Scientology's battle against criticism has a long history in this country. Jon Atack, author of "A Piece of Blue Sky" and this country's most prominent scientology critic, has suffered various forms of harassment for more than twelve years, and his experience is just one example. Steve and Martin hope to bring you a thorough history in the future, but for now here are some aspects of the battle with which we are familiar: the creation of FUSS, the experiences of the Price family, the suicide of Richard Collins and the use of private investigators to put another family under surveillance. We have created a separate page to report on the harassment of various people by Scientology-employed investigators during 1997.
Families Under Scientology Stress, an informal group of ex-scientologists,
families and friends was created in June 1995 at a secret meeting in Hounslow.
Its first campaign was to publicise Carlton Television's "The Big Story" documentary shown on the
In the run up to the campaign, the Scientologists made it clear that they had somehow found out about the secret meeting and the plans that had been discussed. They distributed literature in East Grinstead calling FUSS a "Hate Group". News also emerged that Ali Braund, Carlton's undercover reporter who was filming with a concealed camera inside Saint Hill Castle, East Grinstead, had been discovered. Scientology's anger at being investigated was clear. They mounted a demonstration outside Carlton's offices which lasted late into the night of the 11th.
Lawyers for Scientology tried to prevent the programme from being broadcast, by placing it sub judice in a lawsuit against Carlton Television, but failed. Shortly before the programme went out, four cars in Carlton's car park had their windscreens smashed in (no link has been proven between Scientology and this incident). Further legal action tried to have Ali Braund prosecuted for obtaining services by deception. This was eventually thrown out. (This was also reported in Ali's home city of Adelaide)
Ali Braund wrote up her bizarre experiences inside Scientology in this article.
In the run up to the 13th, hundreds of press releases were mailed and faxed out by FUSS. Thousands of leaflets were printed for the demonstrations, requesting that people watch the programme and including a tear-off letter to be sent to the Home Secretary. Hodkin and Co., solicitors for the scientologists, sent out many letters to known critics demanding an immediate assurance that they would not be involved in the publicity campaign. These letters were regarded as groundless threats and were ignored.
The climax of the campaign was a demonstration held on Tottenham Court Road, London on the 12th. It was reported in posts to a.r.s by Martin and Steve. On the next day, various local FUSS groups demonstrated outside their local Scientology orgs, the bournemouth group gaining a mention in their local paper. A few days later, Hodkin sent out more letters, this time threatening legal action. These letters have also been roundly ignored.
The Home Office's official response to the deluge of FUSS leaflets seemed to miss the point of the complaint. However, members of FUSS are continuing to lobby MP's. Their main demand is for the government to implement the Psychological Practices Act recommended in 1971 by Sir John Foster's Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of Scientology. This would bring about a regulatory body for professional psychotherapy (people who offer therapy for free would be unaffected). This would open psychotherapy only to those who undergo an appropriate training and are willing to adhere to a proper code of ethics. FUSS is strongly in favour of religious freedom and is not campaigning for Scientology to be banned.
FUSS needs your help: write to FUSS, BM Box 3506, London WC1N 3XX
to offer your support, ask for further information or donate
towards the costs of campaigning.
***NB*** The above is not an official statement from FUSS. It is the work of someone who has had some involvement in their activities and who respects what they do.
The Price Family
An example of the ongoing harassment being experienced by Scientology's
critics in the UK is in the recent experience of Richard and Judy Price
of Tonbridge, Kent. Richard's sister has been in the cult since 1989
and his brother joined in 1992. As he has read more about
Scientology, he has become increasingly concerned for the welfare of
them both. Richard addressed some of his concerns in a series of letters
to the organisation, which were ignored. With increasing frustration, he
decided to spread some of the critical information to warn people
against getting involved in Scientology. He announced this intention in
letters to OSA and an emotional post to
On the 5th of July 1995, a private investigator employed by Hodkin and Co. (solicitors for the scientologists) paid an unannounced visit to the Prices' home. After trying to get into the house, he drove off at great speed. Later that night, a letter from Hodkin & Co. was pushed through their letterbox. As Judy went to the door, she saw another car disappearing up their driveway.
These visits left the Prices understandably shaken. Their story made the front page of a local paper, the Tonbridge Courier. The publication of this elicited a reply from a "church" representative, to which Richard replied in the following week's issue.
On the 16th of August, the Prices received a visit from the Planning Officer investigating a complaint that they are running a business from their home (they aren't). Although there is no proof that this complaint was made by scientologists, it fits a pattern experienced over the years by others who speak out against the cult.
Richard has made a formal complaint to the Solicitor's Complaints Bureau, mentioning L Ron Hubbard's policy of using the law to intimidate critics. The Bureau did not judge Hodkin's actions to be harassing and saw no reason to take any action against the firm.
On the 6th of December 1995, Richard Price was phoned by a private
in the employ of the Church of Scientology.
The suicide of Richard Collins
The following extract is from the transcript of Carlton Television's programme, The S Files, part of the Big Story series.
Dermot Murnaghan: "Last November, Richard from Christchurch
Bournemouth] [shot of smiling young man apparently celebrating
"was recruited into the Bournemouth mision. Within a few month he'd
borrowed £3,000 to pay for Scientology courses. Richard's sister
Jennifer describes what he was like before he met the Scientologists"|
Jennifer: "I would describe him as a very thoughtful, caring, intelligent sensitive person. He seemed to enjoy life, went out a lot with his friends."
DM "Richard underwent the Scientologists Purification
Rundown, [shots of pill-guzzling, running and saunas, labelled as
Reconstruction]"Supposedly a form of detoxification, involving taking
massive doses of
vitamins, then going for a vigorous half-hour run. They then sit in a
sauna for up to five hours a day.
Alan "When he initially wanted to leave they phoned him four times a day, five times a day, up to an hour each time. And when he was on the phone he was shaking, obviously frightened of something, but only the Scientologists and Richard would know what that conversation was.
DM "Tony Clark, and other Bournemouth mission officials,
wrote Richard several letters
Andrea Catt (ex-scientologist) "He might be shown write-ups he'd done of past misdeeds that he'd done and strongly reminded that those things still existed within his emotional difficulties and he'd be brought to a very low emotional point. All the influence the Church had prior would be really brought to bear and the indoctrination would be hammered in harder"
DM "Richard's sister was on a visit home in July. She saw him on the morning of his death"
Jennifer "Richard was anxious about the fact that he was wanting to leave Scientology, and he was concerned that they were not letting him leave, and that they were threatening to print personal information about him. That is what he voiced to me"
DM "Later, Richard left home saying he was going to visit a
stopped off at a garage for petrol and cigarettes but he never arrived
at the friend's house."
Jennifer "The family feel that Richard would be alive today if he had not become involved with the Church of Scientology, and I feel they have a responsibility for people that they are recruiting. If people want to leave the organisation, then they need to give people that freedom to leave without harassment and without threat"
Mike Rinder (Of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs): "The fact that he committed suicide is a tragedy. But the fact that people would then make an allegation that because he had at some point an involvement in the Church of Scientology, that therefore the Church of Scientology is responsible - is reprehensible, is disgusting."
DM "Even after Richard had died, the harrassment continued.
the suicide, Tony Clark sent increasingly angry and threatening letters"
I have managed to obtain a sworn affidavit from the family member of a
scientologist. I can't divulge the text of the affidavit, but I can
describe part of what it says. |
In 1995, the mother and sister of a male scientologist arranged for him to meet an exit-counsellor (i.e. an ex-scientologist who tried to persuade him to leave the cult). The sister discovered that she was being followed, and that the house of another ex-scientologist that she was visiting was being watched. The man who was following her was short, stocky, and dark haired and with a dark complexion. She did not get a good look at him because it was dark at the time.
The counselling attempt failed: the brother simply refused to listen to anything that might be negative about Scientology. The family later discovered that he had been required to give a full report to Scientology, stating everything that he remembered about the exit-counselling and everything he knew about his mother and daughter. In effect, the scientologist was being used as an intelligence agent against his own family.