A woman who is suing the Church of Scientology told the High Court yesterday she became very distressed during a church "auditing session" in 1992 and had recounted an event that nobody else knew about her, that she had been pregnant and had had an abortion.
Ms Mary Johnston, who has a sports shop in Foxrock, Co Dublin, was giving evidence on the second day of her action against the Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin Ltd and three of its members: John Keane, Tom Cunningham and Gerard Ryan.
She is seeking damages under a number of headings, including conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.
Yesterday Ms Johnston (40) said she had had a number of auditing sessions with Mr Cunningham from late 1991. At one session in January 1992 she was unable to recall anything.
Mr Cunningham had told her there "must be something". She ultimately remembered the one thing in the world that nobody knew about her and said she wanted to stop the session.
She was so distressed that she was not going to be made happy by recounting anything.
The session was stopped by Mr Cunningham, and he brought her for a coffee.
He said the founder of the Scientology movement, L Ron Hubbard, had said that, if one could not confront something, it impinged on one's ability to "get past it".
She said Mr Cunningham kept urging her to go back into session until she capitulated. They went back, and she recounted the first time she discovered she was pregnant.
Mr Cunningham wanted her to contact the initial point of trauma. She went over it again and again.
She was distressed during the session. She had never told anybody of that incident, apart from the person involved in it.
What really disturbed her was that, far from feeling relieved at the end of the session, she actually felt anxious and concerned.
Mr Cunningham was a reasonably close friend but "not that close".
When the abortion referendum was on, she could not get the word "abortion" out her head. On the inside she was "cracking up."
She had had two abortions, in 1985 and 1987. She regretted what she had done, but at the end of the day she had put them behind her and got on with her life.
These matters had not come into her head on a regular basis but, after the auditing, were in her thoughts all the time.
It was as if she had "opened a Pandora's box and I could not shut it".
Ms Johnston said she used go into the Scientology centre in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin, where she met many of the people who worked there. She knew she was "on their turf" but they were so intrusive.
She referred to a Standard Oxford Capacity Analysis test, comprising 200 questions. She thought it had something to do with Oxford University.
After the test, Mr John Keane sat opposite her and went though it with her.
Mr Keane basically told her she was in pretty poor shape, and the inference was that she was irresponsible. He said she needed to get some professional Dianetic auditing and told her there would have to be a price.
She had no money but had taken out a loan to set up her business.
She said Mr Keane said he would not accept that. He became extremely aggressive and intimidating.
When she repeated that she did not have the money, he kept insisting. He then became angry. Subsequently she told Tom Cuningham she was never going in there again.
Mr Cunningham had arranged for her to meet Gerard Ryan in August 1993. She was taken into a partitioned room.
One of two main questions asked was whether there was anything in her past "which you do not mind owning." She did not know what Mr Ryan meant and he did not explain.
The hearing, before Mr Justice Peart, continues today.