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Scientologists deny they harass defectors from church // 'Misrepresentation and distortion' alleged

Title: Scientologists deny they harass defectors from church // 'Misrepresentation and distortion' alleged
Date: Friday, 26 July 1974
Publisher: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Authors: Colin Wright, Nancy Cooper
Main source: groups.google.com

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They were replying to charges by church defectors in [[articles on Scientology that appeared earlier this week in The Globe and Mail. The series has been sharply criticized by Rev. Philip McAiney, Douglas Pearse and Sue Surgeoner, all staff members at the church's national headquarters in Toronto.

In a nine-page letter Mr. McAiney, a Scientology minister, said, "The degree of misrepresentation and distortion . . . is astounding for a newspaper of your past history."

Mrs. Surgeoner said in an interview she was "surprised that The Globe and Mail's standard of investigative reporting in this particular series had dropped to such a low ebb."

Contradictions

In a 3½ hour interview, the three elaborated on Mr. McAiney's letter. They flatly contradicted the following points made in the articles:

* That when Lorna Levett, the former head of the Calgary mission, left the church she "took all but a few of her disciples with her." From a total of 39, Mr. McAiney wrote, eight left with her.

* That a precise definition of Scientology "is hard to find." The World Book Dictionary defines it as "a religion and system of healing."

* That the McLeans, a Sutton family who left the church in 1972, put "more than $9,000 into the organization." Mr. McAiney's letter said that "we know as a fact that they received more than $5,000 back."

* That Scientology has four ships at its disposal. It has six.

A critic quoted in the articles estimated the church's Canadian membership at 1,000. The spokesmen said this figure was much too low, but were reluctant to substitute their own, though one of them estimated 60,000. Mr. McAiney wrote that there are "millions of adherents" around the world.

He described as a fabrication a defector's claim that between $750,000 and $1,250,000 is sent to world headquarters each week. "It is absurd to suggest that the church keeps track ... weekly."

"It is very large and rich," Mrs. Surgeoner said. "And you know something? The more people who back Scientology, the better I like it. It means I get more money for my work in reform."

Mrs. Surgeoner is chairman of a commission on police reform which the church has established. Asked the size of her budget, she replied, "I'm not going to give it to you. That's flat. End of scene."

The three officials denied emphatically that a defector is harassed after he leaves Scientology. "We attempt to reconcile his differences," Mr. Pearse said, "to find out what is troubling him."

Mr. Pearse, the church's director of public affairs in Toronto, agreed that the church sometimes launches a search for a dissenter, but only to discover if, in fact, he or she really wants to leave.

In his letter Mr. McAiney wrote that the concept of "fair game" did not, as the articles suggested, make a defector the subject for attack by members of the church. It only meant that he was "no longer protected by its ethics code."

The concept was abolished in 1968. "Mrs. Levett's statement to the contrary is simply false," the letter states.

The articles reported that the McLeans still "have the feeling they have been declared 'fair game'." After they left the church in 1972 a mock funeral was held by Scientologists on Sutton's main street at which pamphlets critical of the family were distributed.

The officials admitted the funeral was held "some time last year." But it was organized without the church's authorization. "We can't get into a defence of an action that we felt was wrong at the time," one said.

The Scientologists also refute claims that defectors are dunned for large sums of money allegedly owing to the church.

"We ask for the money invested back, but only if the person wants to come back to the church," Mr. McAiney said in his letter.

Laugh at sums

The three laughed when sums of money in the range of $50 to $500 an hour were mentioned as the fees for courses.

The novice communications course costs about $15, according to Mr. McAiney. "That could be $15 a year, if it takes a year to complete," he said.

The average cost to become a full-fledged minister is about $1,500 for courses, he added.

However, Mr. Pearse said the church also suggests that people donate, and the amount of the donation is also mentioned to the convert.

Mr. Pearse said he knew some people who had borrowed money to take Scientology courses, but said that they did so on their own. The church does not urge people to borrow, he said.

John McLean made $9.60 a week while on the Scientology flagship. However, Mr. McAiney said, Ron Hubbard, the founder of the organization, receives only that much from the church each week.

Mr. McAiney denied that some of the church's world revenue is diverted into the founder's Swiss bank account. He said all Mr. Hubbard's income, apart from the $9.60, comes in the form of royalties from his early science fiction writings.

Mr. McAiney also listed some of Ron Hubbard's credentials. He is "a respected writer ... a civil engineer, explorer, former U.S. Nary officer and licenced master of both motor and sailing vessels."

When pressed for Mr. Hubbard's engineering credentials, Mr. McAiney conceded that Mr. Hubbard did not graduate from George Washington University in 1934.

"He ... still had to do his thesis," the minister recalled. When he led an expedition into the Caribbean, he gave the thesis to another person to deliver but that person never passed it on to the university.

Mr. Pearse produced an affidavit from a U.S. accountant to back the claim that Mr. Hubbard was not diverting church revenues to his private use.

The officials question every allegation made by Lorna Levett of Calgary, who they say was expelled from the organization in May. They also doubt the authenticity of Mrs. Levett's correspondence, much of which is now with The Globe and Mail.

They say, for example, that the Canadian headquarters in Toronto would never suggest that someone visit the Better Business Bureau in Calgary and attempt to steal its file on Scientology.

The suggestion is made in a letter to Mrs. Levett, dated Aug. 4, 1972. Mrs. Levett has sworn before a commissioner of oaths for Alberta that the writer worked at Scientology headquarters in Toronto.

The three officials said that they had never heard of him, but that they do not know all the 150 staff members in Toronto.

They dispute Eric McLean's claim that he experienced a security check, that is, a long series of questions designed to test the faith of a wavering Scientologist.

Mr. McAiney argues that he could not have been subjected to it, as it was abolished in 1968. "What Mr. McLean experienced was a confessional," he wrote.

A real problem

Asked what the difference is, Mrs. Surgeoner replied with a question: "How was an interrogation in Nazi Germany different from a Catholic confession?"

Church security is a real problem, Mr. Pearse added. "We have to be on the alert for people from mental heath organizations who come in and steal files."

The articles correctly stated that Scientologists look on members of mental health movements, including "the late, highly-respected Brock Chisholm," as enemies.

"As far as Brock Chisholm is concerned, he was 'highly respected' only by other psychiatrists," Mr. McAiney states in his letter. "The Nazi origins and totalitarian usages to which this so-called 'science' was put are well documented."

Mrs. Surgeoner objects that the articles "give you this picture of the church putting people in chains, and through interrogations. It just isn't the case."

She is sure that the current criticism, and all criticism of Scientology over the last 20 years, has been prompted by private mental health organizations.