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CCHR - Citizens Commission on Human Rights

A Response to Scientology

By Abraham L. Halpern, M.D., and Alfred M. Freedman, M.D.

We read with great interest your article in the October 18 issue on the Church of Scientology's Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) titled "APA Helps Members Respond to Scientology's Attacks."

We would like to present some firsthand information concerning the destructive influence of the CCHR.

In 1986 the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities submitted a report that was published and widely distributed by the United Nations. The report (known as the "Daes Report" but officially titled "Principles, Guidelines, and Guarantees for the Protection of Persons Detained on Grounds of Mental III Health or Suffering from Mental Disorder") was presented as "A contribution to: (a) the protection of the fundamental freedoms, human and legal rights of persons who are mentally ill or suffering from mental disorder; (b) the abolition of psychiatric abuses; (c) the promotion of mental health law and medical practice; and (d) the improvement of mental health care and mental institutions."

In fact, the report was an attack on psychiatry embodying all the distortions and outright lies invented and promulgated by the antipsychiatry movement over the years. The contribution of Scientology's CCHR, as one of the special organizations whose advice was sought by the Rapporteur, was prominently mentioned in the report. The United Nations document, quoting from the CCHR, included the following:

"All over the world, branches of CCHR offered help to members of parliaments to increase their awareness of mental health situations, so that actual reform could occur. CCHR made the following basic suggestions in connection with the subject under study:

"(a) Governments should start immediately to investigate psychiatry and the mental health field and get the real facts;

"(b) The CCHR and others should provide governments with workable methods to handle the mentally ill;

"(c) An amnesty should be granted to all psychiatrists who admit to having engaged in abusive practices and human rights violations and who have ceased to do so;

"(d) All community health centers and other mental care homes should be run by churches or other religious groups who have a real care for patients and a workable method;

"(e) The use of all drugs, whether street drugs or psychopharmacological drugs, should be discontinued.

"The conclusion of CCHR is, 'There will be peace on earth when the mental health field has been reformed and is clean'."

In a 1986 "report" submitted to the International Congress on Law and Psychiatry, the CCHR used scurrilous and inflammatory statements to denounce the professions of psychiatry and psychology including the following:

"It is no longer a case of 'the cure being worse than disease.' It is now a matter of the 'cure' causing the 'disease.' Psychiatry has long looked upon and dealt with nearly all behavior and manifestations of life from a purely biological, genetic, and medical viewpoint, i.e., 'man is an animal.' Perhaps it is now time to apply this medical viewpoint to the field of psychiatry and to eradicate this criminal 'cancer' that is consuming society.

"Most of the famous assassins and mass murderers are products of psychiatry and the mental health profession."

We were most dismayed at this brazen step to incorporate the malicious CCHR position in a United Nations document and began strenuous efforts to oppose it. In collaboration with colleagues at home and abroad, including an APA task force, we were able to mount a coordinated counterattack involving the World Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and many others. As a result of our efforts, revised guidelines consistent with principles long accepted by American psychiatry were eventually approved by the U.N. General Assembly in a resolution adopted December 17, 1991.

In retrospect, instead of resting on our laurels, we should have called for eternal vigilance regarding CCHR activities and for rapid response by APA and other mental health organizations to the diabolical misrepresentations by CCHR. It is gratifying to see that APA, at the urging of the California Psychiatric Association, is undertaking a reasoned and responsible rebuttal.

We note that APA President Harold Eist, M.D., and Dorothy W. Cantor, Psy.D., president of the American Psychological Association, are working together to combat the policies and practices of the managed care industry that impede psychiatric and psychological treatment of mental illness. We urge Drs. Eist and Cantor to join forces to deal with the CCHR's anti-mental health depredations.

(Psychiatric News, December 6, 1996)

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