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British bar Scientology 'students' // 'Socially harmful,' authorities claim

Title: British bar Scientology 'students' // 'Socially harmful,' authorities claim
Date: Thursday, 1 August 1968
Publisher: New York Times
Author: Anthony Lewis
Main source: link (134 KiB)

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LONDON — On successive days this weeks groups of Americans headed for Britain have been turned back because they are followers of a semi-religious cult known as "Scientology."

The Bar on Scientologists, as they call themselves, was imposed by the British government after a study. The Minister of Health, Kenneth Robinson, told the House of Commons he was satisfied that "scientology is socially harmful." He said:

"Its authoritarian principles and practices are a potential menace to the personality and well-being of those so deluded as to become its followers."

The government's action has been bitterly denounced by officials of the group. A spokesman, David Gaiman, accused the police of tapping wires in their inquiry and said:

"We are in the middle of the biggest witch-hunt since the reign of James the Second."

Scientology was founded in the United States by L. Ron Hubbard, who in 1950 published a best-seller called "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." Two years later he switched to scientology.

Scientology is difficult to define. The organization's periodical, "The Auditor," calls it an "applied religious philosophy" and also says it is "the largest mental health organization in the world." In California there is a Church of Scientology.

Initiates are questioned at length about their most intimate life in order to release what are called their "engrams" — unhappy memories. There thus seems to be a parallel to psychoanalysis, though without medical or other professional training.

The cult members do the questioning, and they use an "E-meter." This is a device that measures electrical resistance — Hubbard has demonstrated it on tomatoes as well as people. He says it indicates the level of spirit in the body.

In 1959 Hubbard set up a world headquarters of scientology in East Grinstead, Sussex, a London exurb. The organization bought a large old house in East Grinstead, Saint Hill Manor.

There are now about 50 full scientologists in East Grinstead, and 250 students. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other in England.

There have been complaints, some raised in Parliament, by friends and relatives of initiates. They charge that mentally disurbed or weak persons are taken into the cult and taught to hate their families.

The Ministry of Health acted on the basis of these complaints. Robinson told Parliament that he had "no power under existing law to prohibit the practice of scientology" but would take steps "to curb its growth."

The first and most significant move has been to declare that the institution in East Grinstead is not a "college," as asserted, and hence that no one may enter the country as a "student" to go there.

Britain is highly restrictive on visas to this country. It is extremely difficult to be admitted for paid employment, and students have to show some evidence of their status. Only tourists enter freely.