Britain Curbs Activities of Cult of Scientologists
August 1, 1968
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."
"It's 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."
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 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 Café 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
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 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 I principle and dangerous in practices."
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."
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