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Britain curbs activities of cult of Scientologists // Refuses to admit Americans known to be followers of the semireligious group

Title: Britain curbs activities of cult of Scientologists // Refuses to admit Americans known to be followers of the semireligious group
Date: Thursday, 1 August 1968
Publisher: New York Times
Author: Anthony Lewis
Main source: link (97 KiB)
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LONDON, July 31—On successive days this week groups of Americans arriving in Britain have been turned back because they are followers of a semi-religious cult known as scientology.

The ban on scientologists, as they call themselves, was imposed by the British Government after a study. The Minister of Health, Kenneth Robinson, said in the House of Commons that he was satisfied that "scientology is socially harmful."

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

The Government's action has been denounced by officials of the cult. A spokesman, David Gaiman, accused the police of having tapped wires in their inquiry and said: "We are in the middle of the biggest witch-hunt since the reign of James II."

Founded in U. S.

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 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 lives in order to release what are termed 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, a device that measures electrical resistance. Mr. Hubbard has demonstrated it on tomatoes as well as on people. He says it indicates the level of spirit in the body.

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

There are now about 50 full scientologists in East Grinstead, and 250 students. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others in England. A meeting at the Cafe Royal in London this weekend is expected to attract at least 500.

Town Is Concerned

The town of East Grinstead has become increasingly concerned about the scientologists. The group has bought a hotel, more than 20 houses and a number of retail shops. It recently declared some other businesses "out of bounds" to students because the concerns supposedly opposed scientology.

There have also been complaints, some raised in Parliament, by friends and relatives of initiates. They charge that mentally disturbed 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. Mr. 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 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. It is extremely difficult to be admitted for paid employment, and students have to show some evidence of their status. Only tourists enter freely.

On Sunday, as the ban started, two scientology "students," Mr. and Mrs. Donald Hill, who had flown from Washington with two children, were stopped at London Airport and sent back.

The next day, a planned charter flight of 180 scientologists from New York was canceled after advice from the Home Office that all might be barred. An unnamed American member of the cult was stopped at the airport.

Ban Arouses Criticism

Yesterday, 62 others who had flown in from the United States as students were intercepted at the airport. They were questioned, kept overnight in hotels under guard and flown out today.

The ban has been criticized not only by the scientologists but by the National Council for Civil Liberties. The council said that such administrative measures to limit freedom of association were "objectionable in principle and dangerous in practice."

The group said that it shared the general concern for some of the cult's activities, but that the group was not alone in expressing authoritarian principles or indoctrinating children.

Mr. Hubbard, who is 57 years old, has not been seen here for some time. There is a possibility that he is on one of three ships that the scientologists operate in floating "colleges."