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Scientologists sue UCLA professor // University is also named a defendant

Title: Scientologists sue UCLA professor // University is also named a defendant
Date: Saturday, 10 April 1993
Publisher: Daily Breeze (California)
Author: Pat Alston
Main source: link (947 KiB)

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The Church of Scientology, bristling from public criticism by a nationally recognized psychiatrist and UCLA professor, has sued the outspoken educator and the university.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Santa Monica Superior Court, two student followers of the controversial church claim that Dr. Louis J. West has waged a smear campaign of religious intolerance and hatred on university time.

The verbal attacks by a representative of the state university system and his alleged "anti-religious activity" are violations of state law and the education code, they say.

No way, West responded Friday. "This is a free country."

West, 68, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said he feels "fully justified" in speaking out against the church and its founder's "so-called science," which West described as pure "science fiction."

"My concern is not their doctrine," West said, "but only the harm I see they have done to people."

The Church of Scientology, which was founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, is a religion "in the most traditional sense," which helps to deal with man as a spirit and help him "shed the trauma and guilt (sin) which encumber him," according to its printed catechism.

Adherents of mainstream religions have labeled it a cult, however, and accuse its leaders of using brainwashing techniques to ensnare the gullible and ensure unquestioned devotion from its flock.

"As a physician, my job is to take care of the sick and call attention to the environmental factors that contributed to their symptoms," West said.

"If I see cults, like the Church of Scientology . . . operating in such a way so that people come to harm," he added, "then as a physician and an educator, it is my duty to say something about it, and to communicate those ideas . . . to the public."

The church calls the psychiatrist's persistent verbal attacks a violation of both the U.S. Constitution and state statutes. Such religious persecution is against the law, church leaders say. And taxpayers are paying a hefty price for it, they say.

West, whose salary is paid by the state of California, wastes no opportunity to sling mud at the Scientologists, said Linda Simmons Hight, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based church.

In a speech the doctor gave in November in Westchester, for instance, he compared Hubbard to Adolf Hitler, she said.

In effect, the university system is "subsidizing his attacks on religion" by paying him a salary while he's engaged in inflammatory conduct and activities intended to fan the flames of public fears about supposedly "dangerous groups," she said.

"Where does it come off that it's OK for the state of California to support someone who attacks new religious movements, where no one would give it a second thought to tell him to knock it off if he were attacking Jews or Catholics?" she asked.

Kendrick L. Moxon, the attorney who filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of UCLA students John Van Dyke and Mario Majorski, said "major First Amendment concerns" are at stake. It is illegal to discriminate against someone because of race, sex or religion.