hints at their views on addiction. More on that later. While nobody doubts that antidepressants can have a variety of negative side effects, this is not the outcome for most of the people that take them. A vast majority of doctors that prescribe them will list the potential effects. Great care is taken over this. While everyone should be careful about what they put in their bodies, this leaflet is designed to scare people off taking them.
This is done in a very subtle way and most vulnerable people would probably not even notice this. It is called framing. They take elements of the truth and then take them out of context and don’t mention that these ideas are greatly disputed but rather, are offered as facts.
Narconon; another Scientology front. Pic courtesy of Wikicommons
They give examples of people who had a negative reaction to antidepressants, but this may very well be fictional. Then there is the data they offer. The CCHR make the claim “these drugs have also proven to be ineffective.” They quote a British Medical Journal essay for this claim, called Efficacy of Antidepressants in Adults, but that essay is more complicated than just saying that they don’t work, they look at the dosages used and the severity of the depression. They compare antidepressants to placebos and say that placebos are slightly more effective.
This is disputed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists who state that 50-65% of people taking antidepressants will see an improvement after three months compared to 25-30% taking a placebo. According to CCHR, antidepressants distort the natural chemistry in your body without acknowledging that many medical practitioners believe it is a distortion in body chemistry that may cause depression for some and that medication addresses this imbalance. “Drugs mask the problem; they don’t solve the cause”, according to CCHR.
Other erroneous claims are women should not take antidepressants when pregnant, [although they should be careful] and that they are highly addictive. The previous link disputes these claims. The underlining advice is that “people having mental problems are actually suffering from nonpsychiatric disease that is causing emotional distress”. In other words, all mental problems are caused by something physical. To see why they came to that conclusion we have to take a closer look at the CCHR, who they really are and their links to Scientology.
Fiona O’Leary has campaigned extensively against Scientology and their subsidiaries over the last few years. She has tried to raise awareness of their dangerous views and how they are trying to slip these into the Irish mainstream. Her blog can be found here. I chatted to her during the week and asked her a series of questions. We started off with what is the CCHR?
“The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) calls itself a nonprofit mental health watchdog. CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus Dr. Thomas Szasz.”
Szasz is also the name of a villain in Gotham City, in this case it’s Victor Szasz, who is committed to Arkham Asylum and murders people as a gift to put them out of their misery. Is this is a coincidence? Dr Thomas Szasz was once quoted as saying “these things called mental illnesses are not diseases at all but part of the vicissitudes of life” and “I submit that this definition, which is still widely accepted, places psychiatry in the company of alchemy and astrology and commits it to the category of pseudoscience. The reason for this is that there is no such thing as ‘mental illness.’” A background on how he might of came to these conclusions can be found here. Clearly not a big believer of psychiatry.
This is matched by Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard’s views on mental illness. He didn’t see it as a real illness either and thought anyone with such an infliction was defective. Obviously, spreading these views are incredibly irresponsible and this was my next question to Fiona, why is the CCHR dangerous? Here was her response;
“CCHR is anti psychiatry and do not believe that mental health conditions are real, they believe mental health issues are symptoms of physical complaints, i.e. schizophrenia could be a symptom of a bad back.
“They are anti medication and offer bogus unapproved treatments as alternatives to professional care. The people offering these bogus ‘treatments’ are not qualified and are putting vulnerable peoples lives at risk.”
Links to Other Organisations
Then I followed up with how is it linked to Scientology and are there other organisations in Ireland linked to it? “CCHR was co-founded by Scientology and CCHR use creator of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings and literature in their bogus treatments and campaigns. We know that CCHR are aligning themselves with those involved in mental health care, we have even seen some HSE employees and politicians supporting CCHR in the past. Remember CCHR is one of the many Scientology front groups, others include Youth For Human Rights, Narconon, Truth About Drugs and more.”
-How did you start campaigning against them?
“I have been campaigning against quack treatments for 4 years now. Some of these bogus ‘treatments’ include the toxic bleach product MMS, unregulated blood product GcMAF, Chelation and many more. MMS was created by Jim Humble of the cult Genesis II Church. Humble was a Scientologist and then decided to start his own cult selling this toxic bleach product MMS. Our campaign work led to MMS being banned in Ireland last year. Scientology are peddlers of dangerous pseudoscientific treatments and also spread misinformation about vaccinations. They are a menace to public health.”
-What do you hope will be done about Scientology in Ireland?
“Scientology is not a religion but a dangerous pyramid scheme and a scam. Scientology does not have religious status in Ireland yet and we do not want them to be allowed this status. I want our Government to take action and follow the examples of other countries where Scientology’s attempts to gain religious status and their bogus therapies have been documented as dangerous and outlawed.”
I asked Dublin Bus where these leaflets came from. Was it with a CCHR member or even a Dublin Bus driver? Also, I was curious to know if they have criteria for the types of literature they allow on the bus. Surely, they cannot be seen to take a favourable view on one religious or political idea over another. I still have had no response. I emailed the CCHR address on the back of the leaflet. No response from them either.
Scientology is probably most well known for having connections to famous Hollywood actors, but it goes beyond that, worryingly. Given what this article has spelt out, it is somewhat surprising to know that people within the Irish health service actually endorse Scientology and attended the opening of its new centre in Firhouse. Members of the HSE like Nicola Keating gave a speech at the event. This is all documented on Fiona’s site.
If anybody wants to email them
Plans for Ireland
One of Fiona’s big fears is Firhouse will become the major European hub for Scientology, particularly following the fall-out from Britain leaving the EU. Is this something the Irish Government will allow to happen? Despite being in contact with a number of politicians, Fiona said the only politician to show any real interest was Councillor Dermot Richardson of Sinn Féin. On the contrary, we have Fianna Fáil‘s, and former Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Ken O’Flynn supporting the CCHR.
Scientology is held in deep suspicion in many countries, especially in Germany where they cannot become members of political parties and there was even a movement to try ban it outright. Letting Scientology run riot in Ireland is hardly going to help our reputation as a banana republic. The problem is if they get their roots deep into Irish society it might be impossible to weed them back out. Germany, given its history with various subversive groups, understandably is taking measures for this not to happen there. We should be following their example.
This might sound like scaremongering on my behalf and it is not intended to be as such, but I cannot stress how dangerous these people and their ideas are because, while they are extremely harmful the people behind them believe they are doing good. In fact, they believe they are on a mission to save humanity. They mightn’t have religious status here (yet), but they are full of fundamentalist fanatics.
People Have Died
Scientology has been linked to a number of suspicious deaths including Kyle Brennan and Lisa McPherson and their medical beliefs have led to more because they are preventing members from taking vital medication. Are we going to allow the same to happen in Ireland?
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