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Paid for by Scientologists, study criticizes methods // Psychologists find no brainwashing

Title: Paid for by Scientologists, study criticizes methods // Psychologists find no brainwashing
Date: Wednesday, 25 June 1980
Publisher: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Author: Margaret Mironowicz
Main source:

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A group of independent psychologists that took a rare inside look at the operations of the Church of Scientology in Toronto is critical of the organization's introductory testing and evaluation methods.

The psychologists, hired by Scientology last fall to study its activities, found that the stress is on sales, that staff who interpret personality tests of newcomers aren't experienced, and that staff not only emphasize the negative aspects of the test results but suggest things will get worse without help from Scientology.

The consultants question some of the long and repetitious sessions that clients, or "parishioners," go through and for which they are charged fees.

They also question whether the church gives those who are initially drawn into Scientology information that is sufficient and accurate enough to allow them to give knowledgeable consent to the procedures they will go through. "They're saying, 'Here, go through these procedures, this will help,' whereas in fact some of these procedures are designed to inculcate a spirit of obedience," Daniel Paitich, chief of forensic psychology at the Clarke Insititute of Psychiatry and one of the consultants, said in an interview.

The Scientologists wanted an independent assessment of whether the church uses brainwashing or mind-control techniques in case they needed a defence against the Ontario Government's probe of cults. Mr. Paitich said there is no brainwashing in the Church of Scientology, because there is no evidence of physical coercion—an essential ingredient in the accepted definitions of brainwashing.

But mind control is another matter, and the report is inconclusive on this question. Mr. Paitich said: "We're not entirely sure they're not engaged in mind control, because I think they do engage in activities that are not fully explained to the subject and are designed to put the person in a position of obedience." The report was submitted to top Scientologists last month. While it finds that in some cases the church makes people feel happier and more effective, it questions the tactics used to establish and maintain Scientology's influence over clients and staff.

Mr. Paitich emphasized that the study, conducted by himself, forensic psychologist Sandor Wiseman and psychometrist Judith Copeland, has nothing to do with the Clarke Institute. "I'm not in favor of Scientology. Their approach is over-authoritarian to my view," he said. "Any group that is intending to instill uncritical obedience in its members is not doing the right thing, is not helping people. But I don't think there should be any laws against that. "I was interested, from a civil rights standpoint, that they should not be pilloried for something they were not guilty of. We were afraid that the Dan Hill study (to advise on whether there should be a public inquiry into so-called mind-control groups) reflected the intention on the part of the Ontario Government to come up with legislation we feared would be really quite restrictive toward groups practicing their own beliefs and adherences." Cults or minority religious groups should not be subject to restrictive legislation, Mr. Paitich said. "The public should be free to make up its own mind about the groups." For their study, which Scientologists say cost about $4,000, Mr. Paitich and his colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with subjects largely provided by the church, observed working sessions and read church documents in the Toronto Church of Scientology from September to November of 1979. "They were quite open. They showed us anything we wanted to see," Mr. Paitich said. "We were quite satisfied that the wool wasn't being pulled over our eyes." One main recommendation in the report: "Scientology should establish a clear policy of informing members of the purpose behind each exercise they are to participate in and its nature. This is particularly important in practices that are open to the interpretation that mind control is their real purpose." Mr. Wiseman said in an interview the report "raises more questions than it answers—like matters of acceptable and unacceptable influence in all phases of society." Devotees of Scientology, in their efforts to attract people into the church, try to get them to take a course or, failing that, to sell them a book, either by getting them to attend an introductory lecture or take a free personality test, which is supposed to help people understand themselves better. "In the process of testing, the attitude toward the public is one of control," the consultants' report says. One of the policy letters the authors studied states: "You must be willing at all times to control each body coming into your office . . . . People are crying out to be controlled." And another policy letter states: "The public must never be asked to decide or choose." In their report, the consultants question the validity of a test used by Scientology, called the Oxford Capacity Analysis. "Because the results of this test are used to describe a person's personality, especially to draw attention to 'unacceptable' features of it, inaccurate or misleading results might be potentially damaging," the report states.

When the consultants asked what norms the Scientologists used to plot the personality profiles, they were told the information wasn't available. "Interpretations based on test results should be offered as tentative observations only and they should be confirmed by other sources," the report states.

The consultants also found that while Scientology staff evaluating these tests are portrayed as trained specialists and experts their training "comprised merely reading a test manual, perhaps together with a very small period of practice before working directly with the public." After studying many Scientology manuals, the report says, it became evident to the authors that Scientology considers it offers a therapeutic program. "Unlike other religious organizations, there seems to be an emphasis on fee-for-service. "Although members demonstrate a dedication to promoting the principles of the church which frequently lead to many unpaid hours of work, the church generally shows no such altruism. If an individual cannot afford a course, he or she may be sent out to find employment so that the required fee can be paid." The consultants also learned from Scientology manuals about the elaborate guidelines governing communication between those at lower and higher levels in the organization, which they call a form of authoritarian control. "The clear message is that those at the lower levels are to be given only partial information." The consultants also are critical of what they describe as long and repetitious sessions during auditing.

Auditing is part of what Scientology characterizes as a spiritual journey for increased awareness—ultimately to become "clear." Individuals pay for "auditing time," which is sold by the hour, with a five-hour minimum. A series of 25 hours can cost $625, the report states.

Clients are taught obedience and rewarded for "coming through" for the auditor, it says.

Scientology leaders say the report has given them a needed look at their organization through outside eyes. "We're interested in knowing what people think of us. And if they think we're all a load of idiots then we'd better do something about it," public relations officer Caroline Charboneau said. "We're quite pleased with the report." She did not deny the church uses hard-sell methods. "Any religion is a hard sell." Neither was there any apology for the aggressive sidewalk approach used by Scientologists or the fee-for-service way of operating.

Miss Charboneau said her organization will examine the training of people used to evaluate personality tests of newcomers to the church.

She added, however, that the authors of the report did "not have the full picture" in their assessment of repetitive commands during auditing sessions. The aim was not to force a person into a role and into obeying commands but to "get the person to come into communication about that situation where he's being ordered about." Ray Rockl, national director of public relations for Scientology, said: "The end result of drills and sessions is to help a person regain self- determinism, not the opposite." As a result of the report, he said, "we will be making certain changes . . . . We would like to present ourselves as more honest."

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