Counterattack: The Response To Criticism

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Date: March 7, 1974

by James E. Adams and Elaine Viets of the Post-Dispatch Staff

Last Of A Series

"We are not a law enforcement agency. BUT we will become interested in the crimes of people who seek to stop us ... If you leave us alone, we will leave you alone." - L. Ron Hubbard Founder of the Church of Scientology

The Church of Scientology does not turn the other cheek. Said Emily Watson, the church's national public affairs representative: "We tried doing that for years, but the attacks kept growing ...."

Two attacks to which she referred were in the early 1960s by the governments of several Australian states and the United States Food and Drug Administration. During the Australian inquiry the states looked into the practices of Scientology and found "Scientology evil; its techniques evil; its practice a serious threat to the community ..."

One result was passage of a law making the teaching, applying or advertising of Scientology punishable by jail and fine. In 1963, the FDA raided the Scientology church in Washington and confiscated a quantity of E-Meters and other equipment and records. The agency hired a group of longshoremen to conduct the raid, prompting Scientology allegations of "goon-squad tactics."

Church policy is to find what attackers have to hide, Miss Watson said.

"We have no compunction about using the same techniques that are used against us," she said. "On the whole, we are pretty conservative, but we have had to use strong means of turning the attack."

The organization is quick to bring lawsuits challenging unfavorable books and articles.

Physicians, psychiatrists, government officials and writers who criticize Scientology or its methods often become targets of critical letters and telephone calls. Such harassment seldom can be traced directly to Scientology.

Many persons who leave or who are expelled by the church say that they are frightened by the organization.

"It's made known that people who go against Scientology don't live happy, unaffected lives," said John McLean, of Toronto, once a third mate in Scientology's elite Sea Organization.

Ex-members fear that potentially damaging information they revealed in auditing sessions may he used against them. The church calls auditing "pastoral counseling," similar to Catholic confession. Former Scientologiats say that responses are written down and filed. St. Louis church executives say that auditing information is kept in absolute confidence. But the Post-Dispatch was told of instances where auditing files were left lying about in plain sight and auditing information was used against expelled Scientologists.

Errant members in the early 1960s were put through a special form of questioning, a 170-question "security check." The check was used to find "members of a subversive group seeking to injure Scientology." Intimate questions were asked: Have you ever committed adultery? Do you have any bastards? Have you ever slept with a member of a race of another color?

"Security checks have been abolished," said the Rev. June Lake, president of the St. Louis unit. "We don't use them any more." But as recently as 1972 the security check was used on members of a Canadian family at the Toronto organization.

Former Scientologists say also that they fear the implied threat in a policy directive that explained what to do about "suppressive persons" who "actively seek to suppress or damage Scientology." A 1967 policy letter stated that suppressive persons become "fair game" for any church member and may be "tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed."

A 1968 Hubbard policy letter stated that the fair game policy caused "bad public relations" and ordered it canceled. But the same policy letter said that there would be no change "on the treatment or handling" of a suppressive person.

"Suppressive" is one of several categories in which an antagonistic outsider or Scientologist may be placed. One duty of the Scientology "ethics officer," or disciplinarian, is to judge the good or bad "condition" of members. Wayward members may be ruled in "liability," in "doubt," in "treason," or an "enemy."

St. Louis Scientology officers contend that these simply are aids to help the person realize his or her relative standing and progress in Scientology training.

A young St. Louis woman who is a former Scientologist says she virtually lives in hiding since she was expelled 11 months ago. The 25-year-old former staff member avoids areas of the city frequented by Scientologists. Her phone number is not listed. Her parents do nat tell callers where she lives.

"Please do not use my name," she said. "I just got Scientology off my back after almost a year. I couldn't take another year."

Shortly after het expulsion in April 1973, she received a letter from the church that reads "... an investigation is being made on you and your background and connections." Officers of the local church have told the Post-Dispatch they can produce evidence that this woman is a prostitute. Prostitution and abnormal sexual behavior are charges that often appear in anonymous letters written about female opponents of Scientology.

"Friends saw strangers slinking around my door," the young woman said. "I received anonymous phone calls constantly. My mother got calls and visits from Scientologists. I've moved now. The organization doesn't know where I'm living. I want to keep it that way..

The Eric McLeans of Sutton West, Ontario, believe that they are still getting "fair game" treatment. The Church of Scientology recently held a funeral in downtown Sutton West for the family. The McLeans are alive. They were expelled from the organization in 1972.

A black coffin was carried by four Scientologist pallbearers and a funeral service was read. Press releases and printed programs were passed out. The church called the McLeans "lost souls" who "harass religious people with their irreligious attitudes." A Scientology minister, Gary Jepson, noted that Eric McLean works for the local Ontario Teachers Federation and "this should not be tolerated."

Two years ago Mrs. McLean was told "bloody well done" in the Toronto chapter's daily bulletin for bringing into Scientology her two sons, daughter-in-law and husband. The family spent more than $9000 on the church.

Mrs. McLean was an ordained Scientology minister and auditor. In an interview, Mrs. McLean said that after about two years as a Toronto staff member, she suspected that statistics in the weekly reports to Hubbard were falsified and that counseling duties were abused. She took her evidence to the Toronto organization's officers and they denied any wrongdoing. Mrs. McLean then submitted her suspicions to Hubbard on the Sea Organization's Flagship Apollo.

She said that Hubbard sent vague replies. The Toronto organization was furious.

"The whole of the Toronto staff was incited," Mrs. McLean said. "On my last staff review I found written, 'Well done, Squealer!'" The McLeans were expelled Oct. 17, 1972.

Since the expulsion, the family has had a string of annoyances. "I don't think they are coincidence," Mrs. McLean said.

Neighbors complained they received calls from unknown persons "investigating the McLeans for criminal activities." The callers said that Eric McLean was an embezzler and Mrs. McLean an adulteress. Two private detectives watched the McLean home for several weeks. Members of the family out driving were followed. The family's house was picketed twice in recent weeks by Scientologists.

Eric McLean and his son, John, were charged with making harassing calls to Brian Levman, then president of the Toronto Church. The case went to court and the charges were dismissed. The family is currently involved in a $1,000,000 conspiracy suit filed against them and others by the church for an Easter Sunday, 1973, television show about Scientology.

"I don't know where this will end," Mrs. McLean said. "I don't know when my family's lives will return to normal."

Paulette Cooper, a 29-year-old New York author, is not a Scientologist. She wrote a critical article and a book about the church. She said that shortly after publication of the article, a series of annoying events began that have continued intermittently for almost four years. They included obscene, harassing and anonymous phone calls and threats on Ms Cooper's life. An anonymous letter was sent to residents in her apartment building charging that she was a part-time prostitute and had molested a 2-year-old girl. Her parents received anonymous calls and a letter attacking Ms Cooper. Persons attempted to enter her apartment by misrepresenting themselves, she said.

"I've never been harassed before," she said. "There are people who may not like me, but none would go to such lengths as to call me at 4 a.m. and threaten to kill me."

Ms Cooper's problems began a few days after she published "The Tragifarce of Scientology" in Britain's Queen Magazine. The church sued for libel and the publishers settled out of court. Two years later this article was developed into a book, "The Scandal of Scientology," and she was sued again. The church has filed suits against her five times. Ms Cooper sued Scientology once. No court judgment has been made in any of the suits.

Scientology has sued or threatened to sue, among others, Fairchild Publications, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and, since publication of the first articles of this series, the Post-Dispatch. The organization has won token out-of-court settlements in some instances but no court judgments.

When Dell Publishing Co., Inc., came out with George Malko's book, "Scientology: The Now Religion," Scientology sued for libel.

Stephen Bair, vice president of Dell, said that the company considered Malko's book a generally accurate and legitimate summary of Scientology, but Dell could not afford to bear the heavy legal fees to defend itself.

Faced with the prospect of spending as much as $100,000 on a trial, Bair said, Dell agreed to pay $7500 to Scientology and submit a one-sentence statement expressing "regret for any misstatements which may have been made in the book."

"If the book tells lies about us, we sue," said the Rev. Frederick M. Rock, local church director of community affairs. "We don't want lies told about us. Neither would you."

Scientology has made a special target of members of the healing professions: physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Hubbard has alleged in press releases and communications that prominent American and British psychiatrists have formed a conspiracy against the church.

Miss Watson explained that Scientology's attitude developed because "in a majority of cases attacks on the church have stemmed from psychiatric foundations or associations, or in this country, medical associations."

Scientology has a Public Investigation Section that "investigates the attacking group's individual members and sees that the results of the investigation get adequate legal action and publicity," according to a 1966 policy letter. The section must be formed when an organization has a staff of 150 persons, the policy letter said. The St. Louis organization has 150 staff members.

A former staff member of. the St. Louis unit said that she was asked to spy on two local mental health organizations, the Psychoanalytic Foundation of St. Louis and the Mental Health Association of St. Louis. "The organization wanted me to see what these groups were doing about Scientology," she said. "I was supposed to get in first as a volunteer. Once I was in, I would get further instructions. They wanted personal data on people in the mental health organization and information concerning their research techniques."

The church denies any covert activities.

There was criticism of Scientology's role in the recent dispute involving the Missouri Institute of Psychiatry. The Rev. Mr. Rock said the church was strictly concerned with the issue of patients' rights and worked with other groups to protect those rights.

Two critics of Scientology's efforts in that dispute were victims of anonymous critical letters. Spokesmen for Scientology vehemently denied any connection with the letters.

Critics are nothing new to Scientology. Following Hubbard's recommendations, the organization has managed to weather every attack.

"Remember," Hubbard instructed followers in a 1966 policy letter, "CHURCHES ARE LOOKED UPON AS REFORM GROUPS. Therefore use must act like a reform group ... If we do this all right, press, instead of trying to invent reasons to attack us, will start hanging around waiting for our next lurid scoop."