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