Court Told Woman Suffered Personality Change

Source: Irish Times
Date: December 4, 2002

A woman suffered a personality change after she was sucked into the grasp of the Church of Scientology and subjected to mind-control techniques, the High Court was told yesterday. Ms Mary Johnson has sued the church for damages.

Among courses Ms Johnson reluctantly signed up for was a "purification rundown", the court heard. The starting point for entry to the church was a personality test which was "not a proper psychological test". Ms Johnson was also trained to resist her family and when she tried to leave, and there were efforts to silence and intimidate her, her lawyer said.

Dundalk-born Ms Johnson (40), a former interprovincial squash player for Leinster who has a sports equipment shop at Westwood, Foxrock, Co Dublin, has brought proceedings against the church and three of its members: Mr John Keane, described as a "mission holder", Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan.

Opening the case before Mr Justice Peart, Mr Sean Ryan SC, for Ms Johnson, said the evidence would be that she was effectively sucked into the grasp of this organisation and subjected to processes and procedures which brought her under its control and influence.

Her involvement began in 1992, and efforts were made to prevent her leaving, to silence and intimidate her and to prevent her suing.

Mr Ryan contended there was intimidation, watching and besetting on the part of the church and the making of inquiries, not only about Ms Johnson, but by people who went to her place of business. This was not a secret process but a "noisy investigation", involving intimidation of Ms Johnson and members of her family. Her brother- in-law had been the subject of an investigation.

Counsel said the court would be introduced to a language of "psycho religious-mythical scope" and expressions and words that had no meaning other than as they were defined in Scientology.

Whatever about the rights of Scientology, what had happened to Ms Johnson constituted a serious wrong when she had been subjected to these processes, procedures and rituals. These caused her damage and she was subsequently defamed and libelled.

She had suffered psychological and psychiatric injuries, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, together with short- term memory loss. That was exacerbated by the subsequent illegitimate conduct of the defendants.

Mr Ryan said the story began in 1992 when Ms Johnson was feeling emotionally upset after she had split up with her boyfriend.

She knew the defendant, Mr Cunningham, a member of the Church of Scientology. He introduced her to "dianetic auditing", which was something like amateur psychoanalysis performed by non-qualified persons.

Mr Cunningham was continually suggesting that Ms Johnson go to the church's Dublin mission in Middle Abbey Street and have a personality test for the purpose of getting involved in Scientology and "going up the bridge", an elaborate system of charts which would astonish anybody.

The starting point was a personality test called OCA (Oxford Capacity Analysis), which was not quite what it sounded. She had had that in March 1992. It comprised a series of questions, again Scientology-devised, and was not a proper psychological test but was calculated to point to defects. The test evaluator was the "mission holder", John Keane.

People were pressurised to do further tests, investigations and auditing, involving costs, and Ms Johnson was not well off. She would be rebuked if she criticised what was going on. Under pressure, she signed up for a "purification rundown" which went on from September to December 1993 and cost (pounds) 1,200. She was reluctant to spend this sort of money but was assured this would change her life and improve her relationships with her family, boyfriend and friends.

She was required to do a medical examination and sent to a Scientologist described as a doctor. She was given vitamins, far more than normal, was sent out on "runs" and spent long periods in saunas. People in this situation would be described as "pure clear".

The treatment routine also consisted of being lined up against a "twin". Each twin shouted verbal abuse at the other over long periods.

In March 1994 she started a "Hubbard Dianetic Auditing" course in Dublin and continued at Saint Hill Foundation in the UK. She later started but did not finish a "Student Hat" course.

Recruiters from Saint Hill had come to Dublin in 1994. They suggested she sell her business and go to Saint Hill where she would be "audited up" to a state where she would be clean and trained up as an auditor.

She paid a (pounds) 100 deposit for a course on a ship in the Caribbean. At this stage she had parted with a lot of money. Before she returned from Saint Hill in 1994 she had signed a contract for one billion years to work for Scientology. She finished the auditor's course.

Mr Ryan said that when Ms Johnson got back to Dublin she was subjected to even more phone calls. Her family were worried about her and in contact. When she told the people in the mission that, she was trained to resist her family. Efforts were made to disconnect her from her family and friends and to cement the relationship with Scientology.

In evidence, Ms Johnson said Mr Cunningham suggested to her about late 1991 that they have an auditing session. She was reluctant but eventually agreed. He sat on a bed and she sat on a chair and he told her to look at the ceiling and count from one to seven with her eyes closed.

Over the next 18 months there may have been 20-30 sessions. As time went on, the feeling of euphoria she had after the first session was repeated on a regular basis. The euphoria would dissipate and she was addicted to it.

The case is expected to last for two weeks.